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Geographically, the Old South is a subregion farming country of the American South, differentiated from the Deep South by being limited to those Southern laws, states represented among the original thirteen British colonies which became the first thirteen U.S. states. Culturally, "Old South" is used to describe the rural, agriculturally-based, pre-Civil War economy and society in the Southern United States, in contrast to the post-war New South.
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The story of the "Old South" is the story of slavery's plantations, its origins, its expansion, and its pervasive influence on the region. Pre-Civil War Americans regarded Southerners as a distinct people, who possessed their own values and ways of life. During the three decades before the Civil War, popular writers created a stereotype, now known as the plantation legend, that described the South as a land of aristocratic planters, beautiful southern belles, poor white trash, faithful household slaves, and superstitious fieldhands. This image of the South as "a land of cotton where old times are not forgotten" received its most popular expression in 1859 in a song called "Dixie," written by a Northerner named Dan D. Emmett to enliven shows given by a troupe of blackfaced minstrels on the New York stage.
The "Old South" also refers to the tradition of Southerners voting the Democratic ticket, though more often "the Solid South" is used to describe this. During the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, black people exercising their right to vote for the first time led to a Republican South until 1877, when southern Democrats returned to power due to intimidation of black voters and laws that suppressed civil rights. As more middle class and educated Republicans move to the South from other areas of the country and white support for segregation and racist policies subsided, the south began to shift to the Republican party starting with Nixon winning a few southern states in 1968. The modern Democratic Party's views on abortion, taxes, gun rights, and other issues escalated the shift in recent decades.
The "Old South" is usually defined in opposition to the Deep South, which also includes Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and it is also further differentiated from the inland border states, including the Upper South states of Kentucky and West Virginia, as well peripheral southern states of Florida and Texas.
Old South Day
- Antebellum era
- American gentry
- New South
- Deep South
- Upper South
- Southern Colonies
- Border States
- Solid South
- South Atlantic States
- Documenting the American South. A digital publishing initiative that provides numerous documents and information about the South of the United States before and after the American Civil War.
- Jekyll Island Club - Victorian Playground of Northern Industrialists in the Old South
- Southern Arts Federation
- Smith, Mark M., "The Old South" (Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 2001).