Jim Crow Citizenship
Liberalism and the Southern Defense of Racial Hierarchy
Routledge – 2011 – 202 pages
In the late 1860s the U.S. federal government initiated the most abrupt transition from slavery to citizenship in the Americas. The transformation, of course, did not stick, but it did permanently alter the terms of American citizenship and initiated a century long struggle over the place of African Americans in the American polity.
Southern Progressives, crucial in this account, were faced with a significant ideological challenge: how to reconcile their liberal principles with their commitments to racial hierarchy. The ideological work performed by Southern Progressives was instrumental to the establishment of white supremacist institutions in the heart of a putatively liberal democracy and illuminate how combinations of liberal and illiberal principles have affected the history of American political thought.
In this work, Marek Steedman demonstrates how Southern Progressives combined commitments to liberal, even democratic, politics with equally strong commitments to the maintenance of racial hierarchy. He shows that there are systematic features of the traditions of liberal and republican thought, on the one hand, and ideologies of race, on the other, that facilitate their combination. Jim Crow Citizenship relates familiar developments in American state-building, legal development, and political thought to race, thus showing how race intertwines with these developments, often shaping them in decisive fashion.
"This fine book brilliantly explores how America’s liberal tradition coexisted and evolved alongside white supremacy in the early twentieth century south. By honestly surveying a distinctively southern progressive movement that interwove commitment to liberal values with patriarchal racial hierarchies, Steedman shifts the ground for future considerations of liberalism and race in American politics. Highly recommended for scholars of liberal theory, race and political development, and legal history, but also for anyone who wants to understand the roots of contemporary racial politics in the United States."
—Julie Novkov, University at Albany, SUNY
"Marek Steedman has done an exceptional job in tracing the contours of southern political thought. In Jim Crow Citizenship, Steedman rightfully returns the study of southern political thought to its important role in shaping American political thought and American political development. Students of the south and especially of Southern Progressivism will have to grapple with the enduring questions of race, citizenship and American liberalism that Steedman confronts."
—Kimberley Johnson, Barnard College
1. Introduction 2. Familial Relations: Dependents-by-Nature and the Antebellum Household 3. ‘Dead Votes’: Reconstructing Citizenship and Dependence 4. New Beings: Race and ‘The Foundations of Free Government’ 5. Wards of the Nation: The Progressive Tutelage of the Races 6. Conclusion
Marek D. Steedman is associate professor of Political Science at the University of Southern Mississippi.