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April 22, 1996
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v2.1 Reference

Inside Agitators

White Southerners in the Civil Rights Movement

About the Author

David Chappell teaches history at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.


David Chappell's new study provides fresh insight into the Civil Rights movement by shifting the analytical focus from the strivings of African-Americans to the crucial and little-understood role of white Southerners. Chappell explodes the convenient myth of the monolithic and homogeneous white South to reveal a society deeply divided over segregation.

- Kari Frederickson - Southern Historian

This well-written and fascinating account shows how important white moderates were to the success of the civil rights movement and how black leaders consciously made winning them over to their cause an integral part of their strategy.

- John E. Miller - Historian

Chappell is at his best in describing the dynamics which took place in various southern communities. He also examines the struggles between similar forces on the national scene, as carried on by various southern players within the Democratic Party, the executive office, and the Justice Department.

- Michael Honey - Peace and Change

Chappell's is a major piece of historical writing that will be of interest to general readers as well as to more specialized students of the Civil Rights movement in the American South.

- Neil Thorburn - History


In the movement, we always said that, like in a washing machine, it was the agitator that got the dirt out. David Chappell's book shows how the inside agitators helped cleanse the society of an extreme injustice. It is an enlightening and important look at a less publicized part of this history.

- Andrew Young

A superb study done with subtlety and keen insight, it is absolutely essential for understanding the vital role white Southerners played in the civil rights movement.

- C. Vann Woodward, Yale University

Chappell's argument is insightful and worth serious attention. It makes particularly fascinating reading from the perspective of the 1990s.

- David R. Colburn - Reviews in American History

In this engaging work on Southern whites who sympathized with the Civil Rights Movement, Chappell argues that moderate whites, though lacking a moral commitment to civil rights, played a key role in the movement's success at both the local and national levels.

- Virginia Quarterly Review

One of the many virtues of David Chappell's fascinating study is that he does not romanticize white southerners who were sympathetic toward the civil rights movement. Rather than depicting them simply as courageous dissenters, he shows that their motives for supporting civil rights reform were varied and complex—a mixture of altruism, pragmatism, paternalism, guilt, and numerous other idiosyncratic sentiments.

- Clayborne Carson, Editor of the Papers of Martin Luther King Jr.

Chappell is to be commended for struggling with hard questions about historical causation.

- Robert J. Norrell - Journal of American History

With keen insight, Chappell argues that not only were white southerners far from solid in their commitment to segregation during the civil rights era, but that the movement actively exploited and widened their divisions to achieve both local victories and federal intervention.

- Mark Newman - Journal of American Studies
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801852343 : inside-agitators-chappell
Paperback / softback
336 Pages
$28.00 USD

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