While I am still reading about the South in the American Revolution, I am also working on a follow up speech to Blood and Soil: How Southerners Became a Separate and Distinct People.
The great watershed moment in Southern history wasn’t the 1860s. It was the 1940s when the South emerged from 75 years of colonial rule by the East which had triumphed in the War Between the States. Before the 1940s, the South was a vast rural world dominated by plantation agriculture. By the 1960s, the South was becoming urbanized, industrialized and Americanized.
Who were we before this transformation? What were our distinct Southern values before we were overrun by the interstates, the suburbs and McDonald’s and Wal-Marts?
The following excerpt comes from Numan V. Brantley’s book The New South, 1945-1980:
“The heartland of the old regime was the great plantation belt spreading from Southside Virginia into eastern Texas. There the descendants of slaves were a substantial percentage of the population and a larger percentage of the labor force. The ghosts of the antebellum aristocracy haunted the land, and planters usually stood near the top of the social order. The planter class and its county-seat allies had led the South into secession, turned back the Reconstruction experiment, defeated the Populists in the 1890s, disenfranchised the masses of southern voters, and established the conventions that ruled southern public life. …
The elite of the county seats and larger countryside towns were the primary champions of lost-cause mythology, white supremacy, plantation labor relations, and a status-based social order, all of which were part of a broader paternalism. County elites, Shannon noted, held to a “feudal” ideology that “conceives of each man belonging to an hierarchical order of inequality in which his peculiar faculties equip him to perform a unique role in some part of the hierarchy.” Gunnar Mrydal similarly commented on the conservative preference for a “social order which established an ideal division of labor and of responsibility in society between the sexes, the age groups, the social classes and the two races.” A closely knit family with obligations and duties, authority and submission, and rights and responsibilities according to each member’s position within it came close to being the ideal model for a society.”
Imagine a world in which men are still men and women are still women, where husbands still have authority over their households, where parents have authority over their children and in which “free love” is perceived as a menacing evil because sex outside of marriage is still shameful.
Imagine a world in which we were taught to revere our ancestors and to take pride in our identity and to protect the less fortunate in life and in which a sense of honor and duty governed our conduct. In this world, the negro was excluded from politics and from White social spaces, but his basic rights were protected and race relations were generally more positive than they are today. Instead of trying to make the races equal which is impossible, we focused on economic improvement.
Imagine a world in which our churches were strong, marriage and the family was venerated and our homogeneous folk culture was flourishing. In this world, it was not uncommon for couples to have a dozen children. There was no Jewish garbage being pumped into every household through the television.
What if I told you this world was called white supremacy?