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The Silent Majority:
Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South
Matthew D. Lassiter

Paperback | 2007 | $42.00 | £34.95 | ISBN: 9780691133898
416 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 23 halftones. 1 line illus. 4 tables. 8 maps.
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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. The Silent Majority provides the first regionwide account of the suburbanization of the South from the perspective of corporate leaders, political activists, and especially of the ordinary families who lived in booming Sunbelt metropolises such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Richmond.

Matthew Lassiter examines crucial battles over racial integration, court-ordered busing, and housing segregation to explain how the South moved from the era of Jim Crow fully into the mainstream of national currents. During the 1960s and 1970s, the grassroots mobilization of the suburban homeowners and school parents who embraced Richard Nixon's label of the Silent Majority reshaped southern and national politics and helped to set in motion the center-right shift that has dominated the United States ever since.

The Silent Majority traces the emergence of a "color-blind" ideology in the white middle-class suburbs that defended residential segregation and neighborhood schools as the natural outcomes of market forces and individual meritocracy rather than the unconstitutional products of discriminatory public policies. Connecting local and national stories, and reintegrating southern and American history, 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.


"This is a powerful book on a powerful subject. It should have a lasting impact on the way historians think about modern southern politics, urbanization, civil rights, and race relations."--Raymond A. Mohl, Journal of American History

"Matthew Lassiter persuasively argues in The Silent Majority that the Republicans gained in the South not because of regional racism but because of the meteoric growth of the Sun Belt suburbs, which created a new class of middle-income, socially moderate and fiscally conservative voters."--Clay Risen, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Matthew D. Lassiter argues convincingly that academics and pundits alike are wrong to point to a top-down 'southern strategy' to explain why the South transformed from a Democratic Party into a Republican stronghold. The book presents a fresh way of thinking about not only late-twentieth-century American political history but also the impact of the postwar civil rights movement."--Damon Freeman, Journal of Southern History

"In this engaging and important book, Matthew Lassiter recasts the history of the postwar sunbelt South. By focusing on the complex interactions of race, class, consumerism, and the politics of metropolitan space, he supplants the familiar 'southern strategy' interpretation with one of a 'suburban strategy' driven by color-blind arguments, individualism, and free-market consumerism at the grassroots. . . . At a time when once solidly Republican enclaves . . . are becoming more diverse and susceptible to incursion by Democrats, Lassiter's fine book offers provocative ways to examine the role of race, class, consumerism, and metropolitan space in our local and national politics."--Craig A. Kaplowitz, H-Net Reviews

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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations vii
List of Tables ix
Acknowledgments xi
Abbreviations xv
Introduction 1

Part I: The Triumph of Moderation 21

Chapter 1: The Divided South 23
Chapter 2: HOPE in the New South 44
Chapter 3: The Open-Schools Movement 69
Chapter 4: The Strange Career of Atlanta Exceptionalism 94

Part II: The Revolt of the Center 119

Chapter 5: The "Charlotte Way" 121
Chapter 6: Suburban Populism 148
Chapter 7: Neighborhood Politics 175
Chapter 8: Class Fairness and Racial Stability 198

Part III: Suburban Strategies 223

Chapter 9: The Suburbanization of Southern Politics 225
Chapter 10: The Failure of the Southern Strategy 251
Chapter 11: Metropolitan Divergence 276
Chapter 12: Regional Convergence 301

Epilogue 324
Notes 331
Index 365


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