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Black Struggle, Red Scare

Segregation and Anti-Communism in the South, 1948-1968

282 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 5 halftones

American History

  Paperback / 9780807129265 / October 2003

At the height of the cold war, southern segregationists exploited the reigning mood of anxiety by linking the civil rights movement to an international Communist conspiracy. Jeff Woods tells a gripping story of fervent crusaders for racial equality swept into the maelstrom of the South’s siege mentality, of crafty political opportunists who played upon white southerners’ very real fear of Communists, and of a people who saw lurking enemies and detected red propaganda everywhere. In their strange double identity as both defiant Confederate flag-wavers fiercely protecting regional sovereignty and as American superpatriots, many southerners stood ready to defend against subversives be they red or black.

Concentrating on the phenomenon at its most intense period, Woods makes vivid the fearful synergy that developed between racist forces and the anti-Communist cause, reveals the often illegal means used to wash the movement red, and documents the gross waste of public funds in pursuing an almost nonexistent threat. Though ultimately unsuccessful in convincing Americans outside of Dixie that the civil rights protests were controlled by Moscow, the southern red scare forced movement activists to distance themselves from the Marxist elements in their midst — thereby gaining the sympathy of the American people while losing the support of some of their most passionate antiracist campaigners.

A product of vast archival research and the latest literature on this increasingly popular subject, this is the first book to consider the southern red scare as a unique regional phenomenon rather than an offshoot of McCarthyism or massive resistance. Addressing the fundamental struggle of Americans to balance liberty and security in an atmosphere of racial prejudice and ideological conflict, it will be equally compelling for students of civil rights, southern history, the cold war, and American anti-Communism. 

Jeff Woods is an assistant professor of history at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. He lives in Conway.

Praise for Black Struggle, Red Scare

“Woods has produced a well-researched, valuable study of a formalized brand of anti-Communism that was popularized in the South by organized bodies constructed in the image of earlier, federal models.”—Journal of Cold War Studies

“[A] thoughtful and well-written book.”—American Historical Review

 “In Black Struggle, Red Scare, Woods also adds much to our understanding of an often overlooked counter-revolution that succeeded in slowing down, harassing, and limiting the gains of the civil rights movement.”—Georgia Historical Quarterly

“Woods presents solid research in an interesting and lively narrative.”—Arkansas Review

“Based on an impressive familiarity with the primary and secondary literature, Black Struggle, Red Scare holds much promise for students of the explosive southern response to the Brown decision and the civil rights movement.”—Journal of Southern History

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