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Deep Souths [electronic resource] : Delta, Piedmont, and Sea Island society in the age of segregation /
J. William Harris.
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Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
description
xii, 454 p., [26] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0801865638 (alk. paper)
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Book
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More Details
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
isbn
0801865638 (alk. paper)
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Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
9036989
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
J. William Harris is a professor and chair of the History Department at the University of New Hampshire.
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Pulitzer Prize, USA, 2002 : Nominated
First Chapter


Chapter One

Land and Labor in New South Countrysides

In the late fall of 1875, forty-seven-year-old Louis Manigault traveled up the Savannah River to resume the role of rice planter, which he had relinquished in 1864. He was headed for Gowrie, a plantation a few miles above the city of Savannah on Argyle Island. For twelve years before and during the Civil War, Louis had managed the plantation, with its nearly one hundred slaves, for his father, Charles. Each November, after the first frost had killed off the mosquitoes, he had made his way up the river to live on the property until the next May. Now, in 1875, the property belonged to him. He had not seen it in more than eight years.

    In the decade before the war, Gowrie's land and slaves had together made up a productive property for the Manigault family, returning almost $10,000 a year in profits. In 1864, during a battle between retreating Confederate forces and Sherman's advancing troops, near the end of the famous March to the Sea, Gowrie's big plantation house, expensive steam thresher, and water-powered rice polishing mill had all been destroyed. After the war, Louis's father, Charles Manigault, had rented the plantation to men willing to learn how to raise rice without slave labor. After 1869, Gowrie had been leased, at first for $3,500 per year, later for $3,200, to a neighboring planter, Daniel Heyward. After Charles Manigault died in 1875 and left Gowrie to his son, Louis decided to leave his position as a clerk in a Charleston merchant house to assume active management of the property. He borrowed $8,000 from two sisters and $4,500 from a Charlestonian named W. B. Smith, arranged to buy a used threshing machine on credit from Daniel Heyward, and hired as a year-round manager his own cousin, James B. Heyward. In November he and James Heyward traveled to Gowrie to take command of the operation.

    When he stepped off a boat onto Argyle, Manigault later wrote, he was "completely overcome" at what he saw. The "settlement" where most of the slaves had lived before the war was "overgrown, moist, and miry," its houses in tumble-down condition. The old overseer's house, where Manigault himself planned to live with Heyward, was almost uninhabitable, with "hardly a pane of glass sound and nearly every window gone, ceilings down in all directions." In the rice fields, the flood gate was "in a most wretched condition": the ditches, drains, and canals dug to carry water to and from the fields were clogged with debris, the bridges had fallen down, and the trunks that regulated water flow could barely hold water. Manigault retired in gloom to his room in the decaying overseer's house, "almost broken down in spirits, and hesitating over my future career."

    But with James Heyward's help, Manigault set out to restore Gowrie to its antebellum condition. Their first order of business was to secure a labor force for the plantation for the coming year. Here Manigault encountered a change even more profound than broken gates or clogged ditches. Getting labor now meant bargaining with free men and women. Managing slave plantations had been a difficult job at best, but the slave master's ability to coerce his workers--to whip them when they worked poorly; to beat or jail them, or worse, when they resisted; to sell them and their families away if they refused to knuckle under--had made possible the elaborate works on which rice cultivation depended. After the war, the element of sheer force in management had diminished to the vanishing point. Manigault was no longer the master of his workers; he was their employer.

    As a landowner, Manigault still had plenty of leverage over his work force. He could, and did, force off the plantation anyone who caused too much trouble or worked too poorly--one of the first things he did in 1875 was to clear the plantation settlements, where most of the work force still lived, of "boisterous and turbulent negroes." One of those he sent off was "one `Riley,'" a black trader who had a wife at Gowrie and who trafficked in liquor. By the spring of 1876 he and Heyward had "sent off every worthless Negro, and caused every house to be filled with quiet, orderly people." He would still have to learn how to get people to stay and work in the new regime of planter and free laborer. To Manigault "all of this free-labor system was perfectly new." He had missed the lessons that other rice planters had been absorbing for a decade.

The New Peasantry in the Rice Coast

    While Manigault had been a clerk in Charleston, other planters had been through the new school of free labor. The plantation journal of Frances Butler Leigh gives us a lesson book for the course. Like Louis Manigault, Leigh was the child of a planter. Her father, Pierce Butler, owned a rice plantation on Butler Island in Georgia's Altamaha River and a cotton plantation on St. Simons Island. Pierce Butler rarely lived on his plantations, preferring the cosmopolitan city of Philadelphia. When his daughter Frances visited the properties in 1866, it was the first time she had ever seen them. When she arrived in April of that year, she was, like many before her, struck by the exotic beauty of the river's landscape. The dark colors of the evergreen magnolias and cypress mingled with the spring greens of the orange, laurel, and bay trees, "all wreathed and bound together with the yellow jessamine and fringed with the soft delicate gray moss which floated from every branch and twig." When she traveled down the river, headed for Hampton, Pierce Butler's plantation on St. Simons, she saw the Altamaha spread out into a seemingly endless expanse of marsh grass, teeming with oysters, fish, crabs, and insects. On the far side of the expanse of marsh, St. Simons, too, had its beauties. Leigh could ride her horse on an old shell road past pines and cedars and live oaks which at times met overhead to form a natural cathedral, the sunshine breaking through to light up the red and gray trunks of the trees, the palmettos, and the bay trees underneath. Her mother, the celebrated actress Frances Kemble, had ridden thirty years earlier through these "exquisite thickets of evergreen shrubbery," resounding with the cries of mockingbirds. "If I wanted to paint Paradise I would copy this," Kemble had written. "I sat there on my horse in a sort of dream of enchantment, looking, listening, and inhaling."

    The semitropical lushness of the coastal and sea island landscapes had captured the imagination of many travelers. So, too, had their dangers--the snakes and alligators, hurricanes and floods, and malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Yet perhaps the most remarkable aspect of those landscapes was what men and women, rather than nature, had created. On the barrier islands like St. Simons, the soil, temperature, and rainfall patterns had proven ideal for growing the long-staple cotton prized by manufacturers of luxury textiles--cotton so fine that it was ginned by hand and packed in bags, rather than bales, so valuable that it commanded several times the price of the short-staple cotton grown in the upcountry, so particular in its quality that some planters sold their crops year after year directly to English buyers in private bargains, rather than go through normal market channels. The land that made it all possible kept its fertility only through annual applications of mud dug from the swamps and hauled to the fields by the slaves. More remarkable still were the rice plantations on the mainland. There, out of the riverside swamps and lowlands, generations of African and African American slaves had carved, at enormous expense in labor, money, and lives, some of the richest plantations in North America.

    Each rice plantation that hugged the swampy lower reaches of the rivers had been built up one section at a time by constructing a system of banks, gates, and trunks; the "rank, intricate wildernesses" at the river's edge had given way to flat, carefully measured quarter-acre fields, set off by drainage ditches. Each big rice plantation--and on the entire coast that stretched from the lower reaches of North Carolina to the southern border of Georgia there were scarcely more than three hundred--was what a contemporary journalist called "a huge hydraulic machine, maintained by constant warring against the rivers." Every spring, the fields were worked and sowed, and then flooded with several inches of water. Rice seeds sprouted under this water, and throughout the spring and summer each field was alternately drained, to allow hoeing and harvesting, and flooded, to kill weeds and support the growing stalks. The rivers provided the fresh water, the tides supplied the motive force, and the elaborate system of banks, ditches, canals, trunks, and floodgates controlled and directed the flow. When the tide rose and pushed the river back upstream, trunks could be opened to let in more water, or as the water level fell with the outgoing tides, they could be opened in the other direction to drain the fields. And so along the lower reaches of South Carolina's and Georgia's rivers--not so high as to be out of reach of the tides nor so low as to expose the land to salt water--slave-owning planters had established immensely productive and profitable holdings.

    Rice and Sea Island cotton supported some of the greatest fortunes and largest slaveholdings in the United States. The Manigaults owned several plantations and hundreds of slaves in Georgia and South Carolina. The first Pierce Butler, the great-grandfather of Frances Butler Leigh, left an estate at his death in 1822 with more than six hundred slaves. Lowcountry planters like Butler, his St. Simons neighbor James Hamilton Couper, and Thomas Spalding of nearby Sapelo Island came as close as any to the popular image of the southern planter as a wealthy, leisured, and cosmopolitan aristocrat. Antebellum visitors had marveled at the "perfect ease and politeness" of planter hospitality at its best and the remarkable libraries in the homes of planters like Hamilton Couper, a collector of rare editions. Even a visitor like Frederick Law Olmsted, convinced that slavery blighted everything it touched in the South, had to stop his horse and hold his breath when he turned into the avenue leading to one coastal mansion, lined with live oak trees, their trunks "huge and gnarled"; the dark foliage of their branches was "hung with a delicate fringe of gray moss" and met overhead to form a low, broad arch, with the dappled sunlight filtering through. "I have hardly in all my life seen anything so impressively grand and beautiful," he wrote--no small compliment from the man who would become the country's greatest landscape architect.

    This way of life, so delightful for the few at the top, was thrown into turmoil by the Civil War and its aftermath. Gowrie plantation was just one of many to suffer from neglect, military attack, or vandalism. General Sherman, reaching the sea after his march through Georgia, issued orders to set aside the entire area of the coast--the islands and thirty miles inland--as a reservation of land to be distributed to the former slaves. This decree was soon abrogated by President Andrew Johnson, and the plantation owners reclaimed their land--not always without a great deal of difficulty--from the disappointed freedmen who had occupied it. Then, like most of the former slave-owning planters in the South after the war, they tried to rebuild the economic base of their shattered world.

    Pierce Butler came to his properties in 1866 to reclaim his land and reestablish the plantations. At first, he tried to operate the plantations much as he had before. Like many other planters he contracted with the freedmen, most of whom had been his slaves, to work for one-half the crop, to be paid out after harvest. The hands and their families received food, shelter, and clothing, the cost of which was debited against their accounts at the end of the year. Many of them ended the year with little or no cash after deductions for supplies and absences from work. Many freedmen quarreled endlessly with Frances, who kept the accounts for her father. As one put it, "Well, well, work for massa two whole years, and only get dis much." Frances complained that "some of them [the freedmen] are working only half a day and some even less. I don't think one does a really honest full day's work.... [N]o negro will work if he can help it, and is quite satisfied just to scrape along doing an odd job here and there to earn money enough to buy a little food." She thought that blacks would have to be forced to work; "left to themselves they become idle and useless, and never improve."

    Leigh misunderstood traditional work patterns on the rice coast. Elsewhere in the South, plantation slaves worked from sunrise to sunset, either in gangs or alone, while along the coast slaves were assigned a specific "task" fixed by custom. For example, on the coast a daily task for an able-bodied adult male (a "full hand") in harvest season consisted of cutting one-half acre of rice by hand. When the task was finished so was the slave's workday; healthy and able slaves could finish their tasks in mid-afternoon or even earlier. In taking up plantation labor in the era of freedom, the former slaves insisted on sticking to the traditional task system, so what was a "half day's work" to Frances Leigh was, in fact, a full day's labor as traditionally understood.

    Leigh also had a poor understanding of freed women, whom she saw as laborers like any other freedmen. As slaves on the Butler plantations, women had suffered grievously from forced labor in the rice fields. Many of their pregnancies ended in miscarriages or stillbirths; many of their children died in infancy; many suffered from chronic poor health caused by their treatment during pregnancy. Now they were determined to labor for themselves and their families. Leigh noted sardonically that Charity and other elderly women were "too old and infirm to work for me, but once let them get a bit of ground of their own given to them, and they became quite young and strong again."

    In any case, the "free" time of slaves had never been simply "idle and useless" time. In the afternoon and evening hours, many slaves worked in small garden plots to raise food for their families; others hunted or fished. The Butler slaves, like others, raised chickens, wove baskets, and carved canoes for sale to the master or in nearby towns. In the words of one historian, slaves had "monopolized the local supply" of poultry, eggs, and fish bought by the white residents of places like Darien. Women did much of this work, especially the marketing. Some slaves accumulated substantial amounts of property, held by right of tradition rather than law.

    Buying a small plot of land after emancipation was a natural extension of traditional slave activity. For the freedmen, land could become the basis of a more autonomous economic life. After one 1866 payday, some Butler hands who had earned substantial amounts of cash "left me," Leigh wrote, "and bought land of their own, and at one time it seemed doubtful if I should have hands at all left to work." Leigh grumpily attributed this movement to the land to the greed of "small shopkeepers and Jews" in nearby towns, who, she believed, convinced the former slaves to buy overpriced land with dubious titles. ("Gentlemen," she added, were "refusing to sell their land to the negroes.") Nevertheless, "they had got their land, and were building their little log cabins on it, fully believing, that they were to live on their property and incomes the rest of their lives, like gentlemen." "Like gentlemen" was surely Leigh's misconception; "without being hassled by any `gentlemen'" would probably have been closer to the mark.

    Although the coastal ecosystem could be dangerous, especially because of the malaria and other diseases that flourished there, not far from the coast were cheap "pine lands" away from the worst of the mosquitoes. Pine land soil, sandy and acidic, was inhospitable to plantation staple crops, but abounded with deer and other game. So, too, the marshes and the ocean teemed with fish, shrimp, and oysters: "God's pantry," as the freedmen called it. Leigh wrote that "it is a well-known fact that you can't starve a negro," by which she meant that a threat of starvation alone could not force the freedmen to work. "There are about a dozen on Butler's Island who do no work, consequently get no wages and no food, and I see no difference whatever in their condition and those who get twelve dollars a month and full rations. They all raise a little corn and sweet potatoes, and with their facilities for catching fish and oysters, and shooting wild game, they have as much to eat as they want, and now are quite satisfied with that, not yet having learned to want things that money alone can give."

    "Not yet having learned to want things that money alone can give." This telling phrase indicates, finally, a truth at the core of Leigh's complaints that blacks were "quite satisfied just to scrape along doing an odd job here and there." It was not that the freedmen did not like and appreciate the power of money--for, indeed, as Leigh herself wrote, they loved to spend their wages in Darien and "it was natural they should like to swagger a little" and spend their money "freely." Money, though, was not everything. Decades before, when Leigh's mother, Frances Kemble, was rowed one day along the Altamaha by a crew of Butler slaves, she was struck by their "extraordinarily wild and unaccountable" yet still "very curious and effective" singing. "You can not think ... how strange some of their words are: in one, they repeatedly chanted the `sentiment' that `God made man, and man makes'--what do you think?--`money'!" This wry comment on the ways of white men is understandable, coming from people liable to be bought and sold for money at the whim of a white master. For the former Butler slaves, money was for the few necessities and a modicum of the comforts that only money could buy, and they did not measure their economic success only in terms of dollars.

    Frances Butler married James Leigh, an English clergyman, in 1871, and they spent the next five winter seasons on their Altamaha plantation before moving to England in 1876. They learned to live, and to some extent even prosper, under the new regime of free black labor, but at first they almost despaired of getting the former slaves to work to their satisfaction. The Leighs and other planters even hoped to replace the former slaves with immigrants from Europe or China. One neighbor of Leigh's imported Chinese labor, and Leigh and her husband brought over several English laborers one year. Their experiment with English labor was hardly a success, and it displayed the allegedly poor work habits of the freedmen in a somewhat different light. Within weeks of their arrival, the Englishmen appeared "troublesome, discontented, and constantly drunk," and the African American foreman on the rice plantation begged Leigh to work them in a field by themselves, since they "set so bad an example" for the black workers. Only Irish immigrants were successfully integrated into the rice regime, in the specialized role of ditching and banking; each winter coastal planters hired gangs to clean out the plantation ditches and repair or extend banks. Trained on the canals and railroads of Britain and the United States, these workers were so efficient that they commanded premium wages.

    Planters also tried collusion to regulate wages and conditions of labor and to limit workers' mobility. Leigh's husband and his neighbors formed the "Rice Planters Association" in 1876, the object being "to take into consideration a reduction of wages and other matters of mutual interest to the Planters generally." The fourteen members, all owners or managers of large operations, adopted a wage scale with maximum rates for each task or each full day's labor and resolved that whenever a hand under contract "violated his obligations and left the plantation where he was under contract, that the said hand be not allowed to labor, either upon his (the planter's) own land planted, or upon the land planted by any of his contract hands; or upon any land under his control for that year." The association had little effect on the wage rate because, like all cartels, it was no stronger than its weakest member. Within two months of its foundation the members formally resolved that "the Statement of a planter, that a certain party is his contract hand, be regarded as conclusive evidence of the fact," a sure sign that disputes had already arisen among the members. Two of the members had already been "obliged" to pay at least thirty cents for each task, rather than the twenty-five cents called for by the wage scale. It might have been difficult for a big planter to flout the suggested wage openly, but subtle cheating was easier, as evidenced by efforts to prevent it. One of the final meetings, in 1883, passed a new rule to try to prevent employers from evading the wage limitations by promising their workers access to land to grove their own crops, or reducing the number of hours of labor. Even then a certain number of exceptions were allowed for men classified as "expert labor," whose wages were left unregulated.

    George Harrison, the white planter who first leased Gowrie from the Manigaults after the war, had tried a different labor arrangement. Harrison divided Gowrie into five parts, each rented to a "foreman." Four of the five foremen in 1867 were former slaves on the plantation. Harrison provided lumber for trunk upkeep, ploughs and other tools, mules, and one-half of the seed; the foremen paid for the other half of the seed, and each foreman selected, hired, and supervised his own hands; hands fed themselves. At the end of the year Harrison kept one-half of the net profits, and the rest was divided up among the workers. This kind of arrangement did not succeed in the long run. Rice plantations, because of their dependence on a system of dykes and trunks, needed centralized management. A decade after the war, Gowrie's managers relied much more on wage labor.

    In the winter of 1875-76, James Heyward and Louis Manigault bargained over terms with their hands, who were paid cash wages for daily work on the main rice fields. Those with families received the right to live in a cabin on the plantation, and some received land to grow their own crops. The going rate for a full day's work in the neighborhood was seventy-five cents in cash or fifty cents in cash plus twenty-five cents in rations. Women and children were paid less. The workers were experts at rice cultivation, and Manigault was pleased that the best of these included "many of our old Gowrie Negroes." Specialized workers could earn more. In the summer, Russell, a "very smart negro" who was both carpenter and machinist, was hired at $2 per day to operate the thresher. The available white machinists were, in Heyward's opinion, "very indolent" and not worth hiring, but, like other planters, Manigault and Heyward hired Irish gangs to clean out the ditches and put the banks in good repair. Manigault thought the work of these "quiet and orderly" gangs was "superior to that done by the very best negro men." Manigault spent more than $9,000 on black and white labor for the 1876 crop and $7,000 more on seeds, mules, and other expenses, all paid for with his borrowed money.

    "During the entire season labor with us was abundant, and always to be had," Manigault later wrote. The ditches were cleaned, the trunks repaired, and the fields sown. By the end of April rice sprouts covered the fields. As he prepared to leave the plantation in his cousin's hands for the summer, Manigault took his "favorite ride" along the river's edge; in the evening light he could make out the rows of green plants three fields away. It was then, he wrote, that "I pictured to my mind how I expected to recover, and build up, once more by my exertions the property which my kind Father had left me." By the time these words had been written in Manigault's journal, though, his dreams of restoring his antebellum life had been crushed by the harsh realities of working the postwar rice lands.

    Nature landed the most serious blow to Gowrie's prospects. In mid-June, "the most critical period to the rice planter," the rice had been in splendid condition; the "long flow," which had protected the young plants, had been drained, and the plants were now exposed for summer hoeings. Then heavy rains along the coast saturated the swamps along the back lands of the Savannah River, while rains in the upcountry, many miles to the north, filled the upper reaches of the Savannah. The rising river washed over the streets of Augusta, some 125 miles upstream from Gowrie. On June 24, six days after the flood peaked at Augusta, the hands hoeing a "finely" stand of rice in Field No. 7 saw water spilling over Gowrie's banks. The water eventually rose until it stood a foot higher than the highest point on the plantation. The rice, in most fields still fragile, lay a full four to five feet beneath the flood. For a full month, water remained on Gowrie's fields.

    The result was financial disaster. In some fields the crop was wholly destroyed, in others most plants never reached full maturity, and in only a few fields had the rice plants advanced enough to withstand the flood without major damage. Most of the harvest was of very poor quality and heavily spoiled with "indigo seed," a wild grass brought in on the flood and impossible to separate from the rice itself. On top of everything else, as Heyward pointed out to Manigault shortly after the waters receded, the planters could expect a "heavy toll" from theft by hands whose own rice acreage had been almost completely wiped out. Workers' rice lands were as much a part of their compensation as a daily wage, and a landowner could hardly expect workers to permit their own losses to exceed his in proportion.

    The planters along the Savannah hoped to cut their losses by forcing a significant cut in wages. Planters on the South Carolina bank agreed among themselves to reduce the pay for harvesting an acre of rice--a day's task--from ninety cents or $1 down to seventy-five cents. On the Cheves plantation, not far from Gowrie, the wage force refused to work for the lower wage, and they handled roughly some "strange hands" brought in to break their strike. Soon, Heyward wrote to Manigault, "the point having been given up," the Carolina planters had returned to a wage of $1 per acre. A full-scale labor conflict raged for months on the Combahee River, just up the Atlantic coast in South Carolina, and wages there had been pushed to $1.50 or even $2 for a day's task. In Savannah, a white militia company stood ready to break up any such attempts of rice workers to organize a strike in Georgia, but Heyward still had to pay ninety cents per task.

    Companies of soldiers, in any case, could not control the price of rice. In early October rice sold for a little over six cents for a pound. At this price, Manigault wrote, "there is money in the article," but it was well above the historic trend of around three cents per pound. Within days the market was glutted with "inferior" rice, and soon it fell to just four cents per pound. By the end of the year Gowrie's nine thousand bushels brought in only $7,568 in sales, less than half the plantation's expenses.

    Charleston's factors, who financed and sold most of the rice grown on the Savannah River, grew fearful of the possible effects of unsettled labor and political conditions and refused to advance more credit to rice planters. Manigault faced a deficit of some $4,000 on the year, and he could pay off nothing of the principal on his loans from his sisters and E. B. Smith. In danger of bankruptcy, he gave a lien on the next year's crop to his factor in Charleston, E. H. Frost & Co., in order to raise enough cash to put off the most insistent creditors and save his plantation. In January 1877 he accepted "with relief" a proposal from his cousin James Heyward to lease the plantation, handle all expenses, run the operation, and pay as rent to Manigault half of his net profits. After only a year, Manigault's postwar career as a rice planter had come to an inglorious end?

    Louis Manigault's hard lessons in rice growing were common in the rice lands after the Civil War. Still, some learned better than others, and by 1870 planters had partly restored rice plantation agriculture. Overall production along the Georgia coast was just half of what it had been in 1860, but remained steady for the next decade. Manigault's Gowrie, for example, produced over twelve thousand bushels of rice in 1877 and almost fifteen thou sand by 1880. Total acreage and production were both well below the 1855--60 average, but the yield per acre was about the same as before the war. While production dropped again during the 1880s, many planters remained hopeful. Whitehall plantation, also on the Savannah River a little below Argyle, by the 1890s produced more than twenty thousand bushels of rice annually, with a yield that sometimes came close to antebellum levels. Frances Butler Leigh, who complained back in 1866 that "no negro will work if he can help it," was honest enough to add a footnote when her letter was published in 1883 admitting, "I was mistaken. In the years 1877 and 1880 upwards of thirty thousand bushels of rice was raised on the place by these same negroes." James Dent, on the Altamaha River, was raising fifteen thousand bushels a year by 1890; in 1895 he raised over twenty-four thousand bushels, about two-thirds of what his plantations had raised in 1859. Dent, like many planters, borrowed heavily over the years to keep his plantation going, but by January of 1894 he was writing hopefully to his lawyer about plans to repay the entire debt and leave the operation in good shape for his children. "Any planter must know," he wrote, "that there is a large margin of profit at [the] present cost of rice planting."

    The planters of Sea Island cotton, however, did not survive Reconstruction. The story of the Spalding estate on Sapelo Island is typical. Thomas Spalding was one of the great planters of the antebellum era, as well as a promoter of railroads and canals, founder of a bank, and a prolific writer on agricultural methods and agricultural history. A leading planter as early as 1789, Spalding began acquiring land on Sapelo Island in 1802 and made his holdings there the center of an agricultural empire. He was one of the first during the 1780s to plant the Bahamian seeds that became the basis of the Sea Island cotton industry. Spalding constantly experimented with new techniques and new crops, such as silk and sugarcane. He and others discovered that the sandy Sea Island soil needed regular replenishment to maintain productivity and they found the necessary fertilizer in the swamp grass that separated the islands from the coast. Each winter, Spalding sent his slaves to dig up the swamp mud, enriched by the detritus left by millions of plants and animals that flourished there, and spread it over his cotton fields.

    After Spalding's death Sapelo passed into the hands of his daughter Catherine Spalding Kenan and his son Randolph Spalding. During the Civil War the plantation was abandoned and the slaves taken to central Georgia, near Macon. When Randolph died in 1862, his three children, Thomas, Bourke, and Sarah, inherited his share of the property. After the war, Spald-

(Continues...)

Copyright © 2001 J. William Harris. All rights reserved.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2001-05-28:
This lucid, scholarly social history of three lower-South regions the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, the eastern Georgia Piedmont, and the Sea Islands and rice coast of Georgia examines three generations after the Reconstruction (1876-1939). Using plantation records, county newspapers, census records, tax returns, oral histories, journals and diaries, Harris (Plain Folks and Gentry in a Slave Society) chronicles economic developments, culture and politics. A history professor at the University of New Hampshire, he challenges the conventional picture of the Deep South as a static and uniform society. "The ebbs and flows of capital and labor" form the bones of Harris's work, while the lives of real people give it vitality women as well as men, poor farmers and wealthy land-owners, Pentecostals and politicians, sharecroppers and educators, lynchers and their victims, suffragists and blues singers, entrepreneurs and activists often rendered in pertinent, vivid biographical detail in this absorbing work, which is based on more than a decade of research. The book concludes with an "Essay on Sources" that should be very useful to fellow researchers, as well as a highly intelligible appendix providing statistical data on population, lynchings, presidential votes, farm ownership, farm production, occupations, marriage and household status, and church membership. (June 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2001-11-01:
This important new work, a must for scholars of southern history, traces life for white and black people from Reconstruction to WW II in three distinct areas generally lumped together as part of the "Deep South": the Mississippi Delta, the Georgia low country surrounding Savannah (including the Sea Islands off the coast), and the Georgia Piedmont extending upward from Augusta. In the low country, huge rice plantations, which dominated before the Civil War, eventually collapsed, leaving behind a tourist economy and "heritage" industry. In the Piedmont, the extension of a cotton monoculture left the region vulnerable for devastating boll weevil incursions in the 1910s and beyond. The Mississippi Delta, despite a particularly brutal reputation, nevertheless attracted masses of black workers seeking the relatively higher wages offered by the hugely profitable mega-plantations in the region. Harris offers perceptive briefs on the musical and literary traditions of each region. He also powerfully depicts the racial brutality meted out to African Americans--a fact that did not vary much by region--while pointing out that "white supremacy" was as unstable as were the levees that could not hold back the periodic floods in the Delta. General and academic collections. P. Harvey University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Appeared in Library Journal on 2001-05-15:
This is one of those uncommon scholarly works that combines remarkable research and a fluid writing style into an illuminating and highly readable book. Harris (Plain Folks) compares the economic, social, and political histories of three areas of the lower South. While the term Deep South conjures a picture of backward areas little changed since the Reconstruction, Harris shows that land ownership, race relations, and political structure varied greatly among the Georgia Sea Islands, the Georgia Piedmont, and the Mississippi Delta. He argues that even during the darkest period of segregation, African Americans successfully challenged their oppression in many ways and thus sowed the seeds that grew into the Civil Rights movement. Harris gives voice to a heartbreaking story of economic struggle, racial conflict, and glacial change through memoirs, letters, and newspaper articles. He writes with genuine sympathy for the inhabitants of each region but never loses sight of the broad forces that shaped their lives. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Duncan Stewart, State Historical Society of Iowa Lib., Iowa City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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"There is no static South here; Harris's story is one of constant change and evolution, in response to forces both internal and external... Harris's achievement is not in reconceptualizing southern history, it is in synthesizing many of the strands of recent historiography, helping us understand how they fit together in the lives of real Deep Southerners."--David B. Parker, H-South, H-Net Reviews
This book succeeds admirably in... show[ing] that far from being static during the years between Reconstruction and the Second World War, the southern states were rapidly changing... It would be hard to find a better ground-level account.
"This book succeeds admirably in... show[ing] that far from being static during the years between Reconstruction and the Second World War, the southern states were rapidly changing... It would be hard to find a better ground-level account." -- Howard Temperley, Times Literary Supplement
This is one of those uncommon scholarly works that combines remarkable research and a fluid writing style into an illuminating and highly readable book... Harris gives voice to a heartbreaking story of economic struggle, racial conflict, and glacial change through memoirs, letters, and newspaper articles. He writes with genuine sympathy for the inhabitants of each region but never loses sight of the broad forces that shaped their lives. Highly recommended.
"This is one of those uncommon scholarly works that combines remarkable research and a fluid writing style into an illuminating and highly readable book... Harris gives voice to a heartbreaking story of economic struggle, racial conflict, and glacial change through memoirs, letters, and newspaper articles. He writes with genuine sympathy for the inhabitants of each region but never loses sight of the broad forces that shaped their lives. Highly recommended."-- Library Journal
Deep Souths combines sophisticated analysis with finely etched portraits of life and labor. Although pointing out that the term 'Deep South' connotes timelessness and changelessness, Harris creates a stunningly effective synthesis of the changes in three Deep South locales.
"Deep Souths combines sophisticated analysis with finely etched portraits of life and labor. Although pointing out that the term 'Deep South' connotes timelessness and changelessness, Harris creates a stunningly effective synthesis of the changes in three Deep South locales." -- Jane Turner Censer, George Mason University
This is a wonderfully written book: each chapter starts with a compelling story, and the prose is crisp, clear, lively, and evocative.
"This is a wonderfully written book: each chapter starts with a compelling story, and the prose is crisp, clear, lively, and evocative." -- Bryant Simon, University of Georgia
There is no static South here; Harris's story is one of constant change and evolution, in response to forces both internal and external... Harris's achievement is not in reconceptualizing southern history, it is in synthesizing many of the strands of recent historiography, helping us understand how they fit together in the lives of real Deep Southerners.
The ebbs and flows of capital and labor form the bones of Harris's work, while the lives of real people give it vitality -- women as well as men, poor farmers and wealthy landowners, Pentecostals and politicians, sharecroppers and educators, lynchers and their victims, suffragists and blues singers, entrepreneurs and activists -- often rendered in pertinent, vivid biographical detail in this absorbing work, which is based on more than a decade of research.
"The ebbs and flows of capital and labor form the bones of Harris's work, while the lives of real people give it vitality -- women as well as men, poor farmers and wealthy landowners, Pentecostals and politicians, sharecroppers and educators, lynchers and their victims, suffragists and blues singers, entrepreneurs and activists -- often rendered in pertinent, vivid biographical detail in this absorbing work, which is based on more than a decade of research."-- Publishers Weekly
"Harris has constructed a mosaic of impressive dimension and subtlety in Deep Souths, a study that adds significantly to our understanding of the South on several levels."--George B. Ellenberg, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Harris's superb synthesis of the vast scholarship on this era is matched by his identifying previously untapped archival sources that offer fresh perspectives and evidence.
"Harris's superb synthesis of the vast scholarship on this era is matched by his identifying previously untapped archival sources that offer fresh perspectives and evidence."--Robert C. Kenzer, American Historical Review
It should come as no surprise the Deep Souths , written by J. William Harris, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize... Deep Souths brings us closer to an understanding of how place and time shaped the different ways that the politics and cultures of segregation played out on the Georgia Sea Coast, in the Mississippi Delta, and in the Georgia Piedmont.
It should come as no surprise the Deep Souths, written by J. William Harris, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize... Deep Souths brings us closer to an understanding of how place and time shaped the different ways that the politics and cultures of segregation played out on the Georgia Sea Coast, in the Mississippi Delta, and in the Georgia Piedmont.
"It should come as no surprise the Deep Souths, written by J. William Harris, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize... Deep Souths brings us closer to an understanding of how place and time shaped the different ways that the politics and cultures of segregation played out on the Georgia Sea Coast, in the Mississippi Delta, and in the Georgia Piedmont."--Sarah Judson, Journal of American History
[A] very satisfying analysis. Harris' exhaustive research, his careful attention to the regional distinctions, and his sensitivity to the complexities of change make this an important contribution to the study of the Jim Crow South.
"[A] very satisfying analysis. Harris' exhaustive research, his careful attention to the regional distinctions, and his sensitivity to the complexities of change make this an important contribution to the study of the Jim Crow South."--Steve Tripp, Journal of Social History
Deep Souths is unusual... rigorous comparative studies of different subregions of the wider South are extremely rare... His book is agreeably written and he has a nice touch in telling stories that make the economic and social abstractions complete.
"Deep Souths is unusual... rigorous comparative studies of different subregions of the wider South are extremely rare... His book is agreeably written and he has a nice touch in telling stories that make the economic and social abstractions complete." -- Michael O'Brien, The Historical Journal
Harris has constructed a mosaic of impressive dimension and subtlety in Deep Souths , a study that adds significantly to our understanding of the South on several levels.
Harris has constructed a mosaic of impressive dimension and subtlety in Deep Souths, a study that adds significantly to our understanding of the South on several levels.
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, May 2001
Publishers Weekly, May 2001
Choice, November 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Deep Souths tells the stories of three southern regions from Reconstruction to World War II: the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, the eastern Piedmont of Georgia, and the Georgia Sea Islands and Atlantic coast. Though these regions initially shared the histories and populations we associate with the idea of a "Deep South" -- all had economies based on slave plantation labor in 1860 -- their histories diverged sharply during the three generations after Reconstruction. With research gathered from oral histories, census reports, and a wide variety of other sources, Harris traces these regional changes in cumulative stories of individuals across the social spectrum. Deep Souths presents a comparative and ground-level view of history that challenges the idea that the lower South was either uniform or static in the era of segregation. By the end of the New Deal era, changes in these regions had prepared the way for the civil rights movement and the end of segregation.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1876-1896
Land and Labor in New South Countrysidesp. 9
"A White Man's Country": Creating the Age of Segregationp. 55
The Populist Challengep. 83
1897-1918
Capital at Work, Capitalists at Playp. 119
Culture, Race, and Class in the Segregation Erap. 152
War's Challenge to Jim Crow Citizenshipp. 196
1919-1939
Twilight in Cotton's Kingdomp. 239
"Discord, dissension, and hatred": Cultural Change and Cultural Conflict after World War Ip. 264
"Uncle Sam is my shepherd": The New Deal's Challenge to Deep South Political Economyp. 292
Conclusion: Deep South Historiesp. 325
Coda: Endingsp. 332
Charts and Tablesp. 337
Abbreviationsp. 367
Notesp. 369
Essay on Sourcesp. 427
Indexp. 441
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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