The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power


Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 4:10pm


Ash Center Foyer, 124 Mount Auburn St, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Loneliness of the Black Republican coverLeah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Artur Davis, Former U.S. Representative and current Republican candidate for Mayor of Montgomery, AL
Lisa McGirr, Respondent, Professor of History, Harvard University
Alex Keyssar, Moderator, Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy

Co-sponsored by the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, The Harvard Journal of African American Policy and the HKS Black Student Union.

About the Event

Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor of Public Policy Leah Wright Rigueur, Former U.S. Representative Artur Davis and Harvard University Professor of History Lisa McGirr will discuss Professor Wright Rigueur’s new book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican in an event moderated by Alex Keyssar, HKS Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy. Covering more than four decades of American social and political history, The Loneliness of the Black Republican examines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials, and politicians, from the era of the New Deal to Ronald Reagan’s presidential ascent in 1980. Their unique stories reveal African Americans fighting for an alternative economic and civil rights movement – even as the Republican Party appeared increasingly hostile to that very idea.

The book examines the “intersection of race, civil rights, conservatism, and party politics” and traces almost half a century between 1936, marking the political realignment of the new deal and 1980, heralding the beginning of the Reagan revolution. The author peels away the stereotypes and simplistic characterizations that seem to define African American Republicans. She studies the motivation, efforts and contributions of African American conservatives: activists, officials, middle class professionals and politicians at the local, state and national level who “attempted to influence the direction of conservatism – not to destroy it but rather to expand the boundaries of the ideology in order to include black needs and interests.”

Read the first chapter of The Loneliness of the Black Republican

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About the Speakers
Leah Wright Rigueur is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her research interests include 20th century United States political and social history and modern African American history, with an emphasis on race, civil rights, political ideology, the American two-party system, and the presidency. Before joining the Kennedy School faculty, Leah was a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She received her B.A. in history from Dartmouth College and her M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Princeton University.

Artur Davis served four terms from 2003-2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat, representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. He was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Alabama in 2010, and is currently running as a Republican candidate for Mayor of Montgomery, AL. Davis previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and earned a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School.

Lisa McGirr specializes in the history of the 20th century United States. Her research and teaching interests bridge the fields of social and political history and focus, in particular, on collective action, political culture, reform movements, and political ideology. She has conducted research on transnational social movements as well as on the intersection of religion and politics in the twentieth-century United States. She is currently at work on a book entitled Prohibition and the Making of Modern America. Her award winning first book, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right investigates the social and regional basis of grass-roots conservative politics in the post-World War II United States. Courses taught include the history of “protest and politics” in United States history, social movements, the New Deal, the 1960s and undergraduate and graduate research seminars focusing on sources, methods, and themes in twentieth-century United States history.

Alexander Keyssar is the Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy. An historian by training, he has specialized in the explanation of issues that have contemporary policy implications. His book, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (2000), was named the best book in U.S. history by both the American Historical Association and the Historical Society; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. A significantly revised and updated edition of The Right to Vote was published in 2009. His 1986 book, Out of Work: The First Century of Unemployment in Massachusetts, was awarded three scholarly prizes. Keyssar is coauthor of The Way of the Ship: America’s Maritime History Reenvisioned, 1600-2000 (2008), and of Inventing America, a text integrating the history of technology and science into the mainstream of American history. In addition, he is coeditor of a series on Comparative and International Working-Class History. In 2004/5, Keyssar chaired the Social Science Research Council’s National Research Commission on Voting and Elections, and writes frequently for the popular press about American politics and history. Keyssar’s current research interests include election reform, the history of democracies, and the history of poverty.

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