xx, 587 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of b&w plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
"A William Patrick book."
Includes bibliographical references (pages 507-567) and index.
In telling the Wallace story, Lesher brings to life what C. Vann Woodward calls the "burden of Southern history, placing Wallace and the sentiments he exploited in the context of Reconstruction and the long struggle, not just of black Americans, but of the white Southern poor as well. By tracing Wallace's rise from the rural poverty of Depression-era Alabama, Lesher allows us to see the whole, complex picture of a small-town politician who had always stood up for "ordinary folks" regardless of color, but who then made the most of racial division when it becam politically expedient to do so. He purported himself to be the champion of the poor and the helpless, but in his quest for political power, he trampled on the poorest and most helpless of all his constituents, the blacks. Lesher is by no means out to excuse Wallace on race, but to not let the rest of America off so easily as if by having our villain all bad, we absolve ourselves of guilt and make a claim on goodness. He was indeed the perpetrator of great harm to African Americans, but he was also the only of that error to admit his guilt, seek forgiveness and work tirelessly to try to change some of the evil he had helped to do.