Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"In Search of Another Country"

Joseph Crespino, a history professor at Emory University, is the author of the new book, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution.

He applied the "page 69 test" to the book and reported the following:
Page 69 puts us in the middle of white Mississippians’ confusion about how to reconcile their Christian belief and their segregationist practice. Segregationists made two very different religious arguments about how to justify Jim Crow. Some believed that segregation was designed by God as a way of keeping peace between two fundamentally antagonistic races. Others argued that segregation was a political matter that had nothing to do with religion. This argument was pitched toward liberal ministers and Christian groups that preached about the moral imperative for racial justice. This latter argument would, over time, predominate.

This page is representative of the rest of the book in that I’m trying to understand the world as white Mississippians in the civil rights era saw it. My book argues that this is a surprisingly important thing to do. The common view is that Mississippi in the 1960s was—as a famous phrase of day put it — a “closed society,” and white Mississippians were the most backward looking members of a region that was decidedly out of step with modern America. I argue, however, that since the 1960s white Mississippians have been significant contributors to a broad conservative countermovement in American politics. And to understand that countermovement, we need to take a group like white Mississippians much more seriously than historians typically do.

But page 69 is not entirely representative. The religious view of conservative white Mississippians is just one theme of the book. I’m also interested in competing strategies among segregationist leaders — how some influential white leaders abandoned the politics of “massive resistance” in favor of a strategic accommodation that allowed them to preserve important priorities. And I look at how conservative white Mississippians linked their interests with those of other conservative white Americans. On some issues — like their opposition to the de facto/de jure distinction in the 1964 Civil Rights Act or their support for private evangelical schools — white Mississippians led the way on subjects that would become rallying points for conservative activists in the 1970s and 80s.
Learn more about In Search of Another Country at the Princeton University Press website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue