DAYS OF HOPE: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era by Patricia Sullivan

DAYS OF HOPE: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era

Email this review


Harvard historian Sullivan carefully details the impact of Roosevelt's later New Deal in the Old South, noting that any step forward often meant two steps back. A case in point, she writes, was Roosevelt's 1936 industrial-union program, spearheaded by the CIO, which ""threatened to undermine the region's tradition of low-wage, nonunion industries"" and stirred up heated opposistion. Efforts by influential northern blacks to hasten civil-rights advances in the South also aroused considerable opposition; when Roosevelt failed to pack the Supreme Court in his second term, Sullivan notes, southern Democrats (with the notable exception of longtime Florida senator Claude Pepper) allied with Republicans to block reform in the region and eventually to remake the Democratic party as a more conservative, anticommunist entity in the postwar era. Other incidents that contributed to a profound white backlash in the South included the famed Scottsboro case of 1930, which drew national attention to the region for a decade, and the Harlan County coal strike of the mid-1930s, to which Sullivan brings fresh insights based on recent documentary work on labor organizing. Of special interest to students of contemporary politics is Sullivan's examination of Henry Wallace's third-party presidential bid in 1948, a campaign that in the author's view, taken with earlier New Deal programs, prefigured Southern civil-rights agitation in later decades; as she writes, ""although little, if any, memory of the New Deal years informed the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the activists of the earlier decades tilled the ground for future change."" Ultimately, Sullivan notes, civil-rights advances were furthered by African-Americans' participation in WW II, when soldiers who had fought against fascism abroad began to agitate for democracy at home. A dry and sometimes narrow work of history, meant for a specialist audience.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1996
ISBN: 0807845647
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina