'Strom Thurmond's America' examines life and politics of influential senator

Aug. 31, 2012

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Beverly Clark
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History professors Patrick Allitt and Joseph Crespino — whose new book "Strom Thurmond's America" just came out — dive into the life of U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, what he means to the Republican party, and where he'd fit in today.

The late senator Strom Thurmond is viewed today mostly as a relic from another time. A southern politician who was shaped by the Great Depression, World War II and Jim Crow, Thurmond infamously fought tooth and nail to preserve segregation in his home state of South Carolina. If a distinction is made between the old right and the new right, then Thurmond's racist politics would seem to place him firmly with the old.

Emory University history professor Joseph Crespino's new definitive political biography of the senator, "Strom Thurmond's America," shows that while Thurmond may have been one of the last Jim Crow demagogues, he was also one of the first Sunbelt conservatives, and a seminal figure who led the rightward march of the modern Republican Party. Crespino finds he was a man ahead of his time who paved the way for Ronald Reagan and other modern Republicans.

In this "Expert Conversation," Emory history professor Patrick Allitt interviews Crespino to dive into the life of Thurmond, what he means to the Republican party, and where he would fit in today's political scene.