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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Historical Studies (CHS)

CHS Lecture - Maarten Zwiers: "Cotton, Oil, and Sugar: U.S. Commodities and the Global Aspirations of the Jim Crow South, 1945-1969"

When:Mo 14-10-2019 16:00 - 17:30
Where:Tammeszaal, 4th floor University Library

The U.S. South has often been depicted as a rural backwater, completely out of step with modern times, characterized by an antiquated plantation labor system and a gothic political culture. In my CHS lecture I will take a different approach to the region. In contrast with the traditional view that the white South was fighting a forlorn rearguard battle to maintain its segregationist (or Jim Crow) system after World War II, I argue that southern segregationists were fully immersed in Cold War modernity and actively sought to secure and advance their white-supremacist way of life through interregional and transnational alliances, making their impact global in nature.

On the basis of three case studies, I will explain how agents of the southern racial order exported its racist ideology across regional borders to other parts of the world. Jim Crow ideology impacted various economic activities, such as cotton exports to postwar Europe, oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean sugar trade, and the development of pesticides. Spokesmen of southern segregation fused anticommunism, free-market capitalism, and whiteness into a powerful message to maintain white control, both at home and abroad. This message took on added significance within the context of the Cold War and decolonization.