Jews in the South

By Leonard Dinnerstein; Mary Dale Palsson | Go to book overview

Slow Revolution in Richmond, Va.: A New Pattern in the Making

David and Adele Bernstein

S OCIAL CHANGE is seeping through Richmond, Virginia, as quietly and pervasively as the aroma of tobacco from the mills down near the James River. Old-established patterns are reshaping themselves in a kind of middle-class revolution-an altogether respectable revolution, however, with an "r" so faint as to be almost indiscernible. The war brought new industries, new labor markets, new wealth, as well as new human experiences and values to the whole South. Du Pont has put up a huge new cellophane plant just outside Richmond, and there is an unlovely but lucrative factory district spreading along the farther reaches of Broad Street. The riverfront mills turn out more than sixty billion cigarettes a year, one in every six smoked in America. Since people smoke most when they worry most, this is one of the few American cities stable enough to ride out a possible depression.

Altogether, Richmond's standard of living is higher now than ever before. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently chose three cities, Richmond, Washington, and Manchester ( New Hampshire), for a study of annual savings by middle-income families: Richmond's average was $260, Washington's $36, and Manchester had an average deficit of $148.

A breeze of liberalism has poked into the musty corners of local politics. Last year, for the first time in Richmond's history, a Negro, Oliver Hill, was elected to the City Council; it took more white than Negro votes to put him there. For the past two years, Negroes have been on the municipal police force. In the gubernatorial primaries last summer, a mildly liberal politician named Francis Pickens Miller lost to

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