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In this compelling and classic book, Robert Norrell explores the route of the civil rights movement as it was in Tuskegee, Alabama. The author captures both the distinctive characteristics of this Southern town's elements and experience that it shared with other societies during this era. He exposes a famous institute Tuskegee town, which had a large number of African-Americans who had high education and were economically stable such that they dared to change the conservative American officials who retained the odd traditions. Norrell offers sensitive description of both the white and the black figures. He takes the reader from the beginning of the Institute which was founded in 1881 (Norrell 8). The author traces the early attempts to make a harmonious community based on the severance of races to the disappointments and successes which the civil rights movements delivered during the 1960s. This is an account of the civil rights movements in Tuskegee, Alabama, a residence to an extraordinarily large proficient group of African-Americans able to challenge the white officials who were conservative. Robert J. Norrell is the chairman of the Bernadotte Schmitt of History at the University of Tennessee. He is an experienced lecturer and an author of several other books.
In this well-documented book, Norrell narrates the story of the enlargement of Black Run America in Macon County, Alabama. The chief duty of the demolition of MaconCounty is given to the Southern White officials. These are conservative officials filled with shortsightedness and greed. They built a deal with all societal issues on the basis of racial discrimination and believed that it was possible to make Tuskegee a racial type of Pompeii. This is evident in the 1970s when the white officials in MaconCounty managed to reap the whirlwind of the social upheaval. Their ancestors who owned the slaves were the planters of this resolution. Later on, the African-Americans managed to reap the whirlwind of the economic disintegration when the Whites left the MaconCounty (Norrell 9).
The end of the Creek Cession of 1832 created a way for those who owned slaves to rush into MaconCounty. They settled in Alabama and created a White settlement which was one of the richest settlements in the area. The land was referred to as the Black belt because of its dark fertile soils. The slave owners had the freedom to import African-American slaves from North Carolina and Virginia (Norrell 157). Using these slaves as the workforce, the few Whites made MaconCounty a successful cotton plantation. Tuskegee became an essential trading center serving the cotton plantation economy of Black Belt in Alabama; Whites and their slaves resided in the countryside (Williams & Quinton 165).
On the other hand, the Whites without slaves did not reside in the Black Belt. Instead, they resided in Tuskegee or other villages such as Notasulga. The poor Whites lived desperately in the mountains and the hilly country since the slave owners had occupied all the fertile land. The Whites who were non-slave-owners, workers, and merchants started businesses and commerce in Tuskegee and catered for the needs of the slave owners. The planters exhausted the soil in the MaconCounty within a period of thirty years (Norrell 25).
The Civil Rights Movement stroke Tuskegee especially when the Supreme Court interfered with the white primary. Charles Gomillion led the area civil right protestors. The agitators started to campaign against the blacks discrimination. They demanded that the blacks should not be denied the right to vote in MaconCounty. Booker T. Washington was reinterpreted and discredited by student activists such as Ralph Ellison; the NAACP was justified. The Montgomery Bus Boycott started in 1955 and eventually caused the integration of public transportation (Norrell 154).
In the early 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee conducted its final struggles. Gomillion Charles sued Tuskegee Mayor, and the Supreme Court made the final decision which called everything to a halt. Justice Frankfurter Felix stopped the Whites’ efforts to gerrymander Tuskegee town limits with an aim of preserving the Whites who were the majority in the town. In addition to this hit, Judge Johnson Frank ordered the incorporation of the TuskegeeHigh School in 1963 (Norrell 76). This ruling did not only affect TuskegeeHigh School but was also extended to all high schools in the MaconCounty. The ruling was then extended to all schools in Alabama. They were all forced to play a part in the progressive integration testing in social engineering (Ross 65).
The action at Montgomery inspired the Blacks living in Tuskegee. Eventually, they initiated a boycott in Tuskegee. This forced many business enterprises to either employ black workers or close down. The SNCC arrived to MaconCounty and triggered up a wave of drastic student opinionated activism at the TuskegeeUniversity. These students had the brilliant notion of integrating the White religious institutions, boycotting the stores, and invading the swimming pool among other activities (Norrell 50).
Essentially, Martin Luther King and Charles Gomillion stirred up African-Americans in Tuskegee and encouraged them to invade all White institutions. The African-Americans did not hesitate to destroy the public swimming pools, the public high schools, local restaurants, businesses, and the White religious institutions which were strong churches. In 1964 and 1965, MaconCounty welcomed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act respectively. The two acts accomplished the three chief things which the Civil Rights Movement was struggling to get (Norrell 12). Firstly, all businesses in MaconCounty and Tuskegee were integrated. Secondly, the black majority was initiated in MaconCounty and Tuskegee. By 1972, the blacks were the majority in the county commission and the city government. The same happened to the sheriff’s section and both seats in the House of Representatives in Alabama. Thirdly, the Supreme Court ordered every public school to integrate.
Reaping the Whirlwind is an articulate, personal, compassionate, and moving scholarly case study of the effects of the Civil Rights movement. It is a model of fair-minded reporting and a tour de force of efficient writing. It is a superb, exciting version of the complex misunderstandings and interactions between whites and blacks in a major Southern town. Norrell Robert has captured both the private and public qualities of the leading white and black players. This makes his story remain alive from the beginning to the end (Norrell 34). Reaping the Whirlwind narrates how the concept 'civil rights' became a reality in one society from the South. Its great worth is in its distinctiveness and in Norrell Robert’s unblinking gawk at what happened. It is a literary achievement providing extraordinary deep insight into nations’ struggle with racial relations.
The great efforts for civil rights were long processes. Robert Norrell's book Reaping the Whirlwind shows how the movement started, grew, progressed, and was triumphant. He maps out the leadership lines at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. The society progressively adapts to the standards behind an incorporated community (Norrell 65). The fight for equality was tough as the court encounters suggested that factual equality could not have existed as a result of the white mass departure of the model city. Norrell portrays an excellent description of the occurrences in this town. The offers detailed narration of development in Tuskegee, the home of Booker T. Washington. The author clearly illustrates how MaconCounty advances away from the conservatives opinions of Washington (Marsh 56).
Clear race relations depended on the black people’s acknowledgement of the inescapability of the White conservatives’ political control. Certainly, a situation whereby groups such as the blacks are frightened into obedience and silence to institutionalized racism is not harmonious. Similarly, the slavery also cannot be qualified as harmonious situation. Nevertheless, the whites rendered the blacks an opportunity which is evident up to date. The Tuskegee Institute was initiated as a black education institute (Norrell 231). The town recognized that blacks in a white-run society could be won using honey rather than when using vinegar (Sunnemark 145).
In conclusion, Robert Norrell’s 280 pages book Reaping the Whirlwind explores the idea that Tuskegee was a model of racial harmony between 1880s and 1960s. Many whites and blacks living in the town felt that the town was a model of harmony. Ironically, the actions and events in the town portrayed a different picture. The White slave owners lived a different life compared to anyone else in the society. The author reveals that Tuskegee had two classes of people consisting of the politically powerless blacks and the powerful whites. Theperceived harmony of the whites masked deep racial disharmony which had existed in the town. The whites argued that the equal rights of registering in the conservative Democratic Party were enough evidence to represent the harmony in the town (Norrell 89). However, the Whites dominated the rolls and voting rights. This disharmony forced the blacks to start the Civil Rights Movement to fight for justice and equality. The movement was successful. All businesses in MaconCounty and Tuskegee were integrated. The black majority was initiated in MaconCounty and Tuskegee, and the Supreme Court ordered every public school to integrate.