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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2020

8 - Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and Tennessee

from Part II - Southern Republican Party Politics at the State Level


In contrast to the “strong” Lily-White states discussed in Chapter 7, Lily-White groups that took control of the Republican state organizations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and Tennessee never entirely excluded blacks from political participation within the party. To be sure, black GOP representation was minimized by these Lily-White leaders, but they did not engage in the type of exclusion that occurred in Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, and Alabama. Why did Lily-Whiteism play out so differently in these four states? As the cases presented in this chapter show, the “soft”" version of Lily-Whiteism was mostly the product of state-specific political contexts in which white party leaders sought to win control of the party but did not believe the complete exclusion of blacks was worth pursuing. In Arkansas and Louisiana, this was because – unlike in Virginia and North Carolina – there was no real expectation that electoral success was possible even as a white-dominated party. Thus, the goal was more to control federal patronage than to expel all blacks from the party. In Florida, which Herbert Hoover carried in the 1928 presidential election, white party leaders thought that a GOP resurgence might be possible, and they saw an opportunity to take control of the party. While blacks were kept from serving as delegates at the 1932 and 1936 national conventions, strict Lily-Whiteism would not last: after Florida repealed the poll tax in 1937, black Republicans began to organize politically again. And white Republicans in the state determined that it would be easier to provide these black Republicans with a small but consistent level of representation rather than to fight them on it. Finally, in Tennessee, the Republican party organization was long split between an eastern wing and a western wing. While the locus of state GOP power lay in the east and was led by whites, a Black-and-Tan organization was in power in the west. These Black-and-Tans cooperated with local Democratic leaders and remained in place until the 1952 convention – producing a small but consistent minority of black GOP delegates.

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