Aftermath and Impacts of the Civil War

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In what ways did the New South parallel and differ from the Old (Antebellum) South?

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Although the Civil War marks a transition between the Old South and the New South, the transition is much more of a work-in-progress than a complete break.

It should also be noted that the South has changed more for some people in some regions than for others. While Raleigh-Durham (or the...

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Although the Civil War marks a transition between the Old South and the New South, the transition is much more of a work-in-progress than a complete break.

It should also be noted that the South has changed more for some people in some regions than for others. While Raleigh-Durham (or the "Research Triangle") of North Carolina has become a major technology hub and almost a poster child of the "New South," many parts of rural Alabama and Mississippi have not changed as dramatically. 

The obvious change has been the elimination of slavery. Although one might be tempted to look at this as a dramatic break with the past, it might be more accurately conceived of as an ongoing process. The so-called "Jim Crow" laws enacted after the Civil War enshrined racial discrimination in every area from drinking fountains to seating on public transportation (with "coloreds" generally having far worse facilities). It was not until the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that states were forbidden from setting up separate white and black schools and the decision of Browder v. Gayle in 1956 prohibited there being separate black and white sections on public transit. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other landmark court judgments though, many areas of the south remain strongly segregated and unequal. 

Before the Civil War, the South had been relatively wealthy, albeit with the wealth distributed unequally, but after the Civil War, Mississippi and some other southern states lapsed into poverty, in part due to an economy grounded in agriculture. Although post-World War II industrialization has led to some parts of the South moving into the new industrial and technological economy, and the South now has many growing cities, several Southern states, including Alabama and Mississippi, have never recovered economically and remain among the poorest states in the United States. 

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There were some similarities and some differences between the South before the Civil War and the South after the Civil war. The old South and the new South had some similarities. One of the similarities was that the attitudes of many white southerners didn’t change regarding African-Americans and support for certain policies. Before the Civil War, many southerners supported slavery, nullification, states’ rights, and secession. After the Civil War, the southerners tried to elect many of the same representatives to Congress who served before the Civil War who believed in these concepts. Negatives attitudes toward African-Americans and towards changing some policies existed in the South for a long time after the Civil War ended.

Another similarity and this is also tied to the attitudes, was to try to keep African-Americans from making progress. After the Civil War, many white southerners opposed giving the Freedmen’s Bureau more power. This agency was designed to help the former slaves. White southerners devised ways to restrict African-Americans from using the rights they had gained from Reconstruction. Poll taxes and literacy tests were used to prevent African-Americans from voting. Jim Crow laws were passed to segregate the races. It wasn’t until the 1960s that these restrictions were ended. Sharecropping was a system of farming that kept the former slaves in a condition similar to slavery. Many sharecroppers, including African-American sharecroppers, were deeply in debt to the white landowners. This resistance toward helping African-Americans existed in the South for a long time after the Civil War ended.  

Two differences from pre-Civil War days to post-Civil War days were the change in the economy and the expansion of transportation. Prior to the Civil War, the South was mainly an agricultural-based economy. Most people in the South were farmers. There were few industries. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, the economy of the South became more diversified. The South, while still primarily agricultural, had more industries as new industries were built and developed. Additionally, transportation began to change in the South. As railroads expanded into the region, the South became less dependent on river travel than it was before the Civil War. It began to rely more on the railroads after the Civil War ended.

There were some similarities and some differences between the pre-Civil War South and the post-Civil War South.

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There are two important differences between the New and Old Souths.  First, there was of course the fact that the New South did not have slavery.  Second, the New South had an economy that was starting to diversify.  The Old South had been the Cotton Kingdom while the New South had more manufacturing.

The major parallel between the two has to do with racial attitudes and hierarchy.  While slavery was no longer in existence, there was still deeply entrenched white supremacy.  White landlords continued to dominate over black sharecroppers.  Blacks were kept firmly subordinated to whites.  In this way, the New South was not that different from the Old South.

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