Rigueur Wins Crader Family Book Prize in American Values

The 2017 winner of the Crader Family Book Prize in American Values has been announced at Southeast Missouri State University.

Dr. Leah Wright Rigueur has been selected as the winner for her first book, “The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power,” published by the Princeton University Press in Princeton, New Jersey.

Rigueur is an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She earned her doctoral degree in history from Princeton University. Her research interests include 20th Century United State political and social history, and modern African American history.  Her work emphasizes race, civil rights, political ideology, the American two-party system and the presidency.

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 in1980.

In her book, Rigueur shares unique stories revealing African American Republicans fighting for an alternative economic and civil rights movement—even as the Republican Party appeared increasingly hostile to that very idea. Black party members attempted to influence the direction of conservatism—not to destroy it, but rather to expand the ideology to include black needs and interests.

“The Loneliness of the Black Republican” examines how as racial minorities in their political party and as political minorities within their community, black Republicans occupied an irreconcilable position—they were shunned by African American communities and subordinated by the GOP. In response, black Republicans vocally, and at times viciously, critiqued members of their race and party, in an effort to shape the attitudes and public images of black citizens and the GOP.

Rigueur explores how there was also a measure of irony to black Republicans’ “loneliness”– at various points, factions of the Republican Party, such as the Nixon administration, instituted some of the policies and programs offered by black party members. What’s more, black Republican initiatives, such as the fair housing legislation of U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke, sometimes garnered support from outside the Republican Party, especially among the black press, Democratic officials and constituents of all races. Moving beyond traditional liberalism and conservatism, black Republicans sought to address African American racial experiences in a distinctly Republican way.

“The Loneliness of the Black Republican” provides a new understanding of the interaction between African Americans and the Republican Party, and the seemingly incongruous intersection of civil rights and American conservatism.

Dr. Leah Wright Rigueur

The Crader Family Book Prize Committee selected Rigueur’s work for the detail provided, offering a glimpse into political history that is significant to recent events.

Members of the Crader Family Book Prize Committee include Dr. Wayne Bowen, chair of Southeast’s Department of History; Dr. Adam Criblez, assistant professor of history and director of the Center for Regional History at Southeast; and the Crader family.

“We appreciate the ongoing support from the Crader Family, enabling us to highlight works by new scholars that make intellectual contributions to the historical traditions of the United States and Western Civilization,” Bowen said. “With Dr. Rigueur’s publication, we see again a vital book that engages not just within the history of the United States, but is relevant to current political questions.”

Criblez added, Rigueur “reframes African American involvement in the twentieth-century Republican Party. As racial minorities within their political party and political minorities within their race, conservative African Americans attempted to influence the direction of conservatism between the New Deal and rise of Ronald Reagan. Looking at this from a nation, rather than local or regional lens, she uncovers the ebb and flow of black support for conservative candidates, ultimately arguing that ‘black voters were willing to support the right Republican candidate.’”

The Crader Family Book Prize recognizes a first book, which best exemplifies the values of the Crader Family Endowment for American Values: individual liberty, constitutional principles and civic virtue. The field and subject matter are open to any area of U.S., European or Latin American history, but must examine the historical development of the political, religious and economic heritage of Western Civilization, or events directly related to them.

Rigueur was awarded a $1,000 honorarium for her winning entry.

The competition was open to books that were peer-reviewed, published by an academic, university or commercial press in 2014, 2015, or 2016; written by a sole author; and a single work, rather than an edited collection or anthology. Works that were self-published, in languages other than English, or only existed as e-books were not considered.

Authors were required to be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. Publishers were permitted to nominate as many works as they believed met the criteria. Entries were accepted through Feb. 15, after which they were judged by a panel, including Bowen, Criblez and members of the Crader family.

The Crader Family Endowment for American Values exists within the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, is managed by the chair of the Department of History and is dedicated to education, research and public engagement in the historical traditions of the United States of America and Western Civilization.

The endowment’s objectives are to increase knowledge and appreciation of the political, religious and economic heritage of this nation and the West, and the values of individual liberty, constitutional principles and civic virtue that are at the foundation of this society. The endowment is named in honor of the Crader Family: Stan and Debbie Crader of Marble Hill and Jackson, Missouri, and the late Don Crader.

For more information on the Crader Family Book Prize in American Values, contact Bowen at wbowen@semo.edu or (573) 651-2179.