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The Mind of the South

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  328 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Ever since its publication in 1941, The Mind of the South has been recognized as a path-breaking work of scholarship and as a literary achievement of enormous eloquence and insight in its own right. From its investigation of the Southern class system to its pioneering assessments of the region's legacies of racism, religiosity, and romanticism, W. J. Cash's book defined th ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published September 10th 1991 by Vintage (first published 1940)
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I grew up in California, the farthest away that you can get to the South. 4 years ago, I decided to go to college in a small, boondock town in rural Virginia, and found myself in a whole other era. I have a certain "love" for the South that is more like fondness than actual love - because I am not a Southerner, and therefore I can never completely understand. This book, however, is as close as I can get to understanding the real culture and heritage of the South and the way the Southerner (then ...more
Bob Mustin
This book was written some 75 years ago, and it’s amazing to me how closely Southern attitudes, the social structure, the personals and political cants of that time, parallel those of the South today. It’s tempting to make an essay of this review, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll list some of the predominant traits Cash (and I) see in the ongoing South (note - some of these bear explaining, I admit, and some are contradictory):

Resistant to change
I was assigned this book in a Southern history course in college. I expected a volume with this title written in age of Jim Crow to be a ridiculous defense of segregation below the Mason-Dixon Line. To my surprise, the book is something quite different: a study of how the experience of slavery and the loss of the Civil War had caused a rigid, defensive mindset for Southerners. The defense of all things antebellum had united Southerners, allowing no room for dissenting views. Anything that diverg ...more
In his tome "The Mind of the South," W.J. Cash seeks to holistically interpret the development of the Southern ethos by exploring the evolution of the region from the colonial period through reconstruction. Cash determines that the paramount sensibilities of Southern society were determined through the qualities of simplicity, romanticism, violence, white supremacy, and individualism. This conclusion is demonstrated through admirable use of the English lexicon and convincing, if not convoluted, ...more
This book was written in 1940, before the mechanical cotton picker and the second World War, as the Depression drug on for most people. The writer of the foreword warns quite explicitely that the book only considers the point of view of white men. If you are interested in that point of view and can wall off your concerns about what women or people of color (euphemism) thought and felt, then you may find this an interesting read. There are traits that most people associate with the South and Sout ...more
This book won't blow you away but it is very informative as it makes clear the mentality of the south, specifically the mentality of white southerners. It details the culture & climate in its beginning before the Civil War & goes through how it grew up through the Civil Rights movement. An atmosphere of leisure & how that contributed to ignorance & fear is given much detail. Cash describes the obstinacy that resulted from that & how it intensified in the face of everyone & ...more
This still tops my list of "Books that cause fights."
This is one weird book-length essay, but its central point is clear enough and well put. Cash (publishing originally in 1941) argues that the mindset of the American South is both newer and older than commonly thought.

It is true, Cash writes, that the South is a bit foreign -- "not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it" (viii). There is a South, and it is culturally unique within the United States. However, its culture does not go back as far in time as the Cavalier myth of th
Reed Peeples
I'm annoyed at myself for not reading The Mind of the South when I first heard of it eight years ago. I'm more annoyed at my professors for letting a me graduate from a college in the deep south without understanding the ideas Cash outlines. I was familiar with many of the broad ideas - the myth of the Lost Cause, a southern aristocracy, and so forth - but what I did not grasp was how these notions actually affected and shaped the psyche of individual Southerners. Many of the Southerners I've kn ...more
W.J. Cash's book published in 1941 before WWII is a work of scholarship exploring the white Southerner's mindset regarding the Civil War (War Between the States?), the lost cause, slavery, reconstruction, states' rights, racism, indentured servants, sharecroppers, politics, education and religion. He discusses Appalachia, the fall of the mill town industry and why poor, white (non-slave owners) aligned themselves with the plantation/landed gentry (slave owners). It's a compelling sociological an ...more
There is a great deal here that presciently describes the present 2010 state of mind of "tea party nation," extending beyond the physical scope of "the South," as characterized in Cash's book. On the other hand, defenders notwithstanding, I felt that I found a decidedly racist slant to the author's work. I think it's an important read for anyone living in or interested in the culture of the south, but in spite of its application to the society of 2010, the book does not escape being solidly moor ...more
Isadora Wagner
I've been reading increasingly in New Southern studies, and picked up this book to try to get a handle on its foundations: the "Old South" systems of romanticism, religion and racism that supported slavery and the South's role in the Civil War. Cash is a fascinating read whose tone (by turns coaxing, cajoling, velvet, railing and rhetorical) is a delightful aid in significantly unpacking the many nuances, contradictions and myths of what it means to come from a particular (white male) viewpoint ...more
Shonda Wilson
This book discusses the "mind" of the Southern from the Old South to the author's current time in 1939 and while he paints the southerner as lost in a fantasy... the author himself has a fantastical idea of what a Southerner is, he creates tons of excuses as to why Southerners behaved the way they did (often pointing towards African Americans and "Yankees") and presents a view of the south on a very limited scope...mostly concerning white males.

While the book is written well and does make some v
Bill Laine
Cash writes about cultural and economic events in the South and in the world that form the Southern Culture that is still visible today. Starting through the civil war and going up to the 40s, when the book was written, there are some great insights into the Southern way of thinking. The book is long, Cash writes vividly. There are some clinkers, on race, say, or women. If you push through for the big picture, though, there are things to be learned here. I enjoyed it and I am a little smarter ab ...more
this is a wonderful book for Southerners and "carpetbaggers" who want to understand how the South as it is came to be. I find it a little harsh towards the South in some respect, but I don't mind so much because it was written by a Southerner. I can understand his point of view after listening to story after story of the Confederacy from his grandfather while growing up in the economic and social chaos resulting from the Civil War.
Large sections of this book are beautifully written, and brutally honest.
Martha Johnson
Fascinating. Early part of the book better -- the 1800's. Obviously a work that is dated but it captures some terrific perspectives. The role of women in the south -- their image, the symbols they represented. The cotton mills; the labor movement that wasn't; the role of education in the 1800's particularly was important to grasp.
Mar 30, 2008 A. marked it as to-read
This has gotten bumped up the to-read list because it's due back at the library before anything else. I'm currently in the middle of so many books, it's not even funny.

ETA: Didn't get through this before it had to go back to the library. I'll try again this summer.
Written in 1941, a classic and instructive to how the Southern mind thinks. Presumably some things have changed since 1941, but not everything. This becomes evident in various parts of the book. A prerequisite to reading the new book "The New Mind of the South".
Sean Chick
While intriguing, the books seems more like an extended rant on how the South has no mind at all. He also ignores the Civil War. Still, this is a book worth knowing if you enjoy Southern history.
A fascinating book that speaks more of the author's and contemporaries' frame of mind than the perspectives of his ostensible subjects, i.e. his forebears.
Takes some time and is worth it. It has always haunted me that W.J.Cash committed suicide after writing this book.
Carol J.
Great insightful book about the South written in the 40's and recommended by Jeff Powell.
Brilliant book. Maybe the definitive book on the U.S. South.
There's a limit to how much one can trust these southerners!
Apr 16, 2009 Ruth added it
Shelves: nonfiction
Read the bit about literature. Hoped there would be more.
Carol Baldwin
Difficult to read. But interesting perspective.
Stephanie Aylworth
Because you're mine. I walk the line.
American history
Jul 15, 2007 Merissa marked it as to-read
i don't own this.
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