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The Deep South is a descriptive category of the cultural and geographic subregions in the Southern United States. Historically, it is differentiated from the "Upper South" as being the states most dependent on plantation type agriculture during the pre–Civil War period. The Deep South was also commonly referred to as the Lower South or the Cotton States. People of English ancestry traditionally predominate in every part of the Deep South except for southern Louisiana. As late as the 1980 census, people of English ancestry formed the largest single self-reported ancestry group in every single Southern State by a large margin.
Today, the Deep South is usually delineated as being those states and areas where things most often thought of as "Southern" exist in their most concentrated form.
The term "Deep South" is defined in a variety of ways:
- Most definitions include the states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
- The seven states that seceded from the United States before the firing on Fort Sumter and the start of the American Civil War, and originally formed the Confederate States of America. In order of secession they are: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Due to the migration patterns of the last half-century, some areas of Florida and Texas are often no longer included under the term such as Central Florida and South Florida. However, there are certain parts of these states, such as East Texas, the Florida Panhandle, the First Coast and other parts of North Florida that retain cultural characteristics of the Deep South.
- A large part of the original "Cotton Belt", generally extending from eastern North Carolina to South Carolina and through the Gulf States as far west as East Texas, and including those parts of western Tennessee and eastern Arkansas in the Mississippi embayment.
Though often used in history books to refer to the seven states that originally formed the Confederacy, the term "Deep South" did not come into general usage until long after the Civil War ended. Up until that time, "Lower South" was the primary designation for those states. When "Deep South" first began to gain mainstream currency in print—in the middle of the 20th century—it applied to the states and areas of Mississippi, north Louisiana, southern Alabama and Georgia, and northern Florida. This was the part of the South many considered the "most Southern".
Later, the general definition expanded to include all of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, often taking in bordering areas of East Texas and the original inclusion of North Florida, along with Central Florida. In its broadest application today, the Deep South is considered to be "an area roughly coextensive with the old cotton belt from eastern North Carolina through South Carolina west into East Texas, with extensions north and south along the Mississippi".
From 1880 to 1960 the Deep South overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party as a legacy of the rival Republican Party's record during Reconstruction. It was known as the "Solid South". With the Goldwater–Johnson election of 1964, a significant contingent of those voters left the national Democratic Party while still voting for Democrats at the state and local level into the 1990s. Conversely, support for Republicans among blacks eroded in the New Deal Era, even though few blacks could then vote in those states.
The Deep South has voted Republican in presidential elections for many decades, except in the 1976 election when Georgia native Jimmy Carter received the Democratic nomination, the 1992 election when Arkansas native and former governor Bill Clinton won both Georgia and Louisiana and the 1996 election when the incumbent president Clinton again won Louisiana. Since the 1990s there has been a continued shift toward Republican candidates at the state and local levels. As of the current 113th Congress, only Louisiana has a Democratic US Senator, and only Georgia has more than one Democratic US Representative. Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House in 1995.
Presidential elections in which the region diverged noticeably from the Upper South occurred in 1928, 1948, 1964, 1968, and, to a lesser extent, in 1952, 1956, 1992, and 2008. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee fared well in the Deep South in 2008 Republican primaries, losing only one state (South Carolina) while running (he had dropped out of the race before the Mississippi primary).
- Fryer, Darcy. "The Origins of the Lower South". Lehigh University. Retrieved 2008-12-30.[unreliable source?]
- Freehling, William (1994). "The Editorial Revolution, Virginia, and the Coming of the Civil War: A Review Essay". The Regeneration of American History. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-19-508808-3. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
- 1980 U.S. census
- 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About the South John Reed and Dale Volberg Reed. Doubleday 1996
- "Deep South". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- "Deep South". Synonym.com. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- Neal R. Pierce, The Deep South States of America: People, Politics, and Power in the Seven States of the Deep South (1974) pp 123-61
- Williard B. Gatewood Jr. and Jeannie M. Whayne, eds. (1996). The Arkansas Delta: Land of Paradox. University of Arkansas Press. p. 3.
- Diane D. Blair; Jay Barth (2005). Arkansas Politics and Government. U of Nebraska Press. p. 66.
- The Encyclopedia of Southern History. Edited by David C. Roller and Robert W. Twyman. Louisiana State University Press. 1979
- Charles S. Bullock III and Mark J. Rozell, eds. The New Politics of the Old South: An Introduction to Southern Politics (2009)
- Brown, D. Clayton. King Cotton: A Cultural, Political, and Economic History since 1945 (University Press of Mississippi, 2011) 440 pp. ISBN 978-1-60473-798-1
- Davis, Allison. Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class (1941) classic case study from the late 1930s
- Dollard, John. Caste and Class in a Southern Town (1941), a classic case study
- Harris, J. William. Deep Souths: Delta, Piedmont, and Sea Island Society in the Age of Segregation (2003)
- Key, V.O. Southern Politics in State and Nation (1951) classic political analysis, state by state
- Pierce, Neal R. The Deep South States of America: People, Politics, and Power in the Seven States of the Deep South (1974) in-depth study of politics and issues, state by state
- Rothman, Adam. Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (2007)