The thirty years prior to the Civil War were flamboyant and fiery times for the South. People had a passion for political issues and an ear for the lusty oratory that could be heard at any gathering, social or political. In Oratory in the Old South, Waldo Braden and his associates looked past the popular myths of that era and uncovered the true nature of the oratory of the times.
In this sequel to that earlier volume, Braden and seven other speech scholars examine the oratory of accommodation that dominated the southern forum in the post-Civil War years. Speakers of this era, they find, had to overcome problems of spirit and morale; their challenge was to build up the political and personal confidence of a people who were defeated. By the same token, these speakers had to adapt their oratory to outside influences that had the power to exert military pressure, withhold funds, and employ negative political coercion.
The eight essays of the book are developed topically, and the issues of racism, women’s rights, states’ rights, industrialization, and education are delineated as they weave into the developing story of the New South. Among the topics dealt with are the promotion of cultural myths, the tactics of Henry W. Grady as a propagandist for the New South, the oratory of the United Confederate Veterans, and the emergence of women as speakers for reform.
The oft-repeated myths and encouragements of the orators helped giver southerners the distinction they thought lost, a sense of nationalism. Once created, this cohesive regionalism wrought a power, pride, and prestige so strong that they defied challenge and made many southerners impervious to change and progress until well after 1950. Oratory in the New South reveals many sources of the South’s modern self-concept and stands as a unique account of this formative period.
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