Why Is the South Known as “Dixie”?

Why Is the South Known as “Dixie”?

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In 1859, the musician and performer Daniel Decatur Emmett composed “Dixie,” a minstrel song that included the now-famous refrain “Away, away, away down south in Dixie!” The song was a smash hit in its day—Abraham Lincoln called it “one of the best tunes I have ever heard”—and it later became the de facto national anthem of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Emmett’s ditty is now generally credited with popularizing “Dixie” as a nickname for the southern states, but he never claimed to have coined the word itself. In fact, there are at least three competing theories for how the term originated.

The most straightforward explanation for the South-Dixie connection concerns the Mason and Dixon Line, a boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland that was drawn in 1767 by English surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. The line was originally crafted to settle a border dispute between the two colonies, but it later became an informal demarcation point between the southern slave states and the free states to the north. With this in mind, it’s likely that “Dixie” and “Dixieland” first emerged as slang terms to refer to the territory south of Jeremiah Dixon’s boundary line.

Yet another theory traces Dixie’s roots to Louisiana. In the years before the Civil War, the state’s Citizens’ Bank of New Orleans issued ten-dollar notes with “dix”—the French word for “ten”—written on one side. The widely circulated bills became known as “Dixies,” and some argue the term was later appropriated as a geographical nickname, first for New Orleans and Louisiana and then for the entire South.

A third common explanation of Dixie’s origins involves a Manhattan plantation owner named “Dix” (or perhaps “Dixy”) who had a reputation for being especially kind to his enslaved workers. As the story goes, when the enslaved workers were later sold and sent to the South, they spoke fondly of their former home in “Dixie’s Land,” and the term then entered the vernacular as shorthand for a peaceful plantation. Accounts of the “Dix” explanation date back as far as the 1860s, but many historians now dismiss it as a myth.

READ MORE: Civil War Culture

The Birth of 𠆍ixie’

Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.

In a New York apartment on a rainy day in March 1859, Daniel Decatur Emmett sat down at his desk to write a song for his employer, Bryant’s Minstrels, and its upcoming stage show. Then 44 years old, Emmett had been composing minstrel songs — to be performed primarily by white actors in blackface — since he was 15. Looking out his window at the dreary day outside, Emmett took his inspiration from the weather. A single line, “I wish I was in Dixie,” echoed in his mind. Before long, it would echo across the country.

Few of us remember 𠇍ixie” as antebellum America’s last great minstrel song. We see it as most did two years after its creation — as the anthem of the Confederacy. And yet as phenomenally popular as it was the North before the war, 𠇍ixie” was slow to catch on in the South. Lacking the Yankees’ enthusiasm for minstrelsy, most Southerners were unaware of the tune until late 1860. By sheer chance of fate, its arrival coincided with the outbreak of secession. As newly minted Confederates rejected the anthems of their old nation, they desperately sought replacements.

Indeed, once it reached the South, 𠇍ixie,” despite being a song written by a Northerner, rose to prominence with exceptional speed. One songwriter recalled how it “spontaneously” became the Confederacy’s anthem, and a British correspondent noted the “wild-fire rapidity” of its “spread over the whole South.” The tune received an unofficial endorsement when it was played at Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s inauguration in February 1861. This was coincidental — it was recommended to a Montgomery, Ala., bandleader who knew nothing of the tune — but 𠇍ixie’s” inclusion gave the appearance of presidential approval. The Confederate government never formally endorsed 𠇍ixie,” though Davis did own a music box that played the song and is rumored to have favored it as the South’s anthem.

Repeated performances of 𠇍ixie” by Confederates confirmed its new status. Even before Virginia seceded, the Richmond Dispatch labeled 𠇍ixie” the “National Anthem of Secession,” and the New York Times concurred a few months later, observing that the tune “has been the inspiring melody which the Southern people, by general consent, have adopted as their ‘national air.&apos” Publishers recorded that sales were 𠇊ltogether unprecedented” and, when Robert E. Lee sought a copy for his wife in the summer of 1861, he found none were left in all of Virginia.

David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University Original sheet music for 𠇍ixie”

𠇍ixie” became so connected so quickly with the South that many Americans attributed its very name to the region. In fact, the precise origin of the word 𠇍ixie” remains unknown, though three competing theories persist. It either references a benevolent slaveholder named Dix (thus slaves wanting to return to 𠇍ix’s Land”), Louisiana (where $10 notes were sometimes called Dix notes), or — and most likely — the land below the Mason and Dixon’s line (the slaveholding South). Regardless, Emmett’s tune made it part of the national vocabulary. During the Civil War, soldiers, civilians and slaves frequently referred to the South as Dixie and considered Emmett’s ditty the region’s anthem.

This popularity is remarkable, as little about 𠇍ixie” recommends it as a national anthem. The melody lacks gravitas, and only the first verse and chorus express anything approximating Southern nationalism:

I Wish I was in de land ob cotton,
Old times dar am not forgotten
Look away! look away! look away! Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land whar I was born in,
Early on one frosty mornin’,
Look away! look away! look away! Dixie Land.

Den I wish I was in Dixie,
Hooray! hooray!
In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand,
To lib and die in Dixie,
Away, away, away down south in Dixie,
Away, away, away down south in Dixie.

The rest is unmistakably the work of a songwriter utilizing various minstrel clichés. 𠇍ixie’s” speaker is a slave who worries that his plantation mistress is being seduced into marrying “Will de Weaber,” the “gay deceiber” who outlives her and inherits her plantation. Although the speaker expresses his desire to live in the South until he dies, the song provides little else to endear it to Confederate patriots.

Nevertheless, a sort of inertia pushed the song’s reputation higher and higher in the Southern mind. Confederates performed 𠇍ixie” enthusiastically and remained devoted to it even when an alternative anthem — Harry Macarthy’s 𠇋onnie Blue Flag” — became available. The more Americans on both sides believed that 𠇍ixie” was the Confederate anthem, the more it became so. This was especially true for soldiers, who were some of the first to embrace 𠇍ixie” and increasingly associated it, amazingly, with sacrifices made for the war. For one Confederate surgeon, the song 𠇋rings to mind the memory of friends who loved it — friends, the light of whose lives were extinguished in blood, whose spirit were quenched in violence.”

To be sure, many Southerners were well aware of 𠇍ixie’s” obvious deficiencies. Most simply ignored these problems, though some tried to reconcile them with the Confederacy’s history and objectives. The Richmond Dispatch stretched its credibility attempting to prove that the song was a parable for secession. It argued that “Will de Weaber” was not a minstrel stereotype but, in fact, Abraham Lincoln, who seduced the nation into voting for him, leading to the South’s rebirth as the Confederacy. To conclude the piece, the author triumphantly asked, �n any one now fail to see that, in the verses of this deservedly popular song, an epitome is given of the events which, since last November, have shaken this land?” Emmett surely disagreed, as he reportedly declared that, had he known the Confederates would adopt 𠇍ixie” as their anthem, “I will be damned if I𠆝 have written it.”

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Other Southerners were more disturbed by 𠇍ixie’s” apparently undeserved status and sought more extreme solutions. Many rejected it outright. “It smells too strongly of the [negro] to assume a dignified rank of the National Song” declared one malcontent, while another argued it was �surd to imagine that Dixie, a dancing capering, rowdyish, bacchanalian negro air” could be sung by 𠇊 nation of free men … with any respect for themselves.” Others recognized that most of the song’s appeal came from its catchy melody and simply drafted new lyrics. Numerous such revisions appeared throughout the war but none achieved much success. Only one, by the Confederate Indian agent and general Albert Pike, enjoyed even a limited popularity and continues to appear occasionally in histories, songbooks and public performances.

Even Lincoln recognized the song’s power and, at the end of the war, attempted to reclaim 𠇍ixie” as an American, rather than Confederate, song. “Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted,” he told a crowd of admirers in Washington, “that we fairly captured it.”

Despite these efforts and the continued protestations of some Southerners, 𠇍ixie” remained wedded to its Confederate identity. Although a simple minstrel ditty, 150 years of history have loaded the song with indelible political, racial, military and social connotations. For better or for worse, 𠇍ixie” was the South’s anthem, and will most likely remain so for generations.

Sources: Daniel Decatur Emmett, 𠇊way Down South in Dixie,” New York Clipper, April 6, 1872 Richard B. Harwell, “The Confederate Search for a National Song,” Lincoln Herald, February 1950 “Three Months in the Confederate Army,” Index, June 26, 1862 𠇍ixie Composer, On Visit to Birmingham, Tells How Famous War Song Was Written,” Birmingham News, Nov. 2, 1924 “Quite a Novelty,” Petersburg Daily Express, May 4, 1865 “The Enigma Solved,” Richmond Dispatch, March 25 and May 11, 1861 “Songs for the South,” New York Times, June 16, 1861 Robert E. Lee Jr., “Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee” Hans Nathan, �n Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy” Daniel Decatur Emmett, “I Wish I Was in Dixie’s Land” Junius Newport Bragg and Helen Bragg Gaughan, “Letters of a Confederate Surgeon, 1861-65″ T. C. De Leon, �lles, Beaux, and Brains of the 60’s” Albert Pike and J. C. Vierick, “The War Song of Dixie” Abraham Lincoln, “Response to Serenade,” April 10, 1865.

Christian McWhirter is an assistant editor for The Papers of Abraham Lincoln and the author of �ttle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War.”

How the term ‘Dixie’ came to define the South

It was once a catchall word for the South. There are countless songs about it. Streets still carry the name, as do restaurants and grocery stores.

But Dixie has also been a problematic label, carrying with it the ugly remnants of slavery and the exploitation of Black people.

As America once again reckons with racial injustice, it’s also reexamining this weighty word.

This week the country trio the Dixie Chicks said it has changed its name to The Chicks. Dixie Brewery, the oldest brewery in New Orleans, is changing its name to a new brand that “best represents [their] culture and community.”

And earlier this year, Miami-Dade County commissioners in Florida voted to rename portions of The Dixie Highway — it runs 5,786 miles through 10 states from Michigan to Miami — to Harriet Tubman Highway.

Dixie may have come to define an aspect of life in the South, but exactly how it achieved that is up for debate.

So how did the word Dixie originate?

Several theories on where it came from

Historians disagree about its origins. Some believe Dixie derives from the Mason-Dixon line, between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The line was drawn in 1767 to resolve a border dispute between the colonies but later became the informal border separating the South and North.

“The other story is a 19th century story about the $10 notes in Louisiana. On the back side it said ‘dix,’ which means 10 in French,” said Tammy Ingram, author of “Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930”.

Before the Civil War, Citizens’ Bank of New Orleans issued the notes, which became known as “Dixies.”

Some historians believed the term was adopted to describe Louisiana and then later became the geographical nickname for the South.

“We don’t actually quite know when the term started or where it was derived from. But by the mid-19th century it was a minstrel song,” Ingram said. “By that point it was clearly in popular culture associated with the South and recognized as a racialized term.”

Ingram is referring to “Dixie,” a minstrel song composed by Daniel Decatur Emmett in 1859. The tune became the Confederate Army’s most popular marching song and the unofficial national anthem of the Confederacy, according to Ingram. There were many variations of the lyrics, but most included a chorus with the lines, “I wish I was in Dixie, hooray! hooray! / In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand to live and die in Dixie.”

Minstrel shows of the mid-19th century featured White performers in blackface putting on tattered clothing and exaggerating their features to look stereotypically Black. The performances were intended to be funny to Whites, but they were demeaning and hurtful to the Black community.

Different theories, but one conclusion

The word Dixie takes on a different meaning for different people.

Most commonly, it’s associated with the old South and Confederate states. Dixie was considered the land south of the Mason-Dixon line, where slavery was legal.

But once the term was used in a minstrel song, its correlation with racist ideologies became crystal clear, according to Ingram.

“Most historians would agree that Dixie is a word people understand as obviously a reference not just to a place, but a certain kind of ideology,” said Ingram, a history professor at College of Charleston in South Carolina.

“There’s no mystery around all this,”she said. “People’s instincts about this being a problematic term is definitely correct. It’s correlated with something a lot darker than just history.”

She added: “By the time Dixie made it into minstrel shows, it was clearly understood to be more than just a place name. ‘Dixie’ was the antebellum South, and the lyrics evoke a very nostalgic and romanticized view of slavery.”

George Floyd’s death has reignited protests and a national conversation about race, police brutality and social injustice.

Along with calls to defund the police, and protesters tearing down statues of men who once championed or traded in slavery, music bands and companies are rebranding and dropping racial terms from their names.

Where did the word 'Dixie' come from and what does it mean?

Dixie. It was once a catchall word for the South. There are countless songs about it. Streets still carry the name, as do restaurants and grocery stores.

But Dixie has also been a problematic label, carrying with it the ugly remnants of slavery and the exploitation of Black people.

As America once again reckons with racial injustice, it's also reexamining this weighty word.

This week the country trio the Dixie Chicks said it has changed its name to The Chicks. Dixie Brewery, the oldest brewery in New Orleans, is changing its name to a new brand that "best represents [their] culture and community."

And earlier this year, Miami-Dade County commissioners in Florida voted to rename portions of The Dixie Highway -- it runs 5,786 miles through 10 states from Michigan to Miami -- to Harriet Tubman Highway.

Dixie may have come to define an aspect of life in the South, but exactly how it achieved that is up for debate.

So how did the word Dixie originate?

Several theories on where it came from

Historians disagree about its origins. Some believe Dixie derives from the Mason-Dixon line, between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The line was drawn in 1767 to resolve a border dispute between the colonies but later became the informal border separating the South and North.

"The other story is a 19th century story about the $10 notes in Louisiana. On the back side it said 'dix,' which means 10 in French," said Tammy Ingram, author of "Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930".

Before the Civil War, Citizens' Bank of New Orleans issued the notes, which became known as "Dixies."

Some historians believed the term was adopted to describe Louisiana and then later became the geographical nickname for the South.

"We don't actually quite know when the term started or where it was derived from. But by the mid-19th century it was a minstrel song," Ingram said. "By that point it was clearly in popular culture associated with the South and recognized as a racialized term."

Ingram is referring to "Dixie," a minstrel song composed by Daniel Decatur Emmett in 1859. The tune became the Confederate Army's most popular marching song and the unofficial national anthem of the Confederacy, according to Ingram.

Minstrel shows of the mid-19th century featured White performers in blackface putting on tattered clothing and exaggerating their features to look stereotypically Black. The performances were intended to be funny to Whites, but they were demeaning and hurtful to the Black community.

Different theories, but one conclusion

The word Dixie takes on a different meaning for different people.

Most commonly, it's associated with the old South and Confederate states. Dixie was considered the land south of the Mason-Dixon line, where slavery was legal.

But once the term was used in a minstrel song, its correlation with racist ideologies became crystal clear, according to Ingram.

"Most historians would agree that Dixie is a word people understand as obviously a reference not just to a place, but a certain kind of ideology," said Ingram, a history professor at College of Charleston in South Carolina.

"There's no mystery around all this,"she said. "People's instincts about this being a problematic term is definitely correct. It's correlated with something a lot darker than just history."

She added: "By the time Dixie made it into minstrel shows, it was clearly understood to be more than just a place name. 'Dixie' was the antebellum South, and the lyrics evoke a very nostalgic and romanticized view of slavery."

George Floyd's death has reignited protests and a national conversation about race, police brutality and social injustice.

Along with calls to defund the police, and protesters tearing down statues of men who once championed or traded in slavery, music bands and companies are rebranding and dropping racial terms from their names.

"When the Dixie Chicks decided to name their band the Dixie Chicks, I don't think they were trying to come up with an offensive name. A lot of people use the term without understanding the racialized origins of the term," Ingram said.

"It makes perfect sense that now against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests and the toppling of memorials and statues that people are being reminded of the troubling history of the term and that it's something we just can't be using casually anymore," she said.


Utah's Dixie, or just Dixie, is a term used for the southwestern area of Utah, primarily Washington County, but sometimes including parts of Iron County, Kane County, the Arizona Strip, and the Muddy Valley section of Nevada.


In 1852, John D. Lee and his party explored the area which now makes up Washington County. They concluded that cotton could be grown here. In 1854, missionaries from the Indian Mission brought seeds down to Santa Clara from Parawan and raised a good crop of cotton in 1855. The seeds from the 1855 crop were used to raise an even larger crop in 1856.

Recognizing the likelyhood of a civil war between the northern and southern states, President Brigham Young was concerned that the availability of cotton cloth might be cut off. And more generally, he wanted the Saints of the Utah Territory to be as self-sufficient as possible. So in the early spring of 1857, he called 38 families from the southern states, who were familiar with the growing of cotton, to go down to southern Utah with the specific assignment to grow cotton. This unique colonizing mission was called the Cotton Mission or Southern Mission.

As these people lived and worked together on this enterprise, they started to call this new area "Dixie" after their homeland. The song "Dixie" was also popular during this time which helped the southerners to reminisce about their homeland: "In Dixie's Land I'll take my stand to live and die in Dixie!" The name spread and soon the area was known as "Utah's Dixie", name which has stuck to this day.

As life went on in Dixie, the name took on a new more significant meaning, the Dixie Spirit. As the trials and tribulations of the early pioneers were overcome, hard work and cooperation led to a prospering of the community. And today, there is a pride in that heritage that engenders a striving for excellence while retaining the culture of cooperation, tolerance, and hard work.


For the origin of the name of the original Dixie, see
Why Is the South Known as “Dixie”?
by Evan Andrews of History.com

For early uses of the name, Dixie, in southern Utah, click here.

Way Out West in Dixie?
By Keith Graham, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal - The Atlanta Constitution, February 26, 1989, Pages L1, L6, and L7

The Cotton Pickin' Story, Why "Dixie" ?
Compiled by Dr. Harold P. Cahoon for the Washington City Historical Society, 2004

Remember Dixie .
By Juanita Brooks
Dixie Junior College "Dixie Sun", November 2, 1951

The Spirit Of Dixie
By Arthur K. Hafen
Dixie Junior College "Dixie Sun", October 28, 1952

Why is Alabama called the Heart of Dixie? The history behind the state's unofficial nickname

Alabama's unofficial nickname, the "Heart of Dixie," started as a public relations campaign launched by the Alabama Chamber of Commerce in the late 1940s.

Considering Alabama is the only U.S. state without an official nickname, how did it gain its (unofficial) reputation as the Heart of Dixie?

Alabama's "Heart of Dixie" slogan was born in the late 1940s/early 1950s as a public relations campaign promoted by the Alabama Chamber of Commerce. The goal was to eliminate Alabama's generic "cotton state" nickname in favor of something more distinct.

"Alabama is geographically the Heart of Dixie, Alabama is industrially the Heart of Dixie, Alabama is, in fact, the Heart of Dixie," the chamber noted, according to the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

A bill was soon passed to brand Alabama license plates with the "Heart of Dixie" slogan, the first of which rolled out in 1955.

The nickname remains popular, along with the Yellowhammer State, as a modern-day tribute to Alabama history.


Oh, I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray! Hooray!
In Dixie land I&rsquoll take my stand
To live and die in Dixie
Away, away, away down south in Dixie
Away, away, away down south in Dixie

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land

In Dixie land where I was born in
Early on one frosty mornin&rsquo
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land

Old Missus marry Will, the weaver
William was a gay deceiver
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land

But when he put his arm around her
He smiled as fierce as a forty pounder
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land

His face was sharp as a butcher&rsquos cleaver
But that did not seem to grieve her
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land

Old Missus acted the foolish part
And died for a man that broke her heart
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land

Now here&rsquos a health to the next old Missus
And all the gals that want to kiss us
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land

But if you want to drive away sorrow
Come and hear this song tomorrow
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land


Starting in 1619 during the Colonial period and lasting to the mid-1800s, Slavery in the United States had a major role in shaping the South. This included its agricultural practices, the outbreak of the American Civil War, and ensuing segregation in the United States. Southern yeoman farmers, who were substance farmers that owned few or no slaves, comprised a large cohort of the population during the colonial period and antebellum years, mainly settling in the back country and uplands. Their way of living and culture would differ sharply than that of the planter class. The regions climate is conducive to growing tobacco, cotton, and other crops, and the red clay in many areas were used for the distinctive red-brick architecture of many commercial buildings.

The presence and practices of Native Americans, along with the regions landscape also played a role in shaping Southern culture. Events such as the First Great Awakening (1730s–1750s) would help establish the growth of Protestantism in the South and United States as a whole. [3] Throughout much of the Southern United States history, the region was heavily rural. Not until during and after World War II did the region start to see larger scale urbanization of its cities and metropolitan areas. This would lay way to social and economic transformation of the South in the years since the 1940s. [4]

Anglo Americans Edit

In the time of their arrival, the predominant cultural influence on the Southern states was that of the English colonists who established the original English colonies in the region. [5] In the 17th century, most were of Southern English origins, mostly from regions such as Kent, East Anglia and the West Country who settled mostly on the coastal regions of the South but pushed as far inland as the Appalachian mountains by the 18th century. In the 18th century, large groups of Scots lowlanders, Northern English and Ulster-Scots (later called the Scots-Irish) settled in Appalachia and the Piedmont. Following them were larger numbers of English indentured servants from across the English Midlands and Southern England, they would be the largest group to settle in the Southern Colonies during the colonial period. [6] [7] [8] [9] They were often called "crackers", a derogatory epithet applied to rural, non-elite whites of south Georgia and north Florida. [10] Before the American Revolution, the term was applied by the English, as a derogatory epithet for the non-elite settlers of the southern backcountry. This usage can be found in a passage from a letter to the Earl of Dartmouth, "I should explain . what is meant by Crackers a name they have got from being great boasters they are a lawless set of rascals on the frontiers of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, who often change their places of abode." [10] Most European Southerners today are of partial or majority English and Scots-Irish ancestry. [11] In previous censuses, over a third of Southern responders identified as being of English or partly English ancestry [7] [8] with 19,618,370 self-identifying as "English" on the 1980 census, followed by 12,709,872 identifying as Irish, 11,054,127 as Afro-American, and 10,742,903 as German. [7] [8] [12] It should also be noted that those who did identify themselves of German ancestry were almost exclusively found in the northern border areas of the region which are adjacent to the American Mid-West. Those from the Tidewater area of Virginia and the Tidewater region of North Carolina identified themselves almost exclusively as of English origins, while those from the Piedmont areas were a mixture of English, Scotch-Irish, Scottish and Irish origins. South Georgia has a large Irish presence, the ancestors of whom were largely at one time Roman Catholic however, many were converted to various Protestant sects due to the lack of a missionary presence of the Catholic Church in the 18th and 19th centuries. The predominance of Irish surnames in South Georgia has been noted by American historians for some time. Meanwhile, a community of Scottish highlanders settled around what is now Fayetteville in North Carolina. Gaelic was spoken in this region into the nineteenth century.

People of many nationalities established communities in the American South. Some examples are the German American population of the Edwards Plateau of Texas, whose ancestors arrived in the region in the 1840s. German cultural influence continues to be felt in cities like New Braunfels, Texas near Austin and San Antonio [13] Much of the population of East Texas, Louisiana, coastal Mississippi and Alabama, and Florida traces its primary ancestry to French and/or Spanish colonists of the 18th century. Also important is the French community of New Orleans dating back to the 1880s.

African Americans Edit

Another primary population group in the South is made up of the African American descendants of slaves brought into the South. [14] [15] African Americans comprise the United States' second largest racial minority, accounting for 13.6 percent of the total population according to the 2010 census. They accounted for nearly 45% of the Southern population during the Antebellum period through the early 20th century. [16] Despite Jim Crow era outflow to the North and Midwest (see Great Migration), the majority of the black population has remained concentrated in the southern states from Virginia to Texas. Since the end of formal segregation, blacks have been returning to the South in large numbers (see New Great Migration). [17]

Hispanic Americans Edit

A sizable fraction of the Southern population is also made of Hispanic Americans, especially immigrants from Central American countries which border on the US's southernmost states. The Hispanic population of the South has expanded quite a bit in recent years, both due to natural population growth and immigration. [18]

Part of the South is known as the "Bible Belt", because of the prevalence there of evangelical Protestantism. South Florida has a large Jewish element that migrated from New York. Immigrants from Southeast Asia and South Asia have brought Buddhism and Hinduism to the region as well. [19] In the colonial period and early 19th century the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening transformed Southern religion. The evangelical religion was spread by religious revivals led by local lay Baptist ministers or itinerant Methodist ministers. They fashioned the nation's "Bible Belt." [20]

After the Revolution, the Anglican Church of England was disestablished (meaning it no longer received local tax money) and was reorganized as the nationalised Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA. The Revolution turned more people toward Methodist and Baptist preachers in the South. The Cane Ridge Revival and subsequent "camp-meetings" on the Kentucky and Tennessee frontiers were the impetus behind the Restoration Movement. 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 18th 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. [21]

In 1845, the Southern Baptist Convention separated from other regions. Baptist and Methodist churches proliferated across the Tidewater region, usually attracting common planters, artisans and workers. The wealthiest planters continued to be affiliated with the Episcopal Church. [ citation needed ] 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. [21]

Historically Catholic colonists were primarily those from Spain and France who settled in coastal areas of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. [ citation needed ] Today, [ when? ] there are significant Roman Catholic populations along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico (especially the port cities of New Orleans, Biloxi, Pensacola and Mobile), which preserve the continuing (and broadly popularized [ peacock term ] ) Catholic traditions of Carnival at the beginning of Lent in Mardi Gras parades and related customs. Elsewhere in the region, Catholics are typically a minority and of mainly Irish, German and French or modern Hispanic ancestry. [ citation needed ] As of 2013, Catholics comprised 42% of the population in the New Orleans Metropolitan area based on numbers presented by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Atlanta, in comparison to some other Southern cities, had a relatively small Roman Catholic population prior to the 1990s. Catholics comprised 1.7% of the population in 1960, and 3.1% of the population in 1980. The population has been growing rapidly since then. The number of Catholics grew from 292,300 members in 1998 to 900,000 members in 2010, an increase of 207 percent. The population was expected to top 1 million by 2011. [22] [23] [ needs update ] The increase is fueled by Catholics moving to Atlanta from other parts of the U.S. and the world, and from newcomers to the church. [23] About 16 percent of all metropolitan Atlanta residents are Catholic, comparable to many of Midwestern metropolitan areas. [24]

Raleigh, North Carolina also has a rapidly growing number of Catholics, with Catholicism having the largest number of affiliates out of any other religious group (11.3%) and the second largest number in Wake County (22%). [25] [26]

Maryland, which was settled by the British, is historically Catholic [27] as well and many historians believe it was named after the Queen Henrietta Maria by Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron of Baltimore. [28] Maryland was the only Roman Catholic British colony in the Americas, and was considered a refuge for England's Roman Catholic minority which was being persecuted by the Church of England. [29] When William of Orange rose to power in England, Catholicism was outlawed in Maryland, causing a decrease in the number of practicing Catholics. In the 1840s, the Catholic population rebounded with the mass immigration of Irish due to the Great Famine of Ireland. [30] Maryland also became home to many Polish and Italian immigrants. [31]

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, Churches of Christ and other Protestant or non-Catholic fellowships. [32] Eastern and northern Texas are heavily Protestant, while the southern and western parts of the state are predominantly Catholic. [33]

The city of Charleston, South Carolina, has had a significant Jewish population since the colonial period. The first were Sephardic Jews who had been living in London or on the island of 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 large Sephardic Jewish community before the Revolution and still has a notable Jewish community today. They built the first synagogue in Virginia about 1791. [34] New Orleans also historically (and in the present day) has a significant Jewish community.

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, Houston and more recently, Charlotte.

Southern American English is a group of dialects of the English language spoken throughout the Southern states of the United States, from West Virginia and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast, and from the mid-Atlantic coast to throughout most of Texas and Oklahoma.

Southern dialects make up the largest accent group in the United States. [37] Southern American English can be divided into different sub-dialects, with speech differing between regions. African American Vernacular English (AAVE) shares similarities with Southern dialect due to African Americans' strong historical ties to the region.

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 spoken throughout the South. Southern American English can be divided into different sub-dialects, with speech differing between, for example, that of Appalachian region and the coastal "low country" around Charleston, South Carolina. Folklorists in the 1920s and later argued that because of the region's isolation, Appalachian language patterns more closely mirrored Elizabethan English than other accents in the United States. [38]

While traces of African linguistic features remain in AAVE, there are a few distinctively African dialect groups in the South, the Gullah the most famous among them. Gullah is still spoken by some African Americans in the Low Country of South Carolina, Georgia, southeastern North Carolina, and Northeast Florida, particularly the older generation. Also called Geechee in Georgia, the language and a 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, less known African American dialect groups are the rural blacks of the Mississippi Basin, and Africatown near Mobile, Alabama, where the last known ship to arrive in the Americas with slaves was abandoned in 1860.

There are several other unique linguistic enclaves in the American South. Among them is that of Tangier Island, Virginia, as well as the Outer Banks North Carolina, which some scholars claim preserves a unique English dialect from the colonial period. The New Orleans or "Yat" dialect is similar to Northeastern port city accents because of an influx of German and Irish immigrants similar to those of the Northeast. [ citation needed ] Many [ who? ] are familiar with the French-based Cajun French that is spoken in the southern half of Louisiana.

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. The influence of native languages has led to distinct Indian varieties of English.

There continues to be debate about what constitutes the basic elements of Southern culture. [39] 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:

  • The Deep South was first settled by the English from the Chesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland, and later South Carolina. This was the first area that developed plantations for cash crops of tobacco, rice and indigo. Later, cotton, and hemp became important cash crops, as well. Planters would import large numbers of Africans as slave labor. The coastal areas of the Old South were dominated by wealthy planters, who controlled local government. [citation needed]
  • The Upland South or "Upper South" have historical, political, and cultural divisions that make it differ from lower-lying elevation areas and the Deep South. For example, the Appalachian and Ozark mountain region landforms differing in settlement from that of low-lying areas such as the Virginia Tidewater, Gulf Coast, South Carolina Lowcountry, and the Mississippi Delta. By contrast, farmers in the Upland South cultivated land for subsistence, and few held slaves. The Upland South's population has mainly Scots-Irish and English ancestry. Because settlers were chiefly yeoman farmers, many upland areas did not support the Confederate cause during the American Civil War (see Andrew Johnson). The Upland South also had many areas that continued to support the Republican Party while the remainder of the white South supported Democrats during the Solid South era. [citation needed]
  • Areas having experienced a large influx of newcomers typically have been less likely to hold onto a distinctly Southern identity and cultural influences. Today, partly because of continuing population migration patterns between urban areas in the North and South, historically "Southern" larger urban areas, such as Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, Jacksonville, Orlando, and San Antonio have assimilated modern metropolitan identities distinct from their historic "Southern" heritage. However, while these metropolitan areas have had their original southern culture somewhat diluted, they nonetheless have largely preserved their distinct "Southern" identity. [40]
  • Over the past half-century, numerous Latinos have migrated to the American South from Latin America, most notably in the cases of Texas and Florida. Urban areas such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Charlotte and Nashville have seen a major increase in Latino immigrants since the 1990s. Factory and agribusiness jobs have also attracted Mexican and Latin American workers to more rural regions of the South. [41][42][43]

Alabama Edit

Southern Alabama north of Mobile was settled predominately by large plantation owners and slaves moved west from their original settlements on the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. These settlers originally had slave plantations in Barbados and sought to expand their plantation based economy. This region is mainly known for its large African American population and historic cultivation of wheat, cotton, and rice. It is the epitome of what is considered the Deep South. Today, this region is the poorest in the state and one of the poorest regions in the country. It still remains mostly rural and has seen minimal development.

Unlike the rest of Southern Alabama which was settled by British plantation owners, Mobile and the Gulf Coast was settled by Spanish and French settlers much earlier than the rest of the state. Mobile likely has more in common with New Orleans than it does with the rest of the State. Today, Mobile still retains some of its French traditions such as having a large Catholic presence and annual celebrations of Mardi Gras. [44]

Northern Alabama was settled by Northern English and Scots Irish settlers who came to the United States to escape the nearly consistent war in their former regions. These Appalachian settlers were mostly small farmers who did not own any slaves and had little voting power due to the rich planters in the south who controlled the government. Today this region is still mostly rural, but is developing urban areas, such as cities like Birmingham and Huntsville attracting outsiders for work. [45]

Kentucky Edit

With its northern border at the boundary of the Upper South and the Midwest, Kentucky demonstrates multiple cultural influences. [46] A study in the 1990s revealed that 79% of Kentuckians agreed they were living within the south. The study also showed that 84% of Texans and 82% of Virginians believe they live within the south. It also showed between 80 and 90% of residents in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia and the Carolinas described themselves as southerners. [47] This is likely because 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 identify with the South. Conversely, southern Ohio and southern Indiana are highly Southern in comparison to most of the Midwest, as is the "Little Egypt" region of southern Illinois. [ citation needed ]

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. [48] Louisville is viewed as culturally and economically Midwestern in some analyses, because of how it rapidly industrialized during the late 19th century (although not to the same extent as most northern cities), as opposed to the slow industrialization that occurred in the South. [49] Other observers consider Louisville to be southern culturally, due to dialect and various other aspects of culture. [50] It is often described as both "the Gateway to the South" and "the northernmost Southern city and southernmost Northern city." Unlike the remainder of the state, Louisville, Covington, and Newport received large numbers of German immigrants due to manufacturing interests on the Ohio river, thus making the culture there somewhat distinct from the rest of the state. Had Kentucky been a free-state, prior to the Civil War, it would have likely drawn more German immigration, as there was usually a relatively small number of slaves in the areas where Germans did settle. [51] As of the 1980s, the only counties in the United States where over half of the population cited "English" as their only ancestry group were all in the hills of eastern Kentucky (and made up virtually every county in this region). [52] In the 1980 census, 1,267,079 Kentuckians out of a total population of 2,554,359 cited that they were of English ancestry, making them 49 percent of the state at that time. [53]

While varying degrees of southern cultural influence can be found in Kentucky inside the Cincinnati area and Louisville, smaller cities such as Owensboro, Bowling Green, Hopkinsville and Paducah, together with most of the state's rural areas, have continued to be more distinctly Southern in character. Outside of those two specific areas, southern culture, dialect, mannerisms, etc. are prominent in Kentucky. Southern cuisine is also quite common across the state. Western Kentucky is famous for a regional style of southern barbecue, and other forms of southern food such as catfish, country ham, and greens beans. [54] Today most of the state, outside of Northern Kentucky, shares a cultural identity with Tennessee and the rest of the Upland South in ancestry, dialect, and various other aspects of culture. [36] [55] [56] [57]

In most contexts, especially culturally, the state is grouped as part of the south. [35] [58] [59] [60] [61]

North Carolina Edit

The Charlotte and Raleigh–Durham areas have attracted many new residents due to economic growth. This includes the banking/finance industries in Charlotte, along with the universities and high-tech industries in Raleigh-Durham. Wilmington has also become a center of Midwestern and Northern migration for its temperate coastal climate and growing business community. Meanwhile, Asheville and its surrounding area has tended to attract more progressively minded transplants, due to its longstanding reputation as a center of liberal thought and open-minded attitudes, and retirees settle here due to its scenic mountain setting. [ citation needed ]

In addition to an influx of Northerners, the job markets in North Carolina's three largest metropolitan regions—Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and the Greensboro–Winston-Salem–High Point Piedmont Triad—have also attracted large and growing Latino and Asian American immigration and migration. A report released by the Brookings Institution 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. [62]

Oklahoma Edit

Settlement of the Oklahoma territory began as a direct result of the Civil War. Southerners escaping Reconstruction, largely populated the southern and eastern regions of the state. The term "Little Dixie" was first used in reference to southeastern Oklahoma during the 20th century. Italian laborers began arriving in eastern Oklahoma in the 1870s. [63]

Texas Edit

In the 1980 United States Census, the largest ancestry group reported in Texas was English, with 3,083,323 Texans who identify as being of English ancestry forming roughly 27% of the population at the time. [64] Their ancestry primarily goes back to the original thirteen colonies and for this reason many of them today simply claim "American" ancestry. Because of its size and unique history, particularly having once been Mexican territory, and later a nation in its own right (i.e. the Republic of Texas), Texas' modern-day relationship to the rest of the South is often a subject of debate and discussion. It has been described as "a Southern state, certainly, yet not completely in or of the South." The size and cultural distinctiveness of Texas prohibit easy categorization of the entire state into any recognized region. Geographic, economic and cultural diversity among regions of the state preclude treating Texas as a region in its own right. Notable extremes range from East Texas, which is often considered an extension of the Deep South, to Far West Texas, which is generally acknowledged to be part of the interior Southwest.

The upper Texas Panhandle and the South Plains areas of West Texas, do not easily fit into either category. The former 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 larger cities of Texas, such as Austin, Dallas and Houston—with their burgeoning knowledge-based economies—have attracted migrants from other regions of the United States, particularly the Midwest and West Coast. Combined with the influence of increasing numbers from an African American New Great Migration, [65] and also from Latin America and Asia, the historic "Southern culture" has been transformed.

However—partly due to its membership in the Confederacy and history as part of the Solid South—and the fact much of the state lies within the Bible Belt—it is usually considered more of a Southern than Western state. Also, linguistic maps of Texas place most of it within the spheres of upper, mid- and Gulf- Southern dialects, helping to further identify the state as being Southern (use of Southern colloquialisms such as y'all and ain't are still very much widespread in Texas).

Virginia Edit

Based on a study from the late 1990s, 82% of Virginians believe they live in the South and most identify more with the South than with any other region. [66] They uphold many traditions and beliefs of the South and take pride in their heritage. However, areas such as Northern Virginia, Richmond, and the Hampton Roads region have attracted many internal migrants coming for job opportunities with the federal government, military, and related businesses during and since World War II. Northern Virginia also connects to the emergence and expansion of the Northeast Megalopolis. More expansion resulted from the dot-com bubble around the start of the 21st century. Economically linked to Washington, D.C. and having a large migrant presence, residents of urban areas in Virginia tend to consider its culture more Mid-Atlantic than Southern. [67]

Virginian culture was spread across the Chesapeake region during colonial times by settlers and strongly influenced the culture of the Lowland South through the transport of slaves. Virginia's coastal areas were heavily plantation based, relying on tobacco production for its economic base. Prior to the Civil War, Virginia was the largest slave state population wise and profited greatly from breeding and selling slaves to the Deep South. [68] These slaves were thoroughly integrated into colonial Virginian culture and brought their traditions from Virginia to the Deep South where they blended with Gullah and Creole traditions. Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, Virginia went through the dark period of Jim Crow laws and faced the era of Massive Resistance to school desegregation. [69] However, cities like Richmond and Norfolk have always been much more progressive and urban in culture than many rural areas of the state. They were known early on for having large Free Black, Quaker, and Jewish populations, much industry, and significant immigration from Eastern Europe up until the Civil War, in which Richmond was made the Confederate capital despite voting against secession. [70] Today, Richmond and Norfolk are often considered the border between the Mid-Atlantic and Upper South, having distinct Southern characteristics and also ties to the Northeast Megalopolis. [71] These remain the only two large cities in the country in which old fashioned Chesapeake Bay style culture is found with the distinctive Tidewater accent and many historic plantations still prevalent throughout the region.

Modern Virginia has seen an ongoing tendency for Northeasterners who move to the state to identifying separately from the rest of the South politically and culturally. [72] However, they choose to remain in Virginia for better economic opportunities than those available further North, as well as the low tax rates. [73]

West Virginia Edit

West Virginia was formed during the American Civil War in 1863 from 50 western counties of Virginia and is currently composed of 55 counties. Many of the counties in the new state had supported Virginia and the Confederacy during the war but were included for territorial reasons, which resulted in a "Redeemer" government in 1876. [74] [75]

Many legacies of its Virginia heritage remain, such as county and local place names. The state constitution is based on the antebellum constitution of Virginia. As recently as 2007 an 1849 Virginia statute was used in a county prosecution. [76] Historic plantation houses are found throughout the state, legacies of its antebellum origins. West Virginia was the last slave state admitted to the Union. The state legislature consists of a senate and a house of delegates. The state government belongs to the Southern Governors Association and the Southern Legislative Conference. [77] [78]

It is the 7th most Protestant state and the 7th most religious state in the United States. [79] [80] Out migration has been a steady phenomenon, beginning after the Civil War when ex-Confederates moved into southern Ohio to escape the political sanctions in their new home state. [81] In the 20th century out migration increased as West Virginians moved north for jobs in industry. [82]

West Virginia has a high rate of family owned farms and the state produces large numbers of poultry, corn, apples and peaches. [83] Tobacco production peaked in 1909 at 14,400,000 pounds, and was the second most valuable crop as recently as 1983 but is no longer a popular commodity. [84]

Many southern dishes are common in the state biscuits and sausage gravy, chicken and dumplings, sweet tea, cornbread and beans and condiments such as cole slaw and chow chow accompany barbecued meats. The southern diet has been blamed for health problems such as obesity and diabetes and smoking is among the highest rates in the United States. [85] Southern Appalachian dialect can be heard in much of the state though mostly south of Clarksburg. [86]

Country music is one of the most popular genres in the state, WWVA Jamboree out of Wheeling was the second oldest venue for country music after the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Charleston is one of the highest per capita markets for country music. [87] Some of West Virginia's notable musicians include Little Jimmy Dickens, Brad Paisley, Hazel Dickens, Red Sovine, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Molly O'Day and the rockabilly musician Hasil Adkins.

Maryland Edit

Similar to other Border States, Maryland has regions that are culturally Southern, [88] and it is situated below the Mason–Dixon line. Prior to the second half of the 20th Century, Maryland was largely Southern with strong connections to northern industry as Baltimore served as a center for grain trading. However, economic growth and demographic shifts of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s overshadowed Maryland's Southern culture. The growing service economy and ensuing southward migration of New Englanders and more solidly Northeastern workers, transformed the I-95 corridor and the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area into robustly Mid-Atlantic areas. Suburbs of Washington, D.C. have also become more Mid-Atlantic in nature, and less culturally southern than before.

Portions of Maryland, specifically Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore of Maryland remain largely culturally Southern, driven by agriculture and commercial fishing. Most of the land is rural and there are but a few large population centers. Many local restaurants in these two areas still serve sweet tea and dishes including or composed entirely of greens, in addition to menus heavy with fried food. Many dialectic studies show that St. Mary's County in Southern Maryland and Dorchester County, Somerset County, Wicomico County, and Worcester County in the Eastern Shore have southern accents.

Western Maryland is considered Appalachian, and is largely rural. The region is very similar to the neighboring West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Delaware Edit

In a manner similar to Maryland, Delaware exhibits characteristics of both the Northeast and South. Unlike other surrounding states which are either north or south of the Mason–Dixon line, Delaware is uniquely situated east of the line (as the line takes a vertical turn along the state's western border). Generally, the rural Southern (or "Slower Lower") regions of Delaware below the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal embody a Southern culture, [89] [90] while densely-populated Northern Delaware above the canal—particularly Wilmington, a part of the Philadelphia metropolitan area—has more in common with that of the Northeast. [91]

Beyond the Census-classified South Edit

Missouri Edit

Missouri is classified as a Midwestern state by the Census Bureau and some of its residents. St. Louis was known as the "Gateway to the West" when settlement was expanding. The northern edge of the Ozark Plateau was settled chiefly by mid-to-late 19th century German immigrants, who founded numerous vineyards and wineries. Due to this, 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 Upper South states, such as Virginia and Kentucky, migrated to the counties of central and western Missouri along the Missouri River, where they could cultivate tobacco and hemp. Because these southerners brought their culture and slaveholding practices with them, Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slaveholding state. During the mid-20th century, this area became known as Little Dixie. Before the Civil War, six of the counties included in this 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. [92] Antebellum houses typical of the South, still stand in some of Little Dixie. All the crops grown there today are corn, soybeans and wheat, for which the area was better suited than for Southern crops like cotton or tobacco. Rural southern Missouri in the Ozark Plateau and the bootheel, are definitively southern in culture.

Midwest, Southwest, and West Edit

Many areas of New Mexico, Arizona and California were predominantly settled by European American southerners as they moved west in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For instance, pro-Confederate governments were established in what is now Arizona and New Mexico during the Civil War and, at one point, southern California was on the cusp of breaking away from northern California and joining the Confederacy.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, several freedmen's towns were founded by emancipated African Americans from the south. [93]

Southerners migrated to industrial cities in the Midwest for work before and after World War II. They went to states such as 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.

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 Arkansas, 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 as well.

As an important feature of Southern culture, the cuisine of the South is often described as one of its most distinctive traits. Popular sayings include "Food is Love" and "If it ain't fried it ain't cooked". [ citation needed ] Southern culinary culture has readily adopted Native American influences. Corn meal cereal known as "grits", cornfritters, cornbread, brunswick stew, and barbecue are a few of the more common examples of foods adopted directly from southeastern native-American communities. Nevertheless, a great many regional varieties have also developed. The variety of cuisines range from Tex-Mex cuisine, Cajun and Creole, traditional antebellum dishes, all types of seafood, along with Carolina, Virginia (which shares strong similarities with North Carolina) and Memphis styles of Barbecue.

Traditional African American Southern food is often called soul food. While not typically as spicy as cajun food, it incorporates a variety of herbs, flour, and can also be called stick-to-your-ribs food. [ citation needed ] Of course, most Southern cities and even smaller towns now offer a wide variety of cuisines of other origins such as Chinese, Italian, Japanese, French, and Middle Eastern foods, as well as restaurants still serving primarily Southern specialties, so-called "home cooking" establishments. Some notable "home cooking" meals include: fried chicken, corn on the cob, greens with pot liquor, vegetable stew, chicken and dumplings, and chicken fried steak.

Drinks Edit

Iced tea is commonly associated with the South. Specifically, sweet tea, or brewed iced tea sweetened with granulated sugar, has traditionally been served in the South. In fact, most southern restaurants serve sweet tea in addition to "unsweet tea", whereas most restaurants in other regions serve only (unsweetened) iced tea. [ citation needed ]

Many of the most popular American soft drinks originated in the South (Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Cheerwine, Big Red, Dr Pepper, RC Cola, and RC Cola's Nehi brand products). In much of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and other parts of the South, the term "soft drink" or "soda" is discarded in favor of "Coke" (see Genericized trademark). Some people [ who? ] use the term "co-cola", shortened from Coca-Cola, when ordering a soft drink.

Official support for Prohibition existed in the Southern states before and after the 18th Amendment was in force in the USA. 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, especially in southern Appalachia. [94] Many [ which? ] southern states are control states that monopolize and highly regulate the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. Many counties in the South, particularly outside of the large 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.

New Orleans is known as "the City that Care Forgot", epitomized by the saying laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll). The Crescent City's culture revolves around food, drink, and community celebrations. Hurricanes are a famous French Quarter drink, as are sazerac cocktails and absinthe.

The Upper South, specifically Kentucky, is known for its production of bourbon whiskey, which is a popular base for cocktails. As of 2005, Kentucky was credited with producing 95% of the world's bourbon, [95] which has been referred to as America's only native spirit. The mint julep is traditionally depicted as a popular beverage among more affluent Southerners. Many other bourbons are produced in Kentucky including Evan Williams, Wild Turkey and Bulleit. Southern Comfort is a flavored distilled spirit modeled after bourbon and made in Louisiana.

Another form of spirit produced in the South is Tennessee Whiskey, with Jack Daniel's, made in Lynchburg, Tennessee being the number one selling whiskey in the world. George Dickel, is produced in nearby Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Born in the Boonslick region of Missouri to parents who had recently emigrated from Tennessee, Mark Twain is often placed within the pantheon of great Southern writers. Many of his works demonstrate his extensive knowledge of the Mississippi River and the South also included in his works as a frequent theme were the injustice of slavery and the culture of Protestant public morality.

One of the best known southern writers of the 20th century 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 writing (such as in his novel As I Lay Dying). Faulkner was part of the Southern Renaissance movement.

The Southern Renaissance (also known as Southern Renascence) [96] was the reinvigoration of American Southern literature that began in the 1920s and 1930s with the appearance of writers such as Faulkner, Caroline Gordon, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Katherine Anne Porter, Allen Tate, Tennessee Williams, and Robert Penn Warren, among others.

The Southern Renaissance was the first mainstream movement within Southern literature to address the criticisms of Southern cultural and intellectual life that had emerged both from within the Southern literary tradition and from outsiders, most notably the satirist H. L. Mencken. In the 1920s Mencken led the attack on the genteel tradition in American literature, ridiculing the provincialism of American intellectual life. In his 1920 essay "The Sahara of the Bozart" (a pun on a Southern pronunciation of 'beaux-arts') he singled out the South as the most provincial and intellectually barren region of the US, claiming that since the Civil War, intellectual and cultural life there had gone into terminal decline. [97] This created a storm of protest from within conservative circles in the South. However, many emerging Southern writers who were already highly critical of contemporary life in the South were emboldened by Mencken's essay. On the other hand, Mencken's subsequent bitter attacks on aspects of Southern culture that they valued amazed and horrified them. In response to the attacks of Mencken and his imitators, Southern writers were provoked to a reassertion of Southern uniqueness and a deeper exploration of the theme of Southern identity. [98]

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 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 Britain and Ireland. Blues was developed in the rural South by African Americans at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition, old-time music, 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), zydeco, 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, giving rise to the original "crossover" genre of rockabilly. In the 1960s, Stax Records emerged as a leading competitor of Motown Records, laying thegroundwork 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, the B-52s, and Indigo Girls 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, and 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 [99] and Crowbar, [100] come from [101] as well as other notable bands of the style such as Down [102] and Corrosion of Conformity. [103] Other well known metal bands from the South include Crossfade, Pantera, Hellyeah, Lamb of God, and Mastodon. This has helped coin the term southern metal which is well received by the vast majority in metal circles around the world. Other heavy metal and hardcore punk subgenres, including metalcore and post-hardcore, have also become increasingly popular in this region.

Since the late 1980s, the spread of rap music has led to the rise of the musical subgenre of the Dirty South. Atlanta, Houston, Memphis, Miami, and New Orleans have long been major centers of hip hop culture.

The Idea of the South

"Tell about the South. What's it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all." So demands the Canadian Shreve McCannon of his roommate, the Mississippian Quentin Compson, in William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom. Readers' urge to know about the South and writers' compulsion to explain it have engendered a vast subfield of American letters over the past century and a half. Even leaving aside the southern novelists, poets, and storywriters, since the 1850s not five years have passed without a major work seeking to explore, explain, justify, or condemn a region that the historian David Potter called "a kind of sphinx on the American land."

Meditating on the region has also become a thriving academic industry, with specialized journals such as Southern Cultures, Southern Studies, Southern Quarterly,href> and the venerable Journal of Southern History. Louisiana State University Press and the presses of the Universities of North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia have developed long lists of titles in the fields of southern culture, literature and literary criticism, and history. (Trade publishers, especially Knopf, have over the years also published a surprising number of studies of the South.) There are the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, the Encyclopedia of Religion in the South, and the Encyclopedia of Southern History. There are two Institutes for Southern Studies, along with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Center for the Study of Southern History and Culture. The South also claims a group of outstanding literary and cultural quarterlies -- the Southern Review, the Sewanee Review,href> the Georgia Review, and the Virginia Quarterly Review -- that, although national in scope, pay particular attention to the region.

From the archives:

  • "Mississippi Monte Carlo," by Benjamin and Christina Schwarz (January, 1996)
    "Tunica County, in the Mississippi Delta, has long been among the poorest places in America. But casino gambling is changing Tunica's prospects."

The three recent books under review, then, cover well-traveled ground and follow familiar forms. The Oxford Book of the American South, edited by the historian Edward Ayers (whose Promise of the New South,published in 1992, is one of the broadest and most original interpretations of southern history of the past twenty years) and the writer and political consultant Bradley Mittendorf, is an anthology of southern writing about the South from the eighteenth century to the present. Surprisingly, it is the most novel of the three books, even though more than twenty-five anthologies of southern literature have been published since the Civil War. Ayers and Mittendorf have taken a new approach, in that they haven't assembled a simple historical anthology.

Their selections don't, for instance, end in the 1950s, when the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision set the stage for the eradication of the South's last peculiar institution, segregation, and when for the first time more of the population of the South -- America's most rural region -- lived in urban areas than in the country. Nor do the selections follow strict chronological order. Rather, by juxtaposing an excerpt from the diary of Sarah Morgan, born in 1842, with a short story by Barry Hannah, born in 1942, for example, Ayers and Mittendorf suggest that the South is a living tradition, "a society unfolding in time." Implicitly they, like many other southerners, see the South in much the same way that George Orwell saw England in 1940:

John Bentley Mays's Power in the Blood traces his family's nearly 400-year history in the South and explores the lands in Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana where they dwelt. Having spent his adult life to that point in the North and in Canada, Mays, who is an art critic for the Toronto Globe and Mail and the author of a previous memoir (a No. 1 best seller in Canada), returned to the South to explore his personal, family, and regional history, intending "to discover the truth of the South -- at least the truth of dwelling on the Southern land embodied in the ten generations of my ancestors and kin who have lived there." Power in the Blood is thus similar in form and intent to a host of classic works that marry memoir and family history in an effort to define the South through some specific southern experience or locale -- including God Shakes Creation (1935), by David Cohn Lanterns on the Levee (1941), by William Alexander Percy Red Hills and Cotton (1942), by Ben Robertson The Making of a Southerner (1946), by Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin and The Southern Heritage (1958), by James McBride Dabbs. (In a quintessentially southern coincidence, Dabbs, unbeknownst to Mays, was a distant cousin and was born in Mayesville, South Carolina, the town founded by their ancestor in 1820.)

Since Mays's endeavor obliged him to travel throughout the South, his book at times also echoes another popular genre -- the southern travelogue, which goes back to 1856, when Frederick Law Olmsted wrote A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States (and which also includes Clarence Cason's 90° in the Shade and Jonathan Daniels's A Southerner Discovers the South). The travelogue is also the form that the former New York Times Atlanta bureau chief Peter Applebome adopts in Dixie Rising. Each of Applebome's chapters is devoted to a different southern locale paired with a theme -- race relations in Selma, class conflict in the Carolina Piedmont, popular music in Nashville, urban prosperity in Charlotte, North Carolina. These often vivid pieces of reportage are made to serve his thesis that not only is the South becoming more like the rest of the country but the rest of the country more and more resembles the South.

With so many models, it's not surprising that Power in the Blood and Dixie Rising labor under an enormous and potentially deadening weight. Mays and Applebome, and nearly all modern writers on the South, are consciously or unconsciously responding to their predecessors. They can't help seeing the region through other writers' eyes, which makes writing on the South tend toward the formulaic. When Mays, attempting to find a link to the past, tramps through neglected and overgrown cemeteries in search of lost ancestors, he is perhaps inspired by Willie Morris's similar search at the end of his memoir North Toward Home (1967). And Morris may have been inspired by the great southern poet Allen Tate's own graveyard visit, recounted in his "Ode to the Confederate Dead" (1926), by far the most famous southern poem of the century. These cemetery visits might be prompted by genuine sentiment, but they have also become obligatory. How could Mays, who has absorbed the notion that the southerner's way of thinking is "defined by memory and the land," write "a memoir of my family during the first four centuries of our tenure on Southern ground" and pass up the opportunity to search the Carolina softwood forest for the grave of his long-dead kinsman? Since it is almost impossible to see the region through fresh eyes, for a long time it has been difficult to find fresh perception in anything written about the South, or even in one's own impressions, for that matter.

The travelogue form that Applebome has chosen (which he describes as a "journalistic voyage across the region that captures in a big way a moment in the South's history and its place in the national imagination") is particularly difficult in this respect, since he visits many places -- for example, Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and the Mississippi Delta -- precisely because they have already been mythologized. (Applebome did, however, manage to resist the obligatory visit with Eudora Welty on his swing through Jackson, Mississippi.) Not only is the writer prepared to see what his predecessors have described, but -- a further complication -- many of those interviewed have themselves absorbed stock answers and regional clichés. The North Carolina novelist Doris Betts, in an essay on southern literature, expressed amazement at V. S. Naipaul's contention in A Turn in the South (1989) that southerners mentioned General Sherman to him almost daily, when she didn't hear of the general once a year. She ascribed Naipaul's experience to the stories southerners reflexively tell about themselves: "The temptation to go on quoting Allen Tate whether his words still apply or not is very great." "Naipaul seems," Betts continued, "to have accepted the South's idea of itself and scribbled it intact into his notebook after it dropped from the mouths of southerners." Similarly, Walker Percy suspected that much of the talk he heard about the South was only the repetition of unexamined clichés. He dismissed the literary characteristics of the South about which one hears so much. Percy wrote in 1977,

PERHAPS, then, Mays's effort "to discover the truth of the South" is doomed to failure. After surveying the myriad attempts to define southern distinctiveness (yet another genre of books, often consisting of collected essays and symposium papers), one finds that attempting to discover "the truth of the South" has become in large part a self-referential academic exercise, and it's tempting to concur with the argument presented by the intellectual historian Michael O'Brien in The Idea of the American South that the distinctive South is merely an intellectual construct.

The two twentieth-century classics of southern self-definition are The Mind of the South, by W. J. Cash, and I'll Take My Stand, a collection of essays by "Twelve Southerners," including Donald Davidson, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, and Stark Young, collectively known as the Agrarians. These books are fifty-six and sixty-seven years old, respectively, and everything written on the South since their publication is something of a footnote to them. Like virtually every other writer on the South in the past half century, Ayers and Mittendorf, Mays, and Applebome are implicitly addressing two questions: Does Cash's statement that the South is "not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it" remain true? And do the qualities of the southern character identified by the Agrarians -- summed up nicely by the literary critic Fred Hobson as "a sense of time and place, a religious temper, a suspicion of material progress, a tradition of manners, a fury against abstraction" -- also remain? Given all the changes that have engulfed the South in the past half century -- the civil-rights revolution and what the historian C. Vann Woodward calls "the bulldozer revolution," which has destroyed the South's predominantly agrarian way of life -- that these questions themselves remain is a testament to the persistence of the idea (if not the reality) of southern distinctiveness.

The first problem with the idea of a separate and distinct South is, simply, which South does one mean? Famously, the "mind" that Cash brilliantly dissected was not so much that of the South as a whole as it was that of the Carolina Piedmont. On the other hand, The Oxford Book's notion of the South is broad: it contains passages written by Frederick Douglass, who lived in the Maryland Tidewater William Alexander Percy, who lived in the Mississippi Delta and Fred Chappell, who was born and raised in Appalachia. The temporal, physical, cultural, and political distances separating these writers is enormous. Even within I'll Take My Stand it's unclear which antithetical version of the South the book is defending -- the low-country, Anglican, planter-dominated, aristocratic vision that Ransom, Tate, Young, and John Gould Fletcher celebrated, or the upcountry, simple, democratic (for whites) South of the plain folks that Davidson, Andrew Lytle, and Frank Owsley embraced.

Moreover, one of the distinguishing features of southerners has supposedly been their sense of rootedness and community. But, as Cash argued, the South was a frontier society for longer than any other section of the country and Mays writes that his family since 1609 "never tilled the same plot of Southern ground for more than two or three generations" and that "rootlessness [is] our most durable heritage." The intellectual Hugh Legaré, of Charleston, South Carolina, put it bluntly in 1838: "We have no local attachments. If an estate, a residence in town, a country seat, rises a little beyond what we are accustomed to think its value, it is sold without any hesitation."

Finally, and most important, even granting that "the South" was once a place apart from the rest of America, with a culture peculiarly its own, today's Dixie is by many measures fully "Americanized." After all, it has been nearly twenty-five years since the writer and veteran South-watcher John Egerton announced in his southern travelogue that "the South is just about over as a separate and distinct place." The region has proved no more immune than the rest of the country to the blandishments of the national commercial culture, and, as Applebome argues, what was once the rural impoverished South is now the country's "main engine of economic growth." How can we still talk of a South and a southern culture? And even if we can, could it be more than a relic?

BUT the South does remain a distinctive and recognizable unit, albeit in attenuated form, despite geographic and cultural differences within the region. As the North Carolina novelist Reynolds Price argued in 1976,

Even when southerners like the Mays family moved from place to place, those places were always populated by southerners. The Mississippi Delta, for example, is considered the most southern place on earth, although its history as a southern place is relatively recent. It was settled in the last generation before the Civil War, almost exclusively by blacks and whites from other places in the South -- a group that the historian Joel Williamson describes as "the descendants of the primal stock that had first settled the South Atlantic seaboard." In 1955 the historian George W. Pierson claimed that there was "no New England region today" by showing that about 60 percent of Connecticut "Yankees" were in fact either foreign-born or born of foreign or mixed parentage and that fewer than 30 percent had New England forebears that went back more than two generations. In the South today, on the other hand, despite the influx of outsiders to Atlanta, Charlotte, and other cities, the vast majority of the population probably still descends from the original inhabitants. Because its share of immigrants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been so small, the South has more residents with a long history in this country than any other region.

Southerners having been southerners for so long accounts in part for the clichéd perception of their special sense of memory, family, and history. Much of this, especially the vogue for genealogy that Mays notes, tends toward trite ancestor worship. But it can also be detected in the remarkably unselfconscious attitude that, in Faulkner's famous phrase, "the past isn't dead, it isn't even past." Thus, writing in 1942, Ben Robertson, discussing his family's long-held antipathy toward John Calhoun, who had been dead for ninety-two years, casually remarked, "We remembered when his grandmother was scalped at Longcane in 1760." That black and white southerners, as Reynolds Price writes, can "conduct mutually intelligible, agreeing dialogues with their resurrected great-grandparents and . for all that, do not see themselves as isolated islands of the past but as typical of the world around them" has given the best southern writers and thinkers an ease with tradition, permitting them to engage it rather than treat it with what T. S. Eliot called "a blind or timid adherence" that would lead inevitably to its ossification.

Throughout its history the South's death has been repeatedly predicted. John Randolph in the early 1800s foresaw its demise in the decline of "the old families of Virginia" and the rise of new "monied men," "citizens of no place or any place." Others supposed its death would come with the rise of the Cotton Kingdom's nouveau riche, with defeat in the Civil War, with the rise of the "New South," and then with the automobile. Finally desegregation and postwar prosperity were going to kill it. But as The Oxford Book shows, by juxtaposing past and present writing to create a dialogue that extends over generations, the South's best minds and most-astute observers have both seen and created the South as a thing akin to England's culture in Orwell's description: "an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same."

ATTEMPTS to define the South and relate the southern experience still too often commit the error that Tate made in his 1935 essay "The Profession of Letters in the South." Describing the distinguishing features of southern life and culture, Tate sought to explain how these developed even though "the South was settled by the same European strains as originally settled in the North." In fact the populations of the North and the South were considerably different, in that blacks were a majority in Colonial South Carolina and made up about 43 percent of the population of Jefferson's Virginia. Applebome astutely observes that "the South" celebrated today by active "southern partisans" is really only the South of white southerners. Advancing such a version of the region is a serious error, not because it violates contemporary codes of racial sensitivity but because it presents an incorrect view of the South and its people.

In a 1993 survey at the University of Virginia, black southerners were even more likely than white southerners to take pride in their southern background. This shouldn't be surprising Martin Luther King Jr., after all, always spoke of himself as a "southerner" and wrote of "our beloved Southland." Perceptive students of the region have long observed that if an intense attachment to the land, a sense of place and family, an insistence on hospitality and manners, a strong folk culture, and an adherence to evangelical Christianity characterize the southerner, then "there is no one more quintessentially Southern," as C. Vann Woodward maintained, "than the Southern Negro."

Without doubt the fundamental element of the temperament and culture of the South is that blacks and whites have lived there together for so long. Of all Cash's insights into the southern ethos, none was so penetrating -- or, unfortunately, so underdeveloped -- as his argument, scandalous for the time it was written, that blacks had a profound influence on whites in the South.

Nearly every distinctive aspect of southern life -- from speech and food to music and the storytelling tradition to the style and spirit of southern Protestantism to the very word "Dixie" -- developed from the interchange of the two races. Even southerners' courtesy and manners (subtly explored in the stories of Peter Taylor and the novels of Reynolds Price, Hamilton Basso, and Eudora Welty), qualities that, Ayers has written, are "perhaps the most tangible evidence of a Southern upbringing, "are, scholars agree, the product of the fusion of black and white attitudes.

Applebome is especially sensitive to the biracial nature of southern culture and manners and believes, or wishes to believe, that "the routine courtesies and kindness and daily common ground of Southern life" afford "the nation's best blueprint for racial peace." This argument has a distinguished history. The South Carolina writer and minister James McBride Dabbs, for example, was devoted both to the traditional, agrarian southern way of life and to the notion that southern blacks and whites by "the grace of God . have been made one people." Like Dabbs's, King's vision of a biracial redemptive South as the scene for national salvation -- in which the descendants of slaves and of slaveholders would sit together on the red hills of Georgia as southern brothers -- was based on a commitment to evangelical Christianity, an admiration of the South's manners and spiritual values, and an appreciation of the informal relationships between black and white southerners.

THE idea that those distinctive qualities of the South that are admirable have something to offer the nation as a whole has been powerful, as Applebome points out, although it has yet to be taken seriously by what is often called the cultural elite. On those rare occasions when intellectuals in, say, New York or Los Angeles discuss the South, the talk too often gets ugly. Someone inevitably mumbles something about Deliverance, and another jokes about trailer parks, while the rest swap adjectives, one of which is always "intolerant." Among those who would never issue a racial slur or denigrate a foreign people in polite conversation, flaunting a prejudice against the South is not merely acceptable -- it's helpful in establishing "progressive" bona fides. But many of the South's distinctive qualities that are reflexively condemned -- its religiosity among them -- are hardly what those who belittle them suppose them to be. Traveling throughout the region in 1910, the English writer William Archer observed that "the South is by a long way the most simply and sincerely religious country that I ever was in. it is a country in which . God is very real and personal." Eighty-seven years later southerners -- black and white -- remain the most religious regional group in the country. Evangelicalism is, as Ayers has maintained, "the great continuity and commonality in Southern culture." Traditionally, this southern Protestantism has meant something quite different from the stereotype of emotion, ignorance, and superstition promulgated by H. L. Mencken.

In its renunciation of all worldly things, in what the writer Lillian Smith called its "sheet-lightning glimpses into the dark places of the human mind," in its demand that every believer work for his or her own salvation, and in its stark and tragic view of life, evangelicalism was a hard religion for a hard people. Historically, evangelicalism in the South found most of its adherents among the lower half of the social scale. Slaves and sharecroppers, dirt farmers and mill hands, embraced it, because it allowed them to shape their culture and their spiritual values, rather than being forced to depend on the mediations of political and religious elites. As the southern sociologist John Shelton Reed argued in 1981, it engendered a "prickly independence of men whose God has told them they are as good as anybody else, and better than the unsaved."

Evangelicalism's strong sense of the imperfections of the world and its pessimistic view of the nature of man, together with its ultimately redemptive and joyous creed, also helped to produce among the writers of the Southern Renaissance a literary and philosophical viewpoint peculiar in mid-twentieth-century liberal America. In "The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South," Flannery O'Connor explained the essential role played by the fervent religion often glibly disparaged in the southern literature so widely admired.

Although its emphasis is clearly not on political thought, The Oxford Book's selections from I'll Take My Stand, Red Hills and Cotton, and Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia let readers limn what the historian Eugene Genovese calls the "southern tradition," a political and philosophical tradition that Mays succinctly, if inadvertently, sums up at the end of Power in the Blood as "noble, failed attempts to raise on Southern ground a culture rooted in the natural order of our seasons, to build a civilization free of cruel utopianism and metropolitan alienation, sustained by loyalties to place." The significance of that tradition is its failure, for, as John Crowe Ransom declared, the Agrarians supported "a Southern way of life against what might be called the American or prevailing way."

From Thomas Jefferson and his contemporary the political thinker John Taylor of Caroline through the Agrarians to Dabbs (and to a figure many of the Agrarians saw as their successor, the northern social critic Christopher Lasch), the southern tradition reconciled the populist and aristocratic strains that the region has always embodied. The two strains, as Robertson pointed out, "have had this in common throughout the South since the beginning: both have been . fearful of the sort of state the Northern capitalists intended to set up in the United States." The southern tradition is thus -- as Robertson described his grandmother, who was an adherent of it -- "conservative in a Southern way and radical." Its defense of rural life was more generally a defense against the development of a market-based society -- against what the Agrarians called "corporate capitalism," the discipline of factories and mass production and the creation of a wage-dependent working class. It defended the South, as Stark Young wrote, as a "civilization whose ideal is social existence rather than production, competition and barter," and which resisted the nationwide creation of an atomistic, individualistic, and impersonal society. Its efforts, of course, were futile. It has nevertheless, as Genovese asserts, "constituted America's most impressive native-born critique of our national development, of liberalism, and of the more disquieting features of the modern world."

THE noble aspects of the South's biracial, religious, and political traditions make it tempting to embrace the frequently held notion that the region, as the southern religion historian Samuel Hill writes, is "in a position to reclaim and give guidance to the entire nation." But the South has always had a perverse tendency to turn its back on its best attributes and to fail to apply the lessons that its history teaches. In 1953, at the height of the Cold War, C. Vann Woodward offered the thesis that the South, with its heritage of failure and tragedy, might temper America's sense of self-righteous invincibility and teach the country to be modest, particularly in its foreign relations. Fifteen years later the U.S. war in Vietnam seemed a propitious occasion, as Woodward acknowledged in retrospect, for Americans to "profit from the un-American heritage of the South." Ironically, however, southerners, rather than counseling restraint, were at that time sitting as President, Secretary of State, and commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam.

Mays and Applebome each offer a depressingly large amount of evidence of the South's tendency to fail to live up to its possibilities. Mays rather elliptically bemoans the "devastations brought down on the South by the unworthiness of my [southern] countrymen," citing "the spiritual ruin inflicted by our adoption of America's materialism and will to power, the emptying of the countryside people into the huge cities of the New South, the dissolution, in my postbellum family, of old loyalties to the Southern earth." And Applebome's Dixie Rising is unintentionally a chronicle of how the South in its encounter with the rest of America has retained its sins but lost many of its virtues.

A traditional feature of southern life, for instance, is that blacks and whites come in daily contact with one another. Despite the enormities of slavery and the Jim Crow system, continual interaction engendered shared experience and what King called "an intimacy of life." King predicted that the nature of life in the South would "make it one of the finest sections of our country once we solve this problem of segregation." Today, however, the biracial South of the past is being replaced -- as Applebome repeatedly demonstrates -- not by the integrated South of King's vision but by a new, suburbanized South in which, conforming to the national pattern, the cities are left to poor blacks, reducing them in the eyes of whites to an abstract problem and further alienating and estranging the races. This new, informal segregation, regrettable everywhere, is especially tragic in the South, since by giving up their close co-existence, white and black southerners will inevitably lose a vital part of what makes them who they are.

Southern religion is also changing. Although the Bible admonishes, "Be not conformed to this world," southern Protestantism is increasingly finding that its self-abasing inwardness conflicts with its drive to make its mark in today's culture. Although its adherents are outwardly committed to the religion of their parents, that religion, with the temporal ambitions of its televangelists, the sprouting of its massive and impersonal suburban churches, and its Christian resorts, is bending under the weight of its members' increasing prosperity. Lured by the gratifications of a consumerist society, many of today's southern Protestants are seeking, and finding, a religious expression that is undemanding and offers immediate psychological rewards in keeping with their new ethos. They want to consider themselves evangelical Christians even as they join the rest of America in its pursuit of the good life.

As for the South's political tradition, the region has recently spawned a host of political leaders, most prominent among them Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott, who are self-described conservatives. Those figures, however, along with the leaders of the South's low-wage, socially indifferent industrial sector, represent a repudiation of the region's distinctive conservatism and the triumph of the laissez-faire, corporate-friendly "New South" vision, the bête noire of both traditional southern conservatives and radical populists. Whereas today's "conservatives" simultaneously embrace the free market and family and community values, the Agrarians and other traditional southern conservatives -- as well as Jeffersonians and the Populists -- dreaded capitalism precisely because it undermined those values. Capitalism, they argued, reduced individuals to abstractions, anonymous buyers and sellers, whose claims on each other were determined solely by the market, and thereby corroded the human and Christian ties that, they believed, bound men and women into communities. The South today is, as Applebome asserts, politically more powerful than it has been since before the Civil War. But the influence it has gained by conforming to the narrow range of the national political and economic culture has cost it its distinctive and potentially valuable political voice.

The South's tragedy, however, is not its repeated betrayal of its best self but that its best cannot be separated from its worst. It would be comforting to accept Mays's simplistic division of the region into a dark, murderous, and racist upcountry on the one hand, and a coastal plain that serves as a repository for southern virtues on the other, but in fact the legacy of the region is far more complex and ambiguous. In case after case throughout southern history the admirable and the loathsome have been rooted in the same soil. Antebellum southern intellectuals delivered perhaps the most sophisticated critique of America's commercial values and social relations ever produced in this country, but they did so in the course of defending slavery. For more than three centuries blacks and whites in the South were bound together in an organic community, but only because of brutal economic exploitation that guaranteed their estrangement. Historically, democracy for white southerners went hand in hand with racial discrimination against black southerners. Such opponents of segregation as Robert Penn Warren, Faulkner, and Dabbs sought to preserve the admirable qualities of traditional southern life against the spread of market values, even though the spread of market values would have destroyed the Jim Crow system. The South is famous for its courtesy, but the highly refined concept of honor that largely produced its manners has also helped to make the region the most violent in the country -- as the old saying goes, a southerner is gracious and friendly until he is mad enough to kill you. For 400 years the South has been riddled with such contradictions and paradoxes, and this may ultimately account for the seemingly endless attempts to explain it.

As it submits increasingly to what Woodward deploringly termed "the national steamroller," the region's many admirable and its few remaining reprehensible qualities will be ironed out. With the apparent global triumph of corporate capitalism and its concomitant, an atomistic, radical individualism, the world and the country, even the South itself, are hardly likely to heed the noble and anachronistic aspects of the southern political and religious traditions. Although contradiction and paradox are by no means peculiar to the southern experience, the South has exhibited them in unusually bold relief. Its own tragic experience of the ambivalence at the heart of history and in the heart of man may be the only valuable heritage that the South can bequeath.

The South Ain’t Just Whistlin’ Dixie

IF you go by the sheer number of programs and casting calls, reality television has become thoroughly Dixiefied. Whether it’s Lifetime’s “Glamour Belles,” truTV’s “Lizard Lick Towing” or CMT’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” series purporting to show a slice of Southern life are huge, and getting bigger: more than a dozen new programs have been introduced so far this year, while others have been renewed for second or even third seasons.

Such shows promise new insight into Southern culture, but what they really represent is a typecast South: a mythically rural, white, poorly educated and thickly accented region that has yet to join the 21st century. If you listen closely, you may even hear banjos.

These stereotypical depictions are insulting to those who live in the region and know that a more diverse South exists. Even worse, they deny the existence of a progressive South, or even progressive Southerners.


Southern reality TV programs fall into a few subcategories. Sometimes, producers seek to portray the South as culturally foreign to the rest of America, and they choose characters or remote locations that reinforce this image.

The History channel’s “Swamp People,” for example, focuses on alligator-hunting season in southern Louisiana by showcasing individuals who live and work in the Atchafalaya Swamp, thereby preserving their “ancient way of life.” The show uses subtitles to emphasize the cultural differences between the bayou and the rest of the country, even though the “stars” speak plain English.

Other shows focus on those Southerners that Americans feel as if they already know, like Southern belles and hillbillies. In its own bid to buy into the trend, Animal Planet has given us “Hillbilly Handfishin’,” in which two Oklahomans, Skipper Bivins and his pal Trent Jackson, teach people, generally big-city Northerners, how to catch catfish by using their own limbs as bait.

Then there’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” a Dixiefied version of “The Bachelorette,” only in this setting she is choosing between city slickers and Southern boys. It’s not unlike the show with the catfish duo: both feature a competition between country and city or, put more pointedly, North and South. The message is reduced to a Hank Williams Jr. song: a country boy can survive.

THESE stereotypes have a long history — we’ve been here before, with “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Green Acres” — and it’s no surprise that more than one production company wants to take us back there. Alongside “Hillbilly Handfishin’ ” is “Redneck Riviera,” a show still in development that trumpets itself as the Southern “Jersey Shore” and that has selected the racially insensitive Confederate battle flag for its logo.

The show is casting for type by seeking “guys and gals” who answer “yes” to the loaded question, “Do you drink sweet tea, talk endlessly about Nascar, sport a rebel flag (on your bikini or jacked-up pickup truck), listen to loud country and/or Southern rock, or enjoy walking around shirtless or in Daisy Dukes?”

There’s no doubt that more than a few people would answer yes, especially when money and potential fame are involved. But millions of Southerners would say no — including the Indian communities of Mississippi, the Latinos who are now the largest minority in towns across the region and the thousands of white suburbanites who feel more of a connection with exurban Chicago or Denver than Lizard Lick, N.C.

In fact, the last decade has brought dramatic demographic changes to the region. The South’s population is more ethnically and racially diverse than it ever has been. Hispanics are the fasting-growing ethnic group in the country and, according to census statistics, most of that growth has been concentrated in the South.

The region is increasingly urban and cosmopolitan, and has become more economically and politically powerful. Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics, and Charlotte, N.C., will be home to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Therefore, you might expect better programming from the History channel. But don’t hold your breath. It recently introduced the show “You Don’t Know Dixie,” which promises to educate people about the South. But evidence to the contrary is right there in the opening credits: the term “Dixie” (instead of “South”), and the use of the Confederate battle flag to illustrate the “X,” tell us the show is more concerned with simplistic mythmaking than piecing apart contemporary cultural complexities.

Indeed, the program is heavy on regional trivia and relies on “well-known Southerners” like Ty Pennington and Jeff Foxworthy (and a hillbilly moonshiner whose speech, like that of the folks on “Swamp People,” required subtitles) to tell us “hidden truths” about the region. These “truths” rarely involve women, and they reduce African-Americans to cooking and singing the blues.

And in “You Don’t Know Dixie,” as in all these shows, “Southern” almost always means “white,” regardless of the central role that blacks play in the region’s culture.

It’s not that other reality TV shows don’t trade in stereotypes of other places, too — say, New Jersey or Los Angeles. But those shows never pretend to show the entirety of Jersey or Southern California life, just a clichéd corner of it. Many of the Southern reality TV programs, on the other hand, trade in age-old stereotypes that indict the entire region.

Of course, one could ask why all the fuss about what is, ultimately, mindless entertainment? But there are two big problems. First, it gives non-Southerners license to point their fingers at a supposedly culturally deficient region, while ignoring their own shortcomings.

And second, it reinforces a message to Southerners themselves, particularly whites, that they are in fact benighted and backward — so why change?

To present the full scale of the South’s diversity would do more than just undermine negative popular perceptions of the region. It would also ruin the stock in trade that has long been used by the dominant media to represent the South as a place that is culturally different from the rest of the country. Although of course, it wouldn’t be as entertaining.

Watch the video: Why is the South called Dixie?


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