Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 116 / Number 3
"A Richmond Institution": Earnest Sevier Cox, Racial Propaganda, and White Resistance to the Civil Rights Movement
- By Jason Ward, pp. 262–93
Few Virginians have ever heard of Earnest Sevier Cox. Yet for most of his adult life, he spread a message of white supremacy and racial separatism to anyone who would listen. In the 1920s, Cox worked with other white supremacists in Virginia to enact one of the most stringent antimiscegenation statutes in American history. After this accomplishment, he devoted himself to an ambitious but ultimately futile cause: the resettlement of African Americans to Liberia. From the New Deal era to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Cox argued that the only permanent solution to America's racial problems was complete and total separation of black and white. Although historians have examined Cox's racial activism in the years before World War II, few have paid attention to his resurgence during the civil rights era. As an elder statesman of white supremacy, Cox waged a vigorous propaganda campaign from his lonely Richmond apartment. Churning out pamphlets and books well into his eighties, he argued that racial integration would tear apart American society and ultimately destroy Western civilization. White supremacists looked to Cox for encouragement and advice as they resisted the civil rights movement. Although it is tempting to view him as a lonely crusader with obsolete views, this article contends that Cox shared some of the same fears and convictions that motivated other committed opponents of the modern civil rights movement.