Sometimes the way we imagine someone or something can become more important than what they are. It’s a familiar problem in relationships. We can call this an “imagining” of a person, to contrast it with who the person actually is. And we can do this with places, communities, and things as well: the home where we grew up, our high school, our family, our first car. Those imaginings don’t have to be warm and nostalgic, either; they are probably just as often regretful, bitter, angry, or vengeful. And of course different people have different imaginings of the same thing.
My guest Zachary Lechner argues that Americans had different sorts of imaginings of the South in the 1960’s and 70’s, specifically of the “White South” in the era of the Civil Rights movement and of the economic boom of what might be called the New New South. Together our conversation roams from imaginings, to the movie Mississippi Burning; from Canadians living in the Hudson Valley writing a classic “Lost Cause” ballad, to what Burt Reynolds, George Wallace, and Jimmy Carter exemplify of Southern manhood; and whether “the South” actually exists.
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