Letters and Politics

The History of White Supremacy in South Carolina

With Dr. Janet Hudson, Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina Palmetto College and author of the book Entangled by White Supremacy: Reform in World War I-era South Carolina.  

About the book: 

In Entangled by White Supremacy, Hudson explains why white southerners failed to construct a progressive society while maintaining a racially segregated one.  Even though a cohort of middle-class, white southerners fought to create a progressive society for whites only, pursuing reform while simultaneously perpetuating white domination proved incongruent.   By examining South Carolina during and immediately after World War I, a period when African Americans comprised a numerical majority in the state, Hudson demonstrates how white reformers tried and failed to transcend the imperative of white supremacy.
World War I era prosperity fueled a sense of optimism and anticipation among South Carolinians—white and black. White reformers imagined improved education, expanded economic opportunity, and broad social progress in the context of preserving a political, economic, and social system that reserved power and privilege for whites and insured the subordination of African Americans.  Black reformers, however, channeled the feelings of hope instilled by a war that would “make the world safe for democracy” into efforts that challenged the structures of the status quo. Hudson’s narrative charts the interplay of black and white reformers as they pursued their competing expectations for progress and explains how every facet of the homefront war effort—the military draft, mobilization of civilians, new military training camps, labor shortages, black out migration, and the woman suffrage debate–became entangled by white supremacy.
Entangled by White Supremacy explains why white southerners failed to construct a progressive society by revealing the incompatibility of white reformers’ twin goals of maintaining white supremacy and achieving progressive reform. In addition, Hudson offers insight into the social history of South Carolina and the development of the state’s crucial role in the civil rights era to come.

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