Episode 18: The Landscape of the New South
A New History of the American South
Dr Edward Ayers (2018)
Ayers starts this lecture by discussing the terrorism, consisting of intimidation, assaults, lynching and homicide inflicted by the Ku Klux Klan and related groups against both Black and White Republicans during Reconstruction. Support for the Republican party waned quickly when it became clear federal Republican officials could do nothing to protect their southern Republican supporter. By the late 1860s, most of the South had returned to Democratic leadership.
States with the largest Black populations (Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida) remained under Reconstruction (and occupied by federal troops) the longest (see Stuff Your Never Study in School: Reconstruction and the Freedman’s Bureau). However by 1876 (when the last federal troops withdrew from the South) only South Carolina and Louisiana remained under Republican control.
In 1876 the Democratic presidential candidate Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote to Republican Rutherford Hayes. Because several southern states submitted two different electoral vote tallies of electoral votes, the election was decided in Congress. As a compromise, Congress awarded the presidency to the Republican Hayes and simultaneously withdrew the last federal troops from South Carolina and Louisiana (allowing all southern states to return to Democratic control). This allowed the South to essentially nullify the 14th and 15th amendment* in the 1880s and 1890s.
The post-Reconstruction period was one of massive industrialization and economic expansion for the South. The expansion of Southern railroads led to the blossoming of southern “railroad towns” and “general stores.” The latter provisioned small farmers now that most grew cotton (which could always be sold at a profit), instead of basic foodstuffs.
Because the South had very few banks, most southerners turned to landowners and general stores for credit. The main collateral they used was a lien on the next cotton crop.
The South also saw a surge in manufacturing, with the construction of numerous iron, lumber, textile and turpentine, sugar and tobacco processing plants. There was also a big expansion in coal mining to power southern industrial development. Owing to low wages, southern entrepreneurs always had ready markets for their cheap iron, cloth, coal, lumber, turpentine, sugar and tobacco.
In this lecture, Ayers also relates the history of the development of Coca Cola by Atlanta patent medicine salesman Dr John Pemberton.
*The first Coke formula was based on coca leaves and cola nuts, both powerful stimulants.
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