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The Front Porch There's plenty of cultural diversity in the American South, and you can always get a friendly argument started by trying to pronounce on who or what lies at the center of the southern cultural experience. Planter gentry and their descendants have their champions, of course, and there are also plenty of reasons to view black southerners as the ultimate source of what is most distinctively southern. Almost everyone will agree, however, that somewhere close to the middle of things has been the life of ordinary white folks, neither masters nor slaves, who have populated southern farms, mills, and cabins since the earliest European settlements, as well as trailer parks and shopping malls of the present day. The articles in this issue of Southern Cultures are not so closely linked that we wanted to give them the label of a special "theme," but most of the authors touch in some way or other upon the lives of those whom historian Frank Owsley called the South's "plain folk." Whether they live in the country or in small towns or in the backstreets of southern cities, white southerners who have experienced the privileges of color but not of wealth have played a crucial role in regional life, contributing powerfully to prevailing attitudes concerning work and play, sin and religion, race and community, kinship and distinctiveness. As early as the eighteenth century, the Virginia gentleman William Byrd described the neighboring colony of North Carolina as a "Lubberland," distinguished by "the great felicity of the climate, the easiness of raising provisions, and the slothfulness of the people." Ever since, there has been a tendency by some to describe ordinary white southerners as poor, lazy, and ignorant. In the twentieth century, reform-minded authors like John Steinbeck inverted this stereotype, depicting the unforgettable Joad family as noble, suffering, and exploited. Whether despised or idealized, southern white working people, particularly their menfolk, have borne a uniquely colorful epithet: redneck. Where did this word come from? What does it mean? Have the targets of the label changed 142Southern Cultures its meaning to suit themselves? Find out with Patrick Huber, as he starts us off with a fascinating exploration of the history of the South's favorite put-down of whites. The men and women who labored in the textile mills of the twentieth-century South were refugees from hard times on the farm and a new phenomenon in a traditionally rural society. As such, they were also an endless source of fascination to the first generations of regional social scientists. Two of the best were Kenneth and Margaret Morland, who lived in York, South Carolina, in the early 1950s and later described the lives of their neighbors and coworkers in Millways of Kent, an important study of mill life that successfully threaded the sometimes difficult line between idealization and condescension. Now, forty years later, Ken and Margaret share their photo album with Southern Cultures, and join us in a conversation about how they did their work and how they remember their friends in the town they chose to call "Kent." Maycomb, Alabama, is a different kind of town from York—a fictional place in the Heart of Dixie, where Harper Lee set her famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. When Tom Robinson, a black man, was accused of raping the impoverished white woman Mayella Ewell, the town's white population struggled between the judicious procedures of formal law and the brutal code of racial etiquette . Needless to say, the code won, and Robert Stephens explores why in his penetrating look at a literary classic. On a lighter note Stephen Smith and Jimmie Rogers take us out to the honky-tonk, where liquor, sex, and country music create a world of release for hard-working men and women on Saturday night. The lyrics of the hits from Nashville tell us much about the values of this world, where hard-pressed folks find some free space to play, between the dual demands of nine-to-five and Sunday morning. Are southern working people acquiescent drudges who put up with more than they should, or are they rebellious individualists who won't lie down and take...


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pp. 141-144
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