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“The Skeleton in America’s Own Cupboard”: Mississippi’s Theodore G. Bilbo and the Shaping of Racial Politics, 1946-1948




Wakefield, Zachary L.

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




In the summer of 1946, Theodore Bilbo, a politician from rural southeast Mississippi, ran for election as a United States Senator. Fearing that a large number of newly-enfranchised blacks in his state would work to have him removed from office, Bilbo encouraged whites in his state to intimidate, threaten, and otherwise prevent African Americans from voting. Bilbo’s rhetoric and the violence that ensued as a result of his speeches sparked controversy in both national and international communities, sparking a process of political realignment within the United States that would have ramifications for the decades that followed. Using personal correspondence, newspapers, Senate committee files, and the papers of the NAACP, this dissertation examines Theodore Bilbo’s 1946 election illustrating the myriad forgotten voices in the early civil rights struggle; the ties between national and international policy in the early Cold War; and some of the earliest policy platforms of modern conservatism that emerged as a dominant political force following World War II.