By Danielle Beverly
OLD SOUTH takes place in one of the oldest, predominantly black neighborhoods in Georgia. A group of young men, representative of Southern traditions and members of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity (KA), are known to fly a Confederate flag and hold an annual antebellum parade. The fraternity was founded in 1865, and its lineage is anchored in the Confederate values and ideals of Robert E. Lee. The film introduces a young member of the Fraternity who struggles to convey his historical take on the Civil War, the institution of slavery, and the symbolism behind the Confederate Flag.
Forced to move and with a desire to live in close proximity to their university, the fraternity chooses a large antebellum Confederate style mansion in the historically black neighborhood and demolishes two previously black-owned century-old properties. While intergenerational congregants of the community’s Hill First Baptist Church wrestle with a painful historical memory, they hope for a different day. KA fraternity members are surprised that the black community would take issue with them moving into the neighborhood, and describe their upbringing, good manners and commitment to community service.
Against this backdrop, a young fifth generation funeral director, Hope Iglehart is fighting to preserve what’s left of her African-American neighborhood and her mother’s home. In an effort to save it from further encroachment, Hope organizes community members to obtain official historical designation for her neighborhood, and community gardener Karen Witten plants seeds and cultivates a safe space for community interaction.
By the close of the film, we see KA members working in the garden alongside African American community elders, and tutoring black children in math and English in the Baptist church. As Iglehart explains in the film, “...[A]nywhere you live, you have to become a stakeholder; if not, then you are not part of the community.”