White Violence and Black Response: From Reconstruction to Montgomery

By Herbert Shapiro | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THIS WORK is the product of a continuing scholarly interest in Afro-American history and culture that began when I first encountered W. E. B. DuBois Souls of Black Folk on the shelves of the public library in Queens, New York. That classic work initiated my education concerning the scope and meaning of the black freedom struggle. I became aware of the central significance of the Afro- American experience in the history of the United States. Later, while a beginning graduate student at Columbia, I became especially interested in the Reconstruction era and was receptive to David Donald's suggestion that further examination of the Ku Klux Klan could contribute to our understanding of this period. That inquiry, focused upon South Carolina, uncovered ample evidence that men of property had extensively participated in the direction of organized violence against blacks. I became interested in the linkages between questions of class and race that shed light on the role of violence in perpetuating white supremacy.

My interest in the sources and consequences of racial violence ran parallel to concern with the significance of violence in other areas of American social history, but the thought remained that a broad-gauged chronicling and analysis of racist violence was needed. Such an account would provide a window through which to view the varied dimensions of Afro-American history. The concern with racial violence was reinforced when during four years of teaching at Morehouse College I saw hooded Klansmen picketing in downtown Atlanta and heard recollections of the city's 1906 riot. I also had the opportunity of participating in the Southern civil rights movement during its climactic years. Herbert Hill provided a stimulus to begin the study, when, in connection with a series he was editing, he proposed preparing a documentary history of racist violence since the Civil War and of black responses to this violence. Soon after beginning this work I decided to go beyond the publication of the documentary evidence. I preferred to draw upon the primary sources and the scholarly literature as bases for directly setting forth a comprehensive treatment of the subject. The study is divided in two parts; the first volume covers the decades from the inception of Reconstruction to the Montgomery bus boycott of the 1950s and the second, on which work is now

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