The Plain Folk of the Old South, often called yeomen, were the middling white United States Southerners of the 19th century who owned few slaves or none. Yeoman is noun used to indicate a variety of positions or Social classes In the 16th century a yeoman was also a Farmer of middling social status who owned The United States of America —commonly referred to as the
Historians have long debated the social, economic and political roles. Terms used by scholars include "common people", "yeomen" and "Crackers. Georgia Cracker refers to the original American pioneer Settlers of the Province of Georgia (later the State of Georgia) and their descendants " The term favored in Jeffersonian Democracy and Jacksonian Democracy was "yeoman", which emphasized an independent political spirit and economic self-reliance. Jeffersonian Democracy is the set of political goals that were named after Thomas Jefferson Jacksonian Democracy refers to the political philosophy of United States President Andrew Jackson and his supporters
From the travel accounts of Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1850s through the early-twentieth-century interpretations of historians William E. Dodd and Ulrich B. Phillips, common southerners were portrayed as minor players in the antebellum period. Frederick Law Olmsted ( April 25, 1822 &ndash August 28, 1903) was an American landscape designer and father of American William Edward Dodd ( 1869 - February 9, 1940) was a historian who served as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt 's ambassador to Ulrich Bonnell Phillips ( November 4 1877 – January 21 1934) was a Historian who studied the American antebellum South
Romantic portrayals, especially Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (1937) and its 1939 film, ignored them. Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell Marsh ( November 8 1900 – August 16 1949) popularly known as Margaret Mitchell was an American Novelist Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road portrayed the degraded condition of whites dwelling beyond the great plantations. Erskine Preston Caldwell (December 17 1903 Coweta County Georgia – April 11 1987 was an American Author.
The major challenge came from historian Frank Lawrence Owsley in Plain Folk of the Old South (1949). Frank Lawrence Owsley ( January 20, 1890 – October 21, 1955) was a American Historian and member of the Nashville It ignited a long historiographical debate. Owsley started with the writings of Daniel R. Hundley who in 1860 had defined the southern middle class as "farmers, planters, traders, storekeepers, artisans, mechanics, a few manufacturers, a goodly number of country school teachers, and a host of half-fledged country lawyers, doctors, parsons, and the like. " To find these people Owsley turned to the name-by-name files on the manuscript federal census. Owsley's Plain Folk of the Old South, says Vernon Burton, is, one of the most influential works on southern history ever written. Using their own newly invented codes, the Owsleys created data bases from the manuscript federal census returns, tax and trial records, and local government documents and wills.
Plain Folk argued that southern society was not dominated by planter aristocrats, but that yeoman farmers played a significant role in it. The religion, language, and culture of these common people created a democratic "plain folk" society. Critics say Owsley overemphasized the size of the southern landholding middle class while excluding the large class of poor landless and slaveless white southerners. [Hyde (2005)] Owsley assumed that shared economic interests united southern farmers without considering the vast difference inherent in the planters' commercial agriculture versus the yeomen's subsistence life style.
In his study of Edgefield County, South Carolina, Orville Vernon Burton classified white society into the poor, the yeoman middle class, and the elite. Edgefield County is a County located in the US state of South Carolina. South Carolina ( is a state in the southern region ( Deep South) of the United States of America. A clear line demarcated the elite, but according to Burton, the line between poor and yeoman was never very distinct. Stephanie McCurry argues, yeomen were clearly distinguished from poor whites by their ownership of land (real property). Yeomen were "self-working farmers," distinct from the elite because they worked their land themselves alongside any slaves they owned. Ownership of large numbers of slaves made the work of planters completely managerial.
Wetherington (2005) argues the plain folk (of Georgia) supported secession to defend their families, homes, and notions of white liberty. During the war the established patriarchy continued to control the home front and kept it functioning even though growing numbers of plain folk joined the new wartime poor.
Wetherington suggests that their localism and racism dovetailed with a republican ideology founded on Jeffersonian notions of an "economically independent yeomanry sharing common interests" (p. 12). Plain folk during the war raised subsistence crops and vegetables, and relied on a free and open range to hunt hogs. Before the war they became more active in the cotton and slave markets, but plain folk remained unwilling to jeopardize their self-sufficiency and the stability of their neighborhoods for the economic interests of planters.
The soldiers had their own reasons for fighting. First and foremost, they sought to protect hearth and home from Yankee threats. White supremacy and masculinity depended on slavery, which Lincoln's Republicans threatened. Plain folk concepts of masculinity explains why so many men enlisted: they wanted to be worthy of the privileges of men, including the affections of female patriots. (p. 145). By March 1862, the piney woods region had a 60 percent enlistment rate, comparable to that found in planter areas.
As the war dragged on, hardship became a way of life; Wetherington reports that enough men remained home to preserve the paternalistic social order, yet there were too few to prevent mounting deprivation. Wartime shortages increased the economic divide between planters and yeoman farmers; nevertheless, some planters took seriously their paternalistic obligations by selling their corn to plain folks at the official Confederate rate "out of a spirit of patriotism. " (p. 171). Wetherington's argument weakens other scholars' suggestions that class conflict led to Confederate defeat. More damaging to Confederate nationalism was the localism that grew as areas had to fend for themselves as Sherman's forces came nearer. During Reconstruction, plain folk viewed freedmen as the greatest affront and humiliating symbol of Yankee victory, so they turned their hatred against Carpetbaggers and refused to tolerate Scalawags. In United States history carpetbaggers was the term southerners gave to northerners who moved to the South during Reconstruction, between 1865 and 1877 In the United States, a scalawag was a Southern white who joined the Republican Party in the ex- Confederate South during Reconstruction