After Freedom SummerHow Race Realigned Mississippi Politics, 1965-1986

After Freedom SummerHow Race Realigned Mississippi Politics, 1965-1986

Chris Danielson

Print publication date: 2012

ISBN: 9780813037387

Publisher: University Press of Florida

Abstract

This book discusses the central role that race played in Mississippi's gradual transition from a Democratic stronghold to a solidly Republican state. Prior to 1965, the state had almost no black political participation, but, in just over twenty years, it had hundreds of black elected officials. The growth of black political power was contested by white politicians in both parties, who alternated between resistance to and solicitation of black voters. These mechanisms of resistance included numerous vote-dilution schemes to weaken black voting strength and defeat black candidates. Eventually, the Democratic Party achieved integration, but white Democrats still held the real power in the party. The price of this integration was the increasing defection of white voters to the Republicans, who abandoned interracial efforts in favor of racial conservatism and indifference to black concerns. Unlike recent studies arguing that class, economics, or other nonracial issues played a role in southern political realignment, this study reinforces the fact that race was at the heart of the “Great White Switch” of Mississippi to the GOP in the 1980s.