Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Aram G. Goudsouzian

Committee Member

Janann Sherman

Committee Member

Beverly G. Bond

Committee Member

Arwin D. Smallwood


In 2001, President Bill Clinton left the White House as one of the most popular and controversial presidents in modern American history. A booming economy, strong dollar, and relative peace in the United States signaled a golden era; an era sandwiched between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War on Terror. In addition, much of the racial animus and vitriol of the 1970s and 1980s had seemingly subsided. Yet, underneath that veneer of a placid and complacent country enjoying the fruits of its labor in the post Cold War era was a nation experiencing the pangs of divisions between black and white, poor and affluent, Republican and Democrat. These divisions, as they concerned race, led to the belief that President Clinton was "the first black president." A supposed woman-loving junk food eating, saxophone playing, honorary "brother," Clinton became almost unrecognizable from the caricature of him. He loved black people. He hired black people. He hung out with black people. Clinton was the defendeer of African Americans against the reactionaries of the Republican Party. That image was at odds with the reality of his presidency. In fact, Clinton signaled as early as 1991 that he was not an old Democrat, but a New Democrat. Market-based solutions to complex problems, racial moderation, and conciliatory approaches to politics defined the Clinton era. This dissertation examines Clinton and the real impact he had on his most loyal supporters, African Americans. It considers several major events during the 1990s to examine the politics of race and class, including the Lani Guinier nomination, the rise of the Democratic Leadership Council, the battles over welfare reform and crime legislation, and the race initiative. These case studies provide a lens through which we can understand the racial impact of one of the most important administrations in recent memory.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.