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Cold War Dixie

Kari Frederickson

Publication Year: 2013

Focusing on the impact of the Savannah River Plant (SRP) on the communities it created, rejuvenated, or displaced, this book explores the parallel militarization and modernization of the Cold War-era South. The SRP, a scientific and industrial complex near Aiken, South Carolina, grew out of a 1950 partnership between the Atomic Energy Commission and the DuPont Corporation and was dedicated to producing materials for the hydrogen bomb. Kari Frederickson shows how the needs of the expanding national security state, in combination with the corporate culture of DuPont, transformed the economy, landscape, social relations, and politics of this corner of the South. In 1950, the area comprising the SRP and its surrounding communities was primarily poor, uneducated, rural, and staunchly Democratic; by the mid-1960s, it boasted the most PhDs per capita in the state and had become increasingly middle class, suburban, and Republican

The SRP's story is notably dramatic; however, Frederickson argues, it is far from unique. The influx of new money, new workers, and new business practices stemming from Cold War-era federal initiatives helped drive the emergence of the Sunbelt. These factors also shaped local race relations. In the case of the SRP, DuPont's deeply conservative ethos blunted opportunities for social change, but it also helped contain the radical white backlash that was so prominent in places like the Mississippi Delta that received less Cold War investment.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xii

One does not successfully conclude a twelve-year scholarly journey without racking up a lot of debts. So it is with this project. First and foremost, this book would not have been possible without the generosity of the former employees of the Savannah River Plant/Site and of the residents of Aiken and Graniteville...

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pp. 1-9

Open any South Carolina highway map and you will find standard features—blue highways and roads, black railroad lines, dotted lines denoting county boundaries, red flags marking schools and hospitals, green parks and golf courses. Near the state’s western border, though, is a massive blank space labeled...

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One. “This Most Essential Task”: The Decision to Build the Super

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pp. 10-29

It was routine. On September 3, 1949, a U.S. Air Force WB-29 flying east of the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Soviet Union on a secret detection flight picked up radioactivity in its filters. The suspect sample was sent to Tracerlab at the University of California at Berkeley, which confirmed a man-made device. For...

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Two. A Varied Landscape: Geography and Culture in the Savannah River Valley

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pp. 30-47

Geography and environment played a critical role in bringing the new atomic weapons plant to western South Carolina. The temperature and purity of the Savannah River and the superior drainage qualities of the region’s sandy soil had rendered the area closer to ideal than any other location for this new...

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Three. “A Land Doomed and Damned”: The Costs of Militarization

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pp. 48-74

Everyone knew there were strangers in their midst. In the late summer of 1950, residents of Ellenton, South Carolina, population 739, had spotted men surveying the land, boring into the earth, taking soil samples here and there. “What was their business?” locals asked themselves. Ellenton schoolteacher...

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Four. “Bigger’n Any Lie”: Building the Bomb Plant

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pp. 75-106

Pondering the vast construction project under way in rural South Carolina, one local reporter speculated breathlessly on its engineering and technological implications as well as its historical meaning. “The Plant is a Clark Hill dam, a Panama Canal, an Egyptian pyramid, and television,” he wrote, “all rolled...

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Five. Rejecting the Garrison State: National Priorities and Local Limitations

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pp. 107-122

Between 1950 and 1953, nearly 40,000 temporary and 6,000 permanent employees and their families—almost 180,000 persons in all—poured into the relatively sparsely populated three-county region that played host to the Savannah River Plant (SRP). Many of these new residents chose to live close to...

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Six. “Better Living”: Life in a Cold War Company Town

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pp. 123-146

Born in the Horse Creek Valley village of Graniteville in 1936, Ronnie Bryant’s life followed the pattern typical of most valley boys. His family worked in textiles, and he figured he would do the same when he became an adult. When he entered Leavell McCampbell High School in 1950, word came from...

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Seven. Shifting Landscapes: Politics and Race in a Cold War Community

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pp. 147-169

From 1941 to 1948, Aiken County was represented in the South Carolina state senate by Fred Brinkley, a physician from the tiny town of Ellenton. In addition to being one of the town’s two doctors, Brinkley was also a part-time farmer and owner of the one of the town’s gristmills. A longtime resident of Ellenton,...

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pp. 170-176

The 1980s brought signifi cant changes for the Savannah River Plant (SRP). The partial meltdown of a reactor core at the Three Mile Island plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1979 created a climate of increased fear and trepidation regarding the nuclear power industry. Although it is considered the worst...


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pp. 177-204


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pp. 205-219


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pp. 221-226

Further Reading

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pp. 227-240

E-ISBN-13: 9780820345666
E-ISBN-10: 0820345660
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820345192
Print-ISBN-10: 0820345199

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 12 b&w photos, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South