Analysis Of Walter Buenger's The Path To A Modern South
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Walter L. Buenger’s The Path to a Modern South details the political movements, economic shifts, and societal changes that occurred between 1887 and 1930 through Northeast Texas. He intertwines the intricacies of political factions, an economic boom, a Democrat-leaning political system, and the ever-evolving culture of northeast Texans to explain a New South. In his introduction, Buenger asks the reader, “In Northeast Texas did being part of Texas matter?” Buenger addresses this in nearly every chapter to reinforce how the South shaped as a whole throughout this time period. Buenger asserts that Texas entered 1930 more prosperous than 1887 through changes in business trends, adjustments to law, public policy reform, and local aspirations affected by political and cultural movements.
According to Buenger, political factions were fluid from 1887 to 1896. The population could side with factions depending on the issue at hand, or they could stand their ground on principle alone. The first chapter to The Path to a Modern South explains how party loyalty did not matter as much as factions themselves. Most importantly, factions clashed on the issue of prohibition. Prohibition itself led to “creative destruction…a process that eventually restructured Texas politics.” Buenger references this fight for (and against) prohibition throughout his book. For many white northeast Texans, prohibition meant a healthier society as a whole. To squash the poor black and white farmers’ votes,