Today on Equal Time for Freethought… after my recent interview with South Carolina Representatives Jenny Horne (R) and Joseph Neal (D) on the Confederate Flag, voter ID laws, and religious tolerance, ETFF digs a bit deeper and speaks with life-long South Carolinian and Clemson University professor, Orville Vernon Burton.

Professor Burton is an expert on the South, focusing on race relations, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. He has written numerous books including The Age of Lincoln, has provided expert testimony in high profile voter ID cases including the South Carolina v Holder 2011 case, has previously served as president of the Southern Historical Association and the Agricultural History Society, and has received myriad awards for his work.

Prof. Burton listened to our show with the SC representatives, and gives us his take on the program as we address the issues of culture, law, and history of the South.


“There is a long history of when there is a perceived threat by whichever party is in power, Democrats or Republicans or it could be Martians as far as I’m concerned, you see that literally they bring in restrictive laws to someway disadvantage African American or minority voters…” – Vernon Burton

Robert Smalls – Member of South Carolina House (1868-1870), South Carolina Senate (1870-1874), US House (1882-1887)

“In 1895, African Americans were still voting. They were electing people like Robert Smalls, the black civil war hero, to Congress, and in certain areas they had power and could make a difference. You had the third party political movement commonly known as the Populist party, that is the People’s party which was calling in many places for allowing African Americans to vote and doing fusion tickets with the Republican party.” – Vernon Burton

The recent South Carolina voter ID laws “would not allow a South Carolina State government ID and they would not allow student ID’s… and it’s very clear that is because there are a larger proportion of African Americans who have those. The classic one is Texas, where they allow a gun permit but not a State of Texas or student permit for voting and the statistics there are very clear.” – Vernon Burton

“It is a tragedy I think that the grand party of Abraham Lincoln, started with Barry Goldwater, Strom Thurmond’s changing to the Republican Party, then with the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon and you move from there to Ronald Reagan’s speech at Neshoba County, Mississippi where he talks about state’s rights, that the Republican Party in the South decided to become the party of white people and identify the Democrats as the party of black people. So it’s become so that you can hardly separate partisan politics from race itself because to disadvantage the Democratic party, you disadvantage minority voters.” – Vernon Burton

“I’ll tell you, these politicians who have taken issues like race and who have taken issues such as abortion and gay rights or women’s rights and use those in a religious context to manipulate people to often vote against their own economic and social interests, if there’s not a hell for them, I’m not gonna be happy in heaven.” – Vernon Burton

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