White Backlash and the American State – Syllabus

Dr. William Horne                                                                                                     
Fall 2021

Course Description:

On 1 June 2021, President Biden commemorated the centennial anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre in which white Americans killed Black Tulsans with impunity as they burned the Black Greenwood neighborhood to the ground. While many Americans expressed surprise and horror when they learned of the massacre for the first time over the last year, white supremacist violence erupted repeatedly from Memphis, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles and Wilmington in the nineteenth century to Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Greensboro in the twentieth, targeting nonwhite others from across the racial spectrum. And although they seemed sporadic bursts racist violence, these massacres occurred without exception alongside political movements to limit the rights of marginalized groups to benefit a white majority. This course examines this process of backlash, encompassing both vigilantism and public policy, as a central feature of the American state.


Each student will be responsible for leading discussion of two texts over the course of the semester. These may be of any of our texts and will ideally align closely with your areas of interest. You will give a short overview of the text, its context, and implications during class and then ask questions to help inspire discussion.

You will also write one article-length case-study essay due at the end of the semester (20-25 pages). This assignment will draw upon the readings and use documentary evidence from a white backlash movement that explains how the backlash worked, what the backlashers hoped to accomplish, and its implications.

Please feel free to talk with me or one another about your topic over the course and to email me early or partial drafts for feedback—an important way we grow as writers and thinkers. The final paper is due on December 12th at 11:59pm ET and should use Chicago-style citations.

Class Schedule:


Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.


W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880, chapters 7, 16, and 17.

William Horne — “Landscapes of Emancipation: Plantations and African American Liberation” (PDF)


David Zucchino, Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy.

Michael W. Fitzgerald,“Ex-Slaveholders and the Ku Klux Klan Exploring the Motivations of Terrorist Violence” in After Slavery, edited by Bruce Baker and Brian Kelley.

Caroline Grego, “Black Autonomy, Red Cross Recovery, and White Backlash after the Great Sea Island Storm of 1893.”


Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940.

Daniel B. Jonesa, Werner Troesken, and Randall Walsh, “Political participation in a violent society: The impact of lynching on voter turnout in the post-Reconstruction South.”

Jhacova A. Williams, Trevon D. Logan, and Bradley L. Hardy, “The Persistence of Historical Racial Violence and Political Suppression: Implications for Contemporary Regional Inequality.”


Barbara Foley, Spectres of 1919: Class and Nation in the Making of the New Negro.

David F. Krugler, “A Mob in Uniform: Soldiers and Civilians in Washington’s Red Summer, 1919.”


Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.

Taulby H. Edmondson, “Protesting ‘a Bigger and Better Birth of a Nation’: Lost Causism and Black Resistance to David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind, 1936–1940.”


Kari Frederickson, The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968.

Robert J. Norrell, “Labor at the Ballot Box: Alabama Politics from the New Deal to the Dixiecrat Movement.”


Elizabeth Gillespie McRae, Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy.

Andrea Meryl Kirshenbaum, “‘The Vampire That Hovers Over North Carolina’: Gender, White Supremacy, and the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898.”


Michael Flamm, Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s.

Robert K. Goidel, Craig M. Freeman, and Steven T. Procopio, “The Impact of Television Viewing on Perceptions of Juvenile Crime.”


Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism.

Kieth M. Finley, “White Flight and the Alteration of the Southern Political Narrative : Louisiana’s Sixth District Elects a Congressman, 1966.”


Elizabeth Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America.

Kirstine Taylor, “Sunbelt Capitalism, Civil Rights, and the Development of Carceral Policy in North Carolina, 1954–1970.”


Marisa Abrajano and Zoltan L. Hajnal, White Backlash: Immigration, Race, and American Politics.

Ryan T. O’Leary, “From Anglo-Saxon Nativism to Executive Order: Civil Religion and Anti-Immigration Rhetoric.”


Daniel Martinez HoSang and Joseph E. Lowndes, Producers, Parasites, Patriots: Race and the New Right-Wing Politics of Precarity.

Lawrence Glickman and John S. Huntington,“ America’s Most Destructive Habit.”

Up Next: Dr. William Horne’s companion piece to this syllabus, discussing the history of white backlash, teaching this topic in the wake of January 6, and a Further Reading list.

Featured image: White reactionaries protest the integration of Central High School in Little Rock (1959), using language eerily similar to today’s “CRT” protestors. Image via Wikimedia.

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