A New History of the American South

Watch A New History of the American South

  • 2018
  • 1 Season

A New History of the American South is a riveting series hosted by Edward L. Ayers that unveils an insightful, rich, and complex narrative of the South. The show is part of The Great Courses Signature Collection, which offers a broad range of engaging educational and informative programs.

The show is structured into 24 lectures, each spanning about 30 minutes, which analyze the major moments in Southern history, exploring racial tensions, political upheavals, cultural changes, and regional identity formation. Ayers uses his exceptional storytelling skills, drawing from his profound knowledge and expertise in Southern history, to paint a vivid and honest picture of the diverse, colorful, and often-dramatic history of the South.

Throughout the lectures, Ayers navigates the viewer through the intricate tapestry of Southern history, exploring the nuances and complexities of this culture that have made it unique in American history. Ayers does not shy away from difficult topics, tackling the often-painful history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the civil rights movement.

The viewer is taken on an exceptional journey, from the colonial roots of the South, including the arrival of the first Europeans and the evolution of plantation agriculture, through the Revolutionary period, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era until the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ayers' strong passion for the subject is evident throughout the show, making each lecture both engaging and inspiring for those who enjoy history and politics.

The delivery of the lectures is accompanied by beautiful, high-definition visuals, including colorful maps, stunning photographs, and informative graphics that bring each period to life, making the viewer feel as if they have been transported back in time. The quality of the production is outstanding; sound and images are of the highest standard making for an engaging and truly immersive viewing experience.

One of the strengths of the show is Ayers' ability to weave social, economic, and cultural history together, bringing to light how each shaped the other, and ultimately contributed to the rich tapestry of contemporary Southern culture. He explains how the Civil War transformed the country and solidified the Southern identity, one that is deeply rooted in religion, agriculture, and honor culture, and how this became the source of both pride and shame for generations of Southerners.

By incorporating stories from everyday people, including farmers, slaves, intellectuals, politicians, and civil rights activists, Ayers brings the audience closer to the human stories behind the major events, making it easy to connect with the people of the time, despite the often-incredibly challenging circumstances.

Overall, A New History of the American South is an impressive and stimulating production that dives deep into the complexities of Southern history, exploring the unforgettable stories of this pivotal period in American history. Edward L. Ayers has created a show that is both engaging and informative, leaving viewers with a greater appreciation of the intricate tapestry of American history as a whole. For anyone with an interest in American history, this show is a must-watch masterpiece.

A New History of the American South is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on August 17, 2018.

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The Legacies of the Southern Saga
24. The Legacies of the Southern Saga
August 17, 2018
Finally, explore the fabric of life in the South as the 19th century ended and the 20th began. Investigate the work of educator Booker T. Washington; the impact on race relations of the Spanish-American War; the Plessy decision, giving government sanction to segregation; and the emerging Cult of the Confederacy. Contemplate the South as a place of ongoing movement, struggle, and renewal.
Literature and Music of the New South
23. Literature and Music of the New South
August 17, 2018
The making of the New South unleashed extraordinary creative and artistic energies. Investigate the vibrant musical culture of the postbellum South, and the African musical elements that converged in the birth of ragtime and jazz, as well as the evolution of blues, country music, and gospel.
Religious Faith in the New South
22. Religious Faith in the New South
August 17, 2018
Delve into the remarkable growth of religion in the late 19th-century South, and how the region came to be known as the "Bible Belt." Learn about the proliferation of religious revivals, and the rise of the "holiness" movement, Pentecostalism, and the Church of God, religious factions that sought a more-vital faith, challenged tradition, and ultimately spread across the world.
Lynching and Disfranchisement
21. Lynching and Disfranchisement
August 17, 2018
Study the climate of violence in the New South, amid widespread economic and political turmoil. Observe how lynching became, for whites, a means of countering weak governments and terrorizing blacks into submission. Then, learn how the South embarked on a constitutional disfranchisement of black voters, constructing legal means to limit suffrage and ensure white supremacy.
The Invention of Segregation
20. The Invention of Segregation
August 17, 2018
Trace the origins of legal separation between the races, a defining trait of the South through much of the 20th century. First, examine the issue of segregation regarding railroad travel, and the first wave of segregation laws. See how segregation then spread to include numerous social gathering points, and how sexual contact between the races became a contested issue on both sides.
Farmers and the Rise of Populism
19. Farmers and the Rise of Populism
August 17, 2018
Witness the advent of modern agriculture in the South, and how enterprising rural workers could achieve land ownership. Grasp how overcrowding, falling prices for crops, and competition led to terrible hardships for farmers. Then, delve into the highly charged era of Populism, as farmers organized to redress their problems in a bitter struggle against monopoly capitalism.
The Landscape of the New South
18. The Landscape of the New South
August 17, 2018
Far-reaching structural changes transformed the South following Reconstruction. Follow the huge expansion of railroads, which connected Southern towns and cities, as well as North with South. See also how the rise of country stores changed the economic and cultural landscape. Observe the remarkable proliferation of new villages and towns across the South, and the rise of Southern industries.
Reconstruction and the Freedmen's Bureau
17. Reconstruction and the Freedmen's Bureau
August 17, 2018
Study the work of the Freedmen's Bureau, as it oversaw the transition from slavery to a wage economy, amid fervent resistance to attempts to remake the South. With the passage of the 14th Amendment and the Reconstruction Act, trace the era of "Radical Reconstruction," as enmity, violence, and electioneering gradually returned the Southern states to Southern Democratic control.
End of War and of Slavery
16. End of War and of Slavery
August 17, 2018
Learn about how slaves fared and adapted as the war progressed, and how Union forces made use of the enslaved to further their aims. At the war's conclusion, examine the actions of freed blacks, and their efforts to secure basic rights. Contemplate the divisive national climate during the initial phase of Reconstruction, as many Southerners appeared to deny the matters that the war had decided.
Elemental Loyalties and Descent into War
15. Elemental Loyalties and Descent into War
August 17, 2018
Trace the events that led to the opening shots of the Civil War. Learn about both sides' initial strategy for the conflict, the mobilization of armies, and the role of women in the war effort. Take account of the crippling impact of the war on the Southern economy, and grasp the inconsistencies, justifications, and misconceptions on both sides that fueled the unfolding of the war.
The Complex Road to Secession
14. The Complex Road to Secession
August 17, 2018
Begin by exploring the presidential election of 1860, as it comprised the estrangement of North and South. Then, follow the Southern actions of secession, which many in the South resisted, the events surrounding Lincoln taking office, and the crisis at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Conclude by considering two key ways of thinking about the Civil War and what precipitated it.
Sovereignty and Slavery in the American West
13. Sovereignty and Slavery in the American West
August 17, 2018
With the slave economy booming in the 1850s, chart the escalation of antagonism between North and South. Observe the struggle within Kansas between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces, and its eruption into violence, including the actions of abolitionist John Brown. Also, follow the Supreme Court case involving the slave Dred Scott, as it exacerbated the breakdown of North/South relations.
Life in the Slave South
12. Life in the Slave South
August 17, 2018
Discover how American slavery became more diverse as it expanded over a huge area. Consider the wide variety of trades engaged in by the enslaved, and the complex mix of white and black cultures in the South. Learn more about the mechanics of slave trading, the terrible treatment of those sold, and how slaves lived and worked both on plantations and farms and within Southern cities.
A Restless South: Expansion and Conflict
11. A Restless South: Expansion and Conflict
August 17, 2018
Relive the highly charged events surrounding the settlement of Texas by Americans and the Mexican-American War. Witness how the debate over slavery in former Mexican lands became a blistering national drama. Also, grasp the impact of the railroad and telegraph on the South, and the ways in which these technological innovations accelerated the divisions between North and South.
Arguments for and against Slavery
10. Arguments for and against Slavery
August 17, 2018
Learn about the heated controversy over the admission of Missouri to the union as a slave state, and how this crisis polarized the country as never before. Trace the rise of abolitionism and antislavery societies, and the violent backlash of anti-abolitionists. Examine pro-slavery thought in the South, both secular and religious, within the context of pre-Civil War Southern intellectual life.
Rebellion, Renewal: Tightening of Slavery
9. Rebellion, Renewal: Tightening of Slavery
August 17, 2018
Follow two significant slave rebellions in the early 19th century: the aborted South Carolina revolt led by the freed slave Denmark Vesey, and the famous Nat Turner rebellion in Virginia. Take account of the ensuing Virginia debates on slavery, culminating in harsher laws restricting blacks. Study the brutal, forced removal of Native Americans in the Southern states from their traditional lands.
Evangelical Faith in the South
8. Evangelical Faith in the South
August 17, 2018
Here, assess the role of religion in the culture of Southern society and in the culture of slavery. Learn how British Anglicanism came to be replaced in the South by evangelical Christianity. Observe how this faith included blacks, and became a source of strength and survival for the enslaved, yet also reinforced, for whites, the social status quo and the conceptual justifications for slavery.
The Birth of the Cotton South
7. The Birth of the Cotton South
August 17, 2018
Witness the dislocations, rebellion, and surging population of the enslaved in the South following the American Revolution. Learn how Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi were settled, and how both cotton and sugar became defining commodities of the Southern economy. Then, delve into the mechanics of the slave trade, in the large-scale importation of slaves into the lower South.
War, Uprising, and Southern Solidarity
6. War, Uprising, and Southern Solidarity
August 17, 2018
In the early 19th century, massive changes took place in the territories that became the South. Study the series of wars the new nation fought with the British, Native American factions, and escaped slaves. Note how the advent of these multiple conflicts involving both Native Americans and enslaved blacks ultimately forged a new unity among white Southerners.
Southern States in the New Nation
5. Southern States in the New Nation
August 17, 2018
Grasp how the events of the American Revolution affected the Southern colonies and their population of the enslaved. Learn about the implications of the new federal government and Constitution for the Southern states and slaveholders, and how Congress both granted concessions to the slave system and sought to restrict it. Follow the gradual emancipation of slaves in the Northern states.
The Southern Colonies Take Root
4. The Southern Colonies Take Root
August 17, 2018
Learn about the apogee of the Atlantic slave trade, and how enslaved people adapted to their plight. Witness how Barbados planters spurred the colonization of the Carolinas as a thriving, slave-based rice economy, and follow the founding of Georgia and how it became a slave society. Take account of the society of the flourishing planter elite, and the factors that led to the American Revolution.
Slavery Becomes American
3. Slavery Becomes American
August 17, 2018
Examine economic conditions within Virginia before slavery, and growing discontent among English indentured laborers. Trace the rise of slavery in the British Caribbean, the factors that made it a practical business model in Virginia, and how colonists rationalized slaveholding. Observe how Virginia set the blueprint for slave society in what would become the American South.
The World of Slavery
2. The World of Slavery
August 17, 2018
Investigate the complex origins of slavery in Africa, in social systems where human beings became commodities of exchange. Learn how the Atlantic slave trade was initiated by the Portuguese, and how it evolved into a system of vast economic gain, supplying labor for New World plantations. Note how Britain's American colonies were originally intended to function by means of English labor.
The Geography of the American South
1. The Geography of the American South
August 17, 2018
Begin by previewing the four parts of the course that will recount the dramatic saga of the American South. Then, learn about the prehistory of the region, from its geographical features to the ancient peoples that settled it. Delve into the history of the chiefdoms that dominated the region before the arrival of Europeans, and trace the decimation of native populations that followed. #History
Where to Watch A New History of the American South
A New History of the American South is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch A New History of the American South on demand at Apple TV Channels and Amazon Prime and Amazon.
  • Premiere Date
    August 17, 2018