In the 1930’s, northeastern politicians and reformers once again were concerned about racial customs in the Southern States as both parties pursued the black vote in both sections of the country. FDR used government money and subsidies during the Depression to control Southern leaders, though his courting of labor unions, black communist activists and CPUSA votes would lead to the formation of the Dixiecrat party by 1948.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The South, Forever Tobacco Road
“In the North a new school of historians had rewritten the history of the Nation and had presented the South in fair appraisal, and had also made realistic diagnosis and criticism of the northern post-Civil War administration. The South had also made extraordinary strides in nearly all phases of its culture and economy. It had built industry, developed great highways . . . and had, with the cooperation and support of the Northeast, strengthened its colleges and universities, and especially a number of important institutions.
[The] Southern States put their hands to the task [of overcoming the Depression], and through State planning boards, through various technical ways of cooperating with New Deal agencies, through public works, work relief, agricultural adjustment, through educational cooperation . . . Then a strange thing happened.
And it happened twice, once due to the depression New Deal pressure and once due to the pressure of war, namely, a sudden revivification of the old sectional conflict and recrudescence of the terms “North” and “South.”
The revival of the term “The South,” in so far as the national administration was concerned . . . came about in two ways. One was typified by in the now noted slogan that the South was the Nation’s Economic Problem Number One. The South was Tobacco Road. It was again missionary territory. But whatever it was, it was “The South.”
In the second place, “The South” came to be synonymous with conservatism or reactionary policies due to the opposition of Southern senators and congresssmen, and of State governors and leaders to many of the New Deal policies. “What else could you expect, he is a Southerner?” came to be a common refrain. And then “The South,” with its usual sensitiveness and defense resentfulness revived with a vengeance the term “The North” which was again “trying to make the South over.”
And even more than the depression New Deal, the coming of the war . . . brought about an intensification of the North-South conflict, due, of course, to the South’s racial segregation, culture and laws. The Nation realized suddenly that its ideas of the American Dream guaranteed to all its citizens equal rights and opportunities, and that, while it had gone to war for global democracy, it had in its own two regions a negation of such democracy. And so there was the ever-recurring question, “what can be done about the South?”
And there were increasingly articulate individuals and agencies, private and public, setting themselves to the task of “making” the South change. The net result has been an unbelievable revival of the bitterness implied in the old “North” and “South,” what time the South resents what it calls northern interference and what time the North tries to coerce the South again.”
(In Search of the Regional Balance of America. Howard W. Odum, editor, UNC Press, 1945, pp. 18-19)