Old South

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Regional definitions vary from source to source. The states shown in dark red are usually included, though their modern boundaries differ from the boundaries of the Thirteen Colonies. US map-Old South.PNG
Regional definitions vary from source to source. The states shown in dark red are usually included, though their modern boundaries differ from the boundaries of the Thirteen Colonies.

Geographically, Old South is a term applied to the U.S. states in the Southern United States that were among the group of 13 British colonies which declared independence in 1776 and formed the United States of America. The region is differentiated from the Deep South and Upper South by being limited to these states' present-day boundaries rather than those of their colonial predecessors. Culturally, "Old South" is used to describe the rural, agriculturally-based economy and society in the Antebellum South, prior to the 1861–65 American Civil War, [1] in contrast to the "New South" of the post-Reconstruction Era.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.

Southern United States Cultural region of the United States

The Southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Western United States, with the Midwestern United States and Northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.

Thirteen Colonies British American colonies which became the United States

The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of colonies of Great Britain on the Atlantic coast of America founded in the 17th and 18th centuries which declared independence in 1776 and formed the United States of America. The Thirteen Colonies had very similar political, constitutional, and legal systems and were dominated by Protestant English-speakers. They were part of Britain's possessions in the New World, which also included colonies in Canada, Florida, and the Caribbean.



The social structure of the Old South was made an important research topic for scholars by Ulrike B Phillips in the early 20th century. [2] The romanticized story of the "Old South" is the story of slavery's plantations, as famously typified in Gone with the Wind , a blockbuster 1936 novel and 1939 Hollywood spectacular. Pre-Civil War Americans regarded Southerners as distinct people, who possessed their own values and ways of life. During the three decades before the Civil War, popular writers created a stereotype—the plantation legend—that described the South as a land of aristocratic planters, beautiful southern belles, poor white trash, faithful household slaves, and superstitious fieldhands. This image of the South as "a land of cotton where old times are not forgotten" received its most popular expression in 1859 in a song called "Dixie," written by a Northerner named Dan Emmett to enliven shows given by a troupe of blackfaced minstrels on the New York stage. [3]

<i>Gone with the Wind</i> (novel) 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind is a novel by American writer Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County and Atlanta, both in Georgia, during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era. It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of poverty following Sherman's destructive "March to the Sea". This historical novel features a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, with the title taken from a poem written by Ernest Dowson.

House Negro is a historical term for a house slave of African descent. Historically, a house Negro was a higher status than a field slave or "field Negro" who worked outdoors, often in harsh conditions, and might perform tasks for the household servants. House Negro is also used as a pejorative term to compare a contemporary black person to such a slave.

Dixie (song) popular song in the Southern United States

"Dixie", also known as "Dixie's Land", "I Wish I Was in Dixie", and other titles, is a popular song in the Southern United States. It is one of the most distinctively Southern musical products of the 19th century and probably the best-known song to have come out of blackface minstrelsy. It was not a folk song at its creation, but it has since entered the American folk vernacular. The song likely cemented the word "Dixie" in the American vocabulary as a nickname for the Southern United States. Most sources credit Ohio-born Daniel Decatur Emmett with the song's composition, although other people have claimed credit, even during Emmett's lifetime. Compounding the problem are Emmett's own confused accounts of its writing and his tardiness in registering its copyright. The latest challenge has been made on behalf of the Snowden Family Band of Knox County, Ohio, who may have collaborated with Emmett to write "Dixie".

Historians in recent decades have paid much more attention to the slaves, and the world they made themselves. [4] [5] To a lesser extent, they have also studied the poor hard-scrabble subsistence farmers who own little property and no slaves. [6]


The Old South had a vigorous two-party system, with the Whigs strongest in towns, in the business community, and in upscale plantation areas. The slightly more numerous Democrats were strongest among common farmers and poor western districts. After the end of Reconstruction in 1877, black Republicans were largely disenfranchised, leaving the Republican Party as a small element based in remote mountain districts. The region was now called "the Solid South". [7] [8]

Plantation long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale

A plantation is the large-scale estate meant for farming that specializes in cash crops. The crops that are grown include cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar cane, sisal, oil seeds, oil palms, rubber trees, and fruits. Protectionist policies and natural comparative advantage have sometimes contributed to determining where plantations were located.

History of the United States Democratic Party The oldest voter-based political party in the world

The Democratic Party is the oldest voter-based political party in the world and the oldest existing political party in the United States, tracing its heritage back to the anti-Federalists and the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican Party of the 1790s. Known as the party of the "common man", the early Democratic Party stood for slavery, individual rights and state sovereignty and opposed banks and the abolition of slavery. During the Second Party System under Presidents Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and James K. Polk, the Democrats usually bested the opposition Whig Party by narrow margins.

Solid South Electoral support of the Southern United States for Democratic Party candidates from 1877 to 1964

The Solid South or Southern bloc was the electoral voting bloc of the states of the Southern United States for issues that were regarded as particularly important to the interests of Democrats in the southern states. The Southern bloc existed especially between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. During this period, the Democratic Party controlled state legislatures; most local and state officeholders in the South were Democrats, as were federal politicians elected from these states. Southern Democrats disenfranchised blacks in every state of the former Confederacy at the turn of the 20th century. This resulted essentially in a one-party system, in which a candidate's victory in Democratic primary elections was tantamount to election to the office itself. White primaries were another means that the Democrats used to consolidate their political power, excluding blacks from voting in primaries.


Historians have explored the religiosity of the old South in some detail. [9] Before the American Revolution, the Church of England was established in some areas, especially Virginia and South Carolina. However the colonists refused to allow any Anglican bishop, and an actual practice local layman comprise the vestry of each Anglican church, and it made policy determinations as if the parish were a unit of local government. Thus it handled Issues such as welfare, cemeteries, and upkeep of the roads. The Church of England was disestablished during revolution under the leadership of people such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The 18th-century the First Great Awakening, in the early 19th century the Second Great Awakening had a powerful influence across the region, especially with poor whites, and also with black slaves. The result was the Establishment of many Methodist and Baptist churches. In the antebellum period, large numbers of open air revivals converted new members, and strengthen the resolve of established members. In the antebellum period, social issues such as public schools and prohibition, which grew rapidly in the North, but made little headway in the South. In the North, revivals sparked a strong interest in abolition of slavery, a forbidden topic South of the Mason-Dixon line. Most church members used their religion for intense group solidarity, which often involved intimate examinations of the sins and failures of their fellow parishioners. At a deeper level, religion served as a momentary temporary relief, and a promised permanent relief, from all the hardships and oppressions of this world. Missionary activity was a controversial issue in the South, with strong support for missionaries among them Methodist, but among the Baptists there were strong movements for and against missionary activity. [10]

First Great Awakening Series of Christian revivals in Britain and its Thirteen Colonies

The First Great Awakening or the Evangelical Revival was a series of Christian revivals that swept Britain and its Thirteen Colonies between the 1730s and 1740s. The revival movement permanently affected Protestantism as adherents strove to renew individual piety and religious devotion. The Great Awakening marked the emergence of Anglo-American evangelicalism as a trans-denominational movement within the Protestant churches. In the United States, the term Great Awakening is most often used, while in the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Evangelical Revival.

Second Great Awakening Protestant religious revival in the early 19th-century United States

The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant religious revival during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800 and, after 1820, membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement. It was past its peak by the late 1840s. In a reflection of Romanticism, the Second Great Awakening was characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the supernatural. It rejected the skeptical rationalism and deism of the Enlightenment.


Historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown has emphasized how a very strong sense of honor, rooted in European traditions, shaped ethical behavior for men in the Old South. The rigid unwritten code guided family and gender relationships and helped provide a structure for social control. A highly controversial aspect of the honor system was the necessity to fight in duels, under rigidly prescribed conditions, whenever a man's honor was challenged by an equal. If one's honor was challenged by an inferior person, it sufficed to beat him up. Men had the duty of protecting the honor of their women. Honor became an important ingredient in differentiating manhood versus effeminacy and patriarchy versus companionate marriage. [11] College authorities strictly forbade violent duels. In response, undergraduates revised the code, dropping the duels, and set up a system whereby fellow students would dictate punishment when misconduct violated college rules or the code of honor. By claiming such control over their college environment, students reshaped the honor code and bridged the awkward gap between dependence and independent adulthood. [12] So many talented people were being killed that anti-dueling associations were organized which challenged the honor code. [13]

Bertram Wyatt-Brown was a noted historian of the Southern United States. He was the Richard J. Milbauer Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, where he taught from 1983-2004; he also taught at Case Western University for nearly two decades. He studied the role of honor in southern society, in all classes, and wrote a family study of the Percy Family, including its twentieth-century authors William Alexander Percy and Walker Percy.

Old South Day

Since 1976, the city of Ochlocknee, Georgia has celebrated Old South Day in November each year. [14]

See also

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Sectionalism is loyalty to one's own region or section of the country, rather than to the country as a whole.

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Slave patrol

Slave patrols called patrollers, patterrollers, pattyrollers or paddy rollers, by the slaves, were organized groups of armed white men who monitored and enforced discipline upon black slaves in the antebellum U.S. southern states. The slave patrols' function was to police slaves, especially runaways and defiant slaves. They also formed river patrols to prevent escape by boat. Slave patrols were first established in South Carolina in 1704, and the idea spread throughout the colonies.

Free Negro non-slave black in pre-emancipation USA

In United States history, a free Negro or free black was the legal status, in the geographic area of the United States, of blacks who were not slaves. It included both freed slaves (freedmen) and those who had been born free.

The Antebellum South was a period in the history of the Southern United States from the late 18th century until the start of the American Civil War in 1861. This period in the South's history was marked by the economic growth of the region and of its political influence on the U.S. federal government. It was also characterized by the rise of abolition and the gradual polarization of the country between abolitionists and supporters of slavery.

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Plain Folk of the Old South is a 1949 book by Vanderbilt University historian Frank Lawrence Owsley, one of the Southern Agrarians. In it he used statistical data to analyze the makeup of Southern society, contending that yeoman farmers made up a larger middle class than was generally thought.

<i>The Slave Community</i> book by John Wesley Blassingame

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<i>The Peculiar Institution</i> book by Kenneth M. Stampp

The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South is a non-fiction book about slavery published in 1956, by academic Kenneth M. Stampp of the University of California, Berkeley and other universities. The book describes and analyzes multiple facets of slavery in the American South from the 17th through the mid-19th century, including demographics, lives of slaves and slaveholders, the Southern economy and labor systems, the Northern and abolitionist response, slave trading, and political issues of the time.

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Poor White United States social caste and ethnic group

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  1. "United States - Old South to New South".
  2. Charles C. Bolton, "Planters, Plain Folk, and Poor Whites in the Old South." in Lacy Ford, ed., A Companion to the Civil War and Reconstruction (2005), pp 75-94.
  3. "Digital History". www.digitalhistory.uh.edu. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  4. John W. Blassingame, Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South (2nd ed. 1979)
  5. Deborah Gray White, Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South (1999)
  6. Samuel C. Hyde, Plain Folk Yeomanry in the Antebellum South (2004).
  7. Burton W. Folsom, "Party Formation and Development in Jacksonian America: The Old South." Journal of American Studies 7.3 (1973): 217-229. onlinr
  8. William A. Link, Roots of Secession: Slavery and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (2004).
  9. A leading source is Donald G. Mathews, Religion in the old South (1979).
  10. Dickson D. Bruce, "Religion, Society and Culture in the Old South: A Comparative View." American Quarterly 26.4 (1974): 399-416. Online
  11. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, 'Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (1982)
  12. Robert F. Pace and Christopher A. Bjornsen, "Adolescent honor and college student behavior in the Old South." Southern Cultures 6.3 (2000): 9-28.
  13. William S. Cossen, "Blood, honor, reform, and God: anti-dueling associations and moral reform in the Old South." American Nineteenth Century History 19.1 (2018): 23-45.
  14. Turner, Alicia (November 12, 2015). "Annual 'Old South Day' in Ochlocknee". WCTV. Retrieved June 2, 2018.

Further reading