Updated: Sep 11, 2020
If you are like two out of every three African-Americans in America, you were probably raised to be a Democrat. Your parents, their parents, and even their parents’ parents voted the straight party line when it was election time...just like nearly every other Black person you know.
But if you ask the average Black Democrat WHY they vote the way they do, they look at you like you’re ignorant for asking a question with such an obvious answer. They might even get angry that you had the nerve to ask.
After all, the story they -- and you -- have been spoon-fed since childhood is that the DEMOCRATS are the ONLY political party for the Black man, REPUBLICANS are racists, and EVERYBODY knows it.
But...what if that narrative is wrong?
What if both recent events and over 190 years of history paint an entirely different picture?
Let’s take a look at some facts from history that may just open your eyes.
The Modern Democratic Party was Founded to Support a Racist
The modern Democratic Party begins in 1828, with Andrew Jackson, who is regarded as perhaps the most racist President in U.S history. Not only did he personally own over 100 slaves, but as a military leader he also killed over 300 Free Blacks and fugitive slaves during the Massacre of Negro Fort.
As a slave owner, Jackson could be a harsh master, and he had no qualms about maintaining order on his plantation with a cowhide whip. He used violence to remind slaves of his authority. In 1804, for example, he offered not only a reward for a runaway slave, but also an additional bonus to anyone who administered 300 extra whiplashes. And in 1821, he ordered his nephew, Andrew Donelson, to have Betty, a female slave, given 50 lashes if she continued ‘putting on some airs’.
The Amistad Case
In 1839, a group of captives from Mendiland revolted against their slave masters aboard La Amistad, a Spanish ship out of Cuba. Once in control of the vessel, they ordered the surviving crew to take them back to Africa. Instead, the crew secretly sailed to the United States, where slavery was legal.
When the ship was intercepted off the coast of New York, the Africans were held in custody while a court case ensued to determine if they were property of if they were free men who had been kidnapped and illegally sold into slavery.
Democrat President Martin Van Buren, who had himself owned slaves as a young man, viewed abolition as a threat. He even referred to slaveholders as “sincere friends to the happiness of mankind”. His administration supported the claim that the Mende were the rightful property of Spain and should be given back. Even when a federal District Court Judge ruled that the Mende were indeed free men who should be returned to Africa, Van Buren’s administration appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
The Republican Party Was Founded to Fight Slavery
In 1854, the Republican Party was founded by former Whigs and Free Soilers specifically to oppose the expansion of slavery into U.S. territories, denouncing it as a “great evil”.
Assault in the U.S. Senate
In 1856, Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery Democratic State Representative from South Carolina, viciously attacked Senator Charles Sumner with a heavy wooden cane on the floor of the Senate. Sumner, an abolitionist Republican from Massachusetts, had recently given a speech which harshly criticized slaveholders. The attack left him in debilitating pain for the rest of his life, and he exhibited symptoms of traumatic brain injury.
The Dred Scott Decision
In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that Blacks were not citizens, regardless if they were slaves or free. Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Democrat appointed by President Andrew Jackson, wrote in the majority opinion, “We think ... that [black people] are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time [of America's founding] considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings who had been subjugated by the dominant race…”
In 1858, Senator James Henry Hammond, a Democrat from South Carolina who owned over 300 slaves, said, "In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. ... It constitutes the very mudsill of society.”
“The Great Emancipator” was a Republican
In 1854, Abraham Lincoln referred to slavery as a “monstrous injustice”. Six years later, he was elected as the first Republican president. About the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Lincoln said, “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper.”
The 13th Amendment
Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, the institution of slavery itself was not formally outlawed until 1865, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The Amendment passed with 100% support from Republicans, but only 23% support from Democrats.
The Black Codes
But the 13th Amendment still allowed for involuntary servitude as a punishment for criminal offenses. This created a loophole that was exploited by the largely-Democratic Southern states. A series of laws were passed that were extremely difficult for Blacks to keep. Anyone who violated these “Black Codes” was arrested, forced into service, and their now-free labor sold to farmers, factories, builders, mines, etc.
For example, Blacks in Mississippi had to contract with white farmers on the 1st of January or face charges of vagrancy. Long “apprenticeships” were slavery in all but name, with harsh penalties for any Black who tried to leave.
Other laws restricted the types of jobs Blacks could hold, where they could live or go to school, or whom they could marry. Some laws even prohibited Black ownership of land or other property, thus preventing them from advancing economically.
The Ku Klux Klan
On Christmas Eve 1865, the first Klan was formed in Pulaski, Tennessee, by six former Confederate soldiers. By using brutal vigilant tactics including threats, violence, and even murder, the Klan sought to restore white supremacy. They targeted freed Blacks and political opponents, primarily Republicans. At its height, the Klan may have had over 500,000 members in the South.
One of their first leaders, Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a former slave trader and Confederate Army general who led the Fort Pillow Massacre, where Forrest’s men slaughtered Union white and colored troops who were trying to surrender.
Colored soldiers were targeted disproportionately, about two to one. One Confederate soldier would later write to his sisters, “The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down.”
Notable Democrats who were members of the first Klan or who were at the least supported by the Klan or similar groups include:
Frank Blair, Jr., Missouri Senator, and 1868 Vice Presidential nominee. He called Blacks a “semi-barbarous race” who wanted to “subject the white women to their unbridled lust”.
Joseph Brown, the 42nd Governor of Georgia, Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, and U.S. Senator
George Gordon, Tennessee State Representative
John Gordon, the 53rd Governor of Georgia and U.S. Senator
Wade Hampton, South Carolina Senator
John Tyler Morgan, Alabama State Senator
John Morton, Tennessee Secretary of State
Edmund Pettus, Alabama State Senator
William Saunders, North Carolina Secretary of State
Horatio Seymour, the 18th Governor of New York, and 1868 Democratic Party Presidential nominee. Seymour’s campaign slogan was, “Our Ticket, Our Motto, This Is a White Man's Country; Let White Men Rule”
An Unworthy Successor to Lincoln
It may surprise some to learn that Republican President Lincoln had a Democrat Vice-President in Andrew Johnson. A Southerner who had previously served as State Representative, Governor, and finally Senator of Tennessee, Johnson was a slave owner until 1863.
Generally regarded as one of the worst Presidents in U.S. history, Johnson opposed any protections for freed slaves in the turbulent Reconstruction years following the Civil War. He is quoted as saying, “This is a country for White men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for White men.”
For example, he vetoed the Freedman’s Bureau Bill, which would have allocated land for former slaves, built schools for Black children, and set up special military courts in former Confederate States to protect freedmen’s rights.
In fact, when he learned that land that was confiscated from or abandoned by ex-Confederates was to be given to freed slaves, Johnson immediately started issuing pardons and restoring ownership to the former Rebels.
Johnson also vetoed the 14th Amendment, which granted protections to free Blacks and former slaves. Both vetoes were overturned by Congress.
About Johnson, Congressman Elihu Washburne said, “I have grounds to fear President Johnson may hold almost unconquerable prejudices against the African Race.”
The Civil Rights Act of 1866
This Act, which was the first civil rights legislation in the United States, was introduced by Lyman Trumbull, a Republican from Illinois. It passed, and even overcame President Andrew Johnson’s veto, with ZERO votes from Democrats and near-unanimous support from Republicans.
The New Orleans Massacre
On July 30, 1866, a mob of White Democrats attacked a group of Black Republicans during a parade outside the site of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention. The Convention had been reconvened because Republicans wanted to extend the right to vote to freedmen and abolish the Black Codes. 150 Blacks were injured or killed.
The scene was horrific. As author Ronchernow wrote in his book, “Grant”, “Those lying wounded on the ground were stabbed repeatedly, their skulls bashed in with brickbats. The sadism was so wanton that men who kneeled and prayed for mercy were killed instantly, while dead bodies were stabbed and mutilated.”
Knights of the White Camelia
On May 22, 1867, the Knights of the White Camelia was founded by Alcibiades DeBlanc in Franklin, Louisiana. DeBlanc was a former Colonel in the Confederate Army and future Democrat Louisiana Supreme Court Justice.
Like other white supremacy organizations of the time, the primary goal of the Knights of the White Camelia was to suppress freedmen’s voting and to secure election victory for Democratic candidates, by any means necessary -- intimidation, destruction of property, floggings, and even murder.
Unlike the KKK, who were largely made up of lower-class Southerners, the White Camelias were primarily in the upper class -- doctors, newspaper editors, and wealthy landowners. Besides DeBlanc, other known members include Democrats David Theophilus Stafford, Sheriff of Rapides Parish, and Judge Taylor Beattie.
Their tactics were effective. In the 1868 Presidential election, for example, there were more votes cast in Louisiana for the Democratic candidate than there were registered Democrats in the state.
The 14th Amendment
In 1868, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to all Blacks born in this country, overruling the previous Dred Scott decision. Historian Eric Foner wrote that, “Birthright citizenship is one legacy of the titanic struggle...to create a genuine democracy grounded in the principle of equality.”
94% of Republicans voted for the Amendment, while NO Democrat did.
The 15th Amendment
In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting the Federal or State governments from denying a U.S. citizen the right to vote based on that person’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
100% of Republicans supported the Amendment, while NO Democrats did.
The Ku Klux Klan Act
In 1871, Republican Ulysses S. Grant signed into law this bill, also known as the Third Enforcement Act. Now with the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, President Grant could directly intervene to combat racial violence. He specifically targeted the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups, completely dismantling the First Klan.
The Colfax Massacre
On Easter Sunday, 1873, a militia of White Democrats, armed with rifles and a cannon, killed over 150 Republican freedmen and Black State Militia members who were occupying the Grant Parish in Colfax, Louisiana. Most of the freedmen were murdered after they had already surrendered. Many of their bodies were put in mass graves or simply thrown into the Red River. Only one Black survived, after being shot and left for dead.
The Democrat mob was attempting to overthrow the local Parish government after a hotly-disputed gubernatorial race in Louisiana.
The White League
Officially organized in 1874 in Grant Parish, Louisiana, and used terror tactics, violence, and even murder to remove Black Republican political candidates and officeholders. Unlike the more secretive KKK, the White League operated openly, and members’ identities were publicly known. The original unit was made up of veterans of the Colfax Massacre. Their stated goal was the defense of “hereditary civilization and Christianity menaced by a stupid Africanization”.
The Red Shirts
Formed in Mississippi in 1875, the Red Shirts were a terrorist group that acted as “the military arm of the Democratic Party”. Their goal was to suppress the Black vote by threats, intimidation, and violence.
The Wilmington Massacre of 1898
On November 10, 1898, due to resentment over growing Black economic and political power, a mob of 2000 white men staged a coup d’etat when they overthrew the local government of Wilmington, North Carolina, forcing ousting White and Black elected officials. Also targeted and destroyed were Black properties, businesses, and the city’s only Black newspaper. Some estimates say that over 300 people were killed.
Among those involved were a number of prominent Democrats:
Charles Aycock, the 50th Governor of North Carolina
John Bellamy, North Carolina Senator
Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy and Ambassador to Mexico
Rebecca Felton, first woman appointed to the Senate
Robert Glenn, the 51st Governor of North Carolina
Thomas Jarvis, the 44th Governor of North Carolina and U.S. Senator
Claude Kitchin, North Carolina State Representative
W.W. Kitchin, the 52nd Governor of North Carolina
Cameron Morrison, the 55th Governor of North Carolina
Furnifold Simmons, North Carolina State Representative
Ben Tillman, the 84th Governor of South Carolina and U.S. Senator
Alfred Waddell, U.S. Congressman and Mayor of Wilmington
Francis Winston, the 10th Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
Simmons had earlier stated the movement’s objectives when he said, “North Carolina is a WHITE MAN'S STATE and WHITE MEN will rule it, and they will crush the party of Negro domination beneath a majority so overwhelming that no other party will ever dare to attempt to establish Negro rule here.”
What Does All of This Mean to You?
The present-day Democratic Party pushes the agenda that African-Americans are still victims of the evil institution of slavery. But what they refuse to acknowledge is is how they fought to maintain that institution, and the length to which they went to oppress freed Blacks when slavery was abolished...threats...intimidation...violence...murder.
Here is something to keep in mind. IF, as today’s Dem leaders insist, slavery is still relevant today, then so are the violent and racist actions of the party that supported it.
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