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Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  144 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
Making Whiteness is a profoundly important work that explains how and why whiteness came to be such a crucial, embattled--and distorting--component of twentieth-century American identity.In intricately textured detail and with passionately mastered analysis, Grace Elizabeth Hale shows how, when faced with the active citizenship of their ex-slaves after the Civil War, white ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published June 1st 1999 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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Sep 08, 2013 Kristi rated it really liked it
Hale’s discussion of racial construction and segregation in the American South centers on the ambiguities caused by racial sharing of public spaces and mass consumer culture during the late nineteenth century and first-half of the twentieth century. Nostalgic advertising, “Old South” tourism, and minstrelsy, were among the the more benign forms of commoditization of the black body that aimed at restoring white cultural supremacy during this period. Horrific lynchings, in which black people were ...more
In attempting to analyze the tragedy of white racism in American history, Hale reduces it to the clinical. Certainly, there are insights to be gained from her reading of systematic racist oppression, but I wonder if the practical outworkings of these systems were quite so monolithic as she implies - not that I think some areas of contemporary white culture were somehow immune to racialism, but rather that individuals acted out of their own personal prejudices as much as societal pressures. In th ...more
Sep 28, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
This book is really interesting. Hale takes the period from 1890-1940 and discusses how whites in the South created a culture of segregation. She uses advertisements, memory, and even the violence of spectacle lynching to discuss how whites created their whiteness, and then desperately tried to hang on to it.

Her arguments were clear and concise; she gets a little wordy sometimes, and I would have to go back and read sentences or whole paragraphs two or three times before I would understand what
May 08, 2009 Eric rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in scholarship of race or American history.
The long chapter on lyching balanced and amplified Orlando Patterson's discussions. Hale's careful construction and defense of her concept of the "spectacle lynching" as a phenomenon of 20th century consumer culture, specifically a product of the combined influence of the railroad, telephone, and newspapers is convincing. Calls into question Patterson's somewhat mystical concept of lynching as a modern manifestation of something ancient. Hale's discussion and appreciation of W.J. Cash's Mind of ...more
Doris Raines
Apr 02, 2016 Doris Raines rated it did not like it
Shelves: doris-shelf
This. Book. I. Rate. It. Zero
Aug 04, 2011 Stacey rated it really liked it
Re-read this extraordinary cultural history of segregation this week. I love Grace Hale's writing, her sharp analysis of Southern culture and found her discussion of lynchings, the significance of the Stone Mountain monument and GWTW to be particularly compelling and insightful. As with most cultural histories, however, I found myself searching for a more firm grounding in political, economic and social trends, but perhaps that's expecting too much.
Rick Edwards
Jul 24, 2011 Rick Edwards rated it it was amazing
For me, a native Southerner, Hale's findings opened my eyes to the way the generations preceding me in the deep South constructed the segregated society in which I grew up. What had seemed to me "the way the world was" had been painstakingly assembled, not "in the wake of the War," but after a generation of living with something different. The color line and its specific meannesses had their own cruel history, yet one full of contradictions.
Apr 13, 2008 Sue rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a well written book that I think would appeal to a wide range of people. Hale uses cultural artifacts (books, movies, advertisements etc.) to explain the construction of whiteness.
Ben Jaques
Jun 14, 2012 Ben Jaques rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most personally important books that I've ever read. It made me think of race in a completely different and complex way. Everyone should read this book.
Feb 22, 2008 Amber rated it really liked it
Really a 4.5. One of the best books on the culture of white supremacy in the early (and later) 20th century. It is also a very accessible historical work.
Grisly. Could not read anything beyond my assigned chapter on lynching.
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“Slavery, in other words, founded and fixed the meaning of blackness more than any transparent and transhistorical meaning of black skin founded the category of slavery.” 0 likes
“Yet it was racial identity that became the paramount spatial mediation of modernity within the newly reunited nation. Not self-evidently more meaningful, not more real or natural than other markings, race nevertheless became the crucial means of ordering the newly enlarged meaning of America. This happened because former Confederates, a growing working class, embattled farmers, western settlers, a defensive northeastern elite, women’s rights advocates, an” 0 likes
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