Godshalk, David Fort

views updated

Godshalk, David Fort




E-mail—[email protected].


Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA, professor of history.


Veiled Visions: The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and the Reshaping of American Race Relations, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2005.


In Veiled Visions: The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and the Reshaping of American Race Relations, historian David Fort Godshalk looks at the evolution of racism in the early-twentieth-century American South. According to Keith J. Volanto, writing in H-Net Review, "Godshalk goes beyond merely retelling the details of the racial massacre. Instead, the author provides the first book-length analysis of this tumultuous riot's far-reaching effects on the city of Atlanta and American race relations." In 1906, the city of Atlanta was undergoing an economic boom, attracting both black and white rural migrants seeking work in the city's new businesses. Competition for jobs inflamed racial tensions, especially between working-class whites and the blacks who struggled with them for the same work. In the summer of the year local newspapers, desperate to attract new white readers, "resorted to race baiting in order to increase sales," Volanto reported. "Throughout the summer of 1906, Atlanta's papers continuously reported instances of local black-on-white crime, especially stories of women claiming to have been raped by black men. Oftentimes, mere allegations were presented as determined fact. Further, the papers presented these reports in a deliberately inflammatory style geared towards inciting the emotions of its readers." "Fueled by sensationalist newspaper stories of alleged assaults on white women by African American men," wrote Oscar R. Williams in the Journal of African American History, "white rioters converged on downtown Atlanta and viciously attacked African Americans, initiating three days of intense, bitter rioting." The end result was four days of bloodshed, Williams concluded, marked by "at least 25 dead, hundreds injured, and thousands of dollars in property damage."

Unlike other studies of the riot, Veiled Visions concentrates on the impact that the violence had on race relations rather than on the violence itself. "A stalwart resistance from the African American community was met with attacks against black businesses and residential neighborhoods that were meant to reinforce white power and privilege in Jim Crow Georgia," declared Dennis B. Downey in the Historian. "Wild and inaccurate rumors, the absence of a coroner's inquest, and the sudden departure of as many as five thousand local black residents," Downey concluded, made an accurate understanding of the impact of the riot difficult. Most importantly, according to Godshalk, the way the riot was reported and interpreted in the national press gave citizens a new way of understanding racial violence. Citizens came to believe that "cooperation between white civic leaders and the ‘better sort’ of blacks allowed cooler heads to prevail and end the riot," stated Mary Cathryn Caine in the Journal of Social History. "Then, in the aftermath, black and white elites forged an interracial alliance dedicated to the preservation of law and order, which maintained the peace and allowed the city to flourish commercially. The premium these leaders placed on such strategic cooperation—and the economic success it made possible—became known as the ‘Atlanta Plan,’ and its guidelines steered race relations in the city for the remainder of the 20th century." "Godshalk's narrative is theoretically sophisticated, eminently readable, and grounded in a broad base of sources," concluded Gregory J. Renoff in the Journal of Southern History, "and will stand as an important addition to histories of race relations in Atlanta and the South as a whole."



Historian, spring, 2007, Dennis B. Downey, review of Veiled Visions: The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and the Reshaping of American Race Relations.

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, November, 2006, Keith J. Volanto, review of Veiled Visions.

Journal of African American History, fall, 2006, "The Atlanta Riot: Race, Class, and Violence in a New South City."

Journal of American History, September, 2006, Gregory Michael Dorr, review of Veiled Visions, p. 554.

Journal of Social History, fall, 2007, Mary Cathryn Cain, review of Veiled Visions.

Journal of Southern History, February, 2007, Gregory J. Renoff, review of Veiled Visions, p. 209.

Law and History Review, summer, 2007, "The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and the Reshaping of American Race Relations."

Social Forces, June, 2007, E.M. Beck, review of Veiled Visions, p. 1822.


Shippensburg University Web site,http://www.ship.edu/ (February 26, 2008), author profile.