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International Socialist Review, Winter 1958


Lois Saunders

“The Deep South Says Never”


From International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.1, Winter 1958, p.29.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Deep South Says Never
by John Bartlow Martin
Ballantine Books, New York. 1957. 181 pp. $2.50.

The emergence of the White Citizens Councils in the South, their expansion and the individuals who shape them form the subject matter of this interesting report on events that followed the May 17, 1954, Supreme Court decision calling for desegregation of the schools.

Much of the material appeared last summer in a series of articles in the Saturday Evening Post, but the extended treatment accorded it here presents a more rounded and complete picture of developments.

The author, John Bartlow Martin, considered one of the nation’s top reporters, has interviewed a number of key segregationists and quotes extensively from their comments, thereby giving an authentic presentation of their views, aims and methods. While doing this, the author also provides a valuable chronicle of the main events involving racial conflict in the South during the past three years.

As a result of his survey, Martin arrives at the conclusion that the court’s delay in implementing its decision enabled the South to organize its defiance and thereby cheat Negroes of the benefits of their victory. He draws the further conclusion that continued governmental inaction might well have the effect of bringing integration to a halt.

Says the author:

“Some people think the court should have ordered immediate compliance instead of waiting a year. To have done so would have risked violence. In retrospect, however, it appears that it might have succeeded: the South was then resigned. Certainly the one-year grace period was when resistance rallied, for no governor, senator, legislature, or the President offered leadership in implementing the decision peaceably. Nor is leadership forthcoming even today – the President has done nothing. Yet time is running out, for if the Supreme Court decision is to be enforced, the district courts will have to start enforcing it soon, and in the Deep South.”

The most interesting section of the book is that dealing with a “Black Belt Town,” Summerton, South Carolina. It was the protest of the Negroes in this small town of 1,500 which was later to become the Clarendon County, S.C., suit challenging the entire concept of segregation, one of the five suits leading to the Supreme Court decision.

In this section, Martin gives far more than the views of the professional segregationists. He presents a picture of the town and the surrounding countryside, class and race relations, school conditions, economic contrasts and the effects on the community of government policy and the mechanization of agriculture. In other words, he here presents a sociological study which makes it the most penetrating part of the book.

Excellent as the book is in many respects, it nevertheless presents only a partial picture of the South. With the exception of the section on Summerton, there is little attempt to give the views of whites other than the professional agitators, or of Negroes. There is, for instance, only a vague reference or two to the reactions of white workers, while the Negro viewpoint is reflected largely through a few quotations from NAACP spokesmen, most of whom are Northerners, Thus only one aspect of the conflict that is building up in the South is mirrored in the book, and little attempt is made to analyze what is taking place.

Giving the total picture admittedly would be a far more ambitious task than the author has attempted, and within the limits of his investigation Martin has done a conscientious job. Moreover, he presents his material in an interesting and swift-moving manner.

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