Discussion Topic: Differences Between Southerners

First, apologies for the delay in substantive posts, I’m working through some things at the moment. In the meantime, I thought it would be interesting and productive to work towards identifying the delineations between Southerners today. The idea was sparked by this passage from The Southern Tradition at Bay, in which Weaver is discussing the views of William Peterfield Trent (pages 347-348):

Southerners were sufficiently attached to their states to fight for them, and one can discover on examination that the people do differ roughly by states. The Virginian is the eighteenth century English squire, fond of bonhommie and good living, and although to the country as a whole he typifies the Southern aristocrat, he is measurably more democratic than his cousin, the South Carolinian. The South Carolinian is the seventeenth-century Royalist, masterful, conscious of his position, and because of an infusion of Huguenot blood, somewhat stern. He is the most provincial of the Southerners. He “actually wishes to be rooted in a particular parish or town. The genus loci is the god he worships, and he stands for everything that is not cosmopolitan.” North Carolina, the most bourgeois of states, is the home of the typical Southern democrat, less fancy than his neighbors, but willing to work for a good thing; and Georgians are properly denominated the Yankees of the South. Louisianians have learned how to enjoy life, but have been conspicuously lacking in ambition, and the Tennesseean may well be considered more Western than Southern, or as “with” the South rather than “of” it. All this prepares for the generalization that the Southern people are “heterogeneous in manners, but homogeneous in ideas.”

In my admittedly limited experience, what remains of the traditional Southern thede isn’t quite so diverse nowadays, and few significant differences deeper than the general Appalachia-Atlantic Coast-Gulf Coast divergence can be discerned (obviously, some exceptions exist). I did find the above description of South Carolinians rang eerily true with me, North Carolina and Georgia only slightly less so. What do y’all think? What are the chief sub-thedes that exist within the traditional areas of the South today?

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13 thoughts on “Discussion Topic: Differences Between Southerners

  1. Mississippi Delta, Osceola to Fouchon – Appalachia / Ozarks / Ouachitas – Timberlands north from the coastal plain to about I-40 – Texas plains – Coastal plain, including most of Florida, of which some is Timberland – city folk, including Black burgs like Pine Bluff, AR, and White burgs turning Black

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  2. As a Louisianan, specifically a New Orleanian, the description rang true. The passage immediately called to mind the New Orleans/Atlanta rivalry that shows up mainly in New Orleans. Atlanta is the perfect yankee colony, whereas New Orleans is baroque but dying, sinking literally into the gulf and subsumed by ‘a rising tide of color’ I suppose one could say. Indeed, the state of my beloved New Orleans, sinking into the nether marshes, is but a physical manifestation of the sinking of our southern way of life to the forces of mechanization, modernity, and monoculture.

    That being said, I have always felt much closer to Virginians and South Carolinians then to Tennesseans and North Carolinians, culturally at least.

    Deo Vindice

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  3. I hate to say it, but I believe Virginia is done. I live near Richmond (our old capital) and other than myself, no one I know has any interest in The South; none AT ALL.

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    • I’m afraid you may be right (possibly exceptng the Blue Ridge areas of the state). And I feel this may be true for many areas outside of Virginia. Transplants are flocking to SC all the time, and have completely overrun several big areas.

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  4. Virginia much to her shame has been invaded in many parts by damnyankees, especially closer to the capitol. Where I grew up in Lynchburg, by the Blue Ridge, there is certainly a sense of Southern pride and culture, but Steve would be right to observe that the lowland, old Southern planter and aristocrat culture of blessed memory has now passed on.

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  5. The Mississippi Delta remains a world unto its own. The Mississippi Hill Country is decidedly non- and even anti-aristocratic. Jackson is a very poor man’s Atlanta. The Piny Woods are a step back in time, rough and ready, much like the Hill Country. Tupelo thinks progressively, and the Mississippi Coast is a corrupt swamp. That’s just the broad strokes in Mississippi. Every county, every town, every home, every room, every chair has its own character.

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  6. South Carolina itself has a distinct difference between inland/upstate and low country/coastal sub-cultures. I see much more of the Scots-Irish influence upstate. A bit more dour and “pricklier”, for lack of a better word. The lowcountry had much more of an old English influence. It’s softer. Not in the sense of weakness – they can have as much a sense of “offended honor” as their upstate cousins do. It’s just expressed differently. To me, it’s always seemed to temperamentally reflect the yeoman English vs. feisty Scots difference. It’s not stark and absolute, but it’s there.

    Hubs and I have discussed before that highlanders and flatlanders and coasties show differences in temperament worldwide, as do their derivative cultures, so it makes sense.

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    • By the way, this is me, FormerlyFormer. I rarely use WordPress, so hadn’t bothered to change the old profile to match Twitter yet. I’m much more of a reader/lurker than a commenter when it comes to blogs.

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    • Very true. I’m from the upstate myself, and the differences are strong. I probably have more in common with Virginia or Tennessee mountaineers than with your usual Charlestonian, traditional or not. SC has always been a divided state. It seems to me the upcountry has gained the upper hand over the lowcountry of late – fewer Yankee transplants + solid white majority. The foothills of the whole Appalachian chain seem to be retaining the traditional culture admirably (Asheville, NC excepted…ugh), although I have reservations as to how much longer it will last. I feel it’s among the most fertile ground for finding friends of our movement.

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  7. SWVA. I find his description of Virginia accurate. But today, North of Roanoke and South of Roanoke are seemingly different worlds.
    Though traditionalism certainly exists in pockets of my region, they have been progressively substituted with the Carpetbagger/Consumer version of “Southern Culture”

    I feel I’ve always had more in common with Kentuckians and Tennesseans than my Carolinian neighbors.

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  8. I’ve lived in Georgia and Alabama. I’ve spent a little bit of time in the Carolinas. But the vast majority of my life I’ve lived in Tennessee.

    My general take is that, yes, strong regional differences still exist, although there are factors that make them seem muted. Raven McDavid (himself a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, SC) did a lot of work on American dialectology in the mid 1900s. One of his observations was that regional accents tended to be most pronounced in the lower and the upper classes and most understated in the middle. This makes sense because the top and the bottom in America tend to stay in one place (the former by necessity, the latter because it’s comfortable there), whereas the middle class tends to move where the jobs and social opportunities are. And one of the ways middle class folks prepare to join this educated, mobile work force is by repressing the embarrassing regionalisms that are unbecoming in the professional workplace.

    All of this is to say that I think differences in dialect are a good proxy for differences in culture. Thus I would expect the Southern middle class to be more homogeneous (but of course not totally homogeneous) from state to state than their counterparts either below or above them. That’s the muting factor on regional differences. The more you interact and live around this middle class (and I say this as someone who grew up smack dab in the middle of the middle class), the more likely you are to emphasize the sameness of the Southern states.

    Personally I think that Tennessee differs quite a bit from Georgia, Alabama, and the eastern Carolinas. But not so much from the Appalachian Carolinas. I think descendants of the plantation South are classier than the descendants of the more mountainous regions above them. But that we make up for our comparative lack of culture with scrappiness and smooth whiskies.

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  9. What stands out most for me about Virginians is our sheer love for our native land. Our roots are deep and we take real pleasure in the sheer beauty that surrounds us. Kids coming home from college will tweet about how good it is to be back in the mountains. An old mountain woman who fits all your stereotypes once told me that living in a hallow is like being cradled in the hand of God. We still cherish our place in history and the fine men we can boast. God loves Virginia and so do I.

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  10. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/02/20) | The Reactivity Place

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