Southern Culture in Black and White

The blending of diverse races and cultures in the South has produced a remarkable cultural and artistic life intensely localistic but with an enormous depth, range and international appeal. Some scholars have found this cultural South to be the region's true defining characteristic and the true marker of southern distinctiveness. African American and white southerners borrowed from one another, imitated one another, and through that process created distinct but related cultures that merged to form a shared southern culture. That powerful cultural syncretism has arguably made southern culture the most distinctive in America, and it has been exported to the rest of the nation and around the world. Nowhere is the richness of southern culture better expressed than through southern literature and music, and no form of southern music is more distinctive and more celebrated than jazz. Eudora Welty is one of the South's most perceptive writers, and in her autobiography she ponders the source of her remarkable talent. Jazz was born in rich cultural mix of New Orleans. Autobiographies by Louis Armstrong, the most famous jazz performer to come out of the South, and Thomas Sancton, who plays around town today, illustrate the long and complex history of America's most original art form.