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The South and the New Deal

The South and the New Deal

ROGER BILES
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130j2h9
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  • Book Info
    The South and the New Deal
    Book Description:

    When Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in as president, the South was unmistakably the most disadvantaged part of the nation. The region's economy was the weakest, its educational level the lowest, its politics the most rigid, and its laws and social mores the most racially slanted. Moreover, the region was prostrate from the effects of the Great Depression.

    Roosevelt's New Deal effected significant changes on the southern landscape, challenging many traditions and laying the foundations for subsequent alterations in the southern way of life. At the same time, firmly entrenched values and institutions militated against change and blunted the impact of federal programs.

    InThe South and the New Deal, Roger Biles examines the New Deal's impact on the rural and urban South, its black and white citizens, its poor, and its politics. He shows how southern leaders initially welcomed and supported the various New Deal measures but later opposed a continuation or expansion of these programs because they violated regional convictions and traditions. Nevertheless, Biles concludes, the New Deal, coupled with the domestic effects of World War II, set the stage for a remarkable postwar transformation in the affairs of the region.

    The post-World War II Sunbelt boom has brought Dixie more fully into the national mainstream. To what degree did the New Deal disrupt southern distinctiveness? Biles answers this and other questions and explores the New Deal's enduring legacy in the region.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5734-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 ON THE EVE OF DEPRESSION
    (pp. 1-15)

    In the decade following the First World War, the South’s continuing resistance to change intensified. Long committed to preserving the status quo, many white southerners clung tenaciously to a belief in the Lost Cause and refused to surrender a romanticized ideal of the Old South. Forced to suffer defeat in the Civil War and the humiliation of Reconstruction, they sought to preserve a uniquely southern way of life, judged superior to that existing in the urbanized, industrialized North. White superiority, racial segregation, one-party politics, and fundamentalist religion characterized much of the region. Nevertheless, the 1920s brought challenges of unprecedented force...

  6. 2 DEPRESSION AND RESPONSE, 1929–1933
    (pp. 16-35)

    The Great Depression exacted a heavy toll in the South. Already reeling from years of substandard prices, farmers saw conditions worsen. In 1930–31 the most severe drought in history exacerbated the situation, and of course, sharecroppers and tenant farmers suffered the most. Southern industry, employing only 15 percent of the nation’s factory workers, lost whatever momentum it had gained the previous decade and fell even further behind northern manufacturing. Long reluctant to spend huge sums of money for the care of the indigent, southern communities lacked the institutions—and indeed, the inclination—to provide relief on a large scale....

  7. 3 FROM SHARECROPPING TO AGRIBUSINESS
    (pp. 36-57)

    In 1930 fewer than half of southern farmers owned the land they tilled. In 1935, 1,831,470 tenant farmers worked in the South, approximately 63 percent of the nation’s total. Contrary to widespread belief, not all tenants and sharecroppers were black. True, 77 percent of black farmers worked on other people’s land, but so did 45 percent of southern whites. In Mississippi 70 percent of farmers were tenants. By the end of the Depression decade, however, land ownership patterns—and indeed, southern agriculture itself—looked unmistakably different. The economic conditions of the 1930s along with a plethora of New Deal programs...

  8. 4 RELIEF AND EMPLOYMENT
    (pp. 58-82)

    The arrival of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal resulted in a significant increase in the federal government’s involvement in local relief. Through the Federal Emergency Relief Administration’s direct relief measures and through public works administered by the FERA, the Civil Works Administration (CWA), and, most important, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), nearly two billion federal dollars made their way to the South. This certainly constituted a deviation from the limited involvement of the Hoover administration and provided desperate southerners with much-needed resources. But while President Roosevelt’s offers of assistance met with eager acceptance, southern attitudes toward public welfare...

  9. 5 LABOR AND THE NEW DEAL
    (pp. 83-102)

    Whether entirely intended or not, the New Deal had a profound impact on labor unions, with such landmark pieces of legislation as section 7(a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Labor’s successes in the 1930s not only resuscitated a listless American Federation of Labor but also led industrial unionists to break away from the craft union-controlled AFL to form the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Both organizations won notable victories resulting in recognition, collective bargaining, and improved wages and working conditions, but they met particularly stiff resistance...

  10. 6 THE NEW DEAL AND RACE RELATIONS
    (pp. 103-124)

    Blacks in the South led a decidedly precarious existence at the outset of the Great Depression. Victimized by an omnipotent racial caste system and saddled with the lowest paying jobs, blacks suffered disproportionately from the ravages of the economy’s collapse. Traditionally “last hired and first fired,” they sustained unemployment rates consistently dwarfing those for whites. In comparison with white residents, blacks were less likely to own homes—and those who did had homes of less median value than homes of whites—shared their living unit with more persons, and occupied a higher percentage of dilapidated structures. Moreover, they endured the...

  11. 7 SOUTHERN POLITICS
    (pp. 125-152)

    Southern politics played an important role in the development of the New Deal. Recognizing the importance of southern votes, Franklin D. Roosevelt avidly courted Dixie’s Democrats, and their support was crucial in his nomination for president in 1932. Powerful southern Democrats in Congress made possible the passage of much New Deal legislation, particularly in the “First New Deal” of 1933, but effectively blocked later laws they considered inimical to their interests. By the end of the decade the same legislators helped the president secure defense measures from a balky Congress wary of military preparedness. The South benefited significantly from New...

  12. 8 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 153-158)

    In December 1939 the citizens of Atlanta eagerly awaited the upcoming world premiere of the filmGone with the Wind. Mayor William B. Hartsfield had worked assiduously to convince Hollywood’s moguls that Margaret Mitchell’s hometown should be the site of the eagerly awaited first showing. When a rumor surfaced that the movie would open in New York City instead, Hartsfield frantically contacted producer David O. Selznick for reassurances. The night before the December 15 showing, Atlanta sponsored a ball attended by Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and a throng of hoop-skirted and tuxedoed revelers. The next day a crowd of forty...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 159-184)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY
    (pp. 185-198)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 199-206)