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Critical Studies of Southern Place

A Reader


Edited By William M. Reynolds

Critical Studies of Southern Place: A Reader critically investigates and informs the construction of Southernness, Southern identity, and the South past and present. It promotes and expands the notion of a Southern epistemology. Authors from across the South write about such diverse topics as Southern working-class culture; LGBT issues in the South; Southern music; Southern reality television; race and ethnicity in the South; religion in the South; sports in the South; and Southernness. How do these multiple interpretations of popular culture within critical conceptualizations of place enhance our understandings of education? Critical Studies of Southern Place investigates the connections between the critical examination of place-specific culture and its multiple connections with education and pedagogy. This important book fills a significant gap in the scholarly work on the ramifications of place. Readers will be able to center the importance of place in their own scholarship and cultural work as well as be able to think deeply about how Southern place affects us all.
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Chapter Twenty-Eight: “We All Came Together on the Football Field”: Unpacking the Blissful Clarity of a Popular Southern Sports Story



“We All Came Together on the Football Field”: Unpacking the Blissful Clarity of a Popular Southern Sports Story


There are two indisputable facts about the South: We love football and we have a horrific history of race relations. We also love a good story—whether it’s true or not. Unsurprisingly, all three of these converge to create a popular narrative about sports in the South. It goes something like this:

The often-told story about one of the South’s greatest coaches, Coach “Bear” Bryant of the University of Alabama, is illustrative. In 1970 (7 years after Governor George Wallace’s infamous stand at the schoolhouse door, a vain attempt to prevent Vivian Malone and James Hood from enrolling at the University of Alabama), the all-white UA football team played their opening game against the powerhouse, and integrated, Southern Cal team. Southern Cal beat the Crimson Tide 42–21, with their black running back Sam “the Bam” Cunningham delivering a spectacular performance. After the game, Coach Bryant went to the Southern Cal locker room and asked Cunningham to accompany him to the Tide’s locker room, where he told his players, “This is what a football player looks like.” The next year, the popular story goes, the UA football team was integrated with absolutely no questions, no fanfare, and no protests.1

This story of the power of sports to bring about social change was brought to...

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