by Natasha Trethewey
Copyright University of Virginia Summer 2008
In 1956, just two years after Brown v. Board of Education, Robert Penn Warren set off on a journey south to explore the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision. The slim volume he produced, Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South, offered insight into the people caught in what the Saturday Review later termed “a storm they can neither conquer nor fully comprehend.” Now, a half century later, the Gulf South struggles in the wake of another storm, Hurricane Katrina, and faces a rebuilding effort not unlike the effort to rebuild the culture of the South after the legal walls of segregation had been struck down. The plight of the people, post-Katrina, is still mediated not only by class but also by color, the future is uncertain, and the ongoing identity of the Gulf South will be determined not only by how it will be rebuilt but also by how its past will be remembered. The region stands as a test for the whole nation. Are we hopelessly divided? Or can we still bridge …
Where you come from is gone,
where you thought you were going to never was there,
and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.