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Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940 Paperback – June 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679776206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679776208
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Confronted with losing the distinction between free and slave, rebel Southerners created a common whiteness to solve their post-Civil War-era problems, argues Hale (history, Univ. of Virginia). They built a nationalism of denial, a world of white and black, of power and fear. In literature, the marketplace, and public spectacle, they crafted a collectivity based on segregation as a culture, making whiteness a racial identity and the American norm even while asserting that it was natural and not the product of human choice. And as Hale shows in this absorbing cultural history of racial construction, it wasn't just white Southerners who embraced the individual and collective identity of superiority but Northerners as well. Her thesis on the evolution of racial identity in this country is not entirely new but is greatly enhanced by her fine literary and cultural detail. This work complements Ian Haney-Lopez's White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (LJ 12/95) and David Theo Goldberg's Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning (Blackwell, 1993) and his more recent Racial Subjects: Writing on Race in America (Routledge, 1997). Recommended for collections on the South and U.S. culture, history, or society.AThomas Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

First-timer Hale's impressive examination of the Jim Crow Southan erudite intellectual survey of the sweeping social, historical, and economic trends that shaped white racial identity in opposition to blacknessis obscured by deadly academic jargon. The central myth Hale debunks is that whiteness is an organic, rather than manufactured, racial identitythat it is, somehow, the American norm. She identifies several large cultural forces that influenced white racial identity. The replacement of local merchandise with a national mass market, for example, gave rise to advertising (much of it created in the North) that manipulated southerners' nostalgic remembrance of loyal, subservient slaves by using African-American icons like Aunt Jemima to sell goods to a nationwide audiencepresumed to be entirely white. Advances in printing technology made it easier to distribute demeaning images of African-Americans, reinforcing negative stereotypes. Just as black racial identity was largely defined in relation to whiteness after Reconstruction, Hale asserts, whiteness was defined by blackness. Analyzing how whites of different economic and educational backgrounds shared a unified sense of supremacy, she fleshes out Ralph Ellison's famous declaration: ``Southern whites cannot walk, talk, sing, conceive of laws or justice, think of sex, love, the family or freedom without responding to the presence of Negroes.'' But in place of Ellison's simple eloquence, Hale raises an impenetrable thicket of theoretical jargon (terms like transhistorical, isomorphic, and dialectics rain like candy from a Mardi Gras float). She glosses the Civil War's outcome thus: ``Union victory delegitimated that nascent nationalist collectivity, the Confederacy.'' Furthermore, her contention that ``this corresponding depth of racial obsession occurred only with passing'' for African-Americans spectacularly understates the totality with which whites controlled black life during Jim Crow's dark reign. One senses in Hale's (American History/Univ. Of Virginia) cogent, encyclopedic scholarship the debut of an important new intellectual voiceall the more reason to regret the cloaking of provocative thinking in the fusty duds of academic prose. (8 pages b&w photos) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Terry A. Green on June 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Lately, I find myself rereading books that challenge my understanding (not to mention my preconceived notions) of race history, but none more than Grace Elizabeth Hale's "Making Whiteness." This gem of a book ultimately defines the construction of race in the early 20th Century South and is written in a style reminiscent of Du Bois and Langston Hughes. It is an intelligent and informative examination of "class exploitation, disempowerment and racial privilege" that dares to reimagine the concept of racial integration. To quote from the book: "We need to remember that difference is created within, not before, our communities; that difference is created within, and not before, our histories; that difference is created within, and not before, ourselves." Over the past few months, I have amassed several books on race, segregation, Reconstruction, lynchings, Jim Crow, etc., and I consider "Making Whiteness" a cornerstone in my library.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is not an easy book to read either intellectually or psychologically, but this is not an easy subject to communicate, either. However difficult the academic vocabulary of the author, the fact remains that her concepts and ideas are clearly presented, the chapters well-formed, and sections thoughtfully connected. Dr. Hale's explanation of segregation, how it was developed, maintained and why, is logical, well-documented, and profound. She effectively communicates how completely pervasive, paradoxical, and pathological, segregation was. THe book also communicates how everyone, not just southerners and not just men, contributed to the culture of segregation and why. In short, Dr. Hale finally presents the BIG Picture: the reasons why "equal rights" aren't really equal, why prejudice is still rampant, and why affirmative action isn't enough. For anyone who wants to really understand segregation, the civil rights movement, and race relations in late 20th and early 21st century America, this book is a must read. IT is thought-provoking and profound.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a valuable contribution to a growing subfield that is finally examining the social construction of whiteness. I believe Jacobson's Whiteness of a Different Color to be superior, and honestly, Hale needs to lose some of the academic jargon. But overall, this is a well-researched study. I do take issue, however, with the introduction when Hale claims that whites "were not the victims of racism." Not the chief victims certainly, but victims nonetheless. Hasn't the South's reputation for backwardness and bigotry damaged its economic opportunities, and made "the southern redneck" the new villain of post-1960s pop culture? What all this emphasis on race discrimination does is to de-emphasize the class discrimination that harms whites and blacks both. To say that Billy Bob living in his trailer home has benefitted from the privilege of whiteness is farcical. Not that Hale says this, but isn't it time that more serious scholars examine the way tht race acts as a chimera to divert us from deeper divisions of class and nationality?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There has been a lot of ink spilled on examining the nature of race and race relations in the south. The subject has been approached at every possible angle. That being said Hale's book stands out in that it is both well written in a clear and understandable manner and looks at race and how it has been defined from the perspective of how whiteness is defined and the role consumer culture has played in this. The book presents race not so much as a class based category or but more as a product that can be consumed and is defined by the use of consumer products. Hale state that while the races had to associate with each other in close quarters due to the nature of life in the south and that class boundaries were sometime transcended by well to do blacks the nature of consumption was still used as a demarcation line for determining race with the public consumption of goods and services such as public transportation serving as a tool to make the boundary of race. The chapter on the spectacle of lynching was an especially interesting ( and very hard to read) part where the author approaches the issue from a very different perspective that most others. The book argues that the definition of lynching and the spectacle it presented was contested and that what was once a tool of cementing southern white solidarity would eventually be turned into a tool of alienation and used against the very Jim Crow culture that once celebrated it. This is by no means a cheerful book and straddles the line between academic book and one written for popular audiences. But I do recommend it for anyone interested in the history of the South and race in general.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By JohnB624@aol.com on May 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Hale has written an excellent work that treats the psycho-social construction of racial predjudice in America. This work is must reading for all those interested in riding their minds, and by association, our nation of the politics of racial pollerization. Her vivid treatment of barbarious lynching will leave the reader either profoundly angry or demonstratively abashed about what horror we are capable of her in the United States. The President's national commission on race would do well to read and openly discuss this grounbreaking and poignant volume.
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