If you were to drive south on I-77 and exit onto Arrowood Road in Charlotte, North Carolina, you would eventually run across a development called “Taragate Farms.” I had no idea it existed until recently, when I was invited to have dinner at a home in the neighborhood.
At first, I didn’t think too much about the sign that sets out in front announcing one is entering “Taragate.” However, as I followed directions on my Garmin I started noticing street names. Driving down “Scarlett Circle” my eyes were alerted to themes of Gone with the Wind and the Old South. In the same neighborhood, just off of Scarlett Circle is “Rhett Court” and “Rice Planters Road.” “Julep Lane” intersects with “Pitty Pat Court.” “Antebellum Drive” is just off of “Johnny Reb Lane,” and “Sherman Drive” (appropriately) crosses over “O’Hara Drive.”
Well, of course, I had to investigate. It turns out that sometime in the 1980s, Ryan Homes created Taragate and, hold on to your hoop skirts, “Twelve Oaks”––two neighboring housing developments in an area that is so far south of the city, one might call it the Deep South of Charlotte.
I have no idea to whom they were marketing these neighborhoods twenty-five years ago, but today the residents reflect a far more diverse population than one would expect to be living in a development with attachments to the Old South or Gone with the Wind. Indeed, my dinner hosts were African American, and their neighbors were both white and Asian.
On the one hand I was impressed by the extended marketing reach of the novel and the film, such that in the 1980s developers wanted to “recreate” Tara and Twelve Oaks. Yet I also wondered what my dinner hosts thought about it–you know, with references to plantations and all. But while I was fascinated, they seemed unfazed.
Clearly, Gone with the Wind has lost some of its relevance, despite the big 75th anniversary celebrations of the book going on this year. Today, however, neither the book nor the film does the kind of damage it once did to the progress of race relations in the United States, even though the portrayals of African Americans remain offensive. Although people around the globe will be commemorating Margaret Mitchell’s tome on the Old South in 2011, at Taragate and Twelve Oaks there will be folks wondering what the fuss is all about.
This article is crossposted from Pop South.
Karen L. Cox is associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is the author of Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture as well as Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture, which won the 2004 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize for the best book in southern women’s history. You can become a fan of Dreaming of Dixie on Facebook and follow Cox on Twitter @SassyProf. Visit the author’s blog, Pop South: Reflections on the South in Popular Culture.