Cultural divisions between the North and South have their roots in American history. The original colonies were founded by groups with different religions, ethnicities, dialects, politics and artistic traditions. These cultural differences have waxed and waned since colonial times, but some are still apparent today.
Overall, religious observation varies between the North and South, with the South being much more religious than the North. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, Northern states, especially those in New England, are among the country's least religious. In the poll, only 23 percent of residents in New Hampshire and Vermont described themselves as "very religious." In the South, however, Mississippi was the nation's most religious state, with 59 percent of residents describing themselves as very religious. Other states above 50 percent were predominantly in the South -- Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina. Among those who do observe a religion, the primary religion in the North is Roman Catholicism, while Southern Baptists are the most common group in the South.
While America's culinary offerings are diverse, the North and South have regional cuisines that showcase some of the best of American food. In the North, New England food descends from British influences, with clam chowder, Boston baked beans, Yankee pot roast and Maine lobster as regional favorites. In the South, traditional "down home" cooking of the Southeast is based on farm life, and includes favorites such as Southern fried chicken, deep fried beef cutlet and white gravy. Barbecued pork ribs with cornbread, greens and black eyed peas are also staples. Farther west, New Orleans creole cooking distinguishes itself from the cuisine farther east with influences from French and Spanish cooking. Dishes like spicy gumbo and jambalaya mix in West Indian and African flavors.
Language and Dialect
Like many parts of American culture, dialect and language cannot be easily broken into Northern and Southern. There are distinct regional dialects within these regions, such as Eastern New England's Boston accent, where speakers drop r's and replace them with h's. The well-known example is the phrase, "Pahk your cah in Hahvahd Yahd." Elsewhere in the North, New York City has its own regional accent, which extends into Long Island. In the South, the "drawl" dominates, with English being spoken more slowly across the region. The New Orleans area has its own French- and Spanish-influenced dialect, where Creole words slip into English. In this dialect, for example, the city is locally pronounced "Nawlins."
Musical traditions vary between the North and South. Both regions are diverse, with the South being home to regional specialties such as jazz, ragtime, blues, country and traditional rock n' roll. Major American musicians such as Elvis Presley, Nat "King" Cole and Dolly Parton hailed from the South. In the North, New York City has served as a home to major musical traditions, with bebop jazz, disco, punk and hip-hop all coming to the fore in the city. Major musicians such as Duke Ellington, Simon and Garfunkel, and Lady Gaga have found a musical home in New York.
- Gallup: Mississippi is Most Religious U.S. State
- Washington Post: Religion in America's states and counties, in 6 maps
- Embassy of the United States of America: American Cuisine Reflects Nation's Diversity
- Washington Post: What dialect do you speak? A map of American English
- PBS: River of Song: Southern Music
- Rolling Stone: The Musical History of New York City
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