This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Hoeing out the New South: The Material Culture of the Hoe and the Segregation of Progress




Kline, Ryan

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis




In the New South, the hoe became a symbol, utilized by white southerners, that attempted to primitivize blackness and segregate progress before the solidification of the Jim Crow. The historical relationship curated between blackness and the hoe removed Blacks from white ideals of progress in the New South. The hoe became a representation of anti-modernity that conjured a pre-industrial landscape of the primitive South. This thesis explores the hoe in Uncle Remus tales, the Old Plantation Show, lynching rhetoric, and the cotton mill labor force. Narratives implemented primitivity through the hoe and hoeing, placing sharecroppers and rural Blacks in romanticized cotton fields. With the ubiquity of the hoe, many poor whites also used the farm tool, either as sharecroppers or small farmers, cultivating cash crop commodities. However, unlike Black sharecroppers, poor whites could leave the hoe behind and enter an increasingly white cotton mill world. The different uses of the hoe between races highlight white attempts to segregate material life in the New South. This material culture study showcases how southerners employed narratives about the hoe to bind primitivity and blackness in the New South.