Retrospective on the Development of Southern Culture

September 04, 1851

Auburn, Georgia

I sit at my desk, a mug of tea and a vase with a few flowers I picked in my front garden this morning at my side. I stoop over this notebook as I have for the past fifty years, pen poised and ready to transcribe the world around me as I intake it. I have been a journalist for the Baltimore Sun for my entire adult life and it has been a wonderful and rewarding journey for me. I have travelled all over the American South from the corner of Louisiana to the tip of Virginia – and even into Texas on a particular assignment – to explore and document Southern Culture. As I progress into my old age, I wish to write one final piece – a retrospective on my career and the development of Southern Culture I have so diligently studied.

I have very genuinely enjoyed writing about Southern Culture throughout my life. As many say the United States may be on the cusp of a civil war and the future of the South is uncertain, I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate the Southern Culture I have been raised and grown to treasure.

Southern Culture over the past fifty years has been shaped primarily by economic opportunities. It is in man’s nature to seek out opportunities to improve the course of one’s life and provide comfort for one’s family. The South has presented many of these opportunities through agriculture that most have taken advantage of. Because it is a time of a flourishing agricultural economy in the South, especially with our dear Cotton, families’ lives are shaped by agricultural opportunities. This means that the majority of Southerners live on farms and plantations in rural country. This lifestyle can be very isolated and secluded but it is also a lifestyle of plenty and prosperity for the good white people of the South. The social and religious practices that are central to Southern Culture have developed out of the typical Southern isolated farm life. Another central aspect of Southern Culture, slavery, developed because of the economic opportunities it offers to plantation and farm owners. Over the past fifty years I have observed how the controversy over slavery in the nation has grown and grown and I think it is a shame. Slavery is a significant facet of Southern Culture that is a very respectable and established institution.

I found the above image painted by a local artist at a town store I visited the other day, and I was really taken aback by it. The picture shows a typical Southern cotton plantation in full swing. I think the picture represents well how economic opportunities have shaped the lives and the culture of Southerners. The black slaves are laboring in the cotton fields assiduously and the whites in the front are overseeing the production and organization of the farm. The picture also depicts a typical farmhouse of a thriving farm in the lush Southern countryside.

It is also important to note the bright happy colors used in the picture and the warm sun shining down on the Southern lifestyle. The prosperity of this typical Southern life shines brilliantly through in this picture.  Life is good! Looking at this image that I have seen so many times in real life during my travels as a journalist, I am proud to be a Southerner.

– Miss Hattie Bradshaw

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