Why Americans Love Andy Griffith’s Toothy Grin

In the Post-Civil Rights Era, Images of Southerners as ‘Slow-Witted Rubes’ Soothed White Anxieties

Today, when many Americans think of the “good old days”—when neighbors knew each other and the world seemed safer and simpler—they often conjure visions of the 1950s and early 1960s, as expressed in old TV comedies like The Andy Griffith Show.

But those times were not really simple: Americans were then gripped by Cold War fears and the Red Scare, and buffeted by new economic pressures. The entertainers who most successfully created sunny visions for anxious Americans of that era—our “good old days”—responded to tough times with cheerful portrayals of …

How the Pickup Truck Carried the American South Into the Future

From 'Rusty Rattletraps' to 'Big Black Jacked-Up' Rides, the Iconic Vehicles Symbolize Blue-Collar Identity While Flaunting Bourgeois Prosperity

The pickup truck’s rise from its crude, makeshift origins to the almost luxury-item status it enjoys today amounts to a Horatio Alger tale with a technological twist, providing a striking …

Want to Preserve American Small Towns? Embrace Immigrants.

From New York to Iowa, Foreign-Born Residents and Their Families Are Helping to Reinvigorate Rural Communities

Once upon a time the pulse of America beat in its small towns. They were where you took your crops to market, met the trains that brought visits from Aunt …

How the Politics of Resentment Corrupted Wisconsin’s Culture of Nice

Savvy Candidates Spent the Last Decade Pitting Rural Voters Against City Folks

The April 5 presidential primaries in Wisconsin are expected to be close in both parties, and critical to deciding the Republican contest between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. And the …

California on My Mind in the Shadow of the Great Wall

The Ballad of a Man Who Put Down Roots in a Chinese Village and Rediscovered the Hardscrabble California He Had Left

If my life so far could be said to have one truly transformative moment, I think it was the intense meeting in early spring 2006 in the village hall after …