Most of the worst race-baiters in the United States Congress have come from this, the most heavily African-American state in the union.
In 1900, 58.5% of Mississippi's population was black, but the combination of literacy tests, poll taxes (with grandfather clauses to allow whites to waive those tests) and violent intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan and others made the electorate overwhelmingly white.
Like the rest of the South, the black percentage of Mississippi's population declined significantly during the 1st (1910-1940) and 2nd (1940-1970) Great Migrations out. In Mississippi, there were 1,009,487 black residents in 1910, and only 815,770 in 1970 [the absolute black population also decreased in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and South Carolina; it decreased absolutely from 1910-1940 in Georgia and Virginia as well]
At any rate, Mississippi had some of the very worst race-baiters in the Congress
- Theodore Bilbo-terribly racist even by Mississippi standards, Bilbo was declared "unfit to sit with honest, upright men in a respectable legislative body" due to his having accepted a $645 bribe in 1910. This didn't stop him from being elected Lieutenant Governor and Governor. Spending 10 days in jail for contempt of court in 1923 didn't hurt him either. A famous cry of Bilbo's "I call upon every red-blooded white man to use any means to keep the nigger away from the polls," helped push the Republican-controlled [this was still to some extent the party of Lincoln] Senate to attempt to not seat him after his re-election in 1946; a compromise was made whereas the matter would be left alone until he returned from Mississippi following recuperation from illness (he died and so it was never an issue)
- James Vardaman-a Senator from 1913 to 1919, Governor of Mississippi from 1904 to 1908; once declared that he would rather see William Jennings Bryan defeated than be elected by "votes of veneered savages" (as he called black voters); it was because of men like Vardaman that the editor of the New York Age, the black Republican newspaper, remarked that "It's against human nature for a negro to vote Democratic. It is the party of Tillman and Vardaman" (New York Times, August 9, 1908)
- Ross Robert Barnett-joined the 1920's Ku Klux Klan, believed (and stated) "the Negro is different because God made him different to punish him", helped get Byron De La Beckwith off in his first trial for murdering Medgar Evers, and as Governor was extremely active in opposing James Meredith's admission to Ole Miss
- Paul B. Johnson Jr.-as Governor, surmised that James Chaney, Michael Schwermer and Andrew Goodman had not been murdered but in fact "maybe went to Cuba" (i.e. they were damned Commies for supporting voting rights)
- James O. Eastland-Senator from Mississippi, one of the longest-serving ever; Time magazine called him "the nation's most dangerous demagogue" in the 1950's; Lyndon Johnson once said "Jim Eastland could be standing right in the middle of the worst Mississippi flood ever known, and he'd say 'The niggers caused it, helped out some by the Communists.'"
- John Rankin-Representative who refused to ever sit next to Harlem Representative Adam Clayton Powell and, contrary to all evidence, blamed African-Americans for losing a battle in WWII; also a vicious anti-Semite.
Of course, these were the pre-Civil Rights days when blacks didn't vote in Mississippi .
Later on, the Republican party adopted the race-baiting strategy, starting with Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy, continuing with Ronald Reagan's law-and-order rally in Philadelphia, Mississippi [site of the murders of Schwermer, Goodman and Chaney].
The blogosphere gained prominence when Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo exposed Trent Lott's remarks at the 100th birthday of J. Strom Thurmond (South Carolina also had many of the worst race-baiters, perhaps not a coincidence as it had also had the second-highest black percentage of the population at the time)) "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either."
Then, of course, there was this special election. Republican Greg Davis ran ads attempting to tie Democratic candidate and now Representative Travis Childers to "scary liberal black man with foreign-sounding name" Barack Obama. The claim, is that it's "wrong" to be endorsed "a liberal black man who claims you'll help build his movement" (I assume by movement, they mean something like "Obama will sleep with your wife, force you to convert to Islam and sodomize you" [all untrue, of course, but that's the message they seemed to want to convey]
his "anti-American and very, very very scary black preacher who wants to 9/11 your gun with his anti-American Christian Islamic religion" [it does not have to make sense] Jeremiah Wright.
However, things may have changed in Mississippi. This tactic may have "blackfired" (galvanized black turnout in this 27% black district; thanks to the Voting Rights Act, blacks voting is something the Republicans have to worry about).
It's not clear whether it did. I used Excel to plot the relative gain in terms of votes Travis Childers made in a county on May 13th vs. April 22nd (that is, to what extent if any the increase in votes on May 13th slanted towards Travis Childers) versus the African-American percentage of that county.
It seems like there is some correlation, but it's not clear and it's not that significant (only about .3 when running a linear regression analysis). It's quite possible, though, that it's more significant when calculated by precinct [of course, then I need to figure out how I determine how black a precinct is]