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White violence, black nationalism, and the NAACP in North Carolina, 1918-1940

Lennon, Thomas (2017) White violence, black nationalism, and the NAACP in North Carolina, 1918-1940. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The aftermath of World War I saw widespread violence by whites against African Americans across the United States. This study is a state-level comparison of different African-American responses to the problem of white violence, primarily those represented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). While the NAACP aimed to secure federal legislation against lynching, the black nationalist UNIA favoured a separatist approach which emphasised group solidarity and self-defence. The segregated urban areas of North Carolina had a well-established black middle class and hosted vibrant NAACP branches and UNIA divisions, offering insights into both intra- and interracial dynamics.Both the UNIA and the NAACP were successful at grassroots level within a relatively short period of time after World War I and in the early-1920s. The thesis uses the theme of white violence and black responses to link the fluctuating fortunes of the NAACP and of the UNIA and argues that the UNIA’s focus on self-defence is an under-appreciated aspect of its popularity among southern African Americans. Meanwhile, the NAACP’s emphasis on anti-lynching legislation, while effective at putting pressure on influential whites, did not offer a practical solution to people worried about violence. The ways in which black North Carolinians approached the problem of white violence suggest that different solutions to the problem coexisted, rather than being sequential or contradictory. Changes in the manifestations of anti-black violence also shed light on changing expressions of North Carolinian whiteness. By examining shifts from the late-nineteenth century, when influential whites frequently condoned anti-black violence, to the interwar period, when most influential whites condemned racist violence, the thesis challenges North Carolina’s reputation for civility in race relations and sheds light on how the dominant versions of whiteness and masculinity in the state changed over time.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Depositing User: Mr Thomas Lennon
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2018 09:50
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2018 09:50
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20451

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