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Home / Essays / Relations in the Southern U.S. in the Past and Present

Relations in the Southern U.S. in the Past and Present


The civil war that took pace from 1861-1865 among others mainly aimed at abolishing slavery that was very prevalent in the southern states. The aim of the war in replacing slavery with a more free country was for the African American population that had been slaves. This would replace the slavery with freedom, in addition the issue of poverty and wealth would be addressed at time was various social classes at the time and people who were not of the same were not allowed to integrate them. In doing so, systems of governments and other social practices at time were being changed as this had been the foundations of most of the personal identities and stereotyping that existed at the time.

Many white men and women during this period had defined themselves according to various standards that began with race; in that African American people were inferior as compared to white people. Besides race, gender also played a key role in the superiority aspect as women at the time were mostly reliant on their husbands in managing and providing upkeep. All in all, men were in charge matters of day-to-day activities. The issue of class despite being kept very subtle in society was very important and had been brought about by various distinctions. These included include wealth, power, education and refinements. Sometimes issues of gentility and honor also played a part in the type of relation that would take place among different persons. Hence in the society of the southerners, the people thought the stature in society was pre-determined by the race color either African American or white and gender namely male or female. These were some of the main points that dictated various aspects, especially in aspirations and life choices.

The issue of the race goes back to the era of pre-civil war. In this time the superior race assumed to be whites treated inferior ones as property that would be bought and sold. This would be done by various pricing depending on the agreement that was reached. The relationship between slaves and non-slaves was complicated and intertwined as one group behaved like the owner and the other being treated as the property. In this arose a relationship that a slave after constant threats and promises would present himself or herself as desired by the buyer. In doing so, this would fetch the owner a good price. Due to this, slaves had the capability in dictating their future by presenting themselves best to a buyer that will guarantee the best future.

The Life after Civil War

White southerners had a mindset that biological distinctions played a pole position followed by the issues of class in society. This means that social status possessed by a person always dictated the path they followed in life. Identity in relation to class in society had been asserted in various aspects. Self-definition and power were mainly determined by factors like skin colour, hairstyle and language as this was defined by race, class and gender. However after the civil war a lot of things changed. Amongst crucial changes brought about by the war, slavery was overthrown and this led to undermining of power and wealth that planters who owned plantations wielded in society. Despite this, continued promotion of the white male supremacy was not working. One of the reasons for this was white males had been defeated at war. While at war they had failed to provide for their families forcing women to go into farms and toil to sustain living. The issue of white people being superior had been long gone with slavery. Women had also learned how to fend for themselves and no longer looked up to men in the society. Due to war, southerners had to rethink many aspects of their societal norms including various aspects of social dislocations brought by various fundamental assumptions relating to identity.

Power among African Americans

The African American southerners despite achieving freedom also made the war a very important part of our history. Due to the creation of free African Americans in the southern the approaches began to change. An example is in Macon County who upon being declared free most of the African Americans were told by the Alabama chief of the Freedmen's Bureau to expect nothing new hence work as usual. The difference would have risen in form of contract labour they would now be on. This move was aimed at the white community to lock them out of cash economy and avoid loss of labour. This arose as most of the African Americans wanted to relocate to northern areas and it is reflected in Macon County where in 1860-1870 about 5,000 African Americans moved and increased fear of losing plantation workers began to trouble the white plantation owners.

The trend continued and with the rise of African American populations so did their power. In the long run, they led to whites feeling like their private and pubic space was being invaded. The result of this was whites beginning to abandon the city at alarming rates and by the 1960s about 60,000 had left and figures rose to over 100,000.Eventually, in the 1980s the city due to African American power and influence achieved its first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson. This was however not met well by Atlanta's white business community who didn't support him. In this case, unlike the older days that would have led to separatist politics, they decided to work together albeit no in full partnership; however, segregation grew as whites moved to suburban residents while the African American population was in the middle-status neighborhoods.

Besides relocation most of the African American population in the south had a change in approach. They decided to make use of a new franchise by electing representative into the state legislature as soon as possible. The introduction of the African American votes meant that even the white conservatives who were vying for various positions had to woo the African American votes. The result of this was threats and terrorism that was spread to African American population as a tactic to scare them away from the electoral. By the end of 1870, whites had control over the electoral process by means of fraud ad intimidation policy that employed violence. Besides this, most of the African American southerners shifted their attention to education in the face of the difficulties brought by the emancipation process. Whites developed a new approach in that they believed some form of elementary education was needed among the workforce leading to teachers being trained among the African Americans.

This is reflected also in the 21st century in cities like Atlanta; in this city, African American population rapidly grew in the late 1940s leading to them not being able to be ignored. This resulted in the population ending up wielding a surprisingly strong political power brought about by their numbers. This led to the hiring of more African-American police officers along with allocation of more park space for African American citizens; this was earlier not the case but was a positive effect of the influence being wielded by the political power by African American population. This came to pass due to the formation of the Atlanta African American Negro that formed in 1949. The aim of the organization was supporting any powerful African American financially and through this new leaders came to emerge like Austin Walden whose rise to political power especially in the rural areas would have been impossible.

Features in Slave states

During the Civil War days, most of the states in the South were biased in the policies that were made. Those made used to favor the slave owners and against the African American slaves. According to the constitution of the U.S. before the Civil War, the issues that5 regarded slavery was left to the states to come up with laws that related to them. The situation was aggravated as most of the states left the issue of slaves and their punishment to their respective owners. This resulted in the prevalence of slave patrols and state militias who took part in augmentation of punishment in incidents of slaves trying to run away or offenses that are committed away from the plantation. Other instances when they came into the picture involved cases where they tried to stop any incidents of rebellions.

Class Structures

During Civil War era and after, planter classes made up of slaves and free ones who worked in the plantations were weak both politically and economically. Despite the amendments being made after the war including the reconstruction and other aspects that made it impossible in establishing essential features normally in slavery and land was never redistributed. Due to this most of the laborers were forced to work for very low wages and some rigorous labor, a technique borrowed from the slavery days. This was even boosted by conservative major political forces as they made it one of the next generation goals.

In addition, most of African Americans in the Southern regions were confined to schools systems that were inferior in quality. In addition, housing areas including public facilities and services accessible were in an equally appalling situation. Besides this, the "emigrant agent laws' meant that exodus of migrant African American workers to the North would lead to expensive license fees. The landlords and employers became protected by "enticement statutes' that made it illegal to hire a worker who is already under contract.

This African American disenfranchisement was a very important strategy in keeping the effectiveness and stability of racial states in which African Americans also were not eligible to vote. However the southern cities that were reliant on industrial and labour-intensive technology became the weakest link in racial states. This was attributed to lack of need to use coercive forces in trying to control their laborers. Moreover the denial of civil rights to African Americans for about half a century through the urbanization, industrialization and now finally the depression.

Race Relation Theories

Today there are many theories that have been brought up about the relations among various races, especially between the African Americans and whites. The first theory revolves around stratification theory. This is a theory that is based on the aspects of status distinction in that the level of education will influence the kind of relation with African Americans a white will have. For example, it states that certain whites who are better educated tend to be more tolerant to African Americans in comparison to the less educated. The other theories are that of competition theories. In this case, discrimination seems to arise due to the competition for certain resources in the society that may not be adequate in the society.

The resources that may fuel such conflicts include power in the political scene, land and jobs. These are some of the key issues that used to fuel conflict the bring sin the race card. Some of the various issues that resulted in African American disenfranchisement due to the stratification theories include both social and economic aspects. This is reflected in the violent acts towards African American voters due to the belief of high voter turnout to higher African American income and education level unlike the reverse situation that would result in greater concentration of African American populations as farm workers and tenancy being associated with lower African American rates. In all the aspects that are applied in this theory it tends to imply that the white population who have developed the mentality have a phobia of being dominated by the African Americans.

Improving the Race Relations

One of the best approaches that were formulated in order to improve the race relations between African-Americans and whites was through health care. This came about after the much assumed theory of the African American body being associated with social diseases like Syphilis. In such cases led to even President Woodrow Wilson sending Robert Russa Moton who was the successor to Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute in France due to rumours over crimes that would not be mentioned that led to the rise in various social diseases in camps of African American soldiers. Upon coming back, the report he had prepared showed that the level of cleanliness in the camps was very high despite the continued theories on the same. The idea had originally been propagated by Washington just before his death as he tried to form a Negro Health Week that would be used in organizing clean ups and health messages cross the country. However this would have needed the support fro the federal government.

The whole issue about health had arisen in 1915 at a Southern Medical Association in which a Texas physician stated that African American population had immorality that led to diseases common to the African American population. The doctor further claimed that "negro was a menace to the health of the white race". According to him, venereal diseases presented the greatest danger as its infection was high among the various servants from cooks, drivers to maids.

Another issue that came was rumored that white population wanted to gain control of the Tuskegee Institute that had been founded by Washington to care for African Americans. The story despite being unproven went that whites wanted to gain control over the area in order to use it as an experimenting to sterilize the African Americans and get rid of the "related diseases'. This led to a battle for the institution and resulted in demonstrations by Klu Klux Klan who also threatened families of Moton but armed Tuskegee cadets protected the institution. Finally, the federal government stepped in and said it would remain under control of African Americans but now be for veterans and offer only employment to the local population.

Role of Women

During Civil War, white women in the south faced a lot of changes in terms of task and duties that were traditionally reserved for women. Due to these changes occurring in the society most of the women in the society faced a lot of difficult times. According to Faust, many of the women encountered changes in a way they lived especially in the relation they had previously had with slaves. This is because of the realization that the slaves were actually closer to them in the society especially in the social point that had been previously assumed. The problem during the war in the Southern America is that every man who was able-bodied would be sent to war. Due to lack of men available for other tasks, women were forced to take an active role in managing farms and plantations and this included the management or poor management of the slave population that would sometimes have a violent behavior.

The change in lifestyle meant that women now had to actively deal with slaves a task previously left for their husbands. This means they had to endure the hardships associated with the life in the farms and this was a sacrifice on their side as they had not done this before. The end result of an absence of men who had gone to war changed in values, especially when relating to issues like class and roles that had been set aside for genders. Despite the war coming to an end the norms in society when relating to tasks for the genders did not remain the same but had changed for good. Before the war, most of the southern women had been incompetent in many tasks in the homestead. This is because women were not able to cook and make or mend clothes properly as it should be. The situation was further aggravated by the absence of their husbands who had left and gone to the Civil War.

In the war, some of the women ended up losing their men and this meant they women are left to fend for their families. Moreover women had relied on their husbands to provide everything in the family. This meant that their family would have a drop in income and this forced them to move to areas that were not in the same class as previous. This would be a result of poor management of the previously held assets before the war. The blending in the social class in the Confederation was no only due to the family losses or the mismanagement of assets but also as a support method for the war effort. This is because the white women irrespective of the class by each had to gather together so as to lend each other support and also the war effort by the Confederacy. Due to the fact that most of the time the war took place in the southern areas means that the northern women did not feel the burden that their counterparts had to undergo.

The blend in social class can be attributed to the fact that men at time and after the war became few. This led to women having to choose men from a different social class or else become old maids and this created a blending of people from various classes in society as the quest to maintain the equilibrium in various aspects of society. An example of the coming together is seen in the group "Ladies of Lancaster'. The result of the Civil War for the women is that they had to fill in the traditional positions and tasks that had been left out for men. This is seen in a case of women who started running the plantations, working in the hospitals. In the case of people like Belle Boyd who worked as spies and in some rare cases would impersonate men and go to battlefronts to fight. This resulted in confederate women growing stronger and bolder as they slowly became like men and this included a change in style in that they adopted shorter hair styles. Besides this, women changed their style and dressed in more masculine dresses in trying to assert the independence developed due to fending for them.

The change in the dressing was aimed at endeavoring an escape from a system that had been set to insubordinate women instead of challenging the system. The change into a more muscular dressing is also attributed for safety and convenience. Despite this other issues would crop up especially in the management of the slaves at the time. Women developed fear in the management of slaves as they thought that they would face a rebellion and increasing restive. This led to the development of personal safety and fear of losing their lives that sufficed in a few cases. In the process, many of the women learned to face their fears as they realized that slave populations were not as different as they assumed in the male dominated society. At the same time, many of the confronted the situation of things in terms of duties men performed and the result was some were up to it while others ended up failing completely.


The racial discrimination before and up to the days of the civil wars that led to the emancipation of African American's from slavery was very high. Before this period the society deemed them as an inferior race to be used as a commodity that would be bought like any other goods. Due to this, slaves lived and worked in plantations. After the civil war and defeat of the white men who deemed themselves superior in society, a revolution began in the Southern states albeit with resistance leading to the intervention by the federal authorities. The African American population soon started getting the education and began to use its political power in order to gain the facilities' in needed in the society. This is reflected in cities like Atlanta that led to the disserting of the town by the white population leading up to its first African American mayor in the 1980s. Through such initiatives, the African Americans were able to overcome the race card of inferiority and gain power through the numbers they wielded politically.