Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama

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Overview

Shortly after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Ku Klux Klan—determined to keep segregation as the way of life in Alabama—staged a resurgence, and the strong-armed leadership of governor George C. Wallace, who defied the new civil rights laws, empowered the Klan's most violent members. As Wallace’s power grew, however, blacks began fighting back in the courthouses and schoolhouses, as did young southern lawyers like Charles “Chuck” Morgan, who became the ACLU’s southern director; Morris ...

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Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama

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Overview

Shortly after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Ku Klux Klan—determined to keep segregation as the way of life in Alabama—staged a resurgence, and the strong-armed leadership of governor George C. Wallace, who defied the new civil rights laws, empowered the Klan's most violent members. As Wallace’s power grew, however, blacks began fighting back in the courthouses and schoolhouses, as did young southern lawyers like Charles “Chuck” Morgan, who became the ACLU’s southern director; Morris Dees, who cofounded the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Bill Baxley, Alabama attorney general, who successfully prosecuted the bomber of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and legally halted some of Wallace’s agencies designed to slow down integration.

 

Fighting the Devil in Dixie is the first book to tell this story in full, from the Klan’s kidnappings, bombings, and murders of the 1950s to Wallace running for his fourth term as governor in the early 1980s, asking forgiveness and winning with the black vote.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Veteran Alabama journalist and prolific author Greenhaw takes readers on a journey behind the scenes of the civil rights struggle in Alabama. Tapping into his personal experiences growing up in segregated south Alabama and his connections to those on both sides of the struggle, he weaves the story of individuals, both black and white, who worked at the local level to banish segregation from their home state. He includes Morris Dees, cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center; civil rights attorney Charles Morgan Jr.; and Bill Baxley, who as Alabama's attorney general in the 1970s prosecuted Klansman Robert Chambliss for his part in the Birmingham church bombing. Against the backdrop of national events are the personal stories—Greenhaw writes of watching in disgust as his cousins marched in a KKK demonstration; he left his church over the congregation's treatment of black guests and its firing of the minister for inviting them. VERDICT While Greenhaw's work is a scholarly account based on interviews, court records, and newspaper articles, his journalistic style adds readability and poignancy. Overall this is highly recommended; an important addition to the civil rights record.—Lisa A. Ennis, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.
Kirkus Reviews

An eyewitness record of the early brave incursions into the entrenched white racism in the Deep South.

A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., whose cousins could be seen marching in the local Ku Klux Klan parades in the 1950s, former Alabama Journal and Montgomery Adviser journalist Greenhaw (A Generous Life: W. James Samford, Jr., 2009, etc.) made a stand when he was 16 years old against bigotry in his own church and family. From 1965 to 1976, he covered politics and civil rights for theJournal, during the period when the Klan had galvanized violently after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. George Wallace crusaded across the country with chants of "Segregation Forever!" and Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. The author moves more or less chronologically, beginning with the fallout from Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and the "Not Guilty" verdict delivered on two Klansmen accused of the bombing of Montgomery's First Baptist Church in 1957, and concluding with Wallace's seeking forgiveness from the congregation of King's former church in 1982. Greenhaw navigates through the explosive events that spurred a sea change in race relations, encompassing both the villains—e.g., Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss, who supplied the explosives responsible for many of the bombings, including the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963—and the numerous heroes, such as the sole early black lawyers in Selma, J.L. Chestnut Jr. and Orzell Billingsley; attorney Charles Morgan in Birmingham; the intrepid Freedom Fighters, demonstrators and student writers for theSouthern Courier; and Morris "Bubba" Dees Jr., who moved from representing racists to ardent civil-rights lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The author skillfully weaves a rich historical tapestry from his deeply engaged, firsthand observations.

Impressively captures stark, stunning history in the making.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569763452
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 988,430
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

For nearly 17 years, Wayne Greenhaw covered Alabama state government, the Wallace administrations, and civil rights for The Alabama Journal and The Montgomery Advertiser. From 1965 until 1977, he interviewed governors, civil rights leaders, and Ku Klux Klansmen throughout the South. Many of these stories were published in The New York Times and in national magazines. In 2006 he was presented the Harper Lee Award as Alabama’s distinguished writer. Mr. Greenhaw passed away in spring 2011.

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