What is the future of the Southern tradition? This question presents a pressing problem for Americans in the twenty-first century. To those who reduce the Southern tradition to treason and slavery, the answer would be simple: it must be eradicated. Unfortunately, these people dominate the academic and political classes in American society.
The near decade long pogrom on Southern symbols clearly shows that they face little resistance. Even Donald Trump’s veto of the bill creating the “Naming Commission” did not stop Congress from enacting the most ahistorical bill of the last several years. Around a hundred Republicans voted to override the veto. Why? Because Southerners were “racist Democrats” who deserved to be punished. This sophomoric understanding of American history is compounded by “conservative” writers, politicos, and influencers who parrot talking points that would satisfy the communist historian Eric Foner. The Southern tradition seems to be on life support.
In April of this year, we organized a conference on the Southern Tradition in the twenty-first century. Some of the speakers offered a rather pessimistic appraisal of the future South, at least in the immediate future. Southerners have lost a sense of their own unique culture, heritage, and tradition. Not long ago, even leftist Southerners still loved the South. Those people have faded into obscurity.
While the Abbeville Institute certainly understands this bleak outlook, there are many positive signs that the Southern tradition is still alive and well in modern America.
Thirty years ago, no one was openly discussing decentralization as a legitimate solution to American political conflict. Today, over twenty percent of Americans support secession, and more support some type of decentralization, even those on the Left. More Americans are rejecting an overly commercialized and plastic society, and are choosing instead to embrace localism in economics, education, and culture.
The Southern tradition as defined by a Jeffersonian society is making a comeback.
True, many of these developments are small gains in what appears to be a losing effort, but the fact that the anti-Southern forces dedicate so much intellectual and economic capital to defeating the “Lost Cause” means that the Southern tradition, at least on some level, is still vibrant enough to earn their rebuke.
In the last year, the Institute has published over two hundred articles on the Southern tradition. We rebranded our Podcast and produced a short video in support of the Arlington National Cemetery Confederate Monument. We hosted half a dozen Zoom webinars on Southern history and culture and held a “virtual” Summer School for thirteen students where he handed out $5000 in scholarship money. The first-place winner in our Summer School essay contest, Cole Branum, is featured in our Abbeville Institute newsletter.
Our Press published Jim Kibler’s excellent book on William Faulkner, and we will be publishing several more in the near future.
We are putting the finishing touches on our longstanding “1607 Project: Virginia First” and will launch both the corresponding book and feature documentary during our February 2024 conference at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA.
And there is much more in store for 2024. The Abbeville Institute has spent twenty years exploring what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition, and while we may not always get credit for our work, we are making a difference. The Southern tradition deserves our constant cultivation and care, for if we surrender the field, no one will be left to tend the garden. Your continued financial and intellectual support is both appreciated and welcomed. We cannot do this alone, and the fight is far from over.