The War for the American South, 1865-1968

A Conference at the Mershon Center
The Ohio State University
November 9-11, 2006

Mark Grimsley and Hasan Kwame Jeffries, co-organizers



This conference examines the struggle between white supremacy and black liberation in the American South through the lens of an extended war of decolonization or, if you like, insurgency/counterinsurgency. It takes the form of a dialogue between historians who deal mainly with military history and historians who deal mainly with the African American liberation struggle of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The purpose is to examine how the two fields -- military history and African American history -- can inform the perspectives of one another.

It is a truism nowadays that the nature of war is changing, that the most common conflicts are no longer between states but rather between state and non-state actors and, often enough, between competing non-state actors. A common tag line for this supposedly new development is "Fourth Generation Warfare," often abbreviated as 4GW.

But the dynamics of 4GW are not new. They have been around for centuries, and might better be described as the playing out of revolutionary crisis. Simply explained, at most times in most societies power relations operate in routine ways that everyone within the society overtly or tacitly accepts. But once in a while the normal order breaks down. One group or another rejects the status quo. Exclusion from the formal political process, or a marginal place within it, is no longer tolerable. The very legitimacy of a given election--or the absence of elections--is questioned. The privileged place of an internal power elite, or a colonial relationship to a foreign country, is openly challenged. Conditions of revolutionary crisis emerge.

In times of revolutionary crisis, the disaffected groups reach for extraordinary tools by which to reshape the control and flow of power. Sometimes these tools are recognized as quite obviously the concern of military history: armed insurgencies, people's war, etc. But many times the significance is missed because the struggle is principally understood in terms of political or social history. Such is the case with the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, particularly because it is strongly associated with nonviolent tactics. These tactics should nevertheless be understood as part of a strategy consciously chosen as the most promising means by which to defeat an entrenched power elite that did not itself hesitate to employ violence. Nor was nonviolence the only method chosen by southern Blacks to assert their claim to political equality. Some adopted a strategy predicated on armed self-defense.

The conference will take the form of four conversations between twelve discussants, each of whom is an expert in either military or African American history. There will no formal presentations. To focus the conversations as sharply as possible, the discussants have suggested preparatory readings which have been pre-circulated to each. The readings are listed beneath the most relevant sessions, with links to open source articles and essays provided.


The conference is free and open to the public, with lunch on Friday and Saturday provided free of charge. However, registration is required and attendance is limited to sixty persons.

To register, please send an email to War for the American South with the following information:

First and last name
Institutional affiliation (as you want it on your name tag)
Which sessions do you plan to attend? (if all, say all; otherwise indicate session 1, 2, 3, and/or 4)
Will you attend the Thursday evening reception?
Will you attend the Friday afternoon reception?
Will you attend the Friday lunch?
Will you attend the Saturday lunch?
(Please indicate if you have special dietary needs; we will do our best to accommodate them.)

Thank you.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Mark Grimsley.


Michael Les Benedict, The Ohio State University
Emilye Crosby, Geneseo College, State University of New York
Mark Grimsley, The Ohio State University
James G. Hogue, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Hasan Kwame Jeffries, The Ohio State University
Norma J. Kriger, Independent Scholar; Human Rights Watch, Consultant, Africa Division
Wayne E. Lee, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jeffrey Ogbar, University of Connecticut
Paul Ortiz, University of California, Santa Cruz
Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State University
Christopher B. Strain, Florida Atlantic University


Thursday, November 9, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. - Reception for discussants and attendees
Barley's Ale House No. 1 (party room in basement)
467 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215-2007

Friday, November 10.

8:00 - 8:50 a.m. - Registration, coffee, and light refreshments

9:00-9:15 a.m. - Welcome

9:15-11:30 a.m. - Session 1. Reconstruction: The Counter-revolution of 1866-1877

James G. Hogue, "The 1873 Battle of Colfax: Paramilitarism and Counterrevolution in Louisiana," unpublished paper.

James G. Hogue, "The Louisiana Coup d'Etat of 1877: Rethinking the Uses of Military Force After the American Civil War," unpublished paper.

Stephen Kantrowitz, "One Man's Mob Is Another Man's Militia: Violence, Manhood and Authority in Reconstruction South Carolina," in Jane Dailey, Glenda Gilmore and Bryant Simons, eds., Jumpin' Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil war to Civil Rights (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), 67-87.

Michael Perman, "Counter Reconstruction: The Role of Violence in Southern Redemption,” in Eric Anderson and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., The Facts of Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of John Hope Franklin (1991), pp. 121-140.

Brooks D. Simpson, "Land and the Ballot: Securing the Fruits of Emancipation?"Pennsylvania History 60 (April 1993), 176-188.

C. Vann Woodward, “Reconstruction: A Counterfactual Perspective,” in Woodward, The Future of the Past (1989), pp. 183-200.

11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. - Lunch

1:30-3:45 p.m. - Session 2. The Segregationist Order: Attack and Defense, 1877-1965

John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 215-271.

Paul Ortiz, ch. 7, "Echoes of Emancipation: The Great War in Florida," in Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 142-170.

Paul Ortiz, "Nineteenth Century Demands for Slavery Compensation: "The Laborer is Worthy of His Hire," Against the Current #102 [Vol. 17, no. 6], (January/February 2003). (also published online)

Nan Elizabeth Woodruff, American Congo: The African American Freedom Struggle in the Delta (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), 74-109.

4:00-5:00 p.m.- Reception

7:00-10:00 p.m.- Dinner (discussants only please)
Banana Bean Cafe
410 East Whittier Street 43207
Columbus, Ohio

Saturday, November 11

8:00 - 8:50 a.m. - Registration, coffee, and light refreshments

9:00 - 11:30 a.m. - Session 3. Black Self-Defense Groups: The Myth of Non-violent Resistance

Robert J. Cottrol and Raymond T. Diamond, "The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration," 80 Georgia Law Journal 309.

Emilye Crosby, "'You Got a Right to Defend Yourself': Self-Defense and the Claiborne County, Mississippi Movement,"International Journal of Africana Studies, vol. 9, no. 1 (Spring 2004), 133-163.

Lance Hill, The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 1-9, 258-273.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries, "The Ballot and the Bullet: Armed Self-Defense in the Alabama Black Belt, 1865-1966," unpublished paper.

Charles Payne, "A Woman's War," in I've Got the Light of Freedom (University of California Press, 1995), 265-283.

Strain, Christopher, Pure Fire: Self Defense as Activism in the Civil Rights Era (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005), vii-viii, 1-7, 175-183.

Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power , (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 244-282, 349-355.

See also Timothy B. Tyson, "Robert F. Williams, 'Black Power,' and the Roots of the African American Freedom Struggle," Journal of American History 85, no. 2 (September 1998), 540-570. Available through JSTOR.

Akinyele Umoja, "1964: The Beginning of the End of Nonviolence in the Mississippi Freedom Movement," Radical History Review 85 (Winter 2003): 201-26.

Akinyele Umoja, "''We Will Shoot Back': The Natchez Model and Paramilitary Organization in the Mississippi Freedom Movement," Journal of Black Studies 32, no. 3 (Jan. 2002), 271-94.

11:45 a.m. -1:15 p.m. - Lunch

1:30 p.m. -3:45 p.m. - Session 4. Round Table Discussion: Toward a Broader Understanding of War

Hannah Arendt, "On Violence," excerpted in Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philipe Bourgois, eds., Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology, 236-243.

Thomas X. Hammes, "Characteristics of Fourth Generation Warfare," in The Sling and the Stone: On War in the Twenty-first Century (Zenith Press, 2004). [For an earlier, open source version of this chapter, see Hammes, "The Evolution of War: The Fourth Generation," Marine Corps Gazette (September 1994).]

Wayne E. Lee, Crowds and Soldiers in Revolutionary North Carolina, 1-9, 221-224, 226, 334.

6:00-10:00 p.m - Dinner (discussants only please)
Abracci Steaks and Italian
511 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Conference Photographs