Republicans freed the slaves so why do African Americans vote Democrat?

Republicans freed the slaves so why do African Americans vote Democrat


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Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Slaves laboring in cotton fields before the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party was founded by abolitionists and he earned the accolade of being the Great Emancipator. It’s true that Lincoln’s primary goal in the Civil War was to preserve the Union, with ending slavery second. But he ended up doing both, and when the war was over, freed slaves flocked to the Republican Party because it championed their cause.

Meanwhile, Southerners—mostly Democrats — smarting over their defeat began giving birth to secret vigilante organizations to harass the newly freed blacks and maintain white supremacy. Southern Democrats for almost a century continued to deny rights to blacks — not even allowing them to attend the Democratic convention until 1924.

Yet today, about 85 percent of African-Americans vote Democrat. How did that happen?

With the Civil War ended and the slaves freed, Americans should have been jubilant and working to reunite the nation. But then Lincoln was assassinated and the Republicans split into two factions, and the road to Reconstruction was suddenly paved with turmoil.

Radical Republicans demanded equal rights for blacks, but sought harsh penalties against the South for the war — including punishing southern leaders and disallowing them to hold public office. Freed African-Americans were elated but Southern whites enraged. Peace wouldn’t come easily.

Radicals started work on a Civil Rights Bill, while the newly established Freedman’s Bureau defended the freed slaves’ rights.

Then President Johnson alienated hard-liners by favoring leniency towards the South, but upset the free blacks by refusing to extend the life of the new Freedman Bureau, claiming it bloated the size of government. He followed that blunder with opposing equal property ownerships rights for blacks, and then vetoing the new Civil Right Bill. Enraged Republican moderates joined the radicals and overrode the veto.

Then Congress went to work on the 14th Amendment which they approved in 1867. The amendment prohibited “states from abridging equality before the law.” Part two warned that if this was not enforced and the freed slaves allowed to vote, offending states would lose congressional representation.

And a third clause barred ex-Confederates from holding state or national office.

Republicans did succeed in helping blacks gain a voice in government for the first time — even in winning election to southern state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

But in the South, defeat was not accepted graciously. Sinister groups like the White League, the Red Shirts, Ku Klux Klan and other secret societies fought back with deadly violence to wipe out the gains and restore white supremacy in the South. Within 10 years, Democrats had purged Republicans from public office in the South, regaining political power and white supremacy.

The vigilantes operated as “the military arm of the Democratic Party,” according to historian George C. Rable in his book, “But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction.”

“Black Codes” were enacted by southern states to override new civil rights for blacks and to ensure their continued availability as a labor force. Northerners were outraged and stopped supporting Johnson’s Reconstruction policies — which the Radical Republicans took over.

During those times, according to History Channel, “the Republican Party in the South (became) a coalition of blacks — who made up the overwhelming majority of Republican voters in the region — along with ‘carpetbaggers’ and ‘scalawags,’ as white Republicans from the North and South, respectively, were known.”

In post-Civil War Idaho, North-South bitterness continued. During the war, Idaho sentiments were strongly pro-Confederate and clashes with pro-Union sympathizers were frequent. The bitterness continued during Reconstruction. David W. Ballard the new Idaho governor and many federally appointed officials were Radical Republicans, while the territory’s legislature was overwhelmingly Democratic and pro-South.

It wasn’t until the Great Depression that blacks made the big shift to the Democratic Party, when FDR ushered in the New Deal that was designed to help the disadvantaged find jobs. It resulted in 71 percent voting support for Democrats by African-Americans — many previously Republican. After FDR, President Truman added to the demographic shift by ending segregation in the military, and issuing other executive orders affecting racial discrimination.

The 1960s era of civil rights demonstrations — led by black leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. — with considerable white support from both Democrats and Republicans began to put muscle into a string of earlier civil rights laws that were long ignored.

Meanwhile, Nixon managed to swing politics in the South from Democrat to Republican, while the Northeast was headed Democratic. But Watergate threw the GOP into despair, recovering only with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980s, followed by the “Gingrich Revolution.” Since then, voter affiliation among whites has fluctuated, but the African-American vote has remained the unwavering bedrock of the Democratic Party.

Barack Obama’s appearance on the scene swelled black enrollment in the Democratic Party. In both Obama election campaigns, charges of widespread election fraud and intimidation were reported. Republicans raced to establish voter ID rules, which Democrats were swift to denounce.

DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz scolded GOP governors meeting about voter ID in 2011, claiming that Republicans “drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally and very transparently block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republican candidates.”

With President Obama winning reelection with 96 percent black voter support, Republicans know that attracting black voters is a tough assignment, but they remain optimistic.

“Everyone has a story to tell and it’s up to me and other people in the party to tell our story,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told a convention of black journalists.

Meanwhile, more and more black leaders are finding a home with the Republicans. Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson did not receive many votes, but his calm dignity and good humor won many admirers across the spectrum.

He’s joined in GOP circles by other high-profile African-Americans leaders and intellectuals like Hoover Institution’s Thomas Sowell, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Florida Congressman Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, among others.

Voice of America says Democrats believe that the federal government should have a big role in solving the nation’s problems, while Republicans want government to stay out of many aspects of American life — and that its overall role should shrink.

Republican Michael Huffington who served in the Reagan Administration and as a U.S. congressman echoes that sentiment: “I think we have a great opportunity in America to go forward, not backwards, but we have got to dismantle the federal welfare system. We have got to dismantle the federal government in areas where it should not be,” and sees its role in national defense.

“I think it’s very important that they help us in our infrastructure in putting in highways and airports, but when it comes to education and welfare, that’s something that should be done at the local level by local government and it should be done by us, the people of the United States of America. That’s our opportunity.”

Not all blacks support the African-American political agenda. Critics like black church leader C.L. Bryant, a former NAACP chapter president, and self-proclaimed liberal who once supported Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson now believes Democrats today have kept African-Americans in bondage by encouraging dependency on government handouts — welfare, food stamps and other “safety net” programs — and have fanned the flames of discontent by blaming black community woes on whites and “extremist” Republicans.

He calls for a new “Underground Railroad” to liberate blacks from government entitlement programs that he says keep them perpetually dependent, and urges them to take advantage of freedoms and opportunities already won, and stop believing they are victims of oppression and injustice.

He says blacks “have not realized that we as a people have evolved, like every other ethnic group that came to this country. Even though ours was very much involuntary, we still were brought to these shores and we have been emancipated here in America. And we now have the same opportunities as anyone else.”

As the next presidential Election Day nears, Democrats continue to portray themselves as champions of minorities and the oppressed, while Republicans claim that they are the real tide that will raise all ships.

Syd Albright is a writer and journalist living in Post Falls. Contact him at Thanks to historian Robert Singletary for information verification.

A better America…

“If we have a challenge today, it’s to go out there and help one person outside our family, either with money or love or help in getting them a job or helping them get a better education. If we all did that, if each one of us who have something helped someone else, it will be a great, great country for our children.”

— Michael Huffington

Frederick Douglass…

Former slave and great American orator Frederick Douglass said, “A man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.” For African-Americans, it took more than a century after the Civil War for those words to become reality.

14th Amendment today…

Since the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1867, its original intent has been expanded into other areas since then, causing much controversy. Apart from granting citizenship and civil right protection to blacks, judicial activist today use the 14th Amendment as a springboard for issues not considered in the 1860s—such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and “anchor babies” and their entitlement to “a cornucopia of welfare benefits.”

Founding of the KKK…

The Ku Klux Klan was originally an arm of the Southern Democratic Party. Its mission was to terrorize freed slaves and Republicans who sympathized with them. An estimated 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites died at the end of KKK ropes from 1882 to 1964.

— American Experience, PBS

— David Barton, “Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White”

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875)

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Black soldiers fighting with Union Army during Civil War in Virginia.

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Arab slave traders and their captives in today’s Tanzania and Mozambique (19th-century engraving).

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), former slave turned protector of African-American civil rights.

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Idaho Territorial Gov. David W. Ballard (1824-1883) was caught in post-Civil War strife between Idaho’s North and South sympathizers.

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Martin Luther King Jr. at March on Washington freedom rally in 1963.

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

Republicans freed the slaves, so why do African-Americans vote Democrat?

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus

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