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Princeton University Press
Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South / Edition 1

Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South / Edition 1

by Matthew D. Lassiter


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Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South / Edition 1

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900691133897
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 08/06/2007
Series: Politics and Society in Modern America Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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
Acknowledgments     xi
Abbreviations     xv
Introduction     1
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
Epilogue     324
Notes     331
Index     365

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"

Bruce Schulman

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

Julian Bond

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

Jacquelyn Hall

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.

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