This book is about a revolution in process -- the growing participation of southern Negroes in the politics of the 1960's.
For generations after Reconstruction, the eleven states of the former Confederacy excluded Negroes from active citizenship. But in recent years United States Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation -- to say nothing of pressures from southern Negroes themselves -- have broken the barriers to political participation by Negroes in the South. Southern Negroes are beginning to vote in impressive numbers. Front-page news stories announce the election of a Negro county sheriff in Alabama and of Negro state legislators in Georgia. Boycotts, sit-ins, demonstrations, and mass marches have become almost routine occurrences. Obviously, southern politics is rapidly changing in fundamental ways.
The classic works on the Negro -- Gunnar Myrdal An American Dilemma ( 1944) -- and on southern politics -- V. O. Key, Jr. Southern Politics ( 1949) -- describe a "Negro problem" and a South that bear little resemblance to present realities. The new southern politics has yet to be described and analyzed. Although writing about a revolution in process is almost as uncomfortable and risky as living through one, the job badly needs to be done. With this book we have tried to make a start.
Our focus is on Negro political participation and its consequences. How much do southern Negroes participate in the politics of the 1960's? In what ways? Why do some Negroes participate while others do not? What are likely to be the consequences of Negro political activity for southern politics and race relations?
Our effort to answer these questions is based on perhaps the largest collection of systematic data on Negro political behavior ever compiled. About two thousand southerners, from Texas to Virginia to Florida, were interviewed.