COLUMBIA — Touting its independent arts scene, quantity of colleges, homecoming traditions and “healthy dose of Southern charm,” Columbia recently landed on Southern Living Magazine’s list of “The South’s Best College Towns.”
Despite this high praise, being categorized as a southern town begs the question: Is Columbia a part of the Southern or Midwestern United States?
According to Professor Larry Brown, who teaches Geography of Missouri at MU, contemporary Columbia and the state as a whole should be considered a part of the Midwest.
“Columbia is in the middle of the state, in the middle of the country and the middle of the continent. To be grouped with other states of this middle region is very appropriate,” Brown said.
Brown added that Columbia in particular stands at a confusing crossroads of regional identity.
“Most European immigration in Missouri was from the East and in St. Louis, while Kansas City didn’t exist until after the Civil War and had much more Western characteristics. Columbia is in what was traditionally Little Dixie, so it’s been influenced by many regions,” Brown said.
The list was released online, and it recognized Columbia with fifteen other Southern college towns including: Charlottesville, Va. (University of Virginia,) Chapel Hill, N.C. (University of North Carolina) and Bryan-College Station, Texas (Texas A&M), to name a few.
The Southern Living article emphasized the presence of three different colleges in Columbia, MU's claim to having hosted the first homecoming celebration and the active arts scene downtown with areas like the North Village Arts District and Ragtag Cinema.
Southern Living listed the criteria for choosing the South’s best college towns as: having a population of 200,000 or less, a strong relationship between the schools and their host towns, lively social and arts scenes, good dining, boutiques, active and loyal alumni; and, of course, “a healthy dose of Southern charm.”
The Missourian asked its social media communities to weigh in with their opinions, beginning with a poll on its Facebook page.
By 5 p.m. Friday, 56 people had indicated they do not consider Columbia a Southern town. Eleven people said they do. Three agreed with the option that Columbia is Southern "in attitude, yes. But hospitality, etc., no," and two voted for "I've heard it called the Up South, after which I had to laugh."
On Twitter, people added more flavor to the conversation.
"I was born and raised in Houston, TX. Columbia won't be a southern town unless it significantly improves it's Mexican food." — @Stephen_Cobb
"No. Columbia is a wonderful college town, but not a southern college town." — @JClarkDavis)
"If the Mason Dixon line runs through your state, then you are southern." — @Reckinball09
What's your opinion on the matter? We'd love your opinion on Facebook or in the comments below.