Scholars frequently assume that the Southern Agrarian movement was limited to the philosophy laid out in the landmark 1930 book I'll Take My Stand. Yet that work consisted mainly of a philosophical critique of a nation that valued "progress" above spirituality.
Were it not for the Agrarians' angry reaction to criticism of their book—and for a dramatic transformation of the American political and economic landscape—Agrarianism would have died in 1930. But with the worsening of the Great Depression, and then Franklin D. Roosevelt's election and implementation of the New Deal, the Agrarians found their greatest opportunity to bring their ideas to the public. Encouraged by the prospect of transforming their abstraction of the South into a design for the social and economic revival of the nation, Donald Davidson, Andrew Nelson Lytle, Herman Clarence Nixon, Frank Lawrence Owsley, John Crowe Ransom, and Allen Tate wrote numerous essays countering the industrial north's place as moral exemplar; battling liberal policymakers who encouraged collective agriculture in the South; and denouncing social scientists who claimed to understand southern social relations.
Emily S. Bingham and Thomas A. Underwood's carefully selected collection of six key Agrarians' essays, combined with a revealing new introduction, offers a radically revised view of the movement as it was redefined and revived during the New Deal.
Emily S. Bingham is an independent scholar living in Louisville, Kentucky. Thomas A. Underwood is the coeditor of Blacks at Harvard: A Documentary History of African-American Experience at Harvard and Radcliffe, and the author of Allen Tate: Orphan of the South.