Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Alison Parker

First Reader

Dr. Kenneth O'Brien

Abstract

In the final weeks of the 1920 presidential election campaign, an eccentric college professor from Ohio, William Estabrook Chancellor, distributed a series of leaflets across the Midwest that claimed the Republican candidate and future president, Warren G. Harding, was racially “impure.” Much has been written about Chancellor, his racist theories, which were based on the “scientific racism” of the time, and his relationship to the Democratic Party. What has not been examined, however, is how his allegations about Harding were connected broadly to the social construction of whiteness in America in the twentieth century. In this context, the Harding race rumor is not at all a marginal moment in the history of the twenty-ninth president. Rather, it helps to show that Warren Harding's experience with the race dichotomy of the early twentieth century had much in common with that of other persons accused of mixed-race status at the time. Harding's extended family members were put under severe risk of being discredited and disenfranchised in a nation where it only took a hint of white racial “impurity” to deprive a person of the privileges of whiteness. As such, there is ample reason to reconsider the ways we remember Warren Harding's life and presidency

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