There have always been men and women of understanding, who sometimes prevailed and often led us by peaceful means to that change that advanced the lot of everyone. If we are to solve the problem of race in the way it should be solved, it is those people who must lead. And they can learn much, if they will, from Professor Odum's survey.
Race and Rumors of Race: The American South in the Early Fortiesby Howard W. Odum
In the early 1940s, rumors of impending and actual race wars circulated furiously among white Southerners. Apparently with the aid of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, liberals, Yankees, New Dealers, and "bad niggers," once docile African-Americans were stockpiling ice picks in Charleston, ordering carton loads of pistols and rifles from the Sears catalog in Memphis,
In the early 1940s, rumors of impending and actual race wars circulated furiously among white Southerners. Apparently with the aid of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, liberals, Yankees, New Dealers, and "bad niggers," once docile African-Americans were stockpiling ice picks in Charleston, ordering carton loads of pistols and rifles from the Sears catalog in Memphis, and plotting insurrection against whites at every turn. Alarmed—and fascinated—by these rumors, the University of North Carolina sociologist Howard W. Odum set out to collect and catalog them. He approached professors at various southern universities and asked them to conduct polls among their students to see if they had heard about the pistols, rifles, ice picks, and "Eleanor Clubs," and received thousands of reports confirming that, indeed, they had. The result of Odum's research is Race and Rumors of Race, which first appeared in 1943. Providing a window into white perceptions of race and racial tension in the South during the Second World War, the book locates the roots of the civil rights movement and helps us to understand the complex forces that shaped postwar American politics.
Based as it is on some two thousand rumors, the book offers real insight into the nature of the so-called race problem. Because it is the result of carefully planned and honestly conducted research, the author's suggestions as to 'the way out and the way on' are exactly what they had to be.
The kind of thinking that in 'white' America serves to maintain the mythology of 'race' with particular reference to the Negro is ably and illuminatingly dealt with by Professor Odum.
- Johns Hopkins University Press
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Meet the Author
Howard W. Odum (1884-1954), "one of the South's best known social scientists in the first half of the twentieth century," according to one biographer, taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of more than 15 books, including American Epoch, Southern Pioneers in Social Interpretation, and Southern Regions of the United States.
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