The New South




Many leaders in post-Reconstruction South wanted to develop their region to be the home of industrial economy. Many argued that the South had lost the war because it could not compete with the modernized manufacturing capacity of the North. Therefore, the New South included growth of textile manufacturing because of water power, cheap labor, and low taxes. Tobacco-processing industry grew. In the lower South, the iron and steel industry grew, rapidly. Railroad development increased dramatically with greater integration with the rest of the country, when in 1886, it changed its gauge (width) of its trackage to correspond with the standard of the North.

However, growth of South merely regained what it had done before war, average income in the South substantially lower than that of North. The 1870s and 1880s saw a growth of tenantry and debt peonage, and reliance on cash crops. Crop-lien system resulted in many losing land, the system by which framers borrowed money against their future crops and resulted in falling into deeper debt. The majority of the people in the South became tenant farmers. “Sharecropping” system where farmers promised large share of crop for land, tools- little money left over after payments. Subsistence farming gave way to only growth of cash crops- increased poverty. Coupled with “fence laws” (prevented people from raising livestock) led to decline in living self-sufficiently.

Some blacks attracted to New South ideals of progress and self improvement, entered the middle class by becoming professionals, owning land or business. This small rising group of blacks believed education vital to future of race- supported black colleges.


The “Redeemers”, by the end of 1877, after the final withdrawal of
troops, every southern state government had been “redeemed” by white Democrats. “Redeemers” and “Bourbons”, members of powerful ruling elite, mostly new class of merchants, industrialists, financiers, were committed to “home rule” social conservatism, and economic development.

In the early 19th century, an elaborate legal system of segregation was erected by white southerners. These state laws that segregated blacks and whites were known as Jim Crow laws, named after a black character in old minstrel shows. As early as 1837 the term Jim Crow was used to describe racial segregation in Vermont. Most of these laws, however, emerged in the southern and border states of the United States between the years 1876 and 1965. They mandated the separation of the races and separate and unequal status for African Americans. The most important Jim Crow laws required that public schools, public accommodations, and public transportation, including buses and trains, have separate facilities for whites and blacks. The facilities established for African Americans were always far inferior to whites, and reinforced their poverty and political exclusion. These laws also generated a decades-long struggle for equal rights.


Thomas Rice Playing Jim Crow in Blackface, New York City, 1833

During the 1890s, there was a dramatic increase in white violence against blacks. Lynchings of blacks by white mobs were taking place and were increasing in the South. Although rare, public lynchings were held in cities and towns and attracted a large audience. Lynching was a means of whites maintaining control of the blacks through terror and intimidation.


Ida B Wells _people_ida_pict.gif

Ida B. Wells
An African-American journalist/activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s.

“Our country's national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob.” - Ida B. Wells


Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute, believed blacks should attend school and learn skills in agricultural or trade, win respect of white population by adopting middle class standards of dress. His “Atlanta Compromise” sought to forgo political rights, concentrate on self-improvement and economic gains to earn recognition.
"The Negro has the right to study law, but success will come to the race sooner if it produces intelligent, thrifty farmers, mechanics, to support the lawyers." - Booker T. Washington


Throughout American history, there are only a few examples which show a society this sectionalized. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, the South was left crippled by the North, which led to a bitter resentment between the two regions. During the New South, several factions were created. White Southerners wanted to redeem the South with force and economic growth. The Black Southerners, recently given the right to vote, were driven from the polls by racist laws and terror. People from the North that had come to the New South during Reconstruction, were referred to as “carpetbaggers” and any Southerners siding with the Northerners were known as “scalawags”. This was a time of North versus South, black versus white and state’s rights versus the federal government.

The resentment between the North and South lingered on well after the Civil War . Congress had turned the South into military districts to keep the Senators and Representatives out of the legislative process. The North’s victory created a feeling of hatred and superiority toward the South. As radical Reconstruction continued, Congress only created higher tensions between the North and South. Although by keeping the South out of Congress, the Radical Republicans were able to pass the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments with ease. Unfortunately, these amendments did not go over well with the South. By giving blacks rights, the Southerners feared for their way of life.

In response, the South used laws like the poll tax and literacy test to keep free slaves out of the voting polls. The Southern hatred toward blacks also spawned white supremacy groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. These groups suppressed the black votes through lynchings, beatings, and other criminal acts. African Americans also created groups of their own with the goal for better rights and treatment in American society. One side believed higher education for African Americans would lead to better rights and another group believed segregation and the ill treatment of blacks was to be fought against at every turn. Also, the South went under significant infrastructure and economical changes. Some believed the South’s lack of industrialization lead to its defeat. However, there were Southerners against these changes, but they did occur. During this time period of American history, race, region and economic pursuits were sectionalized.