JESUS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
The Path to a Modern South: Northeast Texas Between Reconstruction and the Great
Depression. By Walter L. Buenger. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2oo1.
Pp. xi+398. introduction, epilogue, notes, a comment on primary sources,
index. ISBN 0-292-708888-2. $27.50, paper.)
Okay, I confess. I am not a Texan although I am a Southerner by birth
(Virginia) and by residence (Alabama). This perspective nevertheless has its
merits. In the volume at hand, Professor Buenger has written an exceptional
work that even an outsider can follow and understand without disappointing
those more well-versed in the intricacies and intrigues that are Texas history and
politics. This clarity is just one of the book's many virtues and evidences the
author's knowledge and expertise gained from previous studies of secession in
Texas and aspects of twentieth-century politics (see introduction, notes i and 6).
The author's moderately revisionist thesis of a modern South developing in
Northeast Texas in part before the generally accepted dates of the Depression
and World War II is clearly set forth in the introduction and then substantiated
in the chapters that follow. Not one factor but many explained the region's
divergence from a distinctively Southern economy and society to one that was
American and paradoxically Texan at the same time. Politics (including the
right of women to vote), economic developments (railroads, lumber, retailing),
demography, and geography, all combined not only to produce a more diversi-
fied economy and a more fluid society but a political factionalism (or trifaction-
alism) that fostered pragmatism (as in E. L. Doheny early on and Wright Patman
later) and inhibited conservative control as in other Southern states. Elements of
the Old South persisted to be sure-tenantry, sharecropping, racism, and lynch-
ing-and not all in Northeast Texas benefited from the long path to a modern
South, but by 1930 this part of Texas stood poised to benefit from what was to
come instead of the other away around.
While economic historians, demographers, and geographers will revel in the
data and maps presented, the transition to a modern South is best illustrated
in the decline of the Confederate Lost Cause by 1915 and the rise of interest
and state and local history and Lone Star imagery ("Texas mania," p. 127).
Texas, the Southern and Confederate state, had become by the 192os part of
the West with its individualism and opportunism. A new myth had been born.
Texas was on its way to becoming "a whole other country" as the tourist ads
keep reminding us.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed May 25, 2015.