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The elasticity of anti-civil rights discourse: Albert Gore, Sr., Richard Russell, and constituent relations in the 1950s and 1960s

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This study contends that moderate segregationists, in contrast to racial extremists and southern demagogues, adjusted their modes of attack against the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s as part of a last stand to protect the South's racial caste system. They did this by offering less objectionable reasons for opposing civil rights measures that were attractive to centrists and moderates, many of whom opposed the racial extremism of southern demagogues. Moderate segregationists argued that federal civil rights policy violated states' rights and threatened to disrupt harmonious relations between southern blacks and whites. To assess the strategies and tactics of the civil rights opposition, I draw from the constituent letters sent to Senator Albert Gore, Sr. of Tennessee (1953–1970) and Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia (1933–1973) during the height of the civil rights movement. Both senators, for different reasons, generated strong sentiments from civil rights opponents. While rank and file segregationists disliked Gore and believed he was sympathetic to civil rights, they viewed Russell as a guardian of racial segregation.
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Keywords: Albert Gore, Sr; Richard B. Russell; moderate segregationists; schematic frames; tactical adaptation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Middle Tennessee State University, 1301 East Main Street, P.O. Box 29, Murfreesboro, TN, 37132, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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