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The Palmetto State
The Making of Modern South Carolina

Jack Bass and W. Scott Poole

A concise approach to the major themes and events that define contemporary South Carolina

As South Carolina enters into the fourth century of its storied existence, the state's captivating, colorful, and controversial history continues to warrant fresh explorations. In this sweeping story of defining episodes in the state's history, accomplished Southern historians Jack Bass and W. Scott Poole trace the key importance of race relations, historical memory, and cultural life in the progress of the Palmetto State from its colonial inception to its present incarnation. The authors bring a strong emphasis on the modern era to their briskly paced narrative, which advances work begun by Bass in his germinal investigation Porgy Comes Home: South Carolina after Three Hundred Years to further our understanding of the state as it now exists.

Bass and Poole focus on three central themes—divisions of race and class, adherence to historical memory, and the interconnected strands of economic, social, and political flux—as they illustrate how these threads manifest themselves time and again across the rich tapestry of the South Carolina experience. The authors explore the centrality of race relations, both subtle and direct, in the state's development from the first settlement of Charles Towne to the contemporary political and economic landscape. The tragic histories of slavery and segregation and the struggles to end each in its era have defined much of the state's legacy. The authors argue that conflicts over race continue to influence historical memory in the state, most especially in still-evolving memories—nostalgic for some and ignominious for others—of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. And they find throughout the state's history a strong role for religion in shaping reaction to changing circumstances.

In the discussion of contemporary South Carolina that makes up the majority of this volume, the authors delineate the state's remarkable transformation in the mid–twentieth century, during which a combination of powerful elements blended together through a dynamism fueled by the twin forces of continuity and change. Bass and Poole map the ways through which hard-won economic and civil rights advancements, a succession of progressive state leaders, and federal court mandates operated in tandem to bring a largely peaceful end to the Jim Crow era in South Carolina, in stark contrast to the violence wrought elsewhere in the South.

Today there is a growing acceptance of the state's biracial common past and a heartfelt need to understand the significance of this past for the present and future that has come to define the modern Palmetto State. This volume speaks directly to those historical connections and serves as a valuable point of entrance for original inquiries into the state's diverse and complex heritage.

Jack Bass, director of the Citadel Alumni World War II Oral History Project, is a professor emeritus of humanities and social sciences at the College of Charleston. He is the author or coauthor of seven other books about the American South, including Strom: The Complicated Personal and Political Life of Strom Thurmond, The Transformation of Southern Politics, and Taming the Storm, winner of the 1994 Robert Kennedy Book Award. Bass served as executive editor for the fourteen-part television series The American South Comes of Age. He was twice named South Carolina Journalist of the Year and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

W. Scott Poole is an associate professor of history and the director of the master's program in history at the College of Charleston. Poole is the author of three previous works on the American South. His first book, Never Surrender, won the 2004 George C. Rogers Jr. Book Award of the South Carolina Historical Society. He served as a contributing historian for the History Channel series The States and the PBS series Slavery in the Making of America.

"Bold, diverse, succinct, informative, and relevant are fitting adjectives to describe the strengths of the significant book that Jack Bass and W. Scott Poole, veteran historians, have written. In The Palmetto State, they give us a fast-paced account that departs from most standard works on the history of South Carolina in that it posits race and racism as central factors in shaping the state-from its colonial origins in the seventeenth century to contemporary times…. The Palmetto State is well written and informative. The forty-nine photographs are instructive, and the chronology is exceptionally useful. Perhaps Bass and Poole's most significant contribution is demonstrating how the state's past shapes both its present and future."—South Carolina Historical Magazine

"Bass and Poole look briefly at Carolinian contentiousness, emphasizing the tremendous changes that occurred during the most recent periods. The authors have written a book that will be of special interest to both the native-born and the recently arrived. It is carefully researched, frequently anecdotal, and an easy read."—Choice

"There have been many histories of our state, but I've never seen one that seems quite as thorough, concise and fair-minded as in The Palmetto State…. The authors cover it all: politics; the role of religion; popular culture, including jazz and the shag; the growth of our educational system; and the factors behind the dynamic economic development from agriculture to industry and tourism."—Hilton Head (S.C.) Island Packet

"A volume such as The Palmetto State is long overdue. It is a lively read, full of interesting facts."—Charleston (S.C.) Post & Courier

"Pairing history and memory with a look at contemporary economic and social progress for whites and blacks gives the reader a sense of real place."—Columbia (S.C.) State

"Politics, literature, popular culture, the gradual transformation of race relations: it's all here in this new narrative history of the Palmetto State. Every South Carolinian (and those who are simply interested in the state) should read this lively and engaging account."—Dan T. Carter, Educational Foundation Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina

"In this briskly paced analysis, Jack Bass and W. Scott Poole trace the story of race and memory in South Carolina from colonial times to the modern day. Scrutinizing state and local politics, economic transformations, and judicial rulings, they illuminate the cultural, economic, and social context of evolving race relations. The Palmetto State emphasizes post-World War II events and presents an in-depth coverage of the civil rights era and its influence on modern South Carolina. Comprehensively researched and wonderfully readable, this book contributes much to our historical understanding of our complicated state."—Orville Vernon Burton, Burroughs Distinguished Professor of Southern History and Culture, Coastal Carolina University



book jacket for The Palmetto State


6 x 9
224 pages
43 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-814-3
cloth, $24.95t
ebook avaialble
Read an excerpt

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