Cover image for The South in Black and white : race, sex, and literature in the 1940s
The South in Black and white : race, sex, and literature in the 1940s
Jenkins, McKay, 1963-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
ix, 215 pages ; 25 cm
Whatever else the true American is, he is also somehow black -- Moving among the living as ghosts: a historical overview -- Private violence desirable: race, sex, and sadism in Wilbur J. Cash's The mind of the South -- Men of honor and pygmy tribes: metaphors of race and cultural decline in William Alexander Percy's Lanterns on the levee -- I know the fears by heart: segregation as metaphor in the work of Lillian Smith -- The sadness made her feel queer: race, gender, and the grotesque in the early writings of Carson McCullers -- Thirteen ways of looking at whiteness.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS261 .J46 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



If the nation as a whole during the 1940s was halfway between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the postwar prosperity of the 1950s, the South found itself struggling through an additional transition, one bound up in an often violent reworking of its own sense of history and regional identity. Examining the changing nature of racial politics in the 1940s, McKay Jenkins measures its impact on white Southern literature, history, and culture.

Jenkins focuses on four white Southern writers--W. J. Cash, William Alexander Percy, Lillian Smith, and Carson McCullers--to show how they constructed images of race and race relations within works that professed to have little, if anything, to do with race. Sexual isolation further complicated these authors' struggles with issues of identity and repression, he argues, allowing them to occupy a space between the privilege of whiteness and the alienation of blackness. Although their views on race varied tremendously, these Southern writers' uneasy relationship with their own dominant racial group belies the idea that "whiteness" was an unchallenged, monolithic racial identity in the region.

Author Notes

McKay Jenkins is a former staff writer for "The Atlanta Constitution". His articles have appeared in "Outside", "Outdoor Explorer", & "Orion". He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

What do Wilbur J. Cash, William Alexander Percy, Lillian Smith, and Carson McCullers have in common? For starters, they were all white southerners who "considered themselves alienated by the cultural mainstream," who were "racially progressive," who were "sexually ambivalent," who in the cultural transition period of the 1940s wrote controversial bestsellers, and who have now "largely fallen out of fashion." But for Jenkins (journalism and English, Univ. of Delaware) they are also provocative case studies of whites who "shuddered under the burden of the corrosive racial and gender discourse of their day," showing how this discourse damaged even "members of the 'majority' culture." Through fact-based and relatively jargon-free analysis of these writers' underlying ambivalence and alienation, Jenkins challenges "the stubborn idea of monolithic racial identity, in this case 'whiteness,' within a particular group." Jenkins's impulse in using white texts in the same way that black texts have been used in racial discourse is "to nudge scholarship and students alike to examine and take responsibility for their own language, their own racial thinking, their own sense of personal and cultural history, rather than treating race . . . as a kind of localized anthropology project." By and large, Jenkins succeeds. Useful notes. Upper-division undergraduates and above. A. J. Griffith; Our Lady of the Lake University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Whatever Else the True American Is, He Is Also Somehow Black
Chapter 1 Moving among the Living as Ghosts: A Historical Overview
Chapter 2 Private Violence Desirable: Race, Sex, and Sadism in Wilbur J. Cash'sThe Mind of the South
Chapter 3 Men of Honor and Pygmy Tribes: Metaphors of Race and Cultural Decline in William Alexander Percy'sLanterns on the Levee
Chapter 4 I Know the Fears by Heart: Segregation as Metaphor in the Work of Lillian Smith
Chapter 5 The Sadness Made Her Feel Queer: Race, Gender, and the Grotesque in the Early Writings of Carson McCullers
Conclusion: Thirteen Ways of Looking at Whiteness