Liberal Arts Faculty Books

Heritage and Hate: Old South Rhetoric at Southern Universities


Heritage and Hate: Old South Rhetoric at Southern Universities



The US South is a rhetorical landscape that pulsates with division, a place where words and symbols rooted in a deeply problematic past litter the ground and contaminate the soil. Stephen M. Monroe’s provocative study focuses on predominantly white southern universities where Old South rhetoric still reverberates, where rebel flags cast a shadow over attempts at racial harmony, school cheers to reinforce racial barriers, and student yearbooks to create and protect an oppressive culture of exclusion. Across the region, in college towns like Oxford, Mississippi; Athens, Georgia; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama—communities remain locked in a difficult, recursive, and inherently rhetorical struggle that wrestles with this troubling legacy. Words, images, and symbols are not merely passive artifacts of southern history, Monroe argues, but formative agents that influence human behavior and shape historical events. Drawing on research from many disciplines, including rhetoric, southern studies, history, sociology, and African American studies, Monroe develops the concept of confederate rhetoric: the collection of Old South words and symbols that have been and remain central to the identity conflicts of the South. He charts examples of such rhetoric at work in southern universities from Reconstruction to the present day. Tracing the long life and legacy of Old South words and symbols at southern universities, this book provides close and nuanced analysis of the rhetorical conflicts that have resulted at places like the University of Mississippi and the University of Missouri. Some conflicts erupted during the civil rights movement, when the first African American students sought admission to all-white southern universities and colleges, and others are brewing now, as African Americans (and their progressive white peers) begin to cement genuine agency and voice in these communities. Tensions have been, and remain, high. Ultimately, Monroe offers hope and optimism, contending that if words and symbols can be used to damage and divide, then words and symbols can also be used to heal and unify. Racist rhetoric can be replaced by antiracist rhetoric. The old South can become new. While resisting naïve or facile arguments, Heritage and Hate ultimately finds the promise of progress within the tremendous power of language.

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Writing and Rhetoric

Heritage and Hate: Old South Rhetoric at Southern Universities