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02.05.05 Owsley, Frank L., Plain Folk of the Old South, published in 1949 by the Louisiana State University Press.

Notes Concerning the Author



In this classic, which has never been refuted, Frank Owsley demonstrates that the Old South prior to the War Between the States, contrary to demeaning propaganda out of the northern States, was not an oligarchy but a society with widespread property ownership and governed by a vigorous democracy.

This book is part of the Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures in Southern History series.  An internet review presents the following analysis of Owsley’s work:

“First published in 1949, Frank Lawrence Owsley’s Plain Folk of the Old South refuted the popular myth that the antebellum South contained only three classes — planters, poor whites, and slaves. Owsley draws on a wide range of source materials — firsthand accounts such as diaries and the published observations of travelers and journalists; church records; and county records, including wills, deeds, tax lists, and grand-jury reports — to accurately reconstruct the prewar South’s large and significant “yeoman farmer” middle class. He follows the history of this group, beginning with their migration from the Atlantic states into the frontier South, charts their property holdings and economic standing, and tells of the rich texture of their lives: the singing schools and corn shuckings, their courtship rituals and revival meetings, barn raisings and logrollings, and contests of marksmanship and horsemanship such as “snuffing the candle,” “driving the nail,” and the “gander pull.” . . .  This book remains the starting point today for the study of society in the Old South.


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