After the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional
in 1954, southern white backlash seemed to explode overnight.
Journalists profiled the rise of a segregationist movement
committed to preserving the "southern way of life" through a
campaign of massive resistance. In Defending White
, Jason Morgan Ward reconsiders the origins of this
white resistance, arguing that southern conservatives began
mobilizing against civil rights some years earlier, in the era
before World War II, when the New Deal politics of the mid-1930s
threatened the monopoly on power that whites held in the South.
As Ward shows, years before "segregationist" became a badge of
honor for civil rights opponents, many white southerners resisted
racial change at every turn--launching a preemptive campaign aimed
at preserving a social order that they saw as under siege. By the
time of the Brown
decision, segregationists had amassed an
arsenal of tested tactics and arguments to deploy against the civil
rights movement in the coming battles. Connecting the racial
controversies of the New Deal era to the more familiar
confrontations of the 1950s and 1960s, Ward uncovers a parallel
history of segregationist opposition that mirrors the new focus on
the long civil rights movement and raises troubling questions about
the enduring influence of segregation's defenders.