Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by
Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South. By Kristina DuRocher. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011. Pp. viii, 237. $40.00 cloth)

In this slim but hard-hitting book, Kristina DuRocher offers a damning assessment of the socialization of white children in the Jim Crow South. Examining white Southerners' memoirs, advertisements for household products, school textbooks, parenting manuals, children's literature, toys and games, and dramatic productions, Raising Racists reveals the multiple interlocking and mutually reinforcing methods white Southerners used to perpetuate white supremacy in the post-Reconstruction South. "During the height of Jim Crow," DuRocher contends, "continued survival of segregation and white supremacy required the participation of whites of all ages, but especially those of the rising generation, in upholding a strict social order," based above all upon race distinctions but also resting upon a foundation of strict gender roles (p. 5). Recognizing the importance of training future generations, southern white parents, teachers, ministers, and public officials conducted a remarkably coherent and coordinated campaign to indoctrinate white youth in racism. For DuRocher, racial violence, particularly the highly stylized lynching ritual, was part and parcel of this effort not simply to subordinate black Southerners to white authority but also to instruct white youngsters in the theory and practice of white supremacy. "Segregation ultimately was a system enforced by violence," she argues, "both in small daily acts of injustice and in large public acts of brutality" (p. 8).

White children were central to both of these methods of preserving racial segregation and white supremacy. Reading DuRocher's account of the "seamless" socialization into racism, it is at times difficult to see how Jim Crow ever ended (p. 63). Yet, she argues, paradoxically, the intense focus on socializing children in racism reveals the weaknesses as well as its strengths of the system. At least some white children eventually rejected white supremacy, often when they encountered Jim Crow in its most violent form, the lynch [End Page 495] mob. "Racial brutality became the site in which boys and girls either upheld their youthful lessons by taking on their predetermined adult roles," she explains, "or rejected them and the larger system of white supremacy they represented" (p. 94). DuRocher relies heavily on the adult memoirs of the latter group, who ultimately joined black Southerners in a successful assault on racial segregation.

By focusing on the role of children in the Jim Crow South, Du-Rocher addresses many of the same themes as Jennifer Ritterhouse's Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race (2006). Both authors rely heavily on what DuRocher calls "racial awakening narratives" (p. 95). Both also call attention to what Ritterhouse calls "the significance of day-to-day patterns of domination and subordination" (p. 14). But while Ritterhouse includes both black and white children in her study, DuRocher focuses on white children. Moreover, while Ritterhouse focuses on the more subtle forms of racial socialization, or what she calls the "etiquette of race relations," DuRocher calls attention to the most blatant-and often violent-means of inducting the next generation into the culture of Jim Crow (p. 22). Finally, while both authors address both the successes and the failures of racial socialization, Ritterhouse gives more space to children's resistance to dominant racial ideologies, while DuRocher devotes most of her text to children's acceptance of racial segregation. A complete understanding of children's important role in both maintaining and challenging racial hierarchies must take both of these approaches into account. Interested readers should also consult Stephanie Shaw's What a Woman Ought To Be and To Do: Black Professional Women Workers During the Jim Crow Era (1996) for valuable insights into how black parents taught their daughters to survive Jim Crow and resist white supremacy. [End Page 496]

Anya Jabour

Anya Jabour is professor of history at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. She is the author of Scarlett's Sisters: Young Women in the Old South (2007) and Topsy-Turvy: How the Civil War Turned the World Upside Down for Southern Children (2010) and is currently working on a biography of the Kentucky-born reformer...