This book looks in depth at the ways in which World War II transformed the public and private life of one American city. Far more than the programs of the New Deal, argues Robert G. Spinney, it was the war that determined what Nashville would become at mid-century.
Unlike many studies of the American home front during World War II, Spinney's work focuses on the war's effects on Nashville's political culture. As he explains, anti-statist sentiment waned, and Nashvillians became more willing than ever before to invest public-sector institutions with sweeping authority and broad mandates. A dramatically expanding municipal government that provided more and better services, the growth of the local housing authority, new urban redevelopment projects, comprehensive city planning -- all of these important developments in the Tennessee capital were directly attributable to wartime factors, most notably the rise of defense-related work. Remarkably, Spinney points out, it was Nashville's commercial/civic elite that championed the new role for City Hall. These civic leaders, like other urban boosters in the South, had exercised political power behind the scenes for years, but during the 1940s, they institutionalized their boosterism.
In addition to examining Nashville's public-sector expansion, Spinney explores the war's impact on the Nashville economy, the role of organized labor in the city, race relations and the politicization of the black leadership, changing attitudes within the local Jewish community, and civil defense activities. An introductory chapter surveys Nashville's experience in the decade prior to the war.
As Spinney notes, scholars generally agree that anti-statism abatedin the 1940s but have been hard-pressed to explain exactly how the process worked. One of the few studies to explore the phenomenon at the local level, World War Il in Nashville suggests that local initiatives may have been just as important as federal directives in legitimi