Monday, July 18, 2011

White Like Me: Mexican Americans, Jews, and the Elusive Politics of Whiteness, Part III

In 2006, the University of Texas Press published 'White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001." To mark the fifth anniversary of that publication, I am serializing "White Metropolis" at this blog site. Here, I describe the complicated relationship between Jews and African Americans in Dallas in the mid-20th century.

If relations in Dallas between blacks and Mexican Americans in the mid-20th century were at times hostile, divisions between blacks and two other marginalized groups, Jews and Anglo Catholics were distant, but friendlier. Catholics and Jews found themselves attacked by the same public figures that ranked among the city's most vocal negrophobes. Many Protestants suspected the whiteness of Catholics because of the high number of Mexican Americans and other non-whites in the church, the church's highly visible provision of private education to blacks and the foreignness of its Vatican leadership. Like Jews, Catholics represented an ethnically and linguistically varied religion on the verge of racialization by the Protestant majority.

Federal defense spending in Southern metropolitan areas during World War II and continuing through four decades of Cold War brought a migration of high-skilled workers of unprecedented ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversity. Fundamentalist Protestants, fearing a loss of cultural hegemony in the region, expressed this anxiety by striking at a familiar target, the Catholic Church. Catholics represented one of the fastest growing demographic groups in Texas at mid-century, numbering from just over 600,000 in 1930 to more than 1.3 million in 1960.

By the time John Kennedy was inaugurated as the first Roman Catholic president of the United States in 1961, the Catholic Church represented the largest denomination in the state. One of the most vociferous spokesmen for Dallas anti-Catholicism in the 1950s and 1960s was the Rev. W.A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, which in the later half of the twentieth century became the largest Southern Baptist congregation in the world. Eventually receiving considerable financial backing from oil billionaire H.L. Hunt, Criswell became one of the pulpit's most visible defenders of segregation. Addressing the Baptist Conference on Evangelism in Columbia, South Carolina, Criswell demanded not just a separation of the races, but of religions as well. Invoking images of filth and dirt frequently used in depictions of African Americans and Mexican Americans, Criswell called integration the work of "outsiders" (by implication Jews) in "their dirty shirts" who, if they weren't stopped, would "get in your family." Christians, he said, must resist this religious miscegenation and urged denominations to "stick to their own kind."

At the same time, Criswell attacked the "spurious doctrine" of the "universal Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man." Criswell was by no means a lonely extremist among Southern fundamentalists. In 1959, one group of Atlanta evangelicals described integration as "Satanic, unconstitutional, and one of the main objectives of the Communist Party." Yet Criswell's vitriol still stood out in an age of widespread demagoguery garnering national headlines.

Criswell's attacks undoubtedly stemmed in part from the Catholic Church's general support of the civil rights movement. Many Catholic liberals openly supported the NAACP and criticized the prevailing racial order. "Why cannot Dallas, progressive in every other way, be a leader during this critical time?" Sister Mary Ignatius asked in a letter from the suburb of Irving to the Dallas Morning News. "If, without putting up any signs, we simply served graciously every customer who came to a lunch counter — just as we sell merchandise to anyone who patronizes a store — there would be no need for demonstrations. Perhaps then we could read portions of the Declaration and Constitution without blushing, stammering and rationalizing." NAACP activist Craft recalled that some of the first whites in Dallas to support the NAACP were leaders of the Catholic Church. "[M]ost of them had served all over the world," she said. " . . . [They] had been to Rome and different places, and they didn't have the racial prejudice."

Liberal Jews also backed the NAACP. About 9,000 Jews lived in Dallas in 1939-1940, about 3 percent of the city's total population. By the early 1950s, the Jewish population had increased by about half. Before World War II, the Jewish community inclined strongly towards assimilation, aiding their attainment of whiteness. After the war, notes historian Marilynn Wood Hill, "a large migration of Jews from eastern and midwestern metropolitan centers came to Dallas [who] . . . were more traditional in religion, more conscious of their Jewishness, and more desirous of Jewish grouping and ingathering." International events also reinforced a need for a more distinct Jewish identity. "The atrocities of Hitler . . . and the establishment of the state of Israel [in 1948], all helped draw the Jews closer together in a common bond," Hill wrote. The formation of a more distinct group identity confirmed for anti-Semites the stereotype of Jews as clannish and emotionally disconnected from the larger community and, therefore, disloyal.

Because of their higher economic standing than most Latinos, Jews did not see blacks as job competitors or rivals for the spoils of desegregation. Consequently, Jews often supported the civil rights movement in Dallas and condemned economic injustice. However, like Mexican Americans, Jews never completely escaped the pressures of whiteness. Rather than a warm alliance, Dallas blacks and Jews often maintained a chilly distance. Demographic changes in North Central Texas after World War II profoundly shaped Dallas anti-Semitism, the position of Jews in the city's racial hierarchy and the relationship of Jews to African Americans.

The defense industry employed 55,000 people in the city during the war years as Dallas became a major manufacturing center for B-24 bombers and P-51 Mustangs and the new home of firms like North American Aviation (relocating from Inglewood, California in 1940). Detroit-based General Motors constructed a $35 million assembly plant in Arlington, 19 miles west of Dallas, in 1953. Once tied to cotton, then to Texas oil, Dallas became a national center for the electronics industry. Each of these corporate moves brought in their wake highly-trained, technically skilled workers with no cultural or political ties to the Confederacy, Jim Crow or Dixiecrat politics. Ironically, demographic changes weakened the city's commitment to Jim Crow at the same time it fostered the growth of the far right wing.

The Dallas Citizens Council was not designed to absorb the more socially ambitious of the city's recently affluent newcomers. Right-wing men chafed at rule by old patriarchs with long roots in the city, and feared they would be pushed aside by aggressive minorities. The newly-rich and the ambitious middle class joined in their suspicions of the DCC clique and its collaboration with an increasingly "socialist" government in Washington, D.C.

The emerging Dallas New Right saw the United States Supreme Court as locked in a conspiracy with the NAACP and the Communist Party, "all dedicated to the overthrow of 'normal' race relations." The social changes represented by the Civil Rights Movement, as critic Theodore White wrote, most threatened the South's "little rich" — the "prosperous car dealers, the contractors, the bottling concessionaires, the little oil men, the real estate men" — who made up a significant part of Dallas' increasingly complex society.

Dallas held no monopoly on right-wing panic in Texas. For a time in the 1950s, obsession with alleged communist conspiracies competed with the Negrophobia generated by the Supreme Court's Brown v. the Board of Education decision in 1954 as the central issue in Texas politics. Many white Texans saw the rise of the post-World War II Civil Rights movement and communist subversion as intimately linked. This anxiety emanated not just from the right-wing fringe, but from the state's mainstream press, such as the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle as well as political leaders from 1950s Governor Allan Shivers down.

Local school boards fanned much of the Red Scare. Houston, like Dallas, experienced tumultuous, explosive growth as a result of World War II and Cold War defense spending and had attracted a new, diverse population from all over the country and even the world. Houston's population exploded from 300,000 in 1930 to 726,000 in 1950, more than doubling in two decades. The strain on infrastructure and the cultural upheaval generated by so many newcomers settling in what was once an overgrown provincial town generated what Theodore White described as the "Anguish of Modernization."

These concerns found voice in one writer to the Houston Post who bitterly complained of the city's new "metropolitan café society who condone immorality, drunkenness, plural marriage, divorce and worse among themselves." The letter writer, fretful that he and his fundamentalist Protestant ilk had lost control of the emerging metropolis, believed these social changes had to be a result of a communist conspiracy. This message resonated, particularly among Houston's "white, upper-middle class Republicans and conservative Democrats who attracted allies among the city's previously politically inactive professional and white collar workers," who made up the bulk of the city's Red Scare extremists, according to historian Don Carleton.

Flocking to hard-right organizations like the Minute Women, such anti-communist zealots opposing "integration, New Deal Reforms, and progressive education" took over the Houston school district. Once there, they forced the resignation of George W. Ebey, the deputy superintendent, because while in California and Oregon he had openly backed the New Deal and expressed support for black civil rights. School officials fired one math teacher in Houston because he mentioned in a teacher's longue that he backed liberal Democratic Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.

The school board yanked books out of the school library if they had something nice to say about the United Nations and delayed the teaching of world history and geography until tenth grade for fear of even mentioning Karl Marx, the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union to younger children. Such actions took place all over the state, including Dallas, where the city's Museum of Fine Arts and the public library were forced to ban exhibits of left-leaning artists such as Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera.

Many of the affluent in Dallas perceived a federal government profoundly transformed by the Great Depression and World War II and a city dramatically changed by immigration. They did not like what they saw. As historian George Norris Green observed, "[I]n Dallas, the Conservative Establishment itself came under fire from the right and failed to truly meet the challenge." The DCC, always hunting for federal dollars to feed Dallas’ economic expansion, was seen as collaborating with big government and, because of its quiet, backroom deal-making with the black community, was viewed as insufficiently hostile to desegregation.

Hoping to counter the communist menace, a Dallas school board less flamboyantly conservative than their peers in Houston approved the creation of the course "The Principles of American Freedom in Contrast to the Tyranny of Communism" in 1961. The school district purchased 15,000 copies of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's "Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism" in the America and How to Fight It as the textbook. The book argued that communists thoroughly infested the black civil rights movement.

Many of the new rich behind the Texas Red Scare, were oilmen. Such men were generally political outsiders whose influence did not match their wealth. In Dallas, their business orientation was global and therefore not Dallas-centric enough to win inclusion in the Citizens Council. Many of these men, such as H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison along with their Fort Worth peer Sid Richardson, became financiers of the far right in the mid-twentieth century. Murchison, whose son in 1960 became owner of the Dallas Cowboys National Football League franchise, became one of the largest financial contributors to red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin.

Hunt underwrote the tax-exempt Facts Forum organization, publishing pamphlets like "We Must Abolish the United Nations" and "Hitler Was a Liberal" and privately sponsoring an ultraconservative news commentary show called LIFELINE hosted by Dan Smoot and broadcast on more than 80 television and 150 radio stations across the country. Echoing traditional elite hatred of the universal franchise, a belief outlined in his novel Alpaca, Hunt once raged at Smoot after the former FBI man said in a LIFELINE broadcast that democracy was "a political outgrowth of the teachings of Jesus Christ." Hunt corrected Smoot, deriding democracy as the handiwork of the devil and a "phony liberal form of watered down communism."

To the far right, every social justice reform represented a step towards the socialism and miscegenation plotted by conspiratorial Jews. "THE PRESIDENT OF NAACP . . . IS NOT A NEGRO, BUT A MEMBER OF THIS MINORITY NON-CHRISTIAN GROUP BY THE NAME OF A. SPRINGARN," one anti-Semitic flier proclaimed in all capital letters. The flier, distributed in Dallas in the 1950s by "Texas Christians for Freedom," quoted a "Rabbi Rabinovich" outlining a sinister Jewish plot to eliminate the white race. "We will openly reveal our identity with the races of Asia and Africa," the flier quoted Rabinovich as predicting. "I can state with assurance that the last generation of white children is now being born. [We] . . . will . . . forbid the whites to mate with whites. The white women must cohabit with members of the dark races, the white men with the black women. Thus the white race will disappear, for mixing the dark with the white means the end of the white man, and our most dangerous enemy will become only a memory."

The themes of the Jew as non-white racial alien, as instigator of communism, as tireless conspirator and determined race-mixer, all came together in the work of John Owen Beaty, longtime chairman of the English department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. First appointed to the SMU faculty in 1919, the West Virginia native served as chief of the Historical Section in the War Department's Military Intelligence Service during World War II. By the time he returned to SMU, he became embittered by what he saw as the Jewish domination of culture.

His 1951 opus "Iron Curtain Over America" warned that Jews threatened American democracy. Because of its British Israelism, the 1920s Dallas Klan had acknowledged a distant kinship with modern-day Jews, though they believed Jews had become hopelessly corrupted through race mixing and rejection of Jesus Christ as savior. Beaty went further in his anti-Semitism, denying that the Eastern European Jews who represented the bulk of the American Jewish population descended from the Biblical Israelites.

Most Jews, he claimed, descended from Khazars, a "belligerent tribe" of "mixed stock, with Mongol and Turkic affinities" that, while living between the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea, converted en masse to Judaism in the 8th or 9th century C.E. "The blood of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob flows not at all (or to a sporadic degree . . .) in the veins of the Jews who have come to America from Eastern Europe," Beaty wrote.

Beaty's denial of modern American Jews' Hebrew origins was not original. Anti-Semitic eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard made a similar claim three decades earlier. Beaty's work, however, far exceeded Stoddard's in its populism and its paranoia. Beaty's Khazars are ever ambitious for power and influence, and experience almost super-human success. Unable to assimilate in Eastern Europe because of their arrogance, he alleged, Khazars eventually provoked the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. "The Marxian program of drastic controls, so repugnant to the free western mind, was no obstacle to the acceptance of Marxism by many Khazar Jews, for the Babylonian Talmud under which they lived had taught them to accept authoritarian dictation on everything from their immorality to their trade practices," Beaty wrote.

Other Khazar Jews immigrated to the United States in mass numbers after World War I and took over the Democratic Party, thus leading to the crypto-socialism and racial liberalism of the Roosevelt era. Jews then provoked World War II, he claimed. "Our alien-dominated government fought the war for the annihilation of Germany, the historic bulwark of Christian Europe," Beaty cried in italics. Just six years after American troops had liberated concentration camps in western Germany, Beaty denied the Holocaust happened, labeling the Shoah a fraud launched to justify the slaughter of Aryans and, after 1948, to blackmail the West into political and financial support of Israel. Khazars stood on the verge of world domination. To save America, Beaty argued, Christians must develop "some method of preventing our unassimilable mass of aliens and alien-minded people from exercising" political and cultural power "out of all proportion" to their numbers.

Beaty's message reached a broad audience, going through nine printings by 1953. Beaty's book went beyond familiar anti-Semitic themes. With his Holocaust denial and claims that Jews were sinister Asians not descended from the monotheistic heroes of the Old Testament, Beaty laid out the major doctrines that would dominate the racist far right wing in the late twentieth century. Beaty particularly influenced the Christian Identity movement, including groups like Aryan Nations, which splintered from other believers in British Israelism in the late twentieth century over their insistence that Jews were the literal descendents of Satan and that only Western and Northern Europeans were legitimate heirs of ancient Israel. A half-century later, Identity web sites still sold copies of "Iron Curtain Over America" and cited it as an authoritative academic justification for anti-Semitism.

More ominous for the Dallas Jewish community than Beaty’s fringe ranting was the tepid response mainstream city leaders gave his outbursts. SMU President Umphrey Lee had ignored letters complaining of Beaty's anti-Semitism dating back to 1947. The Public Affairs Luncheon Club, a women's organization, adopted a unanimous resolution backing Beaty and requesting that SMU investigate the faculty’s philosophy and values. In spite of his noteriety, Beaty continued teaching at SMU until his retirement in 1957.

Doubts about Jewish whiteness persisted after Beaty. In the 1950s and 1960s, several country clubs excluded Jews. The Dallas Junior League remained closed to Jews, as did several SMU sororities and fraternities. Just as the Dallas press emphasized Meyer Perlstein's Russian Jewish origins during the garment workers' strike of the 1930s, Dallas newspapers in 1963 pointedly referred to Jack Ruby, the murderer of President John Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, by the more Semitic-sounding "Jacob Rubenstein." This happened even though Ruby long before legally changed his name.

Though many Jews like Fred Florence and Stanley Marcus achieved economic prominence by the 1950s and 1960s, there were no Jews at the top executive level of the major insurance companies at the time, and few Jews held executive positions at banks. The most successful Jews ran the city's department stores, such as Sanger-Harris, Titche-Goettinger, Neiman-Marcus, and E.M. Khan, where they found themselves, uncomfortably, on the front battle lines over Jim Crow.

Many Jewish leaders, like Rabbi Levi Olan, felt that a shared history of oppression made Jewish support of African American civil rights a moral imperative. Born in 1903 near Kiev, the future rabbi grew up in Rochester, New York in a Yiddish-speaking family. Graduating in six years from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Olan accepted a position as rabbi in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1929. He remained there until 1949 when he was invited to lead Dallas' Temple Emanu-El congregation.
Dallas Jews had pursued whiteness to the point of losing their identity.

Upon his 1949 arrival, Olan found that the temple's entire service was in English with the exception of one Hebrew prayer. Congregation songs were led by a quartet and organist who were, in Olan's words, "all goyim." The synagogue largely abandoned celebrating bar mitzvahs to mark the passage of 13-year old boys in the congregation into manhood, in favor of the more Christian-sounding "confirmation" ceremony marking graduation from religious school. Rabbi Olan saw his major assignment as halting assimilationist extremism. "In Dallas the job was to make Jews out of goyim," he joked. Olan instigated changes at the temple, including a repertoire of Hebrew liturgical music for services. "We are being taken over by the third wave of immigration," one temple member of German descent complained, pointedly attacking Olan's Eastern European heritage. Olan countered that he was merely trying to reawaken consciousness of Jewish culture and history.

Olan recalled the cold reception he received when he turned his attention to black civil rights. Like his Dallas predecessor David Lefkowitz, and like many of his contemporaries such as Rabbi Jacob Rothschild of Atlanta and Charles Mantinband of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, he became one more Northern-born religious leader trying to prod a sometimes reluctant Southern congregation to more boldly support African American civil rights. Many Southern Jews took up the cause reluctantly well into the Civil Rights Era.

A 1961 poll showed that while 97 percent of Northern Jews approved the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that mandated desegregation of public school systems, 40 percent of Southern Jews considered the decision "unfortunate." A majority of Southern Jews said that desegregation was moving too quickly. If Southern Jews proved friendlier to black civil rights than their Gentile neighbors, this seemed too timid to Northern immigrants like Olan.

"When I came down to Texas, I had a program on the air," Olan recalled in a 1983 interview. " . . . [O]ne of my first sermons [was] . . . because I saw these . . . toilets which had signs 'for whites only' and that got me. So I preached a sermon on the radio on the race issue. My phone rang that afternoon. Someone says to me, 'Go back where you came from.'"

Olan did not back down on what he considered a basic moral principle. "Segregation is immoral," he preached in blunt language. Because of his support of black political aims, Olan suffered through bomb threats, hate mail, and eggs hurled at Temple Emanu-El and his home. Even as tension rose over Dallas school desegregation, the rabbi delivered a guest sermon at Good Street Baptist Church, an African American congregation. Many Jews applauded Olan and became benefactors of African American institutions such as Bishop College. Olan, Julius Schepps, Jacob Kravitz and Sam Bloom all played key roles in a publicity campaign aimed at persuading Dallas to react calmly when school desegregation began in 1961.

Most Jews, however, were not as bold as Olan. Some preferred to work within the limits of Jim Crow to improve the lives of African Americans. More typical was Jerome Crossman, an attorney and president of the Ryan Consolidated Petroleum Company. In the early 1950s Crossman campaigned to find a nonprofit corporation that would buy land and extend utilities for a segregated, middle-class black housing development to relieve the South Dallas tensions that resulted in the 1950-51 bombings. His efforts culminated in the creation of Hamilton Park, a modest subdivision located at Forest Lane, 100 yards east of Central Expressway, on the far north fringes of the city more than 10 miles from downtown.

Crossman, as historian William H. Wilson notes, was guided by his Reform Judaism to be "very concerned about the welfare of all mankind, regardless of race, color, or creed." Crossman believed that through incremental changes race relations would improve. "Crossman was an optimist, but no visionary," Wilson writes. "He did not foresee a desegregated society . . . nor was he a racial liberal attempting to move towards that goal . . . He would labor for racial justice within the boundaries set by enlightened whites such as himself."

Many Jews sensed their tenuous acceptance within Dallas and feared going too far in their racial liberalism. In the mid-1950s, Anthony Jones, an African American professor of international relations and government at Bishop College, studied Judaism under Levi Olan and applied for membership in the congregation. Fearing a violent Gentile backlash, not everyone in the congregation welcomed Jones. "There were some problems, some I must say opposition," said Irving Goldberg, president of Temple Emanu-El at the time. "And there was genuine fear because at that time synagogues all over the country were being bombed . . . "

With so many Jews owning and/or operating downtown department stores, it was inevitable that some Jews would not only work within the limits of Jim Crow laws, but also actively enforce them. Downtown stores refused to allow black patrons to try on clothes. Other stores excluded blacks all together. Many African Americans, impatient with the petty humiliations they endured as customers at prominent stores such as Sanger's or Titche-Goetinger's staged protests.

In 1953, the "Citizen's Committee To Abolish Discrimination Against Negro Women in Dallas Department Stores" set up shop at the Excelsior Life Building on Flora Street. W.J. Durham, chairman of the committee, circulated a letter reporting on his efforts. Durham had persuaded Morton Sanger, manager of the E.M. Kahn store, to contact other store managers and operators who were "discriminating against Negro women in the sale of merchandise and the services connected with the sale of merchandise." Stanley Marcus of the Neiman-Marcus store said that he was "leaving on a trip, but he would study the matter and see what could be done about it." Marcus, by reputation one of the city's leading liberals, apparently took his time. The store maintained segregation for another eight years, banning blacks from sitting next to white customers at the dining facility, or using the same bathrooms, until 1961.

Representatives of other stores, Durham wrote, said that " . . . 'they would not meet with the members of [the] committee and discuss the matter,' that their business was their private business and they would operate it in such manner as they desired." Morton Sanger was reported to have said that "such action on the part of the other operators left the management of the Kahn store to choose between two classes of business — white trade and trade from Negro citizens. Therefore, I can do nothing about the racial discrimination policy in force at the Kahn store."

The racism of Dallas' larger white community provided moral cover for individual merchants. No store could safely desegregate unless every store did. "The department stores' position is crystal clear; namely, that such stores will continue to insult Negro women . . . and if Negro men continue to trade at such stores, they will and must do so in the face of the fact that their women will continually be insulted and mistreated . . ," Durham wrote.

Resentments between blacks and Jews developed because of the very different place the two groups occupied on the city's racial hierarchy. Blacks saw their health, safety and survival at stake in the civil rights struggle. Discrimination aimed at Jews consisted largely of exclusion from country clubs or from the upper limits of the corporate hierarchy. Such complaints might have seemed trivial to African Americans, who may not have been fully sensitive to the impact that the rise of the Klan in Dallas during the 1920s, the Nazi Holocaust and other instances of Gentile violence had on the Jewish community's sense of security.
Juanita Craft attributed the strain that existed between blacks and Jews in Dallas to the distance that marked all white-black relations in the South.

"They [Jews] accept us, you know, as far as meetings and things of that sort, if you meet them, but they don't put themselves to any trouble to meet us, and we don't put ourselves to any trouble to meet them," she said. Craft said part of the problem was a cultural gulf between the two groups. "You know, a lot of this stuff has developed because of the ignorance of our people," Craft said. "When I was a child coming up, I thought of a Jew as something that was different from everything else. 'He's going to Jew you down.' . . . He's going to be dishonest with you and things of that sort — a stigma that was very unfair."

Some blacks echoed traditional Gentile anti-Semitism, but more often they saw Jews as simply part of an undifferentiated white majority. This perspective was summed up years later in August 1993 by John Wiley Price, the controversial Dallas County Commissioner, who met with a crowd of more than 70 at the North Dallas Jewish Community Center. "Most African-Americans don't know enough to be anti-Semitic," Price told the crowd. "We don't know the difference between Anglos and Jewish people." What Price did not know was that the erasure of that difference between Anglos and Jewish people was the result of about a century of difficult and not entirely successful Jewish effort. Full whiteness for both Jews and Mexican Americans remained a slippery objective.

A tantalizing chance existed for marginal whites to ally politically with blacks in the 1950s and 1960s. The indifference and, at times, hostility of the Mexican American political leadership to African Americans, and the compromised humanitarianism of Jewish leaders like Jerome Crossman towards the civil rights cause, frustrated any possible victory for Dallas' progressive forces. The distance between these groups arising just after World War II guaranteed that the city's freedom movement in the 1960s enjoyed little visibility and mostly symbolic success. The conflicts between blacks, Mexican Americans, and Jews laid the groundwork for the internecine strife that would characterize much of Dallas politics after desegregation.

As the 1960s progressed elites were forced to abandon Jim Crow. Elite actions, however, were based largely on their fear of an enraged, politicized lower class. Even as they sought to incorporate conservative African Americans into the ruling structure, elites continued to see the Anglo working class as uncivilized barbarians, outside the norms of whiteness, threatening to destroy a wealthy metropolis. Elites sought to accommodate these groups with symbolic democracy.

Discourse about the dangers of democracy gave way to praise of America’s heritage of freedom. This rhetorical shift occurred even as the Dallas Citizens Council lost its absolute control of city hall. The city's Democrats divided into Dixiecrat and liberal wings even as some conservatives, dismayed by the civil rights agenda of the national Democratic Party, set aside political traditions dating back to the Civil War and found the Republican Party an increasingly congenial home for white supremacist politics. The weakening of the Democratic Party undermined support for Jim Crow laws. This prevented the city from adopting harsh measures to preserve the racial ancien regime. Softer measures were called for to keep African Americans demands in check. White Texans should politically reward loyal, subservient blacks and conservative Mexican Americans, elites would believe, in order to thwart the political aspirations of more radical blacks and their white allies.

Rather than ruling for the city as a whole, elites had smashed Dallas into atomized parts. This alienation protected elites from the rebellion they feared. This was far from the "beloved community" that black leaders like John Leslie Patton and Juanita Craft had dreamed of when they began their struggle in the 1930s and 1940s. This outcome was not so obvious at the dawn of the 1960s. For many African Americans, the Civil Rights Era seemed the time of the possible in which liberals could imagine without embarrassment a future of racial fairness.

Charles Graggs, an African American writer for the Dallas Express whose letters-to-the-editor flooded the Dallas Morning News in the post-war years, had not yet lost hope for a better tomorrow. "During the first years of my writing letters to the News, pleading for justice and equality, most of the letters, post cards and phone calls I received in reply were ugly and bitter," he wrote 10 months before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in downtown Dallas. "But such responses gradually dwindled until today most of the comment is friendly and cordial. This shows Dallas is throwing off its old idol of hate and segregation, a fact which makes me rejoice." Graggs’ celebration proved tragically premature.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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