When many think of “proto-fascism”, the city of LaGrange is probably never likely to come to mind. At least no one would ever think that it still exists in today’s society. Scott Smith, a UWG graduate student, reveals the social psychology of the existence of racism in a modern America in his book titled, “Legacy: The Secret History of Proto-Fascism in America’s Greatest Little City”.
The book revolves around a strike that occurred at Callaway Mills in 1935, that resulted in Marshall Law in the city of LaGrange. This event later grew to a form of institutional discrimination that was spearheaded by a wealthy, socially active and prominent family in LaGrange, known as the Callaway family.
During the strike of 1935, the Georgia National Guardsmen killed at least one man during the process of evicting strikers from homes owned by mill-workers. Smith even researched that Nazi newspapers in Germany at the time heavily applauded Georgia and their use of state troops for strike busting.
After the events in 1935, Smith noticed that most of the people in the city were afraid to stand up to the Callaway corporate power structure that was present in LaGrange. Smith discovered and researched that this may have been the reason why the city still had racially segregated swimming pools, libraries and recreation centers that were funded by the Callaway Foundation as late as 1992
Throughout the book, Smith shares his experiences and recollections of growing up in LaGrange in the 1980’s. He relates a specific story about the day in which he found out that racial segregation still occurred. He discovered that he was a member of the racially segregated Callaway Educational Association (CEA). Smith compares and contrasts his experiences by incorporating the factors of psychology and political aspects throughout the book.
Smith wanted to write this book because he was in shock of the history of the city and wanted others to know about the history as well.
Smith mentioned that the book started out as a paper on institutional discrimination that was for a social psychology class. After receiving rave reviews and praise from his professors, he was encouraged to turn his paper into a book. After much research and writing, the book was finally published in 2011.
“The whole writing process, including interviews with people, was emotionally trying,” said Smith. “Most people don’t like talking about tragedies from their past. Most people don’t like to remember the sad moments.”
In inspiration to create advocacy and change of the ways of LaGrange, he ran for public office in 2011, “Writing the book and learning about local history gave me a deeper appreciation for democracy and inspired me to run for a LaGrange City Council seat last year,”
Smith’s advice for students who may be interested in writing a book was, “I would say write about something that you’re passionate about, something that inspires you. You’ll need that passion and inspiration to carry you forward.”
Smith lives in LaGrange with his wife, Adreane and his son Alex. When asked about his plans for the future, “I would love to write more books in the future, but first, I need to write my thesis.” said Smith. Smith’s plans are to work as a counselor and finish his M.A. in psychology. He is also interested in pursuing a Ph.D. to teach. His book is available at Underground Books in downtown Carrollton at the square. His next book signing will be on Sat. Dec. 8 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Blue Train Books located in downtown Hogansville, GA.