James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation

James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation

James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation

James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation

Synopsis

James J. Kilpatrick was a nationally known television personality, journalist, and columnist whose conservative voice rang out loudly and widely through the twentieth century. As editor of the Richmond News Leader, writer for the National Review, debater in the "Point/Counterpoint" portion of CBS's 60 Minutes, and supporter of conservative political candidates like Barry Goldwater, Kilpatrick had many platforms for his race-based brand of southern conservatism. In James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation, William Hustwit delivers a comprehensive study of Kilpatrick's importance to the civil rights era and explores how his protracted resistance to both desegregation and egalitarianism culminated in an enduring form of conservatism that revealed a nation's unease with racial change.
Relying on archival sources, including Kilpatrick's personal papers, Hustwit provides an invaluable look at what Gunnar Myrdal called the race problem in the "white mind" at the intersection of the postwar conservative and civil rights movements. Growing out of a painful family history and strongly conservative political cultures, Kilpatrick's personal values and self-interested opportunism contributed to America's ongoing struggles with race and reform.

Excerpt

In 1960 or “thereabouts,” James J. Kilpatrick vaguely, unhappily remembered, two black journalists came to his office in Richmond to report on the city’s response to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling and asked for his opinion as editor of the Richmond News Leader. Forty-two years later, in 2002, Kilpatrick noted the reporters as about his age, attractive, and intelligent. Despite their engaging conversation in his office about the city’s reactions to the desegregation decision, Kilpatrick had not extended invitations to them for dinner or drinks. His reasoning could not have been simpler: they were black; Negroes and whites were not equals or friends. Raised in the Jim Crow South, Kilpatrick had been “nurtured on the mother’s milk of segregation,” which formed “the natural order of mankind.” He went to bed ashamed and slept terribly, but snubbing his black visitors was “an epiphany of sorts,” he later recalled. During the decade after his awakening, Kilpatrick claimed to edge toward edification on racial matters. By 1970, he had recognized the “terrible evils” of “state-sponsored racism.” The story of Kilpatrick’s retreat from espousing segregation also involves conservatism and the South’s long entanglement with white supremacy. For more than four decades in public life—first as an influential editor defending Jim Crow in Virginia, then as a major syndicated political columnist—Kilpatrick captured how support of segregation could segue into conservatism as the civil rights era faded and gave a lot of fumbling, apprehensive people ways out of a predicament beyond their control.

Kilpatrick’s apology was wrapped up in his career, and his life chronicles the emergence of modern American conservatism and the collapse of segregation. Though not at first recognized as a sentinel segregationist, he led a campaign at the News Leader against school desegregation and the Supreme Court based on a resuscitation of states’ rights to defend “the southern way of life” from an intrusive and expansive federal government. Kilpatrick pitched segregation to white southern resisters and a national audience alike, and his work at the newspaper earned him a reputation as the fire-breathing editor-intellectual of massive resistance. Behind that notoriety, however, hid a more complex man with a strategic ability to change . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.