Federal Policy or Racism?
By John Chodes (07/2017)
MOST PEOPLE KNOW something of Jim Crow and the segregated South — even if only from melodramatic television and cinematic depictions. Few, however, know how it came into being. The antebellum South was not racially segregated. It was a race-conscious society to be sure, but it was not segregated.
How did this post-war social arrangement come into being? Was it a spontaneous codification of Southern racism or can its origins be found elsewhere?
In Segregation, New York playwright and historian John Chodes makes the case that segregation was imported from and imposed on the South by the conquering North before it was adopted and institutionalised by the South.
If Chodes is correct, there is much more to the segregation story than the “virtuous North” against the “recalcitrant South” narrative that is at the root of the ongoing demonization of Dixie and the war on her flags and monuments.
Such insight could go a long way in providing new avenues of discussion to better diagnose and treat the social ills we continue to confront in contemporary America.
Also by John Chodes: Washington’s KKK: The Union League During Southern Reconstruction