Karen Cox - Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture

Karen Cox explains how northern-based advertisers, manufacturers, musicians, writers, and filmmakers fashioned a romantic version of Dixieland to push products, calm anxiety about modernity – and maintain a racist status-quo.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
6:30 pm
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From the late nineteenth century through World War II, popular culture portrayed the American South as a region ensconced in its antebellum past, draped in moonlight and magnolias, and represented by such southern icons as the mammy, the belle, the chivalrous planter, white-columned mansions, and even bolls of cotton. But what if this constructed nostalgia for the Old South was actually manufactured by outsiders?

On Tuesday, August 30, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. in the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., historian Karen L. Cox, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, shows that the chief purveyors of the Dixieland dream were largely non-southerners – advertising copywriters, musicians, publishers, radio personalities, writers, and filmmakers – who found profit in playing to consumers' anxiety about modernity by marketing the South as a region still dedicated to America's pastoral – and racially segregated – traditions.

In her presentation, Cox, author of the newly-released Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture, also examines how southerners themselves embraced the imaginary romance of the region's past, particularly in the tourist trade as southern states and cities sought to capitalize on popular perceptions by showcasing their Old South heritage.

Only when television emerged as the most influential medium of popular culture did views of the South begin to change, as news coverage of the civil rights movement brought images of violence, protest, and conflict in the South into people's living rooms. Until then, Cox argues, most Americans remained content with their romantic vision of Dixie.

Admission to the event is free. RSVP online or call 816.701.3407. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the talk.