Southern Attitudes

Southern Attitudes

I recently visited family in Atlanta and took a girls getaway with my cousin Lauren to Savannah, a cute city near the Georgia coast full of Southern charm. It was my first time in Savannah, and for that reason alone, I was excited for the trip. Apart from that, I was hesitant to visit Savannah as I’m not a big fan of the South. I, like most black Americans, have roots in the South. My dad is a native of Florida, and my mother, a military brat, often spent summers visiting relatives in Tennessee. My grandparents on both sides are/were Southern born and bred for generations dating back to slavery.

Slavery. Jim Crow. The injustices that spurred the Civil Rights Movement. Stories from my mother about being pelted in the head with rocks and called the n-word at the tender age of five. Stories from my father about having to attend segregated schools and having to sit in the back of the bus. The death of four little girls. Fire hoses. Dogs. The denial of voting rights. The denial of human rights. Dr. King’s assassination. Paula Deen and people like her who still co-sign ignorant, racist attitudes. George Zimmerman – not guilty verdict. Racism in the South. Southern attitudes. The South – and all of the reasons it’s hard for me to be a fan.

Yet, Savannah’s charm enraptured me. As Lauren and I drove down streets lined with willow trees that boasted plantation-style homes, I couldn’t help but feel a bit mesmerized by Savannah’s beauty. And then we drove past the tree pictured above, and at that moment, I thought to myself, What a beautiful tree.

The next day during our Freedom Trail tour which I’ll post about soon, we drove past the same tree, and the guide announced, “This is the Candler Oak. It was used as a hanging tree.”

The South.


Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burnin’ flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday

*This blog post is featured in Travel Photo Thursday. Be sure to check it out!

Have you ever felt conflicted about a place you’ve traveled to?

  • I had this problem when I was living in New Orleans. I loved the city, I constantly was amazed at how beautiful and friendly it was – and then out of the blue I would come across a reminder of its history that seemed really messed up to me, but the locals didn’t blink at.

    • Dana Carmel

      I think the locals become desensitized because they’re used to hearing about the horrors of the past. Either that or they’re just apathetic!

  • A very thought-provoking piece, Dana. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks for reading, Sophie!

  • I can understand your hesitation to go to Savannah – but I hope that you are glad you did. The south holds so much history and pain and injustice for your family – but their struggle it is an important part of your heritage.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. and for stopping by my blog the other day. Have a great week ahead.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks for reading, Jill. I am glad that I went to Savannah. Despite the constant reminders of its dark past, Savannah is very charming and the locals are super friendly.

  • Hello, I once visitied Ghana and went to the forts were slaves were kept before being loaded onto ships… ‘weeping many bitter tears’… as our guide said. I kid you not, it was the most spirit-filled place. Those poor, poor men, women and children, what a life and death they were going to. Enjoyed your post.

    • Dana Carmel

      I hope to make it to Ghana someday. And you’re right – I can’t imagine the struggles that my ancestors endured. But I’m so glad that they had the strength to do so or I wouldn’t be here today. Thanks for your comment.

  • That tree’s beautiful and haunting. I hear Billie singing Strange Fruit and I remember that book, Without Sanctuary. What a legacy, what a history to reconcile.

    • Dana Carmel

      My hope is that it can be reconciled!

  • I can’t even fathom the horrors that the tree has seen.
    I was in Savannah last year and very much enjoyed the city but I don’t have your history of a family dealing with racial tensions that can’t but colour your world.
    This post makes me stop and think – and wish that racial issues weren’t still the problem that they can be in the US.

    • Dana Carmel

      I wish the same thing, Leigh. That’s why I wish more people would travel. Travel is about so much more than laying out at the beach and sightseeing. Travel broadens you and and gives you a clearer perspective.

  • I thought that tree dripping with moss was so big and beautiful, too… until you mentioned what people used it for. BTW, I was surprised to hear Dr. King quoted in a radio ad in Malaysia for racial unity among Malays, Chinese and Indians. I know he is a powerful figure in America, but I didn’t realize he was as influential world wide.

    • Dana Carmel

      Yes, Dr. King changed the game by advocating non-violent social change. It’s great to know that his legacy continues to inspire people here and around the world!

  • You bring up an excellent point here. I also feel the same way about some destinations both here in the US and overseas. As a matter of fact, as I have become more aware of social and political issues, I consider many factors when I choose to spend my travel budget. I may be wrong but I think that as a consumer I can influence those issues that go against what I believe. Deciding where I spend my money is not only limited to travel destinations but also to everyday purchases such as local restaurants, and other businesses.

    • Dana Carmel

      You are so right, Eduardo! Consumers’ dollars make a world of difference when spent or not spent to make a socio-political point. It’s amazing how powerful consumers could be if we’d unite for the common good.

  • For some reason, when I first saw that photo of the tree, I thought it was dark and gloomy. Now I know why.

    • Dana Carmel

      There is a darkness to the tree, but I saw the beauty in it until I realized how many black people probably lost their lives hanging from it.

  • Hi Dana,I completely understand how you feel about the South but I’m glad you opened yourself to its charm. But that beautiful tree…oh my…
    I look forward to your post about the Freedom Trail and learn you perspective about it.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Marisol. It’s crazy how something so beautiful could be used for something so ugly. I’m also looking forward to sharing details about the Freedom Trail Tour with everyone – very interesting stuff!

  • Thanks for sharing your personal perspective on your visit and thoughts about the south. It’s easy to understand why it a visit would be full of reminders of a horrible past. The hanging tree — when I read that, I was taken by surprise. Wasn’t expecting it after your description in the previous paragraph. Thought-provoking post.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks for reading and for your comment, Cathy.

  • I totally understand your feelings about the South. You were brave to visit Savannah and enjoy its charms, but I can feel the shock of betrayal when you found the tree you liked was a hanging tree.

    • Dana Carmel

      You’re right – I was shocked. Totally wasn’t expecting the guide to say that.

  • Savannah is a beautiful city and old world and sometimes more-so with its culture and attitudes. It’s so beautiful just walking around some of the amazing squares in that city!

    • Dana Carmel

      Fortunately, everyone that we met in Savannah was warm and friendly. It’s just that there are constant reminders of the past which I guess is good in a way because it’s important to remember our past. And you’re right – Savannah is full of beautiful squares!


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