The Politics of Whiteness
Race, Workers, and Culture in the Modern South

Michelle Brattain

"A work of major importance . . . Will take its place alongside the best studies on labor and race in the twentieth-century South." —H-South


"This study takes working-class conservatism seriously and refuses to wave it away as false consciousness. It offers a full account of the role of whiteness and white privilege in structuring such conservatism, and intriguing hints as to the role of local boosterism and gender politics in generating both quietism and activism."
—David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class

"A very fine piece of historical scholarship, written with verve, grace, and clarity. It is clearly a significant contribution to the history of race and of southern labor and politics."
—Deborah Gray White, author of Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994

"A work of major importance . . . Will take its place alongside the best studies on labor and race in the twentieth-century South."
—Paul Harvey, H-South

"[An] important study . . . exhaustively researched . . . her story has profound implications"
South Carolina Historical Magazine

"Students of Georgia politics and history or of race and labor in the modern era will want to read this fine case study."
American Historical Review

"A compelling, thoroughly researched monograph with a serious argument worth engaging."
Journal of American History

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The Politics of Whiteness presents the first sustained analysis of white racial identity among workers in what was the South’s largest industry for much of the twentieth century: textiles. Michelle Brattain, who grounds her work in a study of Rome, Georgia, from the Great Depression to the 1970s, adds a significant new dimension to a field that before had focused primarily on antiunionism, paternalism, or mill village culture. Many scholars have argued that racial tensions kept black and white workers from seeing their shared interests. While that may be so, says Brattain, Jim Crow and southern industry also functioned to give white workers very different and racially specific interests. Most important, Brattain uncovers considerable white working-class political influence and activism, which, by re-creating and defending southern institutions grounded in the idea of racial difference, helped pave the way for resistance to the civil rights movement.
Trim size: 6 x 9

Read more about the textile industry at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


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Michelle Brattain is an associate professor of history at Georgia State University.