The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South— is an area in the southeastern and south-central United States. The region is known for its distinct culture and history, having developed its own customs, musical styles and varied cuisines that have helped distinguish it from the rest of the United States. The South owes its unique heritage to a variety of sources, including Native Americans; early European settlements of Spanish, English, German, French, Scotch-Irish, and Scottish;  importation of hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans; historic dependence on slave labor; the presence of a large proportion of African Americans in the population; and the aftermath of the Confederacy after the Civil War.
Historically, the South relied heavily on agriculture but has become more industrialized and urban since the last few decades of the 20th century, attracting national and international migrants. The American South is now among the fastest-growing areas in the United States. While there has been rapid economic growth, every Southern state with the exceptions of Maryland, Virginia and Florida has a higher poverty rate than the American average. Poverty is especially prevalent in rural areas. Sociological research has indicated that Southern collective identity stems from political, demographic and cultural distinctiveness. Studies have shown that Southerners are more conservative than non-Southerners in several areas, including religion, morality, international relations and race relations. This is evident during presidential elections and in religious attendance figures.
Overall, the South has had lower percentages of high school graduates, lower housing values, lower household incomes, and lower cost of living than the rest of the United States. These factors, combined with the fact that Southerners have continued to maintain strong loyalty to family ties, has led some sociologists to label white Southerners a "quasi-ethnic regional group." In previous censuses, the largest ancestry group identified by Southerners was English or mostly English, with 19,618,370 self-reporting "English" as an ancestry on the 1980 census, followed by 12,709,872 listing "Irish" and 11,054,127 "Afro-American". Almost a third of all Americans who claim English ancestry can be found in the American South, and over a quarter of all Southerners claim English descent as well. The South also continues to have the highest percentage of African-Americans in the country.
Apart from its climate, the living experience in the South increasingly resembles the rest of the nation. The arrival of millions of Northerners (especially in the suburbs and coastal areas) and millions of Hispanics means the introduction of cultural values and social norms not rooted in Southern traditions. Observers conclude that collective identity and Southern distinctiveness are thus declining, particularly when defined against "an earlier South that was somehow more authentic, real, more unified and distinct." The process has worked both ways, however, with aspects of Southern culture spreading throughout a greater portion of the rest of the United States in a process termed "Southernization".
As defined by the United States Census Bureau, the Southern region of the United States includes sixteen states. As of 2010, an estimated 114,555,744 people, or thirty-seven percent of all U.S. residents, lived in the South, the nation's most populous region. The Census Bureau defined three smaller units, or divisions:
Other terms related to the South include:
The popular definition of the "South" is more informal and generally associated with the eleven states that seceded during the Civil War to form the Confederate States of America. Those states share commonalities of history and culture that carry on to the present day. Oklahoma is often included; it was not a state, but all its major Indian tribes signed formal treaties of alliance with the Confederacy.
The South is a diverse meteorological region with numerous climatic zones, including temperate, sub-tropical, tropical, and arid--though the South is generally regarded as hot and humid, with long summers and short, mild winters. Most of the south – except for the higher elevations and areas near the western, southern and some northern fringes – fall in the humid subtropical climate zone. Crops grow easily in the South; its climate consistently provides growing seasons of at least six months before the first frost. Landscapes, particularly in the Southeast, are characterized by live oaks, magnolia trees, yellow jessamine vines, Spanish moss, cabbage palms and flowering dogwoods. Another common environment is found in the bayous and swamplands of the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana and Texas. Parts of the rural South have been overrun by Kudzu, an invasive, fast-growing, leafy vine that can spread over trees, land, roads, and buildings, choking and killing indigenous plants. Kudzu is a particularly big problem in the Piedmont regions of South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
The first well-dated evidence of human occupation in the south United States occurs around 9500 BC with the appearance of the earliest documented Americans, who are now referred to as Paleo-Indians. Paleoindians were hunter-gathers that roamed in bands and frequently hunted megafauna. Several cultural stages, such as Archaic (ca. 8000 -1000 BC) and the Woodland (ca. 1000 BC-AD 1000), preceded what the Europeans found at the end of the 15th century — the Mississippian culture.
The Mississippian culture was a complex, mound-building Native American culture that flourished in what is now the southeastern United States from approximately 800 AD to 1500 AD. Natives had elaborate and lengthy trading routes connecting their main residential and ceremonial centers extending through the river valleys and from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. Some noted explorers who encountered and described the Mississippian culture, by then in decline, included Pánfilo de Narváez (1528), Hernando de Soto (1540), and Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville (1699).
Native American descendants of the mound-builders include Alabama, Apalachee, Caddo, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Guale, Hitchiti, Houma, and Seminole peoples, all of whom still reside in the South.
The predominant culture of the South was rooted in the settlement of the region by British colonists. In the 17th century, most voluntary immigrants were of English origins who settled chiefly along the coastal regions of the Eastern seaboard but had pushed as far inland as the Appalachian mountains by the 18th century. The majority of early English settlers were indentured servants, who gained freedom after enough work to pay off their passage. The wealthier men who paid their way received land grants known as headrights, to encourage settlement.
In the British colonies, immigration began in 1607 and continued until the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775. Settlers cleared land, built houses and outbuildings, and on their own farms. The rich owned large plantations that dominated export agriculture and used black slaves. Many were involved in the labor-intensive cultivation of tobacco, the first cash crop of Virginia. Tobacco exhausted the soil quickly, requiring new fields to be cleared on a regular basis. Old fields were used as pasture and for crops such as corn and wheat, or allowed to grow into woodlots.
In the mid-to-late-18th century, large groups of Ulster-Scots (later called the Scotch-Irish) and people from the Anglo-Scottish border region immigrated and settled in the back country of Appalachia and the Piedmont. They were the largest group of non-English immigrants from the British Isles before the American Revolution. In the 1980 Census, 34% of Southerners reported that they were of English ancestry; English was the largest reported European ancestry in every Southern state by a large margin.
The early colonists, engaged in warfare, trade, and cultural exchanges. Those living in the backcountry were more likely to encounter Creek Indians, Cherokee, and Choctaws and other regional native groups.
The oldest university in the South, The College of William & Mary, was founded in 1693 in Virginia; it pioneered in the teaching of political economy and educated future U.S. Presidents Jefferson, Monroe and Tyler, all from Virginia. Indeed, the entire region dominated politics in the First Party System era: for example, four of the first five Presidents— Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe — were from Virginia. The two oldest public universities are also in the South: the University of North Carolina (1789) and the University of Georgia (1785).
With Virginia in the lead, the Southern colonies embraced the American Revolution, providing such leaders as commander in chief George Washington, and the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.
In 1780–81, the British largely gave up reconquest of the northern states, and concentrated on the south, where they were told there was a large Loyalist population ready to leap to arms once the royal forces arrived. The British took control of Savannah and Charleston, capturing a large American army in the process, and set up a network of bases inland. Many Loyalist did join the British, often switching sides once or twice, but not nearly enough to overcome the Americans. Led by Nathaniel Greene and other generals, the Americans engaged in Fabian tactics designed to wear down the British invasion force, and to neutralize its strong points one by one. There were numerous battles large and small, with each side claiming some victories. By 1781, however, British General Cornwallis realized his mission was hopeless, so he moved north to Virginia to await rescue by the British Navy. The British Navy did arrive, but so it too did a stronger French fleet, and Cornwallis was trapped. American and French armies, led by Washington, forced Cornwallis to surrender his entire army in Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781, effectively winning the war.
The Revolution provided a shock to slavery in the South. Thousands of slaves took advantage of wartime disruption to find their own freedom, catalyzed by the British governor Dunmore of Virginia's promise of freedom for service. Many others were removed by Loyalist owners and became slaves elsewhere in the Empire. There was sharp decline between 1770 and 1790 the percentage of blacks from 61% percent to 44% in South Carolina and from 45% to 36% in Georgia.
In addition, some slaveholders were inspired to free their slaves after the Revolution. They were moved by the principles of the Revolution, and Quaker and Methodist preachers worked to encourage slaveholders to free their slaves. Planters often freed slaves by their wills, as did George Washington. In the upper South, more than 10 percent of all blacks were free by 1810, a significant expansion from pre-war proportions of less than 1 percent free.
Cotton became dominant in the lower South after 1800. After the invention of the cotton gin, short staple cotton could be grown more widely. This led to an explosion of cotton cultivation, especially in the frontier uplands of Georgia, Alabama and other parts of the Deep South, as well as riverfront areas of the Mississippi Delta. Migrants poured into those areas in the early decades of the 19th century, when county population figures rose and fell as swells of people kept moving west. The expansion of cotton cultivation required more slave labor, and the institution became even more deeply an integral part of the South's economy.
With the opening up of frontier lands after the government forced most Native Americans to move west of the Mississippi, there was a major migration of both whites and blacks to those territories. From the 1820s through the 1850s, more than one million enslaved African Americans were transported to the Deep South in forced migration, two-thirds of them by slave traders and the others by masters who moved there. Planters in the Upper South sold slaves excess to their needs as they shifted from tobacco to mixed agriculture. Many enslaved families were broken up, as planters preferred mostly strong males for field work.
Two major political issues that festered in the first half of the 19th century caused political alignment along sectional lines, strengthened the identities of North and South as distinct regions with certain strongly opposed interests, and fed the arguments over states' rights that culminated in secession and the Civil War. One of these issues concerned the protective tariffs enacted to assist the growth of the manufacturing sector, primarily in the North. In 1832, in resistance to federal legislation increasing tariffs, South Carolina passed an ordinance of nullification, a procedure in which a state would in effect repeal a Federal law. Soon a naval flotilla was sent to Charleston harbor, and the threat of landing ground troops was used to compel the collection of tariffs. A compromise was reached by which the tariffs would be gradually reduced, but the underlying argument over states' rights continued to escalate in the following decades.
The second issue concerned slavery, primarily the question of whether slavery would be permitted in newly admitted states. The issue was initially finessed by political compromises designed to balance the number of "free" and "slave" states. The issue resurfaced in more virulent form, however, around the time of the Mexican–American War, which raised the stakes by adding new territories primarily on the Southern side of the imaginary geographic divide. Congress opposed allowing slavery in these territories.
Before the Civil War, the number of immigrants arriving at Southern ports began to increase, although the North continued to receive the most immigrants. Hugenots were among the first settlers in Charleston, along with the largest number of Hasidic Jews outside of New York City. Numerous Irish immigrants settled in New Orleans, establishing a distinct ethnic enclave now known as the Irish Channel. Germans also went to New Orleans and its environs, resulting in a large area north of the city (along the Mississippi) becoming known as the German Coast; however, still greater numbers immigrated to Texas (especially after 1848), where many bought land and were farmers. Many more German immigrants arrived in Texas after the Civil War, where they created the brewing industry in Houston and elsewhere, became grocers in numerous cities, and also established wide areas of farming.
The South produced nine of the first 12 U.S. Presidents prior to the Civil War. For more than a century after the Civil War, no Southerner became President unless he either moved North (like Woodrow Wilson) or was vice president when their president died in office (like Vice-Presidents Andrew Johnson, Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson). In 1976, Jimmy Carter defied this trend and became the first Southerner to break the pattern since Zachary Taylor in 1848. The South produced five of the last eight American Presidents: Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–69), Jimmy Carter (1977–81), George H. W. Bush (1989–93), Bill Clinton (1993–2001) and George W. Bush (2001–2009). Carter was from Georgia, Clinton from Arkansas, while George H.W. and George W. Bush were from Texas, although born in New England.
By 1856, the South had lost control of Congress, and was no longer able to silence calls for an end to slavery—which came mostly from the more populated, free states of the North. The Republican Party, founded in 1854, pledged to stop the spread of slavery beyond those states where it already existed. After Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican president in 1860, seven cotton states declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America before Lincoln was inaugurated. The United States government, both outgoing and incoming, refused to recognize the Confederacy, and when the new Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered his troops to open fire on Fort Sumter in April 1861, there was an overwhelming demand, North and South, for war. Only the state of Kentucky attempted to remain neutral, and it could only do so briefly. When Lincoln called for troops to suppress the rebellion, four more states decided to secede and join the Confederacy (which then moved its capital to Richmond, Virginia). Although the Confederacy had large supplies of captured munitions and many volunteers, it was slower than the Union in dealing with the border states. By March 1862, the Union largely controlled Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri, had shut down all commercial traffic from all Confederate ports, had prevented European recognition of the Confederate government, and was poised to seize New Orleans.
In the four years of war 1861–65 the South was the primary battleground, with all but two of the major battles taking place on Southern soil. Union forces relentlessly squeezed the Confederacy, controlling the border states in 1861, the Tennessee River, the Cumberland River and New Orleans in 1862, and the Mississippi River in 1863. In the East, however, the rebel army under Robert E. Lee beat off attack after attack in its defense of their capital at Richmond. But when Lee tried to move north, he was repulsed (and nearly captured) at Antietam (1862) and Gettysburg (1863).
The Confederacy had the resources for a short war, but was unable to finance or supply a longer war. It reversed the traditional low-tariff policy of the South by imposing a new 15% tax on all imports from the Union. The Union blockade stopped most commerce from entering the South, and smugglers avoided the tax, so the Confederate tariff produced too little revenue to finance the war. Inflated currency was the solution, but that created distrust of the Richmond government. Because of low investment in railroads, the Southern transportation system depended primarily on river and coastal traffic by boat; both were shut down by the Union Navy. The small railroad system virtually collapsed, so that by 1864 internal travel was so difficult that the Confederate economy was crippled.
The Confederate cause was hopeless by the time Atlanta fell and William T. Sherman marched through Georgia in late 1864, but the rebels fought on, refusing to give up their independence until Lee's army was captured in April 1865. All the Confederate forces surrendered, and there was no insurgency as the region moved into the Reconstruction Era.
The South suffered much more than the North overall, as the Union strategy of attrition warfare meant that Lee could not replace his casualties, and the total war waged by Sherman, Sheridan and other Union armies devastated the infrastructure and caused widespread poverty and distress. The Confederacy suffered military losses of 95,000 men killed in action and 165,000 who died of disease, for a total of 260,000, out of a total white Southern population at the time of around 5.5 million. Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and about 18% in the South. Northern military casualties exceeded Southern casualties in absolute numbers, but were two-thirds smaller in terms of proportion of the population affected.
After the Civil War, the South was devastated in terms of population, infrastructure and economy. Because of states' reluctance to grant voting rights to freedmen, Congress instituted Reconstruction governments. It established military districts and governors to rule over the South until new governments could be established. Many white Southerners who had actively supported the Confederacy were temporarily disfranchised. Rebuilding was difficult as people grappled with the effects of a new labor economy of a free market in the midst of a widespread agricultural depression. In addition, what limited infrastructure the South had was mostly destroyed by the war. At the same time, the North was rapidly industrializing. To avoid the social effects of the war, most of the Southern states initially passed black codes. Eventually, these were mostly legally nullified by federal law and anti-Confederate legistures, which persisted for a short time during Reconstruction.
There were thousands of people on the move, as African Americans tried to reunite families separated by slaves sales, and sometimes migrated for better opportunities in towns or other states. Other freedpeople moved from plantation areas to cities or towns for a chance to get different jobs and out from under white control. At the same time, whites returned from refuges to reclaim plantations or town dwellings. In some areas, many whites returned to the land to farm for a while. Some freedpeople left the South altogether for states such as Ohio and Indiana, and later, Kansas. Thousands of others joined the migration to new opportunities in the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta bottomlands and Texas.
With passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (which outlawed slavery), the 14th Amendment (which granted full U.S. citizenship to African Americans) and the 15th amendment (which extended the right to vote to African American males), African Americans in the South were made free citizens and were given the right to vote. Under Federal protection, white and black Republicans formed constitutional conventions and state governments. Among their accomplishments was creating the first public education systems in Southern states, and providing for welfare through orphanages, hospitals and similar institutions.
Northerners came south to participate in politics and business. Some were representatives of the Freedmen's Bureau and other agencies of Reconstruction; some were humanitarians with the intent to help black people. Also, as is often the case in volatile environments, some were adventurers who hoped to benefit themselves by questionable methods. They were all condemned with the pejorative term of carpetbagger. Some Southerners also took advantage of the disrupted environment and made money off various schemes, including bonds and financing for railroads.
Secret vigilante organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan—an organization sworn to perpetuate white supremacy—had arisen quickly after the war's end and used lynching, physical attacks, house burnings and other forms of intimidation to keep African Americans from exercising their political rights. Although the first Klan was disrupted by prosecution by the Federal government in the early 1870s, other groups persisted. By the mid-to-late-1870s, elite white Southerners created increasing resistance to the altered social structure. Paramilitary organizations such as the White League in Louisiana (1874), the Red Shirts in Mississippi (1875) and rifle clubs, all "White Line" organizations, used organized violence against Republicans, blacks and whites, to turn Republicans out of office, repress and bar black voting, and restore Democrats to power. In 1876 white Democrats regained power in most of the state legislatures. They began to pass laws designed to strip African Americans and poor whites from the voter registration rolls. The success of late-19th century interracial coalitions in several states inspired a reaction among some white Democrats, who worked harder to prevent both groups from voting.
Despite discrimination, many blacks became property owners in areas that were still developing. For instance, 90% of the Mississippi's bottomlands were still frontier and undeveloped after the war. By the end of the century, two-thirds of the farmers in Mississippi's Delta bottomlands were black. They had cleared the land themselves and often made money in early years by selling off timber. Tens of thousands of migrants went to the Delta, both to work as laborers to clear timber for lumber companies, and many to develop their own farms.
Nearly all Southerners, black and white, suffered as a result of the Civil War. Within a few years cotton production and harvest was back to pre-war levels, but low prices through much of the 19th century hampered recovery. They encouraged immigration by Chinese and Italian laborers into the Mississippi Delta. While the first Chinese entered as indentured laborers from Cuba, the majority came in the early-20th century. Neither group stayed long at rural farm labor. The Chinese became merchants and established stores in small towns throughout the Delta, establishing a place between white and black.
Migrations continued in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among both blacks and whites. In the last two decades oth the 19th century about 141,000 blacks left the South, and more after 1900, totaling a loss of 537,000. After that the movement increased in what became known as the Great Migration from 1910–1940, and the Second Great Migration through 1970. Even more whites left the South, some going to California for opportunities and others heading to Northern industrial cities after 1900. Between 1880 and 1910, the loss of whites totaled 1,243,000. Five million more left between 1940 and 1970.
From 1890 to 1908, 10 of the 11 states passed disfranchising constitutions or amendments which had provisions for voter registration, such as poll taxes, residency requirements and literacy tests, which were hard for many poor to meet. Most African Americans, Mexican Americans and tens of thousands of poor whites were disfranchised, losing the vote for decades. In some states grandfather clauses were temporarily used to exempt white illiterates from literacy tests. The numbers of voters dropped drastically throughout the South as a result. This can be seen on the feature "Turnout in Presidential and Midterm Elections" at the University of Texas Politics: Barriers to Voting. Alabama, which had established universal white suffrage in 1819 when it became a state, also substantially reduced voting by poor whites. Legislatures passed Jim Crow laws to segregate public facilities and services, including transportation.
While African Americans, poor whites and civil rights groups started litigation against such provisions in the early-20th century, for decades Supreme Court decisions overturning such provisions were rapidly followed by new state laws with new devices to restrict voting. Most blacks in the South could not vote until 1965, after passage of the Voting Rights Act and Federal enforcement to ensure people could register. Not until the late 1960s did all American citizens regain protected civil rights by passage of legislation following the leadership of the American Civil Rights Movement.
At the end of the 19th century, white Democrats in the South had created state constitutions that were hostile to industry and business development. Banking was limited, as was access to credit. States persisted in agricultural economies. As in Alabama, rural minorities held control in many state legislatures long after population had shifted to industrializing cities, and the legislators resisted business and modernizing interests. For instance, Alabama refused to redistrict from 1901 to 1972, long after major population and economic shifts to cities. For decades Birmingham generated the majority of revenue for the state, for instance, but received little back in services or infrastructure.
In the late 19th century, Texas rapidly expanded its railroad network, creating a network of cities connected on a radial plan and linked to the port of Galveston. It was the first state in which urban and economic development proceeded independently of rivers, the primary transportation network of the past. A reflection of increasing industry were strikes and labor unrest: "in 1885 Texas ranked ninth among forty states in number of workers involved in strikes (4,000); for the six-year period it ranked fifteenth. Seventy-five of the 100 strikes, chiefly interstate strikes of telegraphers and railway workers, occurred in the year 1886."
In 1890 Dallas was the largest city in Texas. By 1900 it had a population of more than 42,000, which more than doubled to over 92,000 a decade later. Dallas was the harnessmaking capital of the world and center of other manufacturing. As an example of its ambitions, in 1907 Dallas built the Praetorian Building, 15 stories tall and the first skyscraper west of the Mississippi. Others soon followed. Texas was transformed by a railroad network linking five important cities, among them Houston with its nearby port at Galveston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and El Paso. Each exceeded 50,000 in population by 1920, with the major cities having three times that population.
Business interests were ignored by the Bourbon class. Nonetheless, major new industries started developing in cities such as Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; and Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, Texas. Growth began occurring at a geometric rate. Birmingham became a major steel producer and mining town, with major population growth in the early decades of the 20th century.
The first major oil well in the South was drilled at Spindletop near Beaumont, Texas, on the morning of January 10, 1901. Other oil fields were later discovered nearby in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and under the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting "Oil Boom" permanently transformed the economy of the West/South Central states and led to the most significant economic expansion after the Civil War.
In the early 20th century, invasion of the boll weevil devastated cotton crops in states of the South. This was an additional catalyst to African Americans' decisions to leave the South. From 1910 to 1940, and then from the 1940s to 1970, more than 6.5 million African Americans left the South in the Great Migration to northern and midwestern cities, making multiple acts of resistance against persistent lynching and violence, segregation, poor education, and inability to vote. Their movements transformed many cities, creating new cultures and music in the North. Many African Americans, like other groups, became industrial workers; others started their own businesses within the communities. Southern whites also migrated to industrial cities, especially Chicago and Detroit, where they took jobs in the booming new auto industry.
Later, the Southern economy was dealt additional blows by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the economy suffered significant reversals and millions were left unemployed. Beginning in 1934 and lasting until 1939, an ecological disaster of severe wind and drought caused an exodus from Texas and Arkansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle region and the surrounding plains, in which over 500,000 Americans were homeless, hungry and jobless. Thousands left the region forever to seek economic opportunities along the West Coast.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt noted the South as the "number one priority" in terms of need of assistance during the Great Depression. His administration created programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 to provide rural electrification and stimulate development. Locked into low productivity agriculture, the region's growth was slowed by limited industrial development, low levels of entrepreneurship, and the lack of capital investment.
World War II marked a time of change in the South as new industries and military bases were developed by the Federal government, providing badly needed capital and infrastructure in many regions. People from all parts of the US came to the South for military training and work in the region's many bases and new industries. Farming shifted from cotton and tobacco to include soybeans, corn, and other foods.
This growth increased in the 1960s and greatly accelerated into the 1980s and 1990s. Large urban areas with over 4 million people rose in Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Rapid expansion in industries such as autos, telecommunications, textiles, technology, banking, and aviation gave some states in the South an industrial strength to rival large states elsewhere in the country. By the 2000 census, The South (along with the West) was leading the nation in population growth. However, with this growth has come long commute times and serious air pollution problems in cities such as Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Austin, Charlotte, and others which have relied on sprawling development and highway networks.
In the antebellum years, by 1840 New Orleans was the wealthiest city in the country and the third largest in population, based on the growth of international trade associated with products being shipped to and from the interior of the country down the Mississippi River. It had the largest slave market in the country, as traders brought slaves to New Orleans by ship and overland to sell to planters across the Deep South. The city was a cosmopolitan port with a variety of jobs that attracted more immigrants than did other areas of the South. Because of lack of investment, construction of railroads to span the region lagged behind that in the North. People relied most heavily on river traffic for getting their crops to market and for transportation.
In Mississippi before the war, for instance, most plantations were developed along the Mississippi and other navigable rivers. The bottomlands were not developed until after the war, when the chance to buy land attracted tens of thousands of migrants, both black and white. By the end of the century, two-thirds of farm owners in the Delta bottomlands were black. The long agricultural depression meant that many had to take on too much debt—together with disfranchisement and lack of access to credit, by 1910 many had lost their property and by 1920, most blacks in the Delta were sharecroppers or landless workers. More than two generations of free African Americans had lost their stake in property.
In the late 20th century, the South changed dramatically. It saw a boom in its service economy, manufacturing base, high technology industries, and the financial sector. Tourism in Florida and along the Gulf Coast grew steadily throughout the last decades of the 20th century. Numerous new automobile production plants have opened in the region, or are soon to open, such as Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama; the BMW production plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina; Toyota plants in Georgetown, Kentucky, Blue Springs, Mississippi and San Antonio; the GM manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee; the Nissan North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee; and the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant. The two largest research parks in the country are located in the South: Research Triangle Park in North Carolina (the world's largest) and the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama (the world's fourth largest). Many major banking corporations have headquarters in the region. Charlotte is home to Bank of America, and was also home to Wachovia before its purchase by Wells Fargo; Birmingham boasts Regions Financial Corporation, AmSouth Bancorporation, and BBVA Compass; Atlanta is home to SunTrust Banks and the district headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; and BB&T is headquartered in Winston-Salem. Atlanta and its surrounding area are also home to many major corporations outside the banking sector, such as The Coca-Cola Company and The Home Depot, and also to many cable television networks, such as CNN, TBS, TNT, Turner South, Cartoon Network, and The Weather Channel. This economic expansion has enabled parts of the South to report some of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States. But in the U.S. top ten of poorest big cities, the South is represented in the rankings by two cities: Miami, Florida and Memphis, Tennessee. In 2011, nine out of ten poorest states were in the South.
Southern public schools have consistently ranked in the bottom of many national surveys and average test-score rankings before allowances for race are made. When allowance for race is considered, a 2007 US Government list of test scores often shows white fourth and eighth graders performing better than average for reading and math; while black fourth and eighth graders also performed better than average. This comparison does not hold across the board. Mississippi scores lower than average no matter how the statistics are compared.
The predominant culture of the South has its origins with the settlement of the region by large groups of Northern English, Scots lowlanders and Ulster-Scots (later called the Scotch-Irish) who settled in Appalachia and the Piedmont in the 18th century, and from parts of southern England such as East Anglia, Kent and the West Country in the 17th century, and the many African slaves who were part of the Southern economy. African-American descendants of the slaves brought into the South comprise the United States' second-largest racial minority, accounting for 12.1 percent of the total population according to the 2000 census. Despite Jim Crow era outflow to the North, the majority of the black population remains concentrated in the Southern states, and has heavily contributed to the cultural blend (the charismatic brand of Christianity, foods, art, music (see spiritual, blues, jazz and rock and roll) that characterize Southern culture today.
The South has been seen largely as a stronghold of Protestant Christianity. Although the traditional Southerner was Anglican, or more accurately Episcopalian, the predominant denominations in the South are now Baptists (especially the Southern Baptist Convention), followed by Methodists, with other denominations found throughout the region. Roman Catholics historically were concentrated in Louisiana and Hispanic areas such as South Texas and South Florida and along the Gulf Coast. The great majority of black Southerners are Baptist or Methodist. Statistics show that Southern states have the highest religious attendance figures in the nation. The pervasiveness of religion in the region influences the conservative political philosophy which most Southerners maintain.
Eight Southern states have obesity rates over 30% of the population, the highest in the country: Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Rates for hypertension and diabetes for these states are also the highest in the nation. A study reported that six Southern states have the worse incidence of sleep disturbances in the nation, attributing the disturbances to high rates of obesity and smoking.
The South also has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, with states like Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas having rates exceeding 60 per 1,000 teens.
In the first decades after Reconstruction, when white Democrats regained power in the state legislatures, they began to make voter registration more complicated, to reduce black voting. With a combination of intimidation, fraud and violence by paramilitary groups, they turned Republicans out of office and suppressed black voting. From 1890 to 1908, ten of eleven states ratified new constitutions or amendments that effectively disfranchised most black voters and many poor white voters. This disfranchisement persisted for six decades into the 20th century, depriving blacks and poor whites of all political representation. Because they could not vote, they could not sit on juries. They had no one to represent their interests, resulting in state legislatures consistently underfunding programs and services, such as schools, for blacks and poor whites.
As the Supreme Court began to find such disfranchisement provisions unconstitutional, Southern legislatures quickly passed other measures to keep blacks disfranchised, even after suffrage was extended more widely to poor whites. Because white Democrats controlled all the seats apportioned to their states, they had outsize power in Congress and filibustered or defeated efforts by others to pass legislation against lynching, for example. The region became known as the Solid South. The Republicans controlled parts of the Appalachian Mountains and competed for power in the Border States. From the late 1870s to the 1960s, it was rare for a state or national Southern politician to be Republican.
Increasing support for civil rights legislation by the national Democratic Party beginning in 1948 caused segregationist Southern Democrats to nominate J. Strom Thurmond on a third-party "Dixiecrat" ticket in 1948. These Dixicrats returned to the party by 1950, but Southern Democrats held off Republican inroads in the suburbs by arguing that only they could defend the region from the onslaught of northern liberals and the civil rights movement. In response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954, 101 Southern congressmen (19 senators, 82 House members of which 99 were Southern Democrats and 2 were Republicans) in 1956 denounced the Brown decisions as a "clear abuse of judicial power [that] climaxes a trend in the federal judiciary undertaking to legislate in derogation of the authority of Congress and to encroach upon the reserved rights of the states and the people." The manifesto lauded "those states which have declared the intention to resist enforced integration by any lawful means." It was signed by all Southern senators except Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, and Tennessee senators Albert Gore, Sr. and Estes Kefauver. Virginia closed schools in Warren County, Prince Edward County, Charlottesville, and Norfolk rather than integrate, but no other state followed suit. Democratic governors Orval Faubus of Arkansas, Ross Barnett of Mississippi, Lester Maddox of Georgia, and, especially, George Wallace of Alabama resisted integration and appealed to a rural and blue-collar electorate.
The northern Democrats' support of civil rights issues culminated when Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which ended legal segregation and provided federal enforcement of voting rights for blacks. In the presidential election of 1964, Barry Goldwater's only electoral victories outside his home state of Arizona were in the states of the Deep South where few blacks could vote before the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Pockets of resistance to integration in public places broke out in violence during the 1960s by the shadowy Ku Klux Klan, which caused a backlash among moderates. Major resistance to school busing extending into the 1970s.
National Republicans such as Richard Nixon began to develop their Southern strategy to attract conservative white Southerners, especially the middle class and suburban voters, in addition to traditional GOP pockets (such as Appalachia) and migrants from the North. The transition to a Republican stronghold in the South took decades. First, the states started voting Republican in presidential elections, except for native sons Jimmy Carter in 1976, Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Then the states began electing Republican senators and finally governors. Georgia was the last state to do so, with Sonny Perdue taking the governorship in 2002. In addition to its middle class and business base, Republicans cultivated the religious right and attracted strong majorities from the evangelical or Fundamentalist vote, mostly Southern Baptists, which had not been a distinct political force prior to 1980.
The South has produced various nationally-known politicians and political movements.
In 1948, a group of Democratic congressmen, led by Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, split from the Democrats in reaction to an anti-segregation speech given by Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. They founded the States Rights Democratic or Dixiecrat Party. During that year's Presidential election, the party ran Thurmond as its candidate, but he was unsuccessful.
In the 1968 Presidential election, Alabama Governor George C. Wallace ran for President on the American Independent Party ticket. Wallace ran a "law and order" campaign similar to that of Republican candidate, Richard Nixon. Nixon's Southern Strategy of gaining electoral votes downplayed race issues and focused on culturally conservative values, such as family issues, patriotism, and cultural issues that appealed to Southern Baptists.
In 1994, another Southern politician, Newt Gingrich, ushered in 12 years of GOP control of the House. Gingrich became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in 1995 and served until his resignation in 1999. Tom DeLay was the most powerful Republican leader in Congress until he was indicted under criminal charges in 2005 and was forced to step aside by Republican rules. Apart from Bob Dole of Kansas (1985–96), the recent Republican Senate leaders have been Southerners: Howard Baker (1981–85) of Tennessee, Trent Lott (1996–2003) of Mississippi, Bill Frist (2003–2006) of Tennessee, and Mitch McConnell (2007–present) of Kentucky.
The Republicans candidates for President have won the South in elections since 1972, except for 1976. However, the region is not entirely monolithic, and every successful Democratic candidate since 1976 has claimed at least three Southern states.
Native Americans had lived in the south for nearly 12,000 years. They were defeated by settlers in a series of wars ending in the War of 1812 and the Seminole Wars, and most were removed west to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma and Kansas). However large numbers of Native Americans managed to stay behind by blending into the surrounding society. This was especially true of the wives of Euro-American merchants and miners.
The Great Migration began during World War I, hitting its high point during World War II. During this migration, blacks left the South to find work in Northern factories and other sectors of the economy.
The migration also empowered the growing Civil Rights Movement. While the movement existed in all parts of the United States, its focus was against disfranchisement and the Jim Crow laws in the South. Most of the major events in the movement occurred in the South, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the March on Selma, Alabama, and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.. In addition, some of the most important writings to come out of the movement were written in the South, such as King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail". Most of the civil rights landmarks can be found around the South. The Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site in Atlanta includes a museum that chronicles the American Civil Rights Movement as well as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s boyhood home on Auburn Avenue. Additionally, Ebenezer Baptist Church is located in the Sweet Auburn district as is the King Center, location of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King's gravesites.
As a result of the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow laws across the South were dropped. A second migration appears to be underway, with African Americans from the North moving to the South in record numbers. While race relations are still a contentious issue in the South, the region surpasses the rest of the country in many areas of integration and racial equality. According to 2003 report by researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Virginia Beach, Charlotte, Nashville-Davidson, and Jacksonville were the four most integrated of the nation's fifty largest cities, with Memphis at number six. Southern states tend to have a low disparity in incarceration rates between blacks and whites relative to the rest of the country.
Some Southerners use the Confederate flag to identify themselves with the South, states' rights and Southern tradition. Groups, such as the League of the South, promote secession from the United States, citing a desire to protect and defend Southern heritage.
The South was heavily rural as late as the 1940s, but now the population is increasingly concentrated in metropolitan areas, including central cities and their suburbs.
|Rank||Metropolitan Statistical Area||State(s)||Population |
|4||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach||FL||5,564,635|
|12||Austin–Round Rock-San Marcos||TX||1,716,289|
|13||Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News||VA–NC||1,671,683|
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