The Door of Hope
Republican Presidents and the First Southern Strategy, 1877–1933

Edward O. Frantz

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"Frantz provides what most American voters desperately need: a deeply grounded historical background study of how the 'party of Lincoln' became the 'party of Reagan' in our own time. Following all the Republican presidents from Hayes to Hoover on their southern tours, we learn how a sectional party rooted in Union victory and racial egalitarianism transformed over time into a party running against the very meaning of its own origins, while falsely claiming to still represent them. This is new political history of the very best kind and history that helps explain today's politics of white resentment as well as Republican disdain for the public sector and government itself."--David W. Blight, author of American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era

"This innovative book takes on vital questions about the politics of sectionalism and race in post-Reconstruction America. No other historian has so thoroughly examined tours of the former Confederate states made by Republican presidents from Rutherford Hayes to Herbert Hoover. With skill and insight, Frantz explores how those trips contributed to Republicans' evolving southern strategy and how a range of Americans--in the North and South, black and white--responded. The time is ripe for the fresh perspective that Frantz offers."--Stephen A. West, Catholic University of America

"What a poignantly and perfectly titled book this is. Edward Frantz recounts and analyzes how white northern Republicans pursued a 'southern strategy' starting nearly a century before Richard Nixon coined that phrase. They yearned to open a 'door of hope' to white votes in the former Confederacy. But that meant closing another 'door of hope' to African Americans who had voted Republican during Reconstruction and would have gladly continued to vote that way if they had not been disfranchised. It is a fascinating, heartbreaking story with much resonance to twenty-first-century American politics and race relations."--John Milton Cooper Jr., E. Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin--Madison

How did the political party of Lincoln--of emancipation--become the party of the South and of white resentment? How did Jefferson Davis’s old party become the preferred choice for most southern blacks? Most scholars date these transformations to the administrations of Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan. Edward Frantz challenges this myopic view by closely examining the complex and often contradictory rhetoric and symbolism utilized by Republicans between 1877 and 1933.

Presidential journeys throughout the South were public rituals that provided a platform for the issues of race, religion, and Republicanism for both white and black southerners. Frantz skillfully notes the common themes and questions scrutinized during this time and finely crafts comparisons between the presidents’ speeches and strategies while they debated the power dynamics that underlay their society.

This fresh and fast-paced volume brings new voices to the forefront by utilizing the rich resources of the African American press during the administrations of Presidents Hayes, Harrison, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, and Hoover. Although these Republicans ultimately failed to build lasting coalitions in the states of the former Confederacy, their tours provided the background for future GOP victories.

Edward O. Frantz is associate professor of history at the University of Indianapolis.

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"A highly useful study and a significant contribution to political and African American history as well as the history of the New South."

"Provides a lot of information about the Republican presidential tours of the South that will be new even to specialists in the history of American race relations."
--H-net Reviews

"Helps unpack the oft-simplified concept of the modern presidency."
--Journal of American History, Vol. 99 No. 2

"Readers interested in the devolution of Republicans' commitment to racial justice--the descent from the party of Lincoln to the party of Reagan--will reap substantial rewards from this fascinating and disturbing book."
--American Historical Review

"By using information carefully gleaned from presidential papers, African American newspapers, and other sources, Frantz reminds readers that the effort began earlier and involved difficult issues. A significant contribution."

"A solidly researched, well-written volume….Frantz's book illuminates well a subject that has been long neglected, filling the historical gap in the history of the Republican Party in the South"
--The Historian

"Well researched and informed on the recent historical literature, Frantz’s narrative covers the peripatetic southern ventures of his subjects with energy and verve." "Frantz’s interesting book will be a good source to consult for a sad phase of Republican history that has not yet ended."
--The Journal of Southern History

“Informative, interesting, and highly readable.”
--Florida Historical Quarterly

Thoroughly covers the words and actions of these presidents as they made important, symbolic, and highly publicized trips through the former Confederacy.
--Louisiana History

[Frantz] has uncovered and animated three generations' worth of political machinery without which twentieth-century conservatism could not reach full flower, thus providing a unique and intriguing origins story for the modern Republican Party.
--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

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