Proposal preview

U.S. South in Global Perspective: 1800 to the Present

The American South has long been considered a region in the United States that was historically underdeveloped, economically backwards, or even pre-modern. This impression lives on today, as the South, according to many, still appears to be out of the mainstream of American development, not just economically but also politically. However, studies from both historical and economical approaches in recent decades have shown that the American South was never an outsider to the global economy; instead, the region and its population were influenced by global trends, particularly in the time period upon which this panel focuses. The papers included cover the period from the early 19th century–when cotton production takes off to meet the demands of this global product around the world, not to mention fueling industrialization in Europe—to the present. While the Civil War suddenly destroyed the South’s lucrative trade and Reconstruction delayed the region’s modern economic development, by the turn of the century cotton production resumed under a new tenancy system that degraded former slaves into exploitative sharecroppers, and legalized racial discrimination fixing them as second-class citizen. It was not until the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-20th century that blacks in the South were able to escape the shadows of slavery, as recognized citizens with equal rights, although the social stigma associated with the region remained. Clearly, the institution of slavery and plantation agriculture in the pre-Civil War South and its legacy overshadowed and damaged the relationship between the different races, as well as urban development in the South over time. Indeed, various indexes and economic indicators demonstrate the relative backwardness even today of many parts of the southern states, and the region as a whole.
The presentations on this panel focus on the economic development of the American South at each period from the early 19th century to today, showing how the region was affected by the impact of globalization. Even under slavery, southern business and merchant activities were global. As a staple-producing area dependent on extra-regional and global trade (financed largely from the North as well as Europe), the South never failed to maintain its global qualities, or exhibit features that resemble modern business practices. Tomoko Yagyu will analyze the global elements of the domestic slave trade, a lucrative business that developed in then antebellum South, a topic that has been studied extensively in recent decades. Masaoki Izawa will focus on labor and economic development in Mississippi’s Yazoo Delta at the turn of the century, when new wave of European immigrants were reaching American shores. The attempt to recruit Italian immigrants into the region ended in failure, only to be followed by the return of black sharecroppers: Examining this process illuminates the impact of global labor issues in a region that already marked racial and class tensions in local labor markets. By the time of the Civil Rights Movement in the 20th century, blacks had gained more ground upon which to base and mount resistance. The Civil Rights Movement occurred at a time when former colonies and undeveloped regions rose in a global wave to demand human rights, independence, and freedom. Louis Ferleger and Matthew Lavallee’s analysis show how black-owned business in the 1950s and 1960s, when blacks were still segregated and degraded as second-class citizens, were able to provide goods and services to black customers who could not attain them from white businesses. These networks of black-owned businesses were crucial to the success of the Civil Rights Movement, in cities such as Montgomery, Little Rock, Greensboro, Birmingham and Selma, among others. Louis Kyriakoudes’s work will explore the effect of the South’s global economic development on the region’s public health, through the case of cigarette use since World War II. The study will show that a combination of rising rural incomes, the growth of rural waged employment, and aggressive tobacco industry marketing efforts worked to increase cigarette prevalence, leading to a crushing burden of cigarette-induced disease that continues to this day. Ichiro Miyata’s research will focus on current day Atlanta and its urban development. With extensive previous work on the Atlanta public transit system and its urban features, Miyata will focus on the thriving urban cores of Atlanta in the 21st century, comparing it with another global city, Tokyo. The paper will particularly focus on how these urban core developments were financed. Southern urbanization and development will be discussed from a different perspective and a new framework in Mac McCorkle’s work. The research will focus on North Carolina, where a rapid if belated metropolitanization has been taking place over recent decades. Instead of the dominant notion of the “urban-rural” divide, McCorkle suggests that much of the new metropolitan North Carolina should be understood as definitionally hybrid, fluid “country-politan” territory, which portrays the ongoing development pattern more accurately. Finally, Peter Coclanis and David Carlton will shed light on the economic/political/social crisis in the rural and small-town South through a case study on North Carolina, to get a better sense of both the causes of the economic collapse of rural and small-towns and the possibilities of going forward. Coclanis and Carlton have worked extensively on North Carolina’s economic history and the impact of globalization on rural South for several decades, and will bring their expertise to bear on the strategies of revitalizing communities in rural parts of the South. These seven papers range over a period of nearly 200 years: Taken together, they add much-needed texture and nuance to the understanding of economic development and the long-term influence of globalization in the U.S. South.

Organizer(s)

  • Tomoko Yagyu Keio University tyagyu@keio.jp Japan

Session members

  • Peter A Coclanis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • David L Carlton , Vanderbilt University
  • Louis A Ferleger , Boston University
  • Matthew Lavallee, Boston University
  • Masaoki Izawa, Kindai University
  • Ichiro Miyata, Saitama University
  • Louis M Kyriakoudes, Middle Tennessee University
  • Mac McCorkle , Duke University

Discussant(s)

Papers

Panel abstract

The American South has long been considered a region in the United States that was historically underdeveloped, economically backwards, or even pre-modern. However, studies from both historical and economical approaches in recent decades have shown that the American South as a region and its population were always influenced by global trends; whether it was the impact on laborers, commodity production, race relations and business, local public health, urbanization or the urban/rural divide. The presentations on this panel focus on such issues, at each period from the early 19th century to today, ranging over a period of nearly 200 years: Taken together, they add much-needed texture and nuance to the understanding of economic development and the long-term influence of globalization in the U.S. South.

1st half

Reconsidering the Interregional Networks and Financial Connections in the Domestic Slave Trade

Tomoko Yagyu

The history of American slavery and the studies of the American South was no exception when it comes to the wave of global history; history written from global perspectives has become one of the main characteristic of historical scholarship for the past two decades or so. Meanwhile, the research on the U.S. domestic slave trade, a lucrative business of geographically removing and selling of slaves from the Upper South region to the cotton expanding Lower and Deep South regions via the hands of specialized slave traders, has reached new heights and provided exciting new findings in recent years. The accumulated scholarship has been highly convincing that no historian of the United States today can ignore the fact that the domestic slave trade not only was the core component of the expansion of slavery in the antebellum years, and thus a force that pushed the slave plantation system to become more...

The history of American slavery and the studies of the American South was no exception when it comes to the wave of global history; history written from global perspectives has become one of the main characteristic of historical scholarship for the past two decades or so. Meanwhile, the research on the U.S. domestic slave trade, a lucrative business of geographically removing and selling of slaves from the Upper South region to the cotton expanding Lower and Deep South regions via the hands of specialized slave traders, has reached new heights and provided exciting new findings in recent years. The accumulated scholarship has been highly convincing that no historian of the United States today can ignore the fact that the domestic slave trade not only was the core component of the expansion of slavery in the antebellum years, and thus a force that pushed the slave plantation system to become more sophisticated and efficient, but also had lasting impact on southern societal structures, regional infrastructure, and institutional framework. With the expansion of cotton and the domestic slave trade, southerners were able to defend their economic system, solidifying planters’ interests and protecting the value of their slaves. Reflecting on recent scholarship and case studies of slave traders’ accounts, this paper emphasizes two points: first, the actual cases from slave traders show their extensive networking and management techniques, which helped accelerate the volume and speed of trade. Second, the expansive financial network and connections of the South beyond its own region allowed investment in slaves and land; their connectedness with merchants in other regions as well as European houses was crucial for slavery’s existence. Taken together, it is clear that the domestic slave trade was nothing but domestic; this peculiar business that developed in the antebellum years is certainly a case that implies the global nature of the southern economy at this age.

Impact of Italian Immigrants on the Mississippi Delta at the Turn of the Century

Masaoki Izawa

The Yazoo-Mississippi River floodplain contained the largest cotton field in the United States, which lay between the Mississippi River and Yazoo River. After Yazoo-Mississippi Delta grew dramatically in the 1890s, the Sunnyside Plantation was built as a colony of Italian cotton tenants in Chico County, Arkansas, located a short distance south of Greenville, Mississippi, along the river.  This paper attempts to explain the impact of Italian immigrants on plantations in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta by focusing on the immigration practices of prominent plantation owners of the Delta in the early 20th century. The attempt to recruit Italian immigrants to the region ended in failure, only to be followed by the return of black sharecroppers. An examination of this process illuminates the impact of global labor issues on a region that was already marked by racial and class tensions in the complicated Delta society.

The Yazoo-Mississippi River floodplain contained the largest cotton field in the United States, which lay between the Mississippi River and Yazoo River. After Yazoo-Mississippi Delta grew dramatically in the 1890s, the Sunnyside Plantation was built as a colony of Italian cotton tenants in Chico County, Arkansas, located a short distance south of Greenville, Mississippi, along the river.  This paper attempts to explain the impact of Italian immigrants on plantations in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta by focusing on the immigration practices of prominent plantation owners of the Delta in the early 20th century. The attempt to recruit Italian immigrants to the region ended in failure, only to be followed by the return of black sharecroppers. An examination of this process illuminates the impact of global labor issues on a region that was already marked by racial and class tensions in the complicated Delta society.

Entrepreneurs, Enterprises and the Civil Rights Movement: African Americans Business Ownership, 1945-1970

Louis Ferleger and Matthew Lavallee

During the Civil Rights Movement black-owned businesses provided a behind-the-scenes foundation for the movement’s success. Many black-owned businesses often played roles in civic matters that their counterparts in larger firms did not. Their civic participation and support contributed far more to political progress than scholars have recognized. Some accounts of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, for example, underestimate the significance of the role played by Montgomery’s black-owned businesses. Examples from the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi also illustrate the importance of local small businesses: black business owners were on the front lines, resisting pressures from the white community. This paper analyzes these episodes and places them in the context of black-owned businesses in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, albeit descriptively given the unevenness and unavailability of standardized statistics. It also traces the debates over “Black Capitalism” and how the decline of segregation led to reorganizations of black businesses.

During the Civil Rights Movement black-owned businesses provided a behind-the-scenes foundation for the movement’s success. Many black-owned businesses often played roles in civic matters that their counterparts in larger firms did not. Their civic participation and support contributed far more to political progress than scholars have recognized. Some accounts of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, for example, underestimate the significance of the role played by Montgomery’s black-owned businesses. Examples from the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi also illustrate the importance of local small businesses: black business owners were on the front lines, resisting pressures from the white community. This paper analyzes these episodes and places them in the context of black-owned businesses in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, albeit descriptively given the unevenness and unavailability of standardized statistics. It also traces the debates over “Black Capitalism” and how the decline of segregation led to reorganizations of black businesses.

Demographic and Economic Perspectives on the Growth of Cigarette Use in the American South

Louis M. Kyriakoudes

The relationship between economic development and public health has long occupied economic historians, particularly those studying the American South. This study explores the growth of cigarette use—the leading cause of preventable death—in the region since World War II. Ironically, as late as the mid-1950s, rural farm dwelling southerners were among the least likely to use manufactured cigarettes, even as they grew most of the nation’s tobacco. By the 1990s, rural southerners exhibited the highest rates of cigarette prevalence, leading to a crushing burden of cigarette-induced disease that continues to this day. This study explores the demographic and economic characteristics of the growth of cigarette use among southerners, arguing that a combination of rising rural incomes, growth of rural waged employment, and aggressive tobacco industry marketing efforts worked to increase cigarette prevalence. Growing rural cigarette use coincided with a decline in smoking among better educated, higher income, urban southerners.

The relationship between economic development and public health has long occupied economic historians, particularly those studying the American South. This study explores the growth of cigarette use—the leading cause of preventable death—in the region since World War II. Ironically, as late as the mid-1950s, rural farm dwelling southerners were among the least likely to use manufactured cigarettes, even as they grew most of the nation’s tobacco. By the 1990s, rural southerners exhibited the highest rates of cigarette prevalence, leading to a crushing burden of cigarette-induced disease that continues to this day. This study explores the demographic and economic characteristics of the growth of cigarette use among southerners, arguing that a combination of rising rural incomes, growth of rural waged employment, and aggressive tobacco industry marketing efforts worked to increase cigarette prevalence. Growing rural cigarette use coincided with a decline in smoking among better educated, higher income, urban southerners.

2nd half

Rising from the Ashes and the Rubble: Gentrification in Central Atlanta and Tokyo in the 21st Century

Ichiro Miyata

Located in the land of exceptionalism, the American South is exceptional in American history for having experienced wartime defeat and military occupation. Decades of postwar poverty and reconstruction also left the region outside the norm in a country never defeated and occupied and, moreover, on the rise to sole leadership of the world’s liberal democracies. However, the South’s unique experience of defeat and impoverishment gave the region much in common the rest of the world. For instance, the legacy of slavery in the form of Jim Crow diverged far from America’s ideals and revealed to the world a region as much in need of development and democratization as many other areas of the world. Similarly, postwar Japan shared with the South the need to eliminate traces of the history of injustice and to confront inhuman deeds carried out both t in Asia and at home in Japan. This paper argues...

Located in the land of exceptionalism, the American South is exceptional in American history for having experienced wartime defeat and military occupation. Decades of postwar poverty and reconstruction also left the region outside the norm in a country never defeated and occupied and, moreover, on the rise to sole leadership of the world’s liberal democracies. However, the South’s unique experience of defeat and impoverishment gave the region much in common the rest of the world. For instance, the legacy of slavery in the form of Jim Crow diverged far from America’s ideals and revealed to the world a region as much in need of development and democratization as many other areas of the world. Similarly, postwar Japan shared with the South the need to eliminate traces of the history of injustice and to confront inhuman deeds carried out both t in Asia and at home in Japan. This paper argues that there remain today commonalities in the experiences of Japan and the South following the Second World War, even as the character of both societies has been transformed. After the war, the opportunities afforded by war-related industries and a supply of cheap labor enabled both to enjoy an economic boom. Similarly, the rise of cities as business centers and massive suburbanization marked the spread of wealth in the postwar period. Examining 21st century Tokyo and Atlanta reveals how the shift of wealth to the urban cores accelerating the makeovers of these areas. This paper first outlines how and why the center of cities experienced such transformations. The paper then analyzes how gentrification in both cities dealt with the past, paying more attention to commonalities than differences. The paper suggests that neo-liberal economic and land-use policies produced landscapes wherein it became more difficult to confront the past. At the same time, the paper contends that the past remained visible and unchanged despite the rapid makeover of the urban landscape that emerged from the rubble left by war.

The "Countrypolitan" Pattern of Development in North Carolina

Mac McCorkle

Dominant narratives in economic, political, and cultural analyses portray North Carolina as dominated by an "urban-rural divide." But new thinking needs to challenge the idea of such a dominant divide. Over recent decades most of North Carolina has been undergoing a rapid if belated metropolitanization that has left little of the state's population as "rural" in any way constituting a fundamental divide from the cities and suburbs. At the same time North Carolina's metropolitanization has hardly been synonymous with urbanization. Accordingly major swaths of metropolitan North Carolina outside major city limits are hardly "urban" in economic, political, or cultural terms. This essay suggests that much of the new metropolitan North Carolina should be understood as definitionally hybrid, fluid "country-politan" territory. Such new frameworks need to replace such outdated and misleading notions of a fundamental urban-rural divide.

Dominant narratives in economic, political, and cultural analyses portray North Carolina as dominated by an "urban-rural divide." But new thinking needs to challenge the idea of such a dominant divide. Over recent decades most of North Carolina has been undergoing a rapid if belated metropolitanization that has left little of the state's population as "rural" in any way constituting a fundamental divide from the cities and suburbs. At the same time North Carolina's metropolitanization has hardly been synonymous with urbanization. Accordingly major swaths of metropolitan North Carolina outside major city limits are hardly "urban" in economic, political, or cultural terms. This essay suggests that much of the new metropolitan North Carolina should be understood as definitionally hybrid, fluid "country-politan" territory. Such new frameworks need to replace such outdated and misleading notions of a fundamental urban-rural divide.

A Sense of Where You Are: Strategies for Revitalizing Community/Communities in the Rural and Small-Town South

Peter A. Coclanis and David L. Carlton

In this paper we hope to shed light on the economic /political/social crisis in the rural and small-town South through a case study on North Carolina. In so doing, we shall employ the frame developed by David Autor and his group, but exact one state to deep analysis, the goal being to get a better sense of both the causes of the economic collapse of rural and small-town North Carolina and the possibilities going forward. Carlton and Coclanis have worked extensively on North Carolina’s economic history for several decades now and hope to bring their expertise to bear on the issues treated in this paper.

In this paper we hope to shed light on the economic /political/social crisis in the rural and small-town South through a case study on North Carolina. In so doing, we shall employ the frame developed by David Autor and his group, but exact one state to deep analysis, the goal being to get a better sense of both the causes of the economic collapse of rural and small-town North Carolina and the possibilities going forward. Carlton and Coclanis have worked extensively on North Carolina’s economic history for several decades now and hope to bring their expertise to bear on the issues treated in this paper.

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