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5 6 Y W H I C H S O U T H E R N E R S ? W H I C H S O U T H E R N H I S T O R I A N S ? A C E N T U R Y O F T E A C H I N G S O U T H E R N H I S T O R Y A T Y A L E G L E N D A E L I Z A B E T H G I L M O R E Not long after I arrived at Yale, I met C. Vann Woodward, the man who for thirty years had been the most acclaimed historian of the South. At a departmental reception, someone unfortunately introduced me to him as ‘‘John Blum’s replacement.’’ I drew in my breath and braced myself. He rightly scowled at the suggestion that anyone could replace the eminent U.S. historian John Blum and asked, ‘‘What else do you do?’’ In a tiny little voice, I answered with a question: ‘‘Southern history?’’ Before his eyes, I had transformed myself from John Blum’s replacement into his own replacement . Woodward’s scowl deepened, and he responded, ‘‘Well, I guess someone has to do it,’’ turned on his heel, and walked away. It would be a year before I saw Vann Woodward again. Of course, he was right: ‘‘someone has to do it’’ – teach southern history, that is. Or was he? Many top universities have never had a position earmarked for a professor of the history of the South. But Yale is di√erent. In the twentieth century, the university was home to several distinguished scholars of the South, a structure that rested on two pillars: Ulrich Bonnell Phillips and Comer Vann Woodward. Phillips’s work upheld the first part of the nineteenth century and Woodward’s work upheld the latter part of the 5 7 R nineteenth century. Just as the scholarship of these two scholars brace the nineteenth century, so too did their lives span the twentieth century. U. B. Phillips published four books in twenty years at the beginning of the century: Plantation and Frontier (1909), The Life of Robert Toombs, 1877–1934 (1913), American Negro Slavery (1918), and Life and Labor in the Old South (1929). He wrote numerous articles, one of which appeared in The Yale Review in 1906. C. Vann Woodward published four books in twenty years in the middle of the century: Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel (1938), Origins of the New South, 1877–1913 (1951), Reunion and Reaction: The Compromise of 1877 and the End of Reconstruction (1951), and The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955). During their lifetimes and since, Phillips and Woodward have been recognized as the leading interpreters of, respectively, the antebellum and the postbellum nineteenth-century South. But Phillips’s and Woodward’s politics – and the political import of their interpretations – sprang from the milieu of their own moments in the twentieth century. (Thanks to Garry Lacy Reeder and to Gaddis Smith for their insights on this subject.) Each man balanced on the cutting edge of the southern politics of his own time. Phillips mounted an enormous e√ort to provide an intellectual justification for the successful white southern political revolution of the 1890s that stripped African Americans of the right to vote, segregated them, and relegated them to the lowest rungs of the economic order. His generation literally rewrote southern history to justify white supremacy not simply in the past but in the present and the future; not simply in the South, but in the rest of the nation as well. Woodward’s project from the 1930s to the 1960s was to demolish the system Phillips had shored up. First, in Origins of the New South, Woodward gave the lie to the myth of white unity in a classless society, and then he gave to black and white southerners a useable past, a time between the Civil War and segregation, when their forebears had lived in a more racially just – and more integrated – world. Both men were prodigious researchers; both were powerful...