When Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in as president, the South was unmistakably the most disadvantaged part of the nation. The region's economy was the weakest, its educational level the lowest, its politics the most rigid, and its laws and social mores the most racially slanted. Moreover, the region was prostrate from the effects of the Great Depression.
Roosevelt's New Deal effected significant changes on the southern landscape, challenging many traditions and laying the foundations for subsequent alterations in the southern way of life. At the same time, firmly entrenched values and institutions militated against change and blunted the impact of federal programs.
In The South and the New Deal, Roger Biles examines the New Deal's impact on the rural and urban South, its black and white citizens, its poor, and its politics. He shows how southern leaders initially welcomed and supported the various New Deal measures but later opposed a continuation or expansion of these programs because they violated regional convictions and traditions. Nevertheless, Biles concludes, the New Deal, coupled with the domestic effects of World War II, set the stage for a remarkable postwar transformation in the affairs of the region.
The post-World War II Sunbelt boom has brought Dixie more fully into the national mainstream. To what degree did the New Deal disrupt southern distinctiveness? Biles answers this and other questions and explores the New Deal's enduring legacy in the region.
"Should become the standard view of the New Deal's legacy to the South." -- American Historical Review
"Biles offers a concise and well-crafted overview effectively demonstrating the importance of the New Deal as a catalyst for change in the American South during the Depression era." -- Journal of Southern History