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 and slavery during the pre–Civil War period. The Deep South was also commonly referred to as the Lower South or the Cotton States. Before the out-migrations at the first half of the 20th century, African-descended peoples comprised the majority of the population in numerous areas and some states. Today, the Deep South is usually delineated as being those states and areas where cultural elements 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 Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana.
- 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. The first six states were those that held the largest number of slaves.
- 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 East Texas, Mississippi, north Louisiana, southern Alabama and Georgia, and 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 North 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".
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From 1880 to the early 1960s, white conservatives of the Deep South had regained control of state governments and overwhelmingly identified as and supported the Democratic Party. At the same time, numerous Republicans continued to be elected in local offices through the 1880s and into the 1890s, when the Republicans and Populists briefly elected governors in some states, as well as other fusion candidates. The Republicans elected an African-American congressman as late as 1894.
At the turn of the century, all of the Southern states passed new constitutions and other laws that effectively disenfranchised millions of blacks and many poor whites to prevent populist coalitions, and excluded them from the political system entirely. The state legislatures passed laws to impose white supremacy and Jim Crow, including racial segregation of public facilities. The region became known in politics as a one-party Democratic district and was known as the "Solid South" for decades while this disenfranchisement was enforced; its representatives accrued outsized power in the Congress and the national Democratic Party, as they controlled all the seats apportioned to southern states based on total population but represented a much smaller number of voters. During this same period, the number of lynchings of blacks by whites reached a peak in the region; the most deaths annually were in the years shortly before the turn of the century, when the region was also under economic stress.
Major demographic changes ensued in the 20th century; during the two waves of the Great Migration, a total of 6 million African Americans left the South for opportunities in the North, Midwest and West Coast. In some areas, white migration increased into the South, especially in the late 20th century. Beginning with the Goldwater–Johnson election of 1964, a significant contingent of white conservative voters in the Deep South stopped supporting national Democratic Party candidates, while still voting for Democrats at the state and local level into the 1990s.
The Republican Party in the South had been crippled by disenfranchisement of blacks and the national party was unable to relieve their injustices in the South. During the Great Depression and the administration of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, some New Deal measures aided African Americans across the country and in the poor rural South, as well as poor whites. In the post-World War II era, some Democratic Party presidents and national politicians began to support desegregation and other elements of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, from President Harry S. Truman's desegregating the military, to John F. Kennedy's support for non-violent protests, and culminating in Lyndon B. Johnson's important work in gaining Congressional approval for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since that period, many African Americans in the South and the rest of the nation have supported the Democratic Party as supportive of civil rights.
The majority whites of the Deep South have 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. In 1995, Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House.
Since the 1990s there has been a continued shift by the white majority toward Republican candidates at the state and local levels. This trend culminated in 2014, when the outcome of the midterm elections resulted in the Republicans holding all statewide offices in the region. As a result of the same election, the GOP came to control all the state legislatures in the region as well as all House seats that were not majority-minority districts. Continuing demographic changes are likely to influence regional politics: many educated African Americans are migrating back to the South, and taking professional and middle-class jobs, there have been waves of immigration from Latino countries of Mexico, and Central and South America, and white northerners have also moved to the South for jobs or to retire.
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 30 December 2008.[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.
- 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.
- 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. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979
- Gabriel J. Chin & Randy Wagner, "The Tyranny of the Minority: Jim Crow and the Counter-Majoritarian Difficulty,"43 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 65 (2008)
- Richard M. Valelly, The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp. 146-147
- "Demise of the Southern Democrat is Now Nearly Complete". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- 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)