40 pages • 1 hour readC. Vann Woodward
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At the core of Woodward’s argument is the idea that history is not an inevitable linear progression. Rather, a close examination of the historical record reveals stops and starts, ruptures and breaks, continuity and discontinuity. Southern history in particular has experienced several distinct historical phases. Woodward highlights “slavery and secession, independence and defeat, emancipation and reconstruction, redemption and reunion” (31), revealing change to be a constant theme in Southern history. Throughout the text he identifies moments where alternative paths were possible or likely. Woodward writes:
the new Southern system was regarded as the ‘final settlement,’ the ‘return to sanity,’ the ‘permanent system.’ Few stopped to reflect that previous systems had also been regarded as final, sane, and permanent by their supporters (36).
In short, civil rights and civil rights for African Americans is a new phase in a long lineage of radical changes.
Woodward directly addresses how the conditions of the present affects historical interpretation. In the Introduction Woodward situates his history of segregation in the South within the context of the period he was writing, the mid-20th century.
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By C. Vann Woodward