Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Black Belt, Hillbillies and Reds

My previous post on the national question in the USA, see here, was written before I saw this fascinating map detailing individuals' perceived ethnic origins as recorded by the 2000 US census. The map shows the largest group in each county.  It illustrates some of the issues discussed before - the French element in New England and Louisiana and the Hispanic element in the South West, these being cultures which did not migrate to the United States but were already in situ when the US expanded to take over their lands.  We can also see the scattered remnants of the original inhabitants of the continent and how, for example, Hawaiians have been overwhelmed while indigenous Alaskans still have some degree of territorial integrity.

Turning to the mainstream - those who willingly migrated or were forcibly removed to America - it's interesting to note that the most widespread ethnicity mapped are not the English but the Germans.  In fact it's possible to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific without leaving a German predominant county.

Two other groups stand-out, the African Americans of the deep South (there are around 100 counties with an absolute black majority) and the group, mainly in the South, especially Appalachia, who do not list any ethnicity other than being American.

In 1928, at the behest of activists like Harry Haywood, the Comintern accepted that the African Americans of the Black Belt constituted a nation as defined by Stalin "a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture."  This led to the CPUSA defining the inhabitants of the Black Belt as an oppressed nation with the right to national self-determination, up to and including secession from the United States.  This line was largely abandoned in 1935 but is still held by small leftist and black nationalist groups.  Communist activity in pre-Second World War America has largely been forgotten - there were 2000 CPUSA members in Alabama alone - so it is easy to underestimate the strength of this idea at a time when sharecropping was still a major economic factor affecting millions.

There are those who would argue that the poor whites of southern Appalachia also have the characteristics of a distinct nation. The problems associated with internal colonialism and post-industrialisation echo those of South Wales.  I'd argue that the mockery directed at rednecks and hillbillies also has echoes in Wales, these being communities elites feel able to denigrate without any of the comeback associated with political correctness.

The small independence movements in Texas and Alaska don't seem to have much interest in their Spanish speaking or native American minorities, instead they are usually dismissed as being right-wingers unhappy with Washington rule.  As Washington rule is so closely allied with clepto-capitalism that's not necessarily a bad thing and perhaps we need to be reading Ralph Nader's book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

Oh and here are some Americans dancing in the days before the corporations started filling their food with high fructose corn syrup.



Jac o' the North, said...

The people of the Appallachians used to be classed as mainly 'Scotch-Irish', a classification that seems to have fallen from favour. It described those Scots migrants to Ulster who moved on to America. The roots are evident in the dancing and other aspects of their culture.

In the wider South there was also an old and overlooked Welsh element, perhaps thought embarrassing by our Leftie compatriots who wish to suggest that ALL the Welsh fought in blue during the Civil War. The only genuinely Welsh president America ever knew was Jefferson Davis of the Confederare States of America. His wife was also Welsh.

This Welsh presence accounts for the healthy perecentage of Welsh names to be found among top Country singers. George Jones, Webb Pierce, Don Williams, and of course the man himself, Hank Williams.

Which might take us on to ask Why Vernon and Gladys Presley named their son after a Pembrokeshire saint.

Jac o' the North, said...

P.S. Loved the dancing. I've got that video downloaded to my computer. Here's another, with some of the same dancers, a few years later.

Anonymous said...

I was born 30 years too late. Would have loved to have taken part in these great dances not the awful loud music, staring at the floor, not sure what to do 'discos' we had in horrible night clubs.

Look, the dancers are all fit, healthy, smiling. It'd do wonders for the obesity problem if we had dances like these - much more effective and fun than 'sports'.

And, they're dressed well - no sloching trousers. They're healthy, slim people. And look the old bloke is dancing too and people off all ages can join in.

Popular culture and clothing now is so ugly.