The Newness of the New South

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The New South
Overall main idea: Between 1877 and 1900, though the Southern economy increased in industrialization it was still dominated by struggling cotton agriculture, leading to farmer alliances.
The Newness of the New South

Main idea: After Reconstruction, the South progressed mostly economically but regressed in racial issues.

“The New South” – the term for the American South after Reconstruction, referring to its supposed progress, especially economically

Cities, towns, and industry did grow in the South, but was limited in its benefits for rural areas and the majority of Southerners

Solid South – white Democratic rule of the South between 1900 and 1950 with little political opposition

Some Southern white women challenged conventional social and economic roles, but little lasting change occurred

An Industrial and Urban South

Main idea: The South increased in industry, urbanization, and railroads during the late 1800s.

Birmingham, AL challenged Pittsburgh as a steel-making city

By 1900, Southern textile manufacturing (especially in the Carolinas) had surpassed New England’s. Most mills were located in rural areas and employed many women and children.

Virginia and the Carolinas dominated tobacco production in the United States, especially Duke’s American Tobacco Company in North Carolina. A new strain of tobacco allowed it to be easily formed into cigarettes in the late 1800s.

John Pemberton created and Asa Candler developed Coca-Cola in Atlanta in 1889, as a good-tasting cure for headaches; it grew quickly.

Railroad mileage doubled in the South between 1880 and 1890, and continued to increase rapidly. In 1886, Southern railroads agreed on a common track width, increasing efficiency and linkage with the rest of the country.

Railroads connected people formerly isolated otherwise, giving access to new markets and products.

Interior Southern cities developed while many Atlantic seacoast cities declined because of railroad commerce; examples were Dallas, Nashville, Charlotte, Birmingham, and especially Atlanta.
The Limits of Industrial and Urban Growth

Main idea: Though Southern industry increased in the late 1800s, it was limited by a lack of capital resources and so paled in comparison the industrial boom occurring in the North.

Southern manufacturing percentage, shares of capital, and per capita income actually slightly decreased during the late 1800s, despite “the New South” image of economic progress.

Southern workers were paid roughly half the national average for manufacturing—limited buying markets in the South, tax revenue for public reform (including education), and limited immigration to the South. The huge surge of New Immigration during this period did not enter the South because of its low wages compared to other areas.

Foreign-born population of the South actually decreased in the late 1800s.

Civil War wiped out Southern capital resources for investment and economic expansion.

Northern banks and companies owned or bought-out much of Southern industry, including railroads and Birmingham iron and steel. (Birmingham actually made steel cheaper than Pittsburgh, and so would’ve prospered more, but was limited by “Pittsburgh Plus” pricing, in which Northern financiers added a tax to Birmingham products to make Pittsburgh products more attractive.)

Lumber and textile industries remained small-scale and conservative, in isolated rural areas.

However, Duke’s tobacco industry was so profitable it had enough capital to expand and buy out competition, prospering. He eventually moved his headquarters to New York and left money for Duke University.

“Made in the South” became synonymous with cheap, bottom-of-the-line goods.

Farms to Cities: Impact on Southerners

Main idea: The industrialization and urbanization of the South affected society by offering new job opportunities, increased standard of living, and decreased power and wealth for traditional independent farmers.

Many failed farm families moved to mill towns, employing many young single men, women, and children for long work hours and little pay.

Industrialization (such as that among mill towns) did improve town facilities and standard of living, including paved roads, public schools, better transportation, cheap heating and lighting, and convenient water supplies.

New job opportunities for white men: bank clerks, book-keepers, merchants, salesmen; for white women: retail clerks, telephone operators, and office personnel; for black women: laundresses and domestic servants; for black men: unskilled labor, but limited and insecure.

Urbanization scared some Southerners and made them resistant, representing a “second Yankee conquest” or “the urban devil.”

White farm families faced the loss of their land and livelihood.
The Southern Agrarian Revolt

Main idea: Increased and sustained cotton production led to economic troubles for many Southerners.

Cotton dominated Southern agriculture after Reconstruction; cotton prices went down while inputs went up, leading to many struggling farmers
Cotton and Credit

Main idea: Southern farmers were tied to cotton through credit, debt, and lack of options.

“No cotton, no credit” was a common saying from merchants to farmers; if a farmer had no money, he had to pay cotton as collateral

Nearly half of Southern white farmers were sharecroppers or tenant farmers by the 1890s

Some diversification occurred, but it was difficult to turn away from cotton; few other crops were as profitable or easy to grow
Southern Farmers Organize, 1877-1892

Main idea: Faced with economic troubles, some Southern farmers organized into alliances to push for improvements.

Southern farmers wanted: debt-stay laws, fairer markets, lower interest rates, easier credit, regulated railroad rates, lower prices of necessities…

Republicans and Democrats both did not favor government regulation in the late 1800s—Redeemers favored large landowners and merchants, not small farmers. They portrayed themselves as the Redemption from black and Republican rule in order to stifle small farmer dissent.

National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, a.k.a. The Grange – one of the first farmer organizations after the Civil War, the Grange in the South pushed for community stores, cotton gins, and warehouses to bypass credit systems.

Agricultural Wheel – another farmers’ organization in the South in the 1880s, they sought to avoid merchant middlemen and pushed for federal regulation of credit issues

Southern Farmers’ Alliance – largest and most powerful of Southern farmer organizations after Reconstruction; created cooperatives with discounts for members, collective marketing of crops; led by Charles W. Macune after 1887.

The Alliance had a strong Christian religious element, which influenced new religious groups like the Church of God.

The Alliance allowed women and teenagers an active role in membership, but not blacks.

Colored Farmers’ Alliance – black farmers’ version of Southern Farmers’ Alliance

Alliance protest and boycott of jute manufacturers is successful, leading to decrease in jute prices

Macune proposed the subtreasury plan – Alliance farmers would store their cotton in a warehouse (“subtreasury”) until prices rose; in the meantime they would borrow money from the government at the value of the cotton stored, with little interest – an attempt to avoid merchants and high interest credit; subtreasury plan fails to gain backing from politicians

Drop in cotton prices and failure of subtreasury plan led to failure of the Alliance, who had to merge with the Populist Party
Southern Populists

Main idea: The Populist Party attempted economic aid to Southern farmers through politics, but met limited success only at a local level.

Populist (“People’s”) Party formed in Kansas in 1890; supported: direct election of Senators rather than by state legislatures, income tax, woman suffrage, government regulation or ownership of railroads, and easier credit.

Populists had a difficult situation in the South – they needed to join whites and blacks who had similar economic troubles, but strong racism (especially promoted by the “Solid South” “Redemption” Democratic party) undermined efforts. Democrats used racism to keep otherwise similar farmers apart. Populism was “the most dangerous and insidious foe of white supremacy.”

John B. Rayner of Texas was a well known black Populist and speaker; Tom Watson was a white Georgian Populist (who would later run for Vice-President) who initially supported black and white cooperation

Most blacks still supported the Republicans (“the party of Lincoln”) and were not as likely to be landowning farmers like most Populists

Populists finished third in 1892 Presidential election behind Harrison and Cleveland, but did win a few mostly local Southern elections; Populist Party falls apart around early 1900s (more on this in a later chapter)
Overall main idea: Between 1877 and 1900, though the Southern economy increased in industrialization it was still dominated by struggling cotton agriculture, leading to farmer alliances.

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