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Monday, May 15, 2023

May 15, 2023: Watergate Figures: Sam Ervin

[On May 18th, 1973, the nationally televised Senate Watergate hearings began. So for the 50th anniversary of that historic moment, this week I’ll highlight one telling detail each for a handful of the key figures in those hearings. Leading up to a weekend post on a few contemporary echoes of that moment!]

The Democratic Senator from North Carolina who helped stop Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s and bring down Richard Nixon two decades later (the Senate committee which investigated Watergate was informally known as the Ervin Committee due to his central role) was also a lifelong defender of Jim Crow segregation, often citing his legal training and the Constitution as justifications for maintaining that racist system. That incredibly complex set of realities not only sums up the layers and evolution of the Democratic Party in the South and throughout the nation in the course of the 20th century, but also reminds us of the inescapable and often quite fraught interconnections between historical issues and debates. American political history owes Sam Ervin a substantial debt, but he and his ilk also owe Black Americans and all those who care about social justice a significant apology.

Next Watergate figure tomorrow,


PS. What do you think?

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