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The Mind of the South

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  573 ratings  ·  59 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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Average rating 3.97  · 
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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." ...more
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
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
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
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
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
Jeff Garrison
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. ...more
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
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Takes some time and is worth it. It has always haunted me that W.J.Cash committed suicide after writing this book.
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Longer sentences than even Kendrick Curtis himself. Very valuable book and strangely, provided me with insight into my relationship with my Mom.
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
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"A little exaggeration here, a little blurring there, a little sagging in one place and a little upthrusting in another -- and voila! ... Catch Calhoun or Jeff Davis or Abe Lincoln (whose blood stemmed from the Carolina foothill country, remember) young enough, nurse him on 'bust-head,' feed him hog and pone, give him twenty years of lolling -- expose him to all the conditions to which the cracker was exposed -- and you have it exactly." (26)

"And what is true of the planter is true also, mutatis
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The most interesting thing about WJ Cash's The Mind of the South is how well it ages and how profitably it can be read 80 years after it was first published. To be sure, Cash's lengthy discourse on cotton prices and textile spindles may not hold as much direct interest for us today. His laser-like focus, however, on the development and manifestation of the defining characteristic of the Southern Mind - the narrow conformity, hyper-individualist, violent compact that is White Supremacy - Cash's S ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although somewhat dated by now (2019) this is an interesting reflection the economic, cultural and political history of the Southern (confederate) states in the USA. A history that can be summed up as in the final section of the book: "Violence, intolerance, aversion and suspicion towards new ideas, an incapacity for analysis, an inclination to act from feeling rather than from thought, an exaggerated individualism, and a too narrow concept of social responsibility, attachment to fictions and fa ...more
Gennadiy Pribaltov
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very angry look at the South of the US, it's problematic past and present from the year 1939.
Book's perspective is a bit narrow and white-male-dominated. Yes, there is some problematic phrasing for 2k20. But it's still great analysis. Emotional (yes, author is southerner himself and hanged himself right after book publication), insightful and exciting. It is not that much of history book, but more of kinda Marxist-ish analysis - daily conditions and customs of common Southerner of the times. Yo
Matthew Tessnear
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cash says it well at the end of his final section: The book is too long. However, this book maintains an incredible relevance 80 years after its first publishing. It explores, analyzes and explains the history of the American South so well—the good all the way to the bad, and everything in between. It’s haunting reading how much the issues of the past in the South continue to exist and grow today. As a native of the South, this is a book I will keep at arm’s length as I continue to read and writ ...more
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
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating counterbalance to Lanterns on the Levee. I don't know how much I buy some of his armchair psychology (albeit from the arm of a chair that appears to have been firmly placed on southern porches for most of his life, so it's not like he doesn't know his people), but by the alternatingly gratified and outraged marginalia left by a previous southern reader, I figure he must have been doing something right. As an aside, his violent death was something of a mystery, which is just so, well, ...more
Dylan Jones
Dec 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another book I found on a syllabus on Reconstruction, WJ Cash explains the ethos of the different constituent groups who make up the South. Written in 1940, Cash does a truly excellent job explaining the social, economic, and political trends that kept Southern beliefs in flux from Jamestown to his present during the New Deal. In trying to understand this region I think this book helped me the most to understand white southerners, and taking the context of Cash's writing I do see great value in ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics
I read this years ago and recently re-read the original 1941 version. Having grown up in east Texas, on the edge of the region Cash writes about, and then having spent a number of years as an adult in Virginia, Cash's observations made a lot of sense to me. Though the South has changed, its roots are evident if you look for them. ...more
Ken Moskowitz
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Highly recommended, critical view of Southern history, from antebellum period to pre-World War II. Cash doesn't let his fellow Southerners get off for their racism, but he is also critical of carpetbagger Yankees from the Reconstruction period. It provided me many insights on older Southern thinking. ...more
Alex Poston
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
Difficult to review. Always eloquent, but hamstrung, I think, by regressive attitude re race. Read for a socio-economic interpretation of white Southerners only in relation to themselves. I don’t trust Cash to responsibly interpret whites interaction with their black fellows. Biggest draw is his reinterpretation of the old south as a pioneer society with aristocratic pretensions.
J.K. George
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-books
A classic selection from one of our book club's most senior academics who has lived much of this story. I liked it, as it paints the idealistic picture of the way many hoped it always would be. This is a story for and by elites, with a shrug to the "have nots" who populate so much of the South. ...more
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
Nathanael Mickelson
Aug 04, 2020 rated it liked it
A classic, but of its period. Sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating.
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