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From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama

African American Political Success, 1966-2008

Dennis Nordin

Publication Year: 2012

In 2008, American history was forever changed with the election of Barack Obama, the United States’ first African American president. However, Obama was far from the first African American to run for a public office or to face the complexities of race in a political campaign. For over a century, offices ranging from city mayor to state senator have been filled by African Americans, making race a factor in many elections. In From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama, Dennis S. Nordin navigates the history of biracial elections by examining the experiences of a variety of African American politicians from across the country, revealing how voters, both black and white, respond to the issue of race in an election.



The idea to compare the African American political experience across several levels of office first occurred to Nordin as he was researching Arthur W. Mitchell’s 1934 congressional campaign. The question of white voter support was of particular significance, as was whether the continuation of that support depended upon his avoiding minority issues in office. To begin answering these questions and others, Nordin compares the experiences of eleven African American politicians. Taken from across the country to ensure a wide sample and accurate depiction of the subject, the case studies examined include Tom Bradley, mayor of Los Angeles; David Dinkins, mayor of New York; Freeman Bosley Jr., mayor of St. Louis; Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts; Senator Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois; Governor L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia; and Representative J. C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, among others. As Nordin analyzes these individuals and their contribution to the whole, he concludes that biracial elections in the United States have yet to progress beyond race.



            From Edward Brooke to Barack Obama investigates the implications of race in politics, a highly relevant topic in today’s American society. It offers readers a chronological overview of the progress made over the last several decades as well as shows where there is room for growth in the political arena. By taking a pertinent topic for the era and placing it in the context of history, Nordin successfully chronicles the roles of race and race relations in American politics.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

African American officeholders dependent upon either white leadership or votes face a threshold of how much tolerance Caucasians would have regarding race. When minority politicians cross the imaginary line by showing too much interest in what whites will tend to interpret as pandering to African American causes and interests, a loss of white support results in most cases. In other ...

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pp. xi-xiv

For fear of overlooking valuable contributors, the task of thanking helpful per-sons is always a risky undertaking because one might unintentionally forget people who have offered important assistance. Chair Steve Turner, members, and staff of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University have been most generous, offering office space, supplies, and Internet ac-...

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1. Deracializing or Racializing Campaigns

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pp. 1-10

From many angles and perspectives, race as a factor in American life has received considerable attention. Some assessments emphasize its persistence and others emphasize a gradual demise. In determining the role of race in elective politics, revisionists assert that a path to electoral victories opened for African American office seekers in the late 1980s when victories had become possible ...

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2. The DuBois-Washington Debates in Congressional Politics since 1928

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pp. 11-42

W. E. B. DuBois reacted harshly to Booker T. Washington’s compromising advice to African Americans at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. Accepting inequality from whites was not something DuBois was willing to accept. Decades later, a national and a congressional debate continues about which course—one of accommodation or one of direct confrontation toward America’s ...

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3. Retaining White Power with Black Mayors

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pp. 43-108

In several municipal elections between the late 1960s and the end of the century, African American mayoral candidates won three different types of con-tests. First successes came in Northern minority-majority cities such as Newark, Gary, Detroit, and East St. Louis. Several African American mayoral candidates followed the wins gained in these urban centers by succeeding in southern mu-...

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4. Defying All Odds: African Americans Winning Statewide Elections

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pp. 109-150

Whenever African Americans have embarked upon efforts to win elections for state offices, the act of being the first to do so would immediately become important. In every case, their resumes came with figurative asterisks to indicate their roles as the pioneering members of their race either to seek a particular position or to receive a party’s nomination to run for one. Whether by their ...

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5. The Political Pinnacle: Barack Obama’s Presidential Victory

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pp. 151-198

The culmination of African American candidates’ seeking offices where dependence upon white votes was necessary for success came on November 4, 2008. Senator Barack Obama’s victories first in grueling primary and caucus bat-tles for the Democratic nomination and then in the presidential election have raised many questions for examination. Most important, did the victory imply a ...


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pp. 199-226


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pp. 227-242


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pp. 243-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272799
E-ISBN-10: 0826272797
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219770
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219772

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1