The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Book Reviews

The central thesis of The Vital South is sound. The Blacks trace skillfully the
electoral adeptness of the Republicans in attracting white voters in the South
from 1964 to the present. The corresponding ineptitude of national Demo-
cratic leaders in wooing the South is also made very clear. In their admiration
for the professional competence of such GOP operatives as the late Lee At-
water, however, the authors devote less attention to the substantive conse-
quences of the Republican mastery of racial divisions and "wedge" issues. Have
the needs of the South and the nation been well served by the "southern
strategy" of Richard Nixon and his successors? Is electoral failure the only
measure that should be applied to the Democratic endorsement of African
American aspirations that began with Lyndon Johnson? When they suggest
that the Democrats "have yet to learn" (p. 11) what the Republicans know about
conducting elections in the United States, the narrative displays a moral indif-
ference that becomes more troubling as the book proceeds.
The historical sections of The Vital South rest on published sources. Neither
of the Blacks seem to have had any inclination to explore the rich primary
materials on southern presidential politics in presidential libraries. The Lyn-
don B. Johnson Library has extensive holdings on the 196os, and the Jimmy
Carter Library, located near Emory University where Merle Black teaches, is
another storehouse of relevant documents for the Democrats. As polished as
the Blacks' chapters on the 1960s and 197os are, they have a derivative quality
that limits their value. The structural weaknesses of the Democrats in the
1970s, for example, went back in part to Johnson's failures as a party leader
during the 196os. That story emerges from documents at the LBJ Library that
the Blacks could easily have examined.
For the richness of its election analysis and the useful insights that it pro-
vides, The Vztal South will be an important book for historians and political
scientists interested in the recent South to read and consult frequently.
University of Texas at Austin LEWIS L. GOULD
Joseph E. Davis, Pioneer Patriarch. By Janet Sharp Hermann. (Jackson and Lon-
don: University Press of Mississippi, 1990. Pp. xii + 196. Preface, photo-
graphs, notes, index. $22.95.)
Jefferson Davis, The Man and Hzs Hour. By William C. Davis. (New York:
HarperCollins, 1991. Pp. xv + 784. Preface, illustrations, notes, bibliog-
raphy, index. $35.)
The Old South produced no pair of brothers more noteworthy than Joseph
and Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. Jefferson (1808- 1889), as the first and only
president of the Confederate States of America, has received abundant atten-
tion from chroniclers of the Civil War era, while Joseph (1784-1870), who
never occupied such lofty public office, remained until recently obscured in the
long shadow of his famous and controversial sibling.
Janet Hermann, an independent scholar living in California, almost single-
handedly brought Jefferson's older brother into the historical limelight in the

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed September 21, 2014.