.. of the main reasons of the success of the solid south was its emphasis on their past and the continuation of traditional government and upholding that legacy. More modernization continued through the turn of the century. There began to be good population booms in the urban areas. There was also a rapid expansion with industry.
Cities were beginning to center themselves the new mills, railroads, and trading ports. Cotton mills spread across the South and grew into large operations with more efficient machinery. New advancements in agriculture allowed for it to become less labor intensive. Therefore, lessening the need for many hired hands. Those workers went to the new urban factories for jobs, many were women and there were few blacks.
This quick urbanization of the South did not alter their way of life as much as one would have expected. “Southern towns and cities, no matter how hast they grew, still remained a rustic and rural character. The rural condition, whatever it was- poverty, filth, disease, individualism, fatalism- became the urban condition,’ historian David Goldfield has observed.” As the population began to grow and migrate out of the rural areas the Southerners’ simply carried their identity with them. Although their way of life had changed drastically from being mainly agrarian to industry, they kept up the same work ethic and class divides within the new economic structure. In the early 1900s and with the event of World War I, the South was not faced with normal conditions on which to build and grow from. Economically the South experienced a slight industrial boom with the beginning of the war.
Nationally, the South had to join together with the South as one country and the did so very successfully. They also experience a period of intense racism again with the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. There was much night riding and violence that took place at this time against all blacks. The main outcome of World War I was negative. The farmers had experienced a slight sensation of boom and then rapidly busted. An overproduction of cotton and foreign competition manufacturing synthetic fibers forced the economy into depression.
They were also troubled by bouts of bad luck ecologically, the flood of 1927 and droughts through out the 1930s. By 1929, they was a complete collapse of Southern agriculture. “Farmers watched their fortunes decline in the 1920s, ans as depression struck, many more went broke and became sharecroppers or left the land to huddle in small towns or cities or fled north or west in search of opportunity. Factories closed, unemployed workers with no government program to help, roamed the land looking for work.” The depression effected everyone in the South. There was no money, no work, and little help. Rural areas and cities alike began to fall apart as citizens needed to migrate in search for work. It was not until Roosevelt’s New Deal that some progress was beginning to get made.
The New Deal brought new legislation to help farmers such as the Agriculture Adjustment Act and the Relief Act. There was also a National Industrial Recovery Act which controlled wages. Roosevelt’s legislation was targeted to rebuild the land through mechanization and expansion. It promoted change in the South, union growth, liberal ideals, and the emergence of the Southern proletariat. While many in the South seemed to be against unions they allowed for fair labor laws which bettered working conditions and helped industry. Economically, the New Deal aided the South in regaining its pride and helped to reestablish the Southern way of life.
Politically, the New Deal shifted white democratic power in the South. Black voters began to join along with the democratic party due to the favoritism of Roosevelt. This created a power shift that left the white Southern democrats as the minority in the democratic party. Democratic dominance did remain for the country. New Deal politics introduced social security, pro-union acts, and fair labor standards.
For there the South began to make a great recovery. Yet another war emerged to challenge the South. This was the onset of World War II following the New Deal. However, this war provided a much better ending for the South. In the 1940s there was a take off phase for industrialization. World War II brought and increase in defense spending.
“The advent of World War II brought great prosperity, for defense industries mushroomed, and military and naval installations were set up throughout the region to take advantage of the milder climates to train millions of fighting men outdoors. Towns became cities almost overnight, the former Confederate States of America experienced a boom time as never before.” Changes were also taking place in agriculture. As the cities began to prosper and the South began mechanization “the marginal subsistence farm was phased out, rural electrification brought lighting for homes and voltage power foe equipment to the remotest countryside, sharecropping and farm tenantry virtually disappeared, and the surplus labor force went to the expanding southern cities and to the industrial metropolises of the north and West to find jobs.” At the end of World War II, there surprisingly was no recession or economic hardship. The South continued to grow. Slowly the South began to stand on its own again and was no longer the economic problem of the nation and could once again feel independent and stable.
“The war left the South more prosperous then ever, but it also stirred up issues that had lain dormant for years. Some Southerners, upset at urbanization and at challenges to the color line, looked to the past for tradition. Others, realizing that a return to labor-intensive agriculture and a continuation of segregation and disenfranchisement was futile, dreamed of a future that would move the South closer to the nation at large.” This brought on one of the largest challenges that the South would ever endure, the Civil Right’s Movement. It first began gradually in the 30s and 40s, but came in full swing during the 1950s. This was a transformation of the South.
Blacks began to move with mass action and mainly non violent. Leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. were able to help their community by standing up and speaking for their rights. After Plessey vs Ferguson was over turned by Brown vs the Board of Education in 1954, segregation was no longer legal and their cause gained momentum. Despite mass resistance by many whites in the South, the rest of the nation began to come to a consensus that racial discrimination was wrong and should be ended. Blacks began to make their power known. They displayed it through voting tactics and boycotts and sit-ins such a the Montgomery bus boycott that ran the bus line out of commission. Racism began to be attacked internationally and President Truman responded by creating more legislation to help the Civil Right’s Movement. Anti-lynching and anti-poll tax laws were created along with the desegregation of the armed forces. The N.A.A.C.P.
which was formed in 1909/1910 began to fight harder for their rights as well. “Resistance to all this by whites was at first massive and determined, occasionally even violent, but there was also a strong element in white sentiment that favored compliance with the law and an end to racial injustice. In a surprisingly brief time the law do the land prevailed.” Desegregation of schools and public facilities continued with swift movement. Soon the South would be fully integrated socially. “Economic discrimination is by no means ended, and racial inequalities aplenty remain, but the onetime Confederacy now constitutes the most thoroughly integrated section of the nation.” Some people even felt that integration was for the best. After all this change and turmoil the question of is the South still Southern? exists.
And the answer is yes. Today people of the South still identify with the region, they are a part of a distinctive and separate part of the United States. From their accents to the wonderful Southern hospitality and values the South still remains distinct. It looks back and prides itself on tradition, culture, and the past. “To be a southerner today is still to be heir to a complex set of attitudes and affinities, assumption and instincts, that are the product of history acting upon geography.” When it comes down to the question of continuity and the lasting legend of the South, they have already faced many triumphs, progressions, and tragedies over the years that have only modified their ways.
The fact of living from the past and tradition is a part of their culture and will probably continue to be. “This is to say that, even allowing for the utmost diversity and extremes of individual experience, and encompassing attributes both good and bad, worthy and unworthy, there is a shared identity involved, and whatever the complexity of the ingredients that go to make it up, it works in direct and palable ways to cause its members to identify their concerns with those of a particular social and cultural allegiance.” This just signifies the fact that no matter what the South faces they are still able to maintain and even intensify their individuality while always looking back to the tradition of the Old South.