A little less than 150 years ago, Blacks in large parts of America were just slave. They had no rights. No voices. They were mere properties of White slave owners.
While the rest of the world began to disengage from slavery, Southern states of America continued to hold on to their slaves. It ultimately led to the American Civil War of 1861-1865 started when slave states in the south decided to secede rather than accept the incoming Republican Party manifesto that opposed the expansion of slavery into U.S territories. On September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that declared the freedom of all slaves in any Confederate State that did not return to the Union by January 1, 1863. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued a second order that named the states where it applied. The war ended in 1865 but slavery continued in some areas until December 18, 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery was ratified.
At the end of the War, the promise of 40 aces and a mule to freed slaves in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida as ordered by Maj. Gen. William Sherman were not honored. Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, revoked the order and took away land that had been given to 10, 000 free slaves in Georgia and South Carolina.
After slavery was ended by Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party got whatever Black vote there was. From 1868 -1901, Southern Black Republicans elected hundreds of blacks into offices as high as the Senate, the House of Representatives amongst others.
The trouble began when the Republican Party gave in to Southern racists. When Jim Crow emerged and the Ku Klux Klan ruled the South, Republicans watched as racists rewrote laws to disenfranchise blacks. They took the black votes for granted.
The Republican Party through its policies caused the great Depression but in 1932, Hoover got more black votes than FDR. When FDR proposed the New Deal, black leaders were critical.
By 1948 election, Dewey vs. Truman, the Republican Party still won 30 -35 % of the black votes. That was significant because it was the same year that NAACP told blacks, “It is time to turn your picture of Lincoln to the wall, the debt has been paid.”
After Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy were killed, President Lyndon Johnson faced a dilemma. He could support the Civil Rights Acts and lose white southern voters or he could do the right thing and fulfill the 100-year-old promises of America. Johnson did the right thing.
Though Truman integrated the military and Republican Chief justice presided over the landmark ruling of Brown vs. Board of education that integrated school, once the Civil Rights Acts was passed, black voters began to seriously vote for the Democratic Party.
Republican Goldwater in his 1964 Presidential election deepened the divide. When Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy got George Wallace’s 1968 and Storm Thurman’s 1948 presidential election voters into the Republican ranks, blacks finally fled in doves. Still, Nixon won 32 % of black votes.
It was not a surprise that Martin Luther King Jr.’s father was a Republican. And Blacks all share the Republican concern for strong families, faith in God, and personal responsibilities. But in the last 40 years, as blacks slide towards the Democrats, the Republicans not only let them slide but also embraced more policies that further encouraged such slide away.
In the last decade an old crossroad was reached once again. Democrats have started taking black votes for granted just like Republicans did 100 years ago. What is left to be seen is if Republicans will stop complaining and do something to get black voters back. It is easy for Republicans because it has been said that though Blacks vote left they do think right.
There is no doubt that more and more blacks, for some good reasons, feel that it is time to turn the pictures of Kennedy and Johnson to the wall for the debt has been paid. But with Barack Obama on a historic run for the White House courtesy of the Democratic Party, this is precisely the wrong time to make that argument.
But as they say, tomorrow is another day.