AP®︎/College US History
- The Compromise of 1877
- Life after slavery for African Americans
- The New South
- The origins of Jim Crow - introduction
- Origins of Jim Crow - the Black Codes and Reconstruction
- Origins of Jim Crow - the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments
- Origins of Jim Crow - Compromise of 1877 and Plessy v. Ferguson
- Plessy v. Ferguson
- Jim Crow
- The New South
Could the American South be remade as an industrial economy like the North?
- Proponents of the New South envisioned a post-Reconstruction southern economy modeled on the North’s embrace of the Industrial Revolution.
- Henry W. Grady, a newspaper editor in Atlanta, Georgia, coined the phrase the "New South” in 1874. He urged the South to abandon its longstanding agrarian economy for a modern economy grounded in factories, mines, and mills.
- Although textile mills and tobacco factories emerged in the South during this time, the plans for a New South largely failed. By 1900, per-capita income in the South was forty percent less than the national average, and rural poverty persisted across much of the South well into the twentieth century.
Rural agrarian poverty
After the Civil War, sharecropping and tenant farming took the place of slavery and the plantation system in the South.
Sharecropping and tenant farming were systems in which white landlords (often former plantation slaveowners) entered into contracts with impoverished farm laborers to work their lands. Those who worked the fields shared a portion of the crop yield with the landlord as payment for renting the land. Under the sharecropping system, the landlord typically supplied the capital to buy the seed and equipment needed to sow, cultivate, and harvest a crop, while the sharecropper supplied the labor. In other tenancy farming arrangements the laborer, not the landowner, took responsibility for purchase of seed and equipment.
Yet, because prices on cotton and other crops remained low, sharecroppers and tenant farmers often fell into a cycle of indebtedness called debt peonage: farmers found that the money they made selling their crops at the end of the growing season was not enough to pay back the loans they had taken out for seed, tools, farm equipment, and living expenses, leaving them owing more after a year of labor than they had when they started.
This system left both black and white tenant farmers living in dire poverty. In addition, since no one had any money to spend, the southern economy stagnated.
An economic vision for a new South
Enter Henry W. Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, a newspaper in Georgia’s capital city. In a series of impassioned public speeches and articles, Grady envisioned a southern economy enriched with broadly expanded manufacturing facilities and commerce. Grady and like-minded southerners referred to this regional economic remake as the “New South.”
Following the Civil War, the North experienced a period of rapid industrialization and technological advancement known as the Second Industrial Revolution. But the dynamic and expansive economic growth that came to the North in consequence of the Second Industrial Revolution largely bypassed the South. Proponents of the New South wanted the nation’s southern states to remake themselves along similar lines.
Successes and failures of the New South
There were some New South successes. Birmingham, Alabama prospered from iron and steel manufacturing, and mining and furniture production benefited other parts of the South. Likewise, James Duke made use of newly-invented cigarette rolling machines to feed the growing market for tobacco and founded the American Tobacco Company in North Carolina in 1890.
The most notable New South initiative was the introduction of textile mills in the South. Beginning in the early 1880s, northern capitalists invested in building textile mills in the southern Appalachian foothills of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, drawn to the region by the fact that they could pay southern mill workers at half the rate of workers in northern mills. Due to these low wages, the mills gave only a modest boost to the southern economies in which they were built.
Although new industries did emerge in this era, the benefits of the New South did not accrue to African Americans or poor whites. Although Grady dreamed of a new South of increasing economic prosperity, his vision did not extend to civil rights for African Americans. "I declare,” said Grady in an 1888 address, “that . . . the white race must dominate forever in the South.” In the New South, landlords and factory owners prospered, but sharecropping and low-wage factory work kept many across the region from escaping dire poverty.
What do you think?
What kept the southern economy from prospering in the post-Civil War era?
What do you think your life would have been like if you had been a sharecropper or a textile mill worker in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century South?
Why do you think Henry W. Grady’s vision of the New South did not include equality for African Americans?
Want to join the conversation?
- Mining was listed as a "success of the New South". Weren't many of these new industries built upon labor supplied by convict lease? Further depressing the real social-economic benefits of southern industrialization? As per the 13th Amendment "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted"(26 votes)
- Well, not exactly. These children worked in these places in order to provide for their family and their parents forced them to do so. They were barely paid and were cheated because they were kids. They also had small hands and reach deep inside machinery. This was dangerous as kids lost their fingers, hands and arms as a result. Some also worked in plantations with their family in order to provide for their family as well.(3 votes)
- The author writes, "The most notable New South initiative was the introduction of textile mills in the South. Beginning in the early 1880s, northern capitalists invested in building textile mills in the southern Appalachian foothills of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, drawn to the region by the fact that they could pay southern mill workers at half the rate of workers in northern mills. In consequence of the low wages the mills gave only a modest boost to the southern economies in which they were built."
One hundred twenty years later, these Southern textile mills have closed, and their owners have shifted production to even lower-wage foreign countries, such as Bangladesh, China, and Viet Nam. The more life changes; the more life remains the same.(18 votes)
- why did they have child laberors(6 votes)
- These children worked in these places in order to provide for their family and their parents forced them to do so. They were barely paid and were cheated because they were kids. They also had small hands and reach deep inside machinery. This was dangerous as kids lost their fingers, hands and arms as a result. Some also worked in plantations with their family in order to provide for their family as well.(1 vote)
- How did poll taxes and literacy tests assist the development of the New South?(2 votes)
- These did not assist at all. These kept Black people, whose lives mattered, at the bottom of society, as if they did not matter one little bit. Denied the vote, they were denied a voice in the development of their communities. Poll taxes that prevented poor people, black AND white, from voting, preserved power in the hands of peole with enough money to afford the luxury of voting. Literacy tests that prevented uneducated and dyslexic people, black AND white, from voting kept power in the hands of those who had certain abilities. Both of these methods assisted white supremacy, which was a charcteristic of the New South.(10 votes)
- Why did a little kid go in to the factory.(4 votes)
- Economic conditions meant that a family could not earn enough to decently feed itself from farming. Children's labor was available for a price. Factory owners took advantage of this situation, and hired children to do work there, supporting the family's ability to feed, clothe and house themselves. It was poverty that drove children into the factories and the fields.(5 votes)
- What kept the southern economy from prospering in the post-Civil War era?(2 votes)
- The planters and merchants led the south into isolation due to wanting to keep everything in their control. They were the rulers still and narrow minded. Planters stopped producing cotton in the civil war to get British investment and support in the civil war which didn't work. The southern elite's policies impoverished the south. After the war they schemed to stay in rulership, thus tenant farming and sharecropping. Keeping the poor white trash and the enslaved people virtually the same before the war. Only the enslaved could move around more freely and migrate north. Whe absolute control was given them after reconstruction, they instituted Jim Crow laws and got away with it because the had large majority in congress and in the senaate.(3 votes)
- Why where children put in labor?(2 votes)
- If they were black, then it's because they were not considered good for anything else. If, after slavery ended, they were white children of poor farmers put to labor, it was because they were available to work, and workers were needed.(5 votes)
- To what degree was the “New South” actually new and in what ways was it not new?(3 votes)
- This was not an announcement of a change, merely a rebranding of something that remained as it had been. In the 21st century, the state of Michigan wanted to promote tourism and investment. Without changing a thing, it merely added the word "Pure" to all advertizing. Now "Pure Michigan" is exactly like the old Michigan. Rebranding with the word "new" changes nothing, and takes more letters to spell out.(3 votes)
- why were the blacks considered like lesser beings or useless objects, or tools?(2 votes)
- There may be a lot of reasons, but one big one could be that people, all too often, have a desire to be superior to others. That kind of desire can be on an individual basis like "I'm better than you." Or, it can be on a collective basis like "whites better than blacks."
Ultimately, it likely boils down to an issue of pride - which often gets people off track in their thinking, or hatred which will usually lead to trouble.(5 votes)
- This might be a dumb question but what economic factors contributed to the continuation of how the "New" South functioned?(2 votes)
- Holding down the wages of black folks kept the wages of white folks down, too. This made the "new South" seem to be a great place for anti-union industrialists to place factories.(5 votes)