People in the Southern US seem to me more racist and have rebelled against the rest of US.

What were the reasons there has been such a distinctive split in attitudes, like the split between two political parties, first between the North and South and later the nation as a whole (for example, during the South's fierce resistance to the Civil Right's Movement)? What caused it to develop in the American colonies, through the ante-bellum period, and continue after the Civil War into the modern era?

For the sake of limiting discussion let us limit the period to nothing past the 1980s. In the 1980's, demographic patterns changed and many people started moving to the South from other areas. The New South Movement started, as well.

I believe that differences in economics, warmer climate, way of life, lack of urbanization or population dynamics might explain the South's problems with race relations. What are some of the best theories for how the problem started and why it persisted?

  • Look at any country with a significant North-South dimension. – andy256 Mar 20 '14 at 23:03
  • This seems like the germ of a good question, but I have to agree that as it stands it's waaaay too broad and, depending on the direction the question ends up taking, perhaps not a job for history.se. – NotVonKaiser Mar 20 '14 at 23:28
  • There isn't a huge difference now. the term 'are' is inappropriate for this question. – Oldcat Mar 21 '14 at 0:27
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    There's a lot of variety among the various regions throughout the country, is North / South really still a sufficiently accurate division? Even dividing it into just four "corners", Southwest and Southeast aren't very similar at all. – Jason C Mar 21 '14 at 8:46
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    Before you ask this question, perhaps you could clarify what differences you perceive? Convince me that there are differences and I might be ablet to formulate a causal hypothesis. Otherwise we might be talking about completely different differences. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 21 '14 at 11:05

This answer is for a previous version of the question

The most persuasive answer to this that I have read recently can be found in "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America" by Colin Woodard. It has been a few years since I read it, but if I remember correctly, he posits that different cultural patterns that were set in the first few generations of settlement got propagated and reinforced, so that even newcomers to specific areas acclimated themselves to the unique regional culture.

In the case of the South, it took two wrenching national interventions (the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement) to get their racial assumptions to move as far as they did. Other Southern characteristics that were not specifically targeted against have carried on unimpeded (honor culture, Protestant Christianity).

I do think that your question as currently worded carries some implied bias in that the North should not be portrayed as more "noble". There was plenty of racism throughout the North too, in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Abraham Lincoln had to walk a very fine line to not get ahead of northern pubic opinion about black people, and later, plenty of northern unions worked to keep blacks out of good positions.

Admittedly, this a hard subject to discuss without bias. I could relate anecdotes from work talking with people throughout the country, and I can certainly see a different style of work and set of values between a New Yorker, a Southerner, and a Upper Midwesterner. These general impressions are real but hard to quantify. What unit of measure does one use to say that a New Yorker values speed and competitiveness, Southerner values personal relationships, and a Midwesterner values honesty. How do you discuss the negative traits without being offensive? How to you calculate an average of a region given the person-by-person variation?

Hypotheses regarding climate causing different traits in the population have been around at least since Montesquieu, but they often run into a problem of proving causality instead of just correlation. Like any social science, you do not have the luxury of setting up experiments with proper controls solve questions about human behavior.

Regarding your supposition that certain types of people gravitated to "like-minded" areas, this does not seem to borne out by history. Most immigrants in the period 1820-1920 moved to the North and West because that was where labor was in demand and better remunerated, due to industrialization. The labor shortage was less in the South, enabling institutions like sharecropping. It is possible that the "Northern work ethic" could be related to the fact that getting better rewarded for work makes one work more, whereas poor rewards teach a more lackadaisical attitude.

Most of these observations cannot be "proven", but they do provide fodder for discussions of what America is and can be. They also show that there is not consensus on what America "should" be.

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    Yes, the climate theory has been around a while. The Wikipedia Montesquieu article rightly mentions Herodotus and Tacitus. – andy256 Mar 21 '14 at 3:12
  • From the very start of the USA until after the civil war there were two centers of power: New York and Charleston: i.stack.imgur.com/mwqkc.gif They are separated by 750 miles, while Berlin and Paris are only 600 miles apart. In the south "the good get out" and in the northeast the bad are forced out by high costs of living. Geography and economics both contribute to the situation. Also throw in the north having twice as many people during the civil war and the money to do things thereafter resulted in yankee culture dominating the USA. The "old south" culture is still aristocratic. – Dale Jul 3 '14 at 23:27
  • For fairness sake, one should point out that the "labor market" in the South prior to abolition was seriously depressed (and distorted) by the existence of slavery. The existence or lack of industrialization in the area may not have had a lot to do with it. If you are an immigrant and its your labor you are "selling", its tough to compete with slaves. – T.E.D. Nov 3 '15 at 14:12
  • I question that Charleston was a center of power in antebellum times aside from pro-slavery agitation. Richmond, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and several others were more important cities by far. – Oldcat Jan 5 '16 at 19:08

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