"Thanks to Sweeney's meticulous research and editing, readers now have a window into the grand strategy of segregation's defenders. David Mays tried to lead Virginia—and the South—with a keen legal mind and uncommon realism. Though he viewed some limited forms of desegregation as inevitable, he recognized the need of elected politicians to champion unrealistic schemes. Meanwhile, he strove to delay desegregation and to limit its extent—partly because he shared the racism of his segregationist comrades. But his struggles with those comrades may make readers wonder how decisive—or helpful—racism was in their cause. Before the 1960s even began, Mays appeared better prepared than most of his allies or enemies for a long war of attrition. Historical understanding of the unfinished business of civil rights will depend in large measure upon how one defines the issues—as Mays defined them, or as the simpler, more public spokesmen for the white South defined them."
—David L. Chappell, author of A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow
Mays chronicled the state’s bitter and divisive shift away from the Gray Commission’s proposal that school integration questions be settled at the local level. Instead, Virginia’s arch-segregationists, led by U.S. senator Harry F. Byrd, championed a monolithic defiance of integration at the highest state and federal levels. Many leading Virginians of the time appear in Mays’s diary, along with details of their roles in the battle against desegregation as it was fought in the media, courts, polls, and government back rooms.
Mays’s own racial attitudes were hardly progressive; yet his temperament and legal training put a relatively moderate public face on them. As James R. Sweeney notes, Mays’s differences with extremists were about means more than ends--about “not the morality of Jim Crow but the best tactics for defending it.”
List price: $46.95