Southern United States

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: North American Geography

Historic Southern United States. The states in red were in the Confederacy and have historically been regarded as forming "the South." Sometimes they are collectively referred to as "Dixie." Those in stripes were considered "Border" states, and gave varying degrees of support to the Southern cause although they remained in the Union. (This image depicts the original, trans-Allegheny borders of Virginia, and so does not show West Virginia separately. See image below for post-1863 Virginia and West Virginia borders.)
Historic Southern United States. The states in red were in the Confederacy and have historically been regarded as forming "the South." Sometimes they are collectively referred to as "Dixie." Those in stripes were considered "Border" states, and gave varying degrees of support to the Southern cause although they remained in the Union. (This image depicts the original, trans-Allegheny borders of Virginia, and so does not show West Virginia separately. See image below for post-1863 Virginia and West Virginia borders.)
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. Maryland and Missouri are occasionally considered Southern, while Delaware is only rarely considered part of the South. Oklahoma is sometimes considered Southern because the area of Oklahoma, then known as Indian Territory, was allied with the Confederacy. West Virginia is often considered Southern, because it was once part of Virginia.
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. Maryland and Missouri are occasionally considered Southern, while Delaware is only rarely considered part of the South. Oklahoma is sometimes considered Southern because the area of Oklahoma, then known as Indian Territory, was allied with the Confederacy. West Virginia is often considered Southern, because it was once part of Virginia.
The South is one of four Census Bureau Regions.
The South is one of four Census Bureau Regions.

The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive region in the southeastern and south-central United States. Because of the region's unique cultural and historic heritage, including Native Americans; early European settlements of Spanish, English and French heritage; importation of tens 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. In the last few decades, the South has become more industrialized and urban, attracting internal and international migrants. As parts of the South are among the fastest-growing areas in the nation, they are developing new cultures.


(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 16 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:

  • The South Atlantic States: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Delaware
  • The East South Central States: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee
  • The West South Central States: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas

Other terms related to the South include:

  • The Old South: usually the original Southern colonies: Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
  • The New South: usually including the South Atlantic States.
  • The Solid South: region controlled by the U.S. Democratic Party from 1877 to 1964. Includes at least all the 11 former Confederate States.
  • Southern Appalachia: Cumberland Plateau of Kentucky and Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Western Maryland, West Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and northeast Georgia.
  • Southeastern United States: usually including the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida
  • The Deep South: various definitions, usually including Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina. Occasionally, parts of adjoining states are included (sections of East Texas, delta areas of Arkansas and Tennessee, and the Florida panhandle).
  • The Gulf South: various definitions, usually including Gulf coasts of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.
  • The Upper South: Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
  • Dixie: various definitions, but most commonly associated with the 11 states of the Old Confederacy.
  • The Mid-South: also known as the South Central United States.
  • Border South: Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware the states that did not secede from the United States to join the Confederacy.

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. 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, and flowering dogwoods. Another common environment is the bayous and swampland of the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana. 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 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 Paleoindians. Paleoindians were hunter-gathers that roamed in bands and frequently hunted megafauna. Several stages, such as Archaic (ca. 8000 -1000 BC) and the Woodland (ca. 1000 BC-AD 1000), pasted into what the Europeans found at the end of the 15th century-- the Mississippian culture.

The Mississippian culture was a mound-building Native American culture that flourished in what is now the southeastern United States from approximately 800 AD to 1500 AD. Some noted explorers who found the Mississippian culture, which was in decline, include Pánfilo de Narváez (1528), Hernando de Soto (1540), and Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville (1699). Descendants of the mound-builders include Alabama, Apalachee, Caddo, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Guale, Hitchiti, Houma, and Seminole, many of whom still reside in the South.

The predominant culture of the South has its origins with the settlement of the region by British colonists. In the seventeenth century, most voluntary immigrants were of English origins who settled chiefly in the coastal regions of the South. Also among the earliest arrivals and contributors to culture (food, music and religion) were Africans and European Africans, transported sometimes as indentured servants who could work to freedom as did the English, and sometimes arriving enslaved. Most arrived after 1700. They cleared land, built houses and outbuildings, and worked on the large plantations that dominated export agriculture. Initially many were involved in the labor-intensive cultivation of tobacco, the first cash crop and one that depleted soils in Virginia and the Upper South.

Africans brought with them skilled knowledge and the techniques for rice and indigo culture and processing, especially critical in South Carolina and the Sea Islands. They 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. The colonies gradually passed laws that hardened early conditions of indenture into lifelong slavery attached to African descent.

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 Great Britain and Ireland 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, Scots-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 backcountry, engaged in warfare, trade, and cultural exchanges with Native Americans living in the region, such as the Creek Indians, Cherokee, and Choctaws.

The oldest university in the South, the College of William and 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 PresidentsWashington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe—were from Virginia. The two oldest public universities are also in the South: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Georgia.

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 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 blacks (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. In the upper South, more than 10 percent of all blacks were free by 1810, a significant expansion from pre-war numbers.

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. 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 harbour, 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 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 went to New Orleans, so much that one of their neighborhoods was called the Irish Channel. Germans also went to New Orleans, but in greater number immigrated to Texas after 1848, where many bought land. Many more German immigrants arrived in Texas after the Civil War, where they created the brewing industry in Houston, became grocers in numerous cities, and also established wide areas of farming.

Civil War

By 1855, the South was losing political power to the more populous 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 Pennsylvania 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. They formed the Confederate States of America. In 1861, they were joined by four more states. The United States government refused to recognize the seceding states. It continued to operate its second to last fort in the South, which the Confederacy captured in April 1861 at the Battle of Fort Sumter, in the port of Charleston. 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 main 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 (so-called because they fought for the United States of America) 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, primarily because the war was fought almost entirely in the South. Overall, the Confederacy suffered 95,000 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. Northern casualties exceeded Southern casualties.

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 government and 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 addition, there were thousands of people on the move, as African Americans tried to reunite families separated by slaves sales. 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. 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 theConstitution 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 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 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.

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 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.

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, TX. 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 centre 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 Spindletop near Beaumont, Texas, on the morning of January 10, 1901. Other oil fields were later discovered nearby in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and under the Mexico">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 Delano 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, Alabama; Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama; the BMW production plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina; the GM manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee; and the Nissan North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee; the two largest research parks in the country: Research Triangle Park in North Carolina (the world's largest) and the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama (the world's fourth largest); and the corporate headquarters of major banking corporations Bank of America and Wachovia in Charlotte; Regions Financial, Amsouth, and Compass in Birmingham; SunTrust and the district headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; and BB&T in Winston-Salem; and several Atlanta-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

States in maroon have an average household income of less than $35,000.00 per year. States in red have average household incomes between $35,000.00-$40,000.00. States in yellow have household incomes between $40,000-$45,000.00. States in teal have household incomes between $50,000.00-$55,000.00 per year. Maryland is the only southern state with an average household income exceeding $55,000.00 per year.
States in maroon have an average household income of less than $35,000.00 per year. States in red have average household incomes between $35,000.00-$40,000.00. States in yellow have household incomes between $40,000-$45,000.00. States in teal have household incomes between $50,000.00-$55,000.00 per year. Maryland is the only southern state with an average household income exceeding $55,000.00 per year.

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 in part on the slave trade and also 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 - as did Atlanta, based on 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 Lakes 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 much of the Southern United States has advanced considerably since World War II, 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, and the Mexican border area along the Rio Grande in Texas suffer the most poverty in the South today.


Of all the regions of the United States the South is perhaps the most distinct, in both the minds of its residents and those in other parts of the country. Depending on one's perspective, the South and its culture is and/or has been feared, revered, hated, loved, and stereotyped, and in many ways maintains -- and even nurtures -- an identity separate from the rest of the country.

As Tim Jacobson notes within Heritage of the South,

"More than any other part of America, the South stands apart...Thousands of Northerners and foreigners have migrated to it...but Southerners they will not become. For this is still a place where you must have either been born or have 'people' there, to feel it is your native ground.

"Natives will tell you this. They are proud to be Americans, but they are also proud to be Virginians, South Carolinians, Tennesseans, Mississippians and Texans. But they are conscious of another loyalty too, one that transcends the usual ties of national patriotism and state pride. It is a loyalty to a place where habits are strong and memories are long. If those memories could speak, they would tell stories of a region powerfully shaped by its history and determined to pass it on to future generations."

Southern culture has been and remains generally more socially conservative than that of the rest of the country. Because of the central role of agriculture in the antebellum economy, society remained stratified according to land ownership. Rural communities often developed strong attachment to their churches as the primary community institution.

The southern lifestyle, especially in the Deep South, is often joked about. Southerners are often viewed as more laid back, and relaxed even in stressed situations. That, of course, is a stereotype, and not always the case. But, traditionally, the southern lifestyle is viewed as slower paced in more rural areas. Southerners are also stereotyped as being resistant to change, especially in social circles. Southerners are also described as polite and well-mannered, and particularly welcoming to visitors; this characteristic has been labeled Southern hospitality.


The Chesapeake Bay Colony was established by English who were chiefly Anglican. The Anglican Church was established as the state church in Virginia and other Southern states, which meant that all citizens had to pay taxes toward it. Scots-Irish, who settled chiefly in the backcountry and along the Appalachian spine, tended to be Presbyterian. In the freedom of the American environment, many Presbyterian sects arose as new groups sought either purity or freedom.

The South was influenced by waves of religious revivals that made their way by traveling preachers from New England. Before the Revolution, some Virginians were converted to Baptists, and the issue of religious freedom was being struggled over. In 1765 Elijah Craig and other young men who became fervent Baptists in Fredericksburg, VA, were arrested for preaching without licenses from the Anglican Church. They were defended by Patrick Henry. The young James Madison also represented Baptist preachers in Virginia when he finished law school, and took his thinking about religious freedom to the Constitutional Convention after the Revolution. (Elijah Craig took hundreds of followers with him through the mountains into Kentucky, where they settled near what became Lexington and established churches and the first Baptist association in Kentucky.)

After the Revolution, the Anglican Church was dis-established, and the Episcopal Church of the United States was created. The Revolution turned more people toward Methodist and Baptist preachers in the South. Traveling preachers used music and song to convert new members. Shape-note singing became a fundamental part of camp meetings in frontier regions. In the early decades of the 19th century, the Baptists in the South reduced their challenge to class and race. Rather than pressing for freedom for slaves, they encouraged planters to improve treatment of them, and ultimately used the Bible to justify slavery.

In 1845 the Southern Baptist Convention separated from other regions. Baptist and Methodist churches proliferated across the Tidewater, usually attracting common planters, artisans and workers. The wealthiest planters continued to be affiliated with the Episcopal Church. By the beginning of the Civil War, the Baptist and Methodist churches had attracted the most members in the South, and their churches were most numerous in the region.

More than any other region of any highly developed nation, the South has a high concentration of evangelical and fundamentalist Christian adherents, resulting in the reference to parts of the South as the " Bible Belt", from the concept that the Bible is inerrant.

Historically Catholic colonists were primarily those from Spain and France, who settled in coastal areas of Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Maryland was established by English colonists with freedom for Catholics. New Orleans was a mostly Catholic city until years after the Louisiana Purchase. Rural areas of the Gulf Coast, particularly those populated by Creoles, French, Native Americans, Italians, and Cajuns, continue to be heavily Catholic.There are significant Catholic populations in most major cities in the South, such as Atlanta, Miami, Savannah, Mobile, New Orleans, Lafayette, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Louisville.

In general, the inland regions of the Deep South and Upper South, such as Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama were less attractive to immigrants and have stronger concentrations of Baptists, Methodists, Church of Christ, and other Protestants. Eastern and northern Texas are heavily Protestant, while the southern parts of the state have Mexican-American Catholic majorities.

The city of Charleston has had a significant Jewish population since the colonial period. The first were Sephardic Jews who had been living in London or the Barbados. They were connected to Jewish communities in New England as well. The community figured prominently in the history of South Carolina. Richmond also had a Sephardic Jewish community before the Revolution. They built the first synagogue in Virginia about 1791.

The South Florida area is home to the nation's second largest concentration of Jewish Americans outside New York, most of them early 20th century migrants and descendants from the Northeast. They were descendants of Ashkenazi Jews from Germany, Russia, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. Twentieth century migration and business development have brought significant Jewish and Muslim communities to most major business and university cities, such as Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston, and more recently, Charlotte.

Outside the Middle East, one of the largest Kurd populations, most of whom are Muslim, has settled in Nashville. Late 20th and 21st century immigrants from Southeast Asia and South Asia have brought Buddhism and Hinduism to the region as well.


It has been said that Southerners are most easily distinguished from other Americans by their speech, both in terms of accent and idiom. However, there is no single "Southern Accent." Rather, Southern American English is a collection of dialects of the English language spoken throughout the South. Southern American English can be divided into different sub-dialects, with speech differing between, for example, the Appalachian region and the coastal "low country" around Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. The South Midlands dialect was influenced by the migration of Southern dialect speakers into the American West. The dialect spoken to various degrees by many African Americans, African American Vernacular English, shares many similarities with Southern dialect.

Folklorists in the 1920s and later argued that because of the region' isolation, Appalachian language patterns more closely mirrored Elizabethan English than other accents in the United States.

In the Low Country of South Carolina, Georgia and Northeast Florida, Gullah is still spoken by some African Americans, particularly the older generation. Also called Gee-chee in Georgia, the language and strongly African culture developed because of the people's relative isolation in large communities, and continued importation of slaves from the same parts of Africa. As the enslaved people on large plantations were relatively undisturbed by whites, Gullah developed as a creole language, based on African forms. Similarly the people kept many African forms in religious rituals, foodways and similar transportable culture, all influenced by the new environment in the colonies.

Other distinct languages include Cajun French (Louisiana), and Isleño Spanish (Louisiana, see also Canarian Spanish).

The US South also contains many indigenous languages from the Native American Muskogean, Caddoan, Siouan-Catawban, Iroquoian, Algonquian, Yuchi, Chitimacha, Natchez, Tunica, Adai, Timucua, and Atakapa families. The historical record seems to suggest a picture of great linguistic diversity (similar to California) although most languages mentioned were not documented. Several southeastern languages have become extinct and all are endangered. Historical language contact among Native Americans developed into a southeastern Sprachbund. The influence of native languages has led to distinct Indian varieties of English.


In addition to linguistics, the cuisine of the South is often described as one of its most distinctive traits. But just as history and culture varies across the broad region known as the South, the traditional cuisine varies as well. In modern times, there is little difference between the diet of typical Southerners and the diet in other regions of the U.S, but the South draws on multiple unique culinary influences to form its "traditional" foods. "Southern Cuisine" also provides some of the best examples of distinctly American cuisine - that is, foods and styles that were born in the United States as opposed to adopted from elsewhere.

The food most commonly associated with the term "Southern Food" is often called " soul food" and is characterized by the heavy use of high-calorie lards and fats. This style is often attributed to influence of the African-American slave population though it draws the mix of African influences as well as Native American, Scots-Irish, and others. Southern fried chicken, vegetables cooked in lard or fat, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and biscuits are just a few examples of foods typically lumped into this broad category.

Barbecue is a food typically associated with the South; however, it is also heavily favored and common throughout the Midwest too. Consisting of meat that has been slow-cooked and heavily seasoned, it is characterized by sharp regional divides in style-preferences. In Texas it is often beef based, while in North Carolina it is typically pork based and further subdivided into Eastern (vinegar-based) and Western Carolina (ketchup-based) styles. South Carolina also has a distinct mustard-based sauce that is unique to the midlands area. Kansas City, Missouri and Memphis are also considered barbecue hubs, drawing on styles from multiple areas. Western Kentucky is also known for its barbecue, with Owensboro hosting the International Bar-B-Q Festival the second weekend of May.

The unique history of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta provides a unique culinary environment as well. Creole and Cajun cuisines have evolved from the broad mix of cultural influences in this area - including French, Spanish, African, Native American, Caribbean, and Acadian.

Texas and its proximity and shared history with Mexico ultimately helped give rise to the modern Tex-Mex cuisine.

As with most of America, a wide variety of cuisines of other origins are now available throughout the South, such as Chinese, Italian, French, Middle Eastern, Thai, Japanese, Kosher and Indian, as well as restaurants still serving primarily Southern specialties, and so-called "home cooking" establishments.


Many of the most popular American soft drinks today originated in the South ( Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Royal Crown Cola and its related Nehi products and Dr Pepper). In addition, there are some soft drinks available only in the South, such as Sun Drop and Cheerwine. A highly sweetened iced tea, typically called sweet tea, is also associated with Southern cuisine. Lemonade is also a popular summer beverage. Dr. Enuf is also a regional favorite and is not widely available elsewhere. Bottled in Johnson City, TN, the beverage was created in 1949 and is considered to be an acquired taste.

The South has long had an ambivalent attitude toward alcoholic beverages. In the antebellum years, plantation society enjoyed drinks along with its hospitality. Elite classes imported wine from Europe to enjoy, and drinking was often part of festivals and court days.

New Orleans, Louisiana is known throughout the world as a city enriched with festivities that usually involve large amounts of partying, which usually have a large food and alcoholic drink component. Hurricanes are a drink widely associated with the French Quarter party scene as well as almost any other form of Alcohol available.

Widespread support for Prohibition existed in the Southern states before and after the 18th Amendment was in force in the USA. Many southern states are control states that monopolize and highly regulate the distribution and sale of alcoholic drinks. Many counties in the South, particularly outside of larger metropolitan areas, are dry counties that do not allow for alcohol sales in retail outlets. However, many dry counties still allow for "private clubs" (often with low daily fees) to serve alcohol on the premises. Beer is still widely popular in the South, though its consumption is often frowned upon in some religious circles. The most popular beers in the south are those produced by Anheuser Busch, particularly Budweiser and Busch. Cartersville, a suburb of Atlanta, has a massive production facility for Anheuser Busch.

The upper South, specifically Kentucky, is known for its production of bourbon whiskey, Jim Beam which is also a popular base for cocktails. Kentucky is attributed with producing 95% of the world's bourbon, which is sometime's referred to as America's only native spirit. Jack Daniels is also produced in the South, in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Due to widespread restrictions on alcohol production, illegally distilled liquor or moonshine has long been associated (often rather stereotypically) with working class and poor people in much of the region. The Mint julep is similarly depicted as a popular beverage among more affluent Southerners.


The South was distinctive for its production of tobacco, which earned premium prices from around the world. Labor intensive, it was the first cash crop in the Chesapeake Bay Colony and contributed to the growth of slavery in the region. Planters exhausted their soils by growing only tobacco. Reliance on tobacco particularly affected the Virginia and Maryland economies. Generations of planters moved west into the Piedmont, and then into Kentucky and Tennessee, for new land. By the early 19th century, planters in Virginia were shifting to mixed crops because of changes in the tobacco market.

Smaller farmers grew a little for their own use or traded with neighbors who grew it. It was the main cash crop in North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Maryland. Delaware also grew tobacco, but to a lesser extent. Commercial sales became important in the late 19th century as major tobacco companies rose in the South, becoming major employers in cities like Durham, North Carolina; Louisville, Kentucky; and Richmond, Virginia. By then they used fertilizer to offset soil depletion in tobacco-growing areas. In 1938, R. J. Reynolds marketed eighty-four brands of chewing tobacco, twelve brands of smoking tobacco, and the top-selling Camel brand of cigarettes. Reynolds sold large quantities of chewing tobacco, though that market peaked about 1910 as people shifted to cigarettes.

In the late 20th century, use of smokeless tobacco by adolescent American males increased by 450% for chewing tobacco and by 1500%, or fifteenfold, for snuff. From 1978 to 1984, there was a 15% compound annual growth rate in U.S. smokeless tobacco sales. Usage is highest in the South and in the rural west. In 1992, 30% of all male high school seniors in the southeastern United States were regular users of chewing tobacco or snuff—more than smoked cigarettes, according to the Centre for Disease Control.

A historian of the American South in the late 1860s reported on typical usage in the region where it was grown, paying close attention to class and gender:

The chewing of tobacco was well-nigh universal. This habit had been widespread among the agricultural population of America both North and South before the war. Soldiers had found the quid a solace in the field and continued to revolve it in their mouths upon returning to their homes. Out of doors where his life was principally led the chewer spat upon his lands without offence to other men, and his homes and public buildings were supplied with spittoons. Brown and yellow parabolas were projected to right and left toward these receivers, but very often without the careful aim which made for cleanly living. Even the pews of fashionable churches were likely to contain these familiar conveniences. The large numbers of Southern men, and these were of the better class (officers in the Confederate army and planters, worth $20,000 or more, and barred from general amnesty) who presented themselves for the pardon of President Johnson, while they sat awaiting his pleasure in the ante-room at the White House, covered its floor with pools and rivulets of their spittle. An observant traveller in the South in 1865 said that in his belief seven-tenths of all persons above the age of twelve years, both male and female, used tobacco in some form. Women could be seen at the doors of their cabins in their bare feet, in their dirty one-piece cotton garments, their chairs tipped back, smoking pipes made of corn cobs into which were fitted reed stems or goose quills. Boys of eight or nine years of age and half-grown girls smoked. Women and girls "dipped" in their houses, on their porches, in the public parlors of hotels and in the streets.


Perhaps the most famous southern writer is William Faulkner, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949. Faulkner brought new techniques such as stream of consciousness and complex techniques to American writings (such as in his novel As I Lay Dying).

Other well-known Southern writers include Pat Conroy, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Thomas Wolfe, William Styron, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, James Dickey, Willie Morris, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Walker Percy, Barry Hannah, Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren, Cormac McCarthy, John Grisham, James Agee and Harry Crews.

Possibly the most famous southern novel of the 20th century is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, published in 1937. Another famous southern novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, won the Pulitzer Prize after it was published in 1960.


The South offers some of the richest music in the United States. The musical heritage of the South was developed by both whites and blacks, both influencing each other directly and indirectly.

The South's musical history actually starts before the Civil War, with the songs of the African slaves and the traditional folk music brought from Great Britain and Ireland. Blues was developed in the rural South by African Americans at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition, gospel music, spirituals, country music, rhythm and blues, soul music, funk, rock and roll, beach music, bluegrass, jazz (including ragtime, popularized by Southerner Scott Joplin), and Appalachian folk music were either born in the South or developed in the region.

In general, country music is based on the folk music of white Southerners, and blues and rhythm and blues is based on African American southern forms. However, whites and blacks alike have contributed to each of these genres, and there is a considerable overlap between the traditional music of blacks and whites in the South, particularly in gospel music forms. A stylish variant of country music (predominantly produced in Nashville) has been a consistent, widespread fixture of American pop since the 1950s, while insurgent forms (i.e. bluegrass) have traditionally appealed to more discerning sub-cultural and rural audiences. Blues dominated the African American music charts from the advent of modern recording until the mid-1950s, when it was supplanted by the less guttural and forlorn sounds of rock and R&B. Nevertheless, unadulterated blues (along with early rock and roll) is still the subject of reverential adoration throughout much of Europe and cult popularity in isolated pockets of the United States.

Zydeco, Cajun, and swamp pop, despite having never enjoyed greater regional or mainstream popularity, still thrive throughout French Louisiana and its peripheries, such as Southeastern Texas. These unique Louisianan styles of folk music are celebrated as part of the traditional heritage of the people of Louisiana. Conversely, bluegrass music has acquired a sophisticated cachet and distinct identity from mainstream country music through the fusion recordings of artists like Bela Fleck, David Grisman, and the New Grass Revival; traditional bluegrass and Appalachian mountain music experienced a strong resurgence after the release of 2001's O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

Rock n' roll largely began in the South in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Early rock n' roll musicians from the South include Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, James Brown, Otis Redding, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others. Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, while generally regarded as "country" singers, also had a significant role in the development of rock music. In the 1960s, Stax Records emerged as a leading competitor of Motown Records, laying the groundwork for later stylistic innovations in the process.

The South has continued to produce rock music in later decades. In the 1970s, a wave of Southern rock and blues rock groups, led by The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and 38 Special, became popular. Macon, Georgia-based Capricorn Records helped to spearhead the Southern rock movement, and was the original home to many of the genre's most famous groups. At the other end of the spectrum, along with the aforementioned Brown and Stax, New Orleans' Allen Toussaint and The Meters helped to define the funk subgenre of rhythm and blues in the 1970s.

Many who got their start in the regional show business in the South eventually banked on mainstream national and international success as well: Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton are two such examples of artists that have transcended genres.

Many of the roots of alternative rock are often considered to come from the South as well, with bands such as R.E.M., Pylon, and The B-52's forever associated with the musically fertile college town of Athens, Georgia. Cities such as Austin, Knoxville, Chapel Hill, Nashville, and Atlanta also have thriving indie rock and live music scenes. Austin is home to the long-running South by Southwest music and arts festival, while several influential independent music labels (Sugar Hill, Merge, Yep Rock and the now-defunct Mammoth Records) were founded in the Chapel Hill area. Several influential death metal bands have recorded albums at Morrisound Recording in Temple Terrace, Florida and the studio is considered an important touchstone in the genre's development.

There is a large underground heavy metal scene in the Southern United States. Death metal can trace some of its origins to Tampa, Florida. Bands such as Deicide, Morbid Angel, Six Feet Under, Cannibal Corpse, among others have come out of this scene. The Southern United States are also the place where sludge metal was born and it's where its pioneering acts, Eyehategod and Crowbar, come from; as well as other notable bands of the style such as Down and Corrosion of Conformity. Other well known metal bands from the South include Pantera, Hellyeah, Lamb of God, and Mastodon. This has helped coined the term southern metal which is well received in the vast majority in metal circles around the world.

Recently, the spread of rap music (which is arguably the only major American music not started in the South) has led to the rise of the sub-genre Dirty South. Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Miami, and New Orleans have long been major centers of hip-hop culture

Also, an electronic music sub-genre known as Drum and Bass that has thrived on the East Coast has gained a recent popularity in the south, mixing with various southern Jungle, Hip-Hop and Breakbeat scenes. Notable bands and artists are Evol Intent and Gridlok.


Before the 1960s, there were no major professional teams in the South, with short-lived exceptions in Miami and Louisville. As a result, the South had a strong minor league baseball and college football tradition that survives to this day. With the advent of radio, lower Midwest and Mid-Atlantic-based Major League Baseball teams, such as the Cincinnati Reds, Washington Senators and particularly the St. Louis Cardinals, enjoyed strong fan support throughout the South, while local collegiate powerhouses held a lock on Southern gridiron popularity.

The expansion Dallas Cowboys formed in 1960 to give the expanded region its first franchise, while the Braves would move from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966 to become the Deep South's first team. Since then, all four major sports have formed or relocated teams throughout the region. Additionally, the latter stages of the 20th Century would witness the expansion of top-flight stock car racing from a pastime largely confined to the Upper South to a nationwide phenomenon.


While the South has had a number of professional football teams appear in the Super Bowl, it is much more renowned for its love of College football. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 are the conferences in which the majority of large southern public universities play. The University of Alabama is tied with Notre Dame for the most (12) national football championships, and the University of Oklahoma has the highest college football winning percentage since 1936, when the AP poll was implemented. It also features very fierce, deep-seated rivalries like the Iron Bowl played annually between Auburn University and the University of Alabama near the end of every November.

High school football is extremely competitive in the region. Texas high school football culture has been featured in movies and books such as Friday Night Lights and Varsity Blues; Virginia football was featured in the movie Remember the Titans; and Alabama football was featured in the documentary Two-A-Days.


Basketball, particularly college basketball, is also very popular in the South, especially in North Carolina and Kentucky; the two states are home to four of the winningest and most NCAA tournament included programs in college basketball history: the North Carolina Tar Heels, Duke Blue Devils, Kentucky Wildcats,and the Louisville Cardinals.. . The N.C. State Wolfpack and the Arkansas Razorbacks also have had considerable basketball success. Although many may think that the University of Alabama is just a football related school they have also made many SEC championship appearances.

The south's largest state, Texas, is also home to three well known teams in the NBA: The San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets, and the Dallas Mavericks.


Baseball's popularity is often tied to Major League Baseball teams like the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins. Roughly half of the Major League Baseball franchises hold spring training in Florida, playing their preseason games in what is known as the "Grapefruit League". Minor league baseball is also closely followed in the South (with the South being home to more minor league teams than any other region of the United States), and college baseball is particularly popular in the southernmost tier of states, with many successful programs including Tulane University, Rice University, South Carolina Gamecocks, Ole Miss Rebels, Clemson Tigers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Florida State Seminoles, Louisiana State University Tigers and Miami Hurricanes, among others.


The South is the birthplace of NASCAR auto racing, which has an enormous and devoted following. The organization is headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida, the vast majority of teams centre their operations in suburban Charlotte, North Carolina, and the majority of NASCAR drivers have historically come from the South. The NASCAR Sprint Cup season starts each year in Daytona Beach with the Daytona 500, and the series' fastest track is Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Talladega, Alabama is home to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Other sports

The South would not seem to be a prominent winter-sports destination, but the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes have all won the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup in recent years. In addition, the mountains of West Virginia and the western parts of Virginia and North Carolina have climates cold enough to host several popular downhill skiing resorts. Atlanta was the host of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Lacrosse is also growing in the South. High School participation has increased dramatically and colleges are beginning to add Varsity programs. High Schools from Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida can compete with teams from the traditional East Coast hotbeds. Horse racing is an important part of Southern culture, especially in Kentucky and Maryland, where two of the largest horse races are held each year. The world-famous Kentucky Derby is held in Louisville, Kentucky, the Preakness is held in Baltimore, Maryland, while the steeplechase capital of the world is Camden, South Carolina.

Many rural and some suburban Southerners view hunting and fishing as a way of life; deer and duck hunting and bass fishing are of particular social and economic importance. Squirrels and birds such as quail and dove are also hunted. The prevalence of gun ownership among many Southerners is closely tied to these traditions, and gun control measures often encounter vehement opposition in the South in part due to this cultural heritage.


The South has contributed to some of the most financially successful movies of all time, including Gone with the Wind (1939) and Forrest Gump (1994). The second largest studio complex in the United States, EUE Screen Gems, is located in Wilmington, North Carolina. Over the past 20 years, many films and television programs have been made on location in eastern North Carolina. South Carolina and Georgia have also become popular filming locations in recent years.

Many films have also used New Orleans, Louisiana as a location such as The Big Easy, Interview With The Vampire and A Streetcar Named Desire.

A number of film festivals - notably the South by Southwest music and arts festival in Austin and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, based in Durham, NC, are held within the region. Spoleto Festival USA is also a world class film and arts festival held annually in Charleston, South Carolina.

Cultural variations

There continues to be debate about what constitutes the basics elements of Southern culture. This debate is influenced partly because the South is such a large region. As a result, there are a number of cultural variations among states in the region.

Among the variations found in Southern culture are:

  • Historical, political, and cultural divisions continue to divide the "upcountry" or "hill" culture of the Appalachian and Ozark mountain regions from that of low-lying areas such as the Virginia Tidewater, Gulf Coast, the Low Country of South Carolina, and the Mississippi Delta. The lowland South was settled first by mostly English in the Chesapeake Bay Colony, and French and Spanish in the lower South. This was the first area developed as plantations for cash crops of tobacco, rice and indigo. Planters imported large numbers of Africans who became enslaved for life by law. The coastal areas were dominated by wealthy planters, who extended their power to state governments.
  • By contrast, farmers in the hill country cultivated land for subsistence, and few held slaves. The hill country's population has chiefly Scots-Irish and northern English ancestry. Because they were chiefly yeoman farmers, many upland areas did not support the Confederate cause during the American Civil War (see Andrew Johnson). Those in the hill country continued support the Republican Party when the remainder of the white South supported Democrats.
  • Areas having an influx of outsiders may be less likely to hold onto a distinctly Southern identity and cultural influences. For this reason, urban areas during the Civil War were less likely to favour secession than agricultural areas. Today, partly because of continuing population migration patterns between urban areas in the North and South, even historically "Southern" cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Columbia, SC , Nashville, Richmond, Dallas, and Houston have assimilated regional identities distinct from a normal "Southern" one. However, while these metropolitan areas may have had their original southern culture somewhat diluted, they are still widely considered to be "Southern" cities.
  • Over the past half-century, numerous Latinos have migrated to the American South from Mexico and Latin America. Urban areas such as Atlanta, New Orleans and Nashville have seen a major increase in Latino immigrants over the past ten to fifteen years. Factory and agribusiness jobs have also attracted Mexican and Latin American workers to more rural regions of the South.


Some observers do not classify this state in the South, believing that New Castle County (the northernmost of the state's three counties) can be considered a portion of the Philadelphia region. Due to efforts by Quaker and Moravian missionaries, and decline of tobacco cultivation, slaveholders began to free slaves after the American Revolution. By 1810 three-quarters of the blacks in Delaware were free. By 1860 nearly 92% of the blacks still in the state were free.


South Florida has been transformed by the rapid influx of Northern migrants, including retirees and Jewish Americans, and immigration from Latin America. Miami, Florida has large communities of immigrants from Cuba, Brazil, Haiti and other parts of Latin America. Some observers believe South Florida is distinct from the cultural South. By contrast, the Florida Panhandle, northeastern areas, North Central Florida, Nature Coast, Central Florida, and the middle of South Florida remain culturally tied to the South.

The metropolitan areas of Tampa and Orlando are a complex blend of fast-growing "Southern" metropolitan areas and the South Florida metropolitan area. While the areas have more southern culture than South Florida, they both have less southern culture than traditional "Southern" metropolitan areas. In addition, they are influenced by rapid growth in Hispanic populations.

The city of Palm Coast is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, with most of its growth coming from migrants from New York and New Jersey). The Daytona metropolitan area contains many more retirees and migrants from the northern states, making it closer in culture to the South Florida metropolitan area than are Tampa and Orlando. The Florida Suncoast region is also often separated culturally from the southern states due to its high numbers of retiree and "snow-bird" population from the Midwestern states.

Plurality ancestry per US county, 2000:  German  English  Norwegian Finnish Dutch  Mexican  Spanish  Native  "American"   African American Irish  French Italian
Plurality ancestry per US county, 2000: German English Norwegian Finnish Dutch Mexican Spanish Native "American" African American Irish French Italian


At the confluence of the Upper South and the Midwest, Kentucky was a Border State during the Civil War. It demonstrates multiple influences.. Though the state's official government and a majority of its citizens supported the Union, a portion of Confederate sympathizers formed an alternative provisional state government at the Russellville Convention. They applied for entry to the Confederacy in 1862 and were admitted, but government members spent most of the war in exile.

Cultural studies of the state present a complicated picture depending on questions asked. A 1987 gave participants a range of regions to choose from for identification: 47.8% of Kentuckians identified with the South, and 33% identified with the Midwest. At the same time in Tennessee, over 80% identified with the South and only 1.5% identified as Midwestern. Tennessee, especially in the Mississippi Delta, had more concentrated slaveholding than did Kentucky. In addition, its occupation by Union troops during the war may have created more of a southern identity afterward when resistance to Reconstruction was prized..

A more recent study in the late 2000s, based on "yes" or "no" responses to questions about Southern identification, found that 79% of Kentuckians identified the state as Southern geographically and culturally. Moreover, 68% of Kentuckians identified themselves as "Southerners" culturally. .

Regional identification often varies dramatically within Kentucky. For example, many consider northern Kentucky to be the most Midwestern region as it shares culture with Cincinnati. Studies show that a significant minority of people in Northern Kentucky still identify with the South. Conversely, Southern Indiana is highly Southern in comparison to most of the Midwest, as it is culturally and economically attached to Louisville. Some sources treat Southern Indiana as essentially the upper tip of Upland South culture while others maintain that Southern culture, while significant, is not dominant in the region. .

Louisville is viewed as culturally and economically Midwestern in some analyses, especially because it rates highly as a literate city. Other observers think it is southern. It is often described as both "the Gateway to the South" and "the northernmost Southern city and southernmost Northern city."

While varying degrees of Northern cultural influence can be found in Kentucky outside the Golden Triangle, smaller cities such as Owensboro, Bowling Green, and Paducah, together with most of the state's rural areas, have continued more distinctly Southern in character.


The state was first colonized by France and Spain rather than Great Britain, a difference which gave it a different form of law and other distinct cultural traditions. The Creole, Cajun, African, Latin American and Caribbean-influenced culture is especially strong in the southern portion of the state. Although the Gulf Coast regions of Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Florida shared a similar French/Spanish colonial history, they lacked the same concentration of French-speaking influence and people of French ancestry.

In the antebellum years, a significant population of free people of colour or Creoles of colour formed in New Orleans, in part because of the system of plaçage that developed since the colonial period. Many became educated, had their own businesses and owned property. They formed a distinct third class between Europeans Americans and enslaved Africans, although their freedoms were reduced after the Louisiana Purchase and imposition of Americans' binary racial views. Together with the cosmopolitan views of an international seaport, Latin Catholics in metropolitan New Orleans had relatively tolerant attitudes toward alcohol use, gambling, and prostitution in contrast to the outwardly conservative evangelical Protestant beliefs of much of the Deep South.


Rural regions of Western Maryland, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland retain more conservative southern culture, and is mostly the same as the rest of the south. The areas along the I-95 corridor, which make up much of metropolitan Baltimore and Washington, are sometimes considered to be culturally part of the Mid-Atlantic States. In addition, Southern Maryland has suburbs expanding with commuters to Washington, DC, but still holds on to its strong Southern Culture.

Like West Virginia, the state was part of the Union during the Civil War. While it still had slaveholders, 49.7% of blacks were free in Maryland before the Civil War. The decline of labor-intensive tobacco cultivation in the 19th century, combined with active Quaker and Moravian missionaries working for manumission after the American Revolution, influenced numerous slaveholders to free slaves, giving rise to a substantial free population. The federal government encouraged Maryland to stay in the Union to avoid having the capital surrounded by Confederate states.

North Carolina

The most recent shift in "Southern" cultural influence and demographics has occurred in North Carolina. While the state as a whole voted conservatively, metropolitan areas and the Research Triangle had a more liberal tradition and attracted scholars and scientists from other regions.

The press of newcomers has been transforming the culture. Many migrants have come for work from the North and Midwest, especially from the New York City and Cleveland metropolitan areas. The Charlotte and Raleigh- Durham areas have attracted the most migrants because of economic growth: banking/finance in Charlotte and high-tech in Raleigh-Durham. The Asheville area has attracted more retirees.

Overall, the majority of the state is still conservative. It voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. In the Raleigh-Durham area and to a lesser extent the Charlotte area, "Southern" accents are becoming less common. The job markets in North Carolina's three largest metro areas: Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and the Greensboro- Winston-Salem- High Point ("Piedmont Triad" area) have also attracted Latino and Asian American immigration and migration. A report released by The Brookings Institute in May 2006 entitled Diversity Spreads Out, noted that the Charlotte metro area ranked second nationally with a 49.8% growth rate in its Hispanic population between 2000 and 2004. The Raleigh-Durham metro area followed in third place with a 46.7% rate of growth..


Before its statehood in 1907, Oklahoma was known as "Indian Territory." The majority of the Native American tribes in Indian Territory sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Oklahoma has the nation's largest Native American population and a strong western influence. Oklahoma is home of the Gilcrease Museum, which houses the world's largest, most comprehensive collection of art of the American West, including Native American art and artifacts and historical manuscripts, documents, and maps. Oklahoma is sometimes described as being part of the "Great Southwest." Because of its geographic location, Oklahoma is privy to Southern culture. Southern culture is most notable in the southeastern region of the state.


With a history of southern settlement and cotton plantations, East Texas, parts of Central Texas, and North Texas) are associated with the South more than the Southwest. In geology, economy and culture, Far West Texas, parts of Central Texas, and South Texas share more similarities with the Southwest.

The Texas Panhandle and the South Plains parts of West Texas do not easily fit into either category. The Texas Panhandle has much in common both culturally and geographically with Midwestern states like Kansas and Nebraska. The South Plains, though originally settled primarily by Anglo Southerners, has become a blend of both Southern and Southwestern culture due to rapidly increasing Hispanic population.

The size and cultural distinctiveness of Texas prohibit easy categorization of the entire state in any recognized region. Geographic, economic, and cultural diversity among regions of the state preclude treating Texas as a region in its own right. The larger cities of Texas with their burgeoning knowledge economies have attracted migrants from other regions of the United States and immigrants from Latin America and Asia. Partly due to its membership in the Confederacy, it is usually considered a Southern state rather than a Western one. More than 86% of Texans identify themselves as living in the South.


Northern Virginia has attracted many internal migrants coming for job opportunities with the federal government and related businesses during and after World War II. More expansion resulted from the dot-com bubble around the turn of the 21st century. Economically linked to Washington, D.C., residents of the region tend to consider its culture more Mid-Atlantic than Southern. Some in Virginia refer to the area as "Occupied Virginia."

Northern Virginia voters have voted more conservatively than the solidly Democratic voters in the District of Columbia. In recent years their voting has changed, however. The region helped with the election of a Democratic senator in 2006. The state's Democrats voted strongly for Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential primary. However, Richmond, being the capital of the Old Confederacy, is considered to be part of the South as is the rest of the state.

West Virginia

The formation of West Virginia in 1863 underlined the old divide between the highlands and the rest of the South. While West Virginia is classified by the Census Bureau as a southern state, its peculiar geographic shape means that the northernmost tip is at about the same latitude as central New Jersey. The northernmost part of the state, as well as a number of northern non-panhandle cities, such as Morgantown, West Virginia, about an hour's drive from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have become exurbs of the former industrial city, resulting in a less "Southern" culture.

The easternmost tip of the state is close enough to Washington, D.C. that it is becoming an exurb of that area with a unique North-South "hybrid" culture. The Census Bureau classifies the two easternmost counties, Berkeley and Jefferson as part of the larger Washington Metropolitan Area.

Huntington, West Virginia, near the state's boundary with Ohio and Kentucky, is sometimes identified with the Rust Belt. It has more of a Southern climate and environment compared to the state's Northern Panhandle and North-Central regions.

Lastly, Bluefield and other towns on the southern border of West Virginia are less than a 3-hour drive (170 miles) to Charlotte, North Carolina. They are only an hour and a half (70 miles) to the North Carolina border . For residents of such areas, Charlotte is their closest major city.

West Virginia was created from 50 western counties of Virginia during the Civil War. Although two-thirds of the territory of the proposed state consisted of secessionist counties, the Wheeling Unionists were successful in guiding their statehood bill through Congress. It was signed by President Lincoln. Because of the confusing circumstances of the state's creation, some do not consider West Virginia to be part of the South. People in West Virginia have typically shared ancestry and heritage with the Appalachian culture that extends down the spine of a large swathe of the backcountry South.

Beyond the Census-classified South


Missouri is classified as a Midwestern state by the Census Bureau and many of its residents. St. Louis was known as the "Gateway to the West" when settlement was expanding. Some observers include the Missouri Ozarks with the Highland South. The northern edge of the Ozark Plateau was settled chiefly by German immigrants in the mid- to later 19th century, however, who founded numerous vineyards and wineries. Missouri was the second-largest wine-producing state before Prohibition, which destroyed the industry. Wineries have been rebuilt since the later decades of the 20th century, and Missouri wineries are competing well in national festivals. Part of the Missouri River valley, from beyond St. Louis suburbs in St. Charles County to east of Jefferson City, is known as the Missouri Rhineland because of the extensive vineyards and wineries based on German immigrant tradition and descendants.

In the antebellum years, many settlers from the Upper South migrated to counties of central and western Missouri along the Missouri River, where they could cultivate tobacco and hemp. Because the southerners brought their culture and slaveholding with them, this area became known as Little Dixie. Before the Civil War, six of the counties included in the area had populations in which more than 25% were enslaved African Americans, the highest concentrations in the state outside the cotton plantations in the Mississippi Delta. Antebellum houses typical of the South still stand in some of Little Dixie.

The Midwest, Southwest and West

Many areas of New Mexico, Arizona, and California were predominantly settled by European- American southerners as they moved west in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For instance, pro-Confederate governments were established in what is now Arizona and New Mexico during the Civil War. Southerners migrated to industrial cities in the Midwest for work before and after WWII. They went to Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, as well as Missouri and Illinois. During the Great Depression and Dust Bowl crisis, a large influx of migrants from areas such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, and the Texas Panhandle settled in California. These "Okie" and "Arkie" migrants and their descendants remain a strong influence on the culture of the Central Valley of California, especially around the cities of Bakersfield and Fresno. Many Southerners who migrated to other states continued to identify proudly as Southerners without living in the South.

In a larger migration, more than 6.5 million African Americans left the segregated South for the industrial cities of the Midwest and West Coast during the Great Migration beginning in World War I and extending to 1970. Many migrants from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas moved to California during and after World War II because of jobs in the defense industry. As a result, many African Americans as well as European Americans have "Northern" and "Southern" branches of their families. Significant parts of African-American culture, such as music, literary forms, and cuisine, have been rooted in the South but have changed with urban northern and western influences, too.


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 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 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 Arizona 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 and 1980, and 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 has created new reasons to make voting more difficult for African Americans, who have strongly supported Democratic candidates from the party that helped secure their active citizenship. As diversity has increased in workplaces, conservative southerners have coalesced around other issues, including those related to private sexuality.

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 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. The following is a list of presidents who represent their party's first candidate to reach the country's highest office:

(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 Harry S. 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 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 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, 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


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 African Americans 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 Ben 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, Black people left the racism and lack of opportunities in the South and settled in northern cities like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston, 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, 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 Centre, 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. Today, while many people believe race relations in the South to still be a contested issue, many others now believe the region leads the country in working to end racial strife. 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 Centre (SPLC), which believes that the League of the South is a hate group.

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

Largest Cities in the Southern U.S.

Rank City State(s) and/or Territory July 1, 2006
Population Estimate
1 Houston TX 2,144,491
2 San Antonio TX 1,296,682
3 Dallas TX 1,232,940
4 Jacksonville FL 794,555
5 Austin TX 709,893
6 Memphis TN 670,902
7 Ft Worth TX 653,320
8 Charlotte NC 630,478
9 El Paso TX 609,415
10 Louisville KY 558,541

Major metropolitan areas in the Southern U.S.

Rank Metropolitan Statistical Area State(s) and/or Territory July 1, 2007
Population Estimate
1 Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington TX 6,145,037
2 Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown TX 5,628,101
3 Miami–Fort Lauderdale–Pompano Beach FL 5,413,212
4 Washington–Arlington–Alexandria DC VA– MD–WV 5,306,565
5 Atlanta–Sandy Springs–Marietta GA 5,278,904
6 Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater FL 2,723,949
7 Baltimore–Towson MD 2,668,056
8 Orlando-Kissimmee FL 2,032,496
9 San Antonio TX 1,990,675
10 Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News VA– NC 1,658,754
11 Charlotte–Gastonia–Concord NC– SC 1,651,568
12 Austin–Round Rock TX 1,598,161
13 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin TN 1,521,437
14 Jacksonville FL 1,300,823
15 Memphis TN– MS– AR 1,280,533
16 Louisville–Jefferson County KY– IN 1,233,735
17 Richmond VA 1,212,977
18 Oklahoma City OK 1,192,989
19 Birmingham–Hoover AL 1,108,210
20 Raleigh–Cary NC 1,047,629
21 New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner LA 1,030,363
22 Tulsa OK 905,755
23 Baton Rouge LA 770,037
24 El Paso TX 734,669
25 Columbia SC 716,030

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