The supposed relationship between James M. Buchanan and the forces of “Massive Resistance” to school desegregation in Virginia is at the center of Nancy MacLean’s story in Democracy in Chains. As Phil has pointed out on his blog and as we discuss in our paper, MacLean attempts to link Buchanan to Massive Resistance via the arch-segregationist editor James J. Kilpatrick while, in fact, the controversial article by Warren Nutter and Buchanan on the economics of education was not published in Kilpatrick’s Richmond News Leader but in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, edited by Virginius Dabney. MacLean cites a book called The Race Beat and includes among the pages she cites page 117, where we read of Dabney and Kilpatrick the following:
“At the ‘Times-Dispatch,’ separated by a wall from the ‘News Leader,’ the juggernaut of interposition was causing a great deal of consternation. Dabney, on both sides of his family, was the true-blue Virginian that Kilpatrick would never be. Kilpatrick could write eloquently about Thomas Jefferson; Dabney could trace his bloodlines to him. What’s more, Dabney was a regional historian of significance. He looked up on the arguments for and against interposition as some fine historical reading. But it was a theory that essentially had flopped when applied in the real world and was certain to prove itself bunk when tried again. He worried that impulsive people acting in the name of interposition could do some terrible harm to Virginia’s education system.”
In other words, they published their article with the editor who viewed the Calhounite notions of interposition and such as archaic doctrines with the potential to do a lot of serious damage. These aren’t, I think, the actions of radical ideologues willing to join segregationists in employing scorched-earth political tactics to get the outcomes they want, letting the chips fall where they may.
Select posts on Dabney and Kilpatrick on philmagness.com:
- The Nutter-Buchanan School Choice Paper: Evidence from the Timeline
- A Tale of Two Newspapers
- Is a 2017 National Book Award finalist built upon a simple typo?
- Actually, documents prove the Virginia School condemned segregation