Cover image for Nixon's civil rights : politics, principle, and policy
Nixon's civil rights : politics, principle, and policy
Kotlowski, Dean J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 404 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally presented as the author's thesis (doctoral--Indiana University).
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JC599.U5 K65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Richard Nixon believed that history would show his administration in the forefront of civil rights progress. What does the record really say about civil rights under Nixon? In a groundbreaking new book, Dean Kotlowski offers a surprising study of an administration that redirected the course of civil rights in America.

Nixon's policymaking recast the civil rights debate from an argument over racial integration to an effort to improve the economic station of disadvantaged groups. Kotlowski examines such issues as school desegregation, fair housing, voting rights, affirmative action, and minority businesses as well as Native American and women's rights. He details Nixon's role, revealing a president who favored deeds over rhetoric and who constantly weighed political expediency and principles in crafting civil rights policy.

In moving the debate from the street to the system, Nixon set civil rights on a path whose merits and results are still debated. Nixon's Civil Rights is a revealing portrait of one of the most enigmatic figures of modern American politics and a major contribution to the study of civil rights in America.

Author Notes

Dean J. Kotlowski is Assistant Professor of history at Salisbury University, in Maryland.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Rather than a means for rehabilitation," Kotlowski concludes, Nixon's "civil rights policy offers a vista on his multifarious persona." Despite that claim, this account serves as a de facto apologia for Nixon's record, elevating his accomplishments while downplaying his divisiveness and antagonism his Southern strategy, his nominations of Haynsworth and Carswell, his cultivation of racial code words, the racial subtext of his "law and order" politics and the war on drugs or his bigotry revealed in the White House tapes. Nor (except for sporadic comments) does Kotlowski situate Nixon's racial policies within his overall political objectives or within the larger history of the struggle for civil rights, much less the balance of forces during Nixon's presidency. Attention is tightly focused on specific accomplishments and the internal workings of Nixon's administration. Separate chapters cover education, housing, voting rights, employment, black colleges and businesses, relationships with civil rights leaders, Native American policies and women's rights. Sixteen years after the Supreme Court's Brown decision, massive desegregation finally came to the South on Nixon's watch; the 1965 Voting Rights Act was reauthorized, expanded and strengthened; affirmative action was promoted; and money for black colleges and minority businesses jumped substantially. Stressing voluntary desegregation, not integration, Nixon sharply reined in HUD secretary George Romney, his administration's most ardent activist. Native Americans, a much smaller minority largely opposed to integration, served ideally to showcase Nixon as a concerned, effective statesman, but women's rights baffled him, despite sporadic steps forward. Kotlowski rightly argues that Nixon's policies had profound lasting consequences, but fails to explore them in depth. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Richard Nixon has not received much favorable press lately, with such books as Richard Reeves's President Nixon: Alone in the White House (LJ 8/01) portraying the late, beleaguered president as isolated from the public and most of his advisers. In this scrupulously researched investigation of his civil rights policies, Kotlowski (history, Salisbury State) presents a differing view of Nixon a complex leader who listened to the advice of his knowledgeable domestic advisers, notably John Ehrlichman, Daniel Moynihan, and Leonard Garment. Nixon supported every civil rights bill while vice president and as president promoted affirmative action and funding for minority-owned businesses and historically African American colleges. However, he was estranged from most African American civil rights leaders because he opposed busing and integration, and he never made a speech strongly advocating civil rights. Kotlowski, who draws heavily on the work of his mentor, Joan Hoff (Nixon Reconsidered), shows that Nixon will not be remembered for his civil rights policies. This excellent book is a worthy successor to Allen Matusow's Nixon's Economy (LJ 4/15/98) as a skillful appraisal of Nixon's domestic policies. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Scholars of the Nixon presidency and of the civil rights movement have generally overlooked the Nixon administration's civil rights policies. Kotlowski's book fills this void. His core argument is that Nixon blended "political expediency, practicality, and principle" at a crucial and volatile time in the country's political history to transform the civil rights issue and to implement policies that continue to this day. The book shows how Nixon moved the civil rights debate from integration to economic opportunity, from rhetoric to action, and expanded the civil rights issue to women and Native Americans, while also helping to establish the Republican Party's "southern strategy." Well-researched and persuasively argued, the book captures the intriguing if frustrating complexity that characterizes Richard Nixon and will appeal equally to Nixon lovers, loathers, and those undecided. Strongly recommended for readers at any level interested in the history of the civil rights struggle, the Nixon administration, or in political decision-making. S. C. Matheson Knox College

Table of Contents

Prologue: Deeds versus Wordsp. 1
1 Flexible Response: Southern Politics and School Desegregationp. 15
2 Open Communities versus Forced Integration: Romney, Nixon, and Fair Housingp. 44
3 The Art of Compromise: Extending the Voting Rights Actp. 71
4 Jobs Are Nixon's Rights Program: The Philadelphia Plan and Affirmative Actionp. 97
5 Black Power, Nixon Style: Minority Businesses and Black Collegesp. 125
6 A Cold War: Nixon and Civil Rights Leadersp. 157
7 Challenges and Opportunities: Native American Policyp. 188
8 Stops and Starts: Women's Rightsp. 222
Epilogue: In the Shadow of Nixonp. 259
Notesp. 273
Select Bibliographyp. 381
Indexp. 389