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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Hodding Carter, April 1, 1974. Interview A-0100. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Laws can change attitudes on race

While legal changes did not change hearts, the behavioral adjustments they forced eventually did, although the political machinery in the state, in Carter's view, is not particularly effective.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Hodding Carter, April 1, 1974. Interview A-0100. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

How do you see Mississippi politics?
Mississippi politics right now are in a holding pattern. They have made tremendous procedural change, technique change since the middle '60s. The way you get elected and the way you are perceived by the electorate if you're going to get elected has changed completely since I came back here in '59.
From what to what?
Well, what was the all out massive resistance campaign, nigger, nigger, nigger, which prevailed on up through 67 and including even John Bell Williams Rawal moderation being a total virtue in the way you run for office. The nearest thing to the old kind of a campaign was a little bit of stuff that turn Lots stuck on Ben Style (?) down in the 5th district. And that was so far removed from the sex stuff that it was kind of silly. Only two years ago. But I don't think anybody has any clear notion about where it's going to go from here for the next ten years or how. . . . Everybody's moderate and talk about progress and they talk about the need for working things out together. But I don't think anybody really knows what that means in political terms. What kind of changes are going to be the result of it.
Was that change in technique a surface thing or was it a basic change in attitudes?
I think that what everybody always said is about correct. That you don't change anybody's hearts by changing the law. But, you sure as hell change the way they act. And naturally that get's around to where it changes the way a lot of them feel. I mean, how do you measure—I know how you measure it, but how do you get any good measurements on it? I'd just say, though, that the less you whip up certain kinds of emotions, the more they subside, if not vanish. And a lot of people clearly were freed by the last ten years to quit being closet moderates and start being, you know, letting theppublic know that they really were let alone, free to be a liberal if you wanted to be. So that what might appear to be instant conversion or fast changes may just be that with that blanket demand for conformity gone and the necessity for appealing to a different kind of vote now on the surface, it's free unknown .