The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988 Page: 254
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
work, high slave values and the scarcity of labor pushed the floor of
wages for free labor to comparable levels with the North. These wage
levels combined with increased demand for cotton to bring general
prosperity to the antebellum South.
The end of slavery coincided with the beginning of a long period of
oversupply in the world cotton market. Emancipation turned southern
planters from laborlords into landlords because land was the only thing
of value most had left. The declining price of cotton forced planters to
keep wages low in order to increase their return from the land. Empha-
sis on land also induced attempts to bring factories, towns, and trans-
portation improvements to their locales in order to increase land val-
ues. Wages in these new endeavors were kept low, however, so as not to
siphon off cheap agricultural labor. Newly freed blacks kept wages rela-
tively low since their often desperate circumstances forced them to ac-
cept the lowest of wages and since white employers would hire blacks if
it saved them money.
This regional labor market persisted over time, Wright argues, be-
cause European immigrants had an established network that allowed
them to move with ease into the industrial jobs of the North, because
the state and local governments of the South worked to maintain a low
wage economy, and because the South's unique position in the inter-
national economy as a supplier of exotic commodities meant that com-
parable occupations could not be found elsewhere. Northern prejudice
against black and white southerners is of less importance in Wright's
opinion. Of some importance, however, was the existence of a colonial
economy in the South. Outside money controlled many key southern
resources, but the owners of this capital did not follow their money
southward. Therefore they had less reason to become boomers and
boosters of the region.
The lack of sophisticated and well-educated newcomers committed
to building up the region and the lack of educational opportunities for
the common southerner limited the development of new technology
appropriate to the southern economy. Even when the South became
more industrialized it focused on industries, such as textiles, with simple
and timeworn technologies where low wages, not fine machinery, were
the key factor in profitability. By intentionally limiting the opportuni-
ties and the vistas that education might have opened to poor blacks and
whites, southern property owners kept them on the farm and in the
mill. But they also made the southern economy less creative and inno-
vative and lessened demand for goods and services. They made the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988, periodical, 1987/1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/m1/294/: accessed March 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.