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The Improbable Era

The South since World War II

Charles P. Roland

Publication Year: 2014

In this concise yet comprehensive, thoroughly researched, and crisply written study, The Improbable Era places developments over the last three decades in Southern economics, politics, education, religion, the arts, and racial revolution into a disciplined framework that brings a measure of order to the perplexing chaos of this era of fundamental change in Southern life.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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p. vii-vii

List of Tables

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p. viii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-10

The South was fated to be changed almost as much by World War II as by the Civil War. Both conflicts brought toil, sacrifice, social chaos, and grief along with an exhilarating sense of patriotic purpose. But here the comparison ends. Instead of being invaded by hostile and...

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I. The Postwar Economic Drama

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pp. 11-29

The southern economy during the postwar years fulfilled the hopes of those who had forecast a booming future for the region. Factories arose everywhere to take advantage of the South's raw materials, hungry markets, favorable tax laws, and cheap and plentiful labor...

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II. The Challenge to Racial Inequality

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pp. 30-42

The black portion of the southern society during the quarter-century following World War II underwent the most striking changes experienced by the race in America since the Civil War and Reconstruction. They were the principal actors in a second Reconstruction, which, if...

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III. The Achievement of Legal Equality

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pp. 43-58

Inevitably the movement for racial equality in the South spread beyond the demand for school desegregation alone and adopted measures less deliberate than those of the courtroom. A prolonged black boycott in 1955-1956 of the city busses in Montgomery, Alabama, ultimately...

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IV. The Politics of Transition

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pp. 59-73

Southern politics after World War II was as much concerned as ever with protecting the region's traditional economic and social interests against both external and internal pressures. In spite of the vast economic changes and the significant legal and social developments of the 1940s and 1950s, the foundations of regional politics long remained...

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V. The Politics of Accommodation

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pp. 74-97

The year 1960 may be considered a landmark in recent southern political history. The election of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson as president and vice president opened a series of events that brought about the most profound changes in southern politics since Reconstruction. During the decade of the 1960s the economic, legal, and social...

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VI. Turbulent Progress in Education

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pp. 98-118

Southern faith in formal education reached new heights in the post- World War II years. The unparalleled prosperity of the times seemed to be partly the result of the great educational efforts made by the southern people during the first half of the century, and thus it appeared to fulfill the prophecies of earlier generations who had looked...

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VII. Religion & Controversy

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pp. 119-136

Southern religion like the rest of southern life felt the effects of postwar change, as those forces that challenged traditional political, economic, and social practices challenged also the conservative regional theology with its relative indifference to schemes for earthly betterment. Liberal stirrings among a minority of church members threatened...

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VIII. After the Southern Renaissance

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pp. 137-149

Southern literature and fine arts in the postwar years were as subject as regional politics, economics, education, or religion to impulses from beyond the borders of the South. The growth of university programs in literature, theater, art, music, and architecture tended to draw these forms of regional expression into the national or even the international...

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IX. Music & the Visual Arts

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pp. 150-167

The South after World War II was the scene of an unprecedented stirring of interest and activity in the fine arts. A combination of increased prosperity, expanded programs of formal education in the arts, and the aesthetic stimulation of broader travel and improved communications brought an awakening in this field that was as widespread...

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X. Change & Tradition in Southern Society

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pp. 168-184

Southern society after World War II underwent the most severe stress of its entire history. Despite the trials of the Civil War and the upheavals of Reconstruction, neither of these experiences had threatened the core of the traditional southern society with the force of the recent political, economic, and social changes. Yet countless landmarks of sectional distinctiveness remained. The changes themselves took place...

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XI. The Enduring South

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pp. 185-194

The South by the mid-1970s was obviously approaching the close of an economic, political, and social era. Its postwar industrial and financial surge was giving way to a nationwide and worldwide energy shortage and recession. Its traditional advantages in Congress through the...


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pp. 195-204

Bibliographical Note

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pp. 205-214


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pp. 215-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780813146195
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813101392

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Southern States -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • Southern States -- Economic conditions -- 1945-.
  • Southern States -- Social life and customs.
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