Urban planning community | #theplannerlife

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Rustbelt Cities vs. Sounthern Cities: History (Was: What Happened to the South?)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,958

    Rustbelt Cities vs. Sounthern Cities: History (Was: What Happened to the South?)

    We know the story: In the early 20th century, there was a huge migration of people from the south looking for work in the mills, plants, and assembly lines of the north. The populations of the northern cities exploded. For example, in the case of Detroit, from 1900 to 1950, the population grew from under 285,000 to 1.8 million people. From 1950 to 2000, the population of Detroit receded to 951,000 people. This is a familiar story to many of the industrial and manufacturing towns of the north, in particular the Midwest. Planners know this story quite well.

    However, while sitting in my office today, located in one of those empty downtowns common to rustbelt cities, I realized the disinvestment that my hometown has experienced over the past 30 years must have been quite common in the south between 1900 and 1950. Is this true? Or did the early 20th century migration affect just the farms and rural areas of the south? Any economic development or demography history buffs here at Cyburbia? I am very curious to learn more about the southern disinvestment of the early 20th century and to see what similarities and differences there are to the rusbelt cities of today. Did once-vibrant southern towns become dangerous ghost towns, or did all those abandoned farms turn into woodlots?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Paris of Appalachia
    Posts
    3,902
    I don't really think dis-investment in southern cities was a major problem for the South during the period of the northern migration for the simple reason that only a small percentage of the South was urban at that point. Many of those heading north for jobs at that time were sharcroppers and other unlanded persons, including the children of ex-slaves, who came from a region where agiculure was the dominant industry.

    The people living in southern "cities" at that point were merchants and tradesmen who didn't need to farm to survive. Because of this there was no real incintive for them to leave to pursue a better life in places like Detroit.

    That's my thought at least.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,958

    I did a little search...

    From http://college.hmco.com/history/read...ackmigrati.htm (this explanation still doesn't answer my what happened to the south question):

    "The onset of the Great Migration—the mass movement of black people from the rural areas of the South to the cities of the North—came in the 1890s, as black men and women left to settle in eastern coastal cities such as Philadelphia and New York. The single largest movement of African-Americans occurred during World War I when approximately 500,000 people moved from the rural and small-town South into the cities of the North and the Midwest. The steady migration out of the South lasted until the 1970s; from 1916 through the 1960s, more than 6 million black people made the move.

    ...

    The Great Migration differed from previous migrations in that it was a movement directly from the rural South to the urban North.

    ...

    Southern counties and cities attempted to prevent the outmigration. But those who moved were exercising their mobility as free people and demonstrating their optimism about the future. Wrenching themselves from church and community in the South, they ventured into the unknown to escape oppression and create opportunities for themselves. Black migration has been inseparable from protest. Often powerless and with no other means of redress, blacks found mobility the only way to improve their lives."

  4. #4
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2002
    Location
    In the bike lane
    Posts
    1,827
    Excellent question Wanigas? and excellent response biscuit. I would have to agree with biscuit.

    This would be an great masters thesis, to bad I don't have any plans on going back to school.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Paris of Appalachia
    Posts
    3,902
    Originally posted by JoshD
    This would be an great masters thesis, to bad I don't have any plans on going back to school.
    I'm thinking about heading back within the next yeqr or so to finally get that masters degree. I'll have to keep this subject in mind.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 1998
    Location
    NOLA
    Posts
    4,468
    I took a population class years ago where I did some research on the reversal of the Great Migration. The blacks of the second generation expressed desire to "return to their southern roots" and etc.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Gale Crater
    Posts
    2,958

    Focus

    Anyone have anything on what happened to the rural areas and small towns during this era? We seem to be focused on the migration itself and the extent of it, but nothing about the changes to the south during this period.

    In thinking about it, two things come to mind. Just some preliminary ideas not backed by any research or history lessons:

    1) Small farms in the rural areas become abandoned. Those farms then either lie fallow and become woodlots, or ownership is assumed by locals, white or black, who remain and are used for income. If the latter, then was there a labor shortage? With more land to farm and a shrinking local labor force, it almost seems like southern farmers would have taken a severe beating, economically speaking.

    2) As blacks migrated north, the local southern black population became more marginalized because of the shrinking black population base. The net effects of the population shift to the north weakened southern black churches in the south, making them vulnerable to the white interests who resented the emancipation from slavery. As whites became aware of their growing majority, they exerted their will upon the shrinking black population, and hence, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s came to a head.

    These are just guesses. I'm not trying to mis-represent the actual history of the south. I just don't know too much about it. The whole notion of urban disinvestment is common to myself and many planners. However, what about rural disinvestment? And more specifically, what about southern rural disinvestment bewteen 1900 & 1950? I want to learn more.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    7,061
    I only sort of read part of the initial post, sorry if this has been said already:

    I recommend the book "From Cotton Belt to Sun Belt". I got it off a bargain table for $1 because no one but a geek like me would read this stuff, but I found it quite fascinating. One of the most astonishing things I learned from this book is that wages were rather depressed in the Deep South in the early part of the 20th century, due in part to the fact that Blacks got paid less than white folk. It was a region-wide phenomenon that the South generally paid less than other parts of the country.

    So, in steps the Federal government and institutes Minimum Wage laws. These were instituted specifically to bring the South in line with the rest of the nation. I think part of the problem also dates back to the Civil War and the fact that slavery was the entire tax base before the Civil War. Ending slavery destroyed the economy of the South. They had this 'idyllic' tax system where only rich folks (people who owned slaves) paid any taxes and suddenly they had no tax base at all. It had horrific repercussions.

    Well, the lovely folks of The Bible Belt, with all their Christian goodness, were unwilling to "pay a colored man a white man's wages" and Blacks experienced wholesale unemployment. This directly caused many of them to flee to other regions. The minimum wage policy was failing utterly, both in its intent to bring the South in line with the rest of the country in terms of wages paid and in its intent to redress discrimination in the South. Discrimination ran deeper than the need for cheap labor.

    Fortunately, we got dragged into WWII and went practically overnight from very high unemployment to very low unemployment, thus ending The Great Depression. This allowed the minimum wage law to finally succeed and the South has not been as out of step (wage-wise) with the rest of the nation since.

    I hope that helps.

  9. #9

    Registered
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    1,548

    Re: Focus

    Originally posted by Wanigas?

    1) Small farms in the rural areas become abandoned. Those farms then either lie fallow and become woodlots, or ownership is assumed by locals, white or black, who remain and are used for income. If the latter, then was there a labor shortage? With more land to farm and a shrinking local labor force, it almost seems like southern farmers would have taken a severe beating, economically speaking.

    2) As blacks migrated north, the local southern black population became more marginalized because of the shrinking black population base. The net effects of the population shift to the north weakened southern black churches in the south, making them vulnerable to the white interests who resented the emancipation from slavery. As whites became aware of their growing majority, they exerted their will upon the shrinking black population, and hence, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s came to a head.
    I can only speak anecdotally, but I think you're on target with what happened in the South after the Migration.

    Many small farms were abandoned in the South. Some are still abandoned, owned by black or white families, and are woodlots. They are often passed down as inheritances. My family, for example, has some land in Chester County, South Carolina. My guess, however, is that most of the land was bought by big agribusiness for either farming or timber.

    As blacks migrated north, I think conditions became worse for those who stayed behind because blacks were seen by whites as the cause of the bad economic conditions in the South. I'm guessing there were labor shortages, and maybe increased feelings among Southern whites that if blacks had stayed in the South, and kept their traditional role in the Southern economy, that the South would've been much stronger economically.

    It's probably fair to say that much of the rural South stayed in a Depression-like state economically from maybe the 1880s to the 1950s, in large part because of the Migration.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    City of Low Low Wages!
    Posts
    3,235
    From what I understand, mechinazation of farming (particularly cotten) made sharecroping obsolete and created a labor surplus (with high unemployment). Blacks migrated north in search of jobs.

    I've never really studied it though.

  11. #11

    I know I'm late

    I know I'm late to this thread, but as one who was raised on a farm in the south, Jordanb has hit it right on the head. When I was 16 yrs old, I bought a tractor and plow that cost more than the entire outfit my father started with 20 years earlier. However' I could produce more acres covered in a day than he could in a week. The labor was no longer needed until the cotton mills got larger and then populatuin and the company store took over.

  12. #12
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    427
    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock
    I can only speak anecdotally, but I think you're on target with what happened in the South after the Migration.

    Many small farms were abandoned in the South. Some are still abandoned, owned by black or white families, and are woodlots. They are often passed down as inheritances. My family, for example, has some land in Chester County, South Carolina. My guess, however, is that most of the land was bought by big agribusiness for either farming or timber.

    As blacks migrated north, I think conditions became worse for those who stayed behind because blacks were seen by whites as the cause of the bad economic conditions in the South. I'm guessing there were labor shortages, and maybe increased feelings among Southern whites that if blacks had stayed in the South, and kept their traditional role in the Southern economy, that the South would've been much stronger economically.

    It's probably fair to say that much of the rural South stayed in a Depression-like state economically from maybe the 1880s to the 1950s, in large part because of the Migration.
    Interesting - I grew up in York County, directly north of Chester County. I can say with reasonable certainty that the farm was simply abandoned & at most the land was used for lumber. This is my biggest imprint growing up in the south - driving through the country & seeing all the run down homes & shacks in fields of weeds. Chester County didn't even have a significantly large Black population, but the effects of the Great Depression made a large impact on many southerners - such as my family. My great grandfather lost the plantation (over 1000 acres) in nearby Spartanburg County due to an ill investment in a cotton gin.

    But as the rural population dwindled - in some areas of the South the population is half now than what it was nearly 100 years ago, most towns dependant on agriculture suffered. Besides northern migration, it was the mill towns & industrial cities that grew in the south during the mid 1900's. Greenville, Spartanburg, Gastonia, & Charlotte posted gains as smaller towns & cities have never caught back up. On the other side of my family, they lost their modest farm & much of the family became dependant on textile mills of Upstate South Carolina.

    I would then say the rural exodus did make an impact on many towns & cities in the south - both positively & negatively.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 13
    Last post: 23 Sep 2010, 9:06 PM
  2. Replies: 3
    Last post: 22 Mar 2010, 7:10 PM
  3. Replies: 15
    Last post: 05 Apr 2004, 4:45 AM
  4. PC Census (Rustbelt)
    Economic and Community Development
    Replies: 2
    Last post: 26 Mar 2003, 2:51 PM
  5. Replies: 2
    Last post: 05 Jul 2002, 1:13 PM