Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Uplift Generation: Cooperation across the Color Line in Early Twentieth-Century Virginia

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Uplift Generation: Cooperation across the Color Line in Early Twentieth-Century Virginia

Article excerpt

The Uplift Generation: Cooperation Across the Color Line in Early Twentieth Century Virginia. By Clayton McClure Brooks. American South Series. (Charlottesville; University of Virginia Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 271. $45.00, ISBN 978-0-8139-3949-0.)

Unlike most uplift generation studies that highlight African Americans, Clayton McClure Brooks's The Uplift Generation: Cooperation Across the Color Line in Early Twentieth-Century Virginia analyzes interracial activism, relationships among black and white Virginia uplifters, and their gradual recognition of accommodation as a failed tactic. White uplifters, who constructed and managed segregation, hailed from the paternal elite and practiced '"polite racism,"' a Virginia brand of white supremacy lathered in gentility and Lost Cause rhetoric (p. 12). They viewed segregation as a Progressive reform rather than the bedrock of African American inequality. They credited Virginia's lowest number of lynchings among the twelve states where lynchings occurred to their style of racial dominance. For "the 'better classes'" of African Americans, most of them Richmonders who embraced Booker T. Washington's accommodationist philosophy, uplift meant harnessing racism to make separate but equal as equal as possible (p. 210). They deployed interracialism for the first thirty years of the twentieth century, as segregation in Virginia toughened into one of the most restrictive systems in the nation, serving as a model to other states. Black uplifters acknowledged accommodationism's inability to deliver equal citizenship and end segregation. As interracialism failed, the state assumed control of segregation.

Prominent African American uplifters included John Mitchell Jr., editor of the Richmond Planet, career reformer Ora Brown Stokes; Maggie Lena Walker, president of Richmond's St. Luke Penny Savings Bank; and Janie Porter Barrett, founder of the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls, which trained its charges for domestic labor and garnered strong white support. …

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