John Shelton Reed

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Still Fighting the Civil War

The influx of Northern migrants to these parts continues to produce misunderstanding. Some time ago, the good people of Hillsborough, North Carolina, gave up their right to shoot marauding vermin in their own backyards to an official municipal squirrel-shooter. Citizens

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The Honorable Gentleman From New York

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that conservative middle-aged professors are rare birds. Until recently, right-wing academics have been almost as rare as black ones, and for pretty much the same reason: bright conservatives could generally do better elsewhere. So

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Deo Vindice

One day last September I was visited by a couple of guys who were writing a cover story on the South for a Dutch magazine. They had been to Darlington, Tuskegee, Oxford, Charleston, and other shrines of Southern culture, and

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Done Away With

The boy choir of Duke University has been done away with, apparently at the behest of one of the campus ministers, a woman who had never even attended any of the services at which the choir performed but who complained

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Passing the Bottle

In the aftermath of a conference not long ago, a dozen of us spent a night in downtown Little Rock. (No, this wasn’t the Economic Summit. It was a gathering of poets, novelists, and essayists to discuss Southern autobiography, and

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Mississippi Musing

Back in February, a USA Today story on black historical sites mentioned a “Black Confederate Memorial” in Canton, Mississippi, a “20-foot obelisk . . . built in 1894 to honor Harvey’s Scouts, one of the black units that operated behind

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Capture the Flag, Part II

We have it on good authority that the peacemakers are blessed, and that’s only fair, because we sure catch hell in this world. Not long ago I suggested that most Southerners who display the Confederate flag are not bigots and

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Capture the Flag, Part I

In an earlier letter I cheered my buddy Chris’s suggestion that announcements at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics be given in both Southern and Yankee English but pointed out that on preliminary form Atlanta’s civic leaders are unlikely to cotton to

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Race Politics: Part One

Yes, I know I promised to write about the Georgia state flag controversy, but that prospect was too depressing. Let me address instead a couple of more entertaining topics, namely the 43rd annual Mountain Dew Southern 500 NASCAR Winston Cup

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The New America

Yeah, I know we’ve got two Southerners running on the Democratic ticket. Don’t rub it in, OK? As Miss Scarlett used to say, I’ll think about it tomorrow. Let’s talk about sports.

As you probably know, in four years jocks

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Trivializing Rape

Last spring I picked up our student newspaper to read this sentence in a front-page story: “Statistics show that one out of every four UNC females will be sexually assaulted while in college.” Wow. The University of North Carolina has

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Bubba-cue Judgment Day

Did you notice last spring how the national media-the New York Times, Newsweek, NPR, all of them-almost simultaneously began talking about “the Bubba vote”? I seriously doubt that many of these folks have actually met Bubba, much less

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Shall We Gather by the River?

When I was invited last spring to be a judge at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest some envious backbiters put it about that it wasn’t because I’m well known as a discriminating ami de swine,

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The Texas Wild Card

One evening last winter my buddy Eugene and I were shooting the breeze while we sort of half-watched the new, citified Hee Haw (it’s not the sort of show you want to watch alone, and my wife, a nose-breather, won’t

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A Sense of Place

Some people, mostly Southerners and geographers, like to argue about how you can tell whether you’re in the South. This discourse (if you’ll excuse the expression) can be more or less serious. My friend Vince Staten, for instance, once ran

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Fight Them on the Beaches

Before the drive from California to North Carolina that I wrote about last month, I believed that American regionalism was alive and well. Now I damn well know it is. I’ll tell you what I am worried about, though, is

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Home Movies

In a recent letter I mentioned the circuitous route my wife and I drove last summer on our way from California back home to North Carolina. The first day it took us past Bakersfield, where I’m told the children and

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Seeing the Wizard Off

A historical sense can be a wonderful thing to have. Not long ago, for instance, someone reminded me that when Christianity was as old as Islam is now, the Inquisition was going full tilt. When Islam gets to be two

Fourth of July: A Short Story
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Fourth of July: A Short Story

I am so deathly afraid of those women.

Strawberry pie again, Eleanor, how nice. Pity it didn’t set.

Every Fourth of July I vow not to, but sooner or later I sit down and cry. I used to cry the

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Class Dismissed

Last month, I wrote that Southern manners have taken the edge off class conflict in the South. Let’s explore that proposition a bit more.

Fifty years ago, a North Carolina journalist named W.J. Cash published what quickly became a classic

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Space Invaders: Part II

Last spring, my friend Dick, a history professor here, was riding in a Long Island airport limousine when it stopped to pick up another passenger, an elderly lady burdened with luggage and confronted by a garden gate that wouldn’t open.

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Space Invaders: Part I

As Americans continue their flight to the South from the regions that they’ve already ruined, I continue to monitor the low-intensity conflict between Yankee settlers and Southern natives. This public service is needed, I think, because we just don’t know

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A Good Job for the Federal Government

There is good reason to be suspicious of the U.S. national park system. You can start with its origins.

In 1864, an act of Congress seized the first parkland for the federal government, evicting some homesteaders from the Yosemite Valley

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Taking the Tenth

A year or so ago, a concerned citizen asked Carl Fox, our district attorney, to listen to 2 Live Crew’s nasty album As Nasty as They Wanna Be. Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of the Duke English department had

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Southern Spies in the Ivy League

Several recent letters from readers outside the South have contained clippings and firsthand reports about the progress of Our Nation’s cause. I hope my correspondents don’t mind, but I’ve come to think of them as a sort of intelligence service,

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Man’s Best Friend and Other Brutes

Highbrows like Chronicles readers may not know a television program called Americas Funniest Home Videos, but it’s just exactly what it sounds like. A story in Newsweek last year reported that the program’s staff were surprised to discover regional

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Cardinal Sins

After sharing my ill-informed impressions of California with you last month, I should probably just let it be. After all, only fools think they understand the South after a few months, and I presume the same is true for California.

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Motel California

Folks keep asking me when I’m going to write about California. (They generally lick their chops when they ask it. They seem to think I’m going to trash the place. I wonder why?) Anyway, yeah, it’s true that I’ve been

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A Mind of the South

February 10 was the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Mind of the South, WJ. Cash’s classic and, in the event, only book. Reading Cash was a formative experience for most members of the symposium-going class of Southerners,

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Locally Owned and Operated

How about three news items from a typical week in a Southern university town (Chapel Hill, May 1990), just to get the old motor warmed up after last month’s absence?

A new law against urinating on the sidewalks resulted in

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What I Did on My Vacation

Last August found our family on a blue highway tour of the Northeast, angling across some of the remoter parts of central Pennsylvania and upstate New York to Lake Champlain, crossing on the ferry for a few days in Vermont.

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Official State Business

Perhaps you heard the howls (actually, more like hollers) a while back when some hapless Texas bureaucrat proposed that the Lone Star State be known henceforth on its license plates as “The Friendship State.” You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania,

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In This Corner . . .

As I write it is mid-July, and the Senate race between Jesse Helms and Harvet Gantt isn’t nearly as hot as the weather here in North Carolina, where it was 99 degrees in the shade this afternoon. To judge

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An Academic Remnant

As a rule I don’t use this letter for academic shoptalk. Most of you aren’t college professors, and few things are more tedious than another profession’s gossip. Besides, there’s no regional angle to this stuff, except that the trendy foolishness

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A Mess of Greens

When my secesh batteries need recharging, as they do every once in a while, I go hang out with someone like my Alabama friends Ward and Peggy. When I visited them last April, we went on a pilgrimage to the

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Another Country

Most of my news this month has to do, one way or another, with country music. In a roundabout way, a story out of South Carolina last fall got me thinking about that particular contribution of the South to world

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Funny Business

Cleaning out my drawers, I find regional news items (some newer than others) from the worlds of religion and business, with some miscellaneous statistics for garnish. Beginning with religion (of a sort):

In Tupelo, Mississippi (where Elvis was born in

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The Last Round-up

Chronicles has a leisurely—almost Southern—production schedule, which means that you should be reading this just about the time the dogwoods blossom. I’m writing it, though, as 1989 draws to a close, ending a decade that, all things considered, could

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Editing the South: The Final Chapter

The plot so far: Southern magazine, a winsome fresh-faced newcomer from Little Rock (played by Debbie Reynolds) falls heavily in debt. Her notes are picked up by Southern Living, an immensely wealthy Alabamian (Larry Hagman), who carries her off

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Editing the South, Part II

Last fall Howell Raines griped amusingly in The New York Times Book Review about “the Southern Living disease,” an affliction that leads Southerners to depict their region “as one endless festival of barbecue, boiled shrimp, football Saturdays, and good old

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Editing the South I

I have a more or less professional interest in Southern regional magazines. Some I’ve written for, others I’ve written about, one or two I’ve cribbed from—one way or another a few subscriptions and the odd newsstand purchase wind up as

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Beavers, Banners, and Bulls

Here in Chapel Hill we’ve had this problem with beavers. They’ve been damming creeks, as is their wont. Unfortunately in the process, they’ve been turning great areas into) marsh and creating a mosquito problem, so last year the old boys

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Allons, Enfants de la Patrie

It was years ago that I first read the collection of Donald Davidson’s essays called Still Rebels, Still Yankees. In one of them, “Some Day, in Old Charleston,” the doughty Last Agrarian addressed one of his perennial themes, the

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Bad Sports

Football season once again, and a profoundly depressing time of year it is. Sundays are all right—football’s an interesting game and the NFL plays it superbly. It’s Saturday afternoon that always makes me blue. Being a good citizen, I cheer

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Of Collard Greens and Kings

My godson was graduated from a Chicago high school last May. To my delight, he wanted to go to a Southern college. Unfortunately he picked Duke, which means that his idea of the South will probably come to include things