Why does U.S. literature spotlight individual racist villains and heroes during a period ofinstitutional change? During the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights activists challenged institutionalracism by opposing segregation and discrimination in schools, bus lines, retail companies, andthe courts. Yet some of the most celebrated literary works from the era flip this script, treatingnot institutional racism but individual racists by presenting poor white men as Jim Crow’smidcentury mainstay. Focusing on works by Harper Lee, Lillian Smith, and Eudora Welty, thistalk draws attention to ruling class white writers’ efforts to rewrite history as it was happening bydepicting an uprising against the white establishment as a struggle against poor white people.
Jolene Hubbs earned her Ph.D. in English from Stanford in 2009 and is now Associate Professorof American Studies and, by courtesy, of Women’s Studies at the University of Alabama. Herteaching and research focus on twentieth-century American literature and culture, with particularattention to the U.S. South. She has published articles on Dorothy Allison, Charles Chesnutt,Samuel Delany, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and other authors in journals such asAfrican American Review and the Southern Literary Journal. A recipient of fellowships from theMellon Foundation and the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, Hubbs has also won teaching awardsat Stanford and the University of Alabama.