The early stages of the civil rights movement, particularly the integration of public schools in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, created a great deal of racial anxiety in the United States, and not just in the South. Essentially, Graham argues that many films during the 1950s and 1960s exhibited a strong theme of racial purity and redemption. Often, this was reflected in the portrayal of ignorant "rednecks," who were either redeemed or reformed, or cast out of society and defeated. "In post-Brown Hollywood," Graham argues,
blackness all but disappeared from the screen as intraracial confrontation assumed interracial connotations, and white battled white for cultural supremacy.
As time went on, the depiction of ignorant southern whites as virulent racists, in works like Mississippi Burning and movie adaptations of the novels of John Grisham, allowed whites to continue to refuse to "indict social and political institutions for racial injustice." In the midst of the civil rights movement, portrayals of whites as ignorant "white trash" allowed whites to imagine themselves as part of a project of racial rehabilitation. By the 1970s onward, the same stereotype allowed them to distance themselves from persistent structural racism.