The American South is a distinctive place with a dramatic history, and has significance beyond its regional context in the twenty first century. The American South: A Very Short Introduction explores the history of the South as a cultural crossroads, a meeting place between western Europe and West Africa. The South's beginnings illuminate the expansion of Europe into the New World, creating a colonial slave society that distinguished it from other parts of the United States but fostered commonalities with other colonial societies. The Civil War and civil rights movement transformed the South in differing ways and remain a part of a vibrant and contested public memory. More recently, the South's pronounced traditionalism in customs and values was in tension with the forces of modernization that slowly forced change in the twentieth century.
Southerners' creative responses to these experiences have made the American South well known around the world in literature, film, music, and cuisine. Charles Reagan Wilson argues for the significance of creativity in the South, emerging from the diversity of peoples, cultures, and experiences that the regional context fostered. The South has now become the new center of immigration, adding to the complexity of the region's cultural, social, economic, and political life.