This book concludes by showing how Birmingham's promoters confronted problems of race and class relations directly when they articulated the vision of the city they hoped to create. They assured Alabamians that African American workers would fill the most menial jobs in the iron and steel industry, freeing whites to achieve as much as their talents would allow. Whites of all classes would join together, united by their interest in the subordination of blacks and their pursuit of prosperity. Racial oppression, then, would shield Birmingham from the class conflict that had long plagued older industrial centers in the United States and Europe. This New South variant of the “mudsill” theory of social order has been the source of a long-standing historiographical tradition. Historians, for many years, have cited such booster rhetoric to support the argument that southern elites manipulated the racism of the white masses to dominate them as well as African Americans.
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