Little Rock: Race and Resistance at Central High School

By Karen Anderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The Politics of Fear and Gridlock

White women in the south have always been a little subver-
sive. Perched on the pedestals where men placed them as
long as they performed well in their half-person roles, they
had a commanding view of the social landscape. It was not
a pretty picture.

—Sara Murphy, WEC activist1

William Hadley, Jr., who moderated the first Women's Emergency Committee television program, started losing business at his newly established public relations and advertising firm soon after the broadcast of the program. He continued to lose accounts after he made statements in support of racial change in private business meetings. His participation in interracial groups, his early and consistent support for open schools under the minimal desegregation provided by the Blossom Plan, and his profession and prominence in the community made him an easy target for segregationists and moderates anxious to police the white political community. Eventually, he and his family were driven from Little Rock.2

Hadley became a public and telling example of the use of fear and threat to intimidate and punish anyone who antagonized either the segregationists or the local business elite. Businessmen in Little Rock who were more conservative or less principled than Hadley played their part in his tribulations, withdrawing their accounts from his firm and distancing themselves from him politically. Indeed, Hadley's fate demonstrated the moderates' retaliation against any individual who broke the silence on race in the schools that they sought to enforce. It did not take many William Hadleys to convey the message that anyone who challenged politics as usual in Little Rock would pay a high price. Ultimately, as this chapter establishes, however much the moderates were intimidated by the segregationists, the moderates were themselves the authors of their own discontent.

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