3.6. Old South: Depression, War and the Demise of Jim Crow (1920-1965)



 

1920

(48 states)

1940

(48 states)

1960

(50 states)

Maryland

1,449,661

28th

1,821,244

28th

3,100,689

21st

Delaware

223,003

46th

266,505

46th

446,292

46th

Virginia

2,309,187

20th

2,677,773

19th

3,966,949

14th

North Carolina

2,559,123

14th

3,571,623

11th

4,556,155

12th

Percent of U.S. population

6.2%

 

6.3%

 

6.7%

 

 

Cities and metropolitan areas among 25 largest in U.S.:

Population, rank

1920

1940

1960

Baltimore

Metro

733,826

753,000

8th

10th

859,100

992,000

7th

11th

939,024

1,419,000

6th

13th








Key events that shaped law and society:

  • The Great Depression (1929-1941) struck the Old South just as hard as most other regions, but Old South lawmakers responded more cautiously than their colleagues in other regions.   Legislatures in other regions quickly enacted a broad variety of relief measures such as mortgage “moratoriums” and laws creating new agencies to regulate business competition, create jobs and improve the economy in other ways; Old South legislatures enacted such measures more sparingly. 
  • The Old South benefited economically from the defense build-up during World War II and regained prosperity during and after the war.  The federal government’s rapid expansion during the New Deal and the war triggered dramatic population growth in the Washington, D.C. area, including northern Virginia and the Baltimore-Washington corridor in Maryland, and it visibly diluted the Southern flavor of each state.
  • American culture became increasingly nationalized during this era, due to unifying events such as universal military service and a strong sense of national solidarity during World War II; the educational opportunities the federal G.I. Bill (1946) offered to veterans after the war; the rise of national radio and television networks; and not least, the development of air conditioning, which transformed Southern life. 
  • Elements of nationalization also appeared in American legal culture:  for example, the Uniform Commercial Code, governing most business and banking transactions, was adopted by every state except Louisiana.  Southern states participated in the nationalization process, but at the same time Jim Crow continued to separate the South from the rest of the nation in important ways.  After the U.S. Supreme Court scrapped the “separate but equal” doctrine and declared school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Old South states resisted integration but did so less aggressively than their Deep South counterparts.  Cracks appeared in the Jim Crow system after 1954, but on the eve of passage of the landmark federal civil rights laws of 1964 and 1965, segregation was still entrenched in most areas of Old South life.  



b&w film copy neg.
Labor Day parade, Gastonia, North Carolina, 1934 -courtesy Library of Congress

File:Pentagon construction.jpgPentagon under construction, Arlington, Virginia, 1942 - Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Wikimedia Commons


b&w film copy neg.Federal housing and shopping center project, Greenbelt, Maryland, 1949 - courtesy Library of Congress