University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

America - Europe

A Transatlantic Diary 1961 - 1989

Klaus Lanzinger

Philadelphia, May 7, 1961

The Americans are so concerned with the Russians that they seem to forget the rest of the world.

On the European imagination, the Susquehanna seems more like a brook, but if one sees it here, it is indeed as wide as the Danube.

Philadelphia, May 9, 1961

James Fenimore Cooper on American Society

It is surprising how many of Cooper’s remarks about American society are still valid today. Every society in its early stages of growth seems to develop patterns of life that endure throughout its history. On this basis, differences between Europe and America throughout the 19th century up to the present day can be established with validity and meaningful insight.

[There are obvious similarities between the views of Cooper and the observations of Alexis de Tocqueville on American democracy.]

[By mid-May 1961 I followed an invitation of Professor and Mrs. Horace Montgomery to Athens, Georgia. Professor Montgomery from the University of Georgia had taught as Fulbright-guest professor at the Amerika-Institut of the University of Innsbruck during the winter semester of 1959-60. The acquaintance with the Montgomery’s led to a lifelong friendly connection.]

May 12-20, 1961

First Impressions of the South

Southern thinking is still very much rooted in the era of the Civil War and its aftermath. Traveling through the Southern states, I realized what the Confederacy and Jefferson Davis meant to these people and how antagonistic the feelings against the North really were. Going down to Georgia on the Seaboard Express, I at first noticed no difference to what I had experienced in Philadelphia because these trains are desegregated. But returning to the North on local trains, I realized what segregation means. Actually, the South accepts it as a way of life which both colored and white people seem to accept without thinking that it could be different. They go as a matter of course into segregated waiting rooms, passenger cars, rest rooms, etc., without giving the impression of doing so under psychological pressure or tension. Most clearly segregated are residential areas and schools. In these areas integration appears to be the most difficult.

Negro housing in the South is still extremely poor and shabby. They live in broken-down shacks and shanties. Much labor on the plantations is still done by hand. There are many whites who refuse to accept the Negro as an equal human being. A letter in an Atlanta newspaper stated that white people would move away if what happened to Washington should happen to Atlanta. The “Freedom Riders” experiment on interstate bus lines shows the depth of anti-Negro sentiment in the Deep South. In cases of such deliberate provocation from the North, mob violence can hardly be controlled. I was in Atlanta when the “Freedom Riders” came through. Nothing happened in Georgia, but they ran into serious trouble in Alabama. In view of this situation, what has already been accomplished in Northern cities is quite remarkable. In desegregated cities like New York, Philadelphia, and in recent years Washington, whites and colored people mingle without much trouble. It is to be expected and hoped that eventually such a natural attitude in race relations will also spread throughout the South. But another generation will have to pass, before the South is desegregated in this sense.

The scenery of the South is of great beauty. Green pastures and cattle farms alternate with tobacco and cotton fields. Much land is still untilled. I saw many new clearings cut into primeval forests. The people I met were extremely courteous. The houses I visited showed exquisite taste. The Southerner thinks in agrarian terms, he loves his soil, lush forests and abundant game.

Since the South is to a great extent cut off from the outside world - there is no international harbor along the seaboard, and foreign visitors are rare -, it is rather provincial. I think nobody will ever be able to understand this region of America without having first traveled through it and come in contact with the people who have grown up there.

The Southern Drawl

The so-called “Southern Drawl” (slow, drawn-out manner of speech) may best be explained by the different intonation. The southern intonation prefers a high pitch on the main accent. The quality of tone is generally very soft and melodious, slow moving. The “Southern Drawl” is best recognized in vowels before -r- , as in “Ford” or “Georgia.”

Comment on the South

[At the beginning of the 1960s the Civil Rights Movement was going into action in order to make the American public aware of the injustice of segregation. Student groups from the North - whites together with fellow black students - were traveling in buses as “Freedom Riders” into the South and organized “sit-ins” at segregated bus stops, railroad depots and public squares. Thereby, they put the legality of segregation to the test.]

Philadelphia, May 21, 1961

Besides her beauty, America has aspects of sickening ugliness.

Philadelphia, May 22, 1961

I am becoming more and more aware how much the European educational system has neglected the world outside of Europe and how much it has to catch up in this regard.

Philadelphia, May 30, 1961

Juvenile delinquency is a cancer doing damage to every big city. But here it comes to the fore in a horrifying extent. One reason for this may be seen in the insufficient vocational training.

Entire sections of this city are decaying. Its slums offer only bare shelter and refuge to an ungraspable mass of people. On the other hand, the initiatives taken by the city government for city renewal are astonishing.

Comment on City Renewal

[That was the beginning of a widespread city renewal, which in the 1960s had been advanced in most American big cities. That way, over the following three decades the American inner cities got a new face. However, mostly high rises were built that provided office space. As a result of the progressing motorization and the flight to the suburbs, the inner cities could not be saved as residential areas.]

Philadelphia, May 31, 1961

The Mobile Home - a prefabricated movable house - seems to be a belated off-spring of the covered wagon of pioneer times.

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