Cover for CAMPNEY: Hostile Heartland: Racism, Repression, and Resistance in the Midwest. Click for larger image

Hostile Heartland

Racism, Repression, and Resistance in the Midwest

Retracing the contours of racist violence beyond the South

We forget that racist violence permeated the lower Midwest from the pre–Civil War period until the 1930s. From Kansas to Ohio, whites orchestrated extraordinary events like lynchings and riots while engaged in a spectrum of brutal acts made all the more horrific by being routine. Also forgotten is the fact African Americans forcefully responded to these assertions of white supremacy through armed resistance, the creation of press outlets and civil rights organizations, and courageous individual activism.

Drawing on cutting-edge methodology and a wealth of documentary evidence, Brent M. S. Campney analyzes the institutionalized white efforts to assert and maintain dominance over African Americans. Though rooted in the past, white violence evolved into a fundamentally modern phenomenon, driven by technologies such as newspapers, photographs, automobiles, and telephones. Other surprising insights challenge our assumptions about sundown towns, who was targeted by whites, law enforcement's role in facilitating and perpetrating violence, and the details of African American resistance.

"In this very smart book, Brent Campney builds upon his vast research unearthing the history of racist violence in America’s heartland. Hostile Heartland is a thorough and impressive work that challenges midwesterners’ time-honored penchant for claiming progressive superiority over the South when it comes to matters of racial egalitarianism and violence. Any reader who has ever contemplated race relations or racist violence in the Midwest today will find clear answers and lines linking the present to the past within these pages. Hostile Heartland opens much-needed windows onto the histories of race relations in the Midwest and the Great Migrations of African Americans to the region."--Kidada E. Williams, author of They Left Great Marks on Me: African American Testimonies about Racial Violence from Emancipation to World War I

Publication of the book made possible in part by a grant from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley


Brent M. S. Campney is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He is the author of This Is Not Dixie: Racist Violence in Kansas, 1861–1927.

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