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SouthTalks: Good Night, New Deal

Lectures: Darren Grem, assoc. professor of history and Southern Studies, presents 'Good Night, New Deal: The Waltons & the South's Great Depression'


The Waltons, a popular television show airing from 1972 to 1981, re-remembered and re-framed for millions what the Great Depression and New Deal meant, using Virginia writer Earl Hamner Jr.’s personal remembrances and novels to present southern whites as exemplars of family ties, communal bonds, and self-reliant work. Tapping into a growing conservative outlook in American life and politics, The Waltons joined—and conflicted with—other southern memory myths that erased or enhanced the New Deal and federal state’s role in the Depression-era and modern South. This talk will consider what The Waltons’s regional, racial, and rural storylines offered Americans reeling during the recessionary 1970s. More broadly, it will use The Waltons as a springboard for considering the memories and myths we allow to be aired when capitalism falters or fails, whether derived from the distant hard times of the 1930s or 1970s or the recent hard times of the Great Recession and Covid-crash.

Darren E. Grem is an associate professor of history and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of The Blessings of Business: How Corporations Shaped Conservative Christianity, and his next book, Hard Times, USA: The Great Depression and New Deal in American Memory, explores how Americans after World War II remembered and used the Great Depression via popular culture and in political activism for and against the New Deal state.

SouthTalks is a series of events (including lectures, performances, film screenings, and panel discussions) that explores the interdisciplinary nature of Southern Studies. This series is free and open to the public, and typically takes place in the Tupelo Room of Barnard Observatory unless otherwise noted. Visit for more information about all Center events.

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