Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age before Brown

By Kimberley Johnson | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Southern Reform and the New Deal

The south is our last frontier. In the development of its resources, human and natural, must be found the epoch of our national growth. That development, in turn, must in large measure depend on the contrivances of solutions to the region’s political problems.

V. O. Key, Southern Politics in State and Nation

When Jim Crow reformers confronted lynching during the 1920s, they took the first step in asserting the importance of stateways in shaping the Jim Crow order. As the Great Depression unfolded the South descended into greater economic misery and, in some states, political turbulence. To save the South, Jim Crow reformers, now joined by southern New Dealers, argued that the South’s economic house had to be transformed, not just restored. Only the modernization of the southern economy could save the South from its current woes. But the creation of a new economic future for the South could occur only with a massive intervention of state power. Stateways, not folkways, would aid the South in its hour of need.

The question of who would wield that power and for what ends underlay the struggle to reshape the southern economy and, by extension, the southern political order. For the new coalition of Jim Crow reformers and New Deal technocrats the answer was simple: the modernization of the South would take place under the benign guidance of this new coalition. In this chapter I trace how a coalition to reshape the southern economy and the southern

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