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Modern definition The states in dark red are almost always included in modern day definitions of the South, while those in medium red are usually included.
Some sources classify Maryland and Missouri as Southern, with Delaware only rarely grouped within the region.
West Virginia is often considered Southern, because it was once part of Virginia.

The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, Down South, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive region in the southeastern and south-central United Statesmarker. Because of the region's unique cultural and historic heritage, including Native Americans; early European settlements of English, Scots-Irish, Scottish, French, and German heritage; importation of hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans; growth of a large proportion of African Americans in the population, reliance on slave labor, and legacy of the Confederacy after the American Civil War, the South developed its own customs, literature, musical styles, and varied cuisines, that have profoundly shaped traditional American culture.

In the last few decades, the South has become more industrialized and urban, attracting numerous internal and international migrants. The American South is among the fastest-growing areas in the United States. Despite economic growth, the South still has persistent poverty, and every Southern state with the exceptions of Virginia and Florida have a higher poverty rate than the American average. .


(See Cultural Variations for more about the complexity of southern states).

As defined by the United States Census Bureau, the Southern region of the United States includes sixteen states and the District of Columbia (with a total 2006 estimated population of 109,083,752.) Thirty-six 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 is generally associated with those 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.

Biologically, the South is a vast, diverse region, having numerous climatic zones, including temperate, sub-tropical, tropical, and arid – though the South is generally regarded as being hot and humid, with long summers and short mild winters, being significantly warmer than the regions to its north (and generally exhibiting the nation's highest heat indices). Many crops grow easily in its soils and can be grown without frost for at least six months of the year. Some parts of the South, particularly the Southeast, have landscapes characterized by the presence of live oaks, magnolia trees, yellow jessamine vines, Spanish moss, cabbage palms and flowering dogwoods. Another common environment is the bayous and swampland of the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana and Texas. The South is a victim of kudzu, an invasive fast-growing vine which covers large amounts of land and kills indigenous plant life. Kudzu is a particularly big problem in the piedmont regions of Mississippimarker, Alabamamarker, and Georgiamarker.


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, many of whom still reside in the South.

European colonization

The predominant culture of the South was rooted in the settlement of the region by British colonists. In the seventeenth century, most voluntary immigrants were of English origins who settled chiefly along the coastal regions of the Eastern seaboard. The majority of early British 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.

The French and Spanish established colonies in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. The Spanish colonized Florida in the 1500s, with their communities reaching a peak in the late 1600s. In the British and French colonies, most immigrants arrived after 1700. They cleared land, built houses and outbuildings, and worked on the large plantations that dominated export agriculture. Many were involved in the labor-intensive cultivation of tobacco, the first cash crop of Virginia. With a decrease in the number of British willing to go to the colonies in the eighteenth century, planters began importing more enslaved Africans, who became the predominant labor force on the plantations. 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.

Also in the seventeenth century, colonists started importing African laborers. In the coastal and other settlements, early workers lived closely together in a multiracial society. Europeans married and made unions with Africans and Native Americans. The colonies gradually passed laws that hardened early conditions of indenture into lifelong racial slavery attached to African descent. Africans contributed to the economy of rice and indigo cultivation with their skilled knowledge, technology and labor, as well as to all the commodity crops; and to every aspect of culture (food, music, stories and religion).

Rice cultivation in South Carolina became another major commodity crop. Some historians have argued that slaves from the lowlands of western Africa, where rice was a basic crop, provided key skills, knowledge and technology for irrigation and construction of earthworks to support rice cultivation. The early methods and tools used in South Carolina were congruent with those in Africa. British immigrants would have had little or no familiarity with the complex process of growing rice in fields flooded by irrigation works. Africans were instrumental in the development of major earthworks for cultivating these commodities, as well as in the knowledge of technology and techniques for processing. The earthworks included extensive, elaborate systems of dams and irrigation for rice.

In the mid- to late-18th century, large groups of Scots and Ulster-Scots (later called the Scots-Irish) immigrated and settled in the back country of Appalachia and the Piedmont. They were the largest group of immigrants from the British Isles before the American Revolution. In a census taken in 2000 of Americans and their self-reported ancestries, areas where people reported 'American' ancestry were the places where, historically, many Scottish, Scotch-Irish and English Borderer Protestants settled in America: the interior as well as some of the coastal areas of the South, and especially the Appalachian region. The population with some Scots and Scots-Irish ancestry may number 47 million, as most people have multiple heritages, some of which they may not know.

The early colonists, especially the Scots-Irish in the back-country, engaged in warfare, trade, and cultural exchanges. Those living in the backcountry were more likely to join with Creek Indians, Cherokee, and Choctaws and other regional native groups.

The oldest university in the South, The College of William & Marymarker, 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 PresidentsWashington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe — were from Virginia. The two oldest public universities are also in the South: the University of North Carolinamarker (1795) and the University of Georgiamarker (1785).

American Revolution

The American Revolution provided a shock to slavery in the South. Tens of 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 simply escaped. Estimates are that five thousand slaves escaped from the Chesapeake Bay area, and thirteen thousand from South Carolina reached the British. "The extent of the loss to the slave owners in the lower South is indicated by the sharp decline between 1770 and 1790 in the proportion of population made up of black people (almost all of whom were slaves): from 60.5 percent to 43.8 percent in South Carolina and from 45.2 percent to 36.1 percent 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. 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.

Antebellum years

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 Charlestonmarker 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. Numerous Irish immigrants flooded New Orleans, so much so that one of the sections of the city became 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.

Tennessee was the last state to secede from the union, and it was the first to rejoin after the war.

Civil War

By 1856, the South was losing political power to the more populated North and was locked in a series of constitutional and political battles with the North regarding states' rights and the status of slavery in the territories. President James K. Polk imposed a low-tariff regime on the country (Walker Tariff of 1846), which angered Pennsylvaniamarker industrialists, and blocked proposed federal funding of national roads and port improvements. Once the North came to power in 1861, many Southerners felt it was time to secede from the union.

Seven cotton states decided on secession after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 (often known as the pre-Sumter Seven). They formed the Confederate States of America. In early 1861, they were joined by four more states immediately following the firing on Fort Sumter (splinter governments from two more states, Missouri and Kentuckymarker, would join later that year but were unable to fully participate). The United States government refused to recognize the seceding states. It continued to operate several federal military installations in the South, including Fort Sumter, which the Confederacy captured in April 1861 at the Battle of Fort Sumter, in the port of Charlestonmarker. That act triggered the Civil War. In the four years of war which followed, the South found itself as the primary battleground, with all but two of the major battles taking place on Southern soil. The Confederacy retained a low tariff regime for European imports but imposed a new tax on all imports from the North. The Union blockade stopped most commerce from entering the South, so the Confederate taxes hardly mattered. 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 Union (the name often used in referring to the United States of America during this time) eventually defeated the Confederate States of America (the formal name of the southern American states during the Civil War). The South suffered much more than the North overall, primarily because the war was fought almost entirely in the South. The economic loss and civilian toll has never been fully realized, although 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 an extraordinary 18% in the South. However, Northern military casualties exceeded Southern casualties in absolute numbers.

Reconstruction and Jim Crow

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. 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 ability 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; yet 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 Klan was defeated 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 Louisianamarker (1874), the Red Shirts in Mississippimarker (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 made white Democrats work harder to prevent both groups from voting.

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. With many freedmen wanting to work on their own account, planters needed additional labor, especially as 90% of the Mississippi Delta was yet to be cleared and developed. They encouraged immigration by Chinese and Italian laborers into the Mississippi Delta, for instance. 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 century, among both blacks and whites. In the last two decades, 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; 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, ten of the eleven 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 Courtmarker 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.

Despite discrimination, many blacks became property owners in areas that were still developing. For instance, ninety percent 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.

20th century - Industrialization and Great Migration

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.

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.

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.

The first major oil well in the South was drilled at Spindletopmarker near Beaumont, Texasmarker, on the morning of January 10, 1901. Other oil fields were later discovered nearby in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and under the Gulf of Mexicomarker. 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 Panhandlemarker 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 last two generations, the South has changed dramatically. In recent decades it has seen a boom in its service economy, manufacturing base, high technology industries, and the financial sector. Examples of this include the surge in tourism in Florida and along the Gulf Coast; numerous new automobile production plants such as Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa, Alabamamarker; Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabamamarker; the BMW production plant in Spartanburg, South Carolinamarker; the GM manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennesseemarker; and the Nissan North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennesseemarker; the two largest research parks in the country: Research Triangle Parkmarker in North Carolina (the world's largest) and the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabamamarker (the world's fourth largest); and the corporate headquarters of major banking corporations Bank of America and Wachovia in Charlottemarker; Regions Financial Corporation, AmSouth Bancorporation, and BBVA Compass in Birminghammarker; SunTrust Banks and the district headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; and BB&T in Winston-Salemmarker; and several Atlantamarker-based corporate headquarters and 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 boast of some of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States.

Growth and poverty

The South's early cash crops of tobacco, indigo and rice created enormous wealth for many planters in the coastal areas. While city development was limited, Richmond, Charleston, Savannah and others developed a sophisticated society. The wealthiest planters sent their sons to college in England and later to the best schools in the South, and sometimes the North. They imported furniture and furnishings from Europe, as well as employing the best colonial craftsmen. For many it was a mostly rural society, but by the 19th century, some families moved back and forth between plantations and town houses. The planter class controlled the state legislatures and kept taxes low. Their wealth went mostly for private purposes. They invested in no system of public education and little infrastructure.

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.

After the Civil War, nearly the entire economic infrastructure of the region was in ruins. As agriculture had been the foundation of the Southern economy, disruption of slavery by the Civil War meant that planters had to learn to deal with free labor, a challenge as freedmen wanted most to take care of their own crops and land. Additionally, since there were few industrial businesses located in the south, there were not many other possible sources of income. Textile mills in the Piedmont of Georgia rebuilt rapidly, but it was not until the 20th century that the region dominated the industry. Some areas rapidly rebuilt—Atlanta, for example—through railroads.

After World War II, with the development of the Interstate Highway System, household air conditioning and later, passage of civil rights bills, the South was successful in attracting industry and business from other parts of the country. Industry from the Rust Belt region of the Northeast and the Great Lakesmarker moved into the region because of lower labor costs and less unionization. Poverty rates and unemployment declined as a result of new job growth. Federal programs such as the Appalachian Regional Commission also contributed to economic growth.

While the Southern United States has advanced considerably since World War II, significant poverty still persists in the more isolated and rural areas. Areas like the Black Belt, the eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia areas in Appalachia, the Mexican border area along the Rio Grandemarker in Texasmarker, and the Deltas of Mississippi and Arkansas suffer the most poverty in the South today.


The predominant culture of the South has its origins with the settlement of the region by British colonists in the 17th century, large groups of Scots and Ulster-Scots (later called the Scots-Irish) who settled in Appalachia and the Piedmont in the 18th 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 (see Great Migration ) the majority of the black population remains concentrated in the southern states, and have 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.


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 the 1940s caused conservative Southern Democrats to take notice. Until the passage of the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s, conservative Southern Democrats ("Dixiecrats") argued 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, southern legislators developed the Southern Manifesto. It was issued in March 1956, by 101 southern congressmen (19 senators, 82 House members). It 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 Countymarker, Prince Edward Countymarker, Charlottesvillemarker, and Norfolkmarker 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 blue-collar electorate.

The Democratic Party's national 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. Some Republicans began to develop their Southern strategy to attract conservative white Southerners. Southern Democrats took notice that 1964 Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act. In the presidential election of 1964, Goldwater's only electoral victories outside his home state of Arizonamarker were in the states of the Deep South.

The transition to a Republican stronghold in the South took decades. First, the states started voting Republican in presidential elections, except for favorite 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 the middle class and business base, Republicans cultivated the religious right and attracted strong majorities from the evangelical Christian vote, which had not been a distinct political demographic prior to 1980.

The region's resistance to giving African Americans basic citizens' rights of voting and integration in public places broke out in renewed violence and murders during the 1960s, and major resistance to desegregation extending into the 1970s.

The political realignment of conservatives aligning with the Republicans has created partisan reasons for challenging voter registration and elections. African Americans in the South mostly have strongly supported Democratic Party candidates, since this is the party that helped secure their active citizenship.

Presidential history

The South has produced the first winning presidential candidates for all but two major political parties in the history of the United States. The following is a list of presidents who represent their party's first candidate to reach the country's highest office:

The exceptions are the Federalist Party which claimed its first (and only) presidential victory with John Adams of Massachusetts in 1796, and the Republican Party whose first victory was Abraham Lincoln in 1860. While Lincoln was born in the Southern state of Kentucky, his formative years were spent in Illinois.

(Note: The first President, George Washington, of Virginia, was unaffiliated with any political party.)

Additionally, the South produced most of the U.S. Presidents prior to the Civil War. Memories of the war made it impossible for a Southerner to become President unless he either moved North (like Woodrow Wilson) or was a vice president who moved up (like 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 last two American Presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were residents of southern states when elected president: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton is the only one of the two who is a native southerner. Clinton was Governor of Arkansas when elected. Clinton moved to New York City following the end of his administration (1993-2001). George W. Bush was Governor of Texas when elected. George W. Bush is a native of Connecticut and moved with his family to the Permian Basin region of West Texas after World War II, while still a toddler.

George H. W. Bush was once a resident of Texas and an American Congressional Representative from Texas. He is a native of Massachusetts, but moved to the Permian Basin of West Texas after World War II. However, George H.W. Bush was a resident of Maine, since the 1970s, when elected American President in 1988, throughout his administration, 1989-93, and since. His state of origin as American President was his state of residence when elected: Officially Maine.

Other politicians and political movements

The South has produced numerous other well-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 Minnesotamarker. 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, but was forced to resign. Tom DeLay was the most powerful Republican leader in Congress until he was indicted under criminal charges in 2005. Most recent Republican Senate leaders are from the South, including Howard Baker of Tennessee, Trent Lott of Mississippi, Bill Frist of Tennessee, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Race relations


De Batz, 1735, watercolor paintings of southeastern and northern Indians and a non-slave African descendant child.

Native Americans, who had lived in the south for nearly 12,000 years, had an enormously complex impact on southern history and racial relations. In 1540 CE, the first racial strife was with Spainard Hernando de Soto's expedition who enslaved and murdered many New World communities. In the early 1700s, the English had enslaved nearly 800 Choctaws.

After the creation of the United States, the idea of Indian removal gained momentum. However, some Native Americans chose to remain in their ancient Deep South homeland where they were subjected to racist institutions. The Choctaws describe their situation in 1849, "we have had our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered and otherwise personally abused, until by such treatment some of our best men have died." Joseph B. Cobb, who moved to Mississippi from Georgia, described Choctaws as having "no nobility or virtue at all, and in some respect he found blacks, especially native Africans, more interesting and admirable, the red man's superior in every way. The Choctaw and Chickasaw, the tribes he knew best, were beneath contempt, that is, even worse than black slaves."

The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 granted U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans. Prior to the passage of the act, nearly two-thirds of Native Americans were already U.S. citizens.

The earliest recorded date of Native Americans becoming U.S. citizens was in 1831 when the Mississippi Choctaw became citizens after the United States Congress ratified the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Under article XIV of that treaty, any Choctaw who elected not to move to Native American Territory could become an American citizen when he registered and if he stayed on designated lands for five years after treaty ratification. Citizenship could also be obtained by:

1. Treaty Provision (as with the Mississippi Choctaw)

2. Allotment under the Act of February 8, 1887

3. Issuance of Patent in Fee Simple

4. Adopting Habits of Civilized Life

5. Minor Children

6. Citizenship by Birth

7. Becoming Soldiers and Sailors in the U.S. Armed Forces

8. Marriage

9. Special Act of Congress.

Members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma around 1877.
Notice the European and African ancestry members.
The Creek were originally from the Alabama region.

Before removal, some Southern Native American tribes owned black slaves. The Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw were known to have had slaves. Just as they adopted Western culture (Christianity, yeoman farming techniques, and educational institutions), they also adopted slavery. But unlike the United States before Emancipation, African Americans (and European Americans) were allowed to become citizens of their respective Native American nations; however, it was rare for African Americans to become citizens of Native American nations. For example, a small number of "Free People of Color" lived in many Native American nations as Cherokee, Choctaw, or Creek citizens.

African Americans have a long history in the South, when they accompanied some of the earliest European settlers to the region. Beginning in the early 17th century, planters imported Africans for labor. Some were purchased as slaves; many others served terms as indentured servants and could earn their freedom. Slave traders handled transportation from Africa or the Caribbean, where large plantations had already been established. As economic conditions in England improved, there were fewer people who wanted to emigrate as indentured servants to the colonies. With the rise of tobacco as a lucrative, if labor-intensive, cash crop in the Chesapeake Bay Colony, planters needed more labor and increased their importation of enslaved Africans. Most slaves arrived in the 1700–1750 period. At the same time, the colony hardened the lines between slavery and other forms of labor, passing legislation that associated slavery with race and passed on through the mother.

After the American Civil War, Congress and the states passed constitutional amendments that ended slavery, and granted full citizenship and suffrage to African Americans. During the Reconstruction period that followed, African Americans saw advancements in the civil rights and political power in the South, against a background of wholesale violence and attacks on them. However, as Reconstruction ended, Southern Redeemers moved to prevent freedpeople from holding power, using fraud, voter intimidation and violence to secure majorities at the polls.

From 1890 to 1908, white Democrats in legislatures passed new disfranchising constitutions that completed provisions for making voter registration and voting more difficult. Most blacks and many poor whites were disfranchised, a condition which the state legislatures maintained for six decades into the 20th century. The leading white demagogue was Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina, who proudly proclaimed in 1900, "We have done our level best [to prevent blacks from voting]... we have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate the last one of them. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it."

Without the ability to vote and no representation in government, blacks had virtually no formal recourse as white Democrats passed Jim Crow laws, creating a system of legal segregation and discrimination in all public facilities. Blacks were given separate schools (in which all students, teachers and administrators were black). Most hotels and restaurants served only whites. Movie theaters had separate seating; railroads had separate cars; buses were divided forward and rear. Neighborhoods were segregated as well. Blacks and whites did shop in the same stores, but there were separate water fountains and restrooms, and blacks were not allowed to try on clothes at the stores. Those who could not vote could not sit on juries. As some Supreme Court decisions began to strike down constitutional provisions that disfranchised blacks, the state Democratic parties began to use all-white primaries. The few black voters who managed to register were not allowed to vote in the only contest in which there was competition.

Civil Rights

In response to this treatment, the South witnessed two major events in the lives of 20th century African Americans: the Great Migration and the American Civil Rights Movement.

The Great Migration began during World War I, hitting its high point during World War II. During this migration, blacks left the racism and lack of opportunities in the South and settled in northern cities like Chicagomarker, Detroitmarker, Clevelandmarker, Milwaukeemarker, St. Louismarker, Pittsburghmarker, Philadelphiamarker, New York Citymarker, and Bostonmarker, where they found work in factories and other sectors of the economy. (Katzman, 1996) However, Chicago quickly became the most segregated city in the north. This migration produced a new sense of independence in the Black community and contributed to the vibrant black urban culture seen during the Harlem Renaissance.

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, Alabamamarker, 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 Sitemarker 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 Churchmarker 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.


The Battle Flag of the Confederacy has become a highly contentious image throughout the United States because of its use as a symbol of defiance by many in the South who opposed the Civil Rights Movement. Although it and other reminders of the Old South can be found on automobile bumper stickers, on tee shirts, and flown from homes, restrictions (notably on public buildings) have been imposed. As a result, groups such as the League of the South continue to promote secession from the United States, citing a desire to protect and defend the heritage of the South. On the other side of this issue are groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which believe that the League of the South is a hate group. However, many Southerners use the flag to identify themselves with the South, states' rights and Southern tradition.

Other symbols of the Antebellum South include the Bonnie Blue Flag, Magnolia trees, and the song Dixie.

Largest cities in the southern U.S.

Rank City State(s) and/or Territory July 1, 2008
Population Estimate
1 Houstonmarker Texasmarker 2,242,193
2 San Antoniomarker Texasmarker 1,351,305
3 Dallasmarker Texasmarker 1,279,910
4 Jacksonvillemarker Floridamarker 807,815
5 Austinmarker Texasmarker 757,688
6 Fort Worthmarker Texasmarker 703,073
7 Charlottemarker North Carolinamarker 687,456
8 Memphismarker Tennesseemarker 671,588
9 El Pasomarker Texasmarker 613,190
10 Nashville* Tennesseemarker 596,462

*Counts only the balance of the city.

Major metropolitan areas in the Southern U.S.

Rank Metropolitan Statistical Area State(s) and/or Territory July 1, 2008
Population Estimate
1 Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington TXmarker 6,300,006
2 Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown TXmarker 5,728,143
3 Miami–Fort Lauderdale–West Palm Beachmarker FLmarker 5,414,772
4 Atlanta–Sandy Springs–Marietta GAmarker 5,376,285
5 Washington–Arlington–Alexandria DCmarkerVAmarkerMDmarkerWVmarker 5,358,130
6 Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwatermarker FLmarker 2,733,761
7 Baltimore–Towson MDmarker 2,667,117
8 Orlando-Kissimmee FLmarker 2,054,574
9 San Antonio TXmarker 2,031,445
10 Charlotte–Gastonia–Concord NCmarkerSCmarker 1,701,799
11 Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News VAmarkerNCmarker 1,658,292
12 Austin–Round Rock TXmarker 1,652,602
13 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin TNmarker 1,550,733
14 Jacksonville FLmarker 1,313,228
15 Memphis TNmarkerMSmarkerARmarker 1,285,732
16 Louisville–Jefferson Countymarker KYmarkerINmarker 1,244,696
17 Richmond VAmarker 1,225,626
18 Oklahoma City OKmarker 1,206,142
19 New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner LAmarker 1,134,029
20 Birmingham–Hoovermarker ALmarker 1,117,608
21 Raleigh–Cary NCmarker 1,088,765
22 Tulsa OKmarker 916,079
23 Baton Rouge LAmarker 774,327
24 El Paso TXmarker 742,062
25 Columbia SCmarker 728,063

See also



  1. Charles & William Ferris Encyclopedia of Southern Culture ISBN 9780807818237; Univ. of Pennsylvania Telsur Project Telsur Map of Southern Dialect
  2. Vance, Rupert Bayless, Regionalism and the South, Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1982, pg. 166 "West Virginia is found to have its closest attachment to the Southeast on the basis of agriculture and population."
  5. U.S. Census Bureau: Official Map.
  6. Johnston, Mary. " Pioneers of the Old South, A Chronicle of English Colonial Beginnings." Accessed 19 May 2007.
  7. " United States: The Upper South." Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
  8. "Indentured Servitude in Colonial America"
  9. David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989, pp.361-368
  10. Peter Kolchin, American Slavery: 1619-1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1994, p. 73
  11. Peter Kolchin, American Slavery: 1619-1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1994, p. 81
  12. Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999, pp.5 and 215
  13. American Civil War, Those Confederate States
  14. The Deadliest War
  15. Carpetbaggers
  16. Nicholas Lemann, Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War, New York: Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 2002, pp.70-75
  17. Richard H. Pildes, "Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon", Constitutional Commentary, Vol.17, 2000,, p. 27, accessed 10 Mar 2008
  18. "Italians in Mississippi", Mississippi History Now, accessed 28 Nov 2007
  19. Vivian Wong, "Somewhere Between White and Black: The Chinese in Mississippi", Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, accessed 15 Nov 2007
  20. Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992; 15th Anniversary Edition (pbk), 2007, p.24
  21. Richard H. Pildes, "Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon", Constitutional Commentary, Vol.17, 2000,, pp.12-13, accessed 10 Mar 2008
  22. Glenn Feldman, The Disfranchisement Myth: Poor Whites and Suffrage Restriction in Alabama, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004
  23. John Solomon Otto, The Final Frontiers, 1880-1930: Settling the Southern Bottomlands, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999
  24. Dr. Michael McDonald, US Elections Project: Alabama Redistricting Summary, George Mason University, accessed 6 Apr 2008
  25. "Strikes", Texas Handbook On-Line, accessed 6 Apr 2008
  26. Jackie McElhaney and Michael V. Hazel, "Dallas", Handbook of Texas Online, accessed 6 Apr 2008
  27. David G. McComb, "Urbanization", Handbook of Texas Online, accessed 6 Apr 2008
  28. Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave , Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999, pp. 2-7
  29. John C. Willis, Forgotten Time: The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta after the Civil War, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2000.


External sources

Further reading

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