Cover

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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

During the first several months of fieldwork for this research, when my ability to channel anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston was far more unpracticed than I like to imagine it is now, my interview sessions had notoriously bumpy takeoffs. Careful not to assume an insider status and cognizant of my position as a young, middle-class black woman...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

This project would not have been possible without a community of family, friends, mentors, and colleagues. Wanda Rushing provided support for early versions of these ideas and continued to champion me throughout my early career. At Northwestern, Wendy Griswold, Mary Pattillo, and Chas Camic believed deeply in this project, even when I could not, and always...

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Introduction: Region, Race, and Identities

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pp. 1-29

Ruth Ann, a thirty-two-year-old returning college student and server at a chain southern home-style cooking restaurant, had become exasperated with me during our interview session at a coffee shop in downtown Memphis. She feigned annoyance at my line of questioning, in which I asked her to elaborate on what she had called black southerners’ “superiority” to...

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1. Finding the Black South

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pp. 30-59

“They think we slow, backwards, always at church, always cooking, riding horses because we don’t have real roads or cars, farming, saying ‘yessuh’ and ‘yessum’ to white folks, and singing and dancing all the time,” said forty-four-year-old Marie, an employee of a local media affiliate. Marie described herself as a new southerner, sophisticated, and knowledgeable...

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2. Post-Soul Blues

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pp. 60-91

In April 2011, the Memphis Grizzlies, the city’s NBA team, won its first playoff game in franchise history. The Grizzlies, whose “all heart, grit, and grind” mantra was as much the story of the team as the story of the city, went on to beat the top-seeded powerhouse San Antonio Spurs in six games in the first round of the Western Conference. After game 6, power...

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3. Not Stud’n’ ’em White Folks

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pp. 92-120

I was at a city government public service facility that, like many local and state government service offices, employs predominantly African American women. Black women make up a growing segment of the black middle class across the country, but particularly in the South. As employees of city government’s service sector, the four women at this particular facility, behind...

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4. Belles, Guls, and Country Boys

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pp. 121-158

Perhaps the most infamous scene from the 1997 film adaptation of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil occurs when black female impersonator The Lady Chablis arrives at the Savannah, Georgia, African American debutante ball and disrupts the uptight black middle-class tradition with her gender-bending and distinct performance of the...

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5. Southern Is the New Black

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pp. 159-186

On the eve of the film premiere of Madea’s Big Happy Family in April 2011, director and producer Tyler Perry temporarily misplaced his southern manners. Apparently exasperated by fellow director Spike Lee’s ongoing and vocal critiques of his work, Perry reportedly responded to a query that referenced those critiques with indignation. “I’m so sick of hearing about...

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Conclusion: Black Identity Redux

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pp. 187-198

In his 2009 documentary about black hair culture in contemporary America, Good Hair, comedian Chris Rock declares that to find answers to critical questions about coif politics, he has to “travel to the place where all black decisions are made: Atlanta, Georgia.” Delivered like many of Rock’s punch lines, there is definitive truth in the jest. Census data from 2000 to...

Notes

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pp. 199-208

Bibliography

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pp. 209-216

Index

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pp. 217-224