Hollywood films have been influential in the portrayal and representation of race relations in the South and how African Americans are cinematically depicted in history, from The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939) to The Help (2011) and 12 Years a Slave (2013). With an ability to reach mass audiences, films represent the power to influence and shape the public's understanding of our country's past, creating lasting images -- both real and imagined -- in American culture.
In Southern History on Screen: Race and Rights, 1976--2016, editor Bryan Jack brings together essays from an international roster of scholars to provide new critical perspectives on Hollywood's relationships between historical films, Southern history, identity, and the portrayal of Jim Crow--era segregation. This collection analyzes films through the lens of religion, politics, race, sex, and class, building a comprehensive look at the South as seen on screen. By illuminating depictions of the southern belle in Gone with the Wind, the religious rhetoric of southern white Christians and the progressive identity of the "white heroes" in A Time to Kill (1996) and Mississippi Burning (1988), as well as many other archetypes found across films, this book explores the intersection between film, historical memory, and southern identity.
"Drawing upon Americans' continuing fascination with movies and their depictions of the past, this elegantly crafted volume analyzes Hollywood's portrayals of southern history and identity. The contributors cover everything from 'modern' classics, such as Fried Green Tomatoes and The Outlaw Josey Wales, to The Help, The Free State of Jones, and other recent blockbusters. Ranging in perspective from international scholars to up-and-coming graduate students, the authors draw valuable conclusions about the power of popular culture to shape history and memory. For anyone interested in what it means to be southern, and American, this is a lively and engaging read." -- Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr., co-author of The Civil War in Popular Culture: Memory and Meaning
"With Southern History on Screen, editor Bryan M. Jack has assembled ten informative, extremely well-written essays from noted experts regarding the representations of Southern history in American cinema. Filmmakers frequently play fast and loose with the facts, and these essays dissect these depictions, separating fact from fiction and examining the impact they've had on societal perceptions. As one might imagine, a great many of the essays deal with race, and it handles those deftly, but other subjects, such as the depictions of Christianity and the handling of gay and lesbian characters, are examined with equal fervor. Southern History on Screen is a solid and substantive work that is worthy of inclusion on any film and/or history buff's book shelf. Highly recommended." -- Andrew J. Rausch, author of Turning Points in Film History
" Southern History on Screen offers a compelling study of southern identity and history as they have evolved in post--civil rights era films. These essays provide a comprehensive sense of how contemporary films about the South have emerged from a century-long and largely racist cinematic tradition, how post-civil rights multiculturalism has led to more accurate and nuanced portraits of America's racial history, and how in some cases the problematic cinematic traditions continue. With additional essays on class, gender, and the Civil War, this insightful and well-researched volume will delight those interested in popular culture, racial history, and the American South more generally." -- Andrew Leiter, editor of Southerners on Film: Essays on Hollywood Portrayals Since the 1970s
""The collection provides a welcome relief to the stereotypical image of the region and, in the process, reminds readers that southerners, like most Americans, endure a history whose past casts a shadow that challenges the present and colors the future."" -- D. O. Cullen, Arkansas Tech University, CHOICE, July 2019