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The Irony of the Solid South

Democrats, Republicans, and Race, 1865-1944

Glenn Feldman

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

There are a great many people who have my sincere gratitude for helping make this book possible. First, i would like to thank Curtis Clark, director, and Dan Waterman, editor- in- chief, of The University of Alabama Press for the faith, encouragement, guidance, and support they have demonstrated from the beginning. i am deeply grateful to them both. everyone at The Uni-...

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pp. xi-xix

The very things that made the south solid for the Democratic Party after 1865—white supremacy, religious and cultural conservatism, a boundless devotion to market values—also “made” the south begin to become, by 1936, disillusioned with the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt and the new Deal. This was a disenchantment that would only simmer and grow ...

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1. The “Reconstruction Syndrome” and the Calcification of Conservative Culture

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pp. 1-20

The South began its move toward the modern Republican Party in 1865. Is this too much to write? Does it sound too deterministic, too teleological, too . . . illogical? Does it dismiss too much Democratic dominance— decades of it, in fact? Yes, probably so. Yet as outlandish as the statement is, as counterintuitive as it may at first seem, there is more than just a kernel of truth behind it. To be sure, the realignment...

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2. Elements of Democratic Solidarity and Discontent: Industry, Economics, Calvinist Religion, and Jim Crow

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pp. 21-40

Reconstruction was only the first major element that would serve as a glue and, later, a solvent of the Solid Democratic South. The era, with its attendant “syndrome,” certainly left a set of powerful attitudes to serve as a basis for sectional ethos. But succeeding events only crystallized and hardened the original mold. The making of the New South, in terms of attracting industry after the war, went leagues in the...

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3. For Blacks Only: The Perversion of Alabama Progressivism

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pp. 41-66

The Progressive Movement did not pass the South by. In fact there was a distinct, active, even flourishing movement in the southern states, and Alabama was front and center among them. A great deal of reform was accomplished in the state, and a rich diversity of subjects tackled: health, education, child labor, voting, race relations, the regulation of corporations, trusts, and combinations (particularly the railroads), the treatment of prisoners...

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4. Race over Rum, Romans, and Republicans

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pp. 67-86

The presidential election of 1928 was a powerful formative moment in the period between Reconstruction and the New Deal. It also solidified the southern personality characteristics of conservative culture forged in the crucible of Reconstruction—elements that would not only make the South solid for Conservative Democracy but foster..

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5. Placing Culture on Hold: The New Deal Coalition, Its First Cracks, and the “Great Melding” Takes Shape

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pp. 87-122

Although no one could know it at the time, the New Deal held within it the seeds of its own destruction. While the program would eventually develop into a coalition of unparalleled strength and effectiveness, it would also harbor tensions and contradictions that made it, from the beginning, temporary and ephemeral—doomed to do anything but last. Nowhere would this be truer or more apparent than in the Deep South, in places like Alabama. For the New Deal in its complete sense...

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6. Splitting the New Deal Coalition Open

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pp. 123-162

Liberals in the Deep South could push and pull the electorate along on economic issues. Although they encountered fierce resistance from conservative industrial and planting interests, and often disinterest from the plain electorate, they could get away with such behavior—especially when times were hard and people were starving—as long as they did not challenge the sacred conventions on race. Clearly...

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7. The “Liberal South” and the Central Tragedy of SouthernPolitics

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pp. 163-183

Scholars have been almost uniformly optimistic, even sanguine, in their estimations of the innate liberalism of the New Deal and World War II South. Some of this sentiment is the function of rational estimates of genuine and deeply held liberalism in spots. Yet much of it is also the product of wishful thinking. In fact, a good deal is the result of the rather uncritical acceptance of contemporary evaluations (and in some cases the momentary hopes) of the most complete, and thus unrepresentative...

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8. Cheap Labor, the FEPC, and Frank Dixon as Knight-Errant of the South

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pp. 184-207

For Alabama’s privileged planter-industrialist clique, Frank Dixon’s resonance with the people was a bonanza. Alabama politics had long been riven by tensions between those who had little and those with plenty. In the domestic storms of the New Deal and World War II , though, wealth and privilege glimpsed a way for class healing to occur, a soothing of economic differences that would allow the masses...

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9. Racial Challenge, White Reaction, and Chauncey Sparks as the New Champion

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pp. 208-246

“Kill the body, and the head will fall.” This advice is one of the best-known nuggets of wisdom derived from the sweet science of prize fighting. The proverb refers, of course, to the value of doing groundwork in any endeavor before attempting a coup de grâce. To a large extent race relations on the southern home front during World War II bear a suitable relation. Whether viewed from the ramparts...

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10. Race, Religion, and the “Status Quo Society"

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pp. 247-265

The limitations of the liberalism of Alabama progressives like Chauncey Sparks and Lister Hill revealed at an individual level the same kind of softness that afflicted much of what constituted New Deal liberalism in the South. If it in some way involved race, the liberalism could not be sustained. And with almost every issue that presented itself, a tie to racial traditions, perquisites, and...

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11. Liberals, Friends of the Negro, and Charging Hell with a Toothpick

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pp. 266-290

Saying that southern liberals were “liberal” except on matters of race is a well-meaning non sequitur. This is so because white supremacy was tied together, part and parcel, with the other main pillars that supported the status quo society of the South: patriarchy, bourgeois domination, religious and moral chauvinism, xenophobia, hyper-patriotism. Race did not—could not—float above and..

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Epilogue: Since 1944

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pp. 291-312

The difference between people like John Temple Graves, W. T. Couch, and Forney Johnston as opposed to Theodore bilbo, Gene Talmadge, and bull Connor has been overestimated. To be sure, real differences existed. but they were more cosmetic and incidental than fundamental and intrinsic.next to the raw racism of people like bilbo, eastland, and Gerald l. K. ...


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pp. 313-412

Selected Bibliography of Primary Sources

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pp. 413-428


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pp. 429-480

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386702
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317935

Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Southern States -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950.
  • Democratic Party (U.S.) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Party affiliation -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Southern States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
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