Scalawag: A White Southerner's Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism

By Ponton, David,, III | The Journal of Southern History, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Scalawag: A White Southerner's Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism


Ponton, David,, III, The Journal of Southern History


Scalawag: A White Southerner's Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism. By Edward H. Peeples, with Nancy MacLean. (Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2014. Pp. [xxii], 218. $30.00, ISBN 978-0-8139-3539-3.) Edward H. Peeples's compelling autobiography traces the story of his life from his coincidentally shared birthday with Adolf Hitler to his unrelenting fight against the many degradations of human life in American society in the late twentieth century. The book begins by opening a window on the process of socializing whiteness in children by parents in the 1930s throughout the South, as Peeples moved through the states of Virginia, South Carolina, and Florida. Peeples learned that he was white, which demanded the maintenance of powerful social barriers between him and blacks, but he also learned that racial categories were not always plainly written on the bodies of folks with whom he interacted. More jarring, he learned that he could develop affections for Carrie, the black house servant of his grandmother, and found that his own lineage lacked a certain racial "purity" when people of color appeared at extended family gatherings. Through Peeples's story, we learn that the whiteness of poor folks in the South during Jim Crow was constituted by aggressive masculinities and abused femininities, racialized Protestantism, anti-Semitism, fear and hopelessness rooted in class disadvantages, and interestingly, confusing contests over what kinds of cross-racial intimacies would be condoned or forbidden in a given context. …

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