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The white backlash thesis that forms the core of much of Klarman's work depends on the idea that Brown led to white resistance.

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Cobb points out that the white reaction to Smith v. Allwright in belies much of Klarman's thesis, for the reaction to Smith prefigured the reaction to Brown right up to the threats of violence.

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When a local legislator in Schley County, Georgia, advised black voters to stay away from the polls in , he backed up his advice by standing in front of the polling place with a shotgun p. States that threatened, or proceeded, to close their schools after Brown could not easily shut down all voting, but the measures taken by many states to change election laws after Smith certainly should give historians a clue that the "backlash" did not emerge fully formed only after Brown.

While critics like Klarman argue, counterfactually, that the South was inexorably heading toward some sort of racial accommodation, Cobb responds that the white community in the South, led by racists and with a weak liberal contingent, was certainly not heading down that road with any speed, deliberate or otherwise. Cobb's final chapter brings his brief but effective set of lectures to a close by looking at the importance of the South in African-American identity.

Brown v. Board of Education was after all, about belonging. After Brown , black people belonged. By the turn of this century, more blacks in the South identified as Southerners than whites in the South.

Lowe on Cobb, 'The "Brown" Decision, Jim Crow, and Southern Identity'

The irony--one of many, assuredly--of the end of Jim Crow is that it brought a sense of loss to blacks. The sense of self and community that developed within the confines of the segregated system was undermined by a growing class awareness in the black community. As opportunities arose to move to suburbs, many middle-class blacks in the South flew away, leaving poor blacks to cope on their own. While the Civil Rights Movement, at least in some ways, had led to a consensus agenda among black Southerners, the shifting nature of the post-Civil Rights South has led to conflicting agendas within the black community.

For example, Cobb closes this chapter with a look at recent conflicts over the symbols of the white South that many middle-class blacks have seen fit to challenge, particularly the use of the Confederate flag. Many poor blacks see this as a waste of time.

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Cobb sees this "squabbling over the icons of [the] past" as an impediment to doing something to fashion "not just a new southern identity but a new southern reality" p. For anyone interested in southern historiography, this book offers a look at the thoughts of a leading practitioner and his take on the major themes of southern history. More importantly, this book is a good brief look at the issue of southern identity, where it came from and where it is headed.

For those seeking a quick start on the subject, Cobb's Mercer lectures are highly recommended, and will certainly leave the reader wanting to explore the subject even more. Cash, sociologist Howard Odem, and contemporary African American writers who are reimagining the South. Cobb's work draws upon the writing of many historians, and his notes provide for a rich bibliography. Highly recommended.

James C. Cobb has a distinguished record of helping to sort out the complexities of tradition and modernity in the American South. Cobb's prose is deft and graceful.

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Lowe on Cobb, 'The "Brown" Decision, Jim Crow, and Southern Identity' | H-South | H-Net

This is a book that deserves a wide audience and a careful reading, by soccer moms and neo-Confederates alike. He brings the long dead past into sharp focus. Cobb brings to his study a great and useful range of cultural history and wonderful detail.

Cobb is witty and always stimulating in bringing together issues of the South's cultural identity and its economic development-as no one else writing on the South does so well. People interested in the South and its place in the greater scheme of things need to pay attention to what Jim Cobb has to say.


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Readers who want a broad scholarly treatment of southern culture and its continuous state of change will find this book to be educational, balanced and interesting. Very few historians can turn their hand to both economic and cultural history but James Cobb is one of them.

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COBB is the B. Welcome to the new UGA Press website! Title Details Pages: Trim size: 6.