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Controversies & Enigmas

"The New South"

Oxford College: Where "The New South" was born

haygood In the waning years of Reconstruction, Methodist Bishop Atticus Greene Haygood, an 1859 Emory College graduate and its eighth president (1875-1884), wrote and spoke extensively on the tenuous but hopeful state of his region. The most famous of his writings was his Thanksgiving Day 1880 sermon, "The New South," which focused on the improving financial condition and the challenges of race relations in the South in the decades following the Civil War. "I, for one, thank God that there is no longer slavery in these United States," Haygood said in his sermon. "It is better for our industries and our business, as proved by the crops that free labor makes."

A copy of the address later landed in the hands of New York banker George I. Seney. He was so moved by it that even though he had never laid eyes on the College or Haygood, he gave Emory $130,000. The gift provided stability for the College in a time of great financial peril.

But Haygood's oration resonated in other ways less often recounted. In 1886, Henry W. Grady, renowned editor of the Atlanta Constitution and unofficial spokesman for the ideals of the post-Reconstruction South, delivered his famous address to the New England Society of New York--an oration also titled "The New South." Although the phrase "The New South" predated even Haygood in the writings of Georgia statesman Benjamin H. Hill, Grady drew upon the rhetoric and ideas his good friend Haygood had penned in Oxford.

Grady's speech made him a national sensation virtually overnight. While he is widely credited with helping bring about Southern industrial development, especially through Northern investment, he never forgot his debt to Haygood's earlier work, proclaiming, "I lighted my torch at Haygood's flame."

Haygood resigned the Emory presidency in 1884 to give full attention to his work as agent of a Connecticut-based fund for burgeoning Southern colleges for African Americans.--Allison O. Adams


Source: Emory Magazine, Autumn, 2000

 

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