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Southern United States

The South (South east)
Cultural region of the United States
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The Southern United States as defined by the United States Census Bureau.
The Southern United States as defined by the United States Census Bureau.
  • Southeastern United States
  • South Central United States
  • Deep South
  • Upland South
  • Dixie
  • South Atlantic
  • East South Central
  • West South Central
Country  United States
States  Alabama
 North Carolina
 South Carolina
 West Virginia
 (2018 United States Census Estimates)
 • Total 124,753,948
Demonym(s) Southerner

The Southern United States, also known as the American South or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Western United States, with the Midwestern United States and Northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.

The South does not fully match the geographic south of the United States but is commonly defined as including the states that fought for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. The Deep South is fully located in the southeastern corner. California, Arizona and New Mexico, which are geographically in the southern part of the country, are rarely considered part, while West Virginia, which separated from Virginia in 1863, commonly is. While the states of Delaware and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, permitted slavery prior to and during the Civil War, they remained with the Union. Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, they became more culturally, economically, and politically aligned with the industrial Northern states, and are often identified as part of the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast by many residents, businesses, public institutions, and private organizations; however, the United States Census Bureau continues to define them as in the South with regard to census regions.

Usually, the South is defined as including the southeastern and south-central United States. The region is known for its culture and history, having developed its own customs, musical styles, and cuisines, which have distinguished it in some ways from the rest of the United States.

The Southern ethnic heritage is diverse and includes strong European (mostly English, Italian, Scottish, Scotch-Irish, Irish, German, French, Portuguese and Spanish American), African and some Native American components.

10 year old Jimmie. Been shucking 3 years. 6 pots a day, and a 11 year old boy who shucks 7 pots
Child laborers, Bluffton, South Carolina, 1913
1943 Colored Waiting Room Sign
Racial segregation was commonplace in the South until the 1960s.

Some other aspects of the historical and cultural development of the South have been influenced by the institution of slave labor on plantations in the Deep South to an extent seen nowhere else in the United States; the presence of a large proportion of African Americans in the population; support for the doctrine of states' rights, and the legacy of racism magnified by the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, as seen in thousands of lynchings (mostly from 1880 to 1930), the segregated system of separate schools and public facilities known as "Jim Crow laws", that lasted until the 1960s, and the widespread use of poll taxes and other methods to frequently deny black people of the right to vote or hold office until the 1960s.

Since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, black people have held many offices in Southern states, especially in the coastal states of Virginia and South Carolina. Black people have also been elected or appointed as mayors and police chiefs in the metropolises of Baltimore, Charlotte, Raleigh, Birmingham, Richmond, Columbia, Memphis, Houston, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Jackson, and New Orleans, and serve in both the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. Scholars have characterized pockets of the Southern United States as being "authoritarian enclaves" from Reconstruction until the Civil Rights Act.

Historically, the South relied heavily on agriculture, and was highly rural until after 1945. It has since become more industrialized and urban and has attracted national and international migrants. The American South is now among the fastest-growing areas in the United States. Houston is the largest city in the Southern United States. Sociological research indicates that Southern collective identity stems from political, demographic, and cultural distinctiveness from the rest of the United States.

The region contains almost all of the Bible Belt, an area of high Protestant church attendance (especially evangelical churches such as the Southern Baptist Convention) and predominantly conservative, religion-influenced politics. Indeed, studies have shown that Southerners are more conservative than non-Southerners in several areas, including religion, morality, international relations, and race relations. This is evident in both the region's religious attendance figures and in the region's usually strong support for the Republican Party in political elections since the 1960s, and especially since the 1990s. Apart from its climate, the living experience in the South increasingly resembles the rest of the nation.


Texas Hill Country 187N-2
Texas Hill Country

The question of how to define the subregions in the Sup has been the focus of research for nearly a century.

Kentucky horse farm
Bluegrass region, Kentucky
Lone Oak in Saint Bernard Parish
Field of yellow wildflowers in Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana
Pearl River backwater in Mississippi
Pearl River backwater in Mississippi
Misty Bluff along the Buffalo River
Misty Bluff along the Buffalo River, Ozark Mountains, Arkansas
Tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland
Grayson County VA
The highlands of Grayson County in Southwest Virginia

As defined by the United States Census Bureau, the Southern region of the United States includes sixteen states. As of 2010, an estimated 114,555,744 people, or thirty seven percent of all U.S. residents, lived in the South, the nation's most populous region. The Census Bureau defined three smaller divisions:

The Council of State Governments, an organization for communication and coordination between states, includes in its South regional office the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Other terms related to the South include:

The popular definition of the "South" is more informal and generally associated with the 11 states that seceded before or during the Civil War to form the Confederate States of America. In order of their secession, these were: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. These states share commonalities of history and culture that carry on to the present day. Oklahoma was not a state during the Civil War, but all its major Native American tribes signed formal treaties of alliance with the Confederacy.

The South is a diverse meteorological region with numerous climatic zones, including temperate, sub-tropical, tropical, and arid—though the South generally has a reputation as hot and humid, with long summers and short, mild winters. Most of the south—except for the higher elevations and areas near the western, southern and some northern fringes—fall in the humid subtropical climate zone. Crops grow readily in the South; its climate consistently provides growing seasons of at least six months before the first frost. Another common environment occurs in the bayous and swamplands of the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana and in Texas.

The States that make up "The South" are usually considered to be:

  1. Virginia
  2. Tennessee
  3. Arkansas
  4. Louisiana
  5. North Carolina
  6. South Carolina
  7. Mississippi
  8. Alabama
  9. Georgia
  10. Florida
  11. Texas

Border States are also sometimes called Southern:

  1. Oklahoma
  2. West Virginia
  3. Kentucky
  4. Maryland
  5. Delaware
  6. Missouri

The cuisine of the Southern United States is distinct from other regions.

Major cities

The South was heavily rural as late as the 1940s, but now the population is increasingly concentrated in metropolitan areas. The following tables show the twenty largest cities, metropolitan, and combined statistical areas in the South. Houston is the largest city in the South.

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San Antonio Skyline
San Antonio
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Jacksonville at Night (39527326802)
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Fort Worth
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Washington D.C.
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El Paso
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Rank City State Population
(2018 est.)
1 Houston TX 2,325,502
2 San Antonio TX 1,532,233
3 Dallas TX 1,345,047
4 Austin TX 964,254
5 Jacksonville FL 903,889
6 Fort Worth TX 895,008
7 Charlotte NC 872,498
8 Washington DC 702,455
9 El Paso TX 682,669
10 Nashville TN 669,053
11 Memphis TN 650,618
12 Oklahoma City OK 649,021
13 Louisville KY 620,118
14 Baltimore MD 602,495
15 Atlanta GA 498,044
16 Miami FL 470,914
17 Raleigh NC 469,298
18 Virginia Beach VA 450,189
19 Tulsa OK 400,669
20 Arlington TX 398,112

Major metropolitan areas

Rank Metropolitan Statistical Area State(s) Population
(2018 est.)
1 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington TX 7,539,711
2 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land TX 6,997,384
3 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria VA-MD-WV-DC 6,249,950
4 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach FL 6,198,782
5 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell GA 5,949,951
6 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater FL 3,142,663
7 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson MD 2,802,789
8 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford FL 2,572,692
9 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia NC-SC 2,569,213
10 San Antonio-New Braunfels TX 2,518,036
11 Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky| OH-IN-KY 2,190,209
12 Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos TX 2,168,316
13 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin TN 1,930,961
14 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC 1,728,733
15 Jacksonville FL 1,534,701
16 Oklahoma City-Norman OK 1,396,445
17 Raleigh-Cary NC 1,362,540
18 Memphis-Forrest City TN-MS-AR 1,350,620
19 Richmond-Petersburg VA 1,306,172
20 Louisville-Jefferson County| KY-IN 1,297,310

* Asterisk indicates part of the metropolitan area is outside the states classified as Southern.


The South is the most racially diverse region in the United States. The predominant culture of the original Southern states was English.

In the 17th century, most voluntary immigrants were of English origin, and settled chiefly along the eastern coast but had pushed as far inland as the Appalachian Mountains by the 18th century. The majority of early English settlers were indentured servants, who gained freedom after working off their passage. The wealthier men who paid their way received land grants known as headrights, to encourage settlement.

The Spanish and French established settlements in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. The Spanish settled Florida in the 16th century, reaching a peak in the late 17th century, but the population was small because the Spaniards were relatively uninterested in agriculture, and Florida had no mineral resources.

In the British colonies, immigration began in 1607 and continued until the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775.

In the mid-to-late-18th century, large groups of Ulster Scots (later called the Scotch-Irish) and people from the Anglo-Scottish border region immigrated and settled in the back country of Appalachia and the Piedmont. They were the largest group of non-English immigrants from the British Isles before the American Revolution.

In the 1980 Census, 34% of Southerners reported that they were of English ancestry; English was the largest reported European ancestry in every Southern state by a large margin.

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