Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South

Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South

Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South

Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South


White southerners recognized that the perpetuation of segregation required whites of all ages to uphold a strict social order -- especially the young members of the next generation. White children rested at the core of the system of segregation between 1890 and 1939 because their participation was crucial to ensuring the future of white supremacy. Their socialization in the segregated South offers an examination of white supremacy from the inside, showcasing the culture's efforts to preserve itself by teaching its beliefs to the next generation.

In Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South, author Kristina DuRocher reveals how white adults in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries continually reinforced race and gender roles to maintain white supremacy. DuRocher examines the practices, mores, and traditions that trained white children to fear, dehumanize, and disdain their black neighbors. Raising Racists combines an analysis of the remembered experiences of a racist society, how that society influenced children, and, most important, how racial violence and brutality shaped growing up in the early-twentieth-century South.


In this South I lived as a child and I now live. And it is of it that my story
is made.

—Lillian Smith, Killers of the Dream

In 1935, a white family traveled to a field in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to pose for a commemorative photograph with the corpse of African American Rubin Stacy. After Stacy’s arrest for frightening a white woman, Mrs. Marion Jones, on Friday, July 19, a white mob removed Stacy from jail and lynched the homeless tenant farmer. Over the following weekend, whites traveled from nearby towns and counties to view the mob’s handiwork. A photograph depicts Stacy’s corpse hanging from a tree with a noose around his neck and his hands tied in front of him (see page 2). Several white girls in their Sunday dresses stand around Stacy’s body, their whiteness framing him. Perhaps the most shocking element of the photograph for the modern viewer is the expressions on the girls’ faces. The children do not appear to be traumatized, upset, or even concerned; indeed, the girl on the right looks intently at the body with a smile on her face. Another girl peers around the tree for a better look at the corpse, while the youngest, who appears to be three or four years old, calmly gazes at the camera. A local Young Women’s Christian Association reported to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) the community’s response to the mob violence. One white woman, who had brought her young niece and nephew to view the body, explained that the “opinion that it was a shocking sight for women and children was entirely erroneous.” She continued: “It was not bad at all. He was just hanging there.”

Such images and reports attest to the normalcy of white children attending events of racial violence during Jim Crow segregation. Countless other images of lynchings included boys and girls, from a few years old to teenagers, enjoying these public spectacles both during and after the violence. White southern culture in this era accepted and encouraged the presence of white children at scenes of extralegal race-based violence. This became . . .

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