The Necessary South
“Without the South, is there an “America””? Since the earliest days of the American republic, the South has served primarily as “the negative other” whose characteristics had to be overcome so that the United States could become a beacon of hope for the world. In the last decades of the 20th century pundits bemoaned the fact that benighted Southern values had somehow infected the rest of the country and caused its political and social tilt to the right. Among those taking this point of view was New York Times reporter Peter Applebome. Historian James Cobb has long disagreed with what he believes is a mis-interpretation of American and Southern history.
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Jim C. Cobb, B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor in the History of the American South, is widely recognized as one of the foremost scholars of Southern history and culture—and among the first to write broadly about the South in a global context. Cobb has written more than 40 articles and 12 books, mostly about the impact of changing economic conditions on the South. Two of these, “Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity” and “The Most Southern Place on Earth,” his book about the Mississippi Delta, are considered classics in the field. The latter quickly became a model for studying other regional cultures and subcultures, such as those of Appalachia and New England. Cobb has written pieces for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His book, “The New America: The South and the Nation Since World War II,” published in 2010 by Oxford University Press..
Peter Applebome has been a reporter and editor for The New York Times since 1987. He was born in New York City and grew up in Great Neck. He graduated from Duke University in 1971 and received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University in 1974. After working at Texas newspapers in Corpus Christi and Dallas and at Texas Monthly magazine, he joined the New York Times as a national correspondent and then bureau chief in Houston. He moved to Atlanta as Southern Bureau chief in 1989, served in that job for five years. Since then he has covered education and culture and is now Deputy Metropolitan Editor.
He is the author of two books. "Dixie Rising: How the South is Shaping American Values, Politics and Culture.'' And "Scout's Honor: A Father's Unlikely Foray into the Woods.”