Robert D. Bullard
The South during the fifties and sixties was the center of the Black Civil Rights Movement. The 1970s and early eighties catapulted the region into the national limelight again, but for different reasons. The South during this period was undergoing a number of dramatic demographic and economic changes. It was now a major population and economic growth center. Growth in the region during the 1970s was stimulated by a number of factors. They included: a climate pleasant enough to attract workers from other regions and the "underemployed" workforce already in the region; weak labor unions and strong right-to-work laws; cheap labor and cheap land; attractive area for new industries, i.e., electronics, federal defense, and aerospace contracting; and aggressive self-promotion or booster campaigns.( 1) The South beginning in the mid-seventies was transformed from a "net exporter of people to a powerful human magnet."( 2)
The theme of this essay centers on the extent to which blacks shared in the South's new growth. Several questions are explored. Did the boom of the seventies pass over the region's black community? Did black population gains translate into comparable economic and political gains? What impact did the economic recessions, or "bust" period of the early 1980s, have on black progress in the South?
The South in the 1970s desperately attempted to rid itself of the image of a socially and economically "backward" region. The region was vigorously promoted as the "New South." However, many of its old problems remained despite the growth. For example, both in-migrants and incumbent residents who had marginal skills generally found themsevles in the growing unemployment lines.( 3) Individuals who did not have the requisite education often became part of the emerging underclass. The new prosperity in the South heightened the status differences in the region. Poverty coexisted amid affluence. Poverty in the South represented a source of "cheap labor." The large pool of nonunionized labor was also part of the so-called "good business climate."( 4)
Many household heads whose jobs only paid the minimum wage had to work an extra job just to pull themselves above the poverty level. Uneven development within the region's central cities and suburbs, and companies' systematic avoidance of areas that had large concentrations of blacks heightened the social and economic inequalities between blacks and whites. Morever, white racism permeated nearly every institution in the region. This persistent problem caused many writers to challenge the ex-