Alabama Getaway
The Political Imaginary and the Heart of Dixie

Allen Tullos

What makes Alabama the "Heart of Dixie"?


"A compelling view of Alabama’s challenges, and possibly a blueprint for meeting them. Informed readers of politics and Southern culture will be engrossed, and some likely infuriated."
ForeWord Reviews

"American studies at its best, a penetrating reflection on why this former seat of the Confederacy exists in the national imaginary as both a political, economic, and cultural backwater and a site where the Goliath of Jim Crow was slain by humble descendants of slaves. Alabama Getaway is a rich and surprising journey to which you’ll want to return."
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

"Allen Tullos has an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary Alabama, and his narrative flows gracefully, with occasional passages of real beauty and power."
—Wayne Flynt, author of Alabama in the Twentieth Century

"Alabama Getaway tells us what people think about Alabama, what Alabamians want people to think about their state, and what happened in Alabama to shape the political imaginary. Every Alabama elected officialshould be required to read it."
—Harvey Jackson, author of Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State

"Along with masterworks such as 1934's Stars Fell on Alabama, this book stands in the first rank of indispensable books about the 'strange country' that calls itself the Heart of Dixie. No student of Alabamiana can afford to be without Alabama Getaway. For close to two centuries now, historians, journalists, novelists and poets have wrestled with the maddening paradoxes that Allen Tullos confronts with measured authority. Why do Alabama's citizens cling blindly to the habits that produce the state's famous inferiority complex? Why does a devoutly Christian electorate expose its poorest citizens to the nation's highest tax rates? Why do Alabama's least admirable politicians wind up as governor? Why has no Alabama attorney general ever cracked down on flagrant bribery in the legislature? Why has no Alabama industry ever paid its fair share of property taxes? Why do we happily trail the nation in government ethics and environmental protection? Tullos brilliantly synthesizes hundreds of the best books and articles on such questions. He deepens our understanding of Alabama even while convincing us there is little reason for optimism about its governance. Yet he gives due credit for the civil rights gains that represent Alabama's greatest achievement. Bravo! This is a masterful book about a wounded, neurotic, maddening and—for those of us born to its soil—an enduringly lovable place."
—Howell Raines

“Residents of any state can ask a variation of the question posed by Tullos: ‘What makes Alabama Alabama?’ Historians, sociologists, journalists and others grapple with such questions regularly. Rarely, however, has any author tackled the question as effectively as has Tullos . . . Tullos’ book is so insightful because it transcends the obvious targets. Because Tullos grew up in Alabama, he can empathize even as he criticizes those who believe the state is unfairly maligned.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Tullos's greatest contribution to historians is in his theoretical discussion of the political imaginary. His work reiterates the old political lesson that perception is reality and those who dictate perception create that reality."
—Dana J. Alsen, Southern Historian

"Tullos is a skillful writer, deserving of the best compliments a reader can offer. . . . this is a book that should be read by any Alabamian willing to think beyond "Sez you," and willing to consider the promise of an Alabama capable of breaking with its past."
—Jeff Frederick, H-Net Reviews

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In Alabama Getaway Allen Tullos explores the recent history of one of the nation’s most conservative states to reveal its political imaginary—the public shape of power, popular imagery, and individual opportunity.

From Alabama’s largely ineffectual politicians to its miserly support of education, health care, cultural institutions, and social services, Tullos examines why the state appears to be stuck in repetitive loops of uneven development and debilitating habits of judgment. The state remains tied to fundamentalisms of religion, race, gender, winner-take-all economics, and militarism enforced by punitive and defensive responses to criticism. Tullos traces the spectral legacy of George Wallace, ponders the roots of anti-egalitarian political institutions and tax structures, and challenges Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice’s use of the civil rights struggle to justify the war in Iraq. He also gives due coverage to the state’s black citizens who with a minority of whites have sustained a movement for social justice and democratic inclusion. As Alabama competes for cultural tourism and global industries like auto manufacturing and biomedical research, Alabama Getaway asks if the coming years will see a transformation of the “Heart of Dixie.”

Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South

Page count: 376 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


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A native of Alabama, Allen Tullos teaches American studies at Emory University. He is the author of Habits of Industry: White Culture and the Transformation of the Carolina Piedmont and editor of Long Journey Home: Folklife in the South. Tullos is a cofounder and senior editor of the Internet journal Southern Spaces and has worked on numerous documentary films.