In this dramatic reexamination of the Jim Crow South, Anders Walker demonstrates that racial segregation fostered not simply terror and violence, but also diversity, one of our most celebrated ideals. He investigates how prominent intellectuals like Robert Penn Warren, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, and Zora Neale Hurston found pluralism in Jim Crow, a legal system that created two worlds, each with its own institutions, traditions, even cultures. The intellectuals discussed in this book all agreed that black culture was resilient, creative, and profound, brutally honest in its assessment of American history. By contrast, James Baldwin likened white culture to a “burning house,” a frightening place that endorsed racism and violence to maintain dominance. Why should black Americans exchange their experience for that? Southern whites, meanwhile, saw themselves preserving a rich cultural landscape against the onslaught of mass culture and federal power, a project carried to the highest levels of American law by Supreme Court justice and Virginia native Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
Anders Walker shows how a generation of scholars and judges has misinterpreted Powell’s definition of diversity in the landmark case Regents v. Bakke, forgetting its Southern origins and weakening it in the process. By resituating the decision in the context of Southern intellectual history, Walker places diversity on a new footing, independent of affirmative action but also free from the constraints currently placed on it by the Supreme Court. With great clarity and insight, he offers a new lens through which to understand the history of civil rights in the United States.
- Read a review from The Nation here: https://www.thenation.com/article/separate-and-unequal/
- Read a review from Book Forum here: https://www.bookforum.com/review/19542
- Read a review from the Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/2018/04/27/contradiction
- Read a review from Kirkus Reviews here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/anders-walker/the-burning-house/
Anders Walker explores how three moderate Southern governors formulated masked resistance in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. J. P. Coleman in Mississippi, Luther Hodges in North Carolina, and LeRoy Collins in Florida each developed workable, lasting strategies to neutralize black political activists and control white extremists. Believing it possible to reinterpret Brown on their own terms, these governors drew on creative legal solutions that allowed them to perpetuate segregation without overtly defying the federal government. Hodges, Collins, and Coleman instituted seemingly neutral criteria--academic, economic, and moral--in place of racial classifications, thereby laying the foundations for a new way of rationalizing racial inequality. Rather than focus on legal repression, they endorsed cultural pluralism and uplift, claiming that black culture was unique and should be preserved, free from white interference. Meanwhile, they invalidated common law marriages and cut state benefits to unwed mothers, then judged black families for having low moral standards. They expanded the jurisdiction of state police and established agencies like the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission to control unrest. They hired black informants, bribed black leaders, and dramatically expanded the reach of the state into private life. Through these tactics, they hoped to avoid violent Civil Rights protests that would draw negative attention to their states and confirm national opinions of the South as backward. By crafting positive images of their states as tranquil and free of racial unrest, they hoped to attract investment and expand southern economic development. In reward for their work, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson appointed them to positions in the federal government, defying notions that Republicans were the only party to absorb southern segregationists and stall civil rights.
An eye-opening approach to law and politics in the Civil Rights era, The Ghost of Jim Crowlooks beyond extremism to highlight some of the subversive tactics that prolonged racial inequality.