Earlier in the week, Slate posted an article
on the massive Atlanta traffic jam. The article quoted a book about the Southern character that stated it was "Proud, brave, honorable by its lights, courteous, personally generous, loyal." Yet the same book also stated the South had the less admirable qualities of "suspicion toward new ideas, an incapacity for analysis, an inclination to act from feeling rather than from thought, an exaggerated individualism and a too-narrow sense of social responsibility." The book was 1941's "The Mind of the South" and its author was W. J. Cash
Wilbur Jerome Cash was born on May 2nd, 1900 in Gaffney, South Carolina. After attending Wake Forest College, he became a journalist and freelance writer who focused on political and social issues. In 1929, he published a piece in the American Mercury
titled "The Mind of the South", which caught the attention of Blanche Knopf (wife of publisher Alfred Knopf). She encouraged him to lengthen the original article into a book, and he agreed. Though he had his shares of ups and downs in the decade that followed, he never gave up working on the book and by 1940, it was completed.
Knopf published it in February of 1941. Three months later, Cash left with his new bride for Mexico City to start work on his first novel. On June 30th, after being ill and fatigued for several weeks, he began to talk of being pursued by Nazi agents (he had previously written a number of negative articles about Adolf Hitler). The following day he went missing and was eventually found that night in the Reforma Hotel hanging dead from his necktie. Though there was no note left at the scene, Mexico City police ruled his death a suicide and quickly had his remains cremated.
"The Mind of the South" was well recieved throughout the country at the time it was published and remains a well-respected book on the Southern character. Of Cash, Time magazine stated
that, "Anything written about the South henceforth must start where he leaves off." The book can be found through the usual online vendors, however the original 1929 article
is available online for your viewing pleasure.