Monday, May 12, 2008

Patterns of Settlement

For interested readers, here is the Wikipedia entry for Appalachia.

I was most interested by the maps on the page, espcecially this one:
Map of Applachia from Wikipedia.

If you compare the areas marked as Appalchia on this map to the US electoral map here on the NY Times, and drill down into the county level information, you will see broad overlap of Hillary's electoral wins with this geographical map. The pattern in South Carolina is hidden in part because Edwards split the vote with Hillary in those counties.

While I'm focusing on this one group at the moment, similar voting patterns can be found among non-Anglo working class whites, those who made up the great post-Civil War immigration wave and who became part of the urban machine politics on the eastern seaboard and throughout the Midwest. These immigrants were from Eastern and Southern Europe, with large numbers of Catholics and Jews compared to the existing populations in the US. They were considered "unassimilable" by many and acceptance of them into electoral politics, much like the inclusion of women, was often mixed in with anti-Black sentiment, i.e., bring them in to vote the Blacks down and out. The use of racism to gain the franchise for women stands out as the lowest point in battle for women's rights.

In the upper Midwest and plains, immigrant populations were more often German and Scandanavian than Scots-Irish or East/South European. These populations, especially the Scandanavian, were the major ethnic groups to settle the Pacific Northwest. This is the heritage on both sides of my family, my father's family being predominantly German (he had cousins who were taught in German speaking public schools), with an admixture of Scots-Irish. His maternal family, however, was French-Canadian. On my mother's side, her maternal family was Ukranian-Germans (settled in the Ukraine by Catherine the Great) plus some Jewish admixture no one admitted to. On the paternal side, pure Swedish. South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.

In California, it all mixed together. The dust bowl, which blended the Germano-Scandahoovians and the Hillbillies into Okies, sent them all to the Central Valley, especially Bakersfield. On my husband's side, the Portuguese who didn't go off to make their fortunes in Brazil either settled in the fishing and whaling towns of New England and spread inland (New Bedford, Somerville, Fall River), or else decamped for Califonia, where they dominated the tuna industry in San Diego, could be found in every fishing port, and the steadily took over the dairy industry from the Danes in the Central Valley. Yup, there were a bunch of Danes settled in California by the turn of the century. Plus the Armenians. Of course, there was already a large Hispanic population all along the Camino Real, which stretches from San Diego up to San Francisco. Oh, and don't forget the Russians! They settled in northern coastal Califonia for the sea otter fur trade.

After WWII, California in general and LA in particular, became the place to move to - sun, sand and surf. The children and grandchildren of all the previous waves of immigrants to the nation created a new internal migration, looking for the military-industrial complex jobs that dominated the LA region and much of San Diego during the Cold War. If you are a fan of Walter Mosely and the Easy Rollins books, then you know about the AA move to LA at the same time and what happened in the following decades.

In California, there has always been a substantial Chinese and Japanese population (enough of the former to inspire massacres and crushing immigration restrictions, enough of the latter to lock up in concentration camps and steal their considerable property in WWII), plus Pacific Islanders and Filipinos. The Asian migration to the US is very much a West Coast thing, though Hurricane Katrina revealed the substantial and growing Southeast Asian population in the Gulf Coast, badly hurt by the destruction of their fishing industry.

My brother's wife, who is Mexican, has a grandmother who was born in Chicago, part of the long standing migration of Mexican families to meat packing centers, with the men working in the plants and the women working in domestic jobs. The Hispanic population along the Mississippi River and its tributaries may be growing, but it has been there a very long time. While California and Arizona may get the bulk of the spotlight about illegal immigration from Mexico, every growing region of the west has significant Hispanic migrant worker populations, foreign and US born.

No particular point here except to talk about what the US working class looks like and how it got to where it was going.



orionATL said...

professor A,

now take that map and start "sliding" it, electronically of course, west.

and you will have a very good picture of the eventual distribution of scots-irish, a group you referenced in your previous post.

as always, one has to make a special accomodation for texas (by diving a bit south).

the nasal twang characteristic of the speech of texans, is characteristic of the speech of the appalacian plateau, of northern alabama and of northern mississippi, from whence texas sprang in the 1840's.

i appreciate hearing your family's story.

these types of recountings are inherently fascinating to all of us. garrison keillor made his mark mining this psychic territory.

such stories are a tremendous way for people to connect, politically.

but the candidate must let the people tell their stories to each other.

i have no idea how that might be accomplished.

Anonymous said...

additional observations about central PA where I grew up and Silicon Valley where I've lived for 18 years.

PA: Along with Scots-Irish, many Pennsylvanians are of German descent, the so-called Penna. Dutch for what's a corruption of Deutsch. My own family is about half and half between the two. Centre County, where I'm from, was one of 2 counties in the middle of the state that went to Obama. Some of that was the presence of Penn State, but when I visited after a pretty long absence I noticed that the area has gotten pricier as well.

As for Silicon Valley, Asian-Americans and Latinos are so much a part of the mix of people here, that it feels strange that so little attention is paid to these demographics in talking about the primary race. We know a guy working in high tech whose ancestors came here from China to build the railroads so his family's been here far longer than many whites of various ethnicities. Santa Clara Co. went for Clinton.

Anglachel, you are an amazing writer. Most blogs are ephemeral--your pieces are keepers.