Wednesday Words & Phrases: Antebellum

Antebellum Plantation Home


This word refers to the historical era of the United States before the outbreak of the Civil War. It is a Latin word which translates to  “before the war”.  It primarily is used to describe the Southern States and culture of the pre-war period.

To many, this phrase represents a Southern culture that is primarily defined by the plantation system and the growing economy it represented.  This was due to advances in agriculture. These advances created an increased output of cotton which became more of a worldwide commodity. However, it mostly and mainly was caused by the unchecked expansion of slave labor in the region.

It is difficult, and really not necessary, to split the “Antebellum” South from the yoke of slavery. It should never even be attempted. In the economic depression that devastated the South during Reconstruction, and for a time after, the rise of the “Lost Cause” mentality caused many to consider the Antebellum period as the “gold old days”. And for many plantation owners it was, not so much for the human beings the kept in bondage. It is easy to prosper when labor is free and plentiful.