The Reconstruction of a Racist
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 Workmanlike biography of the combative (but socially adept) editor/publisher of Mississippi's Greenville Delta Democrat-Times. Carter (1907-72) was hailed as a courageous integrationist by the eastern establishment (which awarded him a Pulitzer); criticized by blacks and progressive whites for supporting merely a more gentlemanly status quo; vilified as a ``nigger-lover'' and Communist by segregationists--and was still (as a Louisiana-born true southerner) invited to preside over the Delta Debutante Club Ball. Here, Waldron (Close Connections, 1987, etc.) offers few clues to the development of Carter's social vision (and one wonders just how much he was actually reconstructed), but her picture of the pre-civil-rights Deep South gives memory a salutary jolt: Carter's newspaper profoundly shocked white sensibilities by printing a photograph of black Olympic athlete Jesse Owens and by deciding that the black Red Cross chair deserved a courtesy title- -``Mrs. St. Hille'' rather than ``the St. Hille woman.'' Carter enjoyed a good fight: He took on demagogues like Huey Long and Theodore Bilbo with relish and invective, and his editorials excoriated white Mississippians for denying blacks decent education and protection under the law even as they reiterated his opposition to social equality. Financial struggles--more than politics- -repeatedly threatened the paper: Carter suffered from personal attacks, his youngest son's death, deteriorating eyesight, alcoholism, and, eventually, Alzheimer's. A Greenville booster, he was active with local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, as was his wife, Betty, who helped keep the paper going and was the uncredited coauthor of many of Carter's books. Waldron eschews both hero-making and debunking: readable if surfacey.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-945575-38-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1993