E Carolyn Brown Tucker, Ph.D.

Author    Speaker    Consultant

Mimosa Hill Blog

Mimosa Hill Blog

Southern Rural Culture and Student Outcomes: Part 1 of 6: Student Outcomes and Rural Culture:

Posted on April 19, 2016 at 12:15 AM

In the early days of this blog, it’s probably a good thing to establish a common thread among the readers and writer(s) of Southern Rural Culture—considering the fact that culture is what the blog is about.

     Culture, refers to the beliefs, arts (visual art, literature, music, performance art), principals, and values of a group of people that make them who they are and how they differ from other groups. Language, customs, clothing, rituals, religion, and politics are other aspects of culture. Southern Rural Culture, then, is those characteristics that make the Southern Rurals different from other groups of people.

     Where is the Rural South? Generally speaking, it is the region south of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi Rivers—but not including Florida. It is excluded from the designation because the culture there has changed—at least for the winter months. Florida is the winter homing region for the elder Northern “snow birds”—those older Northerners who make the pilgrimage to the Sunshine State every six months or so to avoid weather that is problematic to conditions common to senior citizens every winter: arthritis, neuralgia, stiffness, inflammation, swelling, joint pain.

      When we look at the Rural South, we see culture that is probably the most consistent culture region-wide in the United States. The Rural South is the region of the Confederacy, that area of land and people that withdrew from the United States in order to establish a separate country. While many people believe the only reason for the secession from the Union was the issue of slavery, that wasn’t the only reason. While Southerners owned slaves more often than Northerners, the South was an agrarian region and needed intensive manual labor for the tending of cash crops. Crops like tobacco, cotton, and rice required people working by hand many hours a day in sweltering heat in order to produce enough product to keep the farms and plantations going. Most American laborers demanded higher wages than the cash crop producers could afford to pay.

      On the other hand, the Union states were primarily factory based and, therefore, urban instead of agrarian. Places in cities sprung up to reflect different cultures within the same American city. Because there was not one predominant culture, there might be a little Italy, a little China, a little Holland. As a result, those cultures tended to share the elements of culture. Elements of religion, of cooking, of language, of traditions, of politics, of economy began to assimilate and change to something else. Some have called it a mixing bowl. Others say it is more like a salad bowl. Whatever you call it, it became different. Because there were so many more cultures, they could not bond as only two kinds of cultures.

     The agrarian South, however, continued to be agrarian, and the people there continued to be land owner or land laborer. In addition, it was much easier to remain two cultures separate from each other because of the different races. In other words, they could remain separate because it was easy to tell who was like me and who was not. So, in the South (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas), where there was land owner/land laborer, the people developed deeper, stronger bonds.

      It is said that while the South practiced slavery, the North abused child laborers, hiring them for very little money—sometimes even less than the slaves were bringing in if their room and board were considered. So, the moral indignation of the North should be tempered a little.

      Texas was a republic—standing alone in the South but not with the culture of the rest of the South. Culturally the Texans were either Mexican land owners, the white believers in separatism, small groups of native American tribes, or the Mexican loyalists who continued to believe that Texas still belonged to Mexico. Four separate groups who wanted to remain four separate groups.

      The Rural South remains predominantly rural, Christian, white or black, rich or poor (not in the middle), lower in educational attainment, Patriarchal, Republican, Conservative, GOBs with gun rights. Drawing from my own research, Southern Rural Culture also values anti-intellectualism, traditionalism, ethnocentrism, Good Old Boys, stewardship of earth, religiosity, and xenophobia. Few areas can be said to have such a broad base of “bonding.” It might be correct to assume that Rural Southerners are more alike than they are different.


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