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Unlocking V.O. Key Jr.

Unlocking V.O. Key Jr.: "Southern Politics" for the Twenty-First Century

Angie Maxwell
Todd G. Shields
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Unlocking V.O. Key Jr.
    Book Description:

    Over sixty years ago, political scientist V.O. Key Jr. published his seminal work,Southern Politics in State and Nation. Key's book redefined the field of southern politics and remains one of the most cited and influential works in twentieth-century political science and southern history. InUnlocking V.O. Key Jr., prominent southern scholars in history, political science, and southern and American studies reconsider Key's analysis, debating his omissions as well as highlighting the timeless elements of his work. Charles Reagan Wilson, Kari Frederickson, and Pearl K. Ford argue that Key's exclusion of religion, violence, and African American political participation altered the field of southern politics. Keith Gaddie and Justin Wert draw attention to Key's methodological innovations, while Margaret Reid questions Key's limited and gendered vision of the southern electorate. Harold Stanley discusses the complexity of teaching Key in the twenty-first century. Byron E. Shafer and Richard Johnston argue for the role that class and the economy played in the realignment of the South with the Republican Party, while Dan T. Carter points to race as the driving factor in this major shift. Susan MacManus tracks immigration trends in the region to explain contemporary southern political behavior. Supported with a foreword by Byron E. Shafer that provides an overview of Key's major contributions as a political scientist, and concluding with Wayne Parent's discussion of Key and the contemporary student,Unlocking V.O. Key a must-read companion to the classic Southern Politics in State and Nation.

    eISBN: 978-1-61075-490-3
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword: The Master, the Acolytes, and the Study of American Politics
    (pp. vii-xviii)
    Byron E. Shafer

    Valdimir Orlando Key Jr. was arguably the most eminent political scientist of his day, certainly the most eminent Americanist. He earned this position through seminal research on an array of topics at the center of the American politics syllabus. Little that came from his pen failed to find its way into the subsequent study of American politics. Yet there were four major areas where his work should rightly be viewed as ground-breaking: political parties, electoral change, public opinion, and, last but not least, southern politics. Every one of these areas was distinguished by the focus on a grand normative question,...

  4. INTRODUCTION: Unlocking V. O. Key Jr.
    (pp. xix-xxxii)
    Todd Shields and Angie Maxwell

    Over sixty years ago, with a research grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, political scientist V. O. Key Jr. published his seminal work,Southern Politics in State and Nation. Key’s book redefined the field of southern politics and remains one of the most cited and influential works not only in twentiethcentury political science, but in southern history as well. In fact, no other book has challenged Key’s stronghold on the field. For just this reason, the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas, in conjunction with the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, chose V. O. Key...

  5. Part I: The Missing Pieces of Southern Politics in State and Nation
    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      Despite V. O. Key Jr.’ s seemingly all-encompassing analysis of regional politics inSouthern Politics in State and Nation(1949), over time his examination has proven far from complete. In this section, scholars Charles Reagan Wilson, Pearl Ford Dowe, and Kari Fredrickson reexamine the early twentieth-century South and identify the primary factors absent from Key’s research. First, Charles Reagan Wilson, the Cook Chair of History and Professor of Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, argues that Key’s analysis missed the importance of religion as a political institution and the importance of religious beliefs as a central factor in southern...

    • CHAPTER 1 The Morality-Driven South: Populists, Prohibitionists, Religion, and V. O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics
      (pp. 3-22)
      Charles Reagan Wilson

      The presidential election of 1928 was the most turbulent one in the South since the Populist revolt of the 1890s. Republican presidential candidate Herbert Hoover was a dry candidate, and that proved remarkably appealing in a region whose religious leaders and institutions had come to see prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages as an unparalleled achievement. “The fact is daily becoming more evident,” said the Southern Methodist General Conference in 1922, “that the adoption of Prohibition by the United States was the most important, far-reaching enactment ever put upon the Statute Books of any nation” (quoted in K. Bailey...

    • CHAPTER 2 V. O. Key Jr.’s Missing Link: Black Southern Political Culture and Development
      (pp. 23-38)
      Pearl Ford Dowe

      The southern racial divide is one in which whites and blacks developed two worlds that included separate schools, neighborhoods, and places of worship as well as separate political development and cultures. Scholars of politics and the South have limited these disciplines by failing to acknowledge the differences in these cultures and, specifically, devaluing the unique factors that contributed to African American political culture and development. The study of race contextually evolved into a study of the impact of race on white voting behavior, and for decades the discipline of political science has left African Americans invisible. V. O. Key Jr....

    • CHAPTER 3 World War II, White Violence, and Black Politics in V. O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics
      (pp. 39-54)
      Kari Frederickson

      John Dittmer opens his Bancroft Prize– winning history of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi with the following account:

      On July 2, 1946, Medgar Wylie Evers celebrated his twenty-first birthday by leading a group of World War II veterans . . . through the nearly abandoned streets of Decatur, Mississippi. Their destination was the county

      By choosing to begin his tale of the civil rights struggle with this event, Dittmer immediately locates the roots of the struggle in the actions of youthful black veterans and in the transformative experience of military service. For Dittmer and other historians of southern politics...

  6. Part II: The Impact of Southern Politics on the Discipline
    • CHAPTER 4 Unlocking Social Constructions in Southern Politics: V. O. Key Jr.’s Thin Democracy
      (pp. 57-76)
      Margaret Reid

      On the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of V. O. Key Jr.’ sSouthern Politics in State and Nation, a close reading of the book that had such a marked and remarkable influence on scholarship of the South is warranted, especially in light of the historical election of America’s first African American president. It seems ironic that these two events almost appear like bookends of a half century of American political history.Southern Politicsin some ways marks the end of an era that would be radically altered, politically as well as economically, just fifteen years after the publication of...

    • CHAPTER 5 Before KKV, V. O. Key Jr.: Southern Politics and Social Science Methodology
      (pp. 77-104)
      Ronald Keith Gaddie and Justin J. Wert

      The contributions of V. O. Key Jr. to social science are many. Largely known for the breadth of his interests and his role in theory building, Key’s analyses of the American political system’s most pressing challenge—democratic processes in the South and race—in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century is easily comparable to more recognized (and more lauded) grand historical works of the period, such as Gunner Myrdal’sAn American Dilemma(1944) and C. Vann Woodward’sThe Strange Career of Jim Crow(1955). His work on state politics, voting behavior, and interest group politics still resonates in many...

    • CHAPTER 6 Reflections on Reading V. O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics: Race, Politics, and Economics
      (pp. 105-126)
      Harold W. Stanley

      In the sixty years since V. O. Key Jr. wroteSouthern Politics in State and Nation(1949), analysts of southern politics have largely drawn on Key’s work to emphasize the role of race. This chapter, rather than reviewing the extensive literature on southern political change, presents a closer reading of Key, drawing on his own words, to emphasize the interconnectedness of race, economics, and politics. Specifically, the role of political leadership and the effects of oneparty factionalism in the South are considered alongside racial and class developments. Additionally, this chapter explores such questions as, Why should contemporary southern politics courses...

  7. Part III: The Post-Key South
    • CHAPTER 7 More than Race: Conservatism in the White South since V. O. Key Jr.
      (pp. 129-160)
      Dan T. Carter

      When V. O. Key Jr. publishedSouthern Politicsin 1949, there was much that he overlooked in his account of southern politics over the previous half-century. African Americans were absent except as victims, the role of religion and broader cultural attitudes seldom appeared, and, perhaps understandably, he ignored the role of gender. But one issue seemed clear-cut. For Key, as for most Americans, there was little doubt that the South was another country. He looked back upon a long tradition in which white southerners after Recon-struction had created a nation within a nation, politically characterized by its almost unbroken devotion...

    • CHAPTER 8 Partisan Change in the Post-Key South
      (pp. 161-184)
      Byron E. Shafer and Richard Johnston

      By the first decade of the twenty-first century, more than fifty years after the publication ofSouthern Politics in State and Nation(1949), partisan change in the American South was a recognized fact of political life, creating not just a serious regional Republican Party but a truly nationalized party system (Black and Black 1987; Petrocik 1987; Rohde 1996; Polsby 2004; Lublin 2004). In fact, this partisan transformation was arguably the single largest change in the structure of American politics since the end of the Second World War. Nevertheless, more than half a century later, V. O. Key Jr. (1949) continued...

    • CHAPTER 9 V. O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics: Demographic Changes Will Transform the Region In-migration and Generational Shifts Speed Up the Process
      (pp. 185-206)
      Susan A. MacManus

      The bulk of V. O. Key Jr.’ sSouthern Politicsclassic focuses on the shortcomings of the political system in the region, the most egregious being racial discrimination. It is not until the final chapter, titled “Is There a Way Out?,” that he shifts to a more hopeful tone, largely on the basis of expected demographic shifts. Specifically, Key projects:

      There arewithin the Southunderlying trends that probably will in due course further free it from the effects of the Negro on its politics. Some of these trends are changes in public attitudes; others,perhaps more significant in the...

    • CONCLUSION: Evaluating V. O. Key Jr. and Advancing Our Understanding of Southern Politics
      (pp. 207-218)
      Wayne Parent

      V. O. Key Jr.’ sSouthern Politics in State and Nationis the singular defining work on southern politics. As befitting such a work, this collection of essays stands as a benchmark on the state of our knowledge about southern politics and how we study southern politics in the early twenty-first century. Because Key’s work is so monumental, it influenced almost every major contemporary study on southern politics. The discussions about his work are necessarily about the entire corpus of scholarly exami nations of southern politics. Therefore, here the criticism is not restrained since it is an examination of the...

  8. Index
    (pp. 219-231)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 232-232)