On July 4, 1964, Alabama Governor George Wallace decried the passing of “ [a] law that is going to destroy individual freedom and liberty in this country.” That law was the Civil Rights act of 1964, which struck down many of the Jim Crow laws that relegated black Americans to second-class citizens. How could Wallace and so many like him throughout American history see no irony in decrying the federal government for taking away their freedom to deny freedom to others? In this episode, we take that question up with Jefferson Cowie whose new book, Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power (Basic Books, 2022), explores the meaning of freedom as understood by the white residents of one county in southern Alabama in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Dr. Jefferson Cowie is James G. Stahlman Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, where he teaches social and political history. You can hear our previous conversations with Jeff in episode #24 The Great Exception: The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order and in episode #115 The 1970s.
This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.