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How young men and young women addressed each other in the antebellum South depended on a number of factors that included class and race. The vast majority of whites were not part of the antebellum plantation culture that has been romanticized in American popular culture. It also depended on the individual relationship in question. In general, wealthy Southern white men would have addressed women of their own social class in a formal manner (Miss) before they knew them well, but by first name or nickname afterwards, as their letters reflect. Poorer southern whites, including some slave owners, would have always referred to elites formally or with some honorary title, like Judge, or Colonel (if they were in local militia, as many were). Elites would have felt free to refer to poorer people in a more informal manner. Similarly, blacks were almost never called by a title like Mr. or Miss.. Rather, they were usually referred to in general as "boy" or "girl," or in the case of older slaves, as "Aunt" or "Uncle." Their proper names were often conferred upon them by plantation owners and were often dimunitives, like "Billy" or "Petey" or names chosen from mythology, just as pets were named.
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