Remembering Racial Progress, Forgetting White Resistance: The Death of Mississippi Senator John C. Stennis and the Consolidation of the Colorblind Consensus
Abstract

This article examines Americans’ memories of white opposition to the civil rights movement. As an early user of colorblind rhetoric to defend white supremacy, the segregationist John Stennis confounded Americans’ expectations of what white racism was supposed to look like. Popular American memory imagined a vast chasm between extremist white resistance of the past and a colorblind present. To accurately remember Stennis when he died in 1995 was thus to call into question the legitimacy of the contemporary colorblind consensus. Instead, he was widely portrayed as a personification of the nation that had supposedly vanquished white resistance and embraced racial equality. This article looks for meaning in these misrepresentations and asks what purpose such narratives served.


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