Public, Personal, and Sacred
AUTHOR: Goldfield, David R.
PUBLISHER: University of Georgia Press
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In this challenging look at some of the historical forces actively at work in today's South, David Goldfield draws pointed, provocative links between the "Lost Cause" mythology that emerged from the chaos of Confederate defeat, the region's reputation for intolerance, and southern evangelical Protestantism. History, religion, and culture can be so intertwined in the South, notes Goldfield, that changing one's point of view threatens simultaneously one's ancestry, identity, and salvation.
As he discusses southern religion in a global age, Goldfield ranges from the deliberations of the Southern Baptist Convention to the banning of Satan from Inglis, Florida, by mayoral proclamation in March 2002. He asks whether southerners' defiance of school-prayer prohibitions is an emboldened tactic of a triumphant theocracy or evidence of an increasingly marginal religion gone public with its anxieties.
On the question of who "owns" southern history, Goldfield looks at an array of issues from the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemmings controversy to debates over the Confederate flag to the proliferation of African American history museums and monuments in the region. Finally, he recalls his work as a consultant on U.S. Supreme Court cases involving a majority black voting district in North Carolina, as a coauthor of an environmental and economic impact study of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and as a mitigating witness in the sentencing phases of six racially polarizing death penalty cases. His contributions, Goldfield hopes, made history more "real" to people in vocations outside of academia.
The sesquicentennial of the Civil War in 2011 looms large for Goldfield. If we can commemorate the war and celebrate southern distinctiveness without being exclusionary, then the anniversary can be an occasion for reconciliation. In any case, he says, the South is rapidly changing, and whoever clings to a selective view of its history risks being left behind.
PUBLICATION DATE: 11/24/2003
CATEGORY: History, Social Science