The Irony of the Solid South: Democrats, Republicans, and Race, 1865-1944 by Glen Feldman.

Author:Rauhaus, Beth M.
Position:Book review

Feldman, Glenn. The Irony of the Solid South: Democrats, Republicans, and Race, 1865-1944. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2013. xix + 459 pages. Cloth, $49.95.

In this work, historian Glenn Feldman highlights the political realignment in the South between 1865 and 1944 by emphasizing the many differences in culture, race, and values. Rather than taking the traditional approach to the topic and claiming that the political realignment occurred because white Southerners became Republicans and abandoned the ideals and values of the Democratic Party, the author examines the region in a comprehensive manner. He asserts that political realignments were not merely caused by racial, economic, or social divisions throughout the South, but also entailed a so-called Reconstruction Syndrome, which implicates a set of beliefs that left a strain on the region economically, racially, and politically. Feldman argues that Reconstruction Syndrome was a primary factor in a shift of attitudes in which blacks, the federal government, liberals, and outsiders (foreigners and Yankees) were viewed negatively, and where traits of a traditional political culture, or conservatism, were prevalent. Feldman brings relevance to his work by illustrating the ways in which the Democratic Party's attitudes toward such national policies as anti-lynching, anti-poll tax, and anti-segregation legislation solidified the demise of the Democrat rule in the South. By incorporating many stories of elected officials facing struggles in legislating within state politics, he is able to show that realignment was hardly a surprise to anyone.

The irony of the South being considered "solid" is clearly noted by Feldman, as he paints a picture of southern culture that was clearly marked with rigid challenges to the acceptance of civil rights, which is necessary to one's understanding of political shifts. Feldman uses numerous resources to recount violence throughout the South, while focusing primarily on incidents in Alabama. For example, Feldman draws on newspaper archives, letters, and diary entries to trace violent incidents committed by the Ku Klux Klan in the state. Feldman masterfully details the story of a violent KKK execution of a preacher in north Alabama and includes a letter the preacher wrote to his wife minutes before his death. By providing such vivid imagery of hatred and violence, the author clearly acknowledges the racial divisions and quest for civil rights present...

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