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Southern United States

From Academic Kids

The U.S. South
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Location in the U.S.

Population: 99,664,761
Total Area: 1,481,438 sq/mi, 2,384,143 km
Largest City (proper): Houston, Texas 2,009,834
Highest Elevation: Guadalupe Peak 8,750 ft, 2,667 m
Lowest Elevation: New Orleans -8 ft, -2.5 m
Largest State: Texas 696,241 km
Smallest State: Delaware 6,452 km
Census Bureau Divisions

The Southern United States or the South, also known colloquially as Dixie, constitute a distinctive region covering a large portion of the United States, with its own unique heritage, historical perspective, customs, musical styles, and cuisine. There are some overlaps with the Southwest, Midwest, and the Mid-Atlantic States.

Contents

Geography

As defined by the Census Bureau, the Southern region of the United States includes 16 states, and is split into three smaller units, or divisions: The South Atlantic States, which are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia (plus the District of Columbia); the East South Central States of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee; and the West South Central States of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

The largest city in the region is Houston, Texas, when measured in terms of population within city limits. The largest metropolitan area is the Washington, D.C. area, which includes Baltimore, Maryland (however, many consider this area to culturally be the "southernmost part of the Northeast" rather than the "northernmost part of the South"). The Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area is also slightly larger than Houston.

Other important cities include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham, Charleston, Charlotte, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Lauderdale, Greensboro, Greenville, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, Mobile, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Raleigh, Richmond, San Antonio, Savannah, Tampa, Tulsa, and Washington.

The region has numerous climatic zones ranging from temperate, to sub-tropical, to tropical, to arid. Many crops grow easily in its soils and can be grown without frost for at least six months of the year. Some parts of the South, particularly the Southeast, have landscape characterized by the presence of live oaks, magnolia trees, jessamine vines, and flowering dogwoods.

History

For main article, see History of the Southern United States

Settled predominately by British colonists in the early 17th century; the South, as it came to be known, developed as a culturally separate region of the United States. Early in its history, tobacco became one of the prime cash crops, while after the 1790s, cotton cultivation predominated. Also, the enslavement of Africans and their descendants as farm labor brought new sectional differences to the South. Integral in the political history of the United States, the South supplied many of the United States' early military and political leaders, including nine of its first fifteen presidents.

They were:

Sectional differences surrounding the issues of taxation, tariffs, slavery, and states' rights led to the secession of most of the Southern states after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The Southern states that seceded formed the Confederate States of America, which was subsequently defeated by the Union during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Devastated by its loss, and destruction of civil infrastructure, much of the South was generally unable to recover economically until World War II (1939 - 1945). Noted by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the "number one priority" in terms of need of assistance during the Great Depression (1929-1939), the lack of capital investment also contributed to its economic hardship.

Politics, populism and conservatism

While after the American Civil War and Reconstruction, Southerners often identified with the populist Democratic Party, this has changed in recent years (especially after the rise of special interests in the Democratic Party in the 1970s and the conservative realignment of the Reagan presidency) in the 1980s. As a result, the Republican Party has benefitted from Southern support, in large measure due to the evangelical Christian vote.

Although the South as a whole defies stereotyping, it is nonetheless known for entrenched political populism and conservatism. Additionally, support for traditional causes is often found in the South, including in resistance to same-sex marriage and abortion.

Culture

Race relations

As the effects of slavery and racism fade, a new regional identity has developed through such events as the annual Spoleto Music Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Race relations continue to mark a heavily contested issue in the South, however, the most recent race riot in the USA was the Rodney King riots in South Central Los Angeles. Race relations in the US have improved since schools were desegregated in the 1960's. In fact, there has not been a race riot in the South since the 1960's whereas there has been several in the North and the West of the USA (see race riot). Many people find this surprising given the desire of some Southerners to retain the rebel flag as part of their cultural heritage. This debate sells newspapers, but in fact the South has very good race relations since the 1970's.

Religion

The South, perhaps more so than any other industrial culture in the world, is highly religious, resulting in the reference to the South as the "Bible Belt", from its prevalence of evangelical/fundamentalist Protestantism. Some consider the term "Bible Belt" to be pejorative.

Cuisine

For main article, see Cuisine of the Southern United States

As an important feature of Southern culture, the cuisine of the South is often described as one of its most distinctive traits. The variety of cuisines range from Tex-Mex, Cajun and Creole, traditional antebellum fare, all types of seafood, and Texas, Carolina & Memphis styles of Barbecue. Non-alcoholic beverages of choice include "sweet tea," and various soft drinks, many of which had their origins in the South (e.g. Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola,Mountain Dew, and Dr Pepper). Lagers and Pilsners are generally preferred to heavier/darker beers due to the predominance of hot climate. Texas is also the center of a burgeoning wine boom, due to its climate and well drained limestone based soils, particularly in the Texas Hill Country.

Traditional African-American Southern food is often called "soul food"; in reality there is little difference in the traditional diet of Southerners. Of course, most Southern cities and even some smaller towns now offer a wide variety of cuisines of other origins such as Chinese, Italian, French, Middle Eastern, as well as restaurants still serving primarily Southern specialties, so-called "home cooking" establishments.

Symbolism, Disagreements, and the Future of the South

Fights over the old "Rebel Flag" of the conquered Confederacy still occur from time to time, and it and other reminders of the Old South can sometimes be found on automobile bumper-stickers, on t-shirts, and flown from homes.

Cultural Variations

  • Areas having an influx of outsiders may be less likely to hold onto a distinctly Southern identity and cultural influences. For this reason, urban areas during the war were less likely to favor secession than agricultural areas. Today, due in part to continuing population migration patterns between urban areas in the North and South, even historically "Southern" cities like Atlanta, Richmond, and Charleston, have assimilated regional identities distinct from a "Southern" one.
  • In many ways Texas has one foot in the South, and one in the Southwest. Its major cities have a very culturally diverse population, including Hispanic and Asian-Americans. Many Americans from other parts of the U.S. have also moved to the state in the last four decades. Also, prior to its statehood in 1907, Oklahoma was "Indian Territory." The majority of the Native American tribes in Oklahoma sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. Similar to Texas in that it has a Southwestern influence, Oklahoma holds strong ties to Southern culture, evidenced by dialect, religion, politics, cuisine, etc. It is geographically often grouped with the Midwest, but culturally is truly more Southern, especially in the eastern part of the state.
  • Florida has had rapid population growth due to retirees from the North and immigrants from Latin America. Miami, Florida has become more a part of the culture of the Caribbean, with a large influx of immigrants from Cuba, and also Puerto Rico, Haiti and other parts of Latin America. Often, non-Hispanic whites and native-born African-Americans have migrated north from Miami to find higher wages, lower costs of living, and cultures where they feel more comfortable. While southern and central Florida are seen by many as not truly part of the South in terms of culture, the Florida Panhandle and northeastern areas of Florida remain culturally tied to the South. An unofficial "Southern line" can be drawn at or just south of Ocala, Florida on the state's west coast and Daytona Beach, Florida on the state's east coast; below this line, the culture of the areas can be described as much more "Northern." (but not completely; in virtually any part of the state outside of the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metroplex, southern accents can still be heard and the culture can still be described as more "Southern" than any region of the U.S. not in the "Deep South").
  • Portions of southern Ohio are considered "Southern", evidenced by the state's civil rights law that includes "persons of Appalachian ancestry" among the categories against which discrimination is prohibited. This group of Ohioans are generally concentrated in the southeastern part of the state; but "Appalachians" are viewed as separate from "Southerners" by many observers. (Many Southerners do not recognize Kentucky, West Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland as "Southern" due to their allegiance to the Union during the Civil War. Ohio would also fall into this category; although Clement Vallandigham, the leading Copperhead, came from southwestern Ohio.) Also, a small part of Kentucky is a major component of the Cincinnati metropolitan area; that region is almost never considered to be "Southern".
  • While West Virginia is often defined as a southern state; it's peculiar geographic shape means that the northernmost tip is at about the same latitude as central New Jersey. This has caused the northernmost part of the state, which is about an hour's drive from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to increasingly become an exurb of the city, resulting in a less "Southern" culture. The easternmost tip of the state is close enough to Baltimore and Washington, DC that it too has started to become an exurb of these areas with a unique North-South "hybrid" culture. A visitor to Huntington, near the state's boundary with Ohio and Kentucky, would likely identify the area as part of the Rust Belt.
  • Many do not consider Maryland and Delaware to be culturally Southern states, despite those lands being largely colonised by the relatively same people in Virginia; their cultural designation is disputed due to their proximity to both North and South. Those who view them as Southern cite the fact that although neither state joined the Confederacy, slavery remained legal in them until ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, and that the Mason-Dixon line, long considered to be the border between North and South, is in fact the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. Today, they are sometimes grouped with Southern states for corporate and governmental administrative regions. However, Baltimore, Maryland, Wilmington, Delaware, and Newark, Delaware lie along the Northeast Corridor, which further separates them from the South, and ties them to a culture that has little in common with Southern culture. Most of the northern third of Delaware consists of bedroom communities to Philadelphia, which is definitely not a Southern city culturally. In addition, they are much more liberal than any other region in the defined South, sharing political trends with the Northeastern states (for example, both states voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992).
  • The District of Columbia itself is almost never considered to be culturally Southern. By definition as the seat of the Union's government it could not be part of the Confederacy, even though it ironically bordered it (which in itself had produced much pressure for Maryland to remain with the Union, thus preventing the U.S. Capitol from being completely surrounded by Confederate territory). Politically, it is more liberal than any U.S. state and even any major U.S. city except perhaps San Francisco.
  • Northern Virginia has been largely settled by Northerners attracted to job opportunities resulting from expansion of the federal government during and after World War II. Still more expansion resulted from the Internet boom around the turn of the 21st century. Economically linked to Washington, D.C., residents of the region tend to consider it part of the North, as do Southerners. However, it remains politically somewhat conservative, as opposed to Washington's suburbs across the Potomac River in Maryland, which are generally politically quite liberal.
  • The most recent shift in "Southern" cultural influence and demographics has occured in North Carolina. As recently as the mid-1980's, this was a very entrenched "Southern" state culturally and demographically. However, many newcomers have transformed the landscape since then. Surprisingly many are from the Northeast and especially from the New York metropolitan area. Three areas have seen the bulk of this migration: in the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham areas due to economic growth (banking/finance in Charlotte's case, high-tech in Raleigh-Durham's); in the Asheville area and western North Carolina in general by retirees who a generation ago might have moved to Florida but prefer the climactic balance produced by the combination of a high elevation and a southerly latitude. The most extreme example of this is found in Cary, North Carolina, a suburb in the Raleigh-Durham area that has exploded in population since 1980 almost exclusively with Northern transplants to the region. Politically the state is still conservative (the 2004 presidential election was easily won by Bush), but in the Raleigh-Durham area and to a lesser extent the Charlotte area, "southern" accents are rarely heard anymore.

Gdp

3.53 trillion USD.$35420 USD.

See also

External links

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