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The Republican Party and African Americans

Updated on December 12, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

History, politics, and spirituality supply writing topics that help me keep my essay writing strong, supporting claims and reporting facts.

Abraham Lincoln



In 1854, the Republican Party came into existence primarily for the purpose of abolishing slavery. Under President Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, that evil institution came to an end, and the beginning of civil rights for black Americans began.

The first elected Senators and member of the House of Representatives were African Americans.

It wasn't until 1935 during FDR's New Deal era that a black Democrat, Arthur Mitchell, won a seat in the House of Representatives.

Hiram Revels


First African American Senator

Hiram R. Revels from Mississippi became the first African American to occupy a seat in the United States Senate on February 25, 1870. He served only a partial term, but Blanche K. Bruce, elected March 5, 1875, served a full term. Both men were Republicans.

Many African Americans have held influential offices in state legislatures as Republicans. Beginning in 1869 African Americans held congressional offices as Republicans, a trend that continued until 1935, when the first Black Democrat won a seat in the House of Representatives.

Republican Party Founded on Abolition Issue

The issue of slavery is responsible for the birth of the Republican Party, particularly the abolition of slavery. The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order, which ended the institutiion of slavery in the United States.

Nevertheless, three constitutional amendments were required to guarantee the rights of former slaves. The thirteenth amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. The fourteenth amendment bestowed citizenship on Blacks, and the fifteenth amendment guaranteed voting right to freed slaves.

Still, the recognition of civil rights for African Americans, women, and minorities, has been a concept slow to be widely embraced. Because of the constitutional amendments which bolstered the Emancipation Proclamation, all the so-called civil rights legislation that has been enacted since the 1950s has actually been superfluous.

However, the constant passing of "civil rights acts" seems to be required to remind the public at large that all citizens, in fact, have "rights."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt


New Deal Democrats

Until the “New Deal” era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt beginning in 1932, most Blacks identified with and voted for the Republican Party. The Depression of 1929 negatively affected both Whites and Blacks economically, and by the time FDR’s government programs promised hope for reversal, many Blacks, and Whites, switched their allegiance to the Democratic Party led by FDR.

And even though those programs offered only short term advantages to some, the ensuing claims of the Democratic Party as the party of the “little man” stuck. FDR’s “New Deal” programs sounded good but had the opposite effect; an example of the destruction of the New Deal was the “Agricultural Adjustment Act,” which ushered in a huge reduction in the growing of crops and farming which ended many jobs for Blacks.

Labor Unions Excluded Blacks

The National Labor Relations/Wagner Act allowed the establishment of labor unions, from which Blacks were excluded. Also the concept of a “minimum wage” was established to guarantee workers better pay, but instead of paying workers the mandates minimum wage, employers simply fired them or failed to hire them. The “minimum wage” caused an upsurge in the unemployment rate among Blacks, especially teens, just as it does every time a new "minimum wage" hike is passed.

Another irony involving Blacks swelling the Democratic Party ranks is the issue of more recent civil rights. In 1948, a splinter group called Dixiecrats strongly opposed desegregation in the South and wanted to retain the old Jim Crow laws.

The issue of civil rights and integration became a political hot potato for the next five decades. President Eisenhower signed in to law the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was little more than a token symbol having been watered down in the Senate by Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat.

Everett Dirksen


Democrats Acted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act

By 1964, a new Civil Rights bill was debated in the Senate. Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Al Gore, Sr., both Democrats, led a filibuster that nearly derailed the bill’s chance of passage, until Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who was the Republican Minority Leader, broke the filibuster.

In the House of Representatives 40% of the Democrats voted against the bill, while only 20% of the Republicans opposed it; in the Senate 21 Democrats voted against it, while only 6 Republicans voted no.

Beginning with its formation, the Republican Party has been the leader in leveling the playing field for African Americans, women, and minorities.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


Submit a Comment

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Roguine, thank you for your continued interest in my Hubs. I appreciate your taking time to comment. Best of luck with your own writing.

  • profile image

    Setank Setunk 

    2 years ago

    You make a very good point Maya. My default anonymity is disqualifying in some respects. My name is Roguine. I will figure out how to put a photo in my profile: It should not be too difficult.

    I do find that quoting sources is valuable with respects to raw data, but I find them otherwise counterproductive. I want to understand an authors motives and views, I can always fact check if necessary.

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    2 years ago from U.S.A.

    I suspect you could write some useful, interesting Hubs based on the info you get from that book collection. Of course, most stuff that we write is our opinion. The question is, is it an informed opinion? Our opinions don't just pop into our heads without a cause or source. Supporting our opinions with useful, reliable sources is what we as writers are all about. Even creative writing -- poetry, song lyrics, short fiction -- relies on sources, just a different use of sources.

    You are correct that too many folks do not study or research good, reliable sources. For example, election seasons are driven by sound bites and memes, too often.

    That HubPages encourages pen-names is a good thing, but I think it also has its down side. You know who I am, but I have no idea who you are. And your pen-name? Where does that come from? And where is your profile photo? Do you plan to place much writing on HubPages?

    Anyway, thank you for your continued interest in my Hubs, and your insightful comments. Have a blessed day!

  • profile image

    Setank Setunk 

    2 years ago

    "Stank Stunk", that is a terrible auto correct.

    I have a collection of books called The Confederate Veteran. It is a series of Volumes containing news paper articles from the South during this period of time. Many Southerners, articles back then did not give statistics, were not Pro-slavery. It is not to say they supported Freedom but in fact wanted the Africans deported to free up jobs for poor Whites. Slavery had long been controversial in the Southern States. They rallied together in resistance to what they perceived as Northern aggression.

    In regards to your second question, well that is my opinion. I say that slavery was never rightfully or conscientiously dissolved because I believe this to be true. Southerners resented having these former slaves thrust into mainstream Southern culture and Northerners resented them moving north and taking jobs.The only solution the country could see, since they really did not want to conscientiously embrace these new settlers, was to leave them in limbo. Things only got worse from there.

    The problem we have today is that few people really study the past from the most reliable resources. Too many people look for quick points through Google and simply do not understand that viewing history in abstracts proscribes real understanding. It is always good to see Hubers like yourself taking the longer wiser view of things.

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Setank Setunk:

    (Are you aware that your pen-name auto-corrects to "Stank Stunk"?)

    Regarding your comment:

    I would like to see the resources on which you base these claims:

    1. "Democrats were not necessarily pro-slavery."

    2. ". . . slavery was dealt with like so much pork in a Bill, and was never rightfully and conscientiously dissolved."

    Also, I would like to see you write a full Hub supporting those claims. I think it would be a useful and interesting read.

    Thanks for taking time to comment. Best of luck with your research and writing.

  • profile image

    Setank Setunk 

    2 years ago

    Democrats were not necessarily pro-slavery. They were still anti-Federalist in the years leading up to the civil war. They dominated the only other significant party, the Whig Party, who were Federalists. Democrats believed that slavery was an issue best left to the people and that this could be better addressed at the State level. A Democrat dominated Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 and this led directly to the coalition of Abolitionists into the Republican Party.

    This Act overturned the Missouri Compromise that limited the expansion of slavery and allowed for future States to decide for themselves after admission into the Republic. Abolitionists viewed this as out right Southern aggression.

    I mention this because the issue of slavery obscures the political climate of the times. Democrats were not pro slavery per say but were against the idea of the Federal government dictating what they believed to be State issues. Federalists, who accepted slavery in the pre-Compromise States, joined with Abolitionists because they also felt the Kansas-Nebraska Act was an outright attempt to expand slavery; even though the Act only gave States the right to decide for themselves.

    This clearly changed the appearance of the struggle to be North vs South or Anti-slavery vs Pro-slavery: Republican vs Democrat. Slavery was already loosing out to the practical progression of industrialization, and as it lost out in viability it would have diminished in popularity and eventually abolished State by State. We continue to have problems today because of the bloody way slavery ended.

    I bring this up because I do not believe Republicans should receive credit for ending slavery. I prefer to believe that they used slavery to start a war to end resistance to Federal Supremacy. I am not anti-Republican and I am not pro-Democrat. I am not trying to be argumentative. I really liked your article. I just think that slavery was dealt with like so much pork in a Bill, and was never rightfully and conscientiously dissolved.


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