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The Mind of the South

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  500 ratings  ·  46 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, 444 pages
Published September 10th 1991 by Vintage (first published 1941)
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Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
This still tops my list of "Books that cause fights."
Oct 04, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Kurt Cobb
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
W. J. Cash's "The Mind of the South" is without a doubt the Rosetta stone of the Southern American mentality, a mentality that has proven remarkably durable against the vast changes experienced by the American South from the Civil War to today.

This long essay is part social and intellectual history, part psychology, part confession from a Southerner who is trying make the general mindset of his fellow Southerners accessible to non-residents. Cash explains the Southerner's worst attributes withou
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jill Hutchinson
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
This is a rather slow read as one must pause and think about the author's assumptions after every chapter. Written in 1941, the book is dated but still presents a prescient look at the world today and the problems that have existed which initially divided the country into the "North" and the "South". Cash traces the reasons that he believes have shaped the "Southern attitude" from the early 1800s....many seem right on target while others sometimes stretch the point a bit.

This is considered one o
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: southern-lit
In the introduction to the 50th Anniversary reprint of this book, Bertram Wyatt-Brown compares Cash’s writing to that of a southern lawyer addressing the jury. If that’s the case, I’m sure most of the jury would vote to hang his defendant on sheer principle. This is a long and wordy book. It often repeats itself. Furthermore, it doesn’t come to any great conclusion. At the end, I found myself wondering if the author just ran out of steam. It appears he’s still in the middle of the story, which i ...more
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Its intellect and historical importance deserve the highest rating, but as a modern reader, the outdated thinking related to African Americans and women is a little difficult. It's so incongruent with the profound understanding he exhibits about the South, as a whole.
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
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1940, The Mind of the South is a book-length essay by W.J. Cash, a "loyal son of the South," that examines and attempts to explain Southern history, values, and attitudes. The book contains numerous valuable insights and much thought-provoking analysis of what made (and in many respects, still makes) the Southern section of the United States unique. Cash clearly has a great love for the South, but his "loyal son" status doesn't prevent him from criticizing and lamenting what he sees a ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The Mind of the South" is a sociological and economic look at the southern United States, written in 1941 by W. J. Cash (himself a southerner). Cash was a journalist and (later) newspaper editor who was asked to write this book as an expansion of an article of the same name that he wrote for a magazine. The book-length version went on to become known as a definite work describing the history, sociology, and economic story of the southern states.

Cash starts his narrative back before the Civil Wa
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Published in 1941, this book is an honest attempt, for the time, to try and come to terms with what the South means for America. While knowing that such evil and ignorant world views permeate our country, there can be no denying where and why they came to be.

The South is smug and full of denial with a profound unwillingness to look critically at how powerful and racist forces have harmed us all. This book is an early effort to come to terms with how these forces have used and manipulated agains
Patrick Bair
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
Excellent, monumental work that bears up well over the years.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 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
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I'm a Yankee born and bred who has forebears who fought on the Union side of the Civil War. I've lived in Atlanta for the past 18 years, and was spurred to read this in part because of the demonstrably wrong things that people have been saying about the Civil War, particularly in light of the removal of the Battle flag from the South Carolina capital building. The same Lost Cause arguments were probably being made at the point that the Georgia flag was changed, but they didn't make the same impa ...more
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Isadora Wagner
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history-academic
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
May 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Bill Laine
Aug 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Brittney Martinez
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grad-school
An extremely comprehensive look at how Southern literature is influenced by its geography, it's no wonder why "The Mind of the South" is highly recommended even 60 years after its publication. Cash's writing makes this a fun read, but do expect it to be more on the academic side. It's extremely lengthy, but worth it if you're interested in Southern literature.
Martha Johnson
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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".
Agatha Donkar
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.
Carol Baldwin
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Difficult to read. But interesting perspective.
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