TUSCALOOSA – In the late twentieth century, pundits and politicians were shocked when the states of the old Confederacy and along its borders, a region nicknamed “the Solid South” because of its century-long loyalty to the Democrat Party, made a decisive break with the party of Jackson, Wilson, and FDR. In The Irony of the Solid South, Glenn Feldman of the University of Alabama at Birmingham examines the roots of this shift and why it should not have surprised anyone. The South was never solidly Democratic.
Expertly covering Southern politics and race as well as religion, business, labor and the role of the press, Irony of the Solid South is a political tour de force that explains changes that occurred over decades which many outside the South (and some inside) perceived as unexpected or counter-intuitive. In creating an analysis of powerful and convincing clarity, Feldman meticulously marshals a wealth of primary sources such as letters, diaries, interviews, court cases, newspapers, and other key archival materials, assembled together here for the first time.
Like many great history writers, Feldman extends his fine eye for detail beyond the text and into rich and fascinating source notes. His powerful writing illuminates multifaceted political trends but also delights readers with lively and memorable facts and anecdotes. Of particular interest is his discussion of FDR and the New Deal. Thought for decades to epitomize the broad center of American politics, Feldman’s incisive analysis demonstrates that the New Deal, far from representing the enduring center, was a fissiparous and ad hoc alliance that began to splinter as soon as the Depression passed.
Feldman takes from his native Alabama many of the examples in the book to create a work that is emblematic, however, of politics across the South. Although imbued with a spirited point of view, Irony of the Solid South is required reading for those all along the political spectrum. From arm-chair pundits and those who enjoy intelligent debates with friends to journalists, policy-makers, and politicians, all will welcome Feldman’s keen analysis of the politics of the Deep South.
A native of Birmingham, AL and life-long observer of Southern and national politics, Glenn Feldman is a member of the history faculty of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the author of nine books, including Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949 (University of Alabama Press). He sits on a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) board and co-edits The Modern South book series for The University of Alabama Press.
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