“The New South,” the phrase itself has a resonant quality, a tone of confidence born out of conviction and superb city planning. Chattanooga, TN is the New South and I’m impressed.
It was just last week that I heard this phrase for the first time – ever. Currently, I work at the Chattanooga Shoe Co. in the North Shore area. Two lovely customers came in the store visiting from Seattle. I was sharing about relocating back to Chattanooga after a decade in San Francisco. I think we were all a bit intrigued with one another and I pressed them to tell me… “Why in the world did you choose to vacation in Chattanooga, TN?” Their answer was original and informed which peaked my interest, they said that they were on a tour of the “New South”. The phrase immediately struck a cord with me.
I would be remiss not to offer a nod to history. “The New South” is a phrase with a legacy. The phrase circulated after the Civil War, as prominent Southern whites aware of the need to rebuild social and capital relations with the North rebranded themselves. The tones of that legacy still resonant into the present, but like so many things that survive the torrent of history, it carries new meaning… and for me – a hope and a dream.
I spent the first 18 years of my life in Hixson, but I feel like a transplant. Ten years ago I left Chattanooga like a bad habit. An impatient youth, I was done with your slowness to change and learn; I was finished with the tragic fundamentalisms that still seem to plague this area of the country, and I might as well be done with your accent too. San Francisco became my home. In SF I absorbed the atmosphere of knowing that I lived in one of the most profound, forward thinking cities on the planet. I soaked in degrees, culture, and massive amounts of debt! All the while a strange and increasing sense of longing for my home settled in my heart. For those of us paying attention, as life unfolds it becomes clearer and clearer that the forces operating on us, in us, through us, are well beyond our control. So…whether by decision or fate, I call Chattanooga my home again. Perhaps, its age, but I am at peace and for good reason.
All of my immediate family lives in Chattanooga. My father retired from TVA; I grew up at White Oak United Methodist Church in Red Bank; Elijah, my nephew, won a state championship at Signal Mtn; even my life-long dentist, Dr. Ward, is in Hixson. Over the last decade in SF, I would return to Chattanooga for a few months at a time – holidays, summer vacation – and each year I became more and more conscious that Chattanooga was growing beautiful – an air of newness, a resonance of development and growth lived out both socially and economically in the very streets and bodies of its citizens. Now I am living and participating in that beauty and lest anyone hesitate, I must remind you – the reader – to be grateful for Chattanooga.
I could go on and on, talk about the potential of a Gig-City, the awesome fireworks at Riverbend, the blossoming influx of industry, awaking and evolving Chattanooga’s religious consciousness, my dreams to be Mayor, play for the CFC or just be a shoe salesman, but let me just finish with the same spirit of conviction that I began: I’ve lived in London and China; I’ve been to Australia, multiple cities in the U.S. and in Europe and when even compared to San Francisco, CA, Chattanooga, TN is exceptional in its own right. It is the New South.
The author, Adam Hudson, is aspiring to be published, but is also grateful to be employable and thus employed as a shoe salesman. He has multiple degrees – M.A.’s in Religion, Philosophy, Anthropology – and is hard at work on the insecurities his student debt has introduced. Follow him at his unpopular blog (iamadam.org) and of course on twitter and facebook – like every other privileged, white male with even a dimly-lit knack for keeping in touch in the digital age.