Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age before Brown

By Kimberley Johnson | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
The Problem of the South and the
Beginning of Reform

The people of the south are best situated to understand the negro and his problem, and can and will do more for him in a practical way than theorists who live at a distance. It is a national burden which the whole nation must sympathetically bear, but the people of the South represent the direct remedial agent.

F. W. Blackmar, “Review: Studies in the American Race Problem by Alfred Holt Stone,” 1909

The world of Jim Crow reform was complex and multifaceted. Reform was not, strictly speaking, the product of a tightly bound interest group or coalition but a movement, with a worldview shared by individuals and organizations over a period of time in a particular place. It was belief that the Jim Crow order in the South could be made to function more efficiently and more humanely. Many of the people and organizations identified in this chapter would remain a constant presence throughout this period, although there was some fluidity, with new individuals and groups entering and others leaving the world of Jim Crow reform.

Throughout its history Jim Crow reform was troubled by complexity and contradiction. For example, though the intellectual agenda of the movement was primarily set by native southerners, the reform movement received significant financial support from organizations from outside the South. This financial support was not neutral, and it critically shaped the intellectual

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