Managing White Supremacy

Race, Politics, and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia

By J. Douglas Smith

432 pp., 6.14 x 9.21, 18 halftones, 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5424-2
    Published: December 2002
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6226-1
    Published: November 2003
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7228-9
    Published: November 2003

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

2003 Library of Virginia Literary Award in Non-fiction, Library of Virginia Center for the Book

Tracing the erosion of white elite paternalism in Jim Crow Virginia, Douglas Smith reveals a surprising fluidity in southern racial politics in the decades between World War I and the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Smith draws on official records, private correspondence, and letters to newspapers from otherwise anonymous Virginians to capture a wide and varied range of black and white voices. African Americans emerge as central characters in the narrative, as Smith chronicles their efforts to obtain access to public schools and libraries, protection under the law, and the equitable distribution of municipal resources.

This acceleration of black resistance to white supremacy in the years before World War II precipitated a crisis of confidence among white Virginians, who, despite their overwhelming electoral dominance, felt increasingly insecure about their ability to manage the color line on their own terms. Exploring the everyday power struggles that accompanied the erosion of white authority in the political, economic, and educational arenas, Smith uncovers the seeds of white Virginians' resistance to civil rights activism in the second half of the twentieth century.

About the Author

J. Douglas Smith is a visiting assistant professor of history at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California.
For more information about J. Douglas Smith, visit the Author Page.


"Managing White Supremacy is an intricate book, subtly and effectively written, lucidly conceptualized, persuasively argued, and thoroughly researched."--North Carolina Historical Review

"Historians have uncovered a 'hidden transcript' of African American attempts to undermine the seemingly impregnable fortress of Jim Crow in the 1920s and 1930s. Now J. Douglas Smith in a masterly study documents the anxieties and fears of elite whites in Virginia as they struggled to maintain control of the state and to manage race relations between the wars. Smith's brilliant dissection of the limits of elite paternalism is essential to understanding why African Americans would expose the myth of harmonious race relations in the 1940s and 1950s and why white Virginia leaders would resort to massive resistance as a final, futile attempt to manage white supremacy."--Tony Badger, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University,

"J. Douglas Smith's Managing White Supremacy is an important contribution to the historiography of southern race relations. It is also beautifully written, respectful of complexity, and compellingly presented. Anyone who wants to understand what racial segregation was about and why the civil rights movement freed southern whites, too, should read this book."--John Kneebone, Library of Virginia