James C. Cobb’s in his book “Away Down South,” provides a comprehensive history of South Americans, the Southern, in relation to search for distinct identity. The Southern wanted to gain a distinct identity from the Northern…
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In this book, Cobb argues that the southerners did not achieve distinctive identity with respect to politics, culture, and religion. However, he points out that the history of the Southern is the only distinctive feature of the South. He asserts that the quest for southern distinctiveness should be abandoned since it is both intellectually stultifying and politically dangerous. Indeed, I agree with Cobb’s statement that the search for southern distinctiveness should be thwarted since most of the debates, about this topic, usually trigger dangerous political arguments. Cobb identifies that the quest for southern distinctiveness is not an issue that originated in Southern regions of America, but it is the northerners, during the revolutionary era through the Civil War period, who begun stressing on the distinctiveness of the south (Cobb 222). It is until sectional crises of 1950s, originating from the remonstration of the southern region between 1860 and 1865, that the white southerners realized the need to create their own identity (Cobb 222). After southerners lost in Confederacy, they became obsessed with the results of Civil War and Reconstruction, which dominated their imagination of forming the New South. In the quest for southern identity, New South propagandists, by 1900, had won a contest for defining post-war southern identity. They also created a remarkably comprehensive version of defining post Civil War South identity (Cobb 226). The new identity embraced the causes of the loss including a modern industrial future for the southern in alias with the northern capital. However, the New South identity failed to recognize the plights of African American, and embraced a regime of white supremacy. It is within the context of white supremacy that people begun questioning the significance of New South identity. During the second Reconstruction after World War II, the southern region was initially perceived as a confident and militant Africa-American community (Cobb 231). However, during the second Reconstruction, many southern scholars turned their feelings about their region to shame and guilt. This led to their defeat in the Civil War; something Cobb believes was as a result of disagreements and conflicts in white identity. Ironically, instead of conceding the defeat, some of the southern governors, still had the confidence to boost that the loss was as a result of their own mistakes, but not as a result of the entire nation. While the northern America was struggling to achieve a global image, the south was struggling to become Americanized. Cobb further indicates that both the white and black Americans were struggling to claim the southern identity (Cobb 229). However, African Americans, born and bred in the southern, have embraced the New South identity in a different perspective from the white southerners. Their definition of the southern identity does not include anything that relates to Lost Cause or Confederacy, but rather with community, place, family and culture (Cobb 234). In this case, they are trying to reclaim the identity of a region that was initially owned by white Americans. This implies that the initial definition of New South identity, which was structured by white intellectuals, was not valid enough to prove the southern distinctiveness south because it failed to recognize their presence, as members of the community, yet they participated in the Civil War and Reconstruction process (Cobb 234). This also indicates that people have mixed reactions and definitions when it comes to southern distinctiveness. Therefore, the quest for southern identity should be abolished as it creates unnecessary conflicts and dangerous politics among authors and other
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