W. J. CASH:
QUANDARIES OF THE MIND
A Multimedia Examination of W.J. Cash and His Writing
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W.J. CASH was born on May 2, 1900 in humble, mill-owned Gaffney, South Carolina; he died in a lonely, untelling room at La Reforma Hotel on Paseo de La Reforma in Mexico City July 1, 1941. In the 41 years in between these dates, he wrote passionately of his native South, imploring it to face reality and the future while admonishing that failure to do so would inexorably lead to violent enforcement of reality. He died not knowing that his alternative fatal vision of the future world would come to pass in bloody fusion with occurrence during the 1950's and 60's--from small, indistinct Southern hamlets and milltowns like Hattiesburg, to Birmingham, Oxford, Little Rock, Dallas, and then to the boroughs of Manhattan, to Detroit, Watts, Philadelphia, and eventually to almost every major American city throughout the land, culminating in Memphis and the tragic days which followed. Too much of the South would refuse to look analytically into the mirror of time and see itself realistically, but honorably, as plain people full of noble but simple traits, yet needful of self-examination to purge itself of its prepossessing demons--as Cash urged so fervently from his bully pulpit on the printed page, given him first by H.L. Mencken in 1929 and then by the Knopf Publishing Company and J. E. Dowd of The Charlotte News in the years which followed. Instead, the system of violence, of Jim Crow segregation, of cotton and tobacco profits, of "Cloud-Cuckoo-Land" small-town mentality stuck in "proto-Dorian" convention--the preservation in the minds of too many poor and middle class whites of a Never-never Land image of handsome squires escorting ladies in farthingales to the palatial ball at the manor house, ignoring the while the surrounding dusty non-culture of caste-locked sharecroppers and millbillies finding pride in one indefatigable fatigued ideal, race--of intransigence in the face of a changing world, exemplified by Cash's peasant prototypical "Man-at-the Center"--all of this, this "savage ideal", would persist to the bitter end, until the "second civil war" and the aid of the federal courts in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's would finally force a recognition, at least in most, of the very things Cash had commended to his fellow Southerners in 1941 and earlier.
Though he intended to publish more, "Sleepy" "Jack" Cash left behind but the one book, The Mind of the South, published February 10, 1941. But it is this singularly unique book in the annals of Southern analytical literature which has astonished, puzzled, bemused, intrigued, and ultimately inspired both serious scholars and casual students of the South alike for nearly six decades. Hailed immediately as a chef d'ouevre by such diverse sources as The New York Times, The Atlanta Constitution, the N.A.A.C.P., the North Carolina Mayflower Literary Society, and the Guggenheim Foundation, the 430 page book, still in print, needs no independent analysis or praise here: The ample criticism, both harsh and laudatory, wrong-headed and straight-strong, perplexed and clear, has been catalogued in numerous articles and reviews dating from its publication to the present and in two biographies on Cash, a thorough compendium of which are cited herein. In 1941, the book reviewer for Time Magazine said: "Anything written about the South henceforth must start where he leaves off." Pick up virtually any serious book written on Southern culture since 1941 and bear witness to the prescience of this reviewer.
Cash's other primary writings, his eight articles for Mencken's American Mercury, published between 1929 and 1935, and his editorials for The Charlotte News, primarily published between 1936 and 1941, are included here in full*, the first time all of these periodical writings have ever been assembled for re-publication. (*Editor's Note: Because of the time required to assemble, copy, and manually type (as the microfilm copies will not scan) the remaining large number of Cash contributions to the News, (something over 3000 in all, including unascribed editorials), scattered over six years of newspapers only available through the Charlotte Public Library, this part of the site is not yet complete and will be periodically updated until all of the Cash articles are online. For ease of usage, however, new articles when added will bear an entry date and asterisk. As of August, 2001, there are 860 articles online with more to come through 2001.) All of the early editorials taking the measure of provincial religious intolerance from Cash's short stint in fall, 1928 as managing editor of the The Cleveland Press in Shelby are here as well.
Additional features of this site are both the full text and audio of Cash's commencement address delivered at the University of Texas just 29 days before his death, all of Cash's college poetry and crative writing, an article by Cash's widow, Mary Maury, recounting the last hours of Cash's tortured end, first published in 1967 in the The Red Clay Reader, numerous pictures and documents in the picture gallery, including a panoramic "walk-in" gallery section, and a compendium of never before published additional facts and circumstances surrounding Cash's untimely death in 1941 with an explanation for his death never before put forth.
Though not yet available, excerpts from some of the articles and from the two biographies on Cash, W.J. Cash: Southern Prophet, by Joseph L. Morrison, Knopf, 1967, and W.J. Cash: A Life, by Bruce Clayton, L.S.U. Press, 1991, should at some point in the future be included here in readable text format. And, of course, excerpts from The Mind of the South should sometime be reprinted here as well.
Special thanks are due the scholars and journalists who participated in two seminars in 1991, one held at Cash's alma mater, Wake Forest University, and the other, fittingly, at the University of Mississippi. Their presentations and collected essays, appearing in W.J. Cash and the Minds of the South, (Wake Forest participants), edited by Paul D. Escott, L.S.U. Press, 1992, and The Mind of the South Fifty Years Later, (U. of. Miss. participants), edited by Charles W. Eagles, Univ. of Mississippi Press, 1992, helped to inspire the presentation of this site dedicated to the life and writings of W.J. Cash. For an exceptional quick overview analysis of Cash and his book's impact on the South, see the writing of John Shelton Reed and others in The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Co-edited by Charles Reagan Wilson & William Ferris, University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Professor Reed's numerous other insightful articles on Cash, spread across nearly three decades and several publications, have also served greatly to inspire this site and are highly recommended. We also recommend The South, by B.C. Hall & C.T. Wood, Scribner, 1995, for a look at both Southern history and contemporary Southern life, written in a breezy style from the point-of-view of the proverbial "everyman" and acknowledging at length Cash's contribution as a seminal force in this effort.
This site is designed to be of use both to professional scholars interested in primary research on Cash and his writing and to the casual student interested in W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South, or just the South generally. (And if you happen to be one of the poor unfortunate undergraduates assigned to labor away at The Mind, take heart: While this site will not guarantee you an A or act as an online Cliff's Notes on Cash, it may give you some insight which your fellow students might not yet glean. And don't worry, an erratic student himself, Cash would have been sympathetic to your plight. Take it from those who trod around the dangerously sharp learning curve before you; in years to come, you will likely come to appreciate the richness of the book more than perhaps you do at present.)
This site is free; the only donation we ask is that if you find the site educational, interesting, or even a little inspiring, please let us know. Contributions of information on Cash, writings on or by Cash not herein included, as well as critiques of Cash or this site, are most welcome and encouraged. Also, if you can conjure a way to make the site more user-friendly or if you spot any glitches which need remedying, do not be reticent about telling us. E-mail your contributions, comments and suggestions to email@example.com or post questions or comments and exchange ideas at The Cash Lodge. Remember to bookmark this site for easy return and reference. If you thoroughly explore the site on your initial visit, please check back in a few months as additional material, especially Cash's substantial writing for the News, will be added periodically.
Bear in mind that this site contains material under copyright. In all cases where practicable we have obtained the permission of the copyright holder and/or the author for reproduction of the materials maintained here. Please follow suit and obtain proper permission prior to any use or reproduction of the documents and graphic images contained herein except where the intended use is strictly personal, scholarly, and non-commercial. It takes a lot of thought, research, and time to write a scholarly article or book; even the presentation of ideas, not just quoted material, original to an author, deserve credit by footnotes or textual mention. Please act accordingly for the benefit of all who want to know from whence your ideas originated.
Thank you for visiting. We hope your time here will be splendid and inspiring and that you will take with you at least a nugget or two of lasting value.
The Site Publisher - November 22, 1998
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