Document Type

Book Review

Citation Information

Please cite to the original publication


J. Morgan Kousser, professor of history and social science at the California Institute of Technology, is an unusual academic. He enjoys the respect of two quite different groups - historians and civil rights litigators. As a historian, Kousser has written a number of important works on the American South in the tradition of his mentor, C. Vann Woodward, including a foundational book on southern political history, The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South, 1880-1910. Many of his writings have become seminal texts among election law scholars. Kousser has also used his historical skills to provide crucial assistance to civil rights plaintiffs in numerous voting cases, including Mobile v. Bolden, Shaw v. Hunt, and Bush v. Vera.

Like the work of C. Vann Woodward, Kousser's is the scholarship of the path not taken. He seeks to show that the political and racial climate at various points in our history was more fluid than we imagine in order to persuade us that the path we eventually took was not foreordained, and that changes in institutional structures or legal rules might have led to dramatically different results. His historical scholarship is thus forward-looking - the past provides a means to chart our course for the future.

Date of Authorship for this Version