The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991 Page: 479

Book Reviews

The Life and Death of the Solid South: A Political Hzstory. By Dewey W.
Grantham. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1988.
Pp. xiv+257. Editor's preface, preface, tables, graphs, maps, illus-
trations, epilogue, notes, bibliographical essay, index. $25.)
The title of Dewey Grantham's very readable political history of the
southern states is somewhat misleading. For, in tracking the political
history of the ex-Confederate states as well as Kentucky and Oklahoma
from the last decades of the nineteenth century through the Reagan
years, he describes not only the endurance of the Solid South and its
demise but the circumstances-cultural, political, and economic-that
supported its emergence as a distinct subsystem in the American politi-
cal landscape. While the bulk of the book is dedicated to the operation
and erosion of the Solid South rather than its development, the scope
of this political history is more comprehensive than its title implies.
In his preface (pp. xi-xii), Grantham divides the history of the Solid
South into three periods: a "formative" stage lasting from Reconstruc-
tion to the turn of the century, a "classic" era characterizing the first
half of the twentieth century, and the decades of its deterioration fol-
lowing the Dixiecrat revolt of 1948. The discussion of the first stage
is largely restricted to the first chapter, where Grantham examines
the manner in which race and economics conspired to produce Demo-
cratic hegemony in the South as a whole, but the nineteenth century
creeps into the following two chapters as well. The title of chapter 4
("The Classic Period of Southern Politics") notwithstanding, chapters 2
through 5 are mainly devoted to the second stage, and culminate in the
South's ultimately ambivalent response to Roosevelt's New Deal. The
last three chapters of the book document the protracted "death" of the
Solid South, from the race-stimulated "chronic disorder" in the Demo-
cratic South of the 195os (chapter 6), through the institutional changes
of the "Second Reconstruction" marking the end of Jim Crow and dis-
franchisement (chapter 7), to the "new" politics of the two-party South
(chapter 8).
Overall, the importance of these three stages to the organization of
the book blurs in favor of" several themes that recur throughout
Grantham's analysis. One is the impact of larger political realignments,
notably those of the 18gos and the 193os, on the political character of
the South. A second and related theme is the interface, and at times
disjuncture, between the national and local faces of politics in the Solid
South. A third is the variation that existed in states' politics even within
the common sociopolitical ground that defined the Solid South. A
fourth is the degree to which economic change and cultural stability
have contributed to the stability and change that have characterized the
region's politics over the last century.


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991, periodical, 1991; Austin, Texas. ( accessed January 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.