Our Southern Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690-1990

By Erskine Clarke | Go to book overview

17
From "Our Little World" to the Sun Belt

IF THE Civil War marked a great turning point for the low country, the Second World War also marked a great shift in its fortunes. It brought the region out of the depression and set it on the road to fundamental economic and social change. During the years that followed the Second World War, the low country's "little world" lost much of its old social coherence. The remnants of that little world--its architectural artifacts, family connections, and "quaint low country ways"--would be increasingly regarded as museum pieces and curiosities for the newcomers who came to the region in growing numbers. By 1980 the Carolina low country was becoming a part of the rising new Sun Belt, an amorphous region marked by economic growth and a population expansion that stretched from the southeastern states across the Southwest to southern California.1

What the Carolina low country shared with the prospering parts of the Sun Belt were great outlays of federal dollars, an attractive quality of life, a vigorous recreation and tourist industry, and popular retirement centers. Culturally, the Sun Belt was marked by a decided tendency toward hedonism and the pursuit of the "good life."2 Not all of the low country was a part of this new Sun Belt--the interior counties continued to remain largely a part of the old rural Black Belt--but all felt the Sun Belt's rising influence.3

Most obvious were increases in population in the metropolitan Charleston area and in Beaufort County and changes in black-white and rural-urban ratios. Between 1940 and 1980, the population of Charleston County more than doubled, Beaufort County and Dorchester County almost tripled, and Berkeley County more than tripled. The interior rural counties showed only slight growth reflecting the continuing emigration of African Americans from the region.4

The African American population, which had constituted approximately 70 percent of the total population of the low country in 1880, continued its decline relative to the white population. By 1980 blacks represented only 33 percent of the combined populations of Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties. In Beaufort County, where a hundred years earlier there had been eight blacks to every two whites, there were two whites for every black in 1980. Even in the stable interior counties, where African American populations generally continued to outnumber whites, they did so with significantly decreased percentages.5

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