Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South / Edition 1 available in Paperback
Suburban sprawl transformed the political culture of the American South as much as the civil rights movement did during the second half of the twentieth century. In The Silent Majority, Matthew Lassiter provides the first regionwide account that links civil rights and political realignment to suburban development in booming Sunbelt metropolises such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Richmond. This book examines crucial battles over racial integration, court-ordered busing, and housing segregation to explain how the South moved from the era of Jim Crow into the national mainstream. Focusing on the grassroots mobilization of suburban families in the Silent Majority, Lassiter rejects the framework of southern distinctiveness and the conventional wisdom that Republican growth in the region resulted primarily from a top-down, race-driven "Southern Strategy."
Instead this book demonstrates the convergence of southern and national politics around color-blind policies of suburban entitlement, the power and population shifts to the metropolitan Sunbelt, and the bipartisan retreat from the promise of the Brown decision of 1954. The Silent Majority is critical reading for those interested in urban and suburban studies, political and social history, the civil rights movement, public policy, and the intersection of race and class in modern America.
About the Author:
Matthew D. Lassiter is associate professor of history at the University of Michigan
About the Author
Matthew D. Lassiter, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan, is coeditor of The Moderates' Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations vii
List of Tables ix
The Triumph of Moderation 21
The Divided South 23
Hope in the New South 44
The Open-Schools Movement 69
The Strange Career of Atlanta Exceptionalism 94
The Revolt of the Center 119
The "Charlotte Way" 121
Suburban Populism 148
Neighborhood Politics 175
Class Fairness and Racial Stability 198
Suburban Strategies 223
The Suburbanization of Southern Politics 225
The Failure of the Southern Strategy 251
Metropolitan Divergence 276
Regional Convergence 301
What People are Saying About This
Matt Lassiter offers a major reinterpretation of the transformation of liberalism and the rise of conservatism in the post-1960s South and in America writ large. He shows how white Southerners, like their Northern counterparts, embraced a rhetoric of color-blindness that gave them cover to build a sprawling, suburban world that reinforced racial inequalities. This provocative, pathbreaking book offers a whole new conceptual map for the reappraisal of Southern history and national political history.
Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania and author of "The Origins of the Urban Crisis"
Impressively researched, The Silent Majority brings together valuable and wholly new collections of archival material. Many historians pay lip service to the need to draw connections between the grassroots and the leadership, the local scene and national affairs. Lassiter actually does it. With verve and grace, he presents compelling accounts of grassroots mobilizations in Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and sensitive, detailed case studies of Atlanta and Charlotte. At the same time, he demonstrates how these local, suburban movements both reshaped national politics.
Bruce Schulman, Boston University
Matthew Lassiter has mastered an impressive body of primary and secondary sources ranging widely over national, regional and local materials over the past fifty years. He uses this mountain of evidence to make a telling point about the emergence of suburban southerners as a primary political force in the region, and about their impact on school desegregation.
David R. Goldfield, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
The Silent Majority is a compelling recounting of modern liberalism's demise and the ascendance of center-right politics. It is based not on Nixonian Southern strategies and stubborn remnants of malign racist thought and deeds, but on the adoption of socially acceptable race-neutral resistance to racial equality, financed by federal initiatives which created white suburbs and encouraged majority black urban cores. This is a breakthough rethinking of established thought, discarding conventional wisdom.
Julian Bond, Chairman of NAACP
The Silent Majority stands as a landmark in a new generation of scholarship on the American South. Matthew Lassiter is spot on in his dissection of the myths of de facto segregation, national innocence, and southern distinctiveness. Rejecting a narrative that revolves around individual racism, he shows us how we arrived at our current dilemmas. This book is indispensable reading for anyone seeking to understand how the North and the South have converged around an 'intractable landscape of racial apartheid' in which class ideologies and divisions play a central role.
Jacquelyn Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Director, Southern Oral History Program.