Earl and Merle Black are brothers and professors of history at Rice University and Emory University, respectively. Their monograph, The Rise of Southern Republicans, deals with the growth and success of the Republican Party at the federal level in the eleven southern states of the union. Focusing primarily on the last fifty years of presidential and congressional elections in the south, the Blacks, however, begin by giving a good narrative account of the status of the Republican Party in the South following the Civil War and Reconstruction.
The familiar narrative tells of a Democratic southern block of states that the Republicans rarely managed to get a toehold in throughout the end of the nineteenth and through the first half of the twentieth century. The Republican Party was perceived as the party of the radicals and integrationists, and the authors even mention that for much of this time "Republican" was often used as a curse word in the southern states. As late as 1950, not a single southern republican held a seat in the United States Senate. Only one held a seat in the House of Representatives. By the early 1990s, however, southern republicans held a slight majority in the Congress. .
The Blacks give two main reasons for the rise of the Republican Party in the South, which they refer to as the "Great White Switches". First of was the backlash against civil rights legislation enacted in 1964 by Democrats. The passage of the Voting Rights Act caused two simultaneous and related shifts in the Democratic Party's demographics. First of all, southern blacks began to realign themselves towards the Democratic Party. They began to identify heavily with the party who's support of this legislation benefited them. Conversely, however, some southern whites tended to feel betrayed by the party for the very same reasons. While not ready to accept Republican candidates on the congressional level, some of these southern whites began to support Republican candidates on the presidential level.