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As a leader of the Southern Regional Council in the early 1960s, and later as executive director of the Field Foundation, Leslie Dunbar’s advocacy and behind-the-scenes organizing made him one of the most significant (but least recognized) people in the civil rights movement. His essays and speeches often helped set the agenda. They also continue to offer a prophetic voice in our struggle to create a more humane and fully integrated America.

The Shame of Southern Politics gathers for the first time fourteen of Dunbar’s essays and speeches on the courage and values of the southern civil rights movement. Dunbar’s selected writings, ranging from the classic 1961 essay “The Annealing of the South” to a post-September 11th meditation, give eloquent voice to the best of America’s liberal tradition. A new essay entitled “1968” offers Dunbar’s unique take on that transformational year.

Leslie Dunbar is the author and editor of A Republic of Equals, Minority Report, The Common Interest, and Reclaiming Liberalism.

Dan T. Carter, professor of history at the University of South Carolina and himself a distinguished interpreter of the South, sets the scene in a masterful introduction that details the contributions of this quiet yet influential man.

"There are no more Leslie Dunbars. These essays illumine a life fueled by deep conviction. Leslie has walked in Eleanor Roosevelt’s footprints, but cut his own courageous path. He is an inspiration to all who have known him."—Anne Eleanor Roosevelt

"An intellectually rigorous but refreshingly modest philosopher-activist, Dunbar deserves wider recognition for his seminal work in the civil rights movement."—Durham (NC) Herald-Sun

"Leslie Dunbar, through this extraordinary collection, has made a much-needed and meaningful contribution to the history and literature of southern politics. With his involvement and experience, only Dunbar could write and speak with such moral clarity."—John Lewis

"The essays reveal a superbly informed and reflective mind."—Journal of Southern History

"I have always turned to Leslie Dunbar’s writings for their compelling blend of penetrating insight and graceful, sometimes Old Testament like prose."—Paul M. Gaston

"In the strongest possible terms, I urge everyone to read this collections of essays and speeches."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"An averment for protest rhetoric activity, grassroots movements, and the radical voice in race relations bent on equality in civic and political life."—Rhetoric & Public Affairs

"Illuminates how liberals, or those of a more progressive ilk, have made a difference on the more controversial issues facing the South."—Southern Historian

"The civil rights days were ‘mind changing times’ of almost seismic size in the South. Black and white women and men brought this about; bonded together through their churches, human relations councils and other bi-racial groups, doing there the hard work of voter registration, of speaking out in their communities, of now and again marching together. Demands of federal courts, which a few years earlier would have been defied, were accepted. Few persons were as important as was Leslie Dunbar in leading and speaking for that regional and historic ‘mind changing.’"—Vernon Jordan

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Leslie Dunbar, Race relations, Civil rights, African American political activists


United States History

The Shame of Southern Politics: Essays and Speeches
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