The Cotton State

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This podcast is part of the series: ArchiTreats: Food for Thought

Multimedia Details Title: The Cotton State
Creator: J. Mills Thorton
Submitted By: Alabama Department of Archives and Histo, Informal Education Partner, Informal Education Partner

Alabama Department of Archives and History


ArchiTreats: Food for Thought celebrates the Year of Alabama History through a series of sequential lectures in Alabama history by leading experts in the field.

While many think of antebellum Alabama as a state of magnolias and cotton plantations, that picture tells only part of the story. This program will show how three groups – white yeomen farmers, planter elites, and enslaved African Americans – together created the “cotton state” in Alabama. It will begin with a description of the differences between life in the yeoman sections of the state – the hill counties and the Wiregrass – and life in the plantation areas – the Black Belt and the Tennessee Valley. Each of these groups contributed to and shaped Alabama society and antebellum politics. The program will examine some of the “hot” political topics of the time – the state bank, congressional districting, taxation, state aid for railroads, and secession from the Union.

Montgomery - native J. Mills Thornton is a professor of history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Professor Thornton received his bachelor’s degree with high honors from Princeton University in 1966, and his doctorate from Yale University in 1974, joining the faculty of the University of Michigan in that year. His book, Politics and Power in a Slave Society: Alabama, 1800-1860, published in 1978, received the Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association. His second book, Dividing Lines: Municipal Politics and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma, published in 2002, received the Liberty Legacy Prize of the Organization of American Historians. During 2007-08, he served as the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge in England.

This ArchiTreats presentation is made possible by the Friends of the Alabama Archives and a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Length: 53:43
Content Areas: Social Studies
Alabama Course of Study Alignments and/or Professional Development Standard Alignments: