Critique: Honor and Violence in the Old South

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Critique: History and violence in the old south
The main thesis of the book is honor and how it relates to every part of the southern way of life and culture. This book describes the ways honor is used to further prejudices and keep the ways of life in tact, even through the progressing society around them. He describes honor as an all‐encompassing element of life and thought in the South. Honor was immortal and derived its value from the opinions of others through a complex but well‐understood, and apparently, well‐adhered social hierarchy. Wyatt-Brown builds a convincing case that honor provides structure and implicit discipline for an ordered and hierarchical society. The details of this southern society of honor are revealed through dualistic and conflicting expressions of gentility, the absolute order of the family, and an extensive discussion on sexual honor. Gentility was sought as a measure of worth derived from a requirement to be sociable, well educated, and moral.

Brown has an excellent argument in chapters 7 and 8 that honor perpetuated violence in the case of the lynching laws. With just cause, and enough social support, just about anyone could be lynched. This was used to protect honor of the elite and the well spoken. These executions were done without judge orders or any trial. Therefore, they could be carried out by the majority and protect the ones who had the most power and influence. He argues that the whites of the time period used it as a complete dominance in power over the black slaves. They used this power of fear to keep the slaves from rebelling or running away. This also allowed the white slave owners who were in power in the government to keep control as Brown states in chapter 8. This lynching power was also used by the white slave owners to silence rebellions and in turn keep the family reputation and integrity intact. Wyatt‐Brown relates the story of fifteen year old Susan Foster’s murder by her husband James Foster, Jr. as...
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