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J A N U A R Y 2 0 0 8 65 History and Hope in the Heart of Dixie: Scholarship, Activism, and Wayne Flynt in the Modern South. Edited by Gordon E. Harvey, Richard D. Starnes, and Glenn Feldman. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006. xii, 224 pp. $50.00 (cloth). ISBN 0-8173-1507-1. $24.95 (paper). ISBN 0-81735320 -8. Edited by three of his former graduate students, History and Hope in the Heart of Dixie is, as the subtitle makes clear, a tribute to the scholarship and activism of Wayne Flynt. Flynt, as surely all readers of The Alabama Review know, taught at Auburn University for many years and is still an extremely productive and important historian of Alabama and the South. He has coauthored a history of Alabama and published three books of his own on the state—Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites (Tuscaloosa, 1989), Alabama Baptists (Tuscaloosa, 1998), and most recently, Alabama in the Twentieth Century (Tuscaloosa, 2004). His studies of poor whites and seminal articles establishing the existence of a social gospel tradition within white southern Protestantism constitute his most important contributions to the historiography of the South. They add needed complexity to historians’ understanding of its past. Although the editors’ introduction discusses and a few of the other essays mention Flynt’s scholarship, the book devotes far more attention to Flynt’sactivism.FlynthasspokentocountlesscivicgroupsacrossAlabama, written editorials for many of the state’s local newspapers, and organized or joined a host of reform organizations and efforts in Alabama. He served as a court-appointed mediator in the battle for equity in school funding and later campaigned to have his and other churches voluntarily pay property taxes to support public education, reasoning that supporting quality public education will not radically restructure power, but it can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many people. Flynt’s efforts in behalf of education and for reform of Alabama’s outdated constitution , another cause he has championed, illustrate his commitment to social justice and to a pragmatic approach to concrete social reform. Essays by fellow scholars John Shelton Reed and Dan T. Carter and by fellow activists Dewayne Key and Bailey Thomson discuss Flynt’s reform efforts; they are justly celebratory but brief. Readers seeking to understand Flynt’s values and motives, rooted in his deep Baptist faith, should also read Flynt’s own admirably matter-of-fact but extremely interesting discussion of his career in John B. Boles’s Autobiographical Reflections on Southern Religious History (Athens, Ga., 2001). T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 66 In addition to the essays praising Flynt’s activism, History and Hope includes essays on various aspects of southern history by seven of his former graduate students, who make clear their respect and affection for their former teacher. The editors and essayists try to relate these essays to Flynt’s scholarship, but his students’ approach seems to differ in subtle ways. Flynt the social activist has fought the historical ills of Alabama and the South; Flynt the scholar, though, has tended to focus more on signs of hope—the strength of the poor whites’ culture and the existence of a reformist impulse within southern white Protestantism, for examples. Some of the essays in History and Hope find similar signs of hope; others, though, analyze the region’s shortcomings. And although Flynt has been a consistent and courageous voice for racial equality, his books and articles have not focused on race; five of the seven essays by his students do. Perhaps the essay that most closely follows Flynt’s own work as a scholar is Richard D. Starnes’s discussion of a limited but nonetheless vibrant and important social consciousness among North Carolina Baptists in the early twentieth century. Jeff Frederick’s analysis of the influence of interest groups on Alabama politics from 1929 to 1971, which has an interesting discussion of the efforts of the Farm Bureau but surprisingly little to say about those of industrialists, seems to build more on Flynt’s activism than his scholarship. The other essays address disparate topics, but all acknowledge...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9961
Print ISSN
0002-4341
Pages
pp. 65-67
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
N
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