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Defining the Peace

Defining the Peace: World War II Veterans, Race, and the Remaking of Southern Political Tradition

Jennifer E. Brooks
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  • Book Info
    Defining the Peace
    Book Description:

    In the aftermath of World War II, Georgia's veterans--black, white, liberal, reactionary, pro-union, and anti-union--all found that service in the war enhanced their sense of male, political, and racial identity, but often in contradictory ways. InDefining the Peace, Jennifer E. Brooks shows how veterans competed in a protracted and sometimes violent struggle to determine the complex character of Georgia's postwar future.Brooks finds that veterans shaped the key events of the era, including the gubernatorial campaigns of both Eugene Talmadge and Herman Talmadge, the defeat of entrenched political machines in Augusta and Savannah, the terrorism perpetrated against black citizens, the CIO's drive to organize the textile South, and the controversies that dominated the 1947 Georgia General Assembly. Progressive black and white veterans forged new grassroots networks to mobilize voters against racial and economic conservatives who opposed their vision of a democratic South. Most white veterans, however, opted to support candidates who favored a conservative program of modernization that aimed to alter the state's economic landscape while sustaining its anti-union and racial traditions.As Brooks demonstrates, World War II veterans played a pivotal role in shaping the war's political impact on the South, generating a politics of race, anti-unionism, and modernization that stood as the war's most lasting political legacy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0359-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-1)
  5. 1: Introduction: World War II Veterans and the Politics of Postwar Change in Georgia
    (pp. 3-12)

    When georgia’s servicemen left for the combat theaters of World War II, few anticipated how profound an impact this experience would have on their lives. By the war’s end, however, many of Georgia’s veterans felt sure they knew exactly what their military service had meant. The extreme personal sacrifice made by Doyle Combs, a black veteran, fueled a deep determination to seize the political rights that he had just fought in a Jim Crow army to defend. “I went in combat, and I lost a portion of my body for this country,” Combs declared, “when I didn’t have no right...

  6. 2: The Ballot Must Be Our Weapon: Black Veterans and the Politics of Racial Change
    (pp. 13-36)

    On march 31, 1946, C.W. Greenlea, director of a black United Service Organizations (uso) center in Atlanta, Georgia, announced the imminent deployment of almost one thousand black veterans of the Second World War to the doorsteps of the city’s black citizenry. Their mission was to encourage black registration and voting in preparation for the upcoming Fifth District congressional and gubernatorial primaries in Georgia. Sponsored by a new organization of recently returned black veterans named the Georgia Veterans League (gvl), the door-to-door canvass promised to be a historic civic event. “A huge ‘task force’ of Negro ex-servicemen” in partial service uniforms,...

  7. 3: The Question of Majority Rule: White Veterans and the Politics of Progressive Reform
    (pp. 37-74)

    Early in 1947, a white ex-Marine chaplain from south Georgia named Joseph Rabun made a ringing declaration for democracy in the halls of the Georgia state capitol. A Baptist minister from McRae in Telfair County, Rabun had served in some of the worst battles of the Pacific war. Now he found himself at a public hearing testifying against a bill to reinstate an all-white Democratic primary in Georgia. His cause, as he made abundantly clear, was a moral one directly connected to the meaning of World War II. “If I remained silent when my Negro neighbors were being politically beaten,...

  8. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  9. 4: Is This What We Fought the War For? Union Veterans and the Politics of Labor
    (pp. 75-112)

    In 1946 william shiflett returned from a two-year stint in the army during World War II to the textile mill in Rome, Georgia, where he had previously worked for five years. Anchor Rome Mill, however, was not the same place it had been, nor was Shiflett the same man. During the war, workers in the plant had organized Local 787 of the Textile Workers Union of America, cio (twua), and Shiflett returned just as new contract negotiations with Anchor Rome management reached a critical point. He promptly joined the union and won immediate election as shop steward for the spooling...

  10. 5: We Are Not Radicals, Neither Are We Reactionaries: Good Government Veterans and the Politics of Modernization
    (pp. 113-138)

    Lieutenant colonel John J. Flynt wasted little time when he returned to his home in Griffin, Georgia, in 1945 after many months overseas. Having earned a Bronze Star in the European theater, he resumed his former position as assistant U.S. district attorney for north Georgia. Within a few short months, Flynt won the Spalding County seat in the Georgia statehouse. Shortly after this electoral victory, he appeared as a guest columnist in theAtlanta Constitution, an opportunity Flynt used to explain what Georgia’s veterans wanted and why people should listen to them.

    Over 60 percent of Georgia’s World War I...

  11. 6: Hitler Is Not Dead but Has Found Refuge in Georgia: The General Assembly of 1947 and the Limits of Progress
    (pp. 139-168)

    As good government veterans elected throughout the state in 1946 prepared to embark on new postwar political careers, Eugene Talmadge passed into the twilight of his own. Haggard and wan even before the primary election that summer, the intensity of the campaign ruined Talmadge’s already fragile health. Proud of his victory, Talmadge nonetheless confided to a friend that the 1946 race “cost me ten years of my life.”¹ Indeed, Talmadge died in December 1946 before his formal inauguration, leaving open the question of who could legitimately claim to be governor. A storm of protest erupted when Eugene’s son, Herman, already...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 169-172)

    The turbulent and even curious political conflicts of the postwar 1940s wracked Georgia’s postwar stability, leaving a political landscape undeniably marked by the impact of World War II. Challenges to a smooth reconversion to peace came from many quarters: from black citizens fed up with their second-class status and determined to assert their rights of citizenship whenever and however they could; from workers convinced that union membership represented the best ticket to higher wages and protection from the whims of management; from middle-class whites who demanded a more dynamic and rational response by state and local governments to the economic...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 173-234)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-250)
  15. Index
    (pp. 251-256)