The South Strikes Back
The seminal history of the formation and tactics of the Citizens’ Council that battled integration and voting rights
In The South Strikes Back, Hodding Carter III describes the birth of the white Citizens’ Council in the Mississippi Delta and its spread throughout the South. Carter begins with a brief historical overview and traces the formation of the Council, its treatment of African Americans, and its impact on white communities, concluding with an analysis of the Council’s future in Mississippi.
Through economic boycott, social pressure, and political influence, the Citizens’ Council was able to subdue its opponents and dominate the communities in which it operated. Carter considers trends working against the Council—the federal government’s efforts to improve voting rights for African Americans, economic growth within African American communities, and especially the fact that the Citizens’ Council was founded on the defense of segregation's status quo and dedicated to its preservation. As Carter writes in the final chapter, “Defense of the status quo, as history has shown often enough, is an arduous task at best. When, in a democracy such as ours, it involves the repression of a minority, it becomes an impossibility. ”
"Hodding Carter III dispassionately examines here the growth and structure of the white Citizens’ Council. . . . He traces the movement through its role in state politics, . . . its pressures directed at the [Black community], and its effects on the white community. Though demonstrating that the Council . . . has been responsible for whatever success massive resistance toward integration has had in the South, he sees its eventual destruction in the fact that it is essentially a negative movement, dependent on the status quo. A brief, factual, calmly reasoned book. "- Kirkus
"This is one of the most depressing, yet important, books that this reviewer has read in many years; for it is an analytical account of the angry, unreconstructed revolt of conservative southerners in Mississippi against the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision of 1954. . . . Carter’s book is must reading for all who would understand one of this nation’s most pressing problems. "- Oakland Tribune