Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Saving segregation: *Southern whites, civil rights, and the roots of massive resistance, 1936–1954
by Ward, Jason Morgan, Ph.D., Yale University, 2008, 328; 3342735
Abstract (Summary)

The segregationist movement that stifled racial reform and captivated national attention in the wake of the Brown decision was no knee-jerk insurgency. While historians of the civil rights era have increasingly paid attention to segregationist strategy and rhetoric, the classic works and emerging studies that do exist generally date organized white resistance from the Brown decision. Yet the tumultuous two decades preceding the Brown decision demonstrates that the struggle to determine Jim Crow's fate was well underway by 1954. During the New Deal years, conservative white southerners stepped up their racial critique of the Roosevelt administration. As the African American freedom struggle took aim at segregation during World War II, white southerners caught a glimpse of the coming civil rights revolution. Overwhelmingly, they affirmed their allegiance to a segregated social order and aligned the global struggle against fascism with their defense of sacred southern traditions. When the war ended, defenders of segregation resisted racial change with a variety of strategies, from terrorism to reform. Emphasizing the national scope of the American racial dilemma, southern conservatives sought the sympathies and support of the northern public in their battle to preserve a segregated social order.

In the decade after World War II, white southerners utilized a variety of strategies, from violence and racial propaganda to electoral insurgency and educational equalization to forestall racial reform. As desegregation suits worked their way through the courts and activists applied pressure from below, white southerners anticipated greater struggles ahead. Fashioning themselves as beleaguered defenders of traditional American values, segregationists struggled to replace reactionary racism with a language of constitutional conservatism. But even as segregationists worked to align their struggle with a national reawakening on the Right, the between radicalism and respectability was never impermeable. The segregationist movement that emerged in the wake of Brown reflected both the violent tendencies and white supremacist beliefs of an earlier era as well as the "respectable" arguments of constitutionality, freedom, and cultural self-determination that southern political leaders honed in the civil rights battles of the preceding decades.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 70/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Black history, American history
Keywords: Civil rights, Jim Crow, Politics, Racism, Segregation, Segregationist, Southern, Whites
Publication Number: 3342735
ISBN: 978-0-549-97807-7
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