Cover image for Lost revolutions : the South in the 1950s
Lost revolutions : the South in the 1950s
Daniel, Pete.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press for Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C., [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 378 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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F216.2 .D36 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F216.2 .D36 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
F216.2 .D36 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This sweeping work of cultural history explores a time of startling turbulence and change in the South, years that have often been dismissed as placid and dull. In the wake of World War II, southerners anticipated a peaceful and prosperous future, but as Pete Daniel demonstrates, the road into the 1950s took some unexpected turns.

Daniel chronicles the myriad forces that turned the world southerners had known upside down in the postwar period. In chapters that explore such subjects as the civil rights movement, segregation, and school integration; the breakdown of traditional agriculture and the ensuing rural-urban migration; gay and lesbian life; and the emergence of rock 'n' roll music and stock car racing, as well as the triumph of working-class culture, he reveals that the 1950s South was a place with the potential for revolutionary change.

In the end, however, the chance for significant transformation was squandered, Daniel argues. One can only imagine how different southern history might have been if politicians, the press, the clergy, and local leaders had supported democratic reforms that bestowed full citizenship on African Americans--and how little would have been accomplished if a handful of blacks and whites had not taken risks to bring about the changes that did come.

Author Notes

Pete Daniel is a curator in the Division of the History of Technology at the National Museum of American History.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Daniel chronicles the changes, such as agricultural technology and resistance to civil rights, that transformed the South in the period following World War II. He captures the unique southern culture that developed from poverty, religious fundamentalism, and racial obsessions and manifested itself in spiritual music, fast cars, and rebellious spirits. Daniel details the fight against integration following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling and the growth of the Ku Klux Klan among lower-class whites. He examines the music business in the South, the appeal of black music and culture to rebellious white youth, the evolution of southern music into rock 'n' roll, and the eventual taming of its spontaneity as it went mainstream. Daniel portrays a similar phenomenon in stock car racing, an amusement that has its roots in bootleggers running from revenuers. And he details changes in farm technology that, along with the war, drove millions of southerners (mostly blacks) from rural to urban areas and out of the South entirely, spreading southern culture throughout the U.S. --Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

Life and labor in the South from the end of World War II to the Freedom Summer of 1964 have often been viewed as tranquil. However, Daniel, a curator at the National Museum of American History, argues that forces were emerging from the cultural and economic landscape that changed Southern life forever. The decline of labor-intensive agriculture; working-class cultural achievements, especially in stockcar racing and rock'n'roll; and, above all, the Civil Rights Movement challenged the ruling white elite and the middle class during the 1950s. Unfortunately, says Daniel, the revolutionary energy these interconnected movements generated was often sidetracked by the Washington bureaucracy, entrenched economic interest groups, and state and local political leaders. Events of the turbulent 1960s finally forced the South to confront its "lost revolutions." Daniel has produced a provocative, well-written, and thoroughly researched cultural history of some of the forces the South has experienced on its road to modernity. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Charles C. Hay, Eastern Kentucky Univ. Archives, Richmond (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Daniel, a curator at the National Museum of American History, has written a model social history of the American South in the 1950s. This beautifully written and nuanced work focuses on relations between blacks and whites. Daniel argues that white southerners, especially politicians, the press, the clergy, and local leaders, missed an opportunity to support "democratic reforms that bestowed full citizenship on African-Americans." Conservative elites fought against civil rights by manipulating the economic and racial fears of the rising white lower middle class, turning potential allies of blacks into confirmed enemies. White elites also turned the growing mechanization and "chemicalization" of agriculture to their benefit. Perhaps the most intriguing cultural phenomenon of the period was the concurrent growth of stock car racing and rock and roll music, "manifestations of working class culture" that served as "the backbeat ... to the accelerating movement to achieve civil rights." Although sometimes forced to stretch connections, Daniel largely succeeds in this brilliant work. Highly recommended for all libraries. A. O. Edmonds; Ball State University



Chapter One Going among Strangers It's no wonder the Revival Preachers are all preaching against going to War Work and begging people to coax their relatives back before they all go to Hell. --Mississippi farmer        In 1994, Mississippi planter Frank Mitchener pointed across a stand of inch-high cotton plants to tiny jewels of reflected light at the edge of the field near the banks of a bayou. The effect came from glass slivers, he explained, the remains of windows shattered when tenant houses were bulldozed thirty years earlier. Before the Delta's cypress swamps were cleared for agriculture, Mitchener added, the Choctaw had lived on the same high ground beside the stream. Mitchener had often walked across the field with his grandson picking up Choctaw arrowheads and pottery shards mixed with snuff tins, bottles, and other bits of African American material culture. In the mid-twentieth century, advances in farm machinery, the development of synthetic chemicals, and government agricultural programs had doomed most agricultural laborers much as the lure of rich Delta land had tempted whites to banish the Choctaws a century and a half earlier. Most of the Choctaws and African Americans had moved on, but the vitreous reflections and artifacts were emblematic not only of the complex layering of the southern experience but also of the historical forces that had dispossessed the Choctaws, altered the landscape, and created and destroyed both slavery and sharecropping.     Rural change, urbanization, science, technology, racism, and popular culture were interlocking revolutionary components that swept through the South after World War II. The fabric of rural life was torn apart as millions of dispossessed farmers spilled out of the countryside and settled in towns and cities across the country. A landscape that had been dotted with small farms was reconfigured to fit machines and chemicals. The breakup of rural life had profound implications, for southern exiles transplanted rural culture wherever they settled. In urban jobs, the clock--not the sun--ordered their days. As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the mid-1950s, its potential excited blacks as much as its implications frightened whites. The simultaneous rise of agribusiness, stock car racing, rock 'n' roll music, and challenges to segregation generated immense constructive and destructive energy that forged both hope and fear, joy and sorrow.     The reflected light from the broken windows symbolized the long continuum of labor-intensive agriculture, including slavery. The cotton culture dominated southern agriculture for a century and a half, since land-hungry cotton growers during George Washington's presidency began clearing new ground across the fertile crescent that spanned the South's Black Belt and the Mississippi Delta.     The Civil War destroyed the grids that bound together the antebellum South, forcing all southerners, black and white, men and women, rich and poor, to reconstruct a society based on free labor. Former masters and slaves, as well as their white neighbors, understood not only the importance of controlling the sale and proceeds of their crops but also the potential of free labor. After the Civil War, planters and merchants devised imaginative strategies to control labor, credit, and marketing. This restructured but still labor-intensive cotton culture persisted until the mid-twentieth century. It then collapsed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, almost as quickly as a bulldozer could splinter a row of shotgun houses. The enclosure movement that drove millions of southern farmers from the land coincided with depression, war, migration, urbanization, and the civil rights movement. It was a time of intense emotional stress.     Tractors, harvesting machines, and chemicals largely replaced the hired hands, tenants, and sharecroppers who had tended southern crops for so long. Most farmers' lives revolved around the cultivation of cotton plants, the annual routine of breaking the land, plowing, planting, cultivating, picking, and ginning. Other rural southerners, black and white, moved to the rhythm of different crops. Generations of black and white southerners drew their sustenance from the land and their values from rural routines and institutions. Although few were educated beyond being able to write their names, read a few Bible verses, and make basic calculations, they not only subsisted but also created a vibrant culture. The technological wave that swept farmers from the land also preserved remnants of their music, dance, and language on sound recordings and film. No matter how exploitative the system or how roughly rural people were jettisoned when machines and chemicals took their place, the rural culture bequeathed by the last generation of sharecroppers significantly reshaped U.S. culture. Lacking worldly goods and formal education, rural people improvised, broke the rules, experimented, and boldly stamped a southern imprint on music, dance, and language.     World War II job opportunities attracted many rural exiles to towns and cities. Government programs, mechanization, and herbicides continued to displace farmers throughout the 1950s and beyond. In 1940, 3 million farms existed in the South; thirty years later, only 1.2 million remained. The tenant ranks had been thinned from 1.5 million to 136,000 over the same years. The number of black farm operators declined from 680,000 to 90,000, and the number of black farm owners dropped from 142,000 to 56,000. At the bottom of the social scale, sharecroppers, who numbered 541,000 in 1940, were not even counted as a category after 1959, when their total sank to 121,000. This population shift had enormous implications, both for the southern countryside and for the towns and cities that absorbed the migrants.     As southerners left rural areas, small-town businesses went broke, church congregations dwindled, and community vitality flickered and sometimes died. When migrants reached larger towns and cities, the more sedate residents often shuddered at their unpolished ways. They arrived in jalopies, quickly modified their homes and yards to suit rural tastes, and generally presented an untamed demeanor that elicited both loathing and guarded awe. It was the wildness of these migrants--their patched-up cars and clothes, passionate music, and lust for life--that would reshape U.S. culture. Both black and white migrants had to master not only hourly work but also urban segregation codes that were at once more lax and more confining than those in rural areas. In cities, blacks and whites competed for jobs, housing, recreation, and seats on public transportation, and the problem of the color line assumed pressing urgency. In rural areas, most folks knew each other and could make allowances, but in cities, segregation ruled all public spaces. Still, in the vastness of cities, as in rural areas, refuges existed where the color line blurred or vanished.     For many southerners, World War II was a great divide. The war challenged their provincialism, offered employment, and reshaped society. After the war, they could not fit their experiences or expectations back into the South of the 1930s. Many southerners, having traveled and tasted relative affluence during the war, became dissatisfied with the rural cycle of labor and debt that had previously characterized their lives; after the war, they stayed in cities and worked for a steady wage. Mississippi planter Cauley Cortwright labeled the war years a time of "dispersion" and recalled that black families who left for California, Chicago, New York, and Detroit "never returned after they moved out." Rural life also changed drastically, as segregation and challenges to rural values emerged as central issues among those who remained. The war also accelerated structural changes that had begun to take place during the 1930s. Despite labor shortages and rationed machinery, many farmers prospered during the war, and the wealthiest eagerly awaited further scientific and technological developments that would ease the demand for labor.     In the South, then, the war hastened the development of a new agricultural structure, intensified urbanization, rejuvenated musical tastes, reshaped leisure, inspired union organizing, and launched a civil rights movement. The war, more than the New Deal, alleviated hard times for southerners, and during the war, the federal government, already enlarged to fight the depression, expanded and became ever more critical in reshaping southern life. The issue was not government intrusion--by 1940, commercial farmers, wage workers, and sharecroppers all took advantage of federal programs--but rather which group would benefit most.     The war accelerated rural consolidation and further entrenched the conservative forces that advocated management, science, and technology. A reconstruction era after the war would allow the application of science and technology to catch up to ideology. Larger farmers, in the meantime, feared that laborers would move before the structural change to mechanization could be completed, and landlords utilized their positions of community leadership and power to tighten labor control, combining vestiges of the dying system with elements of the new one. Despite higher commodity prices, farmers complained of rising labor costs and tried every stratagem to find cheap labor. One observer labeled the large farmers' labor obsession "a farm labor shortage hysteria." The need for labor varied according to commodity, season, and stage of mechanization.     Planters pressured draft boards to exempt their best workers. In Coahoma County, Mississippi, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) agent admitted that when a sharecropper left for defense work, the draft board would move him to the top of the list. In May 1943, McKinley Morganfield, better known as blues singer Muddy Waters, quit his job driving a tractor on the Stovall plantation near Clarksdale and moved to Chicago. His foreman, he remembered, "blew all to pieces" when he asked for a $.03 raise to $.25 an hour. Within a week of leaving, he received his draft notice.     Military service instilled in some African Americans a determination to end discrimination. Amzie Moore was drafted in 1942 and served in Burma. Assigned to intelligence, he was ordered to tell African American soldiers that conditions in the United States would be better when they returned. He joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) while in the service and after the war returned to Cleveland, Mississippi, still in a fighting mood. He estimated that in Mississippi one black person was killed every week for nearly a year. He opened a gas station, beauty shop, and grocery store on highway 61 that became headquarters for civil rights efforts. Medgar Evers spent the war in France and England and then, despite his reservations, returned to Decatur, where he immediately began to encourage Mississippi's black veterans to register and vote. Aaron Henry came from a share-cropping family near Clarksdale, and he, too, cut his activist teeth in the military. These three black men would emerge in the 1950s as key civil rights leaders in Mississippi.     During the war, southerners sensed that important changes were taking place that could alter their lives. They perceived a sharp break from the days of the depression and observed that the war was intensifying changes in society, especially regarding race relations. Indeed, race relations became the most visible element of conflict and change. By the summer of 1942, Bureau of Agricultural Economics field agents in the South uncovered different interpretations of the purpose of the war. Whites, investigator Edward Moe reported in August 1942, believed they were fighting to keep things "as they have been in America." They feared "a revolution" in race relations. Blacks, on the other hand, were reluctant to join the war effort unless their participation awakened "recognition of their equal rights, and being accorded those equal rights." Whereas whites muted their enthusiasm for the war because they feared social change, blacks withheld support because they insisted on social change as a reward for patriotism.     During the war, friction along the color line exploded into six civilian riots, more than twenty military riots and mutinies, and between forty and seventy-five lynchings. Blacks challenged discrimination more openly, and whites countered ruthlessly. Fearing federal intrusion, southern political leaders berated the federal government, which had been increasingly involved in southern society since the beginning of the New Deal.     But significant attempts were made during the war to confront segregation and racial discrimination. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) succeeded in uniting black and white workers, which alarmed white politicians and businesspeople. In Memphis, Tennessee, for example, aggressive leftist CIO organizers won bargaining rights at sixty work sites in and around the city. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Affiliated Workers of America-CIO supported a 1943 strike led by African American women at the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company that won bargaining rights a year later. The leftist-led unionization drive had political implications that made possible the election of an African American alderman in 1947. The power of such unions to challenge segregation and entrenched politicians alarmed the white elite. Although some labor leaders understood that the success of unions depended on uniting blacks and whites, many white workers jealously guarded their privileges and were uncomfortable in integrated meetings. Even as they benefited from defense jobs and government programs, many whites suspected that the federal government and labor unions were intrusive institutions that would ally with northern liberals to force changes in society.     Discrimination came under attack from northerners who settled in the South and ignored traditions demeaning to blacks. They called blacks "Mr." and "Mrs." paid higher wages, and supported equal rights. Northern white soldiers stationed at southern bases, bored by military routine, detested life in the South and seized on the race issue as a focus of protest. Northern black soldiers resented the South even more. "They come to fiercely hate Southern conditions," Moe reported. "They talk against discrimination on every occasion and encourage violence as a way out." In 1944, the Supreme Court struck down the white primary in Smith v. Allwright , giving blacks the opportunity to participate in the only meaningful ballot in one-party southern states. In South Carolina, John McCray immediately founded the Progressive Democratic Party and insisted that whites share political power. Southern whites had never been assaulted on so many fronts of the color line.     Membership in the NAACP swelled on the rising tide of militancy. Ella J. Baker, a North Carolinian and Shaw University graduate whom the NAACP hired as a southern field secretary in 1940, played a major role in attracting new members. After leaving Shaw, Baker had spent more than a decade in Harlem. Living in New York had offered Baker the opportunity to explore her sense of style and develop her interest in politics and culture. She wrote for newspapers and served as national director of the Young Negroes' Cooperative League. On weekends, she strolled the Harlem streets dressed in stylish clothes, making small talk with anyone she encountered. Baker was not shy. For a time, she worked at the Schomburg Library, where, as she put it, she "began to learn some things." She searched out radical discussions. The Harlem Young Women's Christian Association attracted women such as Pauli Murray, Dorothy Height, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, and Baker, and the atmosphere crackled with curiosity and ideas.     Baker seemed uninterested in either a permanent career or a confining marriage. Her ideology was toughened as she associated with New York radicals during the late 1920s and 1930s. Her energetic organizing throughout the South not only increased NAACP membership but also planted grassroots seeds that would grow during the next decade. From 1940 to 1946, she braved white hostility and black indifference, honing ideas and skills that would serve her well later on. For six months each year, she rode Jim Crow trains and busses, always insisting that if the law mandated that blacks be separate but equal, she expected equality. A small woman (she stood five feet, two inches tall), Baker used her commanding voice and fearless presence to cow insulting drivers and conductors. "I wasn't delicate," she later boasted.     Baker understood the significance of both the vast migration provoked by the war and the friction along the color line as black and white workers competed for defense jobs, transportation, and housing. The NAACP's New York office tightly controlled its civil rights initiatives. Disappointed that the NAACP neglected the power of local chapters in fighting for equal rights and recognizing that NAACP head Walter White ignored her ideas, she resigned in 1946. But Baker's impact on local chapters endured, and her popularity among southern NAACP members would serve her well when she returned to the South as a civil rights activist in the 1950s.     Some southern whites were also active in challenging the color line. In 1925, twenty-eight-year-old Lillian Smith returned to northern Georgia after teaching music at a Methodist mission school in Huchow, China. She took over her family's Laurel Falls girls' camp and molded it to fit her own interests, particularly music, drama, dance, writing, painting, and sculpture. She hoped to guide the girls in her camp to understand, as she put it, "the dichotomies of our southern way of life." Sports and campfire songs gave way to frank discussions about sexual matters, childbirth, relations between girls and their parents, racial problems, and world events. Increasingly Smith devoted more time to writing and reading widely in psychology and literature. In 1935, Smith and her friend Paula Snelling began to publish what would become a series of radical journals over the next decade: Pseudopodia, North Georgia Review , and South Today . Contributors, encouraged by Smith, denounced segregation and dealt frankly with other controversial issues. In 1944, Smith published Strange Fruit , a disturbing and controversial novel about an interracial relationship. In her outspoken support of integration, she was far ahead of most southern whites.     Both Ella Baker and Lillian Smith realized that the war created enormous stresses in southern society. Blacks and whites perceived a decline in morals, speculated about mechanization, fretted about returning veterans, condemned defense workers and cities in general, and feared that the nation would sink into a depression when the war ended. Many African Americans were confident that their war effort would erase the color line. Southerners sensed that their lives would be different following the war and were apprehensive about the future.     In Tishomingo County, Mississippi, located in the northeastern corner of the state, people left behind by the war complained that defense workers were throwing away money on liquor, sex, and gambling. A farm owner in his fifties learned that many workers had gotten by "with being half-drunk on the job" and were doing things that made "one's hair stand on end." He told of a neighbor's son who in his mid-twenties went to Mobile, Alabama, with his wife and two children to work in the defense industry. His wife had run off with another man, and he had been drunk ever since. "It's no wonder the Revival Preachers are all preaching against going to War Work and begging people to coax their relatives back before they all go to Hell," he observed. A middle-aged Farm Security Administration client charged that workers didn't behave "much better than hogs." There was universal agreement that the farther away people strayed from their roots, the less they could resist temptation.     The concerns voiced in Tishomingo County found resonance in other areas. A county agent in Pope County, Arkansas, summed up the conventional thinking about why people stayed in rural areas: "Not wanting to go among strangers & strange work & inside work & no fishing & visiting probably biggest reasons." Although urban work was in some ways liberating, it enslaved laborers in an hourly routine and curtailed outdoor activity.     Some women remained at home and did farmwork (in Lafayette County, Mississippi, an interviewer found one woman "mowing lespedeza when I was there"), but an almost equal number of men and women left the countryside for urban jobs. Women's widespread migration, participation in the workforce, and spirit of independence challenged old stereotypes. Many of the women who found good jobs during the war were never again content to keep house. Women's work off the farm, like their on-farm egg and butter trade, supplemented income and opened up new opportunities.     The war changed the status of women who remained at home in significant ways. Across the South, whites complained about the lack of both fieldworkers and domestic help. When the Clarksdale AAA agent heard in 1944 that cotton pickers would be demanding $2 per 100 pounds, he complained bitterly that many black women were loafing around town instead of working because they received money from their husbands in the service. They were no longer dependent on wage work such as chopping and picking cotton, ironing clothes, and doing housework. The interviewer asked whether it was not the case that more white women were loafing around than black. "Yes," he admitted, "but [you] can't do anything about that--many of them never picked cotton and you can't force white women to work." In January 1945, Charleston News and Courier editor William Watts Ball commiserated with his sister, Sarah B. Copeland of Laurens, South Carolina. "Everything is demoralized, the servant question here is certainly as bad as it is in Laurens," he reported. "Our cook comes, but not until 9:30 A.M."     Just as farmers were eagerly buying machinery with their government payments and their earnings from higher commodity prices, those who returned from cities and the armed forces no longer tolerated what they considered backward farming practices and conditions. They had higher expectations. "We'll have to have electricity to get tenants--good tenants," the owner of a supply business in Harnett County, North Carolina, lamented. "They won't come otherwise; they want their electric refrigerator, radios, and washing machines and all that." Mobility, then, acted as a school of consumer education, and for the first time, many southerners stepped up to sales counters with money in their pockets. Blacks and whites shared rising expectations.     Defense centers became great magnets that pulled in workers. The heavy influx of permanent residents into key southern defense areas strained services, for most southern cities were ill-equipped to handle even peacetime populations. Just as some farmers used federal programs and subsidies to restructure their operations, city governments looked to Washington to solve problems of urban growth brought on by migration. Southern cities expanded and improved their infrastructures using federal coordination and funds.     Growing cities all faced similar problems. New housing required expansion of the water supply, sewage disposal, streets, and garbage collection. Workers expected public transportation to ferry them to work, shopping, and recreation. Children needed schools, working mothers sought child care, and everyone demanded adequate health care, which required new hospitals and additional doctors. Coordination was essential, especially in a war economy, to avoid shortages of food and fuel. These problems were further complicated by the fact that the working population moved from farm to town, from town to city, and from lower- to higher-paying jobs; had not been routinized to hourly work; and was divided by segregation laws.     Migrants confronted confusing urban problems, and they contributed to the chaos. Writer John Dos Passos keenly observed that city life and steady wages astonished migrants. Even a house trailer equipped with electric lights and running water, he pointed out, "is a dazzling luxury to a woman who's lived all her life in a cabin with half-inch chinks between the splintered boards of the floor."     Whereas Dos Passos understood that even a house trailer meant upward mobility to rural migrants, Washington Post reporter Agnes E. Meyer, with obvious distaste and condescension, wrote that in the Gulf of Mexico region, "there is a type of war-worker from the country districts of Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Alabama, the like of which I have never seen anywhere else." They were "illiterate" and had "transported to Pascagoula and Mobile their native habits of living." They preferred to live in the squalor of trailer parks and tents, she insisted, rather than moving into newly constructed apartments. Those from the mountains, she harshly judged, were the "most ferocious and unreliable of the lot." She was mortified by the story of a young man who "ran amuck after getting drunk, kicked holes in the walls, broke all the windows, and rammed his knife in the floor so hard that his hand slid down the blade, nearly severing the fingers." The next morning, he woke up in a girls' dormitory.     Although in Meyer's opinion it would take time to "tame" such people and train them to work and live in harmony with their neighbors, most migrants adapted easily to urban life and eagerly developed their newly acquired skills. After taking a three-week welding course, Lena Porrier Legnon left a farm near New Iberia, Louisiana, and moved to New Orleans to join her husband at the Higgins shipyard. She boasted that "women were better than men welders. Neater welders." She rode the streetcar to work and at night danced and drank in the French Quarter. Unlike many women who worked at welding during the war and then gave it up, Legnon returned to rural Louisiana after the war and continued her trade into the 1980s. Cordell Jackson, who became a Memphis record producer after the war, worked during the war as a riveter at Fisher Aircraft in Fort Worth, Texas. Years later, she still took immense pride in the speed and precision of her wartime work. She also played stand-up bass in the Fisher Aircraft Band. Despite their skills, however, most blacks and women were kept at the bottom of the workforce.     Southern cities found it easier to improve services that allowed them to function more efficiently than to solve other problems, especially racism. African American workers, particularly black women, endured discrimination at most job sites throughout the country. Southern segregation restrictions covered all aspects of public life. When blacks in Mobile violated the segregated-seating code on buses, police sometimes beat them and hauled them into court. In one instance, a black soldier from Brookley Field argued with a bus driver over segregated seating and the driver killed him. For black soldiers, the segregated buses were another battlefront, a manifestation of the "Double V" slogan that reminded black Americans that they not only had overseas enemies but also had racist enemies at home. Many young African Americans fought a protracted war of attrition on buses as their misbehavior antagonized and sometimes provoked whites.     Growing militancy from the NAACP and the National Urban League put pressure on southern city administrators to equalize separate black and white facilities. A 1944 Atlanta Urban League study revealed that although African Americans composed a third of the school-age population, only 20 percent of the school buildings were used for blacks; blacks received $37.80 per pupil, whereas whites got $108.70; public school property was valued at $887 per pupil for blacks and $2,156 for whites. African American students attended split shifts of three and a half hours, whereas white students received six hours of instruction a day. Similar discrimination existed in library facilities, health care, and other aspects of urban life. "The cost would be great," the Atlanta Constitution piously editorialized, "but Atlanta, searching its heart and conscience, can no longer hide the fact of this discrimination and cannot further support it." By admitting discrimination and promising equal facilities, the Constitution 's editors perhaps heard the early legal footfalls that would challenge the separate-but-equal myth.     During the war, juvenile delinquency raised disturbing questions, especially when girls were involved. Reporter Agnes Meyer discovered in April 1943 that one of Mobile's "worst problems is the sex-delinquency of very young girls." The chief of police had arrested bold girls eleven years old who "pursue not only sailors and soldiers but war workers." Meyer learned that girls "are frequently the ones who buy contraceptives, and when one druggist refused to sell these articles to a group of very young girls, they informed him contemptuously that he was an old fogey." The Catholic bishop of Mobile, after observing that the problem of "sex offenses among minor girls is particularly shocking and grave," concluded, "We are fostering and encouraging a future race of gangsters and criminals." Such reports were not confined to the South, but given the region's obsession with the sanctity of white women, the trend portended major changes in the values of young women.     Southern cities, then, grew during the war and were forced to confront the full spectrum of urban problems. The extent of the transformation, at least in defense centers and military posts, was staggering. In population growth, social relations, city planning, and, in particular, the use of federal funds to expand services, southern cities challenged rural areas for dominance. Before the war, these cities were dozing seaports or trade centers, but the war shook them awake. Faced with hundreds of thousands of new residents, cities at first buckled under the strain but with federal support built infrastructures that could sustain larger populations. This scenario was repeated in Mobile, Norfolk, Charleston, Brunswick, Pascagoula, and Beaumont, as well as in other cities less critical to the war effort. The demographic shift was significant, for people who had become accustomed to hourly wages, decent housing, better schools, adequate medical care, and other advantages of city living did not want to return to rural areas. Urbanization and rural decline as well as the end of the white primary would eventually transform southern politics.     Returning veterans brought home the baggage of war, including shattered bodies, nightmarish memories, dreams of peace and prosperity, and, for most, an awareness that the world was more complex than they had ever imagined. The experiences of gays and lesbians provided them with both a sense of liberation and an awareness of their vulnerability. Although psychiatrists labeled gays and lesbians mentally ill and unfit for military service, many evaded military screening and some million served in the armed forces. Gay soldiers who had never been aware of the existence of a national gay and lesbian cohort discovered friendly bars and made fast friends. Army stage shows often featured cross-dressed men playing women's parts. During the war, most Americans either ignored or denied the presence of gays and lesbians in their midst, but in the fifties, homosexuality became a savage political issue.     The fifteen years of depression and war sent tremors of change throughout the South, and by 1945, the region was unsteadily pondering its future. Blacks and whites were moving, some to southern cities newly updated to handle large populations, others to the north and west. Most would never return to farming. And the South would never return completely to its prewar customs. For better or worse, World War II reconfigured southern society.     The surface changes stood out in bold relief. The rural South withered, whereas urban areas blossomed. Machines and chemicals assumed iconic importance as agribusiness relied on capital more than labor. Migrating farmers took their rural ways with them and spread elements of southern culture across the country. The years were ripe with revolutionary possibilities.     But most southerners quietly adjusted to the status quo. A small band of white integrationists waited for an opportune sign, whereas liberals hung back, hoping for gradual miracles. Black southerners, weighing their options, impatiently waited and covertly organized for an assault on the color line. Copyright (c) 2000 Smithsonian Institution. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
Book I The Postwar Landscape
1 Going among Strangersp. 7
2 Creation and Destructionp. 22
3 Deprived and Mistreatedp. 39
4 A Rogue Bureaucracyp. 61
Book II Low Culture
5 Fast and Furiousp. 91
6 Rhythms of the Landp. 121
7 A Little of the Rebelp. 148
Book III Fatal Divisions
8 Brothers of the Faithp. 179
9 Restrained Segregationistsp. 195
10 The Best White Citizensp. 209
11 The Sound of Silencep. 228
12 Bibles and Bayonetsp. 251
13 Radical Departurep. 284
Notesp. 307
Indexp. 365