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Outliving the White Lie - A Southerner's Historical, Genealogical, and Personal Journey

Outliving the White Lie

A Southerner's Historical, Genealogical, and Personal Journey

By James Wiggins
Hardcover : 9781496848086, 298 pages, January 2024
Paperback : 9781496850355, 298 pages, January 2024

Table of contents

Introduction: The Boy Emperor’s New-Old Clothes
Chapter 1: Race and Me and Mississippi
Part 1: The Larger Implications of the Small Debates of the Moment
Chapter 2: Our Distinguished Error Emeritus
Chapter 3: Becoming Abraham Lincoln; Remaining Robert E. Lee
Chapter 4: The Riddle of the Confederate Sphinx
Chapter 5: The Black Confederates Who Were, and Those Who Weren’t
Chapter 6: The Sins of the Fourth-Great-Grandfathers
Chapter 7: Asset De-appreciation
Part 2: The Importance of Slavery in the Antebellum South (and Beyond)
Chapter 8: The “Peculiar” Case of the Antebellum South
Chapter 9: Slavery’s Capitalism
Chapter 10: Slavery’s Freedom
Part 3: How Slavery Shackled the White South
Chapter 11: The Two Souths of Tom and Lewis, Sam and Elijah
Chapter 12: The One Percent
Chapter 13: The Miseducation of the South
Part 4: How the White South Was Persuaded to Shackle Itself
Chapter 14: The Invention of the White “Race”
Chapter 15: “Racecraft”
Chapter 16: The First Families of Racism
Chapter 17: The Solidarity Myth
Part 5: Constitutional Constructions, Reconstructions, and Deconstructions
Chapter 18: Diogenes Finds His Honorably Honest Southern Man
Chapter 19: Constitutional Construction and the Reconstruction of American Democracy
Chapter 20: The Reconstruction and Deconstruction of American Democracy
Chapter 21: When Jim Crow Was Chairman of the School Board
Chapter 22: Mac and Black Annie
Chapter 23: Affirmative Action for White People
Chapter 24: The Second Reconstruction of American Democracy
Part 6: The Second Deconstruction of American Democracy
Chapter 25: The Great Migration of the Yellow Dogs
Chapter 26: The Southern Strategy of the Republican Party
Chapter 27: The Republican Strategy of the Southern Party
Chapter 28: Trump (and Trumpism) as Mirror
Chapter 29: The Third Reconstruction of American Democracy
Postscript: Edley, the Mirror, and Me

An unflinching chronicle of one Mississippian’s reckoning with history


Part history, part memoir, Outliving the White Lie: A Southerner’s Historical, Genealogical, and Personal Journey charts conflicting narratives of American and southern identity through a blend of public, family, and deeply personal history. Author James Wiggins, who was raised in rural Mississippi, pairs thorough historical research with his own lived experiences. Outliving the White Lie looks squarely at the many untruths regarding the history and legacy of race that have proliferated among white Americans, from the misrepresentations of Black Confederates to the myth of a “postracial” America.

Though the US was ostensibly established to achieve freedom and shrug off an oppressive English monarchy, this mythology of the United States’ founding belies a glaring paradox—that this is a country whose foundation depends entirely on coercion and enslavement. How, then, could generations of decent people, people who valued individual liberty and personal autonomy, coexist within and alongside such a paradox? Historians suggest an answer: that these apparently dissonant points of view were reconciled in antebellum America by white citizens learning “to live with slavery by learning to live a lie.” The operative lie throughout American history and the lie underpinning the institution of slavery, they argue, has always been the fallacy of race—deliberately propagated tenets asserting skin color as the preeminent marker of identity and value. Wiggins takes accepted delusions to task in this moving reconciliation of southern living.


"Comprised of poignant, interwoven reflections on family, public history, and personal experience, Outliving the White Lie provides a sweeping history of the costs of slavery and white supremacy to the South and nation."

- David R. Roediger, coeditor of The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity