Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940

Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940

Grace Elizabeth Hale

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0679776206

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Making Whiteness is a profoundly important work that explains how and why whiteness came to be such a crucial, embattled--and distorting--component of twentieth-century American identity.  In intricately textured detail and with passionately mastered analysis, Grace Elizabeth Hale shows how, when faced with the active citizenship of their ex-slaves after the Civil War, white southerners re-established their dominance through a cultural system based on violence and physical separation.  And in a bold and transformative analysis of the meaning of segregation for the nation as a whole, she explains how white southerners' creation of modern "whiteness" was, beginning in the 1920s, taken up by the rest of the nation as a way of enforcing a new social hierarchy while at the same time creating the illusion of a national, egalitarian, consumerist democracy.

By showing the very recent historical "making" of contemporary American whiteness and by examining how the culture of segregation, in all its murderous contradictions, was lived, Hale makes it possible to imagine a future outside it. Her vision holds out the difficult promise of a truly democratic American identity whose possibilities are no longer limited and disfigured by race.

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of what was really happening, but as long as it remained something terrible and yet remote, something whose horror and blood might descend upon me at any moment, I was compelled to give my entire imagination over to it…” Since southern blacks rarely attended public lynchings, their knowledge of all these extralegal killings remained paradoxically distant and perhaps fantastic even as their very effective networks of communication publicized the brutality that struck close at hand. Yet as the

only the excess after you have lived your own life. If she had stopped here, she would have transmitted to her daughter a frank and feminist warning. But May Belle, perhaps recoiling from the implications of her own words, continued: This is badly put. What I mean is that your life and energies belong first to yourself, your husband and your children. Anything left over after you have served these, give and give generously, but be sure there is no stinting of love and attention at home.

(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), on southern white women in the suffrage movement. On the ASWPL campaign, see Hall, Revolt Against Chivalry, 159–266; and Lewis T. Nordyke, “Ladies and Lynchings,” Survey Graphic, November 1939. Yet their success must be put in context of the NAACP crusade and other efforts. 70. Raper, Tragedy of Lynching, 47. Many scholars and activists argued that lynchings occurred because the white community countenanced them. For a sample, see Johnson, “Practice,”

M.A. thesis, University of Georgia, 1946. Permissions Acknowledgments Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published and unpublished material: Amistad Research Center at Tulane University: Excerpt from “Of These I Stand” by Countee Cullen. Countee Cullen Papers, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, LA. Reprinted by permission of the Amistad Research Center. G.W.T.W. Literary Rights: Excerpts from unpublished material

to buy tickets, wait, use the restroom, and then depart in clearly racially marked spaces. Even southern children knew these codes, as white southerner Katharine Lumpkin, born in 1897, vividly remembered: As soon as I could read, I would carefully spell out the notices in public places. I wished to be certain we were where we ought to be. Our station waiting rooms—“For White.” Our railroad coaches—“For White.” There was no true occasion for a child’s anxiety lest we make a mistake. It was all so

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