The Making of a Southern Democracy: North Carolina Politics from Kerr Scott to Pat McCrory

The Making of a Southern Democracy: North Carolina Politics from Kerr Scott to Pat McCrory

The Making of a Southern Democracy: North Carolina Politics from Kerr Scott to Pat McCrory

The Making of a Southern Democracy: North Carolina Politics from Kerr Scott to Pat McCrory

Synopsis

The story of modern politics in North Carolina is very much one of American democracy, with all its grand ambitions, limitations, and pitfalls. So argues Tom Eamon in his probing narrative of the state's political path since the 1940s. He charts the state's political transformation into a modern democratic society to show that this change was more than an evolution--it was a revolution, one that largely came about through political means, driven by strong movements and individuals working for change.
By tracking the turbulence of politics throughout the period, from racial tensions to student demonstrations to fierce rivalries in the higher education arena, Eamon explores how conflict helped build a better society even as the state continued to lag in many areas. This rich account opens to readers the unforgettable people and hard-fought elections that have shaped North Carolina's competitive personality and have led to the state's emergence as a major player in twenty-first-century American politics.

Excerpt

After the triumph of freedom in World War II, the American South remained entrenched in its old ways. It was a rural and traditional region where white supremacy prevailed even as schoolchildren were taught the words “All men are created equal.” North Carolina, a state that had some claim to being the most innovative and progressive in the South, lived in a state of hypocrisy.

This is a book about how and why contemporary North Carolina developed as it did. More broadly, it tells a story of the evolution of American democracy, stressing the period since 1948, the year of the first major election after World War II. It is a narrative of political events. Much of the story is told through the election battles that set the course for the future and the debates that shaped these elections. The North Carolina story is not one producing the nice, neat tapestry of a novel, one where all the threads can be tied together perfectly in the end. Yet, in its own way, it is as compelling as any novel could be.

The first theme is North Carolina’s transition from a racially segregated society based on the concept of white supremacy into a state more closely resembling a participatory democracy, where all people have voting rights and fundamental liberties. Well into the era of cars, planes, television, and air-conditioning, almost total segregation permeated North Carolina society. By 2010, blacks and whites patronized the same restaurants and theaters. Interracial dating was not unusual. In 2008, African Americans voted at higher rates than did whites in many locales. Taking the long view, it was a different world.

The second theme is North Carolina’s move away from a one-party political order, with the Democratic Party supreme, into a two-party system with stiff competition between Democrats and Republicans. In earlier days, a . . .

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