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Conjuring Crisis

Racism and Civil Rights in a Southern Military City

George Baca

Publication Year: 2010

Connecting economic and social reforms to racial and class inequality, Conjuring Crisis counters the myth of steady race progress in America by analyzing how the federal government and local politicians have sometimes "reformed" politics in ways that have amplified racism in the post civil-rights era. George Baca's ethnographic research reveals how residents and politicians at Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, North Carolina in the 1990s transformed an ordinary conflict into a "crisis" that raised the specter of chaos and disaster. He explores new territory by focusing on the broader intersection of militarization, urban politics, and civil rights.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to a multitude of people who have helped me and provided me support through the arduous process of writing this book. Most important were the people of Fayetteville who took the time to teach me about this very interesting and complex city. Without their help, patience, and tolerance this research would not have been possible. In addition to the people who openly...

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pp. 1-22

Against the backdrop of the nation’s unceasing preparation for war—most recently highlighted by the War on Terror—Americans passionately dispute the significance of the military on the country’s well-being. Supporters of the U.S. military celebrate it as a both a stimulus to the economy and an opportunity for working-class Americans to become upwardly mobile. Facing...

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Chapter 1. Narrating a Racial Crisis

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pp. 24-40

When I arrived in Fayetteville in February 1997, the dispute over racism in the police department had divided city council into two factions—the Five and the Four. Many white citizens shared with me their anger and anxiety about how white council members Tom Manning and Sam Johnson, who, as a white man told me, “fell in with the niggers” on city council and transformed...

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Chapter 2. Conspiracies and Crises on Cape Fear

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pp. 41-56

Rumors of the Manning conspiracy sent shock waves through Fayetteville as white civic and business leaders presented their loss of power as a dangerous alteration in the normal workings of government. By presenting the sudden ascendance of black council members into the majority as if it represented a dangerous turning point that could threaten the city, white civic and business...

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Chapter 3. The Cunning of Racial Reform

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pp. 57-76

From plantation slavery to the present, dominant political groups and governmental authorities in Fayetteville have repeatedly exploited fear about African Americans to forge white solidarity across class lines. Despite the continuing importance of race and racism that these traditions of racial crisis reveal, everything about racism—except for the way Americans think about...

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Chapter 4. Performing Crisis

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pp. 77-92

On the eve of Tom Manning and Sam Johnson’s shocking turn against the city council’s white majority, city manager Jim Thompson and his regime partners were actively mobilizing public support for the audacious Marvin Plan. More than merely a cosmetic change, the revitalization plan had become the hub of the city’s economic policy agenda. Civic leaders did not...

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Chapter 5. Threatening Images of Black Power

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pp. 93-108

The Committee of 100’s staging of protests and the recall movement did more than continue the alarm bells of conspiracy. It elaborated the argument about how nefarious white politicians had dangerously empowered the black community and conjured the idea that black council members had an inordinate amount of power, reminiscent of the old fear of “Negro domination.”...

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Chapter 6. Power Shift

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pp. 109-124

Though the idea of a crisis framed the conflict on city council, many whites were skeptical about these narratives. Many white opponents of the urban regime believed that the intense reaction to the NAACP’s alliance with whites was an example of the backwardness of local authorities. This view was especially strong among residents who self-identified as “the military.”...

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Chapter 7. Outsiders and Special Interests

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pp. 125-140

Black Representative Karen McMillan’s defeat of recall and the Fayetteville Taxpayers for Financial Responsibility’s (FTFR) powerful criticism of downtown revitalization shined a new light on the city council turmoil. Highlighting weaknesses in the downtown coalition, they believed that the old power structure was on its last legs. These critics envisioned...

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Chapter 8. Single Shot

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pp. 141-159

The Committee of 100 actively created fear about how the controversy on city council had dangerously empowered the black community. Fear-mongering exaggerated the power of black leaders and helped create the image of a mobilized and united black community, poised to maintain the power shift on city council. Such presentations of black political power...

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pp. 160-166

From Milo Mcrae’s perspective, the black community’s double-shot strategy was wildly successful. Michael Pearson’s candidacy guaranteed Tom Manning’s defeat. And, coupled with the work of black politicians to break up single-shot efforts, Good Government Now (GGN) helped drive Sam Johnson, Edna Harrington, and Larry Allison from city council. Frederick Walker remained...

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pp. 167-170

The complex plays of political power that constituted the “Five–Four” prompts me to offer some reflections on broader issues of military power and its influence on Fayetteville’s political structure. I have shown that neither Fort Bragg nor the more general expansion of federal power into the South have one-sidedly determined Fayetteville’s present-day problems of racism, crime...


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pp. 171-180


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pp. 181-192


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pp. 193-196

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813549798
E-ISBN-10: 0813549795
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813547510
Print-ISBN-10: 0813547512

Page Count: 210
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 769927198
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Conjuring Crisis

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Fayetteville (N.C.) -- Economic policy.
  • Fayetteville (N.C.) -- Politics and government.
  • Fayetteville (N.C.) -- Race relations -- Political aspects.
  • Racism -- North Carolina -- Fayetteville.
  • Urban poor -- Government policy -- North Carolina -- Fayetteville.
  • Urban policy -- North Carolina -- Fayetteville.
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