The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Book Reviews

achievement as a formal composer was not recognized prior to his death in
1917. Only the ragtime compositions sustained his popularity, and he came to
disparage the form. Nor was ragtime, for all its bicultural popularity, able to me-
liorate the conditions of black Americans or modify in the slightest the fact of
Jim Crow segregation, which would prevail for forty years after Joplin's death.
University of Southwestern Louisiana JAMES H. DORMON
The South and the New Deal. By Roger Biles. (Lexington: University of Kentucky
Press, 1994. Pp. x+205. Preface, notes, bibliographical essay, index. ISBN o-
81311-836-0. $23.00.)
In The South and the New Deal, Professor Roger Biles of Oklahoma State Univer-
sity argues that the government programs of the 193os began the erosion of
southern particularism before the defense mobilization of the 1940s consider-
ably altered that region's distinctiveness. He depicts New Deal measures as an in-
teraction between national legislation and local political conditions. The white
leadership of the south, according to Biles, cooperated reluctantly with federal
laws which threatened to restrict the elites' control of racial and economic af-
fairs. Nevertheless, the severity of the Great Depression forced southern politi-
cians to accept federal intervention. When federal agencies dispensed welfare or
changed agricultural marketing practices, for example, they also modified the
historic class and racial relationships in the south. As soon as southern politi-
cians could abandon the New Deal coalition without alienating their local con-
stituents, they did. The controversy generated by President Roosevelt's 1937
attempt to pack the Supreme Court opened an escape hatch for legislators who
were never comfortable with federal programs. Yet the New Deal created a na-
tional Democratic party majority, thus diluting the south's historic political influ-
ence on that party, and nudged southern white voters slowly into the recent
Republican coalition.
Biles defines the south as the Confederate states, plus Kentucky, Maryland,
Missouri, and Oklahoma. The book begins with a brief look at the region at the
start of the Great Depression and then proceeds with six topical chapters de-
scribing the impact of the New Deal on southern economics, labor, African
Americans, and politics. Although Biles does cite some primary materials in the
endnotes, his analyses and descriptions of the New Deal in the south rest largely
on secondary accounts. Most historians of the recent south will agree with the
book's thesis, and indeed the strength of the monograph is its synthesis of cur-
rent historical literature. Readers will find the book both accessible and clearly
written. Its principal value will likely be to undergraduates and general readers
rather than to scholars of the New Deal.
Biles includes a bibliographical essay that points out to observant readers the
paucity of regional histories of the New Deal. Texas historians need to write
monographs, for example, on almost all of the regional federal agencies and
their impact on this state. Historians also need to take new looks at the politics
of the state in the 193os, and perform a new synthesis of the New Deal in Texas.

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed September 22, 2014.