Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Engineers of History: Hendrik Verwoerd, George Wallace and the Power of Historical Memory
by Fobi, Brian Tangang, Ph.D., Yale University, 2014, 412; 3582258
Abstract (Summary)

In the 1960s, George C. Wallace of Alabama and Hendrik Verwoerd of South Africa were seen as the very emblems of white racism in America and South Africa, respectively. George Wallace's infamous "stand in the schoolhouse door," and his proclamation of, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," are key moments in America's shameful history of racism. Similarly, Verwoerd's meticulous construction of an apartheid state served to marginalize and stigmatize South Africa in the world's collective understanding.

This dissertation argues that both of these men were moved personally, profoundly, and specifically by their respective people's history of defeat, submission and intractable defiance. These factors created their worldview, motivated their political stances, determined the nature and tone of their political communication and strategy, and ultimately led to the madness that ended their national political careers. Moreover, memory was the most powerful weapon in each of their political arsenals, and they both deployed it with conscious deftness and knowing skill. This study suggests a certain universality to the idea of white victimhood in the face of advanced by subjugated peoples. Finally, the dissertation presents a continuity to this story that extends beyond the lives of these two men by demonstrating how precisely they transform from historical actors who make use of memory for their own purposes, to units of memory within broader histories being constructed to serve grander national political narratives.

The dissertation makes extensive use of state archives in Alabama; the personal papers of Verwoerd and Wallace in Bloemfontein, South Africa and Tuscaloosa, Alabama; of British and American intelligence reports at the British National Archives in London; of Presidential Papers in the President John F. Kennedy Library in Boston; an array of newspaper, magazine, secondary sources; and, finally, of government publications supplied by the Parliamentary Library in Cape Town.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Blight, David
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 76/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African history, American history, South African Studies
Keywords: Alabama, Apartheid, Historical memory, Segregation, South Africa, Verwoerd, Hendrik, Wallace, George
Publication Number: 3582258
ISBN: 978-1-321-60568-6
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