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The Front Porch "Telling about the South" Dixie, the song tells us, is the place where old times are not forgotten . Reminiscence about the past does seem to be a major preoccupation for many inhabitants of the southern cultural landscape. Stock car fans remember Bobby Allison, the UDC remembers the Lost Cause, black Texans remember Juneteenth, and we all have a holiday to remember Dr. King. Spotting an opportunity, some enterprising publishers have created a major industry by helping us to remember important things like the best recipe for mint juleps, or how to add an authentic hot tub wing onto a suburban Big House, or what nice people will be wearing to next year's Collard Festival. Why the South gets so much mileage out of memory is an interesting question . In a good book called Cavalier and Yankee, the critic William Taylor once wrote that southern nostalgia was invented by sentimental northerners, rather than the old folks at home. Long before the Late Unpleasantness, he claimed, go-getting Yankees longed to believe there was still somewhere in America where time stood still, the livin' was easy, and the tensions of urban commerce melted away like a late spring frost. Poets, authors, and song-writers came up with the nodon of a timeless South to satisfy this craving, and an eager public bought it up like hotcakes. As it turned out, quite a few southerners were as eager as anyone else to "remember" the Old South in this way. Were they sentimental too? Maybe. Or maybe they wanted only to justify as "timeless on principle" what some unkind people were beginning to describe as simply "backward." Whatever the reason, southerners have long investments in their memories , but belles in hoop skirts are not the only characters we remember. Memories depend on who does the remembering, and where and when. Memories change—sometimes they fade away, and sometimes they are invented. No single memory of the South exists, any more than there is a single southern culture. Memories get matched one against another and jostle each other for space in our public and personal lives. They get recruited for current agendas, so the future of this or that New South sometimes seems to hang on which memory we pre- 2 Southern Cultures serve about somebody's Old South. Which is the "real" memory of the old plantation , for example: Rhett and Scarlett sparking on the veranda, or Missy and Mammy toiling in bondage out back? Our tourism development boards tend to tilt one way, and many of our school curricula now tilt the other. Controversy over which memories to focus on is not likely to go away in a hurry. Memory, it seems, is essential to identity. We are who we remember ourselves to be. At a time when political controversy surrounding social and cultural identity is running strong, it is probably no accident that interest in southern memory is flourishing as well. As part of this trend, a group of history graduate students at the University of Virginia decided to give the topic a closer look, and held a conference in March 1994 in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the subject of "Social Memory and Southern History." The conference papers explored how southerners' memories about themselves have shaped who they are and who they want to be, and these papers were so interesting that we at Southern Cultures wanted to share at least a few of them with our readers. We are pleased that conference organizers Scot French, Andy Lewis, and Phil Troutman were willing to go along, and help us edit this special issue on southern memory. The papers that we were able to include represent a cross section of the themes and genres explored during the conference; we thank the authors for revising and expanding them for publication. Welcoming participants in the Dome Room of Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda, Professor Ed Ayers led off the conference with a global perspective on the theme of "Memory and the South," and his thoughts begin our issue as well. Next, Scot French asks "What is Social Memory?" and offers an answer to set the topic in a larger context, framing the reflections...


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