Black Excellence

Should I vote Democrat or Republican? This Black Man’s Dilemma

The year is 2020.   The month is August.  And we’re in one of the most troubling times ever seen or experienced by Americans in modern history!

This year, most of the United States has endured some form of shut down due to the corona virus, aka Covid-19, or the China Virus as stated by #45.

The current unemployment rate in the US  is above 10% with some economists predicting the true unemployment numbers could get higher than the great depression that hit a high 24.9%.  As of this writing, there has been over 180,000 deaths  in the United States and over 700,000 worldwide.  The deaths are predicted to continue rising.

The horrific killing of yet another unarmed black man named George Floyd by the police has sparked protest all across America and the world, arguably the biggest wave of protest we have ever seen.

And then there is an upcoming presidential election.

I have been an active participant in the voting process for at least a decade, but I believe this is different than any other election year experienced in my lifetime.  I know we say this all the time, but the growing divide in this country is growing with every election.

The US is a  country very divided on so many issues including personal freedom, race relations, religion, climate change, role of government, U.S.’s role in the world, and so much more.

One major factor that could push this election one way or the other is the way African Americans will vote or choose not to vote. Being the second largest minority, with around 13% of the population and holding the largest share of electorates for any community of color, the way African Americans choose to cast their  ballots in this country in 2020 will have huge implications!

First, let me say: We’ve got to  vote!

Since we have been granted the right to vote, we have stuck together to vote in one way or another and it has been an effective strategy for the most part.

The question is, who should we vote for?

This year, there appears to be more discussion about which political party is and has been  actually better for blacks.  For the 2008 election of Barack Obama (D) vs John McCain (R), African Americans knew who they were voting for and there was no doubt amongst the majority.

Blacks have been voting for the democratic party since 1932 with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  This year, there appears to be more division within the black community.  You have celebrities like Kanye West trying to convince blacks to vote Republican initially and then independent (or for the Birthday Party, where he is the candidate).

We have outspoken conservatives like Candice Owens trying to make a push for African Americans to vote for Donald Trump.

Confession: I’m a registered Democrat

Although I consider myself a moderate liberal, I’ve been open to listening to Black conservatives.

At first, I was quick to try and defend the party that I have voted for my whole adult life, the Democrats.  I grew up aware of how President Richard Nixon and President Ronald Reagan devastated the black community with their war on drugs.

I’ve seen how President Trump denied knowing about the existence of the KKK as he also referred to athletes as “sons of bitches” for peacefully protesting. And trust me, I’ve listened to those who told me, don’t listen to his tweets, just look at his action. I’ve looked and I don’t like what I see.

Regardless, I promised myself to do extensive research on American presidents before the election arrives. I needed to know if I  was just perpetuating talking points that I’ve been taught by Democrats all my life.

Was I a victim of just following what other generations of Africans Americans had done before me?  I had to know for myself.

I really didn’t know in detail what policies and laws either party had put in place throughout history to help or hinder African Americans.  Were the policies meant to help us, really hurting us?  

Should I be casting my vote for Republicans or sticking with Democrats?

I took a quick trip through my history to find out why I felt the way I did. I needed to find out why there is still so much racial inequality and disparity in this country. This journey will mostly focus on executive branch policies and not local policies by either party. 

As you can see, this is a lengthy examination of policies towards Blacks by American presidents. Come with me on this journey if you dare!

1619 – 1861    A little history leading up to the Civil War. (In this period, I would have voted for no one because I wouldn’t have had the right to vote!) 

In 1619, the First Enslaved Africans arrived in the British Colony of Virginia. This would be the start of the two and a half centuries of slavery in North America and marks the beginning of around 450,000 Africans arriving in the United States.

As far as policies go from 1619 to 1863, there was not a lot done to benefit African Americans in the United States. There were a lot of oppressive laws that regulated how African American should act and behave, but nothing was done to help them in the political arena. 

During this time, we saw the American Revolutionary War, the writing of The Declaration of Independence,  16 Presidents, and the beginning of the Civil War.

By 1860, there were 4 million slaves. In the south slaves made up 1/3 of the population. 

On April 30, 1778, George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States and didn’t proclaim to be part of any political party. He actually didn’t like the thought of political parties stating “[Political Party]  agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against the another;  torments occasional riots and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption which, finds a facilitated access to the government itself through channels of party passions…. “ 

George Washington was followed by five presidents that set some of the ground work for the parties we have today but really didn’t attribute their beliefs into clear political parties. Their disagreements  were mainly surrounded around what the role of government should be.

Should there be a strong central government or a government that supported a stronger state government? The second President, John Adams, was a called a Federalists (strong central government) and the next four (4) Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams were called Democratic Republicans or Antifederalist (supported stronger state government). 

The Birth of the Democratic Party

It wasn’t until Andrew Jackson (7th president) in 1829 that a political party was established: the Democratic Party. This Democratic Party is nothing like the one we have today, but we will get to that.

Jackson hated big government, recommend suppression of “incendiary publications”, and damned abolitionists “wicked attempts: to incite a slave rebellion.” He stood on a platform that wanted democracy for all white men and tried to eradicate Native Americans.

Jackson is the president known for the Trail of Tears or forced removal of Native Americans. His opposition called him a “jack ass” and he liked it so much he used it as his mascot. This is where the donkey comes from for the Democratic Party.  

After Jackson came Martin Van Buren, another Democrat who said in his inaugural address that he would be an “Inflexible and uncompromising opponent of every attempt on the part of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against the wishes of slave holding states, and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest interference with it in the states where  it exist.” Van Buren referred to slaveholders as “sincere friends to the happiness of mankind,” and he described abolition as a “vicious device” of evil.  Van Buren even published a pamphlet opposing the abolition of slavery.

In 1841, America would see the first president that represented the Whig Party, John Tyler. The Whig party was comprised of  a mix of individuals that represented a wide range of view points including left, right and center.  The party was centered around a hate for Andrew Jackson.  Whigs were pro tariff, pro taxation, supported infrastructure, public schools and roads. 

The Whig party only had three presidents before splitting up after their last President Millard Fillmore who got the Fugitive Slave Act passed. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was part of the Compromise of 1850. The act required that slaves be returned to their owners, even if they were in a free state. The act also made the federal government responsible for finding, returning, and trying escaped slaves.

This would spilt up the party causing some to leave for the Democrats and other going on to form a new party called the Republican Party. 

The lead up to the Civil War

From 1841 to 1861, the United States would see four Whig Presidents and three Democrat presidents. During this time, African American and abolitionist received one blow after another.

First it was the Fugitive Slave Act, a law that stated any runaway slave needed to be returned to their owner. Then Franklin Pierce, the 14 President (Democrat) signed the dreaded Kansas Nebraska Act.   This repelled the Missouri comprise and allowed residents in states to decide if a territory should be a free state or a slave state.

Another huge set back to African Americans during this time was the Dread Scott Decision of 1857. This Supreme Court decision stated that the Constitution was not meant to include citizenship for black people, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free.

This means the rights and privileges that the Constitution confers upon American citizens could not apply to African Americans. It also stated that blacks had no rights under the federal government, and slave states no longer had to honor “once free always free”.  

This decision would send shock waves throughout the United States and give rise to the election of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.  It’s  with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that blacks finally received freedom in this county.

This is where I will start my timeline

16th Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865 (First Republican)

16th Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865 (First Republican)
  • In 1863 Abraham Lincoln issues The Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that freed all slaves in rebellious Southern states and adds 200,000 blacks to the union.  This was a declaration by a sitting President that slavery was wrong.
  • In 1865 Lincoln played an active role in passing the 13th amendment which states “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

It makes sense that blacks join the Republican Party. 

17th Andrew Johnson 1865-1869 Democrat

17th Andrew Johnson 1865-1869 Democrat
  • Took over when Abraham Lincoln dies because he was the Vice President
  • Once again believed in States Rights. He was a Southerner who did not believe in equality for slaves that Lincoln had freed
  • Granted clemency to former Confederates and allowed them to elect new governments that look a lot like the governments before the civil war. This led to Black Codes, which where laws designed to control and repress newly freed Blacks
  • Returned all land captured by the Union to their owners. A lot of it was promised to former slaves (40 Acres and a Mule)
  • Congress believed he was too forgiving to the South so they passed laws overriding veto attempts by Johnson
  •  In 1866 congress successfully overrode a Johnson veto to pass the Civil Rights of 1866 and the 14th amendment in 1868 that stated: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
  • Andrew Johnson was the first President to be impeached but would finish his term.

At this point blacks would no benefit from joining the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party at this time was the party of slavery

18th Ulysses S. Grant 1869-1877 Republican

18th Ulysses S. Grant 1869-1877 Republican
  • Was a war hero and general under Abraham Lincoln
  • In 1870 he supported the 15 Amendment – giving Black men the right to vote
  • Brought over 3,000 indictments against the Klan to protect Black citizenship
  • By 1872, the Klan’s power had collapsed, and black men voted in record numbers in elections in the South.
  • enforced civil and voting rights
  • Signed the Civil Rights of 1875 -it was designed to “protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights”, providing for equal treatment in public accommodations and public transportation
  • Fredrick Douglass quoted as saying: “To him, more than to any other man, the Negro owes his enfranchisement,”  after Grant’s death.
  • According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, African Americans looked on Grant with favor: “Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but it was Grant who actually freed the slaves.”

During The Reconstruction period from 1865 – 1877  over thirteen hundred African Americans held government jobs and several hundred served in elected public office. The first black colleges such as Fisk and Howard University were founded. 

Ulysses S Grant truly is not talked about enough for his role in assisting blacks in reconstruction. I would have stuck with the Republican Party during this time

19th Rutherford B Hayes-Republican 1877-1881

19th Rutherford B Hayes-Republican 1877-1881
  • When he lost the popular vote but won a very disputed Electoral College vote, he agreed that if he was to become president he would end all federal military occupation of the South.
  • This deal would have horrible ramifications for blacks. Within months you start to see the Origins of Jim Crow Laws. These laws prevented blacks from voting, prevented intermarriage, and allowed separate (but unequal) accommodations

In hindsight, obviously any Blacks that voted for this guy made a mistake. But I’m sure the Democrat option was bad too. This is about 12 years after the civil war and Republicans are starting to give up on supporting blacks. Hierarchy amongst the races became more broadly  accepted. 

20th James A Garfield- Republican 1881-1881

james a garfield
  • Major General for the Union under Lincoln
  • Speaking during his inauguration, Garfield celebrated the dissolution of slavery and called it “the most important political change” since the Constitution
  • Garfield also appointed four black men to his administration, including activist Frederick Douglass as recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia.
  • shot within 4 months of presidency

Probably would have been a good president for Blacks, but sadly we will never know. 

 

21st Chester A. Arthur 1881- 1885 – Republican

21st Chester A. Arthur  1881- 1885 – Republican
  • Became President when James Garfield was assassinated
  • In 1855, as an attorney, he successfully represented  a black woman who had been denied a seat on a Manhattan streetcar due to her race
  • The case helped lead to the desegregation of public transportation in New York City
  • As an attorney, Arthur was also involved in the so called Lemmon Slave Case that said slaves being transferred to a slave state through New York would be freed
  • As president, Arthur struggled with how if at all to protect the civil rights of Blacks. As accounted by Frederick Douglas: “the Republican Party had faltered since Rutherford B. Hayes, Garfield was too weak to uphold it, and Arthur would do nothing to stop the decline”.

Expressed concern for the growing racial discrimination of blacks especially  when the supreme court struck down the civil rights act of 1875 but did little if anything to stop the problem

22nd & 24th Grover Cleveland 1885 – 1889 and 1893 – 1897- Democratic

22nd & 24th Grover Cleveland  1885 – 1889 and 1893 – 1897- Democratic
  • He agreed with white southerns in their reluctance to treat Blacks as social and political equals. Saw blacks as inferior
  • Opposed integrated schools in New York. Opposed efforts to protect the suffrage of African Americans
  • Cleveland approved of the 1896 Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson, which recognized the constitutionality of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine

Grover Cleveland saw blacks as inferior. He was a horrible President for the suffrage of Blacks

23rd Benjamin Harrison 1889-1893 Republican

23rd Benjamin Harrison 1889-1893 Republican

 

  • Endorsed two bills designed to prevent Southern states from denying African Americans the right to vote.
  • Tried to overture the Supreme Court ruling in Civil Rights Cases that  declared much of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional.
  • Supported a bill that would grant federal funding to schools regardless of race.
  • December 3, 1889, Harrison had gone before Congress and stated: ” The colored people did not intrude themselves upon us; they were brought here in chains and held in communities where they are now chiefly bound by a cruel slave code….. when and under what conditions is the black man to have a free ballot? When is he in face to have those full civil rights which have so long been his in law?”
  • Even though none of the measures that Benjamin Harrison wanted would pass, he made a solid attempt to right wrongs in the country for Blacks. 

25th William McKinley 1897-1901 Republican

25th William McKinley 1897-1901 Republican
  • Unwilling to alienate White south
  • Denounced lynchings in his 1897 inaugural address but never condemn it formally
  • Anti black violence was a epic proportions but he refrained from taking action
  • Most blacks that were able to vote in 1896 were hopeful about McKinley, but ended up being disappointed by his policies and appointments
  • He was executed in October 1901

Another President with promise that ended up being a disappointment for Blacks in America. 

26th Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909 Republican

26th Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909 Republican
  • Took over when William McKinley was assassinated
  • He referred to White Americans as the “forward race”, who had the responsibility to raise the status of minorities through “training the backward races in industrial efficiency, political capacity, and domestic morality.”
  • In concerns to race, Roosevelt used a rising tide raises all ships metaphor, stating that if morality and thrift among the colored men can be raised then those same virtues among whites, already assumed to be more advanced, would rise to an even higher degree. At the same time, he warned that the debasement of the blacks will in the end carry with it the debasement of the whites.
  • Believed in a long term approach to improving civil rights.

Theodore Roosevelt did a lot for National Park but close to nothing for African Americans. Some historians argue that his presidency is actually the start of blacks starting to look for an alternative to the Republican Party. Many were extremely angry with his handling of  the Brownsville affair

27th William Howard Taft 1909-1913 Republican

27th William Howard Taft 1909-1913 Republican
  • Said in his inaugural address that he would not appoint African Americans to federal jobs
  • When asked why he remove people of color from federal positions he said “this of people would always be farmers”
  • Said he would not interfere in “domestic affairs” of Southern states
  • Taft removed most black office holders in the South
  • Enacted the Mann Act or “white slave traffic act” which prohibits the interstate or international transport of women for “immoral purposes”   . This act was used over and over again to punish black men for their relationships with white women

Another Republican President that turned a blind eye to the struggles of Blacks in America. 

28th Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921 Democrat

28th Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921 Democrat
  • Blacks welcomed his election in 1912, but were worried too
  • Wilson oversaw unprecedented segregation in federal offices
  • Wilson accepted segregation as part of a policy to “promote racial progress… by shocking the social system as little as possible.”
  • His new Postmaster General also ordered that his Washington offices be segregated, with the Treasury and Navy soon doing the same. Suddenly, photographs were required of all applicants for federal jobs. When pressed by black leaders, Wilson replied, “The purpose of these measures was to reduce the friction. It is as far as possible from being a movement against the Negroes. I sincerely believe it to be in their interest.”
  • A Postmaster within the Wilson administration once told reporters “There are no government positions for Negroes in the South. A Negro’s place is in the corn field
  • He blocked a Japanese proposal to include racial equality as a founding principle of the League of Nations

Woodrow Wilson was a racist. He gets a thumb down because of the horrible way he treated Black people and did nothing directly to help their cause. One thing we do owe Woodrow Wilson for is being part of the landscape of changing American government.  His progressive doctrines set the stage for a party that would look out for the modern American’s needs 

  • Increased the role of government 
  • Regulated workplaces, food and drugs 
  • barred child labor and mandated school attendance 
  • broke up corporate monopolies 
  • Clayton Antitrust Act, which blocked price-fixing and prevented the same people from sitting on the boards of competing companies
  • Instituted the Federal Trade Commission, which investigates unfair business practices
  • Started the Federal Reserve 

29th Warren Harding 1921 -1923 Republican

29th Warren Harding 1921 -1923 Republican
  • This is when you start to see the beginning of the Republican Party as we know them today
  • He was pro-business
  • Had a conservative agenda, taxes were reduced
  • Harding watched his party receive two-fifths of the Southern vote in the 1920 election that led him to see opportunity for Republicans in the South
  •  He tried to play the middle ground saying that the social and racial differences for whites and blacks could not be bridged, but urged equal political rights for Blacks. Harding supported the Dyer Bill, which would have made lynching a federal crime
  • Harding famously said to a crowd of mostly whites in Alabama: “Whether you like it or not, our democracy is a lie unless you stand for that equality,” and: “These things lead one to hope that we shall find an adjustment of relations between the two races, in which both can enjoy full citizenship.” When the black crowd started cheering, Harding was quick to state that he was not advocating social equality between blacks and whites. The very word “equality” should be eliminated from the national debate, the President said. “I would say let the black man vote when he is fit to vote,” Harding added. “Prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.”
  • Harding did not advocate integration of the schools but argued for better schools for blacks
  • Willing to see literacy tests for voting continue if “fair” for whites and blacks
  • Asked Cabinet Officers to find places for blacks in their departments

Warren Harding in my eyes tried to play a middle ground maybe between his own views and a growing need for Southern whites to leave a changing Democratic party. He had some good moments but didn’t go fair enough to get a thumbs up. 

30th Calvin Coolidge 1923-1929 Republican

30th Calvin Coolidge 1923-1929 Republican

 

  • In a state of the Union address he said: “Just as sacred as those of any  other citizen under the U.S. constitution and that it was a public and a private duty to protect those rights.” This was in favor of civil rights for African Americans.
  • Klan lost most of its influence during his term
  • There were 70 lynchings in 1919. When Coolidge took office in 1923 it saw drop to 29. In his final year in 1929 there were 7
  • Tried repeatedly to pass antilynching laws but legislation were blocked by Southern Democrats
  • Spoke at Howard University
  • He once said “No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat.”
  • In his First Annual Address to Congress in 1923 he wrote: “About half a million dollars is recommended for medical courses at Howard University to help contribute to the education of 500 colored doctors needed each year.”

Calvin Coolidge was ahead of his time for civil rights and immigration. His laissez faire policies were a leading factor to the Great Depression, but we will save that for another article.

31st Herbert Hoover 1929-1933 Republican

31st Herbert Hoover 1929-1933 Republican
  • Within the first 8 months of Herbert Hoover’s Presidency. the United States enters The Great Depression
  • Seldom talked about race
  • Believe blacks could improve their own lives with education and individual initiative
  • He did appoint a lot of African Americans to federal positions
  • Tried to elect a conservative southern judge to the supreme court. The NAACP blocked it in the senate.

Herbert Hoover might have had good intentions when it came to civil rights, but due to the Great Depression he failed to really do anything substantial about the issue.

32nd Franklin D Roosevelt 1933-1945 Democratic

32nd Franklin D Roosevelt 1933-1945 Democratic
  • There are mixed thoughts on Franklin D Roosevelt. On one hand he was sympathetic to African Americans and on the other hand he had to work with a Southern congress base to get his legislation (New Deal) approved.
  • Aid provided by the New Deal was insufficient to blacks. He let local authorities and community leaders administer aid and they for the most part had a racial biases – one example is the National Housing Act of 1934 which lead to redlining
  • First lady was a strong supporter of anti lynching, but FDR never supported it for fear of alienation white Democrat voters
  • Roosevelt appointed more African Americans to positions within his administration than his predecessors
  • First President to appoint an African American as a federal judge
  • Formed a “Black Cabinet” of African American advisers to advise on race relations
  • Signed the Wagner Act -this establish the legal rights of most workers  to organize or join labour unions. This allowed blacks to organize and do away with some Jim Crow initiatives that were in place
  • In 1936, more that 70 percent of African Americans voted
  • New deal is riddled with problems such as the National Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act. These exclude domestic workers and agricultural workers. Most Blacks in the South worked these jobs. These were compromises for white southerns to get the new deal passed  
  • The President’s order stated that the federal government would not hire any person based on their race, color, creed, or national origin. Millions of African Americans and women achieved better jobs and better pay as a result
  • In 1941, Roosevelt created The Fair Employment Practice Committee “banning discriminatory employment practices by Federal agencies and all unions and companies engaged in war related work. This was intended to help African Americans and other minorities obtain jobs during WW2

As Progressive as FDR was, he could never fully commit to Blacks in the United States. His administration appeared to play the line of letting Blacks know he cared without upsetting his base in the South.

Overall, FDR’s New Deal policies had a lot of flaws like helping to spread Jim crow in the north with redlinning, but with the help of his amazing wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, they  did more for Blacks than previous administrations did in a long time. 

 

33rd Harry S Truman 1945-1953 Democratic

33rd Harry S Truman 1945-1953 Democratic
  • Harry Truman as Vice President took over for FDR upon his death
  • Upon Blacks coming back from WW2 and being mistreated, Truman stated: “My stomach turned over when I learned that Negro soldiers, just back from overseas, were being dumped out of army trucks in Mississippi and beaten. Whatever my inclinations as a native of Missouri might have been, as President, I know this is bad. I shall fight to end evils like this.”
  • In a speech in Sedalia, Missouri, he said, “I believe in the brotherhood of man, not merely the brotherhood of white men, but the brotherhood of all men before law. I believe in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In giving the Negroes the rights which are theirs, we are only acting in accordance with our own ideals of a true democracy.”
  • In late 1946, Harry Truman established “The President’s Committee on Civil Rights.” He instructed its members: “I want our Bill of Rights implemented in fact. We have been trying to do this for 150 years. We’re making progress, but we’re not making progress fast enough.”He asked Congress to support a civil rights package that included federal protection against lynching, better protection of the right to vote, and a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission. This was a huge political risk
  • Truman turned to his executive powers (Order 9981) and issued orders prohibiting discrimination in federal employment and to end segregation in the military (even though it did not fully get integrated until Eisenhower). These documents trace what some call the beginning of the Civil Rights
  • In 1951, established the Committee on Government Contract Compliance (CGCC). This committee ensured defense contractors did not discriminate because of race.

Truman admits that after growing up in the South, he did have personal prejudices, but a strong belief in being fair and a love for the constitution made him an ally to Blacks. He paved the way for civil rights reforms of the 1960s

34th Dwight D Eisenhower 1953-1961 Republican

34th Dwight D Eisenhower 1953-1961 Republican
  • Desegregated the nation’s capital and enforced the desegregated of the military as signed by President Truman
  • In 1956, he signed the Federal Highway Act – This was a plan to build freeways through the United States. Only problem is they build them through black neighborhoods and business, dismantling many neighborhoods
  • In 1957, Eisenhower dispatched federal troops and explained that he had an obligation to enforce the law. This was the first time since reconstruction that a president sent armed forces to enforce the law.
  • Also in 1957 Eisenhower signed the first civil rights legislation since reconstruction. This law provided new federal protection for voting rights

Eisenhower never wanted to be a crusader for civil rights. He did keep the ball rolling in some aspects but it was obvious the issue made him uncomfortable. In private it is said that he thought Blacks wanted things to change too quickly. He upheld courts decision on desecrating schools and implemented the Federal Highway Act without regards for Black neighborhoods and businesses. 

35th John F Kennedy 1961-1963 Democrat

  • He appointed African Americans to position within his administration
  • Named Thurgood Marshall to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
  • In 1963 he pushed for civil rights to Congress that included legislation to secure blacks voting rights but the bill ended up expiring
  • On November 22, 1963 just hours after Kennedy sent federal marshals to escort black students to their dormitories at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, he delivered a televised address to the nation. Kennedy announced he would send comprehensive civil rights legislation to Congress. The package would include provisions for access to public facilities, voting rights, and technical and monetary support for school desegregation. This put the civil rights on center stage and made it a national issue not just a local issue.
  • Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963

John F Kennedy will go down in history for not trying to push off the issue of civil rights or working to combat it behind the scenes,  but for brining it center stage and making it national issue that needed to be addressed now. 

36th Lyndon B Johnson 1963-1969 Democratic

36th Lyndon B Johnson 1963-1969 Democratic
  • Took over when JFK was assassinated
  • Civil Rights was the main objection in his administration
  • When somebody tried to persuade Johnson not to waste his time or capital on the lost cause of civil rights, the President replied, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”
  • Addressing a joint session of congress after Kennedy’s death, Johnson declared,”We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. We have talked for one hundred years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law.”
  • on June 2 1964, LBJ signed the Civil Rights act which was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. It prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color , religion, sex or national origin, provided integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. Finally, the act prohibited the unequal application of voting requirements.
  • The Civil Rights Act was later expanded to include provisions for the elderly, the disabled, and women in collegiate athletics. Its passage also paved the way for two other major pieces of legislation: the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The VRA prohibited discriminatory voting practices like literacy tests and poll taxes. The FHA prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of property. Legal segregation had been fully stamped out, though the struggle against racism and other forms of discrimination continues today.

LBJ’s  and JFK Civil rights legislation did the most for Blacks since reconstruction. 

37th Richard Nixon 1969-1974 Republican

37th Richard Nixon 1969-1974 Republican
  • Signed the Voting Rights Act of 1970 that extended the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibits racial discrimination in voting
  • Signed the title 9 amendment which banned gender discrimination in higher education.
  • 1971 Nixon started the war on Drugs. “The Nixon campaign in 1968 and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people,” Ehrlichman told journalist Dan Baum in 1994.
  • Nixon opposed busing personally but enforced court orders requiring its use.
  • Insured the desegregation of schools happened peacefully
  • Said he would be tough on crime which was coded language that he would be tough on civil rights protest
  • Nixon implemented the Philadelphia Plan in 1970—the first significant federal affirmative action program.
  • He also pushed for African American civil rights and economic equity through a concept known as black capitalism

Nixon was a President that can be summed up as doing liberal deeds but having conservative words. He was a president that both the left and the right are not particularly fond of because he tried to play the middle on most issues.

38th Gerald Ford 1974-1977 Republican

38th Gerald Ford 1974-1977 Republican
  • After the subsequent resignation of President Nixon in August 1974, Ford immediately assumed the presidency.
  • He appointed William Coleman as Secretary of Transportation, the second African-American to serve in a presidential cabinet and the first appointed in a Republican administration

Gerald Ford as president didn’t really do anything when it came to civil rights. Taking over for Nixon, he had to deal with watergate and a failing economy. 

I’m going to give him a pass because a younger Ford voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964, and 1968, as well as the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 . He really didn’t get a chance to show us what he could have done with civil rights. 

 

 

39th Jimmy Carter 1977-1981 Democrat

39th Jimmy Carter 1977-1981 Democrat
  • He appointed the first black division head at the Department of Justice
  • Appointed the first black female Cabinet member
  • Appointed the first black ambassador to the United Nations
  • Carter named more blacks, Latinos and women to the federal judiciary than all previous administrations combined

Jimmy Carter was a champion for civil rights. It’s sad that he only had one term and that the next president was such a force that many don’t talk about the 39th President.

40th Ronald Reagan 1981-1989 Republican

40th Ronald Reagan 1981-1989 Republican
  • Believe in state’s rights (we’ve heard that before)
  • Condemned bussing and affirmative action
  • Cut programs that helped the poor- like food stamps and school lunches 
  • In 1981, Reagan persuaded congress to lower the top tax rate from 70% to 50%. In 1986 it was lowered to 28%. Hence Trickle down economics  – the idea that you give the  rich more money and it will flow down to the bottom
  • Ronald Regan expanded the war on drugs. This lead to a skyrocketing number of Black and Brown people getting locked up. The number of people behind bars for non-violent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000

Ronald Reagan was and still is beloved my many in the United States. He helped to modernize what the Republican Party is today. Sadly, for black and brown people in this country, his policies and rhetoric were absolutely devastating to the community. He devalued Civil Rights, locked up blacks in the name of war on drugs, and withdrew funding to support blacks. 

41st George H.W. Bush 1989-1993 Republican

41st George H.W. Bush 1989-1993 Republican
  • Running for president, George Bush stoked racial tension with the famous Willie Horton ad – which focused on a convicted murderer who committed a rape wile out of prison
  • Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act, which transformed much of America into a place more accessible for the disabled.
  • Elevated Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Nominated Clarence Thomas, black but a civil rights foe, to Supreme Court
  • Vetoed the 1990 civil rights act – this would have made it easier for litigants in race or sex discrimination cases to win
  • Signed the 1991 civil rights act -It provided the right to trial by jury on discrimination claims and introduced the possibility of emotional distress damages and limited the amount that a jury could award.
  • Continued the war on drugs calling for 1.5 billion increase in drug related federal spending to law enforcement. Saying we need more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors.

I would say that George H.W. Bush was the last of a dying breed of Republicans. He did some things for civil rights and had some good policies on immigration but ultimately he carried on too much of the Regan administration for me to give him a thumbs up: mass incarceration and trickle down economics. 

42nd Bill Clinton 1993-2001 Democrat

42nd Bill Clinton 1993-2001 Democrat
  • He appointed more people of color and women than any president in history
  • Appointed the first African American director of White House speechwriting in history.
  • Appointed a record number of African American and women judges.
  • He stepped up enforcement of fair housing laws
  • He sought to “mend it, not end it” when talking about affirmative action
  • Signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 which cut taxes for 15 million low income families, and made tax cuts available to 90 percent of small businesses.
  • Clinton reversed restrictions on domestic and international family planning programs that had been imposed by Reagan and Bush
  • Signed the 1994 crime bill – this would start the “three strikes” mandatory life sentence for repeat offenders, money to hire 100,000 new police officers, and 9.7bn in funding for prisons, and expansion for the death penalty. This did not cause mass incarceration but it may have amplified effects. In 22 years since the bill was passed, the federal prison population more than doubled.
  • In 1996 he signed the 1996 welfare bill. This would have a good effect in good economies but a devastating effect in bad times.

 

Bill Clinton, also called the so called  the first black president of United States, won the hearts of many in the Black community. During his time in office, he had one of the highest approval ratings in history.  

Clinton did a lot of things to help Blacks but the Crime Bill and Welfare Bill would have a devastating effect on Blacks. 

43rd George W. Bush 2001-2009 Republican

43rd George W. Bush 2001-2009 Republican
  • President Bush appointed both the first and second African American secretaries of state: Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
  •  African Americans Alphonso Jackson and Rod Paige led the Housing and Urban Development and Education offices, respectively
  • In 2002 Bushed signed The No Child Left Behind Act. It tried to institute school reform but ended up failing.

President Bushes tenure in office will probably be mostly remembered for the horrific terrorist attack that the United States experienced and two wars.

He spent most of his time caught up in a war in Iraq and trying to prevent domestic terrorism at home. He did try to make an effort to bring some blacks back to the Republican party with policies like The No Child Left Behind Act and appointing both the first and second African American Secretaries of State, but he ended up falling short mainly because the NCLB act didn’t work.

And, of course, we all remember the horrific response to Hurricane Katrina. 

44th Barack Obama 2009-2017 Democratic

44th Barack Obama 2009-2017 Democratic
  • In 2009, Obama signed The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This made it easier to challenge unequal pay complaints and designed to help address the wage gap between men and women. Business now have to report pay data by race and gender
  • Obama appointed Eric Holder as attorney general, Lis Jackson as head of the EPA, and Charles Bolden as chief of NASA – all three are the first to hold their positions.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, was signed into law in 2010. This cut black uninsured rate by a third.
  • Under the affordable care act, all employers and insurers had to provide access to birth control at no cost to employees. This effects Blacks and Latinos the most
  • First sitting president to visit a federal correction facility, first to oversee a sustained reduction in incarceration rate in a half century, issued clemency to nearly 1,000 inmates
  • Signed an executive order to “ban the box” in federal hiring and contracting. Government employers can’t ask about criminal records at the beginning of the application process.
  • In 2010, Obama signed the fair sentencing act. This reduces the disparity in sentencing when it comes to powder cocaine and crack cocaine, a major issue since the 1980s
  • Pell grant funding for HBCU Students increased significantly between 2007 and 2014, growing from $523 million to $824 million
  • President Obama has made 62 lifetime appointments of African Americans to serve on the federal bench
  • President Barack Obama  signed a bill authorizing water projects across the country, including $170 million to address lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan

President Barack Obama was the first Black President of the United States and entered the White House during a recession that could potentially have turned into a depression. Many would make the argument that he didn’t do enough on black civil rights. Enacting no black legislation that directly effected black people.

From the research I’ve done, Obama did a lot of things that helped out the black community even though the laws were not exclusively for blacks. Blacks finished better than they started under his administration even though many policies Obama wanted to pass (including comprehensive justice reform) were blocked on purpose by a senate majority. 

45th Donald Trump 2017- TBD- Republican

45th Donald Trump 2017- TBD- Republican
  • Challenged Texas voter ID law – this would make it harder for Blacks to vote in Texas
  • Trump tried to stop an Obama era rule requiring large companies to report how much they pay workers by race and gender
  • In 2018, Trump signed the First Step Act – This cut unnecessarily long federal sentences and improve conditions in federal prisons
  • President Trump to Repeal Obama-Era Fair Housing Rule on AFFH ( Affirmatively Furthering Fair Rule )
  • In 2018, Trump administration releases federal rules allowing employers to deny birth control. A estimated 70,000 to 126,00 women are at risk. This includes mostly Black, Latinx, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Donald Trump is not a pro civil rights President. Even though he did enact the First Step Act and brags about African American low unemployment numbers (a downtrend that started under Barack Obama), most of his tenure (first term so far) can be summed up as overturning progressive policies, using racist language to excite his base, and being tough on immigration.

Going through history and learning about what each President has done to help or hurt African Americans in this country has been an enlightening experience.

I got to see how each political party came into existence, what they originally believed in and how those views have changed over time.

Now it makes complete sense to me why African American left the party of Lincoln and made the slow transition to the Democratic Party.

What I draw from all of this and what I am 100% sure of, however, is that blacks should not fall into the trap of fighting over one side or the other.

If we split our vote and half of us vote for Democrats while half of us vote for Republicans, our power will be washed out. It’s almost like we cancel each other out, making us almost non-existant.

When they say the “Black Vote”, we should be proud of that instead of thinking that we are monolithic because we continue to vote one way. It’s ok for all of us to vote together (more than ok, it’s essential) as long as we are moving with the times and holding the party we vote for accountable.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” – George Washington

We must, as a group, find leaders that we trust on issues we believe in and use their judgement to move between political parties when the time is right.   The same way Fredrick Douglas told us to support Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King told use to vote for John F Kennedy.

African American should join together to follow movements and agendas and not necessarily political parties!  We  are only 13% of the population and if we allow someone or something to cause division among us, our voices may not be heard.

So what should I do in November 2020?

Should I follow Kanye or Candice to the Republican Party?

As of now, that’s going to be a no.

I’m definitely sticking with most of my African American brothers and sisters and voting for the Democratic Party.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid to change political parties if warranted. But for now, today in 2020, I believe the Democrats are doing a better job of listening and trying to fix the problems in the black community. The proof is in the timeline I put above.

More Democratic presidents have earned Green (mostly good) and Yellow (mixed) faces than Republican presidents in my assessment.

I’ve done my homework and I’m not convinced to switch.

Is the Democratic Party perfect? Absolutely not. However, the Democrats are the only ones that are even trying to help us out. And as for the argument that the government should just stop helping us out because that’s where the problem is, tell that to white America that has enjoyed plenty of government assistance to push them further and further ahead of us while the same government held blacks back.

The modern Democratic Party has given us Civil Rights, desegregation, the most blacks appointed to cabinets and courts, the most congress people and senators (because, yes, representation matters. If it’s our own people in positions of power not working on our behalf, we should hold them accountable. But the fact that we’re getting them in there should count for something), fair housing laws, and more.

If Republicans want our vote, they need to show us first that they will give us policies that will help our community. They shouldn’t expect us to come to them first and then hope they’ll do the right thing after we vote for them.

True, Donald Trump has given us criminal justice reform. But President Obama had already done so much for criminal justice reform. The timing was just right to do an even bigger reform, and activists like Van Jones pushed for it like never before.

They surely can’t expect blacks to now run to the Republican party over two things: criminal justice reform (which has mixed results) and record low unemployment rates (but Obama brought black unemployment from 16.8% to 8% compared to Trump’s 8% to 5.5% pre-pandemic).

Republicans would have to offer something else, and a lot of it too, first before we should abandon the party that has given us the most in modern times. I am not switching because few black conservatives get on stage and tell me I should think for myself. I am thinking for myself.

I am sticking to the Democratic party because facts don’t lie. And facts don’t care about feelings, right?

Please make the right decision and make our 13% count in November 2020!

BExcellence Team

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