What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Identities

Why Do So Many Public Buildings in the U.S. Look Like Greek Temples?

In the Architectural Void of a New Nation, William Strickland Borrowed from Ancient Athens to Express America's Democratic Ethos

By Robert Russell

President Andrew Jackson took a keen interest in the construction of the federal mint in Philadelphia, a grand, columned edifice, inspired by the temples of ancient Greece, that opened in 1833. Jackson was not a man known for his appreciation of cultural and artistic pursuits. A populist who famously railed against the elites, he had initially wanted to construct a simple building for minting money quickly, because there was a severe shortage of specie—coins—in the country at the time.

Gradually, though, he came around to the idea of a grander mint, and became personally involved in many aspects …

Conversations

Why Has America Been So Reluctant to ‘Own’ the South?

A Preeminent Historian Explores How a Region Central to U.S. Identity Gets Written Out of the National Narrative

Interview by Gregory Rodriguez

James C. Cobb is Emeritus B. Phinizy Spalding distinguished professor in the history of the American South at the University of Georgia. He has published 13 books and many articles focusing on the interaction of the economy, politics, and culture in the American South. Three of his books—The Selling of the South: The Southern Crusade for Industrial Development 1936-1990, Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity, and The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots …