The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968

The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968

The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968

The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968

Synopsis

In 1948, a group of conservative white southerners formed the States' Rights Democratic Party, soon nicknamed the "Dixiecrats, " and chose Strom Thurmond as their presidential candidate. Thrown on the defensive by federal civil rights initiatives and unprecedented grassroots political activity by African Americans, the Dixiecrats aimed to reclaim conservatives' former preeminent position within the national Democratic Party and upset President Harry Truman's bid for reelection. The Dixiecrats lost the battle in 1948, but, as Kari Frederickson reveals, the political repercussions of their revolt were significant.

Frederickson situates the Dixiecrat movement within the tumultuous social and economic milieu of the 1930s and 1940s South, tracing the struggles between conservative and liberal Democrats over the future direction of the region. Enriching her sweeping political narrative with detailed coverage of local activity in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina--the flashpoints of the Dixiecrat campaign--she shows that, even without upsetting Truman in 1948, the Dixiecrats forever altered politics in the South. By severing the traditional southern allegiance to the national Democratic Party in presidential elections, the Dixiecrats helped forge the way for the rise of the Republican Party in the region.

Excerpt

It was clear that at the family reunion we were as welcome as children whose parentage was never established. disgruntled white southern democrat at the Democratic National Convention, July 1948 With an arrogance that has been rivaled only by their stupidity since they began agitating five months ago, a small group of Southerners will meet in Birmingham today. jonathan daniels Raleigh News and Observer, July 17, 1948

In early July 1948, as temperatures on the East Coast crept steadily upward, a badly splintered Democratic Party limped into Philadelphia for its first national convention since the end of World War II. Disgruntled white southerners and anxious northern liberals came itching for a floor fight on the decisive issue of civil rights and the future direction of the party in the postwar era. Were the promises of the war, particularly the commitment to democratic principles for all citizens, to be enshrined in the platform, or would conservative southerners, desperate to reclaim their prominence within national party circles, succeed in pulling the party backward?

Rising to address the hot and weary delegates on the last evening of the convention, Hubert Humphrey, the young liberal mayor from Minneapolis, made an emotional plea on behalf of racial equality. “I ask the Democratic Party to march down the high-road of progressive democracy,”he pleaded. “I ask this Convention to say in unmistakable terms that . . .

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