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"The South has had its full share of illusions, fantasies, and pretensions, and it has continued to cling to some of them with an astonishing tenacity that defies explanation. But the illusion that "history is something unpleasant that happens to other people" is certainly not one of them - not in the face of accumulated evidence and memory to the contrary.... For the inescapable facts of history were that the South had repeatedly met with frustration and failure. It had learned what it was to be faced with economic, social, and political problems that refused to yield to all the ingenuity, patience, and intelligence that a people could bring to bear upon them.

It had learned to accommodate itself to conditions that it swore it would never accept, and it had learned the taste left in the mouth by the swallowing of one's own words. It had learned to live for long decades in quite un-American poverty, and it had learned the equally un-American lesson of submission. For the South had undergone an experience that it could share with no other part of America-though it is shared by nearly all the peoples of Europe and Asia-the experience of military defeat, occupation, and reconstruction."

["The Irony of Southern History" From C. Vann Woodward's The Burden of Southern History]

Deep South / Dixie

Deep South The heartland of southern culture - the Deep South - is a geographic composite of beliefs, attitudes, patterns, habits, and institutions. Many of the early patterns and current changes are explicitly geographic; many others have geographic consequences. Strong differences exist within the South. The Gulf Coast, the southern highlands, the Georgia-Carolinas Piedmont, and many portions of the northern interior South each possess their own versions of southern culture. But they are also clear about the "southern-ness" they share.

The earliest European colonization in America was commercial and exploitative. The coastal plains south of Delaware Bay, especially that south of Chesapeake Bay, contained many areas that were ideal for agriculture. The long, hot summers, regular rainfall, and mild winters permitted settlers a selection of crops complementary to those grown in northern Europe. The large number of rivers that crossed the plain, navigable by small boats at least, allowed settlement to expand freely between the James River in Virginia and the Altamaha River in Georgia.

Population densities remained low throughout most of the region, with urban concentrations larger than villages limited to port cities (Norfolk, Virginia; Wilmington, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia) or the heads of navigation on the main rivers (Richmond, Virginia, and, later, Columbia, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia). The strong rural and agrarian elements of southern culture established a pattern that remained significant into the 21st century.

The greatest return for the effort expended by Europeans in settling the Atlantic southern lowlands was through highly structured cash crop agriculture. The plantation organization came gradually to dominate the early southern colonial economy. Production of tobacco along the James River and to the south in northeastern North Carolina, and production of rice and indigo in and around the many coastal swamps in the Carolinas and Georgia, were important from 1695 onward.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:24:05 ZULU