Leaving the SouthBorder Crossing Narratives and the Remaking of Southern Identity

Leaving the SouthBorder Crossing Narratives and the Remaking of Southern Identity

Mary Weaks-Baxter

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781496819598

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


Millions of Southerners left the South in the 20th Century in a mass migration that has had a lasting impact on the U.S. Leaving the South focuses on narratives by and about those who left and how those narratives challenged concepts of Southern nationhood and remade how Southernness is interpreted and represented. Identifying “the South” as an idea, this study works under the assumption that because borders are social constructs, movements of people across borders are controlled not only by physical barriers, but also by the narratives that define that movement. Framed with a look back to the Southern history of border building and a look ahead to the impact of borders in the 21st Century, Leaving the South focuses on 20th century Southern Border Narratives in prose, poetry, visual arts, and music and how they were used to create group affiliation, encourage divisiveness, and formulate and perpetuate new individual and group identities. Taking an expansive approach, this book crosses temporal, textual, gendering, and racial boundaries in order to examine the parallel, intersecting, and divergent narrative paths of various groups of Southerners as they left the South. In a time of calls for building a wall between the United States and Mexico, and growing nationalistic movements and isolationist tendencies around the globe, Leaving the South reflects on that friction between the human capacities to, on the one hand, build walls and, on the other, to break them down.