When the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in its 1954/1955 Brown v. Board of Education decision, segregationists across the South formed a resistance movement, known by its self-designation as Massive Resistance. A masculinist rhetoric and the concomitant ideal of white womanhood has often led to the assumption that white women played a passive part in the defence of white supremacy. In contrast, white women were self-conscious agents who were motivated by an everyday culture of white supremacy and status concerns that accentuated whiteness as property and what W.E.B. Du Bois has termed ‘the public and psychological wage of whiteness.’
This talk will analyse the social backgrounds, strategies, and actions of two working-class white supremacist women’s groups in Little Rock and New Orleans in the late 1950s and early 1960s and show how they strategically employed gendered rhetoric to transgress social boundaries and to keep school desegregation crises alive.
Assistant Professor | History of North America and Its Transcultural Context at Ruhr University