The Ghost of Jim Crow: How Southern Moderates Used Brown v. Board of Education to Stall Civil Rights

The Ghost of Jim Crow: How Southern Moderates Used Brown v. Board of Education to Stall Civil Rights

The Ghost of Jim Crow: How Southern Moderates Used Brown v. Board of Education to Stall Civil Rights

The Ghost of Jim Crow: How Southern Moderates Used Brown v. Board of Education to Stall Civil Rights

Excerpt

On September 23, 1957, Florida Governor LeRoy Collins stood up before an audience at the lavish Cloister Hotel on Sea Island, Georgia, and warned the South not to wrap itself in a “confederate blanket.” The warning would not have been particularly remarkable except that Collins spoke at the height of massive resistance to integration, a crisis dramatized by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus’s refusal to desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School earlier that month. As Faubus rebuffed both the president and the Supreme Court, Collins received a request from Luther Hodges, the governor of North Carolina, entreating him to deliver an antiextremist, moderating speech at the upcoming Southern Governors’ Conference on Sea Island.

Unfortunately, just as Hodges introduced Collins to a packed room at the Cloister, proclaiming him to be a “southerner of the true South,” news of racial violence exploded at Little Rock’s Central High. On the very morning that Collins spoke, nine black students entered the school, prompting white mobs to attack African Americans in the street. Outraged, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne into the city, forever shaping northern perceptions of the South as a land of violent extremists, intent on the brutal repression of blacks.

While the story of racial extremism in the 1950s South is well documented, less familiar is the manner in which southern governors like LeRoy Collins and Luther Hodges sought to counterbalance extremism and manage the desegregation crisis. Yet, both governors rejected massive resistance and worked hard to assemble a response to Brown v. Board of Education that was peaceful, legal, and attuned to northern sensibilities. In fact, both governors excelled at the amount of legislation they were able to push through their state legislatures, effectively using popular unease over . . .

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