Wednesday, June 3, 2009

White Southerners in the Civil Rights Movement

Professor David L. Chappell currently holds the Irene & Julian Rothbaum Professorship of American History at the University of Oklahoma. He has produced two works on American racial and civil rights history. I don’t like to rehash things already posted elsewhere but with constraints on my time, hopefully I can at least summarize in one paragraph what you might find across several other sites:

Inside Agitators: White Southerners in the Civil Rights Movement

One fascinating bit that did not make it into Inside Agitators was Chappell’s interview with C.P. Ellis, who was famous for renouncing his Klan membership in the 1970s. The interview apparently was similar to the one he did with Studs Terkel. Having known the feelings of power and solidarity that the Klan robe gave to a poor white man, Ellis told Chappell of how he began to understand and the African dashiki so popular in the 60s and 70s to the point where he wanted to wear one.

Chappell argues that moderate whites, though lacking a moral commitment to civil rights, played a key role in the movement's success at both the local and national levels. - Virginia Quarterly Review

Chappell explodes the convenient myth of the monolithic and homogeneous white South to reveal a society deeply divided over segregation. - Kari Frederickson, Southern Historian

A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow

A Stone of Hope offers a refreshing reexamination of the American civil rights movement. Rather than being a victory of liberal ideals, the civil rights struggle owes its success to the Biblical prophetic tradition. Liberal politics offered a protracted “wait” and there was no guarantee of substantial, timely change. On the other hand, the potent message of Biblical themes was a catalyst and at the same time brought together divergent groups. More summary here…

Chappell has two forthcoming titles- Waking from the Dream: The Battle over Martin Luther King's Legacy, (which does NOT cover the current King estate battle by the way) and one I especially look forward to, The Mind of the Segregationist.

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