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Defining the Peace

World War II Veterans, Race, and the Remaking of Southern Political Tradition

Jennifer E. Brooks

Publication Year: 2004

In the aftermath of World War II, Georgia's veterans--black, white, liberal, reactionary, pro-union, and anti-union--all found that service in the war enhanced their sense of male, political, and racial identity, but often in contradictory ways. In ###Defining the Peace#, Jennifer E. Brooks shows how veterans competed in a protracted and sometimes violent struggle to determine the complex character of Georgia's postwar future. Brooks finds that veterans shaped the key events of the era, including the gubernatorial campaigns of both Eugene Talmadge and Herman Talmadge, the defeat of entrenched political machines in Augusta and Savannah, the terrorism perpetrated against black citizens, the CIO's drive to organize the textile South, and the controversies that dominated the 1947 Georgia General Assembly. Progressive black and white veterans forged new grassroots networks to mobilize voters against racial and economic conservatives who opposed their vision of a democratic South. Most white veterans, however, opted to support candidates who favored a conservative program of modernization that aimed to alter the state's economic landscape while sustaining its anti-union and racial traditions. As Brooks demonstrates, World War II veterans played a pivotal role in shaping the war's political impact on the South, generating a politics of race, anti-unionism, and modernization that stood as the war's most lasting political legacy. Brooks studies the competing efforts of black and white WW II veterans in Georgia, as they worked to shape postwar politics. Black veterans forged new grassroots networks to mobilize against candidates who opposed their vision of racial equality; reactionary white veterans, in turn, organized to support candidates who curbed openings toward greater equality in favor of a conservative, economically driven vision of modernization in the South. Brooks looks specifically at the campaign of 1946 (the first time black Georgians could participate in the primaries); the 1947 term of the Georgia General Assembly (in which Governor Ellis Arnall was forced out of office by Herman Talmadge [Eugene's son]); and Herman Talmadge's successful 1948 campaign to retake the governor's office on an overtly white supremacist platform. Brooks studies the competing efforts of black and white WW II veterans in Georgia, as they worked to shape postwar politics. Black veterans forged new grassroots networks to mobilize against candidates who opposed their vision of racial equality; reactionary white veterans, in turn, organized to support candidates who curbed openings toward greater equality in favor of a conservative, economically driven vision of modernization in the South. In the aftermath of World War II, Georgia's veterans--black, white, liberal, reactionary, pro-union, and anti-union--all found that service in the war enhanced their sense of male, political, and racial identity, but often in contradictory ways. In ###Defining the Peace#, Jennifer E. Brooks shows how veterans competed in a protracted and sometimes violent struggle to determine the complex character of Georgia's postwar future. Brooks finds that veterans shaped the key events of the era, including the gubernatorial campaigns of both Eugene Talmadge and Herman Talmadge, the defeat of entrenched political machines in Augusta and Savannah, the terrorism perpetrated against black citizens, the CIO's drive to organize the textile South, and the controversies that dominated the 1947 Georgia General Assembly. Progressive black and white veterans forged new grassroots networks to mobilize voters against racial and economic conservatives who opposed their vision of a democratic South. Most white veterans, however, opted to support candidates who favored a conservative program of modernization that aimed to alter the state's economic landscape while sustaining its anti-union and racial traditions. As Brooks demonstrates, World War II veterans played a pivotal role in shaping the war's political impact on the South, generating a politics of race, anti-unionism, and modernization that stood as the war's most lasting political legacy.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

Acknowledging all those good people who helped me along this journey requires more space than is available here. However, a few do stand out. First of all, my deepest gratitude and continued respect go to my mentor and major professor, Dr. James C. Cobb. His simple suggestion to a rather bewildered graduate...

Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-17

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1. Introduction: World War II Veterans and the Politics of Postwar Change in Georgia

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pp. 3-12

When Georgia's servicemen left for the combat theaters of World War II, few anticipated how profound an impact this experience would have on their lives. By the war’s end, however, many of Georgia’s veterans felt sure they knew exactly what their military service had meant. The extreme personal sacrifice made by...

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2. The Ballot Must Be Our Weapon: Black Veterans and the Politics of Racial Change

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pp. 13-36

on March 31, 1946, C.W. Greenlea, director of a black United Service Organizations (USO) center in Atlanta, Georgia, announced the imminent deployment of almost one thousand black veterans of the Second World War to the doorsteps of the city’s black citizenry. Their mission was to encourage black registration...

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3. The Question of Majority Rule: White Veterans and the Politics of Progressive Reform [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 37-74

Early in 1947, a white ex-Marine chaplain from south Georgia named Joseph Rabun made a ringing declaration for democracy in the halls of the Georgia state capitol. A Baptist minister from McRae in Telfair County, Rabun had served in some of the worst battles of the Pacific war. Now he found himself at a public...

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4. Is This What We Fought the War For? Union Veterans and the Politics of Labor

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pp. 75-111

In 1946 William Shiflett returned from a two-year stint in the army during World War II to the textile mill in Rome, Georgia, where he had previously worked for five years. Anchor Rome Mill, however, was not the same place it had been, nor was Shiflett the same man. During the war, workers in the plant had...

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5. We Are Not Radicals, Neither Are We Reactionaries: Good Government Veterans and the Politics of Modernization

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pp. 113-137

Lieutenant Colonel John J. Flynt wasted little time when he returned to his home in Griffin, Georgia, in 1945 after many months overseas. Having earned a Bronze Star in the European theater, he resumed his former position as assistant U.S. district attorney for north Georgia. Within a few short months, Flynt won...

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6. Hitler Is Not Dead but Has Found Refuge in Georgia: The General Assembly of 1947 and the Limits of Progress

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pp. 139-168

As good government veterans elected throughout the state in 1946 prepared to embark on new postwar political careers, Eugene Talmadge passed into the twilight of his own. Haggard and wan even before the primary election that summer, the intensity of the campaign ruined Talmadge’s already fragile health....

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Conclusion

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pp. 169-172

The turbulent and even curious political conflicts of the postwar 1940s wracked Georgia’s postwar stability, leaving a political landscape undeniably marked by the impact ofWorld War II. Challenges to a smooth reconversion to peace came from many quarters: from black citizens fed up with their secondclass...

Notes

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pp. 173-233

Bibliography

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pp. 235-250

Index

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pp. 251-256


E-ISBN-13: 9781469603599
E-ISBN-10: 1469603594
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807829110
Print-ISBN-10: 0807829110

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 7 illus., 3 tables, 1 map
Publication Year: 2004