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Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr Paperback – June 30, 1990


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Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr + The Education of a WASP (Wisconsin Studies in American Autobiography) + The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: The University of Alabama Press; Paperback edition (June 30, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817305173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817305178
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

This extraordinary memoir by Virginia Foster Durr....both chronicles the emancipation of a "southern lady" and probes the mind and mores of her native region with rare insight, disarming candor, and engaging wit. That Mrs. Durr is a person of keen intelligence and an astute observer of human affairs who has been at or near the center of diverse movements that shaped contemporary America and radically altered the South greatly enhances the historical significance of this work....A consummate storyteller skilled in the use of pithy vignettes, Mrs. Durr knows the people and history of the South and is acutely sensitive to the contradictions, ironies, and absurdities that have plagued the region. 'Generation after generation,' she remarked, 'the Southern people seem to think in terms that make no sense at all.' For those interested in attempting to make sense out of the South's encounter with the twentieth century, Virginia Durr's autobiography is essential reading." --Willard B. Gatewood, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, in The Journal of Southern History


"...No let-up in fascination, and with a gift for dramatic marrative that any novelist would envy." --The Washington Post Book World


"Perhaps the strongest impression one takes away from the story of Virginia Foster Durr is of her conflict--the constant skirmishing between her inherited desire to be a Southern aristocrat and her acquired devotion to the role of political activist. She is a woman whose dedication to cvil rights cannot be extricated from her allegiance to traditional class structiures. Her triumph is that despite the ambivalence, she made the commitment and chose to pay the price." --Wendy Gimbel, The Nation

About the Author

Hollinger F. Barnard is a native of Alabama and an attorney who lives in Birmingham.
 

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn M. Zeanah on September 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
For one who is interested in history, history of the Civil Rights Movement, especially in the state of Alabama this is a must read.

As she tells about her mother and father and of growing up in Alabama in the days of black workers in the home,she introduces someone that is not familiar with the south and the times to what that was like.

Viginia and her husband Clifford Durr, an attorney lived in Montgomery during the time that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. When they befriended Rosa their life was forever changed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sean Mulligan on April 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
Outside the Magic Circle gives the background on the life of Virginia Durr, and how she, a conventional southern belle ended up as a prominent Civil Rights activist. Mrs. Durr talks about how she began to question the ideas of white supremacy and Southern Traditions that she was brought up with. She mentions her brother in law Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and other Washington politicos such as Harold Ickes, and Eleanor Roosevelt that she met over the years.

She tells of how redbaiting damaged the fight for civil rights and how the red scare which started under Truman and helped to create McCarthy paralyzed America.

Although Mrs. Durr was happy about the abolition of segregation, she knew that integration didn't solve all of America's problems and that America is still divided by race and class.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike DePue, OFS on December 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
The "magic circle" in the title refers to the innate social advantage that a person receives simply by not being born as a person of color. This book explores why and how Durr came to step outside that circle. And stepping outside the circle meant not only losing white privilege, but also incurring the considerable familial, social, and economic stigma attached to violating "the Southern way of life."

Durr (1903-1999) moved comfortably among the big names and small fry, white and black, of the civil rights movement. On a more mundane level, somehow she managed room, board, and laundry services for a husband, five children, and a hoard of Freedom Riders and other protesters coming south to participate in the movement. Her most public moment occurred in 1954 when she was subpoenaed to appear before the Eastland subversive-activities subcommittee. She made the front pages of newspapers nationwide by sarcastically powdering her nose in front of the befuddled Eastland, instead of testifying.

This is an in-the-trenches, behind-the-scenes look at not only the civil rights movement but also the last most overt ramifications of the Peculiar Institution.
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Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr
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