Recommended Reads

  • Mothers of Massive Resistance

    By: Elizabeth Gillespie McRae,

    “They are often seen in photos of crowds in the mid-century South–white women shooting down blacks with looks of pure hatred. Yet it is the male white supremacists who have been the focus of the literature on white resistance to Civil Rights. This groundbreaking first book recovers the daily workers who upheld the system of segregation and Jim Crow for so long–white women. Every day in rural communities, in university towns, and in New South cities, white women performed a myriad of duties that upheld white over black. These politics, like a well-tended garden, required careful planning, daily observing, constant weeding, fertilizing, and periodic poisoning. They held essay contests, decided on the racial identity of their neighbors, canvassed communities for votes, inculcated racist sentiments in their children, fought for segregation in their schools, and wrote column after column publicizing threats to their Jim Crow world. Without white women, white supremacist politics could not have shaped local, regional, and national politics the way it did, and the long civil rights movement would not have been so long. This book is organized around four key figures–Nell Battle Lewis, Florence Sillers Ogden, Mary Dawson Cain, and Cornelia Dabney Tucker–whose political work, publications, and private correspondence offer a window onto the broad and massive network of women across the South and the nation who populate this story. Placing white women’s political work from the 1920s to the 1970s at the center, this book demonstrates the diverse ways white women sustained twentieth century campaigns for white supremacist politics, continuing well beyond federal legislation outlawing segregation, and draws attention to the role of women in grassroots politics of the 20th century.”

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