Saturday, February 19, 2011

The History of Blacks and the Republican Party by Kenneth Raymond

By Ken Raymond

Many former slaves left a political legacy that’s been ignored or completely forgotten by their descendants--even during Black History Month.

As they struggled against the violence and racism of the mid-1800’s, it’s likely they thought this heritage would continue to improve the lives of their descendants.

This legacy is the Republican Party.

For over 50 years, Black people have given over 90 percent of its votes to the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party can always count on strong support from the Black Community.

But that’s certainly wasn’t the case during the mid-1800’s. During that time, the Republican Party led the fight against strong Democrat opposition to pass the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. These changes abolished slavery, granted blacks citizenship and the right to vote. It was clear to all Black people who their friends were in the political arena.

General sentiments towards the Republicans were very hostile, in the south, after the Civil War. Most, if not all, southern citizens had a friend or a family member that died in the Civil War. That made it was very difficult for the GOP to get a solid foothold in southern states--even among southerner’s that agreed with them.

Blacks built the GOP in Southern States

This created an opportunity for former slaves to return a tremendous act of kindness to their benefactors and help themselves at the same time. And they did it with great enthusiasm.

According to Dr. Ronnie W. Faulkner, associate professor of history at Campbell University, one-third of the 147 founders of the North Carolina Republican Party were black. A few of the black founders were George Henry White, James Young, E.A. Johnson, John C. Dancy, Issac Smith, and James E. Shephard.

George White was elected to the Congress as a Republican from North Carolina’s 2nd District in 1896. Congressman White was one of the first 23 blacks elected to Congress after the Civil War—and they were all Republicans.

Helen Edmond documents in her book “The Negro in Fusion Politics in North Carolina , 1894-1901” that the black founders of the North Carolina GOP helped build local organizations and establish Republican voter majorities in 16 counties by 1896. They were Caswell, Greenville, Vance, Warren, Halifax, Northampton, Hertford, Bertie, Pasquotank, Chowan, Washington, Craven, Pender, New Hanover, Richmond, and Edgecombe counties. They also assisted in gaining 40 to 49 percent of voter strength within 47 counties.

Because of the support of Black Republicans, the GOP became very competitive, in the southern states, and could challenge the Democrats at all levels of government.

The same scenario played out throughout the southern states. More Black Republicans were elected to Congress and black men like Norris Wright Cuney, chairman of the Texas State Republican Party in 1883, led the GOP throughout many southern states.

And the alliance paid off. After being elected to the White House and Congress, the Republican’s passed the Enforcement Act, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1871 and 1875. The Enforcement Act protected blacks from the Klu Klux Klan and the Civil Rights Acts declared that blacks were to receive equal treatment in public places.

So What Happened?

So why did blacks switch from giving over 90 percent of its support from Republicans to Democrats? Especially since the Democrats were staunchly pro-slavery, established the Klu Klux Klan, and anti-civil rights?

It started in 1892 when Democrat President Grover Cleveland was elected and the Democrats took control of Congress. Their first act was to repeal the Enforcement Act and the Civil Rights laws passed by Republicans. These laws were replaced with the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws—which severely limited economic, educational, social, and political opportunities of blacks.

The Jim Crow laws weren’t challenged until 61 years later. In 1957, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower sent the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to Congress to re-establish Civil Rights for Black people. At that time, Democrat Senator Lyndon Johnson, who was the Senate majority leader, did not allow the bill to pass in its original form.

The Senate Democrats removed the substance and enforcement aspects of the bill and allowed it to be passed and signed into law. But because of the Senate democrats, blacks were still disenfranchised in the south—until Senator Lyndon Johnson ran for president.

Senator Johnson ran on a platform to restore Civil Rights for Blacks in the south. After Lyndon Johnson won the presidency, he restored the substance of the Civil Rights Act and signed it in 1964.

And with television taking a larger role in political news coverage at the time, Lyndon Johnson and the Democrat Party appeared to be the party that supports the Black Community. So within 10 years, after the presidential election of 1964, blacks drifted back into the hands of the Democrat Party.

Or, as I’ve heard them called, “the heirs of the Confederacy.”

Black America Forgot its Political Roots

So that’s how it happened. And after being locked out of the political arena for 68 years, Black people completely forgot about their political roots. And during those 68 years, generations of black children weren’t taught their political origins at home or in school. And it’s still not being taught today.

There’s no question that the Democrats have benefitted from the fact that black political history hasn’t been taught accurately over the years. And many in the Black community want to continue to support the Democrats.

But regardless how blacks feel about either party, Black history can’t be changed. And the contributions of blacks to the Republican Party should be taught and recognized.

Edmund Burke, a famous British politician and author, once said, “Those that don’t learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”

Anyone that follows the political history of Blacks in America can see that Edmund Burke’s statement is very true.

Ken Raymond is a member of the Frederick Douglass Foundation.


  1. I always wondered, now I understand

  2. Well said this history of the blacks migration to the GOP is something that should be taught but it just wasn't the blacks leaving the GOP it was also Southern whites angry with LBJ and the Democrats that left and went to the Republican party.

  3. I live in North Carolina and appreciate the history lesson. I knew that the Republican Party first platform was built on abolishing slavery. Fredrick Douglass played a big role in supporting the Republican Party and we know it was Lincoln who issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He also set aside land for recently freed slaves but after his assassination, his replacement whose name I can not recall at this time, worked with Southerners to rescind that set aside of land for freed Blacks, this is where the term 40 Acres and mule comes from. Now with all that said, the Republican Party turned against Blacks starting with Nixon and his Southern Strategy of appealing to white males in the South. Under Reagan, who was openly hostile to Blacks, the Southern strategy was brought back. Let me back up for a minute though, the current president of Fox News, Roger Ailes, ran Nixon's media employing the same propaganda we see against Blacks on Fox News today. This was propaganda would be used again by Ailes for George H. W. Bush, remember the Willie Horton ads against Dukakis. I mentioned I live in North Carolina right, the Democratic party in North Carolina some years ago passed legislation apologizing for Slavery and Jim Crow, this was opposed by Republicans. The Democrats created a Justice Commission to examine wrongful convictions, the Republicans ran a campaign against saying it would let criminals back on the street, hello these were wrongfully convicted people. The Republicans recently won the State legislature, they are now dismantling that commission. Si while the history lesson of the 1800's was nice, you completely ignore what the Republicans have done in 1900's, more recently since the 1970's. So please do not try to portray Blacks like for no reason they all of sudden stop supporting the Republican party because this article seems to try to paint them today as friend of Blacks when they are openly hostile towards us. With that said, I would vote for Ron Paul in a hot second, supported him in the NC primaries but of course the Republicans will never let a man who wants to end Nixon's drug war which has disproportionately affected Black people helping to re-enslave them. Oh, did people actually think slavery had been abolished by the Republicans? Think again and read the Constitution as it remains as a legal form of punishment for crime. No wonder Blacks make up the majority of the worlds largest prison population. Ron Paul said he would pardon all non-violent drug offenders. Republicans will never let this man do that and let out all those non-violent offenders. I may not know everything but I know enough.

  4. Scotty,

    First of all, I live in North Carolina too. More specifically, Winston-Salem. That's why I focused on the black history behind the North Carolina Republican Party.

    Secondly, the whole point of my column is that our ancestors left us with a tremendous legacy and it's being ignored.

    Blacks not only built the GOP in North Carolina, but the South Carolina GOP, the Georgia GOP, the Texas GOP, and the GOP organizations throughout the southern states.

    And blacks should honor the legacy left by our ancestors--especially during Black History Month.

    Now I'd like to respond to your other points.

    The man that replaced Abraham Lincoln was Andrew Johnson. And President Johnson DID try to reverse Lincoln's policies on Civil Rights--including the law that granted former slaves free land.

    But Andrew Johnson was a DEMOCRAT! Back then, when someone won the presidency, a member of the OPPOSING party was automatically vice-president.

    Which means if you're upset with Andrew Johnson, you should be upset with the Democrats, not the Republicans.

    And as far as the Southern Strategy goes, the only Southern Strategy the GOP endorsed is mentioned in my column. The GOP became partners with former slaves to estabish the GOP in southern states. That's the only true Southern Strategy the Republicans engaged in!

    What's wrong with a political candidate running on the issue of crime? It's a legitmate issue. And that's what Nixon and George H.W. Bush were doing.

    What's really sad is that this is a perfect example of how history is repeating itself. At one time, the democrats physically owned blacks. But today, they OWN the minds of most black people.

    The Democrats convinced most black people that when republicans talk about crime, they're talking about blacks.

    Are all black people criminals? Of course not! But that's what the Democrats want black people to think, so that's what many of them do.

    And I'm serious when I say the Democrats consider themselves "the Heirs of the Confederacy." Since their ancestors physically owned blacks, they believe that they've "inherited" all black people from the Confederacy. And they have the right to tell them what to think.

    And here's another example of Democrats "Owning" the minds of blacks. For over 100 years, from the 1860's through the 1960's, Republicans fought for Civil Rights for blacks and Democrats fought against them--and it's very well documented.

    Do you really believe that after 100 years, the Republicans SUDDENLY became Anti-Civil Rights and the Democrats SUDDENLY became Pro-Civil rights? Do you really believe that?

    But that's what Democrats what blacks to think. And since they have our minds on lock down, that's what many of us think.

    And if you listen closely to what the Democrats say, they truly believe they own the Black Community.

    This is an apsect of "the Slave Mentality." And it causes people to throw all reason and logic out the window!

    Both parties are still the same, fundamentally.

    Today, the GOP fights for freedom--financial freedom, free markets, individual freedom, and personal responsibility.

    And today, the Democrats fight for government CONTROL of finances, markets, and individuals.

    And and as far as which is best for black people, I am NOT encouraging black people to join the Republican Party. I'm encouraging blacks to excercise their freedom and GET AWAY FROM THE DEMOCRATS!

    We can be independents, unaffilates, libertarians, or republicans. If we excercised our freedom, we'd be all over the map.

    But if you consider the history of our people and what Democrats really think about blacks today, we SHOULD NOT BE DEMOCRATS. We should be anything but Democrats.

    And thank you for your comments. This is something we all should be talking about.

    Ken Raymond

  5. Ken Raymond, I love this piece. FANTASTIC! Do you have a Facebook page?

    Darryl Murphy

  6. This is good information, but why didn't you continue your research? What year did they become the Klan?

  7. Your comment Anonymous isn't very clear... are you asking when the Democrats became synonymous the Klan in the South? The first branch of the Ku Klux Klan was established in Pulaski, Tennessee, in May, 1866. A year later a general organization of local Klans was established in Nashville in April, 1867. Most of the leaders were former members of the Confederate Army and the first Grand Wizard was Nathan Forrest, an outstanding general during the American Civil War. During the next two years Klansmen wearing masks, white cardboard hats and draped in white sheets, tortured and killed black Americans and sympathetic whites. Immigrants, who they blamed for the election of Radical Republicans, were also targets of their hatred. Between 1868 and 1870 the Ku Klux Klan played an important role in restoring white rule in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

  8. The focus on labels and party names is misleading here. Southern white voters who flipped to the Republican Party made it completely untenable for blacks to have continued to vote Republican in the south or anywhere else for that matter. Voting Republican today by blacks would be a mistake equaled only by the fact that poor whites continue to vote Republican against their own self interest. And, then there is that little issue of their support of eradicating the protections afforded by the Voting Rights Act. History aside, we have to deal with the here and now.