A wide-ranging blend of autobiography and history, The South and the Southerner
is one prominent newspaperman's statement on his region, its heritage, its future, and his own place within it. Ralph McGill (1898-1969), the longtime editor and later publisher of the Atlanta Constitution
, was one of a handful of progressive voices heard in southern journalism during the civil rights era. From the podium of his front-page columns, he delivered stinging criticisms of ingrained southern bigotry and the forces marshaled against change; yet he retained throughout his career--and his writing--a deep affection for all southerners, even those who declared themselves his enemies.
In The South and the Southerner, originally published in 1963, McGill moves freely from personal anecdotes about his Tennessee upbringing and Vanderbilt education to reflections on the decline of the plantation economy and his hopes for racial justice. Scattered throughout are vividly rendered biographical vignettes of the South's diverse sons and daughters--figures ranging from demagogues like Mississippi's James Vardaman to Lucy Randolph Mason, the Virginia-born clergyman's daughter who became a tireless crusader for organized labor. Poignant and eloquent, the book remains a compelling meditation on southern identity and culture.