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The New South and the Cotton States and International Exposition

From Darkness to Light

The woman featured is the personification of the new South, rising from the ashes of the Civil War. In her arms she holds the bounty of agriculture and of industry, representing the Southern rise to prosperity. Behind the woman is the Cotton States Exposition of 1895.

“The substantial proof of Grady’s stirring sentiment” 

“When Atlanta disappeared under the red torch of Sherman, when internal dissentions separated the sections, when the grievous discord of post-bellum spleen rancored the spirits of a once happy people, then it was that the first seeds of the exposition were sown—then came the cause that today find fruit in the most glorious achievement of the south.” 

“THE BIRTH OF THE EXPOSITION.: How the Great Idea Was Conceived and Carried Out.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945). September 15, 1895, sec. PART 4.

The Cotton States and International Exposition adopted much of the new South rhetoric of industry and modernization. The exposition offered the South a chance to boast how they had rejected their old ways to become a region of opportunity and prosperity. But beneath the theme of Southern progress were several underlying messages. The Cotton States and International Exposition was first a chance for reconciliation between the North and the South, unified by mutual Anglo-Saxon identity. Secondly, the creators of the fair wanted to show that the South had successfully addressed the “race problem” that had plagued the region for centuries. Lastly, and most importantly, this world fair served as an advertisement. The hope of the exposition was to secure investments and trading partnerships with the region’s Northern neighbors, as well as other countries across the globe. Atlanta's and the South’s ability to rebrand itself depended on the success of the Cotton States and International Exposition achieving these goals.