James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation

By Hemmer, Nicole R. | The Journal of Southern History, November 2014 | Go to article overview

James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation


Hemmer, Nicole R., The Journal of Southern History


James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation. By William P. Hustwit. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. Pp. [x], 310. $34.95, ISBN 978-1-4696-0213-4.)

In their obituaries for James J. Kilpatrick in 2010, both the New York Times and the Washington Post highlighted his unpublished article "The Hell He Is Equal." The article, solicited by the Saturday Evening Post in 1963, was an intemperate tirade against black equality. In the wake ot the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing, the Saturday Evening Post scrapped the article.

In James J. Kilpatrick: Salesman for Segregation, William P. Hustwit draws attention to the second act of "The Hell He Is Equal." In 1966 the Saturday Evening Post suggested the time was right to run the piece. Kilpatrick declined: "I do not want--and could not possibly afford--to be publicly associated with these views, phrased with such vigor" (p. 161).

The episode marks a critical moment in Kilpatrick's evolution from the vanguard of massive resistance to the champion of "color-blind conservatism (p. 166). What Hustwit shows, in clever and compelling prose, is how "the omphalos of race" continued to shape Kilpatrick's politics (p. 4). From a fresh-faced journalist committed to objective reporting, to the fiery editor of the Richmond News Leader, to the face of the Right on 60 Minutes, Kilpatrick was an eminently adaptable "salesman-at-large for segregation and conservatism" (p. 102).

Segregation and conservatism: Hustwit delves into two sets of history with his thoroughly researched study of Kilpatrick. In the field of southern history, he tackles the ongoing debate about southern exceptionalism. Here he sides with Glenn Feldman, building on Feldman's stinging review of Matthew D. Fassiter and Joseph Crespino's edited volume The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism in the August 2011 volume of the Journal of Southern History. …

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