Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

History

Major Professor

Fraser M. Ottanelli, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Robert P. Ingalls, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Barbara Berglund, Ph.D.

Keywords

immigration, ethnicity, Latin, Florida, South

Abstract

This research deals with the presidential election of 1948 and the questions it

raises concerning issues of ethnic identity and the experiences of working-class migrants

in the U.S. South. Central to the discussion is the unprecedented success of third-party

challenger Henry Wallace and his Progressive campaign in the immigrant enclaves of

Tampa, Florida. Stigmatized by controversial foreign and domestic programs which drew

disabling connections between Wallace and the Communist Party, the Progressive Party

campaign hardly got its proverbial feet off the ground before falling victim to virulent

criticism and widespread opposition. Carrying just over two percent of the votes

nationwide, Wallace was soon relegated as an afterthought in modern historical memory,

a footnote to the “real” battle between Dewey and Truman for the hearts and minds of the

American public. This paper reevaluates the Progressive Party campaign in 1948 for the

insights it provides into the immigrant experience, ethnic politics, and the continuous

reinvention and contestation of “radical” politics and “American” identity. At issue here

is not the failure of the campaign itself; nor is this intended to be a measure or judgment

of Henry Wallace himself. Rather, it is to his appeal and isolated successes that I look to

gain a better appreciation of the constructions and negotiations of ethnic identity and

contested claims to the principles of American democracy and the rights of citizenship.

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