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Author Topic: Is Virginia in the South? What parts?  (Read 555 times)
AN63093
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« on: September 13, 2017, 12:50:50 am »
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I'm sure this topic has been done to death, so if the mods prefer to merge with old topics/delete, no problem.

An age-old question, but the state that is probably the hardest to qualify as "Southern" vs. "non-Southern."  Even from the founding of the US, Virginia was quite a bit different (both in demographics patterns and industries) than the deep Southern states, and it remained that way through the Civil War and beyond.

Historically- no question, VA is in the South.  But then again, if we go by the census, Maryland is apparently part of the South, which I think few people would agree with today, so all the good those definitions do us.  Northerners will likely insist that VA is Southern (as is anything south of Philly, more or less), while I hear from "true" Southerners that VA is infested with Yankees and no more Southern than NYC.

As someone who lives in VA, but grew up in NY, lived in New England, as well as the Upper South and the Deep South, I think it's somewhere in the middle.  Portions of the state are very much influenced by the Upper South/Appalachian culture, while a large portion of the state is influenced by maritime Chesapeake Bay culture and is very Mid-Atlantic in flavor (these areas don't have much in common with the Appalachians).  The DC MSA is not very Southern IMO, though it has influences of the South and indications that the area was once Southern.  Very few (perhaps no?) areas of the state feel like the true "Deep South."

In my map of US regions I constructed, I divided VA between "Upper South" and "Mid-Atlantic" regions.  Here was a close up of the VA/MD area:




The areas in red are "Upper South/Appalachia" in my regional map, the blue areas are "Mid-Atlantic."  I put a lot of thought into each and every individual county and can explain my choices if asked.  Essentially, the DC MSA, Richmond, and the Hampton Roads were Mid-Atlantic, while as you go west of Charlottesville up I-64 into the Blue Ridge Mtns, or south on I-95 past Petersburg you move into the Upper South.
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« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2017, 04:02:22 am »
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I would personally split the Mid Atlantic in two, since it straddles North and South.
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« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2017, 07:43:40 am »
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Virginia is still a Southern state. 
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« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2017, 07:53:33 am »
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I'd say Virginia is Southern except for the NOVA counties. Though Richmond and Hampton Roads seem to be having more Northern influence, they're still Southern (but Upper South, of course, obviously not Deep South).
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« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2017, 09:22:11 am »

I've taken a couple of trips this last year to Hampton Roads and the VA tidewater. It is certainly not Mid-Atlantic, particularly in the rural areas. The Norfolk metro isn't really Mid-Atlantic either. It's a special type of southern city that I'd call military South. Jacksonville and Pensacola FL have some of the same feel as Norfolk due to the military. There's even a bit of that feel in the inland cities of the south that have a lot of their economy connected to a base (eg. Clarksville TN). The key is that the military brings a much more diverse population to the Norfolk area and caused some cultural overlap, but the underlying feel is still southern.

I'm surprised that you have Richmond in your Mid-Atlantic region of counties. I've never found anything there that would make me think Mid-Atlantic. What did you find that puts it there?

Additional thought: perhaps the issue is from forcing the upper/lower South divide. Though I haven't traveled NC as much as VA, I find them far more alike than different, especially if the DC area is excluded. Both have a relatively small population in Appalachia and most is in the coastal and Piedmont area. It's probably why when forced to group states into larger regions I put VA and NC with the other South Atlantic coastal states, and put the Appalachian and Delta states of the South together.
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« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2017, 01:26:23 pm »
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I would keep the Southeastern VA megapolis in the South and extend it up most of the Delmarva Peninsula.  I went to the beach in Maryland this past summer, and any store you would walk into sold Confederate flag and pro-gun t-shirts.  Suffolk County, DE is roughly the northernmost extent of anything that can be described as the South along the Coast.

Here is the map I created a while back:
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« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2017, 01:48:25 pm »
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It's all part of the South, period.  What parts are "culturally Southern" (however you define that) is more subjective.
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« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2017, 01:54:32 pm »
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NoVa isn't Southern, though it used to be; it's essentially part of the great Northeastern megalopolis now. The rest of it is, though parts of it are "southern Appalachian" which a fairly short time ago (like, before the 1960s) wouldn't have been considered to be "real Southern".
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« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2017, 03:32:26 pm »
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Virginia is Southern except for Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Cos.
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« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2017, 05:54:52 pm »
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I've taken a couple of trips this last year to Hampton Roads and the VA tidewater. It is certainly not Mid-Atlantic, particularly in the rural areas. The Norfolk metro isn't really Mid-Atlantic either. It's a special type of southern city that I'd call military South. Jacksonville and Pensacola FL have some of the same feel as Norfolk due to the military. There's even a bit of that feel in the inland cities of the south that have a lot of their economy connected to a base (eg. Clarksville TN). The key is that the military brings a much more diverse population to the Norfolk area and caused some cultural overlap, but the underlying feel is still southern.

I'm surprised that you have Richmond in your Mid-Atlantic region of counties. I've never found anything there that would make me think Mid-Atlantic. What did you find that puts it there?

Additional thought: perhaps the issue is from forcing the upper/lower South divide. Though I haven't traveled NC as much as VA, I find them far more alike than different, especially if the DC area is excluded. Both have a relatively small population in Appalachia and most is in the coastal and Piedmont area. It's probably why when forced to group states into larger regions I put VA and NC with the other South Atlantic coastal states, and put the Appalachian and Delta states of the South together.

Here's my rationale for both MSAs:

Cultural Region:

I think Richmond at one time was the quintessential Southern city, but I don't think it's been able to make that claim for probably 20 years or more at this point.  When you get on I-95 around NY and drive south, you don't ever feel like you've left one continuous metro area until somewhere around Richmond.  That's why I put the dividing line at Petersburg.  When you visit places like the Fan District, you feel a lot like you're in Alexandria or DC, not somewhere like Charleston.  The people moving there are consistent with that (the city itself is on pace to hit about 20% growth by the next census).

As far as the Hampton Roads go, I've written on this in detail in another thread.. can't remember which one, but in essence, I feel the area is part of a greater Chesapeake Bay region that is very distinct from the rest of the South.  Outside of the military presence, this area is characterized by a heavily maritime culture (large port, shipping industry etc) and you see this reflected in things like cuisine.  You can find crab shacks serving steamed blue crabs on the large picnic-style tables, with paper towel rolls, Old Bay seasoning etc.  You don't really see this north of Baltimore or south of Norfolk.. it's a very Mid-Atlantic coastal thing, and it's completely foreign to most of the South (try finding anything like this in say, Atlanta).  Obviously I'm not saying seafood doesn't exist in the South, but it tends to be different.  For example, in Louisiana, it's more Cajun influenced.  Or it'll be more freshwater based.

Going back to the military presence, I think this also changes the character of the region.  If you're not involved in the shipping industry or tourism around VA beach, you're almost certainly in the military or a government contractor.  This makes the population very transient.  In my opinion, the city that it feels most similar to is DC, than anywhere else in the country.  This is sorta a defining characteristic of the Mid-Atlantic though- I've lived in both DC and NY, and day-in and day-out, it seems you meet few people that are actually from there.

Architecture:

I think this is important because it reflects the overall design aesthetic of a city, which is very good evidence for what "region" you're in.  For example, Mediterranean style Southwest architecture is very common in one area of the country, and uncommon in the rest, and when you see it outside the Southwest, it's either a Mexican restaurant or it looks very out of place.

There is a common housing stock in the Mid-Atlantic- brick rowhomes, often in a federal style, commonly with hexagonal bay windows or bow windows.  This is very common in Alexandria, DC, Baltimore (probably 75%+ of the housing in Baltimore is of this type), Philly, NY, and also in parts of New England.  But it is also common in Richmond and the Hampton Roads, particularly Norfolk.  However, it is extremely uncommon in the South.  Terraced-style housing is basically non-existent in cities like Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, etc.  Most housing stock in Southern cities are all single detached houses.  The only other place I can ever recall seeing true rowhomes in the South is in Savannah.

Language:

Though linguistic variations aren't everything, they are often an important clue to what region you're in.  Once upon a time, say.. 150 years ago, there was quite a bit of variation in Southern accents.  However, I think a lot of these variations have slowly died out, so that there is basically one prevailing contemporary "Southern accent," and it's mostly based in the Scots-Irish Appalachian accent.  It's hard to describe exactly what it is, but you know it when you hear it.. it's a very distinct "twang."

On the other hand, around the Chesapeake, particularly in Hampton Roads, this "Appalachian twang" is not prevalent.  There is a distinct accent in this area that has its roots in the aristocratic "Old South" accent, which has more or less disappeared everywhere else in the South, and you can only find it in two places- VA, and Charleston SC.  Again, it's hard to describe exactly what it is, but it's very distinct from the accent of say, an Appalachian person growing up in Knoxville.  For example, it shares some features of Northeastern accents, such as the dropping of the "r" (i.e. non-rhotic).  This accent is not the accent people think of when they're stereotyping the "Southern accent."  It's something completely different.



Any one of those three items in isolation probably wouldn't be enough to convince me, but all three combined do.  Like I said, I've lived in NY, New England, the Upper South (in TN), and the Deep South (in GA), so I'm comparing the state to my experiences in these other regions.  Living in VA, I don't really "feel" like I'm in the South, until I start heading into the red-shaded counties on my map.  In contrast, when I was in Nashville, or Atlanta, I most definitely 100% "felt" like I was in the South.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 06:03:01 pm by AN63093 »Logged

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« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2017, 09:16:50 pm »

That you can differentiate Richmond and Hampton Roads from Appalachia is a point on which we agree. Where we disagree is whether they are a better fit to Baltimore and Philly or to Raleigh and Charleston. On that point we will have to disagree, because I see far more to link to the Carolinas than to MD and PA. I do find a substantial break in development between Fredricksburg and the outskirts of Richmond, so a separation is easy to see on a map. Again I think you are stuck because your choice is to split upper vs lower South rather than Atlantic vs inland South. I can see how that choice puts the old Tidewater of SE VA and NE NC in a no-mans land.
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2017, 09:56:26 pm »
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That could be.  Part of the issue may be that I'm trying to divide the South in the "traditional" sense; i.e., between an Upper and Deep South.  In that case, placing VA is difficult since the culture of its cities and the coastal plain is quite a bit distinct from the rest of the "interior South."  This is true even from a historical sense, since the people who settled around DC, Tidewater, and so on, are a distinct group from who ended up settling (later) in places like TN.  However, that VA group is of the same people who settled MD, and I think you see a lot of this today in the culture around the Chesapeake, which I wrote at length above about.

If one was to divide the South longitudinally, then perhaps it would make sense to have a "coastal South" and "Inner South," in which case, you would put Hampton Roads, Richmond and places like the Outer Banks together with Charleston, and arguably Savannah.  Maybe this region would end somewhere around Jacksonville.

In this region, however, I would argue that maybe it would now make sense to include DC and MD.  When we are defining the 'South' as including places like TN, AL, and so forth, it's difficult to include DC/MD, but if we are drawing a coastal South... it's no longer so clear to me.  Because while you state you see more similarity between Norfolk and the Carolinas, than to Philly and Baltimore... I would agree when it comes to Philly, but not Baltimore.  Baltimore, DC, Norfolk (and to a lesser degree) Richmond are all birds of a feather, so to speak, and it has to do primarily with the distinct Chesapeake Bay culture that I talk about above.  These places all share similar cuisine, architecture, major employers (i.e. government agencies, defense, or shipping/ports) and have the same climate as well.  Historically, these areas were all settled by the same people too.. i.e., aristocrats (some with actual ties to English nobility) who set up estates to resemble those in England, along with the slaves and indentured servants brought over to work those estates.  This was the case in coastal VA and MD, but not PA.. Philly, and then later the interior of PA, were settled by a completely different demographic.. e.g., Quakers, Germans, Scots-Irish in the Appalachian areas and near Pittsburgh, etc.

When you reach approx. the Delaware Memorial Bridge is where I notice it begins to distinctly "feel" as if you've begun to enter the "classic" Mid-Atlantic, i.e. the area influenced by Philly, NJ, and anchored on NYC.  So if we're defining a "Coastal South" I would put its boundaries at maybe the Delaware Bridge and ending at either Savannah or Jacksonville.  Included in this region would be the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, but excluded would be Charlotte, Columbia, Greenville.  I'm unsure where I would put Raleigh-Durham.
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« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2017, 11:43:43 pm »
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AN63093, what do you think of my map of the South?  Now, there are certainly differences within, but I think South would be the generic region for all of the blue area.
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« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2017, 08:37:58 pm »
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While I understand the rationale behind most of the counties you put in the South, I think your region is too big.  If you're covering basically 1/4 of the entire country, then the regional definition becomes somewhat meaningless since there's so much inter-regional variation.

I don't think an area is in the South simply because it has Southern influences.  You can go to practically any state in the US and find some areas that have a Southern influence.  Take PA, for example, which is often described as "Philly, Pittsburgh, and Alabama in the middle."  There might be some truth to that, and being pretty familiar with central PA, it does have more in common with places like WV and KY than it does say, NYC.  But you gotta draw the line somewhere, before you start describing the whole US outside of LA, SF and NYC as "the South" (as a side note, when I was still living in NY, I actually once met a guy who described the country as just that).

Likewise, just the existence of some Confederate paraphernalia is not sufficient enough for me to describe a place as Southern.  One time I was driving in rural VT, stopped for gas, and saw the most redneck guy you ever saw driving a truck with a big Confederate flag waving from it... is VT now in the South because this guy lives there?  Guess what city outside of the South actually had the highest number of Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War.  NYC.  Are we going to include that in the South now too?

I also think some of your included counties make no sense.  For example, St Louis is not a Southern city.  Parts of MO arguably are, but not St Louis.  Second, Louisville is arguably not a Southern city either.  I think we talked about this in another thread somewhere.. but to recap, I've lived there before so I'm pretty familiar with it.  While Louisville is certainly Southern influenced, it feels much more like a Midwestern Rust Belt city than a place like, say, Charleston.  From the architecture, to the major employers, to the climate, to the accents of people there... it has most in common with other Ohio River Valley cities, like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, etc.  Most of the people I met there had family roots in places like Southern IN and OH.. very few south of KY, and none from states like AL.  Even other Upper South cities, like say Nashville or Knoxville, feel distinctly different than a place like Louisville.

I am also confused why you left Charlottesville out.  It is not part of the DC MSA.  I've lived in Charlottesville before, so I'm familiar with it, as well as the stretch of US 29 when you're driving up to DC (Culpeper, etc).  If you're excluding Charlottesville, then it does not make any sense to not also exclude places like Richmond and Norfolk from the South, especially since a city like Norfolk has vastly more in common with cities like DC and Baltimore than Charlottesville does.
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« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2017, 08:45:37 pm »
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Since historically most of the migration to the District of Columbia (and Maryland) was from the South, shouldn't it still be considered southern?
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« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2017, 10:08:39 am »
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Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William, and the independent cities within (Alexandria, Manassas, Manassas Park, Fairfax, and Falls Church) are Mid-Atlantic. The rest of Virginia is southern.
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« Reply #16 on: September 18, 2017, 12:16:22 pm »
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Below PW county and east of Tidewater is Southern by culture, socio-economics, farms everywhere, etc. The rest, and Richmond to a certain extant but not as much as NoVA, is more like the urban NE.

So yes (regional) but with qualifications (cultural/political).
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« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2017, 12:39:45 pm »
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It's all part of the South, period.  What parts are "culturally Southern" (however you define that) is more subjective.
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« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2017, 04:28:28 pm »
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I would keep the Southeastern VA megapolis in the South and extend it up most of the Delmarva Peninsula.  I went to the beach in Maryland this past summer, and any store you would walk into sold Confederate flag and pro-gun t-shirts.  Suffolk County, DE is roughly the northernmost extent of anything that can be described as the South along the Coast.

Here is the map I created a while back:


Your map is a cool idea (I couldn't make a better one), but it needs some work.  You went up way too high in Missouri, IMO (rural + cultural conservative =/= Southern ... being culturally Southern actually means something, usually drawing upon sympathies during the Civil War and migration patterns, not how religious or "rednecky" a place is) and definitely too high in Illinois.  You are counting counties that are part of the Metro East (Illinois suburbs of St. Louis) as "culturally Southern," and that's way off.  The area is incredibly German, St. Louis is absolutely not a Southern city, however oddly it may fit into the Midwest at times and the counties in the Metro East voted Republican while their counterparts to the South did not during 1860, for one example.
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