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Civil Rights Chronicle Letters from the South By Clarice T. Campbell University Press of Mississippi, 1997 264 pp. Paper, $17.00 Reviewed by MeKon McLaurin, professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and author ofSeparate Pasts: Growing Up White in the SegregatedSouth and Celia, a Slave, as well as numerous articles on race relations. In the summer of 1956 Clarice Campbell, a junior high school teacher from Pasadena, California, boarded a Greyhound bus for Oxford, Mississippi, where she enrolled in classes at the University of Mississippi. Wife, mother, devout Methodist, and staunch Republican, Campbell had entered the alien world ofthe segregated Deep Soudi, and like many anodier sojourning foreigner, found herself intrigued and enticed by a society in the throes of social revolution. In 1957, Campbell returned to the South, this time accompanied by her mother, spending the summer in classes at the University ofAlabama. After three more years in service as a teacher in Pasadena, in die fall of 1960, motivated by a combination of missionary zeal, intellectual curiosity, and an appreciation for the absurd, Campbell accepted a faculty position at Rust College, an African American school in Holly Springs, Mississippi. In 1 961 she left Rust to serve for a year on the faculty ofClaflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina. After a final year ofteachingin Pasadena, Ms. Campbell returned to die Soudi in 1963 to teach for two years at Tougaloo College near Jackson, Mississippi, and then entered the University of Mississippi's doctoral program in history in 1965. Upon completing her degree in 1969, she returned to a position at Rust College where she served until retirement. CivilRights Chronicle: Lettersfrom the South primarily is a collection ofletters written by a white member ofthe faculty of three Deep South African American colleges at the height of the freedom struggle of the mid-1960s. It is a marvelous read, both for those forwhom it recalls a too-recent past and those forwhom this past is history. A no-nonsense pragmatist, Campbell writes of her experiences with wit, wisdom, and an amazing objectivity. Though deploring their racial views, she rarely speaks condescendingly of southern whites, acknowledges the racism practiced in her native California, and understands diat segregation existed only with the complicity of the rest of the nation. She quickly mastered the Reviews 103 white southerners' code ofcivility and with patience and perseverance attempted to employ this code to promote change, although her efforts met with little success . On the campus, however, she prodded her students to aspire to academic excellence, and by example, encouraged them to challenge the rules and assumptions oftheJim Crow South. She quickly became a member of the South's liberal establishment, traveling from state to state to promote the work ofthe Movement and pleading with institutions outside the South, including her beloved Mediodist Church, to become more active in the struggle. During this time she underwent a personal transformation, from a middle-class teacher who refused to purchase gasoline from filling stations that had no rest rooms for "coloreds" to a still civil activist who carried a toothbrush in her purse in case she was arrested in an attempt to integrate a motel or restaurant. This work is filled with insight into the complexities, contradictions, and sheer meanness of the segregated Soudi. Campbell provides moving examples of how the power ofthe state was used to reinforce the prejudices ofthe white populace, how popular prejudices silenced die prophetic voice of the largely Protestant southern church, and how economic retaliation and physical violence intimidated the African American community. She also captures the increasing unwillingness of young African Americans to continue to submit to a blatantly unjust system, as well as the heroic and amazingly successful efforts of underfunded and understaffed black colleges to educate and nurture a generation of students who sense the possibility of unprecedented opportunities. Like the work ofJohn Egerton and David Chappell, Campbell's letters reveal the contributions of liberal whites to the freedom struggle. Some readers may find the work dated, Campbell's motives too paternalistic, and her civility unacceptable and unimaginable. While such reactions are understandable, as Campbell herselfindicates in some of her footnotes , they also are a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 103-104
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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