Antebellum South - Image vs. Reality

  1. The South was not a monolithic society. The region included 11 states, tidewater, piedmont, urban, creole, cajun. Economic power by 1850 was shifting from the upper to lower South.
  2. Cotton was not the only crop. Cotton was the largest staple export that made up 67% of the total national export, produced in a cotton-growing belt that moved southwestward as soil was exhausted. The South "grew" but it did not develop or modernize. More acreage was used for corn. Other crops included tobacco, sugar, rice, indigo. Livestock included 60% of the nation's hogs and 90% of the mules that were more common than horses. Many farms had vegetable gardens, but not orderly. Garbage thrown out randomly, pigs rooted in piles and puddles.
  3. Most were not slaveowners. The population of 8 million whites included "plain folk," yeoman farmers, apprentices, craftsmen. Only .1% of the population (3000 families) owned more tha 100 slaves, 6.6% owned 10-99 slaves, 17.2% owned 1-9 slaves, 76.1% owned no slaves. Also important were lawyers, doctors, editors like James DeBow, brokers and factors.
  4. Most did not own plantations. "Yeoman farmers were the solid backbone of the South" according to Frank Owsley, owning less than 100 acres.
  5. Most did not live in large mansions. More typical were small, dark, two-room cabins that did not have great staircases. Frederick Law Olmstead in 1854 found no "thermometer, book of Shakespeare, piano, sheet of music, good reading lamp, engraving, work of art." Social activities did not focus on great barbecues but rather the county fair, militia muster, political rally, court session, quilting bee, corn-shucking.
  6. A "herrenvolk democracy" of racial superiority was the greatest unifying force among southern whites. Although 500,000 lived in poverty as "poor white trash, crackers, clay-eaters" they shared with the aristocracy a desire to preserve racial superiority and defended slavery as a "positive good."
  7. The South was more aristocratic than democratic. Although small in number, the plantation-owning aristocracy had great influence, through its "cavalier" code of chivalry and honor. However, it was not genteel and leisured, but rather a working aristocracy of competitive businessmen. The code of honor institutionalized violence and gambling and boasting. It was patriarchal and hierarchical and traditional in its identification with the revolutionary Founding Fathers. Some were from established families who "always marry their cousins" but many were new arrivals due to land speculation or commerce.
  8. Women were more subordinate than in the North. They lived on isolated farms, were uneducated, worked at spinning, weaving, supervising slaves. They were idealized in the cavalier code, but the "right to protection involves the obligation to obey" according to George Fitzhugh. Some rebeled but most defended their special status.
  9. Masters were not kindly. Slave mistreatment was common and a primary cause of broken families, runaways, whippings, malnutrition. Slave clothing was oftern in tatters. Slavery was a labor system for profit, with men, women and children put to work.
  10. Slaves were not content. The "sambo" behavior of some slaves was a facade for whites that concealed a pattern of everyday resistance that included sabotage, broken tools, work slowdowns. Rebellions included the 1800 Gabriel Prosser revolt in Richmond, the 1822 Denmark Vesey revolt in Charleston, the 1831 Nat Turner revolt in Virginia. Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in Maryland and became a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.
  11. Slaves were not only field hands. 75% of the 4 million black slaves were in agriculture in 1850 (55% in cotton) and 15% were domestics and 10% were in mining, lumber, industry such as the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. There were 250,000 free blacks in the South. Elizabeth Keckley bought her freedom by sewing and became a companion to Mary Todd Lincoln in the White House.

Links:

Books and Articles:

Bridges, Herb. The Filming of Gone with the Wind. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1984. NOTES: 283 p. : ill. ; 32 cm. SUBJECTS: Gone with the wind. Motion picture. CALL #: PN1997.G59 B74 1984 Oversize

Bridges, Herb and Terryl C. Boodman. Gone with the Wind: the Definitive Illustrated History of the Book, the Movie, and the Legend. New York : Simon & Schuster, 1989. NOTES: 244 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 28 cm. SUBJECTS: Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 Gone with the wind. Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 -- Film and video adaptations. Gone with the wind. Motion picture. Historical fiction, American -- Film and video adaptations. United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Motion pictures and the war. CALL #: PN1997.G59 B76 1989

Campbell, Edward D. C., Jr. The Celluloid South: Hollywood and the Southern Myth. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981. NOTES: 212 p.: ill.; Includes index. Bibliography: p. 196-204. SUBJECTS: Southern States -- In motion pictures. CALL #: 791.4372 M998w

Carnes, Mark C., ed. Past Imperfect: History according to the Movies. New York : Holt, 1995. NOTES: 304 p. : ill. ; 26 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. SUBJECT Historical films -- History and criticism. Motion pictures and history. CALL #: CL Book Stacks 791.43658 P291 1995 - has a short essay on the film

Cripps, Thomas. Slow fade to Black: the Negro in American Film, 1900-1942. New York : Oxford University Press, 1977. NOTES: 447 p.: ill.; Includes bibliographical references and indexes. SUBJECTS: Afro-Americans in the motion picture industry. Afro-Americans in motion pictures. CALL #: PN1995.9 .N4C7

Harmetz, Aljean. On the Road to Tara: the Making of Gone with the Wind. New York : H.N. Abrams, 1996. NOTES: 224 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 219) and index. SUBJECTS: Gone with the wind. Motion picture. CALL #: PN1997.G59 H36 1996 Oversize

Harwell, Richard, ed. Gone with the Wind as Book and Film. Columbia, S.C. University of South Carolina Press, 1983. NOTES: 274 p., [22] p. of plates : ill., ports. ; 24 cm. Includes index. Bibliography: p. [254]-260. SUBJECTS: Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 Gone with the wind. Gone with the wind. Motion picture. Women novelists, American -- 20th century -- Biography. Historical fiction, American -- History and criticism. Historical fiction, American -- Adaptations. Georgia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Literature and the war. Georgia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Motion pictures and the war. CALL #: PS3525.I972 G683 1983

Harwell, Richard, ed., and Susan Myrick. White Columns in Hollywood: Reports from the GWTW Sets. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1982. NOTES: 334 p.: ill.; Includes index. Bibliography: p. [319]-320. SUBJECTS: Gone with the wind (Motion picture) CALL #: 791.4372 M998w

Lambert, Gavin. GWTW; the Making of Gone with the Wind. Boston: Little, Brown,1973 NOTES: 238 p. illus. 22 cm. Bibliography: p. [227]-230. "An Atlantic Monthly Press book." SUBJECTS: Gone with the wind. Motion picture. CALL #: PN1997.G59 L3

McLemee, Scott, ed. C.L.R. James on the "Negro Question." Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996. Paperback ISBN 0878058230. NOTES: 154 p. ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. CALL #: SDSU E185 .J326 1996 - includes reprint of James' review of the GWTW film

Merrill, Boynton. Jefferson's Nephews: a Frontier Tragedy. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1976. NOTES: 462 p.: ill.; Includes index. Bibliography: p. 425-440. SUBJECTS: Livingston County (Ky.) -- History. Lewis, Isham, d. 1815? Lewis, Lilburn, d. 1812. Lewis family. Murder -- Kentucky -- Livingston Co. -- Case studies. CALL #: F457.L7 M47 DESCRIPTION: tells a true story of the Old South, of Lilburne and Isham Lewis who moved to Livingstone County, KY, on the Ohio River at the Illinois border in 1807, to a county with no large slaveownders (only 14 owned more than 10), no staple plantations, no standard coin, mostly Baptist and Methodist (although the Lewis's were Presbyterian), drunken and riotous militia musters, frequent self-medication with laxatives, castor oil resulting in vomiting. Used axe to kill and dismember slave boy George Dec. 15, 1811, the day before the great New Madrid earthquake. Lilburne's "cold, proud, scornful" young wife 8 months pregnant, the "beloved but cruel" Letitia ran away and Lilburne planned suicide with Isham Apr. 10, 1812. Resulted in KY law prohibiting abuse of slaves. Incident fueled abolitionist crusade of William Dickey.

Molt, Cynthia Marylee; with a foreword by Butterfly McQueen.. Gone with the Wind on Film: a Complete Reference. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., 1990. NOTES: 512 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references. SUBJECTS: Gone with the wind. Motion picture. CALL #: PN1997.G59 M6 1990

Pyron, Darden A., ed. Recasting: "Gone with the Wind" in American Culture. Miami: University Presses of Florida, 1983. NOTES: 232 p. ; 23 cm. Bibliography: p. 203-224 and index. SUBJECTS: Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 Gone with the wind. Gone with the wind. Motion picture. Women and literature -- Georgia -- History -- 20th century. Historical fiction, American -- History and criticism. Georgia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Literature and the war. Georgia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Motion pictures and the war. CALL #: PS3525.I972 G687 1983 DESCRIPTION:

Taylor, Helen. Scarlett's Women: Gone with the Wind and its Female Fans. London Virago, 1989. NOTES: 275 p. ; 20 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. SUBJECTS: Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 Gone with the wind. Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 -- Film and video adaptations. Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 -- Appreciation. Gone with the wind. Motion picture. Fans (Persons) CALL #: PS3525.I972 G688 1989b

Toplin, Robert B. Hollywood as Mirror: changing views of "outsiders" and "enemies" in American movies. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. NOTES: 168 p.; bibliographical references and index. Series: Contributions to the study of popular culture ISSN: 0198-9871; no. 38. SUBJECTS: Minorities in motion pictures. Villains in motion pictures. Motion pictures -- Social aspects -- United States. CALL #: PN1995.9.M56 H65 1993 DESCRIPTION: has two articles on depictions of blacks and plantations and slavery; Van Deburg essay on Roots and Beulah Land; articles on Nazis and Cold War

Vertrees, Alan David. Selznick's Vision: Gone with the Wind and Hollywood Filmmaking. Austin : University of Texas Press, 1997. NOTES: 242 p. : ill. ; 26 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [225]-231) and index. Texas film studies series. SUBJECTS: Selznick, David O., 1902-1965. Gone with the wind. Motion picture. CALL #: PN1997.G59 V47 1997 DESCRIPTION:

Walker, Marianne. Margaret Mitchell & John Marsh: the Love Story behind Gone with the Wind . Atlanta, Ga.: Peachtree, 1993. NOTES: 554 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 523-544) and index. SUBJECTS: Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 -- Marriage. Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 -- Correspondence. Marsh, John R. (John Robert), 1895-1952 -- Marriage. Marsh, John R. (John Robert), 1895-1952 -- Correspondence. Women novelists, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence. Women novelists, American -- 20th century -- Biography. Authorship -- Collaboration -- History -- 20th century. Love-letters. CALL #: PS3525.I972 Z94 1993

Wead, George. Gone with the Wind, a Legend Endures: an Exhibition Catalogue. Austin, Texas: Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin, 1983. NOTES: 121 p. : ill. (some col.), ports. ; 26 cm. Since 1981, the "Gone with the wind ..." exhibit has been housed in the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. It is the largest exhibit in the history of the Center [1983].--G. Wead. SUBJECTS: Selznick, David O., 1902-1965. Gone with the wind. Motion picture. CALL #: PN1997.G59 W43 1983

Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. NOTES: 597 p ; Includes bibliographical references and index. SUBJECTS: Honor. Southern States -- Civilization. Southern States -- Moral conditions. CALL #: 975 W976s DESCRIPTION: the South was not a peaceful society.

Slave and Free States in 1850


revised 11/26/03 by Steven Schoenherr | Filmnotes | GWTW