"Why And When Black Voters Began Voting As Democrats?"

DEM WHO?...............                  I JUST DON'T KNOW!...........                    READ ON   


Most black people know Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and black voters supported him and his party.  However, today few people know or remember why and when black voters stopped supporting the Republican Party and started voting as Democrats.

Black People have almost unilaterally accepted the perception that today, the Democratic philosophy offers more to the black voter than does the Republican philosophy.  Is this a fact today, or is this a fact of yesterday?

Why is it that every ethnic group in America has had the two major political parties seeking to represent them, but it has been the history of blacks since Reconstruction that they have been represented by one party and shunned by the other?  Why is this?

Read on for an explanation of events that shaped a nation.  The following events are historical facts!  Not  opinion !  Hopefully, sharing these "facts" will help you to understand the plight of black people in  the Americanization of former slaves.

In an effort to provide a frame of reference regarding the historical events that transpired, please review the following
Creation of the Republican Party
Origin of the Democratic Party
The South becomes Republican

Reconstruction was the attempt from 1863 to 1877 to resolve the issues of the American Civil War, after the Confederacy was defeated and slavery ended. "Reconstruction" is also the common name for the general history of the postwar era 1865 to 1877. Reconstruction addressed how secessionist Southern states would return to the Union, the civil status of the leaders of the Confederacy, and the Constitutional and legal status of the Negro Freedmen. Violent controversy erupted over how to tackle those issues. By the late 1870s Reconstruction had made some progress to provide the Freedmen with equal rights under the law. Several states kept constitutions rewritten during Reconstruction years for many years. Others used separate legislation to overturn some Reconstruction progress.

Reconstruction came in three phases. Presidential Reconstruction, 1863-66 was controlled by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, with the goal of quickly reuniting the country. It can be said to have begun with the Emancipation Proclamation. Their moderate programs were opposed by the Radical Republicans, a political faction that gained power after the 1866 elections and began Congressional Reconstruction, 1866-1873 emphasizing civil rights and voting rights for the freedmen. A Republican coalition of freedmen, carpetbaggers and scalawags came to control in most of the southern states. In the Redemption, 1873-77, white Southern Democrats (calling themselves "Redeemers") defeated the Republicans and took control of each southern state, marking the end of Reconstruction.

Radical Republican Charles Sumner argued that secession had destroyed statehood alone but the Constitution still extended its authority and its protection over individuals, as in the territories. Thaddeus Stevens and his followers viewed secession as having left the states in a status like newly conquered territory.

Congress rejected Johnson's argument that he had the war power to decide what to do, since the war was over. Congress decided it had the primary authority to decide because the Constitution said the Congress had to guarantee each state a republican form of government. The issue became how republicanism should operate in the South, that is, how the freedmen would achieve citizenship, what the status of the Confederate states should be, and what should be the status of men who had supported the Confederacy.

This episode of Black History began with the emergence of segregation in the South  immediately following the Civil War. At this time most southern states tried to limit the economic and physical freedom of blacks by adopting laws known as Black Codes. However, these early legal attempts at white-imposed segregation and discrimination were short-lived. During the period of Congressional Reconstruction, which lasted from 1866 to 1876, the federal government declared illegal all such acts of legal discrimination against African Americans. Moreover, the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, along with the two Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875 and the various Enforcement Acts of the early 1870s, curtailed the ability of southern whites to formally deprive blacks of their civil rights. Black Republican Time-line (click)
THE FLIP!    As a result African Americans were able to make great progress in building their own institutions, passing civil rights laws, and electing officials to public office. 
THE FLOP!   In response to these achievements, southern whites launched a vicious, illegal war against southern blacks and their white Republican allies. In most places, whites carried out this war in the late 1860s and early 1870s under the cover of secret organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Thousands of African Americans were killed, brutalized, and terrorized in these bloody years. The federal government attempted to stop the bloodshed by sending in troops and holding investigations, but its efforts were far too limited.

In 1868, Grant was elected president as a Republican. Grant was the first president to serve for two full terms since Andrew Jackson forty years before. He led Radical Reconstruction and built a powerful patronage-based Republican party in the South, with the adroit use of the army. He took a hard line that reduced violence by groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Although Grant was personally honest, he not only tolerated financial and political corruption among top aides but also protected them once exposed.

Presidential experts typically rank Grant in the lowest quartile of U.S. presidents, primarily for his tolerance of corruption. In recent years, however, his reputation as president has improved somewhat among scholars impressed by his support for civil rights for African Americans.[3] Unsuccessful in winning a third term in 1880, bankrupted by bad investments, and terminally ill with throat cancer, Grant wrote his Memoirs, which was enormously successful among veterans, the public, and the critics.

GOP, RUTHERFORD B. HAYES - FIRST FLIP FLOPPER!  When the Compromise of 1877 gave the  presidency to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in return for his promise to end  Reconstruction, the Republican Federal Government essentially abandoned all efforts at protecting the civil rights of southern blacks.
Honoring secret assurances made to moderate Southerners during the compromise negotiations, Hayes withdrew federal troops from those areas of the South still occupied, thus ending the era of Reconstruction (1866-77). In addition, he promised not to interfere with elections in the former Confederacy, thus ensuring a return of traditional white democratic supremacy.   

It was not long before a stepped-up reign of white terror erupted in the South. These  terrorist known as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) attracted former Civil War generals such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, the famed Cavalry Commander whose soldiers murdered captured black troops at Fort Pillow. The Klan spread beyond Tennessee to every state in the South and included mayors, judges, and sheriffs as well as common criminals. 

The decade of the 1880s was characterized by mob lynching, a vicious system of convict  prison farms and chain gangs, the horribly debilitating debt  peonage of sharecropping, the imposition of a legal color line in race relations, and a variety of laws that blatantly discriminated against blacks.
Many Jim Crow Laws were soon enacted and enforced.

Is there any wonder why black democrats don't trust Republicans?  This  mentality persists even today.  In fairness, today black democrats have little reason to trust white Democrats as well.

The Great Depression was the beginning of a new movement in the lives of Black Americans including an obvious realignment of the Democratic and Republican parties.  The seeds of equality were sprouting, and Black Americans were hoping for a day when they would receive full civil rights without discrimination.  Prior to this crisis the black vote was always solidly Republican, while the Democratic Party rested on the foundation of a solid white Southern vote.

It was Franklin D. Roosevelt's promise to address the needs of a struggling economy by creating employment that converted most blacks to the Democratic Party. The New Deal of  Franklin D. Roosevelt improved the lives of many Black Americans, but it did not endorse a civil rights policy. Roosevelt's Public Works Administration (PWA) created jobs for blacks though construction programs and neighborhood clean up; Harold Ickes, who, as a white man, had aided the NAACP in the 1920's, controlled it.  Ickes encouraged the PWA committees to include Black Americans and end discrimination. The PWA helped to build houses, schools, and hospitals in the black communities.  The Works Progress Administration (WPA) gave work to blacks that were interested in construction or the arts; in some cities, the number of jobs held by blacks exceeded the black population of that area.

In 1948, the Democratic National Convention was splintered by debate over controversial new  civil rights planks that had been proposed for addition to the party platform. Delegates from southern states resisted adoption of the planks, urged by a group led by Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota.  In the middle, trying to hold together the New Deal coalition he had inherited from Franklin D. Roosevelt was President Harry S. Truman.  As a compromise, Truman was prepared to settle for the adoption of only those planks that had been in the 1944 platform.  But Truman's own civil rights initiatives, including the formation of the Committee on Civil Rights and the Fair Employment Practices Commission, had advanced the civil rights debate to a new level, and he could not turn the clock back.  The planks were adopted, prompting thirty-five southern Democrats to walk out.  They formed the States' Rights Party, which came to be popularly known as the Dixiecrats.

Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama , the Dixiecrats nominated South Carolina governor  Strom Thurmond as their candidate for president. In the November election, Thurmond carried four states: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. He received well over a million popular votes, and his thirty-nine electoral votes represented more than 7 percent of the total.
The Dixiecrats episode was one of the most significant third-party efforts in America's history. Truman won reelection, but the strong showing put forth by the Dixiecrats signaled impending changes in electoral politics. It was the most visible sign of the postwar erosion of the New Deal coalition.


There was a time in the 1950s when there might have been two-party competition for the  black vote, but President Eisenhower was a man who believed in the status quo. It wasn't that he was anti-black. He surely wasn't. His appointment of California Gov. Earl Warren to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court did, after all, produce Brown vs. board of education. Eisenhower also stood up to George Wallace in protecting Autherine Lucy with federal troops when she became the first black to enter the University of Alabama. But there was no real political effort to pull younger blacks away from the Democratic Party. \

By 1960, with John F. Kennedy going up against Richard Nixon, the Democrats nailed down the  younger black activists. It was JFK who made all the right symbolic gestures,  offering public support for the Rev. Martin Luther King at a time when J.  Edgar Hoover and conservative Republicans looked upon King as a troublemaker at best, a socialist at worst. Finally, blacks had a president that supported protecting their civil rights. Nixon had Jackie Robinson in his corner, and later, Sammy Davis, Jr., but these were passive signals to a black community that wanted an expanding economy, upward mobility, and a piece of the American dream.


The Republican Party's regulars finally broke the Democratic hold on the presidency in 1968, with Richard Nixon, but the key to its success was the Republican "Southern Strategy," which finally broke the Democratic Party's Solid grip on the South.

The Democrats had to choose between white bigots and blacks and when they chose  blacks, the white bigots became available to the Republican Party. This split in southern democrats has resulted in the establishment of two distinct political groups in South Louisiana, Democrats and a mixture of Republicans and Dixiecrats. I believe Dixiecrat Republicans continue to oppose endorsement of a civil rights policy that is inclusive of all Americans. This must change. A more worldly view is required. It now may seem distasteful that Nixon and the Republican establishment went this route, but after a century of Dixiecrats, it was historically essential that this be done, so that there is a true two-party system throughout Dixie.

In no presidential campaign I'm aware of in the last half century has the National Republican Party budgeted funds for advertising in the black media to solicit black votes. Instead, some Republicans believe campaign funds should be handed out to black preachers and community activists to discourage them from urging their congregations to get out to vote -- because they of course will vote Democratic. Republicans deny doing any such thing, but that has been the mindset of GOP political operatives: Let the Democrats have the blacks, and we will get the whites.What do Black Americans want?   Black People want an expanding economy, upward mobility, and a piece of the American dream. We want competition for our votes, which is what “empowerment” is all about.

The great promise of America is simple: a better life for all who work  for it. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what you believe, as an American, you live in a land that offers you all the possibilities your hard work and God-given talent can bring.
The opportunity to build a better future starts with a good job. It has always been that way. From the time when most people worked in the fields, through the Industrial Revolution and into the Information Age, the opportunity for work, the rewards from work, and the dignity of work have made Americans successful and America strong.

“Black People believe that a strong America begins at home, with good jobs that support families and "Full civil rights without discrimination.”
They believe in progress that brings prosperity for all Americans, not just for those who are already successful. We believe that good jobs will help strengthen and expand the Black Middle Class and enhance upward mobility in society.

Black Americans believe the private sector is the engine of economic growth and job creation. Government's responsibility is to create an environment that will promote private sector investment, foster vigorous competition, and strengthen the foundations of an innovative economy”.

What are blacks receiving?  In the Democratic Party, blacks get to sit next to the kitchen. In the Republican Party, blacks get to sit inside the kitchen. Only when there is competition will blacks get seats up front, the way every other ethnic group has moved to the head table.

A negative stigma called "racist-bigotry" has attached itself to the conservative label in the eyes of blacks, and conservative views have become a transgression among them. Dixiecrats are largely responsible for this. Yet, if we resort back to the traditional meaning of conservatism in its ethical sense it means "old fashion ways" in respects to family lifestyle, self-respect and respect for others and an honest and decent days work.

To condemn conservatism means to condemn traditional values, without the added oppressive mindset of the racist. In other words, thinking conservative and voting conservative does not mean that one supports racism, though that is what many black-Americans believe. Republicans have done little to change this perception.

Also, thinking democrat and voting democrat does not mean that one is anti-family or anti-Christ, though this is what many republicans believe.

This atmosphere of confusion and division must not disillusion us. Confusion of this sort needs a logical approach. After all, we are all Americans. We may differ on how to do things, but we should all want the same things for our country and its citizens.

Many black Democrats are beginning to consider what might actually occur if half the  black vote went to Republicans and half to Democrats. As an institution, the Democratic Party certainly doesn't want that to happen, but black activists know how much  easier it would be to advance black interests if both major parties were simultaneously courting the black vote. Leveraging the black vote is a concept that I'm sure we will see more of.
In the future , both democrat and republican candidates will face more blacks asking, what can you do to improve my quality of life and address the issues of equality, opportunity, health-care, education, prosperity, drainage, traffic, crime, etc. These are issues that transcend party lines and seem to address basic human needs. One need not change parties as a price for receiving these basic benefits America offers all its citizens .  A candidate who satisfies these needs will likely receive black voter support regardless of his party affiliation.

If white Republicans truly want to shake the negative perception black voters have of the Republican Party, there is no better time than the present. If conservatism is to be promoted then it must be defined as inclusive of all. Conservatism must be distinguished from the racism we see. White Republicans must comprehend this dichotomy and make the necessary changes. Additionally, White Republicans must recognize that they do not have a monopoly on morals. Black voters have morals too.

Commenting on the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, Republican leader Tom DeLay said that "when the GOP is able to help black candidates win elections, only then would the party begin to regain some authority on the issues of race and civil rights".  I think more Republicans should consider this.  

List of Louisiana Governors

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Fred Prejean (Essay: A compilation of historical facts)


I am a lifetime resident of Lafayette, La. with strong ties to my community. 
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