Author of a superb biography of the Southern writer Caroline Gordon, and a journalist steeped in an understanding of the South, Ann Waldron has produced a searching, sometimes painful, but also redemptive biography of the editor and writer Hodding Carter. Carter is fascinating enough in his own right, as Waldron deftly portrays his early years, the racism that continued to shape his outlook even during his college years up North, and the transformation in response to the pressure of events as he came to grips with the realization that racism had no place in the establishment of a just and equitable society.
But just as fascinating is Waldron’s evocation of an age. She provides a historical context for understanding how courageous and stubborn Carter was in advocating social change. She rehabilitates the Southern liberal as a category, showing how opinion-makers like Carter confronted hostility at home and misunderstanding and even contempt for his efforts in the North while working for integration on his own terms.
Waldron concedes that Carter was not always right and did not see that his society could absorb radical change more readily than he supposed, but given the threats against his life and the constant abuse of his detractors, it is not surprising that he advocated gradual change. Her biography is also an important contribution to the history of American journalism and to the place of crusading papers such as Carter’s Greenville, Mississippi DELTA DEMOCRAT-TIMES.