4.4 Mountain South (1877-1920): The "New South" Era



 

1880

(38 states)

1900

(45 states)

1920

(48 states)

Kentucky

1,648,690

8th

2,147,174

12th

2,416,630

15th

Tennessee

1,542,359

12th

2,020,616

14th

2,337,885

19th

West Virginia

618,457

29th

958,800

28th

1,463,701

27th

Missouri

2,168,380

5th

3,106,665

5th

3,404,055

9th

Arkansas

802,525

25th

1,311,564

25th

1,752,204

25th

Percent of U.S. population

21.5%

 

19.2%

 

16.9%

 


Key events that shaped law and society:

  • After a brief period of Republican dominance, conservative “Bourbon” Democrats took control of mountain South states in the early 1870s (in Kentucky, they had never been out of power).  But Republicans retained large local power bases in all of the states except Arkansas, and throughout this period they occasionally were able to take advantage of Democratic divisions to gain power.  The Bourbons adopted a policy of relative racial moderation in order to prevent further federal interference in state affairs:  blacks in the mountain South were left in peace and their basic civil rights were continued, on the understanding that they would not challenge Bourbon political and economic dominance. 
  • Many Bourbons worked to develop a “new South” less dependent on agriculture and more integrated into the nation’s industrializing economy.  West Virginia industrialized quickly due to the dominance of the coal industry and its proximity to Pittsburgh and other northern industrial areas.  Industry also began to grow in other mountain South states.  Louisville, Nashville and Memphis preserved their pre-war status as regional commercial centers. 
  • Because the mountain South states industrialized more rapidly then other parts of the South and had only a limited planter culture before the war, workers and small farmers did not mount a “straight out” rebellion of white workers at the end of the 19th century and did not press for all-out restriction of black suffrage, as did most deep South states.  Nevertheless, restrictions on black suffrage and civil rights tightened albeit more gently than elsewhere in the South.  
  • Like other parts of the South, mountain South states enacted “Jim Crow” laws requiring segregation of railroads, streetcars, hotels and other places of public accommodation, and even residential areas.  The laws were designed to formalize and support an increasingly rigid social code that limited interracial contact  and required blacks to show subservience at all times when such contact was necessary.  A handful of black leaders and white reformers challenged  Jim Crow laws, but in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the U.S. Supreme Court held that segregation was constitutional as long as “equal” facilities were provided for each race.  Plessy dampened enthusiasm for further challenges to segregation, although isolated challenges continued and in the case of residential segregation laws were successful.      
  • During the Progressive era (1890-1915) most Southern states approached social reform cautiously, concerned that too rapid reform might disturb the established racial order.  Because the mountain South was more advanced industrially than other parts of the South, it was somewhat more receptive to reform.  Missouri in particular followed a pattern of reform and judicial reaction that had more in common with Midwestern and eastern states than with the South.  

digital file from b&w film copy neg.
West Virginia mine train, 1904 - Courtesy Library of Congress

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/nclc/00500/00520v.jpg
"Colored" school, Anthoston, Kentucky - Lewis Hine, 1906 - Courtesy Library of Congress

File:AR elaine riot.jpg
Headline, Arkansas Gazette, October, 1919 - courtesy Wikimedia Commons