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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


Page address: Syllabi/PS476SYL.html

Political Science 476/576
Southern Politics
Fall 2006
TTh 9:30-10:45
MH 101

Dr. Fred Slocum
Office: 204A Morris Hall
Phone: 389-6935
Web site:
Office Hours: M, W, F 1:00-3:00; T, Th 11:00-12:00 and 2:00-3:00; or by appointment

"The South may not be the nation's number one political problem, as some northerners assert, but politics is the South's number one problem." - V. O. Key (1949)

"The past is never dead - it's not even past."- Gavin Stevens to Temple Drake Stevens, in William Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun, Act I, Scene iii.


This course examines government and politics in the South, which has been and remains the most politically distinct region of the United States.  Though there is room for debate about which states qualify as 'Southern,' for our purposes the South includes 13 states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.  In the 19th century, the practice of slavery set the South apart from the rest of the nation - a practice that set the nation on a course to the Civil War.  From Reconstruction to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, what set the South apart was the one-party dominance of the Democratic Party.  Since the 1960s, the South continues, in many ways, to chart its own distinct political course, and the course of national politics is arguably following that of the South.  We will examine that course, both historically and today.  Several themes structuring this course are: the continued centrality of racial issues in Southern politics; the importance of religion, especially the Southern Baptist religion, in Southern politics; the Southern 'culture of honor' and its associated militarism abroad and support for state violence at home; the notable social and moral conservatism among white Southerners and the ongoing partisan realignment that has taken a once-moribund Republican Party and brought it to majority status today.  Early in the course, we will seek to understand the concept and definition of political culture, and in particular the 'traditionalistic' political culture that sets the Southern states apart from the rest of the country and especially from Minnesota.  We also will consider the argument that differences in politics, culture and values between the South and non-South have diminished greatly.

Although this is a course on Southern politics, we will sample, selectively, other aspects of Southern society and culture, such as literature, popular music and religion.  I grew up in North Carolina, and have traveled large parts of the South since then.  I also completed a five-week summer 2005 National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on "Faulkner and Southern History" at the University of South Carolina, which included trips to Charleston, SC, Oxford, MS, and other sites within and near Columbia, SC.  I found the summer seminar a wonderful experience, and hope to share some photos and stories (along with some juicy tidbits of Faulkner's writing) with all of you.

We will encounter many ideas this semester, some of them quite controversial.  Politicians, and political observers argue vigorously over these ideas, and I hope you will, too.  Class participation is a component of your grade, and graduate students will be expected to assume more of a leadership role in class discussions.  Students are expected to come to class having completed reading assignments in advance, and prepared to offer opinions, questions and observations anytime.  Students of all political persuasions should feel equally free to express their opinions during class discussions.

Course Objectives:

To the extent they do well in this course, students should gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • The concept of political culture, and the political cultures found in the American states
  • The history, culture and dominant Southern Baptist religion in the South, and their manifold influences on Southern politics historically and today
  • Demographic and social changes in the 20th-century South, and their political effects
  • The African American experience in the pre-civil rights South
  • The civil rights movement, its accomplishments and remaining challenges
  • White racial attitudes in the contemporary South
  • The Democratic 'Solid South' and the factors that maintained it for 85-plus years
  • The sources and nature of the Republican realignment in the South
  • Whether and how the South remains distinct from the rest of the nation
  • Whether and how the nation has come to resemble the South

I also hope this course will improve certain skills that will benefit your careers or further education.  These skills include especially those of communication (oral and written) and critical thinking that are valued increasingly in the global economy.  To this end, there will be some in-class written reflection exercises, one paper assignment (two for graduate students) and considerable discussion of topics raised in or related to the readings.  Also planned are several videos (including three full-length movies); photos taken by the professor during his travels in the South, and illustrations of Southern culture in popular music.

Assignments and Grading:

There will be a midterm exam (Thursday, October 19) and a final exam (Tuesday, December 12).  Both will consist of essays and identifications.  The final will be non-cumulative, covering only material from the second half of the course.

All students will select a Southern state and complete a written report (7-9 pages; 10-12 pages for graduate students) and make an oral presentation on politics in that state.  All reports are due Tuesday, November 14, and presentations will be November 14 and 16.  Graduate students will, in addition, complete a longer annotated bibliography.  The latter is a critical synthesis of articles from scholarly journals (totaling 250 pages or more) centered on an empirical scholarly problem or issue in Southern politics.  The topic must be cleared with the instructor.  Bibliography topic statements (in writing) are due in class October 5, and the bibliography itself is due November 30.  I will hand out more information separately about the state/political figure reports, and the bibliography for grad students.

The grading procedure is below.  Note the different weights for graduate versus undergraduate students.

Undergraduate students:

  • State/political figure report paper: 35%
  • Midterm exam: 25%
  • Attendance and participation: 15%
  • Final exam: 25%

Graduate students:

  • State/political figure report paper: 25%
  • Midterm exam: 15%
  • Attendance and participation: 20%
  • Bibliography: 25%
  • Final exam: 15%

Graduate students will be held to higher standards for participation in class.  Grades in this course will not be curved, meaning that you will not be competing against your classmates for a limited number of A's, B's and so on.  Therefore, the grading scale is a straight scale, as follows:

  • A: 90% or more
  • B: 80%-89.9%
  • C: 70%-79.9%
  • D: 60%-69.9%
  • F: 59.9% or less

Students whose point totals place them very near (within 0.1 point of) the cutoff point for the next higher letter grade will be evaluated on an individual basis for promotion to the higher grade.  Improvement across the term and consistent engagement (attendance and participation) in the course make promotion to the higher grade more likely.

Students with Disabilities:

I would like to hear (early in the semester is much preferred) from students with a documented learning or other disability that might require some modification of seating, testing, or other class arrangements.  I will make every effort to accommodate students with these needs.  If you have any questions, please see me or contact the Disability Services Office (132 Memorial Library, 389-1819).

Policy on Attendance:

I will note attendance frequently.  All students should plan to attend class regularly and contribute to class discussions.  Students are responsible for obtaining notes for any missed session.  Excused absences may be considered on a case-by-case basis for valid reasons (such as for certain medical reasons), or for significant opportunities, such as attending a professional conference.  Whenever possible, please notify me in advance of an absence, giving a valid reason.

Policy on Late Assignments:

Barring extenuating circumstances (which I must be notified of and approve in advance), late papers will be downgraded one full letter grade (10 points) for each calendar day late (20 points over a weekend), and no papers will be accepted more than three days late, unless other arrangements are made with the instructor.  These must be for valid reasons, similar to, but more compelling than, those justifying a makeup exam.  Computer-related problems (i.e. printer malfunctions, hard drive or disk crashes) are not an acceptable reason for late papers or extensions.

Policy on Make-Up Examinations and Incomplete Grades:

Examinations cannot be made up unless the student provides acceptable, documented reason for missing the exam.  Makeup exam requests have merit to the extent that (1) the circumstance is unavoidable, (2) the reason for missing the exam can be documented, and (3) the instructor is notified well in advance of the exam.  Makeup exams will not necessarily be identical to, and may be more difficult than, the exam given in class.  Early exams will not be given.

The MSU Undergraduate Bulletin outlines University policy on incomplete grades as follows.  "The grade of 'incomplete' is reserved for special cases and means that, because of extenuating circumstances, the student failed to meet a specific need and an important requirement of the course, but has in other respects done passing work for the semester.  The incomplete must be made up in the next semester in which the student has enrolled, unless other arrangements have been made between the student and instructor.  If the deficiency is not made up within the specified time, the grade automatically becomes an F or NC" (pp. 31-32).  I will support and enforce this policy fully.

Academic Dishonesty:

A number of activities may be construed as academic dishonesty (cheating).  These include, but are not limited to: copying material from another source (book, manuscript or another student) without proper acknowledgment, using crib sheets during an exam, talking during an exam, or looking at another students exam.  Any cheating will result in an automatic F in the course and the possibility of further disciplinary action.  In papers, if you either quote a source or paraphrase (express an idea drawn from another source in your own words), you must acknowledge your use of that source in an approved citation form (i.e. APA, MLA, Chicago citation style).  Come see me if you have any questions.


There are four required texts for this class; all are available at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore and the Maverick Bookstore.  We will read all of Woodard and Moody, and most of Lind and Applebome.

  • J. David Woodard, The New Southern Politics.  Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006.
  • Peter Applebome, Dixie Rising: How the South is Shaping American Values, Politics and Culture.  San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997.
  • Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi.  New York: Dell Publishing, 1968.
  • Michael Lind, Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics.  New York: Basic Books (Perseus Books Group), 2003.
  • Recommended reading: The Washington Post (available at Memorial Library or on the Web at

From time to time, there may be supplemental readings, outside the two main course texts.  These assignments, including some of my own research, will be announced and distributed in class.

Course Calendar and Assignments:

I will make reasonable efforts to follow the schedule of topics below.  If circumstances require any changes, I will announce them in class.  Abbreviations are: W (Woodard); A (Applebome); M (Moody); L (Lind).

Part I: Southern History, Political Culture and Demographic Change.

Week 1 - August 29-31: Introductions; Southern history.  W, Chs. 1 and 2; class handouts.

Week 2 - September 5-7: Southern political culture; industrialization and urbanization.  W, Ch. 3; L, Chs. 1 and 2.  (Movie: In the Heat of the Night)

Week 3 - September 12-14: Hostility toward organized labor.   A, Ch. 7; L, Ch. 4.  (Movie: Norma Rae)

Part II: Race Relations in the South, Historically and Today.

Week 4 - September 19-21: The era of strict segregation, part I.  W, pp. 125-139; M, Chs. 1-9.  (Video: TBA - probably from the Eyes on the Prize series)

Week 5 - September 26-28: The era of strict segregation, part II.  W, pp. 139-148; M, Chs. 10-21.

Week 6 - October 3-5: The civil rights movement.  W, pp. 148-158; M, Chs. 22-30.  (Movie: Mississippi Burning)

(Thursday, October 5: Graduate students: Bibliography topics due)

Week 7 - October 10-12: Race relations in the post-civil rights era. W, pp. 158-169; A, Ch. 3.

Week 8 - October 17: Contemporary racial attitudes among white Southerners.  Class handout(s).

(Thursday, October 19: Midterm exam)

Part III: The Contemporary Southern Electorate: Change and Continuity.

Week 9 - October 24-26: The Southern Baptists; the rise of fundamentalist Christian influence in Southern politics.  W, Ch. 5; L, Ch. 5; class handout.  (Video: School Prayer: A Community At War)

Week 10 - October 31-November 2: The Southern 'culture of honor' and its political consequences; Southern militarism; ideological conservatism.  Class handouts; L, Ch. 6; A, Ch. 2.  (In-class bonus: Southern culture in popular music)

Week 11 - November 7-9: Republican realignment, its sources and nature; the Democratic response.   W, Ch. 6, Ch. 7 (skim pp. 252-303) and Ch. 8 (skim pp. 317-360); A, Ch. 4.

(Tuesday, November 14: Papers on individual state politics or Southern political figures due)

Week 12 - November 14-16: Student presentations.  No readings.  (In-class bonus: 'Show and tell' with travel photos from the South).

Part IV: Southern Politics: Current Realities and Future Trends.

Week 13 - November 21: The Deep South.  A, Chs. 5 and 10 and pp. 316-321.

(Thursday, November 23: Holiday - NO CLASS)

Week 14 - November 28-30: The urbanizing South; Southern governments today.  A, Ch. 6; W, Ch. 9.  (In-class bonus: Charlotte, NC photos)

(Thursday, November 30: Graduate students: Bibliographies due)

Week 15 - December 5-7: The present and future of Southern politics.  W, Ch. 10; L, Ch. 7; A, Ch. 1.

(Tuesday, December 12, 8:00 AM: Final exam)