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Sent: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 9:08 AM
Subject: H-Net Review Publication: 'Paying the Ultimate Price: Juliette Hampton Morgan's Personal Struggle and Sacrifice for Racial Justice'

Mary Stanton. Journey toward Justice: Juliette Hampton Morgan and
the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Athens University of Georgia Press,
2006. 288 pp. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8203-2857-7.

Reviewed by Rebecca Tuuri (Rutgers University)
Published on H-Women (August, 2009)
Commissioned by Holly S. Hurlburt

Paying the Ultimate Price: Juliette Hampton Morgan's Personal
Struggle and Sacrifice for Racial Justice

Mary Stanton's _Journey Toward Justice: Juliette Hampton Morgan and
the Montgomery Bus Boycott_ is a riveting narrative biography of the
life of Juliette Hampton Morgan, a white southerner and an anguished
liberal who lived from 1914 to 1957. During her life, Morgan sought
both to live within a white supremacist southern society and fight
against it, and it was the impossibility of resolving these two
existences that ultimately forced her to take her own life. This book
makes an important contribution for professional scholars to the
history of the early civil rights movement and white southern women,
but it is also accessible to a wider popular audience.[1]

Stanton's title is somewhat misleading, for this work is not only
about Morgan's role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Morgan did write a
letter in support of the boycott to the _Montgomery Advertiser_ on
December 12, 1955, which Martin Luther King cited as the first
instance of someone making the connection between Gandhi's salt march
to the sea and the bus boycott (p. 213). But this letter was only one
part of Morgan's longer history of activism. By using her personal
letters, manuscript collections, interviews with friends and family,
and a rich secondary-source literature, Stanton gives us insight into
the _whole_ life of a white liberal woman, who was not a leader in
the civil rights movement, but worked behind the scenes in her
support of black freedom efforts.

Juliette Hampton Morgan was born in 1914 into a privileged Alabama
family with a politically ambitious father and a well-educated
mother. For most of her life, she was caught between her desire to
please her family and friends and her innate sense that she should
challenge the racist structures of southern society. Morgan joined
liberal organizations such as the United Church Women (UCW), the
local Democratic club, and the Women's International League for Peace
and Freedom (WILPF). She later joined integrated groups such as the
Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF). She wrote letters to the
editor of the _Montgomery Advertiser_, other local newspapers, and
politicians in support of liberal causes, of which integration
eventually was one. Morgan also engaged in small acts of defiance,
such as pulling the emergency brake and demanding to be let off of a
bus when she witnessed the abuse of black passengers (p. 82).

As in her previous works--_From Selma to Sorrow: the Life and Death
of Viola Liuzzo_ (2000) and _Freedom Walk: Mississippi or Bust
_(2003)_--_Stanton complicates our understanding of white men and
women in the civil rights movement. She destroys our binary
understanding of southern whites as "racists" or not by showing the
subtleties of the white experience in which well-meaning white
progressives attempted to fight for change. Some fought for full
integration while others believed that the South could make the most
progress through financial support of the black community while
maintaining a system of segregation. Most still abided by a code of
white supremacy (p. 57).

The power of Stanton's work lies in its exploration of the personal
side (and toll) of white participation in the movement. Southern
white women who were activists were often held back from the full
realization of their radical visions by familial responsibilities and
their related concern over reputation. Activism, after all, stripped
white women of the privileges of a southern "lady." Her actions might
also hurt her friends and family, and in Morgan's case, cost her
employment. Stanton shows us time and time again how Morgan's
inability to be fully vocal about her support of integration was not
a product of some sort of weakness on her part, but of the multiple
ties and expectations that women in the South faced at this time.
Stanton writes that longtime activist Virginia Durr could see an
inner turmoil in Morgan that consumed many educated southern women.
Stanton quotes Durr: "'Juliette lived two lives,' Virginia recalled,
'and tried so hard to keep her real self, her deep and feeling self
under cover'" (p. 124).

Exploring the personal side of Morgan's life is also important for
uncovering a political history of white southern women who were
purposely private in their activism. Historian Sarah
Wilkerson-Freeman writes in her article "Stealth in the Political
Arsenal of Southern Women: A Retrospective for the Millennium," that
secrecy has defined southern women's politics, as progressive women
deliberately hid their political activity in order to trick their
opponents. Wilkerson-Freeman has challenged historians to recognize
this and redefine models of activism.[2] This is exactly what Stanton
does so effectively. Her book fits into a growing body of literature
exploring how women attempted to use their respectability to shield
their efforts from criticism.[3] Groups like UCW and the Young
Women's Christian Association (YWCA) remained in a state of _de
facto_ segregation in Montgomery despite national policies of
integration during Morgan's lifetime, but their financial and
political support of black freedom efforts was crucial to the

Overall the narrative strategy of the book is successful, offering
compelling insight into Morgan's personal history. However, at times
this format leads Stanton to make speculations that may be too
forgiving of her subject's inability to take a stand. For instance,
relating how difficult it was for Morgan to interact with blacks
after joining her first interracial prayer fellowship, she writes:
"In her heart, she believed in the equality of all people, yet in
practice she was as uncomfortable as the most dedicated
segregationist" (p. 99). Stanton does not make it clear how she
surmised this, but as readers, we might have benefited from reading
the excerpts from her letters or other documents that led her to this

In addition, Stanton brushes over the fact that Morgan, who remained
unmarried her whole life and formed deep friendships with female
companions, may have been a lesbian. When Morgan refused to become
romantically involved with interested suitor Louis Kaufman, Stanton
speculates that it is possible that she "might have been repressing
lesbian tendencies" but "there is no evidence to support it" (p.
113). While Stanton is correct to say that we can never know about
Morgan's sexuality, she could have provided more information about
the situation for single women or women in same-sex relationships in
the South. This background is important in order to recreate fully
the personal side of Morgan's life, for she most certainly had to
adhere to respectable, heterosexual practices in order to maintain
her reputation and that of her family.

Still, these criticisms are minor; overall this is a well-researched,
well-written contribution to southern history, women's history, and
civil rights history.


[1]. For more information on the early civil rights movement, see
John Egerton, _Speak Now against the Day: The Generation before the
Civil Rights Movement in the South_ (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1995); Linda Reed, _Simple Decency & Common Sense:
The Southern Conference Movement, 1938-1963 _(Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1991); and Patricia Sullivan, _Days of Hope: Race
and Democracy in the New Deal Era_ (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1996). For more information on white women in the
early civil rights movement see Virginia Foster Durr and Patricia
Sullivan, _Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters from the
Civil Rights Years_ (New York: Routledge, 2003); Catherine Fosl,
_Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial
Justice in the Cold War South (_New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002);
Gail Schmunk Murray, _Throwing Off the Cloak of Privilege: White
Southern Women Activists in the Civil Rights Era _(Gainesville:
University Press of Florida, 2004); and Melissa Walker, Jeanette R.
Dunn, and Joe P. Dunn, _Southern Women at the Millennium: A
Historical Perspective_ (Columbia: University of Missouri Press,

[2]. Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman, "Stealth in the Political Arsenal of
Southern Women: A Retrospective for the Millennium," in Walker, Dunn,
and Dunn, _Southern Women at the Millennium: A Historical
Perspective_, 45.

[3]. For more on how southern progressive women used respectable
dress and behavior to shroud their activism, see Jacquelyn Dowd Hall,
_Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign
against Lynching_ (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979);
Cynthia Stokes Brown, _Refusing Racism: White Allies and the Struggle
for Civil Rights_, (New York: Teachers College Press, 2002); and
Peter J. Ling and Sharon Monteith, _Gender and the Civil Rights
Movement _(New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004).

Citation: Rebecca Tuuri. Review of Stanton, Mary, _Journey toward
Justice: Juliette Hampton Morgan and the Montgomery Bus Boycott_.
H-Women, H-Net Reviews. August, 2009.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24465

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

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