The Darkness in Georgia

  • Gerald E. Shenk


Historians call the early twentieth century in the United States the “Progressive Era.” And indeed, if the records of the Selective Service System reflect the times, nearly everyone in charge of any business or governmental entity seemed to think of themselves as “Progressive.” In Georgia, as elsewhere, the basic principles of Progressivism infused the operations of the Selective Service System at every level. Men and women usually appealed to Progressive ideals in their communications with draft boards. A “Progressive” man or woman believed in teamwork and cooperative enterprises and rejected selfish individualism; deferred to the judgment of recognized experts and distrusted raw democracy; believed in the ability of well-organized institutions, whether private or governmental, to solve social and economic problems; admired technology and science, and especially believed that the scientific categorization and classification of all things was essential for understanding the world. In short, they believed that people working through organization and categorization applying the best wisdom of acknowledged experts could bring about “progress” on virtually any problem. It was, in a way, a comfortable new suit of clothes for the old familiar characters of white supremacy and southern patriarchy in the State of Georgia. However Georgia still had a core of rough-hewn individualists—some still in leadership positions—who resisted Progressivism. The Selective Service System in Georgia reveals the nature of these ideological conflicts while showing how compatible Progressivism was with a social order that sustained propertied white males in positions of dominance over everyone else.


White Woman Black Woman African American Woman African American Male Boll Weevil 
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© Gerald E. Shenk 2005

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  • Gerald E. Shenk

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