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date: 21 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article highlights the surprising influence of the South on the nation in the last half of the twentieth century. Before doing so, a note of methodological humility seems warranted. Besides the inevitable inexactitude of measuring regional impact, two caveats deserve special mention: the problems of characterization and causation. “The South” and associated descriptors are inherently broad, vague, and ambivalent vessels into which some are tempted to pour traditional, conservative, or racial content, often with pejorative baggage. Sorting out the extent to which national trends were caused by the growing prominence of the South or, alternatively, by latent national predispositions merely surfaced by the turbulence unleashed by the South's reintegration is a methodological quagmire. The increasing virulence of racism in American politics, for example, can be pinned on the rise of southern leadership or, to the contrary, viewed as a preexisting pathology exacerbated by the strife of dismantling the distinct southern brand of Jim Crow racism. Sometimes the two arguments seem to coexist in the same analysis.

Keywords: southern leadership, racism, southern politics, twentieth century, American politics, reintegration

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