Cover image for The politics of whiteness : race, workers, and culture in the modern South
The politics of whiteness : race, workers, and culture in the modern South
Brattain, Michelle, 1968-
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Publication Information:
Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Press, 2004.
Physical Description:
xii, 301 pages: illustrations; 23 cm.
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HD8072.5 .B727 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The Politics of Whiteness presents the first sustained analysis of white racial identity among workers in what was the South's largest industry for much of the twentieth century: textiles. Michelle Brattain, who grounds her work in a study of Rome, Georgia, from the Great Depression to the 1970s, adds a significant new dimension to a field that before had focused primarily on anti unionism, paternalism, or mill village culture. Many scholars have argued that racial tensions kept black and white workers from seeing their shared interests. While that may be so, says Brattain, Jim Crow and southern industry also functioned to give white workers very different and racially specific interests. Although southern politics has been traditionally defined in terms of its dominance by white elites, Brattain uncovers a surprising level of white working-class political influence and activism. Owing to the segregated nature of mill work, however, millhands' power was not felt in the form of any challenges to the racial status quo. Rather, workers re-created the local institutions and symbols of racial difference in their unions.

Author Notes

Michelle Brattain is an associate professor of history at Georgia State University

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Brattain's twofold thesis is rather straightforward and important. Her first assertion is that white working-class people in the Georgia textile mills disagreed with much that went on but effectively embraced notions of industrial paternalism and welfare capitalism. Her second point is that white working-class solidarity rested firmly on issues of race growing from the Jim Crow Era and blossomed into a broadly based resistance to civil rights in the 1960s. Brattain (history, Georgia State Univ.) plots significant political undercurrents that run from the Great Depression to the Great Society, accounting for the success of Nixon's southern strategy in 1968, and ultimately the collapse of the Solid South. Northern-led efforts to unionize and promote racial equality served to entrench residents even further into a defiant posture against "outsiders." Many workers rejected arguments about their limited control over the workplace by finding solace in an undisputed social rank defined by skin color, an Anglo-Protestant culture, and continued loyalty to the local community above all else. Implicitly this study suggests that race continues to trump class, at least as a southern issue, and the ability of the Republican Party to master those "politics of whiteness" will help it maintain a broad base of popular support. Upper-division undergraduates and above. J. Kleiman University of Wisconsin Colleges

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
List of Abbreviationp. xiii
Introductionp. 3
Prologue: The Politics of Whitenessp. 11
1 Boosterism, Whiteness, and Paternalism in the New South: The Creation of Wage Workp. 18
2 "Labor's Best Friend": Talmadge, Paternalism, and the 1934 Strikep. 49
3 "So-Called Fair Employment": World War II and Whitenessp. 86
4 "Still a White Man's Georgia": PAC, Operation Dixie, and the Resurgence of Talmadgismp. 132
5 "Some Romans Have Red Faces": The 1948 Strikesp. 163
6 Making Friends and Enemies: Political Action in Postwar Georgiap. 198
7 The "So-Called 'Civil Rights' Bill" and the Republicanization of Romep. 231
Epiloguep. 273
Bibliographyp. 283
Indexp. 295