Why did the South become so distinct from other areas of the United States during the nineteenth-century?

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The South was different from other areas of the growing and expanding United States for many reasons.

Many of the differences can be traced to geography and the effects of its location. The climate of that area is sub-tropical - hot and humid for much of the year. Hard physical labor is even more unappealing under such conditions, leading European settlers to be receptive to alternatives to having to do such work themselves.

As settlers learned more about the area, the discovery that the land was suitable for growing tobacco and cotton promised great financial rewards for those who could raise and market these products. These were very labor-intensive crops, however; the solution was to import slaves to work the fields. Over the years, the unique social stratification brought about by divisions between large slaveowners, small slaveowners, farmers with no slaves, the slaves themselves, and those who ran businesses or trades resulted in the region evolving a very different culture from areas of the country that were not dominated by the effects of slavery.

As agriculture dominated the South, the development of transportation was limited to the conveying of produce to ports for shipment to locations where the produce could be processed into finished products. There was not the diversity of industrialization that developed in the North; railroads expanded routes much more rapidly in the North and stretching to the West than in the South.

Attitudes toward lifestyles and activities reflected the differences in other areas. While many of the differences have resolved or lessened, the South is still distinct in many of its attitudes and cultural practices.