20 April 2016

Fundamentals for the Virginia Yeoman

As I prepare to launch the new website and blog, The Virginia Yeoman, I felt a need to brush up on some of my philosophical underpinnings. So, with that in mind, this will occupy a prominent place on my nightstand for at least the next few months.

Though I read Owsley's work many years ago, I did so hurriedly. My experiences since then, along with other reading and research, have shaped my worldview to the point I need to revisit this fascinating book. Of course, Owsley addresses a number of issues in this history of Southern culture that will be germane to the new website.

Wiki has this to say about Plain Folk of the Old South:
In rejecting the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and the New South's romantic legends, Owsley sought to uncover a "real" South, what he called the plain folk. He characterized the postwar South as made up of a broad class of yeoman farmers, between poor blacks, many of whom were sharecroppers in a kind of debt bondage, and poor whites at one end, and large plantation owners at the opposite end of the economic spectrum. Owsley asserted that the real South was liberal, American, and Jeffersonian, not radical or reactionary.
Critics suggested Owsley was a reactionary defender of the Confederacy. They said he was attempting to rewrite the past to preserve white Southern culture. They said he overemphasized the size of the Southern landholding middle class, while excluding the large class of poor white southerners who owned neither land nor slaves. Further, they suggested Owsley's theory assumed too much commonality in shared economic interests united Southern farmers. Critics believed that he did not fully assess the vast difference between the planters' commercial agriculture and the yeoman's subsistence farming.
Though neither of these descriptions are totally accurate, I believe the first one comes the closest to "getting it."

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