Changing South

June 10, 1959

Report Outline
Economic Advancement in the South
Population and Labor Force Changes
South'S Resistance to Social Change
Special Focus

Economic Advancement in the South

Economic Advances in the South, a section which President Roosevelt said 21 years ago presented “the nation's No. 1 economic problem,” are modifying characteristic aspects of the area which for many years have marked it as a distinct regional entity. Southern leaders express mixed feelings as their homeland begins to take on features indistinguishable from those of the nation as a whole. Economic progress is welcomed as a release from generations of poverty, but the passing of a tradition which, to the southerner, has many values worth preserving is regretted.

So pervasive is the trend toward conformity with other parts of the country that the historian, C. Van Woodward, recently suggested that “The time is coming, if indeed it has not already arrived, when the southerner will begin to ask himself whether there is really any longer much point to calling himself a southerner.” However, all vestiges of the past are not gone; often the old and the new South exist side by side. A contributor to a recent symposium on the South observed: “Within an hour the visitor can drive from a cabin in the Tennessee hills, where an old woman is wearing a linsey-woolsey dress woven from wool her mother carded, to the laboratories where crew-cut young men are studying the secrets of the split atom.” Most resistant to the changes wrought by economic growth is the South's historic attitude toward race relations.

Extent of The South's Economic Expansion

When the Roosevelt administration turned its attention to problems of the South in F.D.R.'s second term, the region was not only worse off than any other in the country; its deprivations long antedated the national economic crisis of the 1930s. A report by the President's National Emergency Council in 1938 showed the South to be the nation's poorest section in cash income and earning capacity, in housing, health and nutrition, in schooling and job skills.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Civil Rights Movement
Economic Development