Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reviewed: Jacoway on Little Rock

Alex Lichtenstein reviews Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation, by Elizabeth Jacoway, in the Chicago Tribune, here. Thanks to Cliopatria for the tip. The Trib requires registration, but it's free. Here's just a bit:

Prior to 1957, Jacoway reminds us, "Little Rock enjoyed an earned reputation as one of the most progressive cities in the South with regard to race relations." This did nothing to stem the flood of acrimonious racism when the damn burst in September 1957. Given the prevailing climate of hostility to school integration, even moderate and well-meaning administrators inclined to implement the Brown decision, like Supt. Virgil Blossom, initiated "a flawed attempt to achieve white acceptance by retaining as much segregation as possible."
Jacoway recounts the story of black determination facing white intransigence, but the focus of her tale is the timid white moderates all too ready to cave in to the extremists rather than confront boldly the central issue of their time and place. As Jacoway shows, Little Rock's white political and economic elite resided safely in an enclave not threatened by the specter of integration, a fact that "exacerbated class conflict." In the end, the city's beleaguered civic elite proved hesitant to confront deep-set white anxieties about miscegenation, which were "the vital center of the southern resistance to desegregation."
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