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Figure 1.

In "From Smiles to Miles: Delta Air Lines Flight Attendants and Southern Hospitality," Drew Whitelegg looks inside the world of Delta Air stewardesses and at how they became "Scarletts in the sky." From Delta Digest, May 1965, courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

[End Page 1]

I spoke once at a dinner meeting of the Military Order of Stars and Bars (MOSB), a Confederate heritage society that gathers every once in a while at a nearby Steak 'n' Ale restaurant. Most of the time, neo-Confederates and I leave each other pretty much alone, but they had issued the invitation as something of a polite challenge, after some unguarded remarks I had dropped in public about reenactors. I was feeling pretty tense, since my topic was "Liberty, Slavery, and the Coming of the Civil War," and I didn't think the Military Order would like it very much. But still, I buckled on my best bravado, figuring that if my paleo-Confederate ancestors had the courage to stare down Yankee gun barrels, I could do the same with their modern-day admirers.

Well, everything went fine, as I should have known it would. The members and I did have a lot of disagreements, but southern politeness is not a myth; everybody was very friendly, and there were no demands for satisfaction on either side. I came away convinced that for lots of guys joining this outfit was just an affable excuse to go to the archives and look up the ancestors. The whole experience left me a little deflated, with more self-righteousness left over than I had any use for.

After the main event, one of the members tracked me down in the parking lot and began to tell me what he loved most about the South. It wasn't about the War and it wasn't about Anglo-Celtic anything. It was the food. He told me about his stint in the Army, stationed in New York somewhere, and the good times he and his black messmates had fixing up home cooking for each other—fried chicken, cornbread, greens, biscuits, gravy—the whole mouth-watering list. As much as his words and obvious sincerity, the old boy's heft was utterly convincing—he really really loved southern cooking.

While he was telling me all this, two things kept running through my mind. First, why in the world didn't the MOSB meet at a down-home place that served this kind of food instead of the Steak 'n' Ale? And second, if southern heritage is more about the food than the War, why do we keep dragging ourselves through all these ugly arguments about the battle flag and stuff? Wouldn't it be easier just to fill up pleasantly on 'cue and pone and struggle over something more manageable, like cholesterol?

Sometimes southern culture is like that—all sweet tea and watermelon, with a little NASCAR and soul music thrown in for good measure. Those are the fun times, when being a southerner feels like membership in the world's biggest interracial club, where everybody shares almost the same accent and religion and music and taste cravings, and everybody's about as comfortable with each other as Huck and Jim on the raft. Then there are the other times when all the pain and suffering and cruelty and horror of southern history fly up and hit you in the face again, and you remember that Huck and Jim on the raft hadn't so much overcome their conflicts as evaded them for a moment. And then the bad memories come [End Page 2] flooding back, and the solutions seem a lot more complicated than anything a chicken dinner could ever fix.


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Figure 2.

Steve Oney has been mesmerized by Leo Frank's trial and lynching for a couple of decades and tells us how he came to write the seminal work on the Frank case in "And the Dead Shall Rise: An Overview." Leo and Lucille Frank, circa 1909, courtesy of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.

There are some white...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 1-6
Launched on MUSE
2005-11-23
Open Access
No
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