This paper focuses on the history of the presence of the American South in British popular culture. A recent flood of television documentaries such as Sir Trevor McDonald’s ‘The Mighty Mississippi’, TV chef Rick Stein’s ‘Tasting the Blues,’ and the comedian Hugh Laurie’s ‘Down By the River’ (2011), are indicative of the current popular transatlantic interest in the history and culture of the South.
Cultural historian Christian O’Connell examines how these popular explorations are part of a series of transatlantic reproductions of the South, represented by the visits of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the 19th century, the popularity of mid-20th century television programme The Black and White Minstrel Show, and the blues revival of the 1950s and 1960s. These encounters and reproductions serve to maintain and revive popular stereotypes of the South, which in turn blur myth, imagination and history.
Dr Christian O’Connell is a Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Gloucestershire, and a current BAAS/UCL-Institute of the Americas Visiting Fellow. He is the author of the forthcoming Blues, How Do You Do? Paul Oliver and the Transatlantic Story of the Blues (University of Michigan Press, August 2015).