A Rage for Order: Black/White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation (Galaxy Books)

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  • Paperback
  • 336 pages
  • A Rage for Order: Black/White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation (Galaxy Books)
  • Joel Williamson
  • English
  • 17 February 2018
  • 9780195040258

About the Author: Joel Williamson

Professor Williamson is interested in southern culture in the twentieth century broadly conceived He has a continuing interest in Margaret Mitchell and a developing interest in Tennessee Williams He is currently working on a book about Elvis Presley.


A Rage for Order: Black/White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation (Galaxy Books)The Crucible Of Race, A Major Reinterpretation Of Black White Relations In The South, Was Widely Acclaimed On Publication And Compared Favorably To Two Of The Seminal Books On Southern History Wilbur J Cash S The Mind Of The South And C Vann Woodward S The Strange Career Of Jim Crow Representing Years Of Research And Writing On The History Of The South, The Crucible Of Race Explores The Large Topic Of Southern Race Relations For A Span Of A Century And A Half Oxford Is Pleased To Make Available An Abridgement Of This Parent Volume A Rage For Order Preserves All The Theme Lines That Were Advanced In The Original Volume And Many Of The Individual Stories As In Crucible Of Race, Williamson Here Confronts The Awful Irony That The War To Free Blacks From Slavery Also Freed Racism He Examines The Shift In The Power Base Of Southern White Leadership After And Recounts The Terrible Violence Done To Blacks In The Name Of Self Protection This Condensation Of One Of The Most Important Interpretations Of Southern History Is Offered As A Means By Which A Large Audience Can Grasp The Essentials Of Black White Relations A Problem That Persists To This Day And One With Which We All Must Contend North And South, Black And White

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10 thoughts on “A Rage for Order: Black/White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation (Galaxy Books)

  1. Jim says:

    In A Rage for Order Black White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation, Joel Williamson takes a unique look at southern racial violence, noting that one of the great ironies of American history is that when the nation freed the slaves, it also freed racism Williamson, 78 This resulted he argues, in physical and cultural segregation, and the unleashing of some of the most sadistic racial violence seen since the end of the Civil War.Williamson begins his work with a brief review of the rise of slavery in America, noting the strenuous efforts southern whites made to make a place for blacks in their economy by trying to find a place for them in every aspect of southern life One result of this was the creation of the Sambo image, a construction whites invented depicting slaves as simple, docile, and manageable Williamson, 15 He describes an almost Focaultian power discourse he calls the organic society, where whites could not prescribe and enforce a precise role upon black people without prescribing and enforcing a precise role upon themselves Williamson, 17 The heart of A Rage of Order however is Williamson s discussion of the evolution of white racial attitudes in the south after emancipation, particularly the interplay of three southern white mentalities which he uses to describe intellectual atmosphere s of a distinctive, clearly identifiable quality Williamson, 70 These mentalities, which became prominent at different times were Liberal, which was strongest in the 1880s and argued that black potential was as yet unknown, but was encouraged by the strides blacks made under white leadership during reconstruction Conservative, which had probably started in the 1830s and was the default mentality of most white southerners, always there, but would adapt into other mentalities to insure its survival Conservatives held that blacks were innately inferior, and in order to help them survive it aimed at defining their place in American society and Radical, the most violent and insidious of the mentalities, held that blacks, no longer under the yoke of slavery, would regress to their natural state of savagery and bestiality Williamson, 71 Radicalism, which was mostly responsible for the extreme violence and racism against blacks, included forced segregation, disenfranchisement, and the use of lunching and riots as acceptable political tools, was most prominent between 1897 and 1907 Williamson s devotes most of this work to the effects of this radicalism and how conservatism responded to it.The rise of radicalism is not easily explained Williamson believes an effort by northern politicians, including some Democrats, to make a place for blacks in government, fears of the reintroduction of reconstruction, and economic and political upheavals characterized by replacement of the plantation economy by tenant farming and industrialization, were all contributing factors Based on the amount of space he devotes to it however, it appears Williamson believes the primary cause was the interplay of economics and the Victorian model of gender roles This Victorian sensibility cast men as the breadwinner and women as the protector of hearth and home Unable to provide for their families during bad times, men could at least protect their women from the outrages of the black beast rapist This despicable construction was the result of the deliberately fabricated Radical view of black retrogression In this view, the most significant and awful manifestation of this black retrogression was an increasing frequency of assaults on white women and girls by black men Williamson, 84 Williamson uses a number of biographical essays as a way to demonstrate the manifestation of these mentalities He includes essays on Booker T Washington, who took an accommodationist approach to race relations, and W.E.B DuBois, who did not Most interesting, but ultimately the least convincing, were biographies of three prominent radicals Rebecca Latimer Felton, Benjamin Ryan Tillman, and Tom Dixon In each case, Williamson tries argues for a psychological explanation for their turn to radicalism For Rebecca Latimer Felton, author, feminist, and U.S Senator for one day , it was disgust at her prescribed role in Victorian society For Benjamin Ryan Tillman, it was the paranoia that arose as his daughters came of age and his memories of plantation life as an adolescent surrounded by slaves And for Tom Dixon, the author of The Leopard s Spots and The Clansman on which the movie The Birth of a Nation was based, it was the psychological resentment he held for his father and grandmother, and the role they played forcing his mother into an underage marriage Implicit in the sketches of Felton and Tillman, and explicitly in that of Dixon, is the notion that the psychological condition represented by these three was also present in millions of other southern radicals Though interesting, it is a leap to extrapolate from these case studies a wide spread psychological explanation for radicalism in the south, particularly in the absence of any other evidence.At times Williamson takes a somewhat sympathetic view of Conservatives and their reaction to Radicalism He admires the way it presented a pliable public face, going along with many of the radical proposals, including segregation and disenfranchisement, waiting for the day when radicalism would subside As such, Conservatism was nearly indestructible Overall I found Williamson s arguments to be fairly persuasive The interplay of the three mentalities he describes, and the role of Victorian gender identification in the rise of Radicalism, was convincing His assertion that psychology can be used to explain the rise of Radicalism for millions of southerners was unpersuasive I also found his explanation for the decline of Radicalism, that Radicals realized blacks were not dying off or retrogressing as they predicted, unpersuasive It seems to me by 1915 when Williamson dates the end of Radicalism, they had achieved all of their goals segregation, disenfranchisement, and state sanction for violence There was simply no longer a reason to maintain it, and so Conservatism again became dominant.This book is impressively sourced, using primary and secondary sources as well as newspapers and manuscripts It is easy to read with few lapses in the narrative.

  2. James says:

    An important book for many reasons, this work really gets to core elements of many things how the social history, legal history, and a host of other elements of society in the American South interacted to oppress, organically control, free, regulate various elements of the population It is a book dense with ideas bringing in the idea of gender and pedestals, visible and invisible elements of ethnicity, the idea of passing or not, family and connectivity, racism, Jim Crow, and so much Where Williamson as author so readily gives us to consider is in the elements he presents and how he readily presents them as other reviewers have quoted, the line about the irony that the Civil War freed both slaves and racism is one that echoes complexity found in this work, but one element he addresses early and with exacting detail and accounting for the vicissitude of changing times and cultures is that this exists not only a Southern story or an American story, but something bigger As Williamson says in the preface, There is a Southern story to be told in race relations, and it can be told with a relatively narrow focus on the South Also, it can be told as the Southern portion of a national story Ultimately, however, it must be told as a part of a global story The South is and has been no island in race relations Once tied to the world by threads of cotton, recently it is tied by the hard politics of global confrontation In such manner, this book excels and is still relevant thirty years after publication because it does not marginalize the history for sake of region or focus, but seeks to tell a complete tale of an area and groups of people in a global context of different times, trades, and functions While the version I read is thirty years old, it is still relevant It would be engaging and perhaps important to consider how this would parallel with conversations and recent works on examining gender politics in these same time periods, of looking at class and socioeconomic statuses which lead to many issues beyond what Williamson addressed, and so forth, but as far as the content of this book, it still has strength as a new way to talk about a time period that often focuses too often on region instead of global history There is no reason to marginalize history by making it seem regional most regions, segments, and time periods of America would benefit from the idea that all American history from 1492 onward is global in element and Williamson does a fantastic job of placing this history not just in a Southern setting, but in a Southern setting in a larger global context A solid read for anyone who has wanted to connect culture and change to the country of this time period in a broader, human context.

  3. Samuel says:

    one of the awful ironies of American history that the war which was fought to free blacks also freed racism In Williamson s abridged treatment of THE CRUCIBLE OF RACE, he explores the formation of racial attitudes unique from those that existed during the antebellum era in which slavery persisted Following emancipation, Reconstruction, and preceding the Progressive Era, southern whites asserted their political and social powers to redefine the role of the freedmen former slaves in their society Williamson divides them into three groups Liberals, Conservatives, and Radicals While all three groups exhibited varying degrees of racism as well as different levels of activism, Williamson demonstrates how each group had different eras in which they dominated their societal trends The Liberals had the most power during reconstruction though somewhat small they were in a position to briefly aspire toward the ideal that black men could become equal to whites in every way politically, socially, economically, and intellectually from 1864 1880 Then in the 1880s through the end of the century, the Radicals came to dominate the South the Rage for Order in which lynching, riots, and Jim Crow legislation were tools by which they sought not only to disenfranchise and intimidate black Americans but also eventually run them out of the country and drive them to extinction hence RADICAL After this period, the Conservatives, who had been present all along patiently waiting for their long term vision to be fulfilled, took the stance of including blacks into the new Southern society but ensured that they would be kept in their place below and separate from whites Williamson does a pretty impressive job mapping out this troubled landscape by employing a variety of sources that speak to the psychology and ideology of racism in America In discussing the North Migration, Black Exodus, or African American Diaspora from 1916 1930, Williamson comments how this major influx of African Americans into northern cities made a previously sectional issue a national one The Southern race problem of the nineteenth century became the national race problem of the twentieth, in part precisely because of the abandonment by the North of the Negro in the South 205 pp 70 205