Southern United States
The U.S. South
Location in the U.S.
|Total Area:||2,384,143 km²|
|Largest City (proper):||Houston, Texas 2,009,834|
|Highest Elevation:||Guadalupe Peak 2,667 m|
|Lowest Elevation:||New Orleans -2.5 m|
|Largest State:||Texas 696,241 km²|
|Smallest State:||Delaware 6,452 km²|
|Census Bureau Divisions|
The U.S. Southern states or the South, also known colloquially as Dixie, constitute a distinctive region covering a large portion of the United States, with its own unique heritage, historical perspective, customs, musical styles, and cuisine. There are some overlaps with the Southwest, Midwest, and the Mid-Atlantic States.
Table of contents
As defined by the Census Bureau, the Southern region of the United States includes 16 states, and is split into three smaller units, or divisions: The South Atlantic States, which are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia (plus the District of Columbia); the East South Central States of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee; and the West South Central States of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
The largest city in the region is Houston, Texas, when measured in terms of population within city limits. The largest metropolitan area is the Washington, D.C. area, which includes Baltimore, Maryland. The Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area is also slightly larger than Houston.
Other important cities include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham, Charleston, Charlotte, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Lauderdale, Greensboro, Greenville, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, Mobile, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Raleigh, Richmond, San Antonio, Savannah, Tampa, Tulsa, and Washington.
The region has numerous climatic zones ranging from temperate, to sub-tropical, to tropical, to arid. Many crops grow easily in its soils and can be grown without frost for at least six months of the year. Some parts of the South, particularly the Southeast, have landscape characterized by the presence live oaks, magnolia trees, jessamine vines, and flowering dogwoods.
For main article, see History of the U.S. South
Settled predominately by British colonists in the early 17th century; the South, as it came to be known, developed as a culturally separate region of the United States. Early in its history, tobacco became one of the prime cash crops, while after the 1790s, cotton cultivation predominated. Also, the enslavement of Africans and their descendents as farm labor brought new sectional differences to the South. Integral in the political history of the United States, the South supplied many of the United States' early military and political leaders, including nine of its first fifteen presidents.
- George Washington of Virginia (term 1789 – 1797).
- Thomas Jefferson of Virginia (term 1801 – 1809).
- James Madison of Virginia (term 1809 – 1817).
- James Monroe of Virginia (term 1817 – 1825).
- Andrew Jackson of North Carolina (term (1829 – 1837).
- William Henry Harrison of Virginia (term 1841).
- John Tyler of Virginia (term 1841 – 1845).
- James Knox Polk of North Carolina (term (1845 – 1849).
- Zachary Taylor of Virginia (term 1849 – 1850).
Sectional differences surrounding the issues of taxation, tariffs, slavery, and states' rights led to the secession of most of the Southern states after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The Southern states that seceded formed the Confederate States of America, which was subsequently defeated by the Union during the American Civil War (1861-1865).
Devastated by its loss, and destruction of civil infrastructure, much of the South was generally unable to recover economically until World War II (1939 – 1945). Noted by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the "number one priority" in terms of need of assistance during the Great Depression (1929-1939), the lack of capital investment also contributed to its economic hardship.
Politics, populism and conservatism
While after the American Civil War and Reconstruction, Southerners often identified with the populist Democratic Party, this has changed in recent years (especially after the rise of special interests in the Democratic Party in the 1970s and the conservative realignment of the Reagan presidency) in the 1980s. As a result, the Republican Party has benefitted from Southern support, in large measure due to the evangelical Christian vote.
Although the South as a whole defies stereotyping, it is nonetheless known for entrenched political populism and conservatism. Additionally, support for traditional causes is often found in the South, including in resistance to same-sex marriage and abortion.
As the effects of slavery and racism fade, a new regional identity has developed through such events as the annual Spoleto Music Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Race relations continue to mark a heavily contested issue in the South, however, seen in debates over the inclusion of the Confederate flag in many state flags of the region.
The South, perhaps more so than any other industrial culture in the world, is highly religious, resulting in the reference to the South as the "Bible Belt", from its prevalence of evangelical Protestantism, conservative Catholicism, and other Christian faiths.
For main article, see Southern U.S. cuisine
As an important feature of Southern culture, the cuisine of the South is often described as one of its most distinctive traits. The variety of cuisines range from Tex-Mex, Cajun and Creole, traditional antebellum fare, all types of seafood, and Texas, Carolina & Memphis styles of Barbeque. Non-alcoholic beverages of choice include "iced tea", and various soft drinks, many of which had their origins in the South (e.g. Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, and Dr Pepper). Lagers and Pilsners are generally preferred to heavier/darker beers due to the predominance of hot climate. Texas is also the center of a burgeoning wine boom, due to its climate and well drained limestone based soils, particularly in the Texas Hill Country.
Traditional African-American Southern food is often called "soul food"; in reality there is little difference in the traditional diet of Southerners. Of course, most Southern cities and even some smaller towns now offer a wide variety of cuisines of other origins such as Chinese, Italian, French, Middle Eastern, as well as restaurants still serving primarily Southern specialites, so-called "home cooking" establishments.
Symbolism, Disagreements, and the Future of the South
Fights over the old "Rebel Flag" of the conquered Confederacy still occur from time to time, and it and other reminders of the Old South can sometimes be found on automobile bumper-stickers, on t-shirts, and flown from homes.
- Areas having an influx of outsiders may be less likely to hold onto a distinctly Southern identity and cultural influences. For this reason, urban areas during the war were less likely to favor secession than agricultural areas. Today, due in part to continuing population migration patterns between urban areas in the North and South, even historically "Southern" cities like Atlanta, Richmond, and Charleston, have assimilated regional identities distinct from a "Southern" one.
- In many ways Texas has one foot in the South, and one in the Southwest. Its major cities have a very culturally diverse population, including Hispanic and Asian-Americans. Also, prior to its statehood in 1907, Oklahoma was "Indian Territory." The majority of the Native American tribes in Oklahoma sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. Similar to Texas in that it has a Southwestern influence, Oklahoma holds strong ties to Southern culture, evidenced by dialect, religion, politics, cuisine, etc. It is geographically often grouped with the Midwest, but culturally is truly more Southern, especially in the eastern part of the state.
- Southern Louisiana, having been colonized by France and Spain rather than Great Britain, has different cultural traditions, especially within the Cajun, Creole, Latin American and Caribbean influenced culture of southern Louisiana. Importantly, the Gulf Coast regions of Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Florida also share a similar French/Spanish colonial history, but lack the heavy concentration of French influences present in Louisiana.
- Florida has had rapid population growth due to retirees from the North and immigrants from Latin America. Miami, Florida has become more a part of the culture of the Caribbean, with a large influx of immigrants from Cuba, and also Puerto Rico, Haiti and other parts of Latin America. Often, non-Hispanic whites and native-born African-Americans have migrated north to find higher wages, lower costs of living, and cultures where they feel more comfortable. While southern and central Florida are seen by many as not truly part of the South in terms of culture, the Florida Panhandle and northeastern areas of Florida remain culturally tied to the South. An unofficial "Southern line" can be drawn at or just south of Ocala, Florida; below this line, the culture of the areas can be described as much more "Northern."
- Portions of southern Ohio are advocated as "Southern", evidenced by the state's civil rights law that includes "persons of Appalachian ancestry" among the categories against which discrimination is prohibited. This group of Ohioans are generally concentrated in the southeastern part of the state, with "Appalachians" being viewed as separate from "Southerners" by many observers. Many Southerners do not recognize Kentucky, West Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland as "Southern" due to their allegiance to the Union during the Civil War.
- The culture of Northern Kentucky is more Midwestern than Southern, as this region is culturally and economically attached to Cincinnati. It should also be noted that many in Kentucky (generally, those in western and northern areas) do not believe themselves to be Southerners, historically or culturally. Conversely, Southern Indiana is more Southern than it is Midwestern, as it is culturally and—particularly in southwestern Indiana—economically attached to Louisville, Kentucky.
- Similarly, Southern Illinois, notably (Little Egypt and Buda), is more Southern than it is Midwestern. It forms a coherent cultural region with the Missouri Bootheel, northeast Arkansas, Kentucky's Purchase, and West Tennessee.
- Many do not consider Maryland and Delaware to be culturally Southern states; their cultural designation is disputed due to their proximity to both North and South. Those who view them as Southern cite the fact that although neither state joined the Confederacy, slavery remained legal in them until ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, and that the Mason-Dixon line, long considered to be the border between North and South, is in fact the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. Today, they are sometimes grouped with Southern states for corporate and governmental administrative regions. However, Baltimore, Maryland, Wilmington, Delaware, and Newark, Delaware lie along the Northeast Corridor, which further separates them from the South, and ties them to a culture that has little in common with Southern culture. In addition, they are much more liberal than any other region in the defined South, sharing political trends with the Northeastern states.
- Northern Virginia has been largely settled by Northerners attracted to job opportunities resulting from expansion of the federal government during and after World War II. Still more expansion resulted from the Internet boom around the turn of the 21st century. Economically linked to Washington, D.C., residents of the region tend to consider it part of the North, as do Southerners. However, it remains politically somewhat conservative, as opposed to Washington's suburbs across the Potomac River in Maryland, which are generally politically quite liberal.
- Thomas G. Paterson, ed. (1999). Major Problems in the History of the American South. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0–395–87139–5.
- Bertram Wyatt-Brown (1990). Honor and Violence in the Old South. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0–19–504242–5.
- Peter Kolchin (1993). American Slavery: 1619–1877. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 0–8090–1630–3.
- William C. Davis (2003). Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0–684–86585–8.
- DocSouth: Documenting the American South – numerous online text, image, and audio collections.
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