In This Issue
By Steve Suitts
Vol. 2, No. 6, 1980, pp. 2
Probably no more persuasive eveidence of the divided and changeing nature of the South can be found outside the region’s historic symbols of resistance and challenge in race relations. Massive numbers of people marching down the streets, a cigar-chewing, pugnacious Alabama Governor, the flapping sheets of the Ku Klux Klan, the closed, White church door, and the lunch counter at Woolworth’s — all once represented the political changes, social conflicts andhuman urges that composed muchof Southern life for two decades.
In this combined issue of Southern Changes,we leave for a little while the shiny floors of the South’s new airports and not only in passing the reflections of its glass skyscrapers in order to consider what has become of those once powerful sylmbols of the South’s struggle for something other than what was. From near and far, by the native and foreign-born, and with the obvious and hidden totems, we look now at what has become of the South’s symbols of protest and resistance.
As he moves about the streets of Paris, Southerner Tom Noland sets the stage by describing the South as the French see it and understand it today. The piece invokes humor, bewilderment and sobering questions about the portrayal of this region across the Atlantic. The images we project, perhaps, are themes we fail to see.
While Noland writes that the “mention of Fob James…” is met with shruggled shoulders and blank stares,” by the French, the governor of Alabama has received quite a different reception at home recently as he faces opposition and outrage among some legislators and representatives of the state’s poor. When James took office in January 1979 he repeated his campaign pledge of “a new beginning” for Alabama — away from the legacy of the past years. Now, as Wayne Greenhaw tells us, the beginning looks more like the end to some who analyze the business of the new governor. Greenhaw’s story cannot be entirely separated from the new generation of Southern governors who began and have continued to take office
Charles Young take sus to Greensboro, N.C. in early February where the celebration of the 1960 Black protest sit-in demonstrations were juxtaposed with the protest of Klan-related killings in NOvember 1979. With a sympathetic knowledge of the local actors, Young reaches no conclusions in his article about the strengths of yesterday’s symbols or the importance of today’s protests; however, he brings that city and those events further into focus and lets us think about our relationship to the paradoxes and the demands which such occasions represent.
We have also in this issue and African student who offers us a few observations about New Orleans and Rev. Wohlgemuth who shares his experiences as a White minister who faced in himself and others the fears of race relations.
Our department pieces review the strength of the “conservative coalition” in Congress — that group of Southern Democrats and the nation’s Republicans who have found common ground for the last hundred years — and the status of the women wage-earners over the past decade.
On the whole, the image of the South in this issue presents the same kind of contradictions, surprises, and disappointments that other generations have perceived in their own time. Still, in that cicruitous past and its many living symbols, Southerners can find uniquely the “oneness” which ties together the different people of this region. It is a oneness that is born of our conflicts and our loves — a oneness given the most common definition when individuals see themselves as a community of people living in that territory and influenced by the past we know as the South.