African-Americans and Election 2000
In 1911, President Woodrow Wilson wisely observed:
A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is
today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do
not know where we came from or what we have been about.1
This is still true today, especially concerning African-American history. Since
February is celebrated nationally as Black History Month, and since four
specific historical inaccuracies related to blacks and politics were prominent
throughout Election 2000, this newsletter will review the history of
African-American involvement in the political process.
DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, & BLACKS
One of the more surprising statistics of Presidential Election 2000 was the
cohesiveness of the African-American vote: blacks supported Democrats with a
percentage higher than any other voting block. For example, among traditional
Democratic constituencies, union members voted for Democrats by a margin of 62
to 34 percent, and homosexuals by a margin of 70 to 25 percent, but
African-Americans voted for Democrats by a margin of 90 to 9 percent.2 Judging
by such results, one could easily assume that blacks have a long tradition of
support for Democrats. Such, however, is not the case.
Historically speaking, political rights were largely unknown for blacks in
America until after the Civil War. Slavery had been introduced into America by
the Dutch in 1619 and subsequently enforced upon the Colonies by British
authorities prior to the American Revolution. The American Revolution marked the
first change in the political rights of African-Americans, and many black
patriots fought for and achieved their freedom while fighting for the Colonies
during the American Revolution.
Although the attitude toward the century-and-a-half institution of slavery began
to change during the Revolution (with over half the States abolishing slavery),
emancipation still was not available to most blacks in Southern States, even
though Free Blacks (as opposed to Slave Blacks) in Southern States did begin to
taste some political freedoms not available to them before the Revolution. For
example, in Southern States, many Free Blacks gained the right to vote, saw
educational opportunities opened to them, and were largely treated the same as
whites under the criminal codes3 - franchises not available to Slave Blacks.
The opposition to slavery that first emerged during the American Revolution
continued to grow following the Revolution. The pulpit grew louder in its
denunciation of slavery, led especially by Quakers, Presbyterians,
Congregationalists, Unitarians, and Methodists, as well as by prominent
political leaders like John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster. In fact, many
Founding Fathers who advocated the abolition of slavery in the 1770s and 1780s
were still pursuing that goal half-a-century later.
One such Founder was Rufus King, a signer of the Constitution from
Massachusetts. In 1785, King persuaded the Continental Congress to prohibit
slavery in all American-held territories, and in 1789, as a member of the first
federal Congress, he obtained passage of a measure to prohibit slavery in
federally-held territories. Due to these efforts, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa were all admitted as free rather than
However, in 1819, the Missouri Compromise was introduced in Congress to alter
those 1789 prohibitions. Under that plan, States would be admitted to the Union
in pairs - six slave States with six free States. King, still a member of
Congress, vigorously opposed the modification of his original plan and fought
the admission of any federal territories as slave States.5 Other Founders still
alive at that time expressed similar opposition to the Missouri plan.
For example, Elias Boudinot - a president of Congress during the Revolution and,
in 1789 as a member of Congress, a supporter of the ban on slavery in federal
territories and all new States - warned that if the Missouri Compromise passed,
"there is an end to the happiness of the United States."6 A frail John
Adams worried that lifting the slavery prohibition would destroy America;7 and
an elderly Jefferson, then living in political retirement, was appalled at the
I had for a long time ceased to read newspapers or pay any attention to public
affairs, confident they were in good hands. . . . But this momentous question,
like a fire-bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered
it at once as the knell [announcement of death] of the Union8. . . . In the
gloomiest moment of the Revolutionary War, I never had any apprehensions equal
to what I feel from this source.9
Notwithstanding this opposition, and because so many of the other Founders who
opposed slavery had by then died (e.g., Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush,
William Livingston, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, James Wilson, etc.), the
Missouri Compromise passed.
The issue of slavery became a bright line of demarcation in America, with the
abolition movement being countered with equally staunch opposition from the
supporters of slavery. Not surprisingly, political movements formed reflecting
the opposing views, with measures like the Fugitive Slave Law (allowing slaves
who escaped to free States to be brought back into slavery), the Lecompton
Constitution (written by pro-slavery forces in Kansas), and the Dred Scott
decision (declaring that blacks were property and that Congress could not
restrict the spread of slavery) galvanizing the differences between the
Following a vote in Congress to extend slavery into the Northwestern Territory
in May, 1854, twenty House Members coalesced themselves into a group they titled
"The Republican Party."10 Its declared purpose was to support the
original anti-slavery principles of the federal government. The first Republican
Platform (1856) therefore declared:
Resolved. That with our Republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident
truth that all men are endowed with the inalienable right of life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness. . . . That, as our Republican fathers, when they had
abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that no person shall
be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, it
becomes our duty to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all
attempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing slavery.11
(Significantly, six of the nine planks in the original 1856 Republican
Platform condemned slavery or focused on securing equal civil rights for all.)
Offering Col. John C. Fremont as its first candidate for President, the
anti-slavery Republican Fremont lost to pro-slavery Democrat James Buchanan. Two
years later, in 1858, Republican Abraham Lincoln faced Democrat Stephen Douglas
in a race for U.S. Senate in Illinois. That campaign became famous for the
Lincoln-Douglas debates, with Democrat Stephen Douglas defending slavery and
Republican Abraham Lincoln opposing it. Although Lincoln lost that senatorial
election, two years later in 1860, he won the presidency against Douglas, and
for the first time Republicans became the prominent party in Congress. Under
Lincoln's leadership, the Republican vision of equality moved forward with the
Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, followed by subsequent civil rights bills
passed by the Republicans in Congress.
The Republican Platform of 1864 on which Lincoln was re-elected continued its
original opposition to slavery, even advocating a constitutional amendment to
abolish that evil:
Resolved, that as slavery was the cause and now constitutes the strength of this
rebellion, and as it must be always and everywhere hostile to the principles of
republican government, justice and the national safety demand its utter and
complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic, and that we uphold and
maintain the acts and proclamations by which the government, in its own defense,
has aimed a death-blow at this gigantic evil. We are in favor, furthermore, of
such an amendment to the Constitution, to be made by the people in conformity
with its provisions, as shall terminate and forever prohibit the existence of
slavery within the limits of the jurisdiction of the United States.12
That proposed amendment became reality when, as the Civil War was drawing to a
close in 1865, the Republicans enacted the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.
However, because Southern Democrats sought to evade the civil rights guarantees
intended by the 13th Amendment, Republicans subsequently passed the 14th and
15th Amendments guaranteeing civil rights and securing voting rights for all
African-Americans promptly joined themselves to the Republican Party that had
secured their freedom, for not only had Republicans fought for the rights of
blacks against Democrats but Republicans also offered blacks political
opportunities never before available to them. In fact, so strong was the black
affiliation with Republicans, that in many of the Southern States following the
Civil War, the State Congresses were dominated not only by Republicans but by
black Republicans. And numbers of black Republicans were elected to Congress.
In 1869, Hiram Rhodes Revels (1827-1901) from Mississippi became the first black
in Congress, holding the position of U.S. Senator, being elected as a Republican
to fill the Senate seat previously held by Confederate President Jefferson
Davis. Revels later served as the Secretary of State of Mississippi. He was an
ordained minister, serving both as a pastor and as a chaplain during the Civil
In 1869, Republican Joseph H. Rainey (1832-1887) from South Carolina became the
first black member of the U.S. House of Representatives.14
In 1870, Jefferson Franklin Long (1836-1901) from Georgia was elected to
Congress and was also a delegate to the Republican National Convention of
In 1871, John Mercer Langston (1829-1897) of Virginia was appointed by
Republican President U. S. Grant as a member of the Board of Health of D.C., and
in 1876, he was appointed by Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes as U.S.
Minister and Consul-General to Haiti. Langston also was a delegate to the
Republican National Conventions of 1876 and 1890, and was elected to Congress in
In 1873, Robert Smalls (1839-1915) of South Carolina was elected to Congress,
having previously served as a Republican member of the South Carolina House and
In 1871, Robert Brown Elliott (1842-1884) was elected to the U.S. House after
having served as Speaker of the House in South Carolina. Shortly after his
election, Elliot faced off in a debate over a civil rights bill against three
pro-slavery Democrats: Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia (the
Vice-President of the Confederacy elected as a Democrat to Congress after the
Civil War), James Beck of Kentucky (elected in 1867), and John Thomas Harris of
Virginia (elected in 1871).18 Following an attack by those three Democrats
against the civil rights bill, the Republican Elliot rose and responded:
Mr. Speaker . . . it is a matter of regret to me that it is necessary at this
day that I should rise in the presence of an American Congress to advocate a
bill which simply asserts rights and equal privileges for all classes of
American citizens. I regret, sir, that the dark hue of my skin may lend a color
to the imputation that I am controlled by motives personal to myself in my
advocacy of this great measure of natural justice. Sir, the motive that impels
me is restricted by no such narrow boundary but is as broad as the
Elliot then went on to recount how African-Americans had fought for America
during the Revolution, during the War of 1812, and during the recent Civil War.
He then concluded with this stiff rebuke against the Democrat Stephens:
He [Stephens] offers his government, which he has done his utmost to destroy, a
very poor return for its magnanimous treatment, to come here to seek to
continue, by the assertion of doctrines obnoxious to the true principles of our
government, the burdens and oppressions which rest upon five millions of his
countrymen [slaves] who never failed to lift their earnest prayers for the
success of this government when the gentleman [Stephens] was asking to break up
the Union of these States and to blot the American Republic from the galaxy of
The fact that, Elliot, a black, was such an accomplished and effective orator
incensed the Democrats. As the American Methodist Episcopal Church Review
Mr. Beck of Kentucky, and other Democratic members of the House who had felt the
force of Mr. Elliott's rhetoric to their discomfiture, could not deny the merit
of his speeches, so they denied his authorship of them. . . . The charge of
non-authorship was made by Democrats upon the general principle that the Negro,
of himself, could accomplish nothing of literary excellence.21
The Review also described Elliot's work among recently-freed slaves:
From county to county he traveled, teaching them the first lessons in
self-government. They sat as children at his feet and learned from his lips the
principles and deeds of the Republican party which had liberated them and their
children from cruel bondage and which was now to give them that silent but
potent motive power: the ballot - the safeguard and bulwark of American freedom.
. . . Thus early he won for himself their confidence, and for the Republican
party [their] love and devotion.22
There were many other notable black Republicans, including John Roy Lynch
(1847-1939) of Mississippi. In 1873, Lynch was elected to Congress and was also
a delegate to the Republican National Conventions of 1872, 1884, 1888, 1892, and
1900. In fact, Lynch presided over the 1884 National Republican Convention in
Chicago. (Interestingly, African-American Sen. Edward Brooke presided over the
National Republican Convention in 1968, as did African-American Congressman J.C.
Watts, Jr. in 2000. While three African-Americans have presided over Republican
National Conventions, only one African-American, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke in
1972, has made it as high as Vice-Chair - not even Co-Chair - of a Democratic
National Convention.) In 1889, Republican President Benjamin Harrison appointed
Lynch as Auditor of the Treasury for the Navy Department, and in 1901,
Republican President William McKinley appointed him Army Paymaster.23
In 1875, Blanche Kelso Bruce (1841-1898) of Mississippi was elected to the U.S.
Senate - the first black to serve a full term in the Senate. In 1881, he was
appointed by Republican President James A. Garfield as Registrar of the U.S.
In 1875, Charles Edmund Nash (1844-1913) of Louisiana was elected to Congress -
the first African-American to represent Louisiana in Congress.25
In 1889, Henry Plummer Cheatham (1857-1935) of North Carolina was elected to
Congress and also was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions of 1892
In 1890, Thomas Ezekiel Miller (1849-1938) of South Carolina was elected to
Congress, having previously served in the State House and Senate.27
In 1893, George Washington Murray (1853-1926) of South Carolina was elected to
Congress and also was a delegate to several Republican National Conventions.28
In 1966, Republican Edward William Brooke III (1919- ) of Massachusetts became
the first black to be elected to the U.S. Senate after the 17th Amendment
(providing for the direct election of Senators rather than their appointment by
State legislatures), thus making him the first black ever elected to the Senate
by popular vote.29
There are many more black Republican officeholders worthy of mention, one of
whom is the Hon. Pinckney Benton Stuart Pinchback who, in 1872, served as
Governor of Louisiana, becoming the first black Governor of any State.30
Additionally, the first black presidential electors were Republicans and
included Robert Meacham, B.F. Randolph, Stephen Swails, and Alonzo Ransier. In
fact, black Republican James H. Harris was part of the committee which in 1868
informed U.S. Grant of his nomination for President.31
There are many other examples of how blacks achieved numerous political firsts
within the Republican Party; and so great were the gains of blacks in the
Republican Party that in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan was formed to battle both
Republicans and blacks with the declared purpose of breaking down the Republican
government and paving the way for Democrats to regain control in the
elections.32 As a result, blacks were terrorized by murders and public floggings
(relief was granted only if blacks promised not to vote for Republican tickets,
and violations of this oath were punished by death), and Republican officials
were attacked both at home and at the office. In fact, in 1866, Democrats, in
conjunction with the mayor and the city police, attacked a Republican Convention
of blacks and whites in New Orleans where they killed 40 and wounded 150.33
In historical retrospect, the story of the Republican Party is largely of their
opposition to slavery and racism while that of the Democratic Party is largely
of their support for it. Similarly, African Americans made their most
significant political and civil rights progress while affiliated with the
In fact, in the history of Congress, 105 black Americans have been elected - 101
to the House and 4 to the Senate; and of the 4 blacks elected to the Senate, 3
have been Republicans (the lone Democrat was Carol Mosley-Braun, elected in 1992
and defeated in 1998). And even today in 2001, there are 39 black Members of
Congress: one Republican and thirty-eight Democrats. The black Republican (one
of 271 combined Republicans in the House and the Senate) was elected by his
Republican peers to a position of Republican leadership in this Congress; but of
the thirty-eight black Democrats (from among the 262 combined Democrats in the
House and the Senate), none was elected by his Democratic peers to any
AL GORE, GEORGE BUSH, AND THE THREE-FIFTHS CLAUSE
Judicial appointments were an issue during Presidential Campaign 2000. Bush
promised to appoint "strict constructionists" who would support the
wording of the Constitution rather than rewrite it, while Gore promised to
appoint judges who viewed the Constitution as a living, organic document,
reflecting the philosophy set forth by Supreme Court Chief-Justice Charles Evans
Hughes who declared, "We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is
what the judges say it is."35
Gore, trying to capitalize on the differences in their philosophies, and
exploiting America's historical illiteracy, repeatedly warned black voters:
When my opponent, Governor Bush, says he'll appoint strict constructionists to
the Supreme Count, I often think of the strictly constructed meaning that was
applied when the Constitution was written - how some people (slaves) were
considered three-fifths of a human being.36
According to Gore, Bush apparently would appoint racist Justices to the Supreme
Court. This is based on Gore's belief that the three-fifths clause of the
Constitution was a pro-slavery provision - a provision declaring blacks to be
only three-fifths of a person. Significantly, however, the three-fifths clause
was not a pro-slavery clause, and it did not relate to human worth; rather, it
was an anti-slavery apportionment provision designed to limit pro-slavery
Southern representation in Congress.
The Constitution allowed one Representative to Congress for each 30,000
inhabitants in a State. Since slaves accounted for more than half the population
in some Southern States, slave-owners in the South therefore wanted to count
slaves as if they were free inhabitants, thus potentially doubling the number of
their pro-slavery representatives to Congress. The abolitionists from the North
strenuously objected to counting the slaves, knowing that the fewer the
pro-slavery representatives in Congress, the sooner slavery could be eradicated.
Interestingly, the anti-slavery Founding Fathers, in debating this
representation question, actually used many of the South's own arguments against
them. One such example was that of William Paterson of New Jersey, a signer of
the Constitution later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President George
Washington. Adopting the Southern arguments that slaves were property, Paterson
argued that since "Negro slaves. . . . are no free agents, have no personal
liberty, no faculty of acquiring property, but on the contrary, are themselves
property, and like other property, entirely at the will of the master,"
then those slaves should not be used to calculate representation to Congress
because, according to "the true principles of representation,"
legislative assemblies were the result of citizens sending representatives as
their "substitutes."37 Since slaves could not attend a meeting of
citizens or send a substitute in their stead, they therefore should not be used
to allow slave-owners to gain more representatives to Congress.
Further exploiting the absurdity of the Southern reasoning, other anti-slavery
Founders argued that if slaves were nothing more than property but still were to
be counted for the purpose of congressional representation, then livestock in
the North should also be included as the basis of calculating Northern
representation. For example, according to the records of the Constitutional
Mr. [Elbridge] Gerry [signer of the Declaration from Massachusetts] thought
property not the rule of representation. Why then should the blacks, who were
property in the South, be in the rule of representation more than the cattle and
horses of the North?38
James Wilson of Pennsylvania, a signer both of the Declaration and the
Are they [slaves] admitted as citizens? Then why are they not admitted on an
equality with white citizens? Are they [slaves] admitted as property? Then why
is not other property admitted into computation?39
The anti-slavery leaders fully wanted Free Blacks to be counted, but not slaves,
since counting slaves would increase the influence of slave-owners. Furthermore,
Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a
co-founder with Benjamin Franklin of America's first abolition society, argued
that if only Free Blacks were counted, it would have the "excellent effect
of inducing the colonies to discourage slavery and to encourage the increase of
their free inhabitants."40
When the issue finally came to a vote at the Constitutional Convention,
slave-owners proposed that slaves be counted as full persons for purposes of
representation. The motion lost, with only the most strident slave-owning States
supporting the measure.41 With it clear that slaves would not be used as the
means of doubling Southern representation, Benjamin Harrison, a slave-owner in
Virginia, proposed a compromise, suggesting that two slaves be counted as one
freeman.42 The slave States, however, rejected this proposal, wanting all slaves
fully counted.43 The final compromise was that only sixty percent - that is,
three-fifths - of slaves would be counted to calculate the number of Southern
representatives to Congress.44
Yet, even though this measure reduced the number of slave-holding
representatives to Congress, it was still seen as unfair by many in the North.
In fact, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution objecting to the
three-fifths clause because, in slave-holding States, "a planter possessing
fifty slaves may be considered as having thirty votes, while a farmer of
Massachusetts, having equal or greater property, is confined to a single
vote."45 Clearly, the three-fifths clause was only a ratio used to
calculate the amount of representation and had nothing to do with the worth of
Based, therefore, on the self-evident historical records, two prominent
professors summarize the meaning of the three-fifths clause:
[T]he Constitution allowed Southern States to count three-fifths of their slaves
toward the population that would determine numbers of representatives in the
federal legislature. This clause is often singled out today as a sign of black
dehumanization: they are only three-fifths human. But the provision applied to
slaves, not blacks. That meant that free blacks - and there were many, North as
well as South - counted the same as whites. More important, the fact that slaves
were counted at all was a concession to slave owners. Southerners would have
been glad to count their slaves as whole persons. It was the Northerners who did
not want them counted, for why should the South be rewarded with more
representatives, the more slaves they held? Thomas West, Professor of Politics
It was slavery's opponents who succeeded in restricting the political power of
the South by allowing them to count only three-fifths of their slave population
in determining the number of congressional representatives. The three-fifths of
a vote provision applied only to slaves, not to free blacks in either the North
or South. Walter Williams, African-American Professor47
Many of today's leaders, both black and white, tend to misrepresent the meaning
of the three-fifths clause. Al Gore's invoking the three-fifths clause against
George Bush is proof of this fact, and even Jesse Jackson makes the same
uninformed claim. In the Shadow Convention of Los Angeles in August, 2000,
Jackson complained: "There was a lot of talk a few weeks ago [at the
Republican National Convention in Philadelphia] about the Constitutional
Convention in Philadelphia. In that Constitution. . . . African-Americans were
considered three-fifths of a human being."48
Those who make this claim would profit from a study of Frederick Douglass, the
great black leader and abolitionist. Douglass said that after his escape from
slavery, he initially believed (like Gore and Jackson) that the Constitution was
pro-slavery. As he explained:
Brought directly, when I escaped from slavery, into contact with a class of
abolitionists regarding the Constitution as a slaveholding instrument . . . it
is not strange that I assumed the Constitution to be just what their
interpretation made it.49
However, when Douglass became a writer and a spokesman for the abolition
movement, he found that accuracy and truth were important, and so, as he
My new circumstances compelled me to re-think the whole subject, and to study,
with some care. . . . By such a course of thought and reading, I was conducted
to the conclusion that the Constitution of the United States50 . . . not only
contained no guarantees in favor of slavery, but, on the contrary, was in its
letter and spirit an anti-slavery instrument.51
How could Douglass say this? Had he not read the three-fifths clause? Yes, he
had; and based on his own study of the facts, Douglass learned to praise the
three-fifths clause as an anti-slavery provision. Gore, Jackson, and others
could learn an accurate view of history and the Constitution from the example of
great black leaders like Frederick Douglass!
AL GORE, GEORGE BUSH, AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS AND VOTING RIGHTS ACTS OF THE
When blacks were interviewed following Election 2000, many explained that they
had supported Gore for fear that if Bush were elected President, he would take
away the right of blacks to vote - a charge circulated by Gore supporters. The
basis for this charge is the fact that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will be up
for renewal under the next President, and - according to current folklore -
Republicans are racists who oppose civil rights; why - as the argument goes -
they even opposed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s and
certainly would continue to oppose them today! Actually, historical facts prove
just the opposite.
The first civil rights act was that of 1866, passed by Republicans in Congress,
making it illegal to deprive a person of civil rights because of race, color, or
previous servitude. Subsequent civil rights laws were passed by Republicans in
1870, 1871, and 1875 to allow the national government in Washington, D.C. to
protect black Americans from white-dominated Democrat Southern State
governments. However, it was nearly a century later before similar additional
civil rights laws were passed.
Why the delay? As explained by Professor Robert D. Lovey, author of A Brief
History of Civil Rights in the United States of America, "the
nationalization of black civil rights came to a complete end in 1892 when the
Democrats gained control of the presidency and both houses of Congress for the
first time since the Civil War. By 1894, this Democratic Congress had succeeded
in repealing most of the civil rights laws that had been enacted during the
post-Civil War period, most importantly the provisions that had to do with
voting rights. This wholesale removal of protections left the black citizen in
the South almost completely at the mercy of Southern State governments, and the
result was a rash of State laws protecting the right of white citizens to
segregate themselves from black citizens in many aspects of social and political
African-Americans, therefore, being the victims of Democratic-sponsored racism
and segregation, continued their loyalty to Republicans well into the 20th
century. In fact, in the 1932 presidential election, incumbent Republican
President Herbert Hoover received more than three-fourths of the black vote over
his Democratic challenger Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Roosevelt, however, won the election; but because civil rights bills were widely
opposed by Southern Democrats, and because Southern Democrats had been a key
constituency in his victories, Roosevelt chose not to introduce civil rights
bills. He did use executive orders to help further some civil rights, and he
also established a Civil Rights Section in the Justice Department; he even
directed much of the spending of the "New Deal" programs toward
blacks. As a result, black voters slowly began to switch from the Republicans to
the Democrats. As one civil rights historian explains, "In the years
following the New Deal, the Democratic Party found it best to win black votes
with economic benefits rather than by advancing the cause of black civil
Following President Roosevelt, Democrat President Harry S. Truman did propose a
civil rights bill, but it was not passed; and its introduction effectively
ruined Truman's relationship with Southern Democrats in Congress.
Even though Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower knew that it would be
difficult to change the Southern Democrat's belief in racial segregation, he
determined to eliminate racial discrimination in all areas under his authority.
He therefore issued executive orders halting segregation practices in the
District of Columbia, in the military, and in the federal bureaucracy.
Furthermore, Eisenhower was the first president to appoint a black, Frederic
Morrow, to an executive position on the White House staff. Eisenhower
consequently received significant support from black voters in his reelection to
the presidency in 1956. In 1960, he introduced a civil rights bill, but it was
promptly blocked by the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Although a Republican Senator and the Republican Attorney General proposed
compromise language, it, too, was rejected by the Democrats.54
When Democratic President John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, he was less
willing than Eisenhower to utilize executive orders to promote civil rights. In
fact, Kennedy delayed for more than a year the signing of an executive order to
integrate public housing. But following the violent racial discord in Birmingham
in 1963, Kennedy finally sent a major civil rights bill to Congress and then
aggressively worked for its passage, but was assassinated before he could see
its success. To achieve passage of the measure, Democrat successor Lyndon
Johnson resurrected the compromise language proposed by Republicans under
Eisenhower in 1960, thus breaking a Southern Democratic filibuster of the civil
rights bill and allowing Johnson to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.55
While these two important civil rights acts were signed into law under a
Democratic President, it was the Republicans in Congress who made possible the
passage of these Acts, for even though the Democrats controlled both Houses by
wide margins, they still could not garner enough of their own votes to pass the
bills. In fact, in the House, only 61% of the Democrats voted for the Civil
Rights Act (152 for, 96 against) while 80% of Republicans voted for it (138 for,
38 against).56 In the Senate, only 69% of Democrats voted for the Act (46 for,
21 against) while 82% of Republicans did (27 for, 6 against).57 The passage of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would not have
been possible without the strong, cohesive support of the Republicans. In fact,
all Southern Democrats voted against the Civil Rights Act, including Sen. Al
Gore, Sr., who voted with the Southern Democrats against civil rights whenever
the occasion arose.58
One other important civil rights note is that after the Democrats regained
control of the federal and of many State governments in the 1880s and 1890s,
they instituted what became known as "white primaries" to keep blacks
from being placed on the ballot.59 Democrats also developed poll taxes to keep
blacks from voting because, according to prominent Democrat leader A.W. Terrell,
the 15th Amendment guaranteeing black voting rights was "the political
blunder of the century."60
As confirmed by Encyclopaedia Britannica, "the Democrats amended their
State constitutions or drafted new ones to include various disfranchising
devices. When payment of the poll tax was made a prerequisite to voting,
impoverished blacks and often poor whites, unable to afford the tax, were denied
the right to vote."61 How effective were the Democratic poll taxes in
keeping blacks from voting? In Texas alone, 100,000 blacks had voted before the
poll tax was instituted but only 5,000 afterwards.62
While an attempt was made in 1943 in Congress to repeal the poll tax instituted
by Southern Democrats, the repeal failed, with the floor of Congress becoming
the site of ugly racist rhetoric.63 It was not until 1966 that the poll tax was
ended, and it had only been in 1944 that the "white primaries" had
Significantly, it was not Democrats, but the Republicans, who had long
championed the repeal of the poll tax. In fact, as early as 1896, the Republican
We demand that every citizen of the United States shall be allowed to cast one
free and unrestricted ballot, and that such ballot shall be counted and returned
Clearly, then, the charge that Republicans in general, and George Bush in
particular, would not extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is completely without
any factual basis and relies solely on historical revisionism.
Yet, despite the unequivocal (but often unknown) records of history, today's
blacks often hold an opposite view. As African-American professor Ronald Walters
explains in Black Oklahoma Today:
[Blacks] vote their interests and when it appears that a person or party doesn't
particularly like them, they will take their business elsewhere. The
"elsewhere" for blacks has generally been with Democrats, largely
because of the feeling that, even though Democrats have also done them wrong,
they feel that Democrats are less prone to be racist than Republicans.65
However, as black media personality R.D. Davis of Alabama correctly observes,
"History tends to unilaterally and falsely depict Republicans as racists
when Southern Democrats truly deserved this title."66
FAMILY VALUES, BLACKS, AND PARTY POLITICS
The history of blacks in the American political process shows that blacks were
originally drawn to the Republican Party for its values and made their greatest
strides in civil rights and elected representation under the Republican Party,
but by economic allurements begun under President Roosevelt, were finally
enticed to join the Democratic Party. Notwithstanding their change in party
affiliation, the current values of African-Americans not only are generally more
conservative than those of whites but are still best represented by the
Republican rather than the Democratic Party. For example, recent polls
demonstrate that blacks:
- oppose the legalization of marijuana by a margin of 75% to 21% (while whites
oppose it by a margin of 73% to 24%);
- support English as the official language by 84% to 15% (whites by 82% to
- support a constitutional amendment to return prayer to schools by 80% to 17%
(whites 71% to 26%);
- oppose same-sex marriages by 71% to 23% (whites 66% to 29%);
- support educational choice by 73% to 24% (whites 57% to 39%);
- support charitable choice by 74% to 24% (whites 51% to 46%); and
- support a flat tax by 51% to 24% (whites 52% to 44%).67
- support the death penalty by 64% to 31% and
- support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution by 75% to 24%.68
Ironically, the Democratic Party - as demonstrated both by its platform and by
its voting record in Congress - not only opposes school prayer, educational
choice, a flat tax, charitable choice, and a balanced budget amendment to the
Constitution but also supports same-sex marriages - all positions opposite to
those held by most blacks.
While African-Americans currently have more in common with Republicans than with
Democrats, it has been a lack of knowledge of the political history of
African-Americans that has allowed the current fallacious misportrayals to be
accepted - a fact made clear during Presidential Election 2000.
In short, an historical review of black involvement in the political process
demonstrates that: (1) African-Americans made their greatest political
advancements in the Republican Party (in fact, while Democrats have talked the
talk, Republicans have walked the walk); (2) the three-fifths clause was not a
racist, pro-slavery provision in the Constitution but rather was an abolition
part of the Constitution; (3) the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the
1960s were the product of Republicans, not Democrats, and therefore were not in
danger from Republicans in this election; and (4) black values generally
continue to be conservative and are best reflected by the values expressed in
the Republican rather than the Democratic platform.
Even though it was Democrats who actually committed the racial injustices of
which they accuse Republicans, many today believe just the opposite, thus
affirming a statement attributed to William James (the father of modern
There is nothing so absurd but if you repeat it often enough, people will
Now, more than ever, President Woodrow Wilson's declaration is true:
A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is
today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do
not know where we came from or what we have been about.69
[For more information on the struggle for African American
Civil Rights see our Setting the Record Straight resource (in DVD,
format); we have also cataloged our Black History resources here]
1. William J. Federer, America's God and Country, Encyclopedia of Quotations
(FAME Pub., Inc., 1996), p. 697.
2. MSNBC Presidential Exit Polls, Nov. 7, 2000.
3. George M. Stroud, Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery in the Several States
of the United States of America, (Philadelphia: Henry Longstreth, 1856), pp.
171-177. The difference in the treatment of African American and white criminals
pertains more to a distinction made between slaves and free blacks than it does
to color. In Virginia, 52 out of 68 crimes are treated identically between black
and white offenders. These sixteen laws either deal with breaking and entering
or sex offenders. In fact, only seven laws for Breaking and Entering treat
blacks differently than whites, and the differences in these cases are slight.
Likewise, nine laws pertaining to sex offenders only vary in the case of an
4. Robert Ernst, Rufus King, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
1968), p. 369; See also Biographical Directory of the American Congress
1774-1927 (USGPO, 1928), s. v. "King, Rufus."
5. Robert Ernst, p. 369.
6. George Adams Boyd, Elias Boudinot: Patriot and Statesman 1740-1821, (New
Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1952), p. 290.
7. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States
(Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1856), Vol. X, pp. 385-386, letter to Thomas
Jefferson on December 18, 1819.
8. Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Lipscomb, editor
(Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XV, pp.
248-250, letter to John Holmes on April 22, 1820.
9. Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor
(New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1905), Vol. XII, p. 157, letter to Hugh Nelson
on February 7, 1820.
10. Eugene V. Smalley, A Brief History of the Republican Party, From its
Organization to the Presidential Campaign of 1884 (New York: John R. Allen,
1885), pp. 25-27.
11. Republican Campaign Edition for the Million Containing the Republican
Platform (Boston: John P. Jewett and Co., 1856), p. 4.
12. Smalley, A Brief History of the Republican Party, pp. 86-87.
13. Biographical Directory, s. v. "Revels, Hiram Rhodes."
14. Id. s. v. "Rainey, Joseph Hayne."
15. Id. s. v. "Long, Jefferson Franklin."
16. Id. s. v. "Langston, John Mercer."
17. Id. s. v. "Smalls, Robert."
18. Edward A. Johnson, A School History of the Negro Race in American from 1619
to 1890 (Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton, 1891), p. 170.
20. Carter G. Woodson, Negro Orators and Their Orations (Washington, D.C.: The
Associated Pub., Inc., 1925), p. 323.
21. African Methodist Episcopal Church Review (Ohio: Theophilus J. Minton) April,
1892, Vol. VIII, No. IV, p. 369, from an Article on Robert Brown Elliot.
22. Id. p. 364.
23. Biographical Directory, s. v. "Lynch, John Roy."
24. Id. s. v. "Bruce, Blanche Kelso"
25. Id. s. v. "Nash, Charles Edmund."
26. Id. s. v. "Cheatham, Henry Plummer."
27. Id. s. v. "Miller, Thomas Ezekiel."
28. Id. s. v. "Murray, George Washington."
29. "Brooke, Edward William III," [http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=B000871]
30. Louisiana's African American Heritage [http://www.crt.state.a.us/crt/ocagno.htm]
31. Black Facts Online [http://www.blackfacts.com/Factdisplay.asp?ID=1029]
32. Smalley, pp. 48-50.
33. Black Facts: July30, 1866; See also "The New Orleans Massacre,"
Harper's Weekly, March 30, 1862, p. 202.
34. Congressional Black Caucus 103rd Congress 93-94 Guide [http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Govern_Political/CBC_Guide.html]
35. Charles Evans Hughes, The Autobiographical Notes of Charles Evans Hughes,
David J. Danelski and Joseph S. Tulchin, editors (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 144.
36. Sanfra Sobieraj, "Gore says to 'Take souls to polls,'" The Advocate
(November 5, 2000).
37. Donald L. Robinson, Slavery in the Structure of American Politics, 1765-1820
(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), p. 192.
38 The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, editor (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, p. 201.
39. James Madison, The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Which Framed the
Constitution of the United States of America, Gaillart Hint and James Brown
Scott, editors (New York: Oxford University Press, 1920), p. 239.
40. Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-1789 (Washington, D.C.: 1906),
41. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Vol. I p. 581.
42. Jefferson Papers, Vol. I, p. 47.
43. The Records of the Federal Convention, Vol. I, p. 596.
44. Id, p. 597.
45. Anti-Slavery 1804 Broadsheet, Vol I. (Boston: June 22, 1804)
46. Principles: A Quarterly Review for Teachers of History and Social Science
(Claremont, CA: The Claremont Institute Spring/Summer 1992), Thomas G. West,
"Was the American Founding Unjust? The Case of Slavery," p. 5.
47. Walter E. Williams, "Some Fathers Fought Slavery," Creators
Syndicate, Inc., May 26, 1993.
48. Jesse Jackson in a speech to the Shadow Convention in Los Angeles, August
13th to 17th, 2000 [http://www.shadowconventions.com/losangeles/index.html]
49. Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, (Orton & Mulligan: New
York, 1855), p. 392.
51. Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, (New York: Collier
Books, reprint 1893 of an 1888 original), p. 705.
52. Dr. Loevy, A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States of America,
p. 2. [http://www.coloradocollege.edu/Dept/PS/faculty/loevy/civil%20rights.html]
53. Id. p. 5.
54. Id. pp. 7-10.
55. Id. pp. 14-16.
56. R.D. Davis, Blacks "Gored" By a Lie: Al Gore Sr., the GOP and the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, (Washington, D.C.: The National Center for Public
Policy Research, May 1999), p. 1.
58. Id. p. 3.
59 Loevy, p. 2.
60. Mike Kingston, Sam Attlesey, & Mary G. Crawford, The Texas Almanac's
Political History of Texas (Austin, Texas: EAKIN Press, 1992), p. 186.
61. Encyclopedia Britannica, s. v. "Poll tax."
62. Kingston, et al., p. 186.
63. Encyclopedia Britannica, s. v. "Poll tax."
64. Thomas Hudson McKee, The National Conventions and Platforms of All Political
Parties1789 to 1905, Convention, Popular and Electoral Vote (New York: Burt
Franklin, reprint 1971 of a 1906 original), p. 304.
65. Dr. Ronald Walters, "Raw Republican Racism," Black Oklahoma Today,
October 25, 1999.
66. Davis, p. 2.
67. Clark Kent Ervin, "Majority of Blacks are Conservative," MSNBC
69. Federer, p. 697.
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