The White Man of the New South
“Indeed, it is the white man of the South more than the black that has been freed by the civil war; and the greatest blessing which has thus far resulted to the South from the emancipation of the Southern slaves is its effect upon the white man of that region in transforming him from a dependent idler, or “gentleman of leisure,” supported by his slaves, into an independent, self-reliant worker.”
The center of the new South was free labor. And the new role of the white man in the new South was as the worker. The idleness and the leisure that been exalted in the old South had no place without the labor of slaves to support it. The popular rhetoric of Southern white men claimed that they were “’glad that the war wiped out slaveholding. Now that we are free of it, we realize the burden we were carrying.” Southerners at the turn-of-the-century placed value in the spirit of labor and claimed that the progress of the new South could only be achieved through the efforts of the white man. “The white man of the South, in body, mind, and heart, has set himself to work in earnest; and on the grace of the Old South, aided now by colored freedmen instead of slaves, he is building a New South that will be far grander than ever the Old South was or could have been.” The white men of the new South saw themselves as taking a superior role to all other races in the South. These messages of progress through labor and Anglo-Saxon supremacy would play a prominent role in shaping the themes of the Cotton States and International Exposition.