Over the years people have asked me why the Republican Party has been branded as racist. Why is it that blacks vote well over ninety percent of the time for a Party that has been so hostile to people of color. The reasons are somewhat complicated but I would like to take a shot at answering this question. The Democratic Party has had a long racist history. It was for many years the Party that devised various schemes and compromises to preserve the institution of slavery. There had always been a coalition of northern and southern Democrats. They negotiated the Missouri Compromise. The Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Then there was a last minute attempt to avert Civil War by attempting to pass the 13th Amendment which would have preserved slavery for all time. This attempt fell through. There was the political strategy of Martin Van Buren, who was a New Yorker. He engineered a strategy to elect northern Democratic presidents with pro southern attitudes. Chief Justice Roger Taney, another Democrat tried to solve the slavery question by ruling against Dred Scott and stating that a black man had no rights that a white man was bound to honor.
Andrew Jackson defied the Supreme Court by sending the five civilized tribes of the southeast out to Indian Territory, which later became Oklahoma, on the "Trail Of Tears".
After the Civil War, during Reconstruction, it was the Democratic Party that tried to re-enslave blacks by passing 'black codes" in many southern states. The Ku Klux Klan was established to terrorize blacks and to keep them away from the polls because they knew that they would vote Republican after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Reconstruction failed due to resistance by the "Party of the White Man" as the Democratic Party was called. When Northern weariness set in after the attempt to impose Reconstruction on the South another compromise was crafted called the Compromise of 1877. Samuel Tilden, a northern Democrat lost the presidential election of 1876. in a close and contested election. It was one of the closest elections in American History. Tilden won the popular vote and the electoral votes of several southern states were given to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for ending Reconstruction and removing Northern soldiers. This compromise left blacks at the mercy of their former owners and overseers that would, eventually in the late 1800's, pass "Jim Crow" laws that would virtually re-enslave blacks, making them second class citizens until the 1960's when the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts were passed.
Blacks were generally treated badly in the North and South but they were hired to work in Federal Civil Service jobs. Then when the Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected he fired blacks throughout the Federal Government. A very good friend wrote a book called the "Klansman" which was later turned into a very popular movie in 1915. The movie glorified the Ku Klux Klan and demonized black people. The Klan had been formally disbanded after the war and this movie caused a re-birth of the Klan. Wilson praised the book and the movie. The Klan enjoyed it's largest membership ever nationwide during the 1920's especially in Indiana. The Klan expanded it's hatred of black people to include Jews and Catholics. This rebirth also began the practice of cross burning when a cross was set on fire on the top of Stone Mountain Georgia in 1915. Then at the outbreak of World War II Franklin Roosevelt pushed for the deportation of Americans of Japanese descent from the west coast to be placed in concentration camps. Blacks generally were loyal to the Republican Party because it was the party of Lincoln and Reconstruction which gave them a brief period after the Civil War when they could vote, and run for political office in the south. This support for the Republicans began to suffer in the early 1900's when black soldiers were falsely accused of killing a sheriff deputy and wounding a bartender in Brownsville Texas. Theodore Roosevelt, as many politicians are prone to do, dishonorably discharged these soldiers rather than risk any political support he had in the South.
When Franklin Roosevelt was elected the New Deal benefited poor blacks and whites in the South. Although Roosevelt supported Southern segregationist politicians and policies Eleanor Roosevelt was openly an opponent of segregation and was very popular with black people in general. In 1948 Harry Truman who regularly used racial slurs and nearly joined the Klan himself as a young man was a fair minded man and pushed for a Civil Rights platform at the 1948 Democratic Convention. He also integrated the armed forces by executive order. This prompted Southern Democrats to break away from the Party and form the Dixiecrat Party running Strom Thurmond as their candidate. The use of the Confederate battle flag by the Dixiecrat Party is what gave the flag it's racist reputation. Then in 1960 during the presidential election between Kennedy and Nixon Martin Luther King was arrested for a minor traffic violation in Georgia. He was sent to the Georgia State Prison and placed among the general prison population. It was feared that he might be harmed. Kennedy was inclined not to get involved because he didn't want to alienate his Southern Democratic support. He was persuaded by members of his staff to at least call Corretta Scott King and convey his sympathy and support for her. Robert Kennedy supposedly called the sentencing judge persuading him to reverse his decision, which he did. There is evidence that the judge reversed his own decision and the call was never made. Ironically Nixon had a history of being very open-minded on race and was a life-long member of the N.A.A.C.P. Like Kennedy initially he didn't want to get involved for fear of losing any support he might have in the South. The word got out through the grapevine, especially in the black churches about Kennedy's call to Mrs. King and the bulk of those voters, especially in the North voted for Kennedy. Since the election was so close these votes had a great impact on deciding the election for Kennedy. Martin Luther King Sr. had been a lifelong Republican and changed over to the Democratic Party.
Upon the death of Kennedy most blacks thought that Lyndon Johnson was a segregationist. He had consistently voted with them over the years. Johnson was arguably the most powerful Congressman in American History and he was able to water down the 1957 Civil Rights Act. In retrospect it appears that he watered it down so there would at least be a Civil Rights Bill passed in 1957. If it had not been watered down segregationists would have defeated it. The most important thing to come out of it was that it gave black people the right to vote with the support of the Federal Government. Republicans in the House voted 167 to 19 for the bill and in the Senate 43 to 0. Democrats on the other hand voted 118 to 107 in the House and 29 to 18 in the Senate. Kennedy had proposed a more powerful Civil Rights Act but in my opinion he did not have the clout to pass it and besides he was killed. Johnson did have the clout and he was able to get it done in 1964. However he could not have passed it without the support of the Republican Party led by Everett Dirksen and the more moderate Democrats. The opposition of Republicans in 1964 like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan led people to label them as racist. However their opposition was based on mostly Libertarian reasons. We already had a 14th and 15th Amendment. In their eyes the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were redundant and they were right. One criticism against Goldwater was that he had voted in favor of previous Civil Rights legislation and was only pandering to Southern voters.
Federal Courts in their decisions had not upheld the Constitution. Especially in the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision of 1896 which upheld separate but equal. Johnson was heard to say that the Democratic Party had lost the South because of these civil rights acts. Some Democratic politicians did go over to the Republican Party. Strom Thurmond was probably the most prominent. George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Robert Byrd and other segregationists remained in the Democratic Party, but because of blacks having the right to vote many like Wallace and Byrd became more in tune with their black constituents. Nixon developed his Southern strategy in 1968 that was geared toward these same voters disaffected by the Civil Rights Acts, law and order issues, social issues, and fiscal conservatism. The irony was that Nixon appointed judges friendly to civil rights issues. He devised the racial quota system under the Affirmative Action program. Behind the scenes he did much to further the cause of Civil Rights. It was this Southern strategy that has been continued by most Republican candidates since that has alienated most black voters since 1964. In my opinion the Southern strategy of Nixon has been a mistake and has created the wrong impression of the Republican Party when compared with the racist past of the Democratic Party.
In my opinion blacks have made a mistake by voting so solidly in favor of Democratic candidates over the years. They are taken for granted by the Democratic Party. For example a black man is President of the United States but unemployment is still highest in the black community. The economic and fiscal policies of the Republican Party would benefit blacks as well as whites. On moral issues most blacks would be in line with the Conservative thinking but for historical reasons they vote Democratic, at least historical reasons since 1960. Conservatism is the answer for America but because of pseudo conservative Republicans, the media, Hollywood and our educational system conservatism is seen as wrong for the country, especially among black people. I would remind black people that it was universal suffrage acquired in the 1960's that really brought social and economic change for the better, for all races to the South. White racist politicians like George Wallace, Robert Byrd, and even Strom Thurmond had to change or lose their jobs. Many blacks in Alabama thought George Wallace was one of the best Governors that Alabama ever had after he publicly apologized to his black constituents. Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against the Civil Rights Acts and had been a member of the Klan but he changed enough that he was continually re-elected for the Senate until his death. Strom Thurmond was liked by many of his black constituents in South Carolina and remained in office until shortly before his death. This is why I believe that blacks are making a huge mistake by remaining loyal to the Democratic Party. Until they become more diversified in their political affiliations they will continue to be taken for granted in the Democratic Party. If they could change a region of the country by their votes then surely they could change the Republican Party for the better.