Black, Merle 1942-
Black, Merle 1942-
Born 1942. Education: Harvard College, B.A., 1964; University of Chicago, M.A., 1968, Ph.D., 1972.
Office—Department of Political Science, Emory University, 311 Tarbutton Hall, 1555 Dickey Dr., Atlanta, GA 30322; fax: 404-727-4586. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, political scientist, and educator. Emory University, Atlanta, GA, Asa G. Candler Professor of Politics and Government.
(With David M. Kovenock and William C. Reynolds) Political Attitudes in the Nation and the States: Comparative State Elections Project, Institute for Research in Social Science (Chapel Hill, NC), 1974.
(With Earl Black) The Vital South: How Presidents Are Elected, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992.
(With Earl Black) The Rise of Southern Republicans, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
(With Earl Black) Divided America: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
Merle Black is a writer, political scientist, and educator at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he serves as the Asa G. Candler Professor of Politics and Government. He regularly writes on political topics, often in collaboration with his brother, Earl, a professor at Rice University. Much of Black's work focuses on the politics of the American South, and how the political landscape there has evolved and developed over the course of history. In The Vital South: How Presidents Are Elected, the Blacks chronicle the recent rapid change in politics seen in the American South, as the once solidly Democratic region has shifted to a largely Republican preference within the last fifty-five years. The authors also make it very clear that to politicians, the South is where a crucial concentration of votes can be found. "In convincing detail, the Blacks dramatize the great new fact of presidential politics: The South, composed of the eleven slave states that seceded in 1860 and 1861, is the richest electoral prize in the nation," commented Jon Meacham in the Washington Monthly. "This book is a clear and credible survey of that phenomenon" of a shift to Republican ideals, Meacham continued. In the book, the Blacks "have constructed an unusually lucid and accessible examination of the role of the South in party politics, national issues, and presidential elections," remarked reviewer Dianne M. Pinderhughes, writing in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Pinderhughes also noted, "Their maps, charts, tables, and figures are also models of intelligent and innovative presentation of data."
Relying on copious research and numerical detail, the Blacks detail how such a shift in political preference occurred, tracking down issues and events that helped move the evolution along. Reviewer Charles S. Bullock III, writing in the American Political Science Review, observed: "For three generations after the Civil War, the South was so out of step with the nation that its preferences were rarely elected. For the next three generations, southern preferences have been sufficiently mainstream that rarely has the southern favorite among the nominees been defeated." Thus, the South provides a presidential candidate with half the necessary electoral votes to win, even as the Southern choice is largely reflected in candidate preferences throughout the rest of the country. The authors consider causes of the shift, from racial and civil rights issues to an increased concentration of older and wealthier residents who have moved into the area from the north. "Academics, practitioners, and interested citizens trying to understand presidential politics ignore the analysis in The Vital South at their peril," Bullock concluded.
The Rise of Southern Republicans, also a collaboration between the Black brothers, examines how the Republican party has gained dominance throughout the American South and explains the impact Southern Republican support can have on elections in the United States. The Blacks are "perhaps the most respected academic experts on the topic," and in their book "they make a persuasive case that the emergence of the Republican party in the South is the primary reason for the modern Republican ascendancy at the national level, and also for the existence today of the most competitive national political environment since the 1880s," commented Ralph Reed in the National Review. The book "examines a topic familiar to students of the South, but it does so with a clarity and readability that will allow scholars and the general public to profit from it," commented Douglas Carl Abrams in History: Review of New Books.
The region under discussion by the Blacks consists of eleven states: Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. The Blacks identify four major factors that have allowed Republicans to come to unrivaled power in an area that was once strictly Democratic: race, the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the rise of religious conservatives in the region, and the migration of Republican supporters from the North to the South. This fundamental shift in regional party support "is one of the most consequential stories in modern American politics," remarked Major Garrett, writing in the Washington Monthly. "This richly documented book does a good job of explaining both the Republicans' surge and the Democrats' survival," commented John J. Pitney, Jr., in Reason. "The Blacks have a complex story to tell, and they tell it exceeding well," remarked David M. Brodsky in a Political Science Quarterly review. Houston Chronicle reviewer James D. Fairbanks called the book a "superb analysis of Southern politics," while Karl Frederickson, writing in the Journal of Southern History, found it to be "deeply researched and tightly argued." Mississippi Quarterly reviewer Brian Anderson concluded that the book is a "valuable addition to the analyses of Southern politics."
In Divided America: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics, the Blacks look at the state of the contest between Democrats and Republicans in America, and conclude that "Democrats and Republicans are now evenly balanced in the national electorate, each having two regional strongholds and battling for voters in the ten-state Midwest swing region," observed a Kirkus Reviews critic. In the book, the Blacks consider American politics from the geographical perspective of five distinct regions: the South, the Northeast, the Midwest, the Mountains/Plains, and the Pacific Coast. With the political environment of these areas as a factual backdrop, they "explain how and why national electoral politics have become a close contest between two parties," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, the political fortunes of the two major American parties have been evolving rapidly, the Blacks contend. With the majority of Republican support coming from the South and the Mountains/Plains states, and the solid base of Democratic votes coming from the Northeast and the Pacific Coast, the two parties find themselves in a continual race to sway voters and garner electoral votes in the Midwest states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The authors analyze the many social, cultural, and political trends that have "shaped the regions and given them their political leanings" over the past fifty years, noted Vanessa Bush in Booklist. Because of this division of support along geographical lines, the Blacks suggest, neither political party can expect an easy sweep in the national elections. "Using data from the American National Election Study and national exit polls, the authors tell their story in clear language and clean charts," commented Karlyn Bowman, writing in the Weekly Standard.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1988, Gail W. O'Brien, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 790.
American Political Science Review, September, 1990, James L. Guth, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 985; March, 1993, Charles S. Bullock III, review of The Vital South: How Presidents Are Elected, p. 206.
American Spectator, July, 1992, Fred Barnes, review of The Vital South, p. 58.
America's Intelligence Wire, June 7, 2003, "Interview with Emory University's Merle Black; The National Do Not Call List."
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, May, 1988, Fred Siegel, "Politics and Policy in the South," p. 195; May, 1993, Eugene V. Schneider, review of The Vital South, p. 190.
Atlanta Business Chronicle, November 8, 2002, David Allison, "Southern Politics Now a Seesaw Battle," p. 34.
Black Enterprise, July, 2004, Marcia Wade, "Black Hopefuls Join U.S. Senate Race," p. 22.
Booklist, March 15, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Divided America: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics, p. 7.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December, 1992, L.L. Duke, review of The Vital South, p. 697; August, 2007, S.Q. Kelly, review of Divided America, p. 2179.
Contemporary Sociology, January, 1988, Perry H. Howard, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 51.
History: Review of New Books, winter, 2004, Douglas Carl Abrams, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 48.
Houston Chronicle, July 21, 2002, James D. Fairbanks, "The GOP in Dixie; Rice Prof, Brother Probe Party's Ascendancy in the South," review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 18.
Journal of American History, March, 1988, David R. Goldfield, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 1385; March, 1993, Bruce J. Schulman, review of The Vital South, p. 1688; December, 2004, Mary C. Brennan, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 1093.
Journal of American Studies, April, 2005, Simon Hall, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 114.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, autumn, 1994, Dianne M. Pinderhughes, review of The Vital South, p. 354.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, summer, 1993, James M. Glaser, review of The Vital South, p. 619.
Journal of Politics, November, 1988, Alexander P. Lamis, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 1109.
Journal of Southern History, May, 1988, Numan V. Bartley, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 365; August, 1993, Robert C. McMath, review of The Vital South, p. 589; November, 2003, Kari Frederickson, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 990.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2006, review of Divided America, p. 1204.
Library Journal, March 15, 1992, Thomas H. Ferrell, review of The Vital South, p. 104; February 15, 2002, Karl Helicher, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 164.
Mississippi Quarterly, summer, 2003, Brian Anderson, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 454.
National Review, July 15, 2002, Ralph Reed, "Southern Comfort," review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 49.
Newsweek, March 26, 2007, George F. Will, "Politics after the Reversal," p. 84.
New York Review of Books, June 11, 1987, C. Vann Woodward, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 7.
New York Times Book Review, April 21, 2002, Kevin Sack, "Carpetbagger's Children: Two Political-Scientist Brothers Examine the Inexorable Rise of the Republican Party in the Modern South," review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 20.
Political Science Quarterly, spring, 1988, Alexander Heard, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 180; summer, 2003, David M. Brodsky, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 328.
Progressive, August, 1992, Matthew Rothschild, review of The Vital South, p. 38.
Publishers Weekly, January 15, 2007, review of Divided America, p. 43.
Reason, October, 1992, John Hood, review of The Vital South, p. 58; February, 2003, John J. Pitney, Jr., "Gone with the Vote: For the GOP in the South, Reconstruction Isn't Quite Over," review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 57.
Review of Politics, spring, 1993, M. Margaret Conway, review of The Vital South, p. 373.
Social Forces, March, 1989, Dwight B. Billings, review of Politics and Society in the South, p. 811.
Social Science Journal, July, 2003, Neal Allen, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 503.
Social Science Quarterly, March, 1993, Mary E. Stuckey, review of The Vital South, p. 226.
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, spring, 2003, Robert Holsworth, review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 205.
Washington Monthly, June, 1992, Jon Meacham, review of The Vital South, p. 58; May, 2002, Major Garrett, "The Bubba Vote," review of The Rise of Southern Republicans, p. 58.
Washington Post Book World, April 8, 2007, Donna Brazile, "Base Motives," review of Divided America, p. 4.
Weekly Standard, May 7, 2007, Karlyn Bowman, "Battleground America; Suddenly the Midwest Is up for Grabs in the Next Election," review of Divided America.