Synopses & Reviews
The decade following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision saw white southerners mobilize in massive resistance to racial integration. Most segregationists conceded that ultimately they could only postpone the demise of Jim Crow. Some militant whites, however, believed it possible to win the civil rights struggle. Histories of the black freedom struggle, when they mention these racist zealots at all, confine them to the margin of the story.
These extremist whites are caricatured as ineffectual members of the lunatic fringe. Civil rights activists, however, saw them for what they really were: calculating, dangerous opponents prepared to use terrorism in their stand against reform. To dismiss white militants is to underestimate the challenge they posed to the movement and, in turn, the magnitude of civil rights activists’ accomplishments. The extremists helped turn massive resistance into a powerful political phenomenon. While white southern elites struggled to mobilize mass opposition to racial reform, the militants led entire communities in revolt.
Rabble Rousers turns traditional top-down models of massive resistance on their head by telling the story of five far-right activists—Bryant Bowles, John Kasper, Rear Admiral John Crommelin, Major General Edwin Walker, and J. B. Stoner—who led grassroots rebellions. It casts new light on such contentious issues as the role of white churches in defending segregation, the influence of anti-Semitism in southern racial politics, and the divisive impact of class on white unity. The flame of the far right burned brilliantly but briefly. In the final analysis, violent extremism weakened the cause of white southerners. Tactical and ideological tensions among massive resisters, as well as the strength and unity of civil rights activists, accelerated the destruction of Jim Crow.
“Webb is a talented historian who is not afraid to tackle big and difficult questions. In Rabble Rousers, he introduces a distinctive and strikingly new approach to the history of militant segregationists. The result is a major contribution to our understanding of the post–World War II South.”—Raymond Arsenault, author of The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America
"Clive Webb meticulously documents how white supremacists tried to crush democratic rights in the name of freedom in the cold war era, their racial terrorism encouraged by mainstream conservatives whose coded racist rhetoric pushed working-class whites to vote and act against their own self-interests. Be prepared to be greatly disturbed by this chronicle of a continuing problem in American history."—Michael Honey, author of Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign
About the Author
Clive Webb is a reader in North American history at the University of Sussex. He is the author of Fight against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, coauthor of Race in the American South: From Slavery to Civil Rights, and editor of Massive Resistance: Southern Opposition to the Second Reconstruction. His forthcoming book (coauthored with William D. Carrigan) is Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence against Mexicans in the United States, 1848 to 1928.
Table of Contents
PART 1 Outside Agitators: Bryant Bowles and John Kasper
Chapter 1 A Blueprint for Rebellion: Bryant Bowles and the Milford
School Crisis 15
Chapter 2 A Collapse of Law and Order: John Kasper and Segregationist
Resistance in Clinton 39
Chapter 3 Into the Abyss: The Nashville School Crisis 72
PART 2 Never- Ending War: John Crommelin and Edwin Walker
Chapter 4 Fighting the Hidden Force: John Crommelin and the Defense
of Alabama 103
Chapter 5 Assumption of Command: Military Officers and
Massive Resistance 134
PART 3 Southern Fuehrer: J. B. Stoner
Chapter 6 “We Don’t Believe in Tolerance”: Terrorist Responses to
Civil Rights Reform 153
Chapter 7 Fighting for Freedom by Defending the Enemy: Stoner and
the Hate Speech Issue 184