The White South and the Red Menace
Segregationists, Anticommunism, and Massive Resistance, 1945-1965

George Lewis

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"Lewis's exploration of anticommunism in the South reminds us of the crucial role that the red scare played in the region's efforts to maintain Jim Crow. At the same time, Lewis avoids the trap of casting all southern politicians as irresponsible red-baiters, even reminding us that several prominent proponents of Massive Resistance found McCarthyism both distasteful and counterproductive."--Peter B. Levy, York College, Pennsylvania

"This is an original and indispensable addition to the exciting new wave of scholarship on opposition to civil rights."--David L. Chappell, University of Arkansas

George Lewis explores the various and subtle ways that white southern segregationists used anticommunist rhetoric to undermine the civil rights movement. He examines the thoughts, traditions, and actions of those southerners from the end of the Second World War to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the period when the movement put the South's segregated society under immense pressure.

In response, the white South dug in its heels. Under the banner of "Massive Resistance," segregationists developed an array of weapons to defend their way of life. While they practiced traditional southern tactics--calling opponents "outsiders" and occasionally employing mob violence--they made sophisticated use of the pervasive Cold War climate of the 1950s and 1960s, labeling their opponents "reds" and accusing them of being led, run, and financed by communists.

However, Lewis shows that segregationists were not monolithic reactionaries but rather were intelligent, dynamic, and multifaceted in their defense of white supremacy. He discusses the critical distinction between those who cynically exploited the issue of communism and those who genuinely believed in the threat, and he emphasizes that the majority of segregationists chose their red-baiting targets with clinical accuracy for maximum effect. Others refused to red-bait altogether for fear of detracting from their own favored resistance strategies, such as promoting racial science or putting up complex legal barricades. Many segregationists showed an acute awareness of their increasingly perilous position. Looking at the South in general and at the states of Virginia and North Carolina in particular, Lewis shows that the border states were keenly aware of their need to attract northern investment and could not indulge in the openly racist policies of their Deep South counterparts. As a result, their resistance became more cunning and their racism more covert.

Based on oral histories and the papers of southern politicians, journalists, and activists, this finely nuanced history shows how anticommunism intersected with other weapons in the arsenal of Massive Resistance.

George Lewis is a lecturer in American history at the University of Leicester.

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His careful, subtle, and well-researched study elucidates the extent, meaning, and eventual fate of the thread of anti-communism in segregationist thought and practice….paints a very closely detailed portrait of anticommunism and the fight to preserve Jim Crow. Segregationists were capable of picking and choosing their battles as well as the weapons for those battles. Anticommunism was certainly part of that arsenal, but to understand how and when and why it was used, one must closely examine particular incidents and individual struggles. Lewis does precisely that in the last substantive chapter in the book, which covers the fate of various segregationist leaders and organizations in the upper South, notably Virginia and North Carolina.
--H-Net Book Review

…a reflective, concise analysis of massive resisters’ attempts to undermine the civil rights movement with anticommunist rhetoric. [Lewis] argues convincingly that the myriad uses and abuses of anticommunism by Southern segregationists suggests that these massive resisters were not the two-dimensional, homogenous, ignorant reactionaries that historians have too often made them out to be…The suggestion that the history of southern segregationist reactions to the civil rights movement needs further study is a good one, and Lewis offers a fine model.
--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

[A] fine . . . book.
--North Carolina Historical Review

Lewis has done extensive research in archival collections in these states and provides a fresh analysis of the leaders and methods of massive resistance in the upper South…Through his investigation of the upper South, Lewis adds to our knowledge of southern antiradicalism.
--Journal of Southern History

…provides a valuable look at the other side of the civil rights movement and the methods Massive Resistance used to thwart justice.
--Georgia Historical Quarterly

…a significant contribution to the new political history of the modern South and the nation in the era of the Cold War…deepens our understanding of sourthern racial conservatism, finding in massive resistance a level of complexity, rationality, and individual agency now routinely identified in the black freedom struggle.
--American Historical Review

… a useful book in the historiography of massive resistance and desegregation in the South.
--Southern Historian

…aims to present anti-Communism as a complicated phenomenon that constituted only one weapon in a larger arsenal of massive resistance strategies.
--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

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