Thursday, February 20, 2003


To: The Rittenhouse Review
From: K.D.
Date: February 18, 2003

As a historian and a Southerner, and as an opponent of publicly funded honoring of the Confederate flag, I am baffled by your post, “Whatever Happened to the ‘New South’?”

You claim that the New South may have been a myth. To back up your thesis, you rely on an online poll. How does an online poll prove that the New South is a myth? Let me repeat the caveat underneath the poll: NOTE: This is NOT a scientific poll. It only reflects what some of our online users are expressing on a given day. Somehow that must have escaped your attention.

The New South is certainly modern. Anyone who has spent time in Atlanta, Jacksonville[,] and Chapel Hill, with their architecture, fast[-]food joints[,] and endless traffic, can tell you that.

Honestly, having spent time down South and in New York and New England, I found better race relations here in the South where whites and African-Americans generally deal with each other than in Manhattan or Hartford where whites and blacks are generally segregated.

Despite the best wishes of observers who went out of their way to look for a progressive South, from Frederick Law Olmsted to W.J.Cash to C. Vann Woodward, the South has never been and is not progressive. Certainly few people can even call Democrats in the South progressives. Most are Democratic Leadership Council types in the Clinton and Gore mold. The New South embraced business and lured jobs and companies out of the Rust Belt and into the Sun Belt as opposed to the Old South[,] which stressed the agrarian life. There are numerous books, articles, web sites talking about the neo-Confederate movement that you could have cited. You relied on a selective on-line poll.

We shall see what happens in Georgia. I suspect the 1956 flag people will win by the skins of their teeth. But, with a close race, no front runner [sic][,] and at least two major African-American candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Democrats could flock to the polls and bury the old flag. We shall see. I will say that the new flag has a better chance in March than it would in November.

I went to your site through the American Prospect and enjoyed it, despite my problem with your methods here.


Jim Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review responds:

First, let me assure you that I did not “claim” that what is called the “New South” is a myth. Rather, I wrote, “maybe it was just a myth all along” (in the sub-headline) and “maybe the modern and progressive ‘New South’ was just a myth all along” at the end of the post. These are queries, suggestions, even, but not “claims.”

Second, I am fully aware that online polls are not scientific. I didn’t think it was necessary to repeat this widely known and accepted fact to my readers who, I assure you, are sufficiently sophisticated as to not need to be repeated that standard disclaimer. Regardless, I assume you are at least slightly troubled by the results to date of the Savannah Morning News poll, as I was and as were many readers who submitted their own comments.

I cited the poll not in an attempt to “back up my thesis” -- no thesis whatsoever was presented -- but only to alert readers to results to-date at the Savannah paper’s poll. I haven’t a clue, at least as of yet, whether this particular poll accurately represents the views of voters in southern Georgia, let alone the state as a whole.

Nonetheless, I found the tally disturbing and disappointing. And, frankly, I long since have grown tired of southerners reassuring the rest of the country that things have changed, that there is a “New South,” when there exists ample evidence to suggest otherwise.

After all, long after the happy proclamation of the “New South,” and the region’s greedy intake of whatever commercial venture came its way, South Carolina continued to send Strom Thurmond to the U.S. Senate, even when this plainly racist freak could barely be counted among the quick.

And North Carolina, which for reasons that escape me entirely enjoys an even more progressive reputation than the rest of the greater southeastern region, seemed to take great pride in being represented in the U.S. Senate by Jesse Helms.

Let’s be serious. The fact that the 19th century relics that all too many southerners would have -- and wish to have -- appear on their state flags is even considered a topic worthy of conversation in civilized society tells us much about the political climate in the region.

None of this is to suggest that states outside of the southeast are faultless or blameless, though your contention that life is better for African-Americans in the South than it is in New York or in Hartford, Conn., is dubious at best.

And I must say that I am surprised to see you refer to Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley-Braun as “two major African-American candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.” If either remains a viable candidate by the time Georgia holds its primary, I will be shocked.

Thank you for writing and I hope you will continue to visit the Review.