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Rabble Rousers

The American Far Right in the Civil Rights Era

Clive Webb

Publication Year: 2010

The decade following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision saw white southerners mobilize in massive resistance to racial integration. Most segregationists conceded that ultimately they could only postpone the demise of Jim Crow. Some militant whites, however, believed it possible to win the civil rights struggle. Histories of the black freedom struggle, when they mention these racist zealots at all, confine them to the margin of the story.

These extremist whites are caricatured as ineffectual members of the lunatic fringe. Civil rights activists, however, saw them for what they really were: calculating, dangerous opponents prepared to use terrorism in their stand against reform. To dismiss white militants is to underestimate the challenge they posed to the movement and, in turn, the magnitude of civil rights activists’ accomplishments. The extremists helped turn massive resistance into a powerful political phenomenon. While white southern elites struggled to mobilize mass opposition to racial reform, the militants led entire communities in revolt.

Rabble Rousers turns traditional top-down models of massive resistance on their head by telling the story of five far-right activists—Bryant Bowles, John Kasper, Rear Admiral John Crommelin, Major General Edwin Walker, and J. B. Stoner—who led grassroots rebellions. It casts new light on such contentious issues as the role of white churches in defending segregation, the influence of anti-Semitism in southern racial politics, and the divisive impact of class on white unity. The flame of the far right burned brilliantly but briefly. In the final analysis, violent extremism weakened the cause of white southerners. Tactical and ideological tensions among massive resisters, as well as the strength and unity of civil rights activists, accelerated the destruction of Jim Crow.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South


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pp. ix-xiv

A few years ago, I interviewed for a position at a prestigious university. One member of the appointing committee questioned the signifi cance of studying what he described as a bunch of losers who had made little political impact. I offered what I thought was a robust intellectual defense, challenging the premise of this argument with a protracted explanation of their importance to our understanding of modern race relations...

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pp. 1-12

In 1936, the United States became a fascist dictatorship. Popular discontent with the failure of the New Deal to alleviate the impact of the Great Depression led the Democrats to dump Franklin D. Roosevelt and to nominate as their presidential candidate midwestern Senator Berzelius...

PART 1 Outside Agitators: Bryant Bowles and John Kasper

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Chapter 1. A Blueprint for Rebellion: Bryant Bowles and the Milford School Crisis

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pp. 15-38

Only four months after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the desegregation process faced its first serious challenge. That challenge was to end in defeat for the forces of racial reform...

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Chapter 2. A Collapse of Law and Order: John Kasper and Segregationist Resistance in Clinton

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pp. 39-71

In Roger Corman’s 1961 film The Intruder, a mysterious stranger suddenly arrives in the small southern town of Caxton. Claiming to be a “social reformer,” the stranger—played by a young William Shatner—has come to rouse public opposition to the racial integration of the local high school...

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Chapter 3. Into the Abyss: The Nashville School Crisis

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pp. 72-100

John Kasper struggled during the summer of 1957 for an opportunity to restore his tattered personal and political reputation. Skeptical of him from the outset, few segregationists offered him a second chance now that he had been exposed in their minds as a fraud...

PART 2. Never- Ending War: John Crommelin and Edwin Walker

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Chapter 4. Fighting the Hidden Force: John Crommelin and the Defense of Alabama

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pp. 103-133

In October 2003, an audience assembled to celebrate the posthumous induction of a former war hero into the Alabama Military Hall of Honor. The man whose patriotic service the crowd had come to mark was Navy Rear Admiral John G. Crommelin. The United States had marked...

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Chapter 5. Assumption of Command: Military Officers and Massive Resistance

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pp. 134-150

It is tempting to attribute John Crommelin’s delusional belief in an omnipotent political adversary to an individual psychosis. That certainly was the opinion of many of his opponents. As one civil rights activist affirmed...

PART 3. Southern Fuehrer: J. B. Stoner

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Chapter 6. “We Don’t Believe in Tolerance”: Terrorist Responses to Civil Rights Reform

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pp. 153-183

I’ve been fighting Jews and niggers full time more or less since starting in 1942.” So declared J. B. Stoner, perhaps the most violently fanatical racist spawned by massive resistance.1 He was the nexus of a terrorist network that the authorities...

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Chapter 7. Fighting for Freedom by Defending the Enemy: Stoner and the Hate Speech Issue

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pp. 184-209

It lasted only a minute, but elicited a more impassioned public reaction than any other political broadcast aired in the South during the early 1970s. During the first days of August 1972, television audiences across Georgia witnessed the sight of a man in dark suit and bow tie sitting at a desk with a large..


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pp. 210-214


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pp. 215-258


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pp. 259-282


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pp. 283-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780820342290
E-ISBN-10: 0820342297
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820327648
Print-ISBN-10: 0820327646

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 5 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South
Series Editor Byline: Bryant Simon and Jane Dailey, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 753976361
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rabble Rousers

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Kasper, John, 1929-1998.
  • Crommelin, John G.
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Right-wing extremists -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Walker, Edwin A. (Edwin Anderson), 1909-1993.
  • Stoner, Jesse Benjamin, 1924-2005.
  • Bowles, Bryant William, 1920-1997.
  • Racism -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
  • Segregation -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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