New South

New South

New South, New South Democracy or New South Creed is a phrase that has been used intermittently since the American Civil War to describe the American South, after 1877. The term "New South" is used in contrast to the Old South of the plantation system of the antebellum period.

The term has been used with different applications in mind. The original use of the term "New South" was an attempt to describe an industrial and less slave reliant South. The industrial revolution of the North greatly influenced the "New South." The antebellum South was largely agrarian and sought to preserve its cultural identity in departing from the Union, which led to the irrepressible conflict. After the war, the South was impoverished and seemed to be in great need of an alternative economy. The New South was no longer to be dependent on banned slave labor or predominantly upon the raising of cotton, but rather industrialized and part of a modern national economy. Henry W. Grady made this term popular in his articles and speeches as editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Richard H. Edmonds of the Baltimore Manufacturers Record was another staunch advocate of New South industrialization. The Manufacturers Record was one of the most widely read and powerful publications among turn of the twentieth century industrialists. One way of envisioning the New South was the socialist Ruskin Colonies.[1] The historian Paul Gaston[2] coined the specific term "New South Creed" to describe the hollow promises of white elites like Grady that industrialization would bring prosperity to the region.

Northern Influx The term New South has also been used to describe the growth of the increase of Northern families to the south. At times these communities have been considered unwelcome outsiders. This is especially true in the town of Cary, NC which can stand for Containment Area for Relocated Yankees. The New South campaign was championed by Southern elites often outside of the old planter class who previously owned slaves, in hopes of forming partnerships with Northern capitalists in order to strengthen the social, political and economic status quo of the South. They in turn expected to situate themselves as equals to northern investors. From Henry Grady to Booker T. Washington, New South advocates wanted southern economic regeneration, sectional reconciliation, racial harmony and their idea of the gospel of work.


White Supremacy

It cannot be overlooked that ideas for the rise of the New South involved the supremacy of whites over blacks. For example, Grady stated in an 1888 speech about the New South: "the supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards, because the white race is the superior race... [This declaration] shall run forever with the blood that feeds Anglo-Saxon hearts".[3]

The 20th Century

The Great Depression and World War II

The economic woes of the Great Depression dampened much New South enthusiasm as investment capital dried up and the rest of the nation began to view the South as a large economic failure. World War II ushered in a degree of economic prosperity as efforts to industrialize in support of the War effort were employed. In the southern mountains, the Tennessee Valley Authority built dams, and generated employment and electricity that affected numerous residents and manufacturers alike. Other southern industries, such as mining, steel, and ship building flourished during World War II and set the stage for increased industrialization, urban development, and economic prosperity in southern ports and cities in the second half of the 20th century.

The beginnings of the Civil Rights era in the 1960s led to a revival of the term to describe a South which would no longer be held back by Jim Crow Laws and other aspects of compulsory legal segregation. Again, the initially slow pace of the Civil Rights era reforms, notably in the areas of school desegregation and voting rights, at first made the "New South" more of a slogan than a description of the South as it was; the Civil Rights Act of 1964[4] and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 brought an era of far more rapid change.

For many years, this "New South" was more of a slogan of civic boosters than a reality in many areas. Racial conflict during the Civil Rights Movement gave the south a backward image in popular culture. But in the 1960s the black population was enfranchised and represented in many political offices. In the post World War II era, American textiles makers and other light industry moved en masse to the South, so as to capitalize on low wages, social conservatism, and anti-union sentiments.[5] With the industrialization of the South came economic change, migration, immigration and population growth. Light industry moved offshore but has been replaced to a degree by auto manufacturing, tourism and energy production. In light of the many changes that have occurred since the Civil War, many now use the term in a celebratory sense

For over 100 years, from before the Civil War until the mid-1960s, the Democratic Party exercised a virtual monopoly on Southern politics (see also Solid South). Thus elections were actually decided between Democratic factions in primary elections (often all-white); the Democratic nomination was considered to be tantamount to election.

The "New South" period is double-edged. After the passage of civil rights legislation, African Americans began to vote in number. They were generally affiliated with the Democratic Party, as presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson had supported their cause, and many had admired Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the same time, in 1964 several Southern politicians, and states, supported Republican Barry Goldwater for President over the Democratic incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson. In what later became a trend, some switched party affiliations, notably Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Richard Nixon's Southern strategy in the 1968 campaign is thought by many to have vastly accelerated this process. From Nixon's time to the present, the South has generally voted Republican at the presidential level.

The term "New South" has also been used to refer to political leaders in the South who embraced progressive ideas on education and economic growth and minimized racial rhetoric, even if not promoting integration. This term was most commonly associated with the wave of Southern governors elected in the late 1960s and 1970s, including Terry Sanford in North Carolina, Carl Sanders and Jimmy Carter in Georgia, and Albert Brewer in Alabama.[6][7]

Similarly, the term "New South" was also used to refer to areas of the South that have become more diverse and cosmopolitan over the last several decades.


The term "New South" is used geographically to denote the South Atlantic states, in contrast to the East South Central and West South Central states. The former have grown considerably more cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse in recent decades, and many observers maintain that they now comprise a distinct geocultural subregion. One prominent example of the use of "New South" in this context was in the 1991 book The Day America Told The Truth, which divided the South into the front and the back.


Charlotte Skyline at night
Richmond Skyline at night

The "New South" is also meant to describe the economic boom in the southern part of the U.S., compared to the loss of jobs in the Midwest. U.S.-owned auto manufacturers in cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and St. Louis have declined while lower wage, non-unionized work forces in the South have attracted foreign manufacturers. For example, two of the largest banks in the USA -- Bank of America and Wachovia (now a subsidiary of California's Wells Fargo) -- are headquartered in Charlotte; automobile manufacturers BMW, Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and Volkswagen have opened plants in states such as Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi.

See also


  1. ^ Brundage, W. Fitzhugh. A Socialist Utopia in the New South: The Ruskin Colonies in Tennessee and Georgia, 1894-1901. University of Illinois Press, 1997.
  2. ^ Paul M. Gaston. The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.
  3. ^ Myrdal, Gunnar; Gunnar Myrdal, Sissela Bok. An American dilemma: the Negro problem and modern democracy. p. 1354. Retrieved January 16, 2011. 
  4. ^ Civil Rights Act of 1964
  5. ^ Brenner, Robert. "Structure vs. Conjuncture: The 2006 Elections and the Rightward Shift," New Left Review 43, 2006: 33-59. p. 48
  6. ^ A Question of Justice: New South Governors and Education, 1968–1976. By Gordon E. Harvey. (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002. x, 229 pp.)
  7. ^ "Terry Sanford and the New South". Duke University News. 2007-04-03. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 


  • Brown, D. Clayton. King Cotton: A Cultural, Political, and Economic History since 1945 (University Press of Mississippi, 2011) 440 pp. isbn 978-1-60473-798-1
  • Gaston, Paul M. The new South creed: a study in southern myth-making (1976)
  • Tindall, George. The Emergence of the New South, 1913-1945 (1970)
  • Wetherington, Mark V. The New South Comes to Wiregrass Georgia, 1860-1910 (2001)
  • Woodward, C. Vann. The Origins of the New South (1951), the classic history
    • John B. Boles and Bethany L. Johnson, eds. Origins of the new South fifty years later (2003)

Primary sources

  • Grady, Henry. The new South (1890), the classic statement online edition

External links

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