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SWEENEY'S BOOK SHEDS LIGHT ON DESEGREGATION IN VIRGINIA

"Race, Reason, and Massive Resistance: The Diary of David J. Mays, 1954-1959" (University of Georgia Press), a new book edited by Old Dominion University historian and associate professor James R. Sweeney, offers an insider's view of the roles played by many prominent Virginians in the battle against desegregation in public schools.

Mays, a highly regarded attorney from Richmond, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, a member of his city's political and social elite, and a diarist for most of his adult life. Sweeney's volume contains excerpts from his diary during the period when Mays was counselor to the Gray Commission, a legislative panel charged with formulating Virginia's response to federal mandates concerning the integration of public schools. Later, Mays was involved in litigation triggered by that response.

"I would like readers to see the mind of an elite, conservative white Virginian at work when confronted with the greatest social change of his generation," Sweeney said. "I would like them to see that a self-proclaimed moderate was not really a moderate. He was seeking the same goals as the massive resisters to desegregation by different means. I also want them to witness the inner workings of the political organization that dominated Virginia politics in that era."

Sweeney, who specializes in Virginia history and recent American political history, recently participated as a jury member for the Richmond Times-Dispatch's survey to create a list of the greatest and most influential Virginians. The results of the survey, which ran each Sunday in the editorial section of the paper during the month of December, can be read online at www.inrich.com.

Sweeney's next project will be a biography of former governor Mills Godwin, which he will write with former ODU president James L. Bugg Jr., who began the project some years ago. Bugg was president when Sweeney began teaching at the university in September 1970.

This article was posted on: February 7, 2008

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