Discovering the South

One Man's Travels through a Changing America in the 1930s

By Jennifer Ritterhouse

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 27 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3094-6
    Published: March 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3095-3
    Published: February 2017

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

During the Great Depression, the American South was not merely "the nation's number one economic problem," as President Franklin Roosevelt declared. It was also a battlefield on which forces for and against social change were starting to form. For a white southern liberal like Jonathan Daniels, editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, it was a fascinating moment to explore. Attuned to culture as well as politics, Daniels knew the true South lay somewhere between Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. On May 5, 1937, he set out to find it, driving thousands of miles in his trusty Plymouth and ultimately interviewing even Mitchell herself.

In Discovering the South historian Jennifer Ritterhouse pieces together Daniels’s unpublished notes from his tour along with his published writings and a wealth of archival evidence to put this one man's journey through a South in transition into a larger context. Daniels's well chosen itinerary brought him face to face with the full range of political and cultural possibilities in the South of the 1930s, from New Deal liberalism and social planning in the Tennessee Valley Authority, to Communist agitation in the Scottsboro case, to planters' and industrialists' reactionary worldview and repressive violence. The result is a lively narrative of black and white southerners fighting for and against democratic social change at the start of the nation's long civil rights era.

For more information on this book, see www.discoveringthesouth.org.

About the Author

Jennifer Ritterhouse is associate professor of history at George Mason University.
For more information about Jennifer Ritterhouse, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“Fascinating and well-researched. . . . Ritterhouse has done an admirable job in transporting us to a time and place and a southern liberal’s struggle to describe a region on the cusp of change.”--Rob Christensen, News and Observer

"Puts Daniels' tour in context of President Roosevelt's New Deal programs and the growing movement for greater civil rights for all."--Durham Herald-Sun

“How a Tar Heel Southerner discovered the South.”--Wilmington Star-News

"An uncommonly well-informed reexamination of the Dixie of the latter Depression."--Ed Yoder, The Weekly Standard

“This is a fascinating, rich account of the mid-twentieth-century South. Beautifully and inventively conceived, this book uses Jonathan Daniels to consider a crucial moment when the South (and the country) was on the verge of major changes. Ritterhouse’s book gives us a unique lens through which to explore the conflicts and uncertainties of where the South was headed in the late 1930s and 1940s.”--William A. Link, University of Florida

“In this impressive work of original scholarship, Jennifer Ritterhouse uses Jonathan Daniels’s 1937 tour of the South as guide to better understanding the nation’s struggle with the region. The wealth of subjects discussed and the ease with which Ritterhouse presents the era’s key events and personalities in well-crafted vignettes is inspired.”--Glenn T. Eskew, Georgia State University