Definitions of manhood in the American South have developed out of diverse relationships—particularly those between white and black, free and slave, farmers and the land, and men and women. Many of these definitions emerged either to justify domination or to resist it. Self-consciously southern definitions have generally involved white men resisting interference from outside the region. African-American men in the South, meanwhile, have often had to construct understandings of manhood within or against the boundaries created by slavery, segregation, and poverty.

White Manhood in the Old South

By the eighteenth century, white southern men applied at least five definitions of manhood. One, the ideal of paternalism, called for benevolent men to rule as fathers over extended families and ultimately over society. A second, the notion of independence, ...

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