See the introduction to this series of posts: Writing on Things Southern and Past
By Joe Bageant
As I drove through the decaying neighborhood in Winchester, Virginia the pain of growing up there came back -- the stabbing kind that only lasts a second but makes you flinch as you remember some small but stupid and brutal moment of adolescence. I have never known if everyone has them, but I've always suspected they do. Now that old neighborhood slid by my rental car window looking like it was painted by Edward Hopper, then bleakly populated with gangstas, old men with forty-ounce malt liquor bottles, hard-working single moms and kids on cheap busted plastic tricycles.
Wedged between the old railroad station and the Confederate Cemetery, our neighborhood was and still is called the North End. It has gone mostly black now. But you can see some of its families going through the same struggle for modest respectability as in 1961 when it was the poorest edge of white Winchester -- flower pots on porches, lawn edges cut crisply in the earth along sidewalks, as if the red clay pounded by the feet of neighborhood kids were going to produce enough grass to threaten the walkways -- all those things the poorest white working people did back then to proclaim: We might be poor and close to Niggertown, but we ain't niggers.