Southern United States

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Coordinates: 33°N88°W / 33°N 88°W / 33; -88

Southern United States

The South
Cultural region of the United States
Map of USA South.svg
The Southern United States as defined by the United States Census Bureau. [1]
Country United States
States Alabama
North Carolina
South Carolina
West Virginia
 (2019 Census Bureau estimate [2] )
Demonym(s) Southerner, Southron (historically)
Languages Louisiana French
Texas German

The Southern United States, also known as the American South, the Southern States, or simply the South, is a geographic and cultural region of the United States. It is 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. The region was historically defined as all states south of the Mason–Dixon line and Ohio River.


The South does not precisely coincide with the geographic south of the United States but is commonly defined as including the states that fought for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. [3] The Deep South lies entirely within the southeastern corner. California, Arizona and New Mexico, which are geographically in the southern part of the country, are rarely considered part, while West Virginia, which separated from Virginia in 1863, [4] commonly is. [5] [6] [7] Some scholars have proposed definitions of the South that do not coincide neatly with state boundaries. [8] [9] While the states of Delaware, Kentucky and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, continued to permit slavery during the Civil War, they remained with the Union. Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, they became more culturally, economically, and politically aligned with the industrial Northern states, and are often identified as part of the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast by many residents, businesses, public institutions, and private organizations; [10] however, the United States Census Bureau continues to define them as in the South with regard to census regions. [11]

Usually, the South is defined as including the southeastern and south-central United States. The region is known for its culture and history, having developed its own customs, musical styles, and cuisines, which have distinguished it in some ways from the rest of the United States. The Southern ethnic heritage is diverse and includes strong European (mostly German, English, Scottish, Irish, Scotch-Irish, Italian, French and Spanish American), African and some Native American components. [12]

The historical and cultural development of the South have been influenced by the institution of slave labor on plantations in the Deep South to an extent seen nowhere else in the United States; the presence of a large proportion of African Americans in the population; support for the doctrine of states' rights, and the legacy of racism magnified by the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, as seen in thousands of lynchings (mostly from 1880 to 1930), the segregated system of separate schools and public facilities known as "Jim Crow laws" that remained until the 1960s, and the widespread use of poll taxes and other methods frequently to deny black people the ability to vote or hold office until the 1960s. Since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, black people have held many offices in Southern states, notably in the states of Virginia and South Carolina. Black people have also been elected or appointed as mayors and police chiefs in Baltimore, Charlotte, Raleigh, Birmingham, Montgomery, Richmond, Columbia, Memphis, Houston, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Jackson, and New Orleans, and serve in both the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. [13] Scholars have characterized pockets of the Southern United States as being "authoritarian enclaves" from Reconstruction until the Civil Rights Act. [14] [15] [16] [17]

Historically, the South relied heavily on agriculture, and was highly rural until after 1945. It has since become more industrialized and urban and has attracted national and international migrants. The American South is now among the fastest-growing areas in the United States. Houston is the largest city in the Southern United States. [18] Sociological research indicates that Southern collective identity stems from political, demographic, and cultural distinctiveness from the rest of the United States. The region contains almost all of the Bible Belt, an area of high Protestant church attendance (especially evangelical churches such as the Southern Baptist Convention) and predominantly conservative, religion-influenced politics. Indeed, studies have shown that Southerners are more conservative than non-Southerners in several areas, including religion, morality, international relations, and race relations. [19] [20] This is evident in both the region's religious attendance figures and in the region's usually strong support for the Republican Party in political elections especially since the 1990s. [20]


Texas Hill Country Texas Hill Country 187N-2.JPG
Texas Hill Country

The question of how to define the subregions in the South has been the focus of research for nearly a century. [21] [22]

Bluegrass region, Kentucky Kentucky horse farm.JPEG
Bluegrass region, Kentucky
Glass Mountains, Oklahoma Gloss Mountains.jpg
Glass Mountains, Oklahoma
Field of yellow wildflowers in Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana Lone Oak in Saint Bernard Parish.jpg
Field of yellow wildflowers in Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana
North Carolina's Appalachian Mountains Linville Gorge-27527-3.jpg
North Carolina's Appalachian Mountains
Pearl River backwater in Mississippi Pearl River backwater in Mississippi.jpg
Pearl River backwater in Mississippi
Misty Bluff along the Buffalo River, Ozark Mountains, Arkansas Misty Bluff along the Buffalo River.jpg
Misty Bluff along the Buffalo River, Ozark Mountains, Arkansas
Tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland ChesapeakeTidalWetlands.jpg
Tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland
Cherry River in West Virginia Cherry River West Virginia.jpg
Cherry River in West Virginia
The highlands of Grayson County in Southwest Virginia Grayson County VA.jpg
The highlands of Grayson County in Southwest Virginia

As defined by the United States Census Bureau, [1] the Southern region of the United States includes sixteen states. As of 2010, an estimated 114,555,744 people, or thirty seven percent of all U.S. residents, lived in the South, the nation's most populous region. [23] The Census Bureau defined three smaller divisions:

The Council of State Governments, an organization for communication and coordination between states, includes in its South regional office the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. [24]

Other terms related to the South include:

The popular definition of the "South" is more informal and generally associated with the 11 states that seceded before or during the Civil War to form the Confederate States of America. [3] In order of their secession, these were: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. These states share commonalities of history and culture that carry on to the present day. Oklahoma was not a state during the Civil War, but all its major Native American tribes signed formal treaties of alliance with the Confederacy.[ citation needed ]

The South is a diverse meteorological region with numerous climatic zones, including temperate, sub-tropical, tropical and arid—though the South generally has a reputation as hot and humid, with long summers and short, mild winters. Most of the south—except for the higher elevations and areas near the western, southern and some northern fringes—fall in the humid subtropical climate zone. Crops grow readily in the South; its climate consistently provides growing seasons of at least six months before the first frost. Another common environment occurs in the bayous and swamplands of the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana and in Texas.

Although not included in the Census definition, two U.S. territories located southeast of Florida (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are sometimes included as part of the Southern United States. The Federal Aviation Administration includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of the South, [40] as does the Agricultural Research Service and the U.S. National Park Service. [41] [42]


Native American culture

The first well-dated evidence of human occupation in the south United States occurs around 9500 BC with the appearance of the earliest documented Americans, who are now referred to as Paleo-Indians. [43] Paleoindians were hunter-gathers that roamed in bands and frequently hunted megafauna. Several cultural stages, such as Archaic (ca. 8000–1000 BC) and the Woodland (ca. 1000 BC – AD 1000), preceded what the Europeans found at the end of the 15th century—the Mississippian culture. [43]

The Mississippian culture was a complex, mound-building Native American culture that flourished in what is now the Southeastern United States from approximately 800 AD to 1500 AD. Natives had elaborate and lengthy trading routes connecting their main residential and ceremonial centers extending through the river valleys and from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. [43] Some noted explorers who encountered and described the Mississippian culture, by then in decline, included Pánfilo de Narváez (1528), Hernando de Soto (1540), and Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville (1699).

Native American descendants of the mound-builders include Alabama, Apalachee, Caddo, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Guale, Hitchiti, Houma, and Seminole peoples, all of whom still reside in the South.

Other peoples whose ancestral links to the Mississippian culture are less clear but were clearly in the region before the European incursion include the Catawba and the Powhatan.

European colonization

Benjamin Hawkins, seen here on his plantation, teaching Creek Native Americans how to use European technology (painted in 1805) Benjamin Hawkins and the Creek Indians.jpg
Benjamin Hawkins, seen here on his plantation, teaching Creek Native Americans how to use European technology (painted in 1805)

European immigration caused a die-off of Native Americans, whose immune systems could not protect them from the diseases the Europeans unwittingly introduced. [44]

The predominant culture of the original Southern states was British. In the 17th century, most voluntary immigrants were of English origin, and settled chiefly along the eastern coast but had pushed as far inland as the Appalachian Mountains by the 18th century. The majority of early English settlers were indentured servants, who gained freedom after working off their passage. The wealthier men who paid their way received land grants known as headrights, to encourage settlement. [45]

The Spanish and French established settlements in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. The Spanish settled Florida in the 16th century, reaching a peak in the late 17th century, but the population was small because the Spaniards were relatively uninterested in agriculture, and Florida had no mineral resources.

In the British colonies, immigration began in 1607 and continued until the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775. Settlers cleared land, built houses and outbuildings, and on their own farms. The Southern rich owned large plantations that dominated export agriculture and used slaves. Many were involved in the labor-intensive cultivation of tobacco, the first cash crop of Virginia. Tobacco exhausted the soil quickly, requiring that farmers regularly clear new fields. They used old fields as pasture, and for crops such as corn wheat, or allowed them to grow into woodlots. [46]

In the mid-to-late-18th century, large groups of Ulster Scots (later called the Scotch-Irish) and people from the Anglo-Scottish border region immigrated and settled in the back country of Appalachia and the Piedmont. They were the largest group of non-English immigrants from the British Isles before the American Revolution. [47] In the 1980 Census, 34% of Southerners reported that they were of English ancestry; English was the largest reported European ancestry in every Southern state by a large margin. [48]

The early colonists engaged in warfare, trade, and cultural exchanges. Those living in the backcountry were more likely to encounter Creek Indians, Cherokee, and Choctaws and other regional native groups.

The oldest university in the South, the College of William & Mary, was founded in 1693 in Virginia; it pioneered in the teaching of political economy and educated future U.S. Presidents Jefferson, Monroe and Tyler, all from Virginia. Indeed, the entire region dominated politics in the First Party System era: for example, four of the first five PresidentsWashington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe—were from Virginia. The two oldest public universities are also in the South: the University of North Carolina (1789) and the University of Georgia (1785).

American Revolution

1st Maryland Regiment holding the line at the Battle of Guilford in North Carolina Battle of Guilford Courthouse 15 March 1781.jpg
1st Maryland Regiment holding the line at the Battle of Guilford in North Carolina

With Virginia in the lead, the Southern colonies embraced the American Revolution, providing such leaders as commander in chief George Washington, and the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.

In 1780 and 1781, the British largely halted reconquest of the northern states, and concentrated on the south, where they were told there was a large Loyalist population ready to leap to arms once the royal forces arrived. The British took control of Savannah and Charleston, capturing a large American army in the process, and set up a network of bases inland. There were many more Loyalists in the South than in the North, [49] but they were concentrated in larger coastal cities and were not great enough in number to overcome the revolutionaries. Large numbers of loyalists from South Carolina fought for the British in the Battle of Camden. The British forces at the Battle of Monck's Corner and the Battle of Lenud's Ferry consisted entirely of Loyalists with the exception of the commanding officer (Banastre Tarleton). [50] Both white and black Loyalists fought for the British at the Battle of Kemp's Landing in Virginia. [51] [52] Led by Nathanael Greene and other generals, the Americans engaged in Fabian tactics designed to wear down the British invasion force, and to neutralize its strong points one by one. There were numerous battles large and small, with each side claiming some victories. By 1781, however, British General Cornwallis moved north to Virginia, where an approaching army forced him to fortify and await rescue by the British Navy. The British Navy did arrive, but so did a stronger French fleet, and Cornwallis was trapped. American and French armies, led by Washington, forced Cornwallis to surrender his entire army in Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781, effectively winning the North American part of the war. [53]

Grove Plantation in Tallahassee, Florida. Known officially as the Call/Collins House at the Grove. Circa 1840, The Call-Collins House, The Grove- Tallahassee, Florida (7157983334).jpg
Grove Plantation in Tallahassee, Florida. Known officially as the Call/Collins House at the Grove. Circa 1840,

The Revolution provided a shock to slavery in the South. Thousands of slaves took advantage of wartime disruption to find their own freedom, catalyzed by the British Governor Dunmore of Virginia's promise of freedom for service. Many others were removed by Loyalist owners and became slaves elsewhere in the Empire. Between 1770 and 1790, there was a sharp decline in the percentage of blacks – from 61% to 44% in South Carolina and from 45% to 36% in Georgia. [54]

In addition, some slaveholders were inspired to free their slaves after the Revolution. They were moved by the principles of the Revolution, and Quaker and Methodist preachers worked to encourage slaveholders to free their slaves. Planters such as George Washington often freed slaves by their wills. In the upper South, more than 10 percent of all blacks were free by 1810, a significant expansion from pre-war proportions of less than 1 percent free. [55]

Antebellum years

Slaves on a South Carolina plantation (The Old Plantation, circa 1790) SlaveDanceand Music.jpg
Slaves on a South Carolina plantation ( The Old Plantation , circa 1790)

Cotton became dominant in the lower South after 1800. After the invention of the cotton gin, short staple cotton could be grown more widely. This led to an explosion of cotton cultivation, especially in the frontier uplands of Georgia, Alabama and other parts of the Deep South, as well as riverfront areas of the Mississippi Delta. Migrants poured into those areas in the early decades of the 19th century, when county population figures rose and fell as swells of people kept moving west. The expansion of cotton cultivation required more slave labor, and the institution became even more deeply an integral part of the South's economy. [56]

With the opening up of frontier lands after the government forced most Native Americans to move west of the Mississippi, there was a major migration of both whites and blacks to those territories. From the 1820s through the 1850s, more than one million enslaved Africans were transported to the Deep South in forced migration, two-thirds of them by slave traders and the others by masters who moved there. Planters in the Upper South sold slaves excess to their needs as they shifted from tobacco to mixed agriculture. Many enslaved families were broken up, as planters preferred mostly strong males for field work. [57]

Two major political issues that festered in the first half of the 19th century caused political alignment along sectional lines, strengthened the identities of North and South as distinct regions with certain strongly opposed interests, and fed the arguments over states' rights that culminated in secession and the Civil War. One of these issues concerned the protective tariffs enacted to assist the growth of the manufacturing sector, primarily in the North. In 1832, in resistance to federal legislation increasing tariffs, South Carolina passed an ordinance of nullification, a procedure in which a state would, in effect, repeal a Federal law. Soon a naval flotilla was sent to Charleston harbor, and the threat of landing ground troops was used to compel the collection of tariffs. A compromise was reached by which the tariffs would be gradually reduced, but the underlying argument over states' rights continued to escalate in the following decades.

Horse racing at Jacksonville, Alabama, 1841 A Race Meeting at Jacksonville, Alabama by W.S. Hedges - BMA.jpg
Horse racing at Jacksonville, Alabama, 1841

The second issue concerned slavery, primarily the question of whether slavery would be permitted in newly admitted states. The issue was initially finessed by political compromises designed to balance the number of "free" and "slave" states. The issue resurfaced in more virulent form, however, around the time of the Mexican–American War, which raised the stakes by adding new territories primarily on the Southern side of the imaginary geographic divide. Congress opposed allowing slavery in these territories.

Before the Civil War, the number of immigrants arriving at Southern ports began to increase, although the North continued to receive the most immigrants. Hugenots were among the first settlers in Charleston, along with the largest number of Orthodox Jews outside of New York City.[ citation needed ] Numerous Irish immigrants settled in New Orleans, establishing a distinct ethnic enclave now known as the Irish Channel. Germans also went to New Orleans and its environs, resulting in a large area north of the city (along the Mississippi) becoming known as the German Coast. Still greater numbers immigrated to Texas (especially after 1848), where many bought land and were farmers. Many more German immigrants arrived in Texas after the Civil War, where they created the brewing industry in Houston and elsewhere, became grocers in numerous cities, and also established wide areas of farming.

By 1840, New Orleans was the wealthiest city in the country and the third largest in population. The success of the city was based on the growth of international trade associated with products being shipped to and from the interior of the country down the Mississippi River. New Orleans also had the largest slave market in the country, as traders brought slaves by ship and overland to sell to planters across the Deep South. The city was a cosmopolitan port with a variety of jobs that attracted more immigrants than other areas of the South. [58] Because of lack of investment, however, construction of railroads to span the region lagged behind the North. People relied most heavily on river traffic for getting their crops to market and for transportation.

Civil War

Historic Southern United States. The states in light red were considered "border states", and gave varying degrees of support to the Southern cause although they remained in the Union. This illustration depicts the original, trans-Allegheny borders of Virginia, thus does not show West Virginia separately. Although members of the Five Tribes in Indian Territory (today part of Oklahoma) aligned themselves with the Confederacy, the region is not shaded because at the time it was a territory, not a state. Southern United States Civil War Map.svg
Historic Southern United States. The states in light red were considered "border states", and gave varying degrees of support to the Southern cause although they remained in the Union. This illustration depicts the original, trans-Allegheny borders of Virginia, thus does not show West Virginia separately. Although members of the Five Tribes in Indian Territory (today part of Oklahoma) aligned themselves with the Confederacy, the region is not shaded because at the time it was a territory, not a state.

By 1856, the South had lost control of Congress, and was no longer able to silence calls for an end to slavery—which came mostly from the more populated, free states of the North. The Republican Party, founded in 1854, pledged to stop the spread of slavery beyond those states where it already existed. After Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican president in 1860, seven cotton states declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America before Lincoln was inaugurated. The United States government, both outgoing and incoming, refused to recognize the Confederacy, and when the new Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered his troops to open fire on Fort Sumter in April 1861, there was an overwhelming demand, North and South, for war. Only the state of Kentucky attempted to remain neutral, and it could only do so briefly. When Lincoln called for troops to suppress what he referred to as "combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary" judicial or martial means, [59] four more states decided to secede and join the Confederacy (which then moved its capital to Richmond, Virginia). Although the Confederacy had large supplies of captured munitions and many volunteers, it was slower than the Union in dealing with the border states. By March 1862, the Union largely controlled Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri, had shut down all commercial traffic from all Confederate ports, had prevented European recognition of the Confederate government, and was poised to seize New Orleans.

Confederate dead of General Ewell's Corps who attacked the Union lines at the Battle of Spotsylvania, May 19, 1864. EwellsDeadSpotsylvania1864crop01.jpg
Confederate dead of General Ewell's Corps who attacked the Union lines at the Battle of Spotsylvania, May 19, 1864.

In the four years of war 1861–65 the South was the primary battleground, with all but two of the major battles taking place on Southern soil. Union forces relentlessly squeezed the Confederacy, controlling the border states in 1861, the Tennessee River, the Cumberland River and New Orleans in 1862, and the Mississippi River in 1863. In the East, however, the Confederate Army under Robert E. Lee beat off attack after attack in its defense of their capital at Richmond. But when Lee tried to move north, he was repulsed (and nearly captured) at Sharpsburg (1862) and Gettysburg (1863).

The Confederacy had the resources for a short war, but was unable to finance or supply a longer war. It reversed the traditional low-tariff policy of the South by imposing a new 15% tax on all imports from the Union. The Union blockade stopped most commerce from entering the South, and smugglers avoided the tax, so the Confederate tariff produced too little revenue to finance the war. Inflated currency was the solution, but that created distrust of the Richmond government. Because of low investment in railroads, the Southern transportation system depended primarily on river and coastal traffic by boat; both were shut down by the Union Navy. The small railroad system virtually collapsed, so that by 1864 internal travel was so difficult that the Confederate economy was crippled.

The Confederate cause was hopeless by the time Atlanta fell and William T. Sherman marched through Georgia in late 1864, but the rebels fought on, refusing to give up their independence until Lee's army surrendered in April 1865. All the Confederate forces surrendered, and the region moved into the Reconstruction Era.

The South suffered much more than the North overall, as the Union strategy of attrition warfare meant that Lee could not replace his casualties, and the total war waged by Sherman, Sheridan and other Union armies devastated the infrastructure and caused widespread poverty and distress. The Confederacy suffered military losses of 95,000 men killed in action and 165,000 who died of disease, for a total of 260,000, [60] out of a total white Southern population at the time of around 5.5 million. [61] Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and about 18% in the South. [62] Northern military casualties exceeded Southern casualties in absolute numbers, but were two-thirds smaller in terms of proportion of the population affected.

Reconstruction and Jim Crow

A Home on the Mississippi, Currier and Ives, 1871 A Home on the Mississippi.png
A Home on the Mississippi , Currier and Ives, 1871

After the Civil War, the South was devastated in terms of population, infrastructure and economy. Because of states' reluctance to grant voting rights to freedmen, Congress instituted Reconstruction governments. It established military districts and governors to rule over the South until new governments could be established. Many white Southerners who had actively supported the Confederacy were temporarily disenfranchised. Rebuilding was difficult as people grappled with the effects of a new labor economy of a free market in the midst of a widespread agricultural depression. In addition, what limited infrastructure the South had was mostly destroyed by the war. At the same time, the North was rapidly industrializing. To avoid the social effects of the war, most of the Southern states initially passed black codes. Eventually, these were mostly legally nullified by federal law and anti-Confederate legislatures, which existed for a short time during Reconstruction. [63]

There were thousands of people on the move, as African Americans tried to reunite families separated by slaves sales, and sometimes migrated for better opportunities in towns or other states. Other freed people moved from plantation areas to cities or towns for a chance to get different jobs. At the same time, whites returned from refuges to reclaim plantations or town dwellings. In some areas, many whites returned to the land to farm for a while. Some freedpeople left the South altogether for states such as Ohio and Indiana, and later, Kansas. Thousands of others joined the migration to new opportunities in the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta bottomlands and Texas.

An African American family photo-graphed by O'Pierre Havens, c. 1868. Little Bo Peep. Group of men and women seated outside, child peeking out of a barrel in the foreground.png
An African American family photo-graphed by O'Pierre Havens, c. 1868.

With passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (which outlawed slavery), the 14th Amendment (which granted full U.S. citizenship to African Americans) and the 15th amendment (which extended the right to vote to African American males), African Americans in the South were made free citizens and were given the right to vote. Under Federal protection, white and black Republicans formed constitutional conventions and state governments. Among their accomplishments were creating the first public education systems in Southern states, and providing for welfare through orphanages, hospitals and similar institutions.

Northerners came south to participate in politics and business. Some were representatives of the Freedmen's Bureau and other agencies of Reconstruction; some were humanitarians with the intent to help black people. Some were adventurers who hoped to benefit themselves by questionable methods. They were all condemned with the pejorative term of carpetbagger. Some Southerners also took advantage of the disrupted environment and made money off various schemes, including bonds and financing for railroads. [64]

Secret vigilante organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan—an organization sworn to perpetuate white supremacy—had arisen quickly after the war's end and used lynching, physical attacks, house burnings and other forms of intimidation to keep African Americans from exercising their political rights. Although the first Klan was disrupted by prosecution by the Federal government in the early 1870s, other groups persisted. By the mid-to-late-1870s, elite Southerners created increasing resistance to the altered social structure. Paramilitary organizations such as the White League in Louisiana (1874), the Red Shirts in Mississippi (1875) and rifle clubs, all "White Line" organizations, used organized violence against Republicans, both black and white, to remove Republicans from political office, repress and bar black voting, and restore the Democratic Party to power. [65] In 1876 white Democrats regained power in most of the state legislatures. They began to pass laws designed to strip African Americans and poor whites from the voter registration rolls. The success of late-19th century interracial coalitions in several states inspired a reaction among some white Democrats, who worked harder to prevent both groups from voting. [66]

Despite discrimination, many blacks became property owners in areas that were still developing. For instance, 90% of the Mississippi's bottomlands were still frontier and undeveloped after the war. By the end of the century, two-thirds of the farmers in Mississippi's Delta bottomlands were black. They had cleared the land themselves and often made money in early years by selling off timber. Tens of thousands of migrants went to the Delta, both to work as laborers to clear timber for lumber companies, and many to develop their own farms. [67] Nonetheless, the long agricultural depression, along with disenfranchisement and lack of access to credit, led to many blacks in the Delta losing their property by 1910 and becoming sharecroppers or landless workers over the following decade. More than two generations of free African Americans lost their stake in property. [68]

Child laborers, Bluffton, South Carolina, 1913 10 year old Jimmie. Been shucking 3 years. 6 pots a day, and a 11 year old boy who shucks 7 pots.jpg
Child laborers, Bluffton, South Carolina, 1913

Nearly all Southerners, black and white, suffered as a result of the Civil War. Within a few years cotton production and harvest was back to pre-war levels, but low prices through much of the 19th century hampered recovery. They encouraged immigration by Chinese and Italian laborers into the Mississippi Delta. While the first Chinese entered as indentured laborers from Cuba, the majority came in the early 20th century. Neither group stayed long at rural farm labor. [69] The Chinese became merchants and established stores in small towns throughout the Delta, establishing a place between white and black. [70]

Migrations continued in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among both blacks and whites. In the last two decades of the 19th century about 141,000 blacks left the South, and more after 1900, totaling a loss of 537,000. After that the movement increased in what became known as the Great Migration from 1910 to 1940, and the Second Great Migration through 1970. Even more whites left the South, some going to California for opportunities and others heading to Northern industrial cities after 1900. Between 1880 and 1910, the loss of whites totaled 1,243,000. [71] Five million more left between 1940 and 1970.

From 1890 to 1908, ten of the eleven former Confederate states, along with Oklahoma upon statehood, passed disfranchising constitutions or amendments that introduced voter registration barriers—such as poll taxes, residency requirements and literacy tests—that were hard for many poor to meet. Most African Americans, most Mexican Americans, and tens of thousands of poor whites were disfranchised, losing the vote for decades. In some states, grandfather clauses temporarily exempted white illiterates from literacy tests. The numbers of voters dropped drastically throughout the former Confederacy as a result. This can be seen via the feature "Turnout in Presidential and Midterm Elections" at the University of Texas’ Politics: Barriers to Voting. Alabama, which had established universal white suffrage in 1819 when it became a state, also substantially reduced voting by poor whites. [72] [73] Democrat-controlled legislatures passed Jim Crow laws to segregate public facilities and services, including transportation.

While African Americans, poor whites and civil rights groups started litigation against such provisions in the early 20th century, for decades Supreme Court decisions overturning such provisions were rapidly followed by new state laws with new devices to restrict voting. Most blacks in the former Confederacy and Oklahoma could not vote until 1965, after passage of the Voting Rights Act and Federal enforcement to ensure people could register. Despite increases in the eligible voting population with the inclusion of women, blacks, and those eighteen and over throughout this period, turnout in ex-Confederate states remained below the national average throughout the 20th century. [74] Not until the late 1960s did all American citizens regain protected civil rights by passage of legislation following the leadership of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Historian William Chafe has explored the defensive techniques developed inside the African-American community to avoid the worst features of Jim Crow as expressed in the legal system, unbalanced economic power, and intimidation and psychological pressure. Chafe says "protective socialization by blacks themselves" was created inside the community in order to accommodate white-imposed sanctions while subtly encouraging challenges to those sanctions. Known as "walking the tightrope," such efforts at bringing about change were only slightly effective Before the 1920s, but did build the foundation The younger African-Americans deployed in their aggressive, large-scale activism during the civil rights movement in the 1950s. [75]

Economy after 1880s

An illustrated depiction of black people picking cotton, 1913 CottonpickHoustonWhere17.png
An illustrated depiction of black people picking cotton, 1913

At the end of the 19th century, white Democrats in the South had created state constitutions that were hostile to industry and business development, with anti-industrial laws extensive from the time new constitutions were adopted in the 1890s. [76] Banks were few and small; there was little access to credit. Traditional agricultural persisted across the region. Especially in Alabama and Florida, rural minorities held control in many state legislatures long after population had shifted to industrializing cities, and legislators resisted business and modernizing interests: Alabama refused to redistrict between 1901 and 1972, long after major population and economic shifts to cities. For decades Birmingham generated the majority of revenue for the state, for instance, but received little back in services or infrastructure. [77]

In the late 19th century, Texas rapidly expanded its railroad network, creating a network of cities connected on a radial plan and linked to the port of Galveston. It was the first state[ citation needed ]in which urban and economic development proceeded independently of rivers, the primary transportation network of the past. A reflection of increasing industry were strikes and labor unrest: "in 1885 Texas ranked ninth among forty states in number of workers involved in strikes (4,000); for the six-year period it ranked fifteenth. Seventy-five of the one hundred strikes, chiefly interstate strikes of telegraphers and railway workers, occurred in the year 1886." [78]

By 1890 Dallas became the largest city in Texas, and by 1900 it had a population of more than 42,000, which more than doubled to over 92,000 a decade later. Dallas was the harnessmaking capital of the world and a center of other manufacturing. As an example of its ambitions, in 1907 Dallas built the Praetorian Building, fifteen storeys tall and the first skyscraper west of the Mississippi, soon to be followed by other skyscrapers. [79] Texas was transformed by a railroad network linking five important cities, among them Houston with its nearby port at Galveston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and El Paso. Each exceeded fifty thousand in population by 1920, with the major cities having three times that population. [80]

Business interests were ignored by the Southern Democrat ruling class. Nonetheless, major new industries started developing in cities such as Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; and Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, Texas. Growth began occurring at a geometric rate. Birmingham became a major steel producer and mining town, with major population growth in the early decades of the 20th century.

The first major oil well in the South was drilled at Spindletop near Beaumont, Texas, on the morning of January 10, 1901. Other oil fields were later discovered nearby in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and under the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting "Oil Boom" permanently transformed the economy of the West South Central states and produced the richest economic expansion after the Civil War. [81] [82]

In the early 20th century, invasion of the boll weevil devastated cotton crops in the South, producing an additional catalyst to African Americans' decisions to leave the South. From 1910 to 1970, more than 6.5 million African Americans left the South in the Great Migration to Northern and Western cities, defecting from persistent lynching, violence, segregation, poor education, and inability to vote. Black migration transformed many Northern and Western cities, creating new cultures and music. Many African Americans, like other groups, became industrial workers; others started their own businesses within the communities. Southern whites also migrated to industrial cities like Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, and Los Angeles, where they took jobs in the booming new auto and defense industry.

Photo of sharecropper family in Walker County, Alabama, circa 1937 Farm Security Administration sharecropper photo of Mrs. Handley and some of her children in Walker County, Alabama. - NARA - 195926.tif
Photo of sharecropper family in Walker County, Alabama, circa 1937

Later, the Southern economy was dealt additional blows by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the economy suffered significant reversals and millions were left unemployed. Beginning in 1934 and lasting until 1939, an ecological disaster of severe wind and drought caused an exodus from Texas and Arkansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle region, and the surrounding plains, in which over 500,000 Americans were homeless, hungry and jobless. [83] Thousands left the region forever to seek economic opportunities along the West Coast.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt noted the South as the "number one priority" in terms of need of assistance during the Great Depression. His administration created programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 to provide rural electrification and stimulate development. Locked into low-productivity agriculture, the region's growth was slowed by limited industrial development, low levels of entrepreneurship, and the lack of capital investment.

Economy of 1940s

World War II marked a time of dramatic change in the poor, heavily rural South as new industries and military bases were developed by the Federal government, providing badly needed capital and infrastructure in many regions. People from all parts of the US came to the South for military training and work in the region's many bases and new industries. During and after the war millions of hard-scrabble farmers, both white and black, left agriculture for urban jobs. [84] [85] [86]

United States began mobilizing for war in a major way in the spring of 1940. The warm sunny weather of the South proved ideal for building 60 percent of the Army's new training camps and nearly half the new airfields, In all 40 percent of spending on new military installations went to the South. For example, it, and sleepy Starke, Florida a town of 1500 people in 1940, became the base of Camp Blanding. By March 1941, 20,000 men were constructing a permanent camp for 60,000 soldiers. Money flowed freely for the war effort, as over $4 billion went into military facilities in the South, and another $5 billion into defense plants. Major shipyards were built In Virginia, Charleston, and Along the Gulf Coast. Huge warplane plants were opened in Dallas-Fort Worth and Georgia. The most secret and expensive operation was at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, were unlimited amounts of locally generated electricity were used to prepare uranium for the atom bomb. [87] The number of production workers doubled during the war. Most training centers, factories and shipyards were closed in 1945, but not all, and the families that left hardscrabble farms remained to find jobs in the urban South. The region had finally reached the take off stage into industrial and commercial growth, although its income and wage levels lagged well behind the national average. Nevertheless, as George B. Tindall notes, the transformation was, "The demonstration of industrial potential, new habits of mind, and a recognition that industrialization demanded community services." [88] [89]

Per capita income jumped 140% from 1940 to 1945, compared to 100% elsewhere in the United States. Southern income rose from 59 percent to 65 percent. Dewey Grantham says the war, "brought an abrupt departure from the South's economic backwardness, poverty, and distinctive rural life, as the region moved perceptively closer to the mainstream of national economic and social life." [90]

Farming shifted from cotton and tobacco to include cattle, rice, soybeans, corn, and other foods. Industrial growth increased in the 1960s and greatly accelerated into the 1980s and 1990s. Several large urban areas in Texas, Georgia, and Florida grew to over four million people. Rapid expansion in industries such as autos, telecommunications, textiles, technology, banking, and aviation gave some states in the South an industrial strength to rival large states elsewhere in the country. By the 2000 census, the South (along with the West) was leading the nation in population growth. With this growth, however, has come long commute times and air pollution problems in cities such as Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, and others that rely on sprawling development and highway networks. [91]

Decline of Southern liberalism after 1945

Southern liberals were an essential part of the New Deal coalition – without them Roosevelt lacked majorities in Congress. Typical leaders were Lyndon B. Johnson in Texas, Jim Folsom and John Sparkman in Alabama, Claude Pepper in Florida, Earl Long in Louisiana, Luther H. Hodges in North Carolina, and Estes Kefauver in Tennessee. They promoted subsidies for small farmers, and supported the nascent labor union movement. An essential condition for this north–south coalition was for northern liberals to ignore southern racism. After 1945, however, northern liberals—led especially by young Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota—increasingly made civil rights a central issue. They convinced Truman to join them in 1948. The conservative Southern Democrats – the Dixiecrats – took control of the state parties in half the region and ran Strom Thurmond for president against Truman. Thurmond carried only the deep South, but that threat was enough to guarantee the national Democratic Party in 1952 and 1956 would not make civil rights a major issue. In 1956, 101 of the 128 southern congressmen and senators signed the Southern Manifesto denouncing forced desegregation. [92] The labor movement in the South was divided, and lost its political influence. Southern liberals were in a quandary – most of them kept quiet or moderated their liberalism, others switched sides, and the rest continued on the liberal path. One by one, the last group was defeated; historian Numan V. Bartley states, "Indeed, the very word 'liberal' gradually disappeared from the southern political lexicon, except as a term of opprobrium." [93]

Modern economy

In the late 20th century, the South changed dramatically. It saw a boom in its service economy, manufacturing base, high technology industries, and the financial sector. Texas in particular witnessed dramatic growth and population change with the dominance of the energy industry and tourism such as the Alamo Mission in San Antonio. Tourism in Florida and along the Gulf Coast also grew steadily throughout the last decades of the 20th century.

Numerous new automobile production plants have opened in the region, or are soon to open, such as Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama; the BMW production plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina; Toyota plants in Georgetown, Kentucky, Blue Springs, Mississippi and San Antonio; the GM manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee; a Honda factory in Lincoln, Alabama; the Nissan North American headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee and factories in Smyrna, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi; a Kia factory in West Point, Georgia; and the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Tennessee.

The two largest research parks in the country are located in the South: Research Triangle Park in North Carolina (the world's largest) and the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama (the world's fourth largest).

In medicine, the Texas Medical Center in Houston has achieved international recognition in education, research, and patient care, especially in the fields of heart disease, cancer, and rehabilitation. In 1994 the Texas Medical Center was the largest medical center in the world including fourteen hospitals, two medical schools, four colleges of nursing, and six university systems. [94] The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is consistently ranked the #1 cancer research and treatment center in the United States. [95]

Many major banking corporations have headquarters in the region. Bank of America is in Charlotte, North Carolina. Wachovia was headquartered there before its purchase by Wells Fargo. Regions Financial Corporation is in Birmingham, as is AmSouth Bancorporation, and BBVA Compass. SunTrust Banks is located in Atlanta as is the district headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. BB&T is headquartered in Winston-Salem.

Many corporations are headquartered in Atlanta and its surrounding area, such as The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, and The Home Depot, and also to many cable television networks, such as the Turner Broadcasting System (CNN, TBS, TNT, Turner South, Cartoon Network), and The Weather Channel. In recent years some southern states, most notably Texas, have lured companies with lower tax burdens and lower cost of living for their workforce. Today, the states with the most Fortune 500 companies include California, New York, and Texas; closely mirroring the economic and population resources of those states. [96]

This economic expansion has enabled parts of the South to report some of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States. [97] But in the U.S. top ten of poorest big cities, the South is represented in the rankings by two cities: Miami, Florida and Memphis, Tennessee. [98] In 2011, nine out of ten poorest states were in the South. [99]


Southern public schools in the past ranked in the lower half of some national surveys. [100] When allowance for race is considered, a 2007 US Government list of test scores often shows white fourth and eighth graders performing better than average for reading and math; while black fourth and eighth graders also performed better than average. [101] This comparison does not hold across the board. Mississippi scores lower than average no matter how the statistics are compared. Newer data suggests that education in the South is on par with the nation, with 72% of high schoolers graduating compared to 73% nationwide. [102]


Street musicians in Maynardville, Tennessee, photographed in 1935 Maynardville-musicians-tn1.jpg
Street musicians in Maynardville, Tennessee, photographed in 1935

Several Southern states (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) were British colonies that sent delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence and then fought against the government along with the Northern colonies during the Revolutionary War. [103] The basis for much Southern culture derives from the pride in these states being among the 13 original colonies, and from the fact that much of the population of the South has strong ancestral links to Colonists who emigrated west. Southern manners and customs reflect the relationship with England that was held by the early population.

Overall, the South has had lower percentages of high school graduates, lower housing values, lower household incomes, and lower cost of living than the rest of the United States. [104] These factors, combined with the fact that Southerners have continued to maintain strong loyalty to family ties, has led some sociologists to label white Southerners an ethnic or quasi-ethnic group, [105] [106] though this interpretation has been subject to criticism on the grounds that proponents of the view do not satisfactorily indicate how Southerners meet the criteria of ethnicity. [107]

The predominant culture of the South has its origins with the settlement of the region by large groups of people from parts of southern England such as Sussex, Kent, the West Country, and East Anglia who moved to the Tidewater and the eastern parts of the Deep South in the 17th and early 18th centuries, Northern English, Scots lowlanders and Ulster-Scots (later called the Scotch-Irish) who settled in Appalachia and the Piedmont in the mid to late 18th century, [108] and the many African slaves who were part of the Southern economy. African-American descendants of the slaves brought into the South compose the United States' second-largest racial minority, accounting for 12.1 percent of the total population according to the 2000 census. Despite Jim Crow era outflow to the North, the majority of the black population remains concentrated in the Southern states, and has heavily contributed to the cultural blend (Christianity, foods, art, music (see spiritual, blues, jazz and rock and roll)) that characterize Southern culture today.

In previous censuses, the largest ancestry group identified by Southerners was English or mostly English, [48] [109] [110] with 19,618,370 self-reporting "English" as an ancestry on the 1980 census, followed by 12,709,872 listing "Irish" and 11,054,127 "Afro-American". [48] [109] [110] Almost a third of all Americans who claim English ancestry can be found in the American South, and over a quarter of all Southerners claim English descent as well. [111] The South also continues to have the highest percentage of African Americans in the country, due to the history of slavery.[ citation needed ]


The South has had a majority of its population adhering to evangelical Protestantism ever since the Second Great Awakening, [112] although the upper classes often stayed Anglican/Episcopalian or Presbyterian. The First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening from about 1742 about 1850 generated large numbers of Methodists and Baptists, which remain the two main Christian confessions in the South. [113] By 1900, the Southern Baptist Convention had become the largest Protestant denomination in the whole United States with its membership concentrated in rural areas of the South. [114] [115] Baptists are the most common religious group, followed by Methodists, Pentecostals and other denominations. Roman Catholics historically were concentrated in Maryland, Louisiana, and Hispanic areas such as South Texas and South Florida and along the Gulf Coast. The great majority of black Southerners are either Baptist or Methodist. [116] Statistics show that Southern states have the highest religious attendance figures of any region in the United States, constituting the so-called Bible Belt. [117] Pentecostalism has been strong across the South since the late 19th century. [118]

Northern and Latin influences

Apart from its climate, the living experience in the South increasingly resembles the rest of the nation. The arrival of millions of Northerners has reshaped the culture of major metropolitan areas and coastal areas. [119] Observers conclude that collective identity and Southern distinctiveness are thus declining, particularly when defined against "an earlier South that was somehow more authentic, real, more unified and distinct". [120]

While Hispanics have long been a major factor in Texas, millions more have arrived in other Southern states in recent years bringing values not rooted in local traditions. [121] [122] [123] Historian Raymond Mohl emphasizes the role of NAFTA in lowering trade barriers and facilitating large-scale population movements. He adds other factors such as ongoing economic crisis in Mexico, new more liberal immigration policies in the United States, labor recruitment and smuggling, that have produced a major flow of Mexican and Hispanic migration to the southeast. That region's low-wage, low-skill economy readily hired cheap, reliable, nonunion labor, without asking applicants too many questions about legal status. [124] [125] Richard J. Gonzales argues that the rise of La Raza (Mexican American community) in terms of numbers and influence in politics, education, and language and cultural rights will grow rapidly in Texas by 2030 when demographers predict Hispanics will outnumber Anglos in Texas. [126] However thus far their political participation and the Latino vote have been low, so the potential political impact is much higher than the actual one thus far. [127] [128]

Scholars have suggested that in the Deep South collective identity and Southern distinctiveness are thus declining, particularly when defined against "an earlier South that was somehow more authentic, real, more unified and distinct". [120] On the other hand, Southerners have moved west in large numbers, especially to California and to the Midwest, Thus, journalist Michael Hirsh proposed that aspects of Southern culture have spread throughout a greater portion of the rest of the United States in a process termed "Southernization". [129]


Racial integration

Racial integration of all-white collegiate sports teams was high on the regional agenda in the 1950s and 1960s. Involved were issues of equality, racism, and the alumni demand for the top players needed to win high-profile games. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) took the lead. First they started to schedule integrated teams from the North. The wake-up call came in 1966 when Don Haskins's Texas Western College team with five black starters upset the all-white University of Kentucky team to win the NCAA national basketball championship. [130] That happened at a time when there were no black varsity basketball teams in either the Southeastern Conference or the Southwest Conference. Finally ACC schools—typically under pressure from boosters and civil rights groups—integrated their teams. [131] [132] With an alumni base that dominated local and state politics, society and business, the ACC flagship schools were successful in their endeavor—as Pamela Grundy argues, they had learned how to win:

The widespread admiration that athletic ability inspired would help transform athletic fields from grounds of symbolic play to forces for social change, places where a wide range of citizens could publicly and at times effectively challenge the assumptions that cast them as unworthy of full participation in U.S. society. While athletic successes would not rid society of prejudice or stereotype—black athletes would continue to confront racial slurs...[minority star players demonstrated] the discipline, intelligence, and poise to contend for position or influence in every arena of national life. [133]

American football

Alabama plays Texas in American football for the 2010 BCS National Championship Game 2010 BCS Champ.jpg
Alabama plays Texas in American football for the 2010 BCS National Championship Game

American football, especially at the college and high school level, is by far the most popular team sport in most areas of the Southern United States.

The region is home to numerous decorated and historic college football programs, particularly in the Southeastern Conference (known as the "SEC"), Atlantic Coast Conference (known as the "ACC"), and the Big 12 Conference. The SEC, consisting entirely of teams based in Southern states, is widely considered to be the strongest league in contemporary college football and includes the Alabama Crimson Tide, the program with the most national championships in the sport's history. The sport is also highly competitive and has a spectator following at the high school level, particularly in rural areas where high school football games often serve as prominent community gatherings.

Though not as popular on a wider basis as the collegiate game, professional football also has a growing tradition in the Southern United States. Before league expansion began in the 1960s, the only established professional team based in the South was the Washington Redskins. Now the Washington Football Team, they still retain a large following in most of Virginia, and parts of Maryland. [134] Later on, the merger-era National Football League began to expand into the football-crazed Deep South in the 1960s with franchises like the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, Miami Dolphins, and most prominently the Dallas Cowboys, who overtook Washington as the region's most popular team and eventually became widely considered the most popular team in the United States. In later decades, NFL expansion into Southern states continued, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Carolina Panthers added to the league, while the Houston Oilers were replaced by the Houston Texans after the Oilers relocated to Nashville to become the Tennessee Titans.

(avg/game) [135]
1 Alabama Crimson Tide FootballNCAA (SEC)101,562
2 LSU Tigers FootballNCAA (SEC)100,819
3 Texas A&M Aggies Football NCAA (SEC)99,844
4 Texas Longhorns FootballNCAA (Big 12)97,713
5 Tennessee Volunteers FootballNCAA (SEC)92,984
6 Georgia Bulldogs FootballNCAA (SEC)92,746
7 Oklahoma Sooners FootballNCAA (Big 12)86,735
8 Auburn Tigers FootballNCAA (SEC)84,462
9 Florida Gators FootballNCAA (SEC)82,328
10 Clemson Tigers FootballNCAA (ACC)80,400
11 South Carolina Gamecocks FootballNCAA (SEC)73,628
12 Florida State Seminoles FootballNCAA (ACC)68,288
13 Miami Hurricanes FootballNCAA (ACC)61,469
14 Louisville Cardinals FootballNCAA (ACC)61,290
15 Oklahoma State Cowboys FootballNCAA (Big 12)60,218
16 Virginia Tech Hokies FootballNCAA (ACC)59,574
17 West Virginia Mountaineers FootballNCAA (Big 12)58,158
18 Mississippi State Bulldogs FootballNCAA (SEC)58,057
19 Kentucky Wildcats FootballNCAA (SEC)57,572
20 NC State Wolfpack FootballNCAA (ACC)56,855
21 Texas Tech Red Raiders FootballNCAA (Big 12)56,034
22 Ole Miss Rebels FootballNCAA (SEC)55,685
23 Baylor Bears FootballNCAA (Big 12)44,915


Houston vs Texas face-off during the Lone Star Series in the American League West division of Major League Baseball Lone Star Series, Houston Astros vs Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, 2013.jpg
Houston vs Texas face-off during the Lone Star Series in the American League West division of Major League Baseball

Baseball has been played in the Southern United States since at least the years leading up to the American Civil War. It was traditionally more popular than American football until the 1980s, and still accounts for the largest annual attendance amongst sports played in the South. The first mention of a baseball team in Houston was on April 11, 1861. [136] [137] 19th century and early 20th century games were common, especially once the professional leagues such as the Texas League, the Dixie League, and the Southern League were organized.

The short-lived Louisville Colonels were a part of the early National League and American Association, but ceased to exist in 1899. The first Southern Major League Baseball team after the Colonels appeared in 1962 when the Houston Colt .45s (known today as the Houston Astros) were enfranchised. Later, the Atlanta Braves came in 1966, followed by the Texas Rangers in 1972, and finally the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays in the 1990s.

College baseball appears to be more well attended in the Southern U.S. than elsewhere, as teams like Florida State, Arkansas, LSU, Virginia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Florida and Texas are commonly at the top of the NCAA's attendance. [138] The South generally produces very successful collegiate baseball teams as well, with Virginia, Vanderbilt, LSU, South Carolina, Florida and Coastal Carolina winning recent College World Series Titles.

The following is a list of each MLB team in the Southern U.S. and the total fan attendance for 2019:

RankTeamLeague2019 overall
annual attendance [139]
1 Houston Astros American League 2,857,367
2 Atlanta Braves National League 2,654,920
3 Washington Nationals National League 2,259,781
4 Texas Rangers American League 2,133,004
5 Baltimore Orioles American League 1,307,807
6 Tampa Bay Rays American League 1,178,735
7 Miami Marlins National League 811,302

Auto racing

The start of the 2015 Daytona 500, the biggest race in NASCAR, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida Green flag at Daytona.JPG
The start of the 2015 Daytona 500, the biggest race in NASCAR, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida

The Southern states are commonly associated with stock car racing and its most prominent competition NASCAR, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The sport was developed in the South in the early 20th century, with stock car racing's historic mecca being Daytona Beach, Florida, where cars initially raced on the wide, flat beachfront before the construction of Daytona International Speedway. Though the sport has attained a following throughout the United States, a majority of NASCAR races continue to take place at Southern tracks.


Basketball is very popular throughout the Southern United States as both a recreational and spectator sport, particularly in the states of Kentucky and North Carolina which are home to several college basketball programs, the most prominent of which are the Kentucky Wildcats, Louisville Cardinals, Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels.

NBA teams based in the South include the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and Miami Heat. Since the 21st century, the Spurs and Heat in particular have become prominent within the NBA, with eight championships won by the two between 1999 and 2013.


Golf is a popular recreational sport in most areas of the South, with the region's warm climate allowing it to host many professional tournaments and numerous destination golf resorts, particularly in the state of Florida. The region is home to The Masters, an elite invitational competition played at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, which has become one of the professional game's most important tournaments.


In recent decades association football, known in the South as in the rest of the United States as "soccer", has become a popular sport at youth and collegiate levels throughout the region. The game has been historically widespread at the college level in the Atlantic coast states of Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas, which contain many of the nation's most successful college soccer programs.

The establishment of Major League Soccer has led to professional soccer clubs in the Southern cities including FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, D.C. United, Orlando City, Inter Miami CF, Nashville SC, Atlanta United and the future Austin FC and Charlotte FC.The current United States second division soccer league, the USL Championship, was initially geographically based in the coastal Southeast around clubs in Charleston, Richmond, Charlotte, Wilmington, Raleigh, Virginia Beach, and Atlanta.

Major sports teams in the South

The Southern region is home to numerous professional sports franchises in the "Big Four" leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB), with more than 100 championships collectively among them.


Nine Southern states have obesity rates exceeding thirty percent of the population, the highest in the country: Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas. [140] [141] Rates for hypertension and diabetes for these states are also the highest in the nation. [141] A study reported that six Southern states have the worst incidence of sleep disturbances in the nation, attributing the disturbances to high rates of obesity and smoking. [142] The South has a higher percentage of obese people [143] and diabetics. [144] It has the largest number of people dying from stroke. [145] and the highest rates of cognitive decline. [146] Life expectancy is lower and death rates are higher in the South than in other regions of the United States for all racial groups. [147] [148] This disparity reflects substantial divergence between the South and other regions since the middle of the 20th century. [149]

The East South Central Census Division of the United States (made up of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama) had the highest rate of inpatient hospital stays in 2012. The other divisions, West South Central (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) and South Atlantic (West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida) ranked seventh and fifth, respectively. [150] The South had a significantly higher rate of hospital discharges in 2005 than other regions of the United States, but the rate had declined to be closer to the overall national rate by 2011. [151]

For cancer in a region, the South, particularly an axis from West Virginia through Texas, leads the nation in adult obesity, adult smoking, low exercise, low fruit consumption, low vegetable consumption, all known cancer risk factors, [152] which matches a similar high risk axis in "All Cancers Combined, Death Rates by State, 2011" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [153]


While this Confederate Flag pattern is the one most often thought of as the Confederate Flag today, it was actually just one of many used by the Confederate armed forces. Variations of this design served as the Battle Flag of the Armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee, and as the Confederate Naval Jack, albeit with different shades. Confederate Rebel Flag.svg
While this Confederate Flag pattern is the one most often thought of as the Confederate Flag today, it was actually just one of many used by the Confederate armed forces. Variations of this design served as the Battle Flag of the Armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee, and as the Confederate Naval Jack, albeit with different shades.
A rally against school integration in 1959. Little Rock integration protest.jpg
A rally against school integration in 1959.

In the first decades after Reconstruction, when white Democrats regained power in the state legislatures, they began to make voter registration more complicated, to reduce black voting. With a combination of intimidation, fraud and violence by paramilitary groups, they suppressed black voting and turned Republicans out of office. From 1890 to 1908, ten of eleven states ratified new constitutions or amendments that effectively disenfranchised most black voters and many poor white voters. This disfranchisement persisted for six decades into the 20th century, depriving blacks and poor whites of all political representation. Because they could not vote, they could not sit on juries. They had no one to represent their interests, resulting in state legislatures consistently underfunding programs and services, such as schools, for blacks and poor whites. [154] Scholars have characterized pockets of the Southern United States as being "authoritarian enclaves" from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Act. [14] [15] [16] [17]

With the collapse of the Republican Party in nearly all parts of the South, the region became known as the “Solid South”, and the Democratic Party after 1900 moved to a system of primaries to select their candidates. Victory in a primary was tantamount to election. From the late 1870s to the 1960s, only rarely was a state or national Southern politician a Republican, apart from a few Appalachian mountain districts. [155] [156] Republicans, however, continued to control parts of the Appalachian Mountains and compete for power in the Border States. Apart from a few states (such as the Byrd Machine in Virginia, the Crump Machine in Memphis), and a few other local organizations, the Democratic Party itself was very lightly organized. It managed primaries but party officials had little other role. To be successful a politician built his own network of friends, neighbors and allies. Reelection was the norm, and the result from 1910 to the late 20th century was that Southern Democrats in Congress had accumulated seniority, and automatically took the chairmanships of all committees. [157] By the 1940s the Supreme Court began to find disfranchisement measures like the “grandfather clause” and the white primary unconstitutional. Southern legislatures quickly passed other measures to keep blacks disfranchised, even after suffrage was extended more widely to poor whites. Because white Democrats controlled all the Southern seats in Congress they had outsize power in Congress and could sidetrack or filibuster efforts by Northerners to pass legislation against lynching, for example.

Increasing support for civil rights legislation by the national Democratic Party beginning in 1948 caused segregationist Southern Democrats to nominate Strom Thurmond on a third-party “Dixiecrat” ticket in 1948. These Dixiecrats returned to the party by 1950, but Southern Democrats held off Republican inroads in the suburbs by arguing that only they could defend the region from the onslaught of northern liberals and the civil rights movement. In response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954, 101 Southern congressmen (19 senators, 82 House members of which 99 were Southern Democrats and 2 were Republicans) in 1956 denounced the Brown decisions as a "clear abuse of judicial power [that] climaxes a trend in the federal judiciary undertaking to legislate in derogation of the authority of Congress and to encroach upon the reserved rights of the states and the people." The manifesto lauded, “...those states which have declared the intention to resist enforced integration by any lawful means”. It was signed by all Southern senators except Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, and Tennessee senators Albert Gore, Sr. and Estes Kefauver. Virginia closed schools in Warren County, Prince Edward County, Charlottesville, and Norfolk rather than integrate, but no other state followed suit. Democratic governors Orval Faubus of Arkansas, Ross Barnett of Mississippi, John Connally of Texas, Lester Maddox of Georgia, and, especially, George Wallace of Alabama resisted integration and appealed to a rural and blue-collar electorate. [158]

US president Lyndon B. Johnson signs the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lyndon Johnson signing Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964.jpg
US president Lyndon B. Johnson signs the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The northern Democrats’ support of civil rights issues culminated when Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which ended legal segregation and provided federal enforcement of voting rights for blacks. In the presidential election of 1964, Barry Goldwater’s only electoral victories outside his home state of Arizona were in the states of the Deep South where few blacks could vote before the 1965 Voting Rights Act. [159]

Pockets of resistance to integration in public places broke out in violence during the 1960s by the shadowy Ku Klux Klan, which caused a backlash among moderates. [160] Major resistance to school busing extending into the 1970s. [161]

National Republicans such as Richard Nixon began to develop their Southern strategy to attract conservative white Southerners, especially the middle class and suburban voters, in addition to migrants from the North and traditional GOP pockets in Appalachia. The transition to a Republican stronghold in the South took decades. First, the states started voting Republican in presidential elections, except for native sons Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Then the states began electing Republican senators and finally governors. Georgia was the last state to do so, with Sonny Perdue taking the governorship in 2002. [162] In addition to its middle class and business base, Republicans cultivated the religious right and attracted strong majorities from the evangelical or Fundamentalist vote, mostly Southern Baptists, which had not been a distinct political force prior to 1980. [163]

After the 2012 elections, the eleven states of the former Confederacy were represented by 98 Republicans, 40 Democrats. [164]

Presidents from the South

The South produced nine of the first twelve Presidents prior to the Civil War. For more than a century after the Civil War, no politician from an antebellum slave state became president unless he either moved North (like Woodrow Wilson) or was vice president when the president died in office (like Andrew Johnson, Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson). In 1976, Jimmy Carter defied this trend and became the first Southerner to break the pattern since Zachary Taylor in 1848. The South has produced five of the last nine American Presidents: Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–69), Jimmy Carter (1977–81), George H. W. Bush (1989–93), Bill Clinton (1993–2001) and George W. Bush (2001–2009). Johnson was a native of Texas, while Carter is from Georgia, and Clinton from Arkansas. While George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush began their political careers in Texas, they were both born in New England and have their ancestral roots in that region.

Other politicians and political movements

Bill Clinton, newly elected Governor of Arkansas speaking with Jimmy Carter in 1978. Carter and Clinton were both Southern Democrats and elected to the presidencies in 1976 and 1992. Bill Clinton 1978.jpg
Bill Clinton, newly elected Governor of Arkansas speaking with Jimmy Carter in 1978. Carter and Clinton were both Southern Democrats and elected to the presidencies in 1976 and 1992.

The South has produced various nationally known politicians and political movements. In 1948, a group of Democratic congressmen, led by Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, split from the Democrats in reaction to an anti-segregation speech given by Minneapolis mayor and future senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota. They founded the States Rights Democratic or Dixiecrat Party. During that year's presidential election, the party ran Thurmond as its candidate and he carried four Deep South states.

In the 1968 Presidential election, Alabama Governor George C. Wallace ran for president on the American Independent Party ticket. Wallace ran a “law and order” campaign similar to that of Republican candidate, Richard Nixon. Nixon's Southern Strategy of gaining electoral votes downplayed race issues and focused on culturally conservative values, such as family issues, patriotism, and cultural issues that appealed to Southern Baptists.

In the 1994 mid-term elections, another Southern politician, Newt Gingrich, led the Republican Revolution, ushering in twelve years of GOP control of the House. Gingrich became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in 1995 and served until his resignation in 1999. Tom DeLay was the most powerful Republican leader in Congress[ citation needed ] until he was indicted under criminal charges in 2005 and was forced to step aside by Republican rules.[ citation needed ] Apart from Bob Dole from Kansas (1985–96), the recent Republican Senate Leaders have been Southerners: Howard Baker (1981–1985) of Tennessee, Trent Lott (1996–2003) of Mississippi, Bill Frist (2003–2006) of Tennessee, and Mitch McConnell (2007–present) of Kentucky.

The Republicans candidates for president have won the South in elections since 1972, except for 1976. The region is not, however, entirely monolithic, and every successful Democratic candidate since 1976 has claimed at least three Southern states. Barack Obama won Florida, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, and Virginia in 2008 but did not repeat his victory in North Carolina during his 2012 reelection campaign. [165]

Race relations

Native Americans

Native Americans had lived in the south for nearly 12,000 years. They were defeated by settlers in a series of wars ending in the War of 1812 and the Seminole Wars, and most were removed west to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma and Kansas), but large numbers of Native Americans managed to stay behind by blending into the surrounding society. This was especially true of the wives of Euro-American merchants and miners.[ citation needed ]

Civil rights movement

The South witnessed two major events in the lives of 20th century African Americans: the Great Migration and the American Civil Rights Movement.

The Great Migration began during World War I, hitting its high point during World War II. During this migration, blacks left the South to find work in Northern factories and other sectors of the economy. [166]

The migration also empowered the growing Civil Rights Movement. While the movement existed in all parts of the United States, its focus was against disfranchisement and the Jim Crow laws in the South. Most of the major events in the movement occurred in the South, including the Montgomery bus boycott, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the March on Selma, Alabama, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In addition, some of the most important writings to come out of the movement were written in the South, such as King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail". Most of the civil rights landmarks can be found around the South. The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument in Birmingham includes the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute which details Birmingham's role as the center of the Civil Rights Movement. The 16th Street Baptist Church served as a rallying point for coordinating and carrying out the Birmingham campaignas well as the adjacent Kelly Ingram Park that served as ground zero for the infamous children's protest that eventually led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been rededicated as a place of "Revolution and Reconciliation" and is now the setting of moving sculptures related to the battle for Civil Rights in the city, both are center pieces of the Birmingham Civil Rights District. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta includes a museum that chronicles the American Civil Rights Movement as well as Martin Luther King Jr.'s boyhood home on Auburn Avenue. Additionally, Ebenezer Baptist Church is located in the Sweet Auburn district as is the King Center, location of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King's gravesites.

The Civil Rights Movement ended Jim Crow laws across the South. A second migration appears to be underway, with African Americans from the North moving to the South in record numbers. [167] While race relations are still a contentious issue in the South, the region surpasses the rest of the country in many areas of integration and racial equality. According to 2003 report by researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Virginia Beach, Charlotte, Nashville-Davidson, and Jacksonville were the five most integrated of the nation's fifty largest cities, with Memphis at number six. [168] Southern states tend to have a low disparity in incarceration rates between blacks and whites relative to the rest of the country. [169]

Racial segregation was required by state laws in the South until 1964. 1943 Colored Waiting Room Sign.jpg
Racial segregation was required by state laws in the South until 1964.

Congress ends segregation (1964) and guarantees voting rights (1965)

The decisive action ending segregation came when Congress in bipartisan fashion overcame Southern filibusters to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A complex interaction of factors came together unexpectedly in the period 1954–1965 to make the momentous changes possible. The Supreme Court had taken the first initiative in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) making segregation of public schools unconstitutional. Enforcement was rapid in the North and border states, but was deliberately stopped in the South by the movement called Massive Resistance, sponsored by rural segregationists who largely controlled the state legislatures. Southern liberals, who counseled moderation, where shouted down by both sides and have limited impact. Much more significant was the Civil Rights Movement, especially the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) headed by Martin Luther King Jr.. It largely displaced the old, much more moderate NAACP in taking leadership roles. King organize massive demonstrations, that seiozed massive media attention in an era when network television news was an innovative and universally watched phenomenon. [170] SCLC, student activists and smaller local organizations staged demonstrations across the South. National attention focused on Birmingham, Alabama, where protesters deliberately provoked Bull Connor and his police forces by using young teenagers as demonstrators – and Connor arrested 900 on one day alone. The next day Connor unleashed billy clubs, police dogs, and high-pressure water hoses to disperse and punish the young demonstrators with a brutality that horrified the nation. It was very bad for business, and for the image of a modernizing progressive urban South. President John F. Kennedy, who had been calling for moderation, threatened to use federal troops to restore order in Birmingham. The result in Birmingham was compromise by which the new mayor opened the library, golf courses, and other city facilities to both races, against the backdrop of church bombings and assassinations. [171] [172]

Confrontations continued to escalate, In summer 1963, there were 800 demonstrations in 200 southern cities and towns, with over 100,000 participants, and 15,000 arrests. In Alabama in June 1963 Governor George Wallace escalated the crisis by defying court orders to admit the first two black students to the University of Alabama. [173] Kennedy responded by sending Congress a comprehensive civil rights bill, and ordered Attorney General Robert Kennedy to file federal lawsuits against segregated schools, and to deny funds for discriminatory programs. Doctor King launched a massive march on Washington in August, 1963, bringing out 200,000 demonstrators in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the largest political assembly in the nation's history. The Kennedy administration now gave full-fledged support to the civil rights movement, but powerful southern congressman blocked any legislation. [174] After Kennedy was assassinated President Lyndon Johnson called for immediate passage of Kennedy civil rights legislation as a memorial to the martyred president. Johnson formed a coalition with Northern Republicans that led to passage in the House, and with the help of Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen with passage in the Senate early in 1964. For the first time in history, the southern filibuster was broken and The Senate finally passed its version on June 19 by vote of 73 to 27. [175] The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the most powerful affirmation of equal rights ever made by Congress. It guaranteed access to public accommodations such as restaurants and places of amusement, authorized the Justice Department to bring suits does desegregate facilities in schools, gave new powers to the Civil Rights Commission; and allowed federal funds to be cut off in cases of discrimination. Furthermore, racial, religious and gender discrimination was outlawed for businesses with 25 or more employees, as well as apartment houses. The South resisted until the last moment, but as soon as the new law was signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1963, it was widely accepted across the nation. There was only a scattering of diehard opposition, typified by restaurant owner Lester Maddox in Georgia, who became governor, but the great majority of restaurants and hotels in Georgia followed the new law as the business community realized that peaceful integration was the only way forward. [176] [177] [178] [179]


Some Southerners use the Confederate flag to identify themselves with the South, states' rights and Southern tradition. Groups, such as the League of the South, have a high regard for the secession movement of 1860, citing a desire to protect and defend Southern heritage. [180] Numerous political battles have erupted over flying the Confederate flag over state capitols, and the naming of public buildings or highways after Confederate leaders, the prominence of certain statues, and the everyday display of Confederate insignia. [181]

Other symbols of the South include the Bonnie Blue Flag, magnolia trees, and the song "Dixie". [182]

Major cities

The South was heavily rural as late as the 1940s, but now the population is increasingly concentrated in metropolitan areas. The following tables show the twenty largest cities, metropolitan, and combined statistical areas in the South. Houston is the largest city in the South.

Houston Houston night.jpg
San Antonio San Antonio Skyline.jpg
San Antonio
Dallas Dallas view.jpg
Austin Austin Evening.jpg
Jacksonville Jacksonville at Night (39527326802).jpg
Fort Worth Fort Worth Skyline1.jpg
Fort Worth
Charlotte Charlotte Skyline 2011 - Ricky W.jpg
Washington D.C. WashMonument WhiteHouse.jpg
Washington D.C.
El Paso Downtown El Paso at sunset.jpeg
El Paso
Nashville Nashville panorama Kaldari 01.jpg
Oklahoma City Downtown Oklahoma City skyline (2).jpg
Oklahoma City
RankCityStatePopulation [183] National Rank
1 Houston TX 2,340,8884
2 San Antonio TX 1,578,0277
3 Dallas TX 1,382,2679
4 Austin TX 988,21811
5 Fort Worth TX 932,11612
6 Jacksonville FL 926,37113
7 Charlotte NC 905,31816
8 Washington DC 720,68720
9 El Paso TX 685,57522
10 Nashville TN 673,16723
11 Oklahoma City OK 655,40727
12 Memphis TN 647,37428
13 Louisville KY 624,89029
14 Baltimore MD 590,47930
15 Atlanta GA 523,73836
16 Miami FL 486,38839
17 Raleigh NC 481,95841
18 Virginia Beach VA 447,84144
19 Tampa FL 413,70447
20 Arlington TX 402,76248

Major counties

RankCountySeatStatePopulation [184]
1 Harris County Houston TX 4,698,619
2 Miami-Dade County Miami FL 2,794,990
3 Dallas County Dallas TX 2,637,772
4 Tarrant County Fort Worth TX 2,084,931
5 Bexar County San Antonio TX 1,986,049
6 Broward County Fort Lauderdale FL 1,951,260
7 Palm Beach County West Palm Beach FL 1,485,941
8 Hillsborough County Tampa FL 1,436,888
9 Orange County Orlando FL 1,380,645
10 Travis County Austin TX 1,248,743
11 Fairfax County Fairfax VA 1,150,795
12 Mecklenburg County Charlotte NC 1,093,901
13 Wake County Raleigh NC 1,092,305
14 Montgomery County Rockville MD 1,052,567
15 Fulton County Atlanta GA 1,050,114
16 Collin County McKinney TX 1,005,146
17 Pinellas County Clearwater FL 975,280
18 Duval County Jacksonville FL 950,181
19 Shelby County Memphis TN 935,764
20 Gwinnett County Lawrenceville GA 927,781

Major metropolitan areas

RankMetropolitan Statistical AreaState(s)Population
(2018 est.) [185]
National Rank
1 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington TX 7,573,1364
2 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land TX 6,997,3845
3 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria VA-MD-WV-DC 6,280,4876
4 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach FL 6,166,4887
5 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell GA 6,020,3649
6 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater FL 3,194,83118
7 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson MD 2,800,05321
9 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford FL 2,608,14723
8 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia NC-SC 2,636,88322
10 San Antonio-New Braunfels TX 2,518,03624
11 Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky* [186] OH-IN-KY 2,190,20929
12 Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos TX 2,168,31630
San Juan–Caguas–Guaynabo* PR 2,020,000 [187]
13 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin TN 1,930,96136
14 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC 1,676,82237
15 Jacksonville FL 1,559,51440
16 Oklahoma City-Norman OK 1,396,44541
17 Raleigh-Cary NC 1,362,54042
18 Memphis-Forrest City TN-MS-AR 1,350,62043
19 Richmond-Petersburg VA 1,291,90044
20 Louisville-Jefferson County* [188] KY-IN 1,297,31045

* Asterisk indicates part of the metropolitan area is outside the states classified as Southern by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Major combined statistical areas

RankCombined Statistical AreaState(s)Population (2017 est.) [189]
1 Washington-Baltimore-Arlington DC-MD-VA-WV-PA 9,764,315
2 Dallas-Fort Worth TX 7,846,293
3 Houston-The Woodlands-Baytown TX 7,093,190
4 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie FL 6,828,241
5 Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs GA 6,555,956
6 Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach FL 3,284,198
7 Charlotte-Concord NC-SC 2,684,121
8 Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville OH-KY-IN 2,238,265
9 Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill NC 2,199,459
10 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro TN 2,027,489
11 Virginia Beach-Norfolk VA-NC 1,829,195
12 Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point NC 1,663,532
13 Jacksonville-St. Marys-Palatka FL-GA 1,631,488
14 Louisville/Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Madison KY-IN 1,522,112
15 New Orleans-Metairie-Hammond LA-MS 1,510,162
16 Oklahoma City-Shawnee OK 1,455,935
17 Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson SC 1,460,036
18 Memphis-Forrest City TN-MS-AR 1,374,190
19 Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega AL 1,364,062
20 Tulsa-Muskogee-Bartlesville OK 1,160,612

Southern states and territories

RankStateCapitalNational RankPopulation [190]
1 Texas Austin 229,472,295
2 Florida Tallahassee 321,992,985
3 Georgia Atlanta 810,736,059
4 North Carolina Raleigh 910,611,862
5 Virginia Richmond 128,626,207
6 Tennessee Nashville 166,897,576
7 Maryland Annapolis 196,083,116
8 South Carolina Columbia 235,210,095
9 Alabama Montgomery 244,908,621
10 Louisiana Baton Rouge 254,645,184
11 Kentucky Frankfort 264,499,692
12 Oklahoma Oklahoma City 283,954,821
13 Arkansas Little Rock 333,038,999
14 Mississippi Jackson 352,989,260
15 West Virginia Charleston 401,778,070
16 Delaware Dover 46982,895

Outlying areas

RankTerritoryCapitalNational RankPopulation
Puerto Rico San Juan 3,193,694 [191]
U.S. Virgin Islands Charlotte Amalie 106,235 [192]

See also

Related Research Articles

American Civil War Internal war in the United States over slavery

The American Civil War was a civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865, fought between northern states loyal to the Union and southern states that had seceded to form the Confederate States of America. The civil war began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina just over a month after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North, which also included some geographically western and southern states, proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Confederate States of America unrecognized breakaway state in North America from 1861 to 1865

The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Confederate States or the Confederacy, was an unrecognized breakaway state in existence from February 8, 1861 to May 9, 1865, that fought against the United States of America during the American Civil War.

Reconstruction era Era of military occupation in the Southern United States after the American Civil War (1865–1877)

The Reconstruction era was the period in American history that lasted from 1863 to 1877 following the American Civil War (1861–65) and is a significant chapter in the history of American civil rights. Reconstruction ended the remnants of Confederate secession and abolished slavery, making the newly freed slaves citizens with civil rights ostensibly guaranteed by three new constitutional amendments. Reconstruction also refers to the attempt to transform the 11 Southern former Confederate states, as directed by Congress, and the role of the Union states in that transformation.

Dixiecrat Former United States political party (1948)

The States' Rights Democratic Party was a short-lived segregationist political party in the United States, active primarily in the South. It arose due to a Southern regional split in opposition to the Democratic Party. After President Harry S. Truman, a member of the Democratic Party, ordered integration of the military in 1948 and other actions to address civil rights of African Americans, many Southern conservative white politicians who objected to this course organized themselves as a breakaway faction. The Dixiecrats were determined to protect Southern states' rights to maintain racial segregation.

African Americans in the United States Congress

From the first United States Congress in 1789 through the 116th Congress in 2020, 162 African Americans have served in Congress. Meanwhile, the total number of all individuals who have served in Congress over history is 12,348. Of African Americans, 152 have served in the House of Representatives, 9 have served in the Senate, and 1 has served in both chambers. Voting members have totaled 156, with 6 serving as delegates. Party membership has been, 131 Democrats, and 31 Republicans. While 13 members founded the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 during the 92nd Congress, in the 116th Congress (2019-2020), 56 have served, with 54 Democrats and 2 Republicans.


In United States history, the term scalawag referred to white Southerners who supported Reconstruction policies and efforts after the conclusion of the American Civil War. As with the term carpetbagger, the word has a long history of use as a slur in Southern partisan debates. The opponents of the scalawags claimed they were disloyal to traditional values. The term is commonly used in historical studies as a descriptor of Southern white Republicans, although some historians have discarded the term due to its history of pejorative connotations.

Deep South Cultural region of the United States

The Deep South is a cultural and geographic subregion in the Southern United States. The term was first used to describe the states most dependent on plantations and chattel slavery during the early period of United States history. The region suffered economic ruin after the American Civil War and was a major site of caste tension during and after the Reconstruction era. State governments enshrined white supremacy as a guiding principle and worked to deny political rights and economic opportunities to black citizens, partly through Jim Crow laws. The Civil Rights Movement ushered in a new era, sometimes referred to as the New South. Before 1945, the Deep South was often referred to as the Cotton States, since cotton was the primary cash crop.

Origins of the American Civil War

Historians debating the origins of the American Civil War focus on the reasons why seven Southern states declared their secession from the United States, why they united to form the Confederate States of America, and why the North refused to let them go. While virtually all historians in the 21st century agree that conflicts over slavery caused the war, they disagree sharply regarding which kinds of conflict—ideological, economic, political, or social—were most important.


In the history of the United States, carpetbagger was a derogatory term applied by former Confederates to any person from the Northern United States who came to the Southern states after the American Civil War; they were perceived as exploiting the local populace. The term broadly included both individuals who sought to promote Republican politics, and individuals who saw business and political opportunities because of the chaotic state of the local economies following the war. In practice, the term carpetbagger was often applied to any Northerner who was present in the South during the Reconstruction Era (1863–1877). The term is closely associated with "scalawag", a similarly pejorative word used to describe native White Southerners who supported the Republican Party-led Reconstruction.

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 those 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.

Southern Democrats are members of the U.S. Democratic Party who reside in the Southern United States.

The Declaration of Constitutional Principles was a document written in February and March 1956, during the 84th United States Congress, in opposition to racial integration of public places. The manifesto was signed by 19 US Senators and 82 Representatives from the South. The signatories included the entire Congressional delegations from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia, most of the members from Florida and North Carolina, and several members from Tennessee and Texas. All of them were from former Confederate states. 99 were Democrats; two were Republicans.

History of the Southern United States

The history of the Southern United States reaches back hundreds of years and includes the Mississippian people, well known for their mound building. European history in the region began in the very earliest days of the exploration and colonization of North America. Spain, France, and England eventually explored and claimed parts of what is now the Southern United States, and the cultural influences of each can still be seen in the region today. In the centuries since, the history of the Southern United States has recorded a large number of important events, including the American Revolution, the American Civil War, the ending of slavery, and the American Civil Rights Movement.

In United States history, the Redeemers were a political coalition in the Southern United States during the Reconstruction Era that followed the Civil War. Redeemers were the Southern wing of the Democratic Party. They sought to regain their political power and enforce white supremacy. Their policy of Redemption was intended to oust the Radical Republicans, a coalition of freedmen, "carpetbaggers", and "scalawags". They generally were led by the rich former planters, businessmen, and professionals, and they dominated Southern politics in most areas from the 1870s to 1910.

Politics of the Southern United States

The politics of the Southern United States generally refers to the political landscape of the Southern United States. The institution of slavery has had a profound impact on the politics of the Southern United States, causing the Civil War, along with continued subjugation of African-Americans from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. From Reconstruction in the wake of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pockets of the Southern United States were "authoritarian enclaves". Scholars have linked the presence of slavery to contemporary political attitudes, including racial resentment among white Southerners.

Culture of the Southern United States Culture and traditions in the southern United States

The culture of the Southern United States, or Southern culture, is a subculture of the United States. The combination of its unique history and the fact that many Southerners maintain—and even nurture—an identity separate from the rest of the country has led to it being the most studied and written-about region of the U.S.

Upland South vernacular geographic region in the Southern United States

The terms Upland South and Upper South refer to the northern section of the Southern United States, in contrast to the Lower South or Deep South. It typically consists of North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and eastern Oklahoma, sometimes also Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and southern Illinois.

Disenfranchisement after the Reconstruction Era in the United States of America, especially in Southern states, was based on a series of laws, new constitutions, and practices in the South that were deliberately used to prevent black citizens from registering to vote and voting. These measures were enacted by the former Confederate states at the turn of the 20th century. Efforts were made in Maryland, Kentucky and Oklahoma. Their actions were designed to thwart the objective of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1870, which sought to protect the suffrage of freedmen after the American Civil War.

Southern Unionist White Southerners living in the Confederate States of America, opposed to secession, and against the Civil War

In the United States, Southern Unionists were white Southerners living in the Confederate States of America, opposed to secession, and against the Civil War. These people are also referred to as Southern Loyalists, Union Loyalists, or Lincoln's Loyalists. Pro-Confederates in the South derided them as Tories. During Reconstruction, these terms were replaced by “scalawag”, which covered all Southern whites who supported the Republican Party.

Historiography examines how the past has been viewed or interpreted. Historiographic issues about the American Civil War include the name of the war, the origins or causes of the war, and President Abraham Lincoln's views and goals regarding slavery.


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Further reading