Comparative Critique Of Frederickson's Dixiecrat Revolt And Kelley's Race Rebels

1445 words - 6 pages

Kari Frederickson's work, The Dixiecrat Revolt, examined the growing disenchantment of Southern Democrats to the federal government, President Truman, and ultimately, the Democratic Party. These Southern conservatives rebelled against the Democratic Party in the 1948 Presidential election resulting in the eventual political realignment of the South to a two-party system, and the rise of the Republican Party within that system. The two chapters of Robin D.G. Kelley's book, Race Rebels, studied the rebellion of blacks in Birmingham over the segregated public transportation system. He also examined the plight of poor blacks in the post-war period, as they received little aid from civil rights organizations and increased repression from the police that culminated in alternative forms of resistance. Both of these works insightfully analyzed the causes of rebellion, displacement that motivated the rebellions, and how each group resisted the perceived oppression.

Frederickson's work primarily studied the states of the Deep South, with some discussion offered about states in the Upper South, and it began in the 1930's, continuing to the presidential election in 1968. By covering this period in such detail, she set up the social and political conditions existent in Kelley's Birmingham of the war years and immediate post-war years. The reforms of the New Deal and the economic re-vitalization and modernization of the South during the war years "unleashed forces" that demanded greater racial equality, economic parity, and political participation on behalf of blacks in the South. Kelley focused on the efforts of blacks, both poor and middle-class, in Birmingham demonstrating the agitations and desires of these people and the segregationist system white supremacists attempted to keep into place.

The two authors worked within a framework where targeted groups acted outside of their parent body. Frederickson analyzed the Dixiecrats in the larger framework of the Democratic Party while Kelley focused on blacks resisting segregation, white supremacy, and ignorance from middle-class blacks. Frederickson argued that New Deal programs disrupted the political and social balance in the South, undermining the existent relationship between whites and blacks.

A renewed militancy among southern blacks emboldened by the rhetoric of the war and by their participation in the struggle for democracy, the increased voting strength of northern blacks, and a wave of racial violence that rolled across the nation during the war years and after made national accommodation to southern sensibilities increasingly difficult. The combination of Supreme Court decisions and executive orders, working in tandem with grassroots efforts, once again threw southern conservatives on the defensive.

President Truman furthered this displacement when he asserted that the federal government had to take a stronger role in the defense of civil rights in his special...

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