Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Dixie's Dirty Secret: The True Story of How the Government, the Media, and the Mob Conspired to Combat Integration and the Vietnam Antiwar Movement

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Dixie's Dirty Secret: The True Story of How the Government, the Media, and the Mob Conspired to Combat Integration and the Vietnam Antiwar Movement

Article excerpt

Dixie's Dirty Secret: The True Story of How the Government, the Media, and the Mob Conspired to Combat Integration and the Vietnam Antiwar Movement. By James Dickerson. (Armonk, N.Y., and London: M. E. Sharpe, c. 1998. Pp., x, 249. $24.95, ISBN 0-7656-0340-3.)

Dixie's Dirty Secret is an interesting, easy-to-read book that will be of limited use to professional historians interested in southern race relations and social protest movements. As the subtitle indicates, the book is concerned with a number of things--not all of them very closely related. Dickerson is a journalist, not a professional historian, and his work has all of the qualities and drawbacks of the modern-day journalistic craft. It is interesting, at times intriguing, timely, and written in a lively, reader-friendly style. But it is also prone to historical mistakes, loose associations, puzzling organization, questionable interpretations made on the basis of incomplete information, and told in a kind of breathlessly conspiratorial style.

To cite a few examples, Dickerson is dealing with a number of (what he understands to be) closely related themes. At some times and places in the book the themes are more visibly related than at others. But in this volume he deals with the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission and its battle against desegregation, the "Dixie Mafia" (art organized crime group centered in New Orleans), the "Memphis Cartel" (an organized crime syndicate headquartered in Memphis), and other white supremacist/pro-segregationist groups such as the Federation for Constitutional Government and the White Citizens' Councils. At least the following events and people are covered in the book in journalistic fashion--the University of Mississippi riot; the killings of the three Mississippi civil rights workers in Neshoba County; protests against the Vietnam War; Robert F. Kennedy's war on organized crime; Charles Evers; the 1961 Freedom Rides; the forced integration of the University of Mississippi; "Boss" Ed Crump; the FBI's COINTELPRO; J. Edgar Hoover; Theodore Bilbo; Senator Estes Kefauver; James Earl Ray and the killing of Martin Luther King Jr.; Byron de la Beckwith and the killing of Medgar Evers; Governor Ross Barnett; Senator James O. Eastland; and Sentator Kenneth D. McKellar.

At times the author is just plain wrong on his historical facts, the way some journalists are wont to be. …

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