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The US South's Elites Have Kept the Region Poor and Underdeveloped / Keri Leigh Merritt

Poverty on st. helena s island   nara   546960

A lot of libertarian ideology comes from the antebellum South. If you go back and read those planters journals, it's very similar. They're not investing anything at all. There's very little in the way of taxation and no investment in the antebellum period. In these Deep South states where cotton is king, there is no system of public education, even for white people until Black people come in and create it and Reconstruction in these states. And so there's persistent underdevelopment even to this day. Where I grew up in Mississippi and in Georgia, these are the states that our governors still don't even let in federal dollars to help people with Medicare or with basic needs for of health for their children. These are basic rights that everyone in the richest country in America should be getting and there are places in the country that aren't getting them. This is because of this legacy of slavery and legacy of power consolidation.

Keri Leigh Merritt returns to discuss her Aeon article, "The southern gap: In the American South, an oligarchy of planters enriched itself through slavery. Pervasive underdevelopment is their legacy." "Rotten History" follows the interview.

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Keri Leigh Merritt

Keri Leigh Merritt is a historian, editor and an independent scholar. She earned her B.A. from Emory University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. Her first book, Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South (Cambridge University Press, 2017), won both the Bennett Wall Award from the Southern Historical Association, honoring the best book in Southern economic or business history published in the previous two years, as well as the President’s Book Award from the Social Science History Association.

Merritt is also co-editor, with Matthew Hild, of Reconsidering Southern Labor History: Race, Class, and Power (University Press of Florida, 2018), which won the 2019 Best Book Award from the UALE (United Association for Labor Education). She is currently working on two book-length projects for trade presses. Merritt also writes for the public, and has had letters and essays published in a variety of outlets. Most recently she released a self-narrated audiobook version of Masterless Men, and launched her history-based YouTube Channel “Merrittocracy.”


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