Making Whiteness

By Grace Elizabeth Hale,

Book cover of Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940

Book description

Making Whiteness is a profoundly important work that explains how and why whiteness came to be such a crucial, embattled--and distorting--component of twentieth-century American identity.  In intricately textured detail and with passionately mastered analysis, Grace Elizabeth Hale shows how, when faced with the active citizenship of their ex-slaves after the…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Making Whiteness as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

In this academic work, Hale explores what she terms as “spectacle lynchings” and the shift from private to public violence. Hale considers how newspapers, photographs, and radio broadcasts brought news of these brutal scenes to an audience of tens of thousands. Through her careful examination, Hale lays out how the media shaped a national narrative that is relevant for both understanding conversations about racial violence and for considering how mass media shapes our current perspectives.

This book, while pitched to an academic audience, blew me away when I first read it because Hale demonstrates with intricate precision that whiteness is not natural, but rather it is constructed. Southern Whites used culture to construct whiteness as a racial ideology after Reconstruction, framing the way they saw themselves and undergirding Jim Crow and the oppression of Blacks in America for decades to come. Examining the emergence of a multilayered national consumer market, and Black pushback against a modernizing version of white supremacy, Hale shows how racial identity is quite literally “made,” inviting modern readers to envision ways…

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