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Unlikely DissentersWhite Southern Women in the Fight for Racial Justice, 1920-1970$
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Anne Stefani

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060767

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060767.001.0001

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After Brown, Part One

After Brown, Part One

The Tactics of Respectability

(p.97) 3 After Brown, Part One
Unlikely Dissenters

Anne Stefani

University Press of Florida

This chapter analyzes the evolution of the first generation of women racial reformers after the 1954 Brown decision. Brown marked a turning point in the history of these “lady activists” for it led them to condemn segregation publicly, putting them at odds with their communities and leaders. Although their support of the Brown decision placed them among radicals in the eyes of segregationists, these women continued to rely on suasion and a non-confrontational approach to win the hearts and minds of their white fellow southerners. Churchwomen continued to advocate racial equality in the name of God's will. The chapter also examines the key contribution of the older generation to racial progress, through organizations such as the Fellowship of the Concerned, Councils on Human Relations, and local and state Leagues of Women Voters. It then focuses on “save-the-school” groups created by white women in Little Rock, Atlanta, and New Orleans between 1958 and 1961. It finally demonstrates that all these women developed similar tactics during the desegregation crisis, playing the cards of respectability, moderation, and ladyhood to confront segregationist male leaders successfully. At the same time, it analyzes the sense of empowerment that the crisis brought to many of them.

Keywords:   Women racial reformers, Brown decision, Suasion, Churchwomen, Racial equality, Fellowship of the Concerned, Councils on Human Relations, League of Women Voters, School desegregation, Ladyhood

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