Cover for PRIDE: The Political Use of Racial Narratives: School Desegregation in Mobile, Alabama, 1954-97. Click for larger image

The Political Use of Racial Narratives

School Desegregation in Mobile, Alabama, 1954-97

Exploring who benefits and who pays when different narratives of race compete for acceptance

Arguing that politics is essentially a contest for meaning and that telling a story is an elemental political act, Richard A. Pride lays bare the history of school desegregation in Mobile, Alabama, to demonstrate the power of narrative in cultural and political change. This book describes the public, personal, and meta-narratives of racial inequality that have competed for dominance in Mobile. Pride begins with a white liberal's quest to desegregate the city's public schools in 1955 and traces which narratives--those of biological inferiority, white oppression, the behavior and values of blacks, and others--came to influence public policy and opinion over four decades. Drawing on contemporaneous sources, he reconstructs the stories of demonstrations, civic forums, court cases, and school board meetings as citizens of Mobile would have experienced them, inviting readers to trace the story of desegregation in Mobile through the voices of politicians, protestors, and journalists and to determine which narratives were indeed most powerful.

Exploring who benefits and who pays when different narratives are accepted as true, Pride offers a step-by-step account of how Mobile's culture changed each time a new and more forceful narrative was used to justify inequality. More than a retelling of Mobile's story of desegregation, The Political Use of Racial Narratives promotes the value of rhetorical and narrative analysis in the social sciences and history.

"A splendid analysis of how racial narratives can influence the public's support for or opposition to school desegregation. . . . Pride's work is a virtually flawless product of painstaking research. Moreover, his innovative examination of the impact of narratives makes his book valuable for students and researchers in the social sciences."--American Historical Review

"A rich and interesting account of local political struggles in Mobile, Alabama, starting in 1954, against federally imposed school desegregation. . . . This book is a valuable contribution to the field both conceptually in terms of our understanding of the political power of the narrative, and in terms of historical detail."--Ethnic and Racial Studies

Richard A. Pride, professor emeritus of political science at Vanderbilt University, is the coauthor of The Burden of Busing: The Politics of Desegregation in Nashville, Tennessee.

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