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The Shame of Southern Politics

The Shame of Southern Politics: Essays and Speeches

With an Introduction by Dan T. Carter
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Shame of Southern Politics
    Book Description:

    As a leader of the Southern Regional Council in the early 1960s, and later as executive director of the Field Foundation, Leslie Dunbar's advocacy and behind-the-scenes organizing made him one of the most significant (but least recognized) people in the civil rights movement. His essays and speeches often helped set the agenda. They also continue to offer a prophetic voice in our struggle to create a more humane and fully integrated America.

    The Shame of Southern Politicsgathers for the first time fourteen of Dunbar's essays and speeches on the courage and values of the southern civil rights movement. Dunbar's selected writings, ranging from the classic 1961 essay "The Annealing of the South" to a post-September 11th meditation, give eloquent voice to the best of America's liberal tradition. A new essay entitled "1968" offers Dunbar's unique take on that transformational year.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5727-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Introduction (2001)
    (pp. viii-xxii)
    Dan Carter

    For much of the last quarter century, the opening and closing bells of Wall Street have been the pacemaker of the American political and economic system. The unapologetic boast of Gordon Gekko (“Greed is good”) may have been replaced by President George Bush’s focus group-tested slogan of scripted compassion (“Leave no child behind”), but the political response to September 11, 2001, was a chilling object lesson in what really counts in today’s politics. While the bagpipes were still playing at the funerals of middle-class public servants—police officers and firemen who had given the last full measure—the Washington lobbyists...

  4. Preface (2001)
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  5. 1 The Annealing of the South 1961
    (pp. 1-14)

    Now the land of fitful somnolence and passion nears the trap of reason. Even while it lashes at its captor, an air of anticipation courses pleasurably through the South at the prospect of the end of the long chase. The South is about to go down again in defeat, and can hardly wait.

    The region has been the place where American error and excess go to retire. The most enormous of all, Negro enslavement and peonage, came here to live out its suffering. But this was not the only one. That part of the old frontier spirit which was crude...

  6. 2 Civil Rights and Civil Duties 1962
    (pp. 15-24)

    I feel sure that the planners of this meeting had no expectation that it would occur at such a time as this. The years of the cold war have taught each of us an ability to live, in some way or another, with constant tension. Not before this last week, however, have we been so close to what has been dreaded for so long.

    I think we cannot but wonder what effects war, or an intensification of the cold war, would have on the struggle for civil rights with which we are engaged. I shall not try any public speculation...

  7. 3 The Changing Mind of the South: The Exposed Nerve 1964
    (pp. 25-42)

    I premise that there has been such a thing as a southern folk, clearly if not definably more a single people than any other Americans, composed of two grades of persons, both of whom have been truly part of the same folk, and yet one of whom, the Negro Southerners, because they were ruled by the other did not sense and hallow as did the whites their folk integrity and their distinctness from the rest of the nation. And because white Southerners have consciously known that they were set apart, they have struggled to define themselves, have striven for sell-identity,...

  8. 4 An Excerpt from My Foreword to Climbing Jacob’s Ladder: The Arrival of Negroes in Southern Politics 1967
    (pp. 43-48)

    Some would say—with much reason—that the civil right movement came to its end between the summer of 1965 and the spring of 1966. . . . [A] variety of suddenly congregating influences . . . combined to weaken the movement from within while reducing the nation’s tolerance of and interest in it and its mission.

    In rough chronological order there was first the passage in July of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which, following on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, represented the fulfillment of the prime articulated demands (notthe goals) of the movement, and also...

  9. 5 Remarks to the National Civil Liberties Clearing House 1968
    (pp. 49-58)

    It is not often that a private liberal is under a duty to acknowledge that politicians have been more right, indeed more constant, than he in serving the right. That is, I think, our duty now, because the small band of Senators who nourished the 1968 civil rights bill until they finally won for it an overwhelming majority in the Senate did so with very little stimulus or encouragement from the rest of us. These Senators were superb.

    Humble as we must be in the face of their example, it is nevertheless worthwhile to ask if we private liberals have...

  10. 6 Remarks to the Mississippi Council on Human Relations 1975
    (pp. 59-68)

    I am glad to be here, with old friends and new, and to freeload this way on what is one of the sustaining forces of American democracy in the 1970s, by which I mean the stubborn struggle of you free people of Mississippi to make a good state and a good place to live. It has often seemed to me the last few years that America has a great contest going on within itself, and how it may turn out I don’t know. I do know that never in our lifetime have there been so many and such strong powers,...

  11. 7 Remarks to the Southern Regional Council 1977
    (pp. 69-80)

    In the closing months of the pre-atomic age, the Southern Regional Council was formed out of conviction that race was the central issue of the South. Though it may seem to us that nearly all else has changed during the hectic decades since, I doubt that race has yet yielded its place, though the problems it shapes and propels grow in their own various ways.

    Nor has it yielded its place of primary importance elsewhere in the world. Even our own attention is, these days, more concentrated on the grim racial conflicts of southern Africa than on the still harsh...

  12. 8 The South: Then and Now 1978
    (pp. 81-92)

    I have puzzled long, too long and fretfully perhaps, over what to say today, and the tone in which to east it. I wish I could promise, or even slyly hint to you, that out of all that puzzling has come something valuable and usable by you, but I can’t; I am not characteristically a self-deprecating man but the bare truth is that I don’t know how to put into words my sense, my intuition, about these days we’re living. I have been asked to speak on the topic, “The South: Then and Now” and I (col much more sure...

  13. 9 Excerpts from Minority Report 1987
    (pp. 93-106)

    Poverty poses three sorts of problems for American policy. First and basic, what rank, what degree of importance, do we give to it; second, how do we define government’s degree of responsibility for remedy; and third, what solutions do we shape, assuming we have not concluded that only the poor themselves are responsible for their own condition.

    Until the nineteenth century, poverty was hardly even a topic; in political theory. In the wake of the French Revolution, one after another writer turned to it, leading to the work of Marx and of the Fabia ns and English idealists late in...

  14. 10 Not by Law Alone: Brown in Retrospect 1994
    (pp. 107-120)

    Brown v. Board of Educationwas 40 tumultuous years ago. It had come 40 years after the start of World War I, which seemed then as it does now a darkly ancient time, whereas 1954 feels, at least to me, hardly more than the day before yesterday. Our own years gallop by like thoroughbreds. A lot, in truth a lot that is awful, has happened these 40 years; much too that can be cherished.

    For the world and for the United States, less though than in that previous 40 years. Not so for the South. Neither measured by data nor...

  15. 11 What to Make of the Old Civil Rights Movement: A Partial and Partisan View 2000
    (pp. 121-140)

    Asked to write “a retrospect and prospect on civil rights,” I demurred. I have had to realize that I am not able, especially as to prospects, to offer anything like a definitive theme. Racism, not civil rights—which is first of all a legal value—is today’s challenge, and, like most commentators, I have not found the way to get hold of that protean phenomenon. So I settle for seeing matters not in the whole, but in bits and pieces. At its best, the South’s civil rights movement held a commitment to non-violence, and a common thread in an...

  16. 12 1968: A Reflection 2001–2002
    (pp. 141-168)

    Some years seize our memories. For multitudes throughout the world, 1968 must have been such a year. Certainly it was for me. Kvents that were shattering the public intersected with and in measure changed my own family's prospects. So amidst epic storms many individuals, like us, were wagering their own hopes lor better lives.

    I want to recount some of that. I seldom like memoirs and shall do my best to minimize the personal in this essay. I don’t know, however, of any better way in a short space to probe for the special quality ol 1968 than to write...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 169-176)