Southern Society and Economy Southern Economy • Cotton became “king” in the 1800’s because it was the South’s most profitable crop. • Great Britain and the Northeast became the South’s biggest customers. Because of this, several large port cities grew in the South. • These cities included Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans. • Getting crops to the ports was a major challenge for the farmers. Most farmers relied on the region’s rivers to ship their goods. • The steamboat became the most popular form of transport for cotton. • Although the steamboat was a good way to transport crops, the South was slow to build canals, and by 1850 the South only had about 14% of the nation’s total canal mileage. In addition, the South had fewer miles of railroad. This made the Transportation Revolution more important for the North. Agricultural Diversity • Some southern farmers supported scientific agriculture which was the use of scientific methods to improve farming. • One goal was to increase crop production. Scientists also wanted to protect the land used to grow cotton. Planting cotton over and over again on the same piece of land wore out the soil. • Some farmers relied on fertilizers to better their crops, while others regularly changed the kinds of crops that they grew on a particular piece of land. This is called crop rotation. • Some southern leaders worried that the South relied too heavily on cotton and encouraged farmers to plant other crops. • Some farmers were already doing this. Corn, rice, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, and wheat became other profitable crops during this time. Tobacco continued to be a good crop as well. Southern Crops Southern Factories • Southern industry developed to help the farmers. • Factories were not as common in the South as they were in the Northeast. • Some southerners believed the South needed more industry, but the south’s industrial growth still lagged behind. People came to the South because of the wealth promised through farming. Because of this, southerners invested their money in more land, not in industry. Southern Society • Stories have made many people believe that all southerners in the 19th century lived on large plantations with hundreds of slaves. This is not the case. In the first half of the 1800’s, about 1/3 of white southern families had slaves and fewer families had plantations. • Despite their small numbers; however, plantation owners had a powerful influence over life in the South. • Planters had the biggest influence on the southern economy. • They were concerned with raising crops and supervising slaves. They left the running of the plantation household to their wives. The wife oversaw the raising of the children and supervised the work of all slaves within the household. • Slave women typically cooked, cleaned, and helped care for the children. A Southern Plantation Southern Society and Culture • Most southern women married yeomen, or owners of small farms. • Most yeoman held a small number of slaves, if any at all, and had few material comforts. They worked long days side by side with their slaves (if they had them). Most hoped to save enough money to one day be a planter. • Planters and yeomen often looked down on poor white southerners. These poor people made up 10% of the population, and survived by hunting, fishing, raising a few animals, tending to small gardens, and doing odd jobs for money. • Although there were differences in material possessions, white southerners shared a common culture. • Religion was central to southern social life. Often this was the only social interaction southerners had since they lived so far from their neighbors. • Wealthy white southerners used religion to justify their position on the institution of slavery. They argued that God created some people, like themselves, to rule of African Americans. This belief set them against those northern Christians who believed that God opposed slavery. Southern Cities • Southern cities were similar to northern cities. As the cities grew, the government built public water systems and provided well-maintained streets. Public education was also available in some areas. • As on plantations, slaves did much of the work in southern cities. They worked as domestic servants, in mills, in shipyards, and at skilled jobs. Free African Americans • Some free African Americans found work in southern cities. In 1860, more than ½ of all free African Americans were living in the South. • Free African Americans worked a variety of jobs in cities, but mostly they were skilled artisans. Many became very successful. • Churches played a crucial role in the social life for free southern African Americans. In the early 1800’s, free and enslaved African Americans started the independent-church movement. • Free African Americans faced constant discrimination. White southerners feared that free blacks would try to encourage slave rebellions. • Most cities passed laws limiting the rights of free African Americans. Most could not vote, travel freely, or hold certain types of jobs. • In 1806, Virginia passed a law that banned former slaves from living in the state without special permission. • Many white southerners felt that free African Americans could not take care of themselves, but they proved them wrong by being successful in many areas. This caused many whites to view free African Americans as a threat to the institution of slavery.