- Destination Dixie: Tourism and Southern History edited by Karen L. Cox
Karen L. Cox’s edited collection joins the recent proliferation of scholarship on southern tourism exploring the contested terrain of history and memory, culture and commodification, and economic development and environmental conservation. The essays of Destination Dixie cover a diverse, though not exhaustive, range of topics, geographical locations, and methodological approaches, reflecting the multivocality of southern history and tourism.
The collection is divided into four overlapping thematic sections: “People and Places” focuses on sites of commemoration, with essays chronicling the controversies and contestations surrounding the creation and preservation of Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri (Hilary Iris Lower), the Jesse Owens Memorial Park in Lawrence County, Alabama (Barclay Key), the Margaret Mitchell House [End Page 635] in Atlanta, Georgia (Kathleen Clark), and Elvis Presley’s East Tupelo, Mississippi, birthplace (Michael T. Bertrand). Key’s essay “From ‘Lawrence County Negro’ to National Hero: The Commemoration of Jesse Owens in Alabama” is noteworthy for illuminating the competing claims on Owens’s legacy by the local black and white communities and for exploring the broader implications for interracialism once the local commemoration became an international symbol during the 1996 Olympics. Key expresses a unifying theme of the volume when he writes, “The controversies that arose over his commemoration are representative of the contests over race and memory that often characterize tourism and southern history” (p. 49).
Section two “Race and Slavery” continues this theme with essays on the ways that Somerset Place Historic Site in North Carolina (Alisa Y. Harrison), historic Charleston (Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts), and Selma, Alabama (Glenn T. Eskew) represent and misrepresent racially contentious historical episodes. Kytle and Roberts’s “‘Is it Okay to Talk about Slaves?’: Segregating the Past in Historic Charleston” and Glenn T. Eskew’s “Selling the Civil Rights Movement through Black Political Empowerment in Selma, Alabama” make important contributions to the emergent scholarship on African American tourism by showing the ways that the recent development of black-heritage tours and tourist sites have ironically created what Eskew calls a “contested marketplace of southern memory” that is as segregated as the history it evokes (p. 178).
The section “War and Remembrance” examines the contested marketplace of Civil War memory in essays on the Yorktown National Battlefield in Virginia (Sarah M. Goldberger), a Confederate iron furnace in Alabama (John Walker Davis and Jennifer Lynn Gross), and Stone Mountain in Georgia (J. Vincent Lowery). These essays explore the complicated evolution of Civil War sites into tourist attractions, demonstrating Davis and Gross’s contention that “monuments and historical sites and the money spent on them ultimately tell us a lot more about contemporary southern society and its beliefs than they do about southern history” (pp. 218-19). [End Page 636]
Essays on New Orleans cemeteries (Anthony J. Stanonis), the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Richard D. Starnes), and the Everglades (Andrew K. Frank) in the final section “Landscape and Memory” extend the discussion of the contested marketplace of southern memory to the natural environment. For instance, in “Authenticity for Sale: The Everglades, Seminole Indians, and the Construction of a Pay-Per-View Culture,” Frank shows how white Floridians’ development of tourism in the Everglades relied on the promotion of “generically Indian” stereotypes that “created rather than displayed authentic views of Seminole culture and tradition” (p. 294).
Cox’s introduction could have done more to provide a unifying framework for the collection by explaining how the “essays in this volume expand on [previous] scholarship” (p. 6) or what distinguishes this work from similarly themed collections, particularly Destination Dixie contributor Richard D. Starnes’s Southern Journeys: Tourism, History, and Culture in the Modern South (2003). Nevertheless, while Destination Dixie may not prove to be a final destination for scholars of southern tourism, it is certainly a worthwhile rest stop for those interested in exploring the complex interrelationship between tourism and southern history.
Lynnell L. Thomas teaches American Studies at the University of Massachusetts–Boston. She is...