The Door of Hope- Republican Presidents and the First Southern Strategy, 1877-1933. By Edward O. Frantz. (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2011. Pp. xii, 295. $69.95.)
From the end of the Civil War until the end of Reconstruction, the Republican Party had political control over the South, built with a combination of former slaves, Republicans moving in from the North, and Southern whites who supported the Republican economic agenda. Much of the white support fell away as a result of economic turmoil in the mid-1870s and the end of Reconstruction in 1877. The Republican Party spent the next century clawing its way back to political dominance. In between those dates, Republican presidents visited the South, with a slim chance of winning electoral votes, to escape the Washington winters or as a display of national unity, but never to call for greater rights for those who remained loyal to the Republican Party: African Americans.
Edward O. Frantz examines the impact of the Republican presidents who went to the South from 1877 to 1933 in a solidly researched, well-written volume. Frantz begins with Rutherford B. Hayes, who completed the removal of federal troops from the South, effectively ending Reconstruction and returning state governments to the control of white Southerners. As Frantz shows, the trips to the South reflected the changing Southern view on race. When Hayes went south in 1877, the receptions were integrated, reflecting the Republican hopes for a new coalition, but at the turn of the century when McKinley came, the South was under Jim Crow and the crowds were segregated, reflecting a new reality in the region. …