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


Among other reasons, the need to abolish slavery in the southern states was one of the major causes of civil war that took place in the 1877. The aim of the war was to replace the slavery with a more liberal country for the black population that had been slaves for a hundred years.  Hence this would replace the slavery with freedom.  In addition, the issue of poverty and wealth would be adequately addressed by allowing the blacks to freely interact with the rest of the population. The systems of governments and other social practices were bound to be changed as this had been the foundations of most of the personal identities and stereotyping that existed at the time.

Most of the white men and women during this period had defined themselves according to their race. The black people were considered to be inferior as compared to white people.  Besides race, the gender also played a key role in the superiority aspect as the women were mostly reliant on their husbands to manage and provide upkeep in all matters of the 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 that include wealth, power, education and refinements. Sometimes the issue of gentility and honour also played a part in the type of relation that arose among different persons. In the society of the southerners, the people thought the stature in society was pre-determined by the race, colour either black or white or the gender namely male or female. These were some of the main points that dictated the various aspects of aspirations and life choices.

The issue of race can be traced back to the era of pre-civil war. During this time, the superior race, which was assumed to be the whites, treated the inferior ones as property that would be bought and sold at 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. The slave after constant threats and promises would present himself or herself as desired by the buyer and in the process would fetch the owner a good price. As a result, the slaves had the capability to dictate their future by presenting best to the buyer that will guarantee the best future.

The Life after Civil War

The white southerners had a mindset in which the biological distinctions and the issue of class took the central position in the society.  This meant that the social status always dictated the path of life that one would follow.  The identity in relation to class in the society had to always be asserted in various aspects. The 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. Among the most crucial changes brought about by the war was the overthrowing of which led to the undermining of the power and wealth that the planters who owned the plantations wielded in society.

One of the reasons for the fall of white male supremacy is that the white males had been defeated at war. In addition, while at war they had failed to provide for their families forcing the women to go into the farms and toil for sustenance. The issue of white people being superior had been long gone with slavery.  The women had also learned how to fend for themselves and no longer looked up to the men in the society. The war also transformed various aspects of the southerner societal norms especially as regards racial and gender discrimination.

Power among Blacks

Freedom accorded to the black slaves a crucial impact of the civil war. An example is in Macon County who upon being declared free, most of the blacks were told by the Alabama chief of the Freedmen's Bureau to expect nothing new but go to work as usual. The difference would have risen in the form of a contract labour. This move was aimed by the white community to lock them out of the cash economy and avoid the loss of labour. This arose as most of the blacks wanted to relocate to northern areas. This was also reflected in Macon County where about 5,000 blacks moved between 1860 and1870. As a result, there was increased fear of losing of the plantation workers among the white plantation owners. The trend continued and with the rise of the black population so did their power, in the long run they led to the whites feeling like their private and public space was being invaded. The rise of black people led to the whites beginning to abandon the city at alarming rates and by the 1960s about 60,000 had left. This figure rose significantly to about over 100,000. Eventually, in the 1980s the city due to the black power and influence achieved its first black mayor, Maynard Jackson. This was however not met well by the Atlanta's white business community who didn't support. 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 the whites moved to suburban residents while the black population was in the middle status neighbourhoods.

Besides the relocation, most of the black population in the south had a change in approach. They decided to make use of the new franchise by electing representative into the state legislature as soon as possible. The introduction of the black votes meant that even the white conservatives who were vying for various positions had to woo the black votes. The end result of this was threats and terrorism which geared to the black population as a tactic to scare them away from the electoral power. By the end of 1870, whites had control over the electoral process by means of fraud and intimidation policy that employed violence. Besides this, most of the black southerners shifted their attention to education in the face of the difficulties brought by the emancipation process. And even the 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 blacks.

This is reflected also in the 21st century in cities like Atlanta where the black population rapidly grew in the late 1940s leading to them not being able to be ignored. The black population ended up wielding a surprisingly strong political power brought about by their numbers. This led to the hiring of more black police officers along with allocation of more parking spaces for the black citizens. This was not the case before but was a positive effect of the influence being wielded by the political power of the black population. This came to pass due to the formation of the Atlanta Black Negro that formed in 1949. The aim of the organization is to support any powerful black financial and through this new leaders came to emerge like Austin Walden whose gain to political power especially in the rural areas would have been impossible.

Features in Slave states

During the Civil War period and before, most of the states in the South were biased in the policies that were made which used to favour the slave owners and against the black slaves. According to the constitution of the U.S., it was the mandate of the states to come up with laws that governed slavery. 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 the slave patrols and state militias who took part in the augmentation of punishment for the slaves that were spotted to want to run away or offences 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

In the era of the Civil War, the planter class made up of slaves and free ones who worked in the plantations were weak both politically and economically. Despite the amendments that were made after the war including the reconstruction and other aspects that made it impossible to establish the essential anti-slavery features, the land was never redistributed. As a result, most of the labourers were forced to work on very low wages and some rigorous labour, a technique which characterised by slavery.

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

Disenfranchisement of the black population was a very important strategy in keeping the effectiveness and stability of the racial states due to the fact that blacks were not eligible to vote. However, the southern cities that were reliant on industrial and labour-intensive technology became the weakest link in the racial state. This was attributed to the lack of need to use coercive forces in trying to control the labourers. As a result, there was denial of civil rights to the blacks for about half a century through the urbanization, industrialization and finally the depression.

Race Relation Theories

There are many theories that have been brought up about to explain the relations among the various races especially between the blacks and whites. The first theory revolves around stratification theory. This theory is based on the aspects of status distinction in that the level of education will influence the kind of relation between the blacks and the whites. For example, it states that certain whites who are better educated tend to be more tolerant to blacks in comparison to the less educated. The other theories include competition theories. In this case, the 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. Some of the various issues that led to black disenfranchisement due to the stratification theories include both social and economic aspects. This is reflected in the violent acts towards black voters. It was believed that high voter turnout in the black population would mean higher black income and education level. However, the reverse situation would result in greater concentration of black populations as farm workers and tenancy. In all the aspects applicable in this theory, it tends to imply that the white population who have developed the mentality have a phobia of being dominated by the blacks.

Improving the Race Relations

One of the best approaches that were formulated in order to improve the race relations between blacks and whites was through health care services. This came about after the much assumed theory of the black body being associated with social diseases like Syphilis.

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

Another issue that came was the rumours that the white population wanted to gain control of the Tuskegee Institute that had been founded by Washington to care for blacks. The story despite being unproven went that the whites wanted to gain control over the area in order to use it as an experimental point to sterilize the backs and get rid of the 'related diseases'.  This led to a battle for control of the institution between the whites and the blacks. As a result, there arose demonstrations by the Klu Klux Klan who also threatened the families of Moton. However, armed Tuskegee cadets came in and protected the institution. They were supported by the federal government who stepped in and said it would remain under the control of the blacks but now be for veterans and offer only employment to the local population.

Role of Women

During the Civil War, the 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 faced a lot of difficult times. According to Faust, many of the women encountered changes in the way they lived especially in the relation to the fact that they had previously been with slaves. This is because of the realization that the slaves were actually closer to them in the society especially in the social point.  The problem during the war in the Southern America is that every man who was able-bodied would be sent to war.  Due to the absence of men to handle other tasks, the women were forced to take an active role in managing the farms and plantations and this included the management of the slave population that would sometimes have violent behaviours.

The change in lifestyle meant that the women now had to actively deal with the 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 it before. The end result was the change in values especially in regard to issues like class and roles that had been set aside for genders. Despite the war coming to an end, the norms in the society in relation to the tasks for the two genders did not remain the same but had changed for good. Earlier before the war, most of the southern women had been incompetent in many tasks in the homestead.  This is because the 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 for the Civil War.

In the war, some of the women ended up losing their men in the war and these meant that the women would be left to fend for the families. Moreover, the fact that the women relied on the husbands to provide everything in the family meant that the family would have a drop in income and this forced the family to move to areas that was not in the same class as they were initially.  This was as a result of the poor management of the previously held assets before the war. The blending in the social class in the Confederation was not 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, had to gather together so as to lend each other support and also the war effort by the Confederacy. Due to the fact the war took place in the southern areas; this meant that the northern women did not feel the burden that their southern counterparts had to undergo.

The blend in the social class also can be attributed to the fact that the men became few after the war since many of them lost their lives in war. This led to the women having to choose men from a different social class or become old maids. There arose immense blending of people from various classes in the society in the quest to maintain the equilibrium in various aspects in the 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 seemed in the case of the women who started running the plantations, working in the hospitals. For instance, Belle Boyd is one of the women who worked as spies in the land and in some rare cases would impersonate men and go to the battlefronts to fight. This resulted in the confederate women growing stringer and bolder as they slowly became like men. This called for a change in the hair style as they had to adopt shorter hair styles. Besides this, the women changed their style and dressed in more masculine dresses in trying to assert the independence developed as they fended for their families. Besides this, the change in dressing was aimed at endeavouring to escape from a system that had been set those insubordinates 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. The women developed fear in the management of the slaves as they thought that they would face a rebellion and increasing unrest. In other words, the change in dressing was meant for 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 the slave population was not as different as they assumed normally in the male dominated society. At the same time, many of them confronted the situation of things in terms of the duties men performed and the result was some were up to it while others ended up failing completely.


Before this period, the society deemed the black population as an inferior race to be used as a commodity that would be bought like any other goods. Due to this the slaves lived and worked in the plantations. After the civil war and the defeat of the white men who deemed themselves superior in society, the revolution began in the Southern states although with resistance leading to the intervention by the federal authorities. The black population soon started getting education and began to use its political power in order to gain the essential facilities in the society. This is reflected in cities like Atlanta which was disserted by white population leading up to its first black mayor in the 1980s. Through such initiatives, the blacks were able to overcome the race card of inferiority and gain power through the numbers they wielded politically.

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

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