The election of Donald Trump as president of America led to protests that a fascist and racist was now head of the most powerful nation on earth., not least because he was a Republican. The irony of course is that historically it was the Democrats that were the party of racism. The Ku Klux Klan were its unofficial armed wing.
Slavery in the Land of Liberty
By the 1820s almost all white males had the right to vote. The Founding Fathers may have said that all men were created equal, but of course only if they were white, because like Washington they included slave owners. Many however like Thomas Jefferson believed slavery would die out naturally. But his opposition to it stemmed from fear of the harm it did to whites rather than blacks. He did not want to attack the South’s social fabric and instead advocated humane treatment of slaves. By 1819 he defended Southern rights by demanding that there should be no limits to the spread of slavery to new states.
The South depended on slavery. Its plantation system was based on it. Whites felt that free blacks would compete with them in the labour market. Slaves outnumbered whites in South Carolina and Mississippi. Hence the southern whites justified slavery because they were acting benevolently and paternalistically to an inferior race which would go stray without the guiding hand of the master. While abolitionists gained ground in the North, this was not for simply humanitarian reasons. Many feared an influx of blacks, such as the whites who settled Kansas, and for that reason wanted to keep it a ‘free’ state. Few accepted blacks as equals. Democrats warned that the Republican Party would menace white supremacy by unleashing hordes of ‘Negroes’, Republicans however said exclusion of slavery would also mean exclusion of ‘Negroes’ from threatening white labour and living conditions. Nevertheless Democrats could point to Republicans who had spoken for black equality and voting rights, as well as receiving endorsement by prominent free blacks such as Frederick Douglas.
But slavery defined the South and it saw no sign of abating naturally, especially with high demand for cotton. The ‘peculiar institution’ was the reason behind what revisionists call ‘states rights’. As America expanded, the peoples once ruled by Spain and then independent Mexico came under its remit. The lighter-skinned of these ‘Hispanics’ were accepted. But other ‘Latinos’ and Mexicans were kept socially and politically beyond the pale. Senator John Calhoun, leading supporter of slavery and southern rights said:
“To incorporate Mexico would be the very first instance….of incorporating an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the government of a white race.”
Northern whites were opposed to blacks enlisting to fight other whites. In September 1862 Lincoln relented and the first African-American regiment was created. This was more to do with the need for making up losses among whites than any higher ideal for black equality or freedom. They remained racially segregated with inferior supplies, pay and equipment. Democrat congress opposition denounced black enlistment as a vile Republican scheme to establish equality with whites, forcing compromise on a Republican bill to equalise pay between black and white soldiers in 1862. Two years later conservative Republicans joined Democrats in opposing retroactive pay equalisation. By the war’s end, even the Confederacy began recruiting black soldiers. Robert E Lee was short of manpower, and supported the arming of slaves.
The war crippled the South. Many ex slaves just left the plantations. As the war progressed many supported that maintenance of the status quo was no longer the goal. Slavery had to be destroyed. This led to surge in support to the Republicans dubbed ‘Radicals’ who wanted to not just end slavery, but refashion the South by extending the franchise to former slaves. The Democrats reviled them as “nigger-lovers” and dangerous revolutionaries. When the Confederacy did not heed his warnings, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863. The Democrats had opposed the Thirteenth Amendment, and in the election of 1864 warned of the dire consequences to the white race should Republicans win under “Abraham Africanus the First”.
Republicans and Reconstruction
Following Lincoln’s assassination, a vengeful Congress enforced Reconstruction on the former Confederacy. But his replacement was Andrew Johnson, a former slave owner from Tennessee who did not want blacks to have equal rights. Cooperation with Southern whites was more important. The South introduced black codes to keep down former slaves, especially in stopping them from voting or buying land. Any black person could be arrested for ‘vagrancy’ or ‘loitering’ and rounded up for work, often on the plantations. But by working to closely with the Democrats, Johnson alienated his own Republican party. Radical Republicans controlled Congress and led Reconstruction. They refused to sit with representatives from Southern states that had been restored by Johnson but continued to refuse blacks the right to vote. They joined with moderates to push through the Civil Rights Act and Fourteenth Amendment to ensure African-Americans had rights as citizens. Race riots broke out in the South and the former slaves found themselves on the receiving end of violence by the Ku Klux Klan and Knights of the White Camelia. Also in 1866, Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill which could nullify forced labour under the Black Codes. Nevertheless ex-slaves were forced into signing labour contracts on plantations if they remained ‘wilfully’ unemployed. Thaddeus Russell of Occidental College in his groundbreaking book ‘A Renegade History of the United States’ from 2010:
The leaders of Reconstruction demonstrated that they were deadly serious about making the ex-slaves into citizens with a series of truly radical policies. Just before nullifying the Black Codes, the Republican-controlled Congress proposed a Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution that defined American citizenship as belonging to anyone born in the United States or to anyone naturalized. The proposed amendment also stated that all citizens were entitled to all the “privileges and immunities” guaranteed by the Constitution, including most importantly, equal protection of the laws by both the state and national governments. The Fourteenth Amendment moved four million people from slavery to full citizenship virtually overnight. In the winter and spring of 1867, Congress passed three breathtakingly aggressive “Reconstruction Acts” over Johnson’s vetoes. The bills divided the South (except for Tennessee, which was readmitted into the Union only because it had agreed to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment) into five military districts and gave supreme authority over those districts to officers of the United States Army. Even more radical, the Reconstruction Acts limited suffrage to all black men and to white men who had not participated in the rebellion. At first, about one-fourth of all white men in the South were excluded from suffrage. This created black voting majorities in several states. Congress mandated that a state could be readmitted into the Union only if its constitution included provisions for black suffrage and if its legislature ratified not only the Fourteenth Amendment but also a new Fifteenth Amendment, which made illegal the denial of suffrage to any citizen on account of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” By 1870, all the states of the former Confederacy had submitted to the demands of Reconstruction. The immediate result was that in every former slave state, black men held public office during Reconstruction, including twenty in the U.S. House of Representatives, two in the U.S. Senate, and hundreds in state legislatures. This was a remarkable transformation in Southern politics.
1866 began as a year of great optimism for the former slaves. But in that year’s elections, Johnson lost out to Radical Republicans and their allies. Narrowly escaping impeachment, Johnson was replaced by the former slave owning and pro-Democrat, General Ulysses Grant. Supporting Radical Republicanism, Grant owed his majority to black support. The 1869 Fifteenth Amendment conferred equal rights to blacks. Radical Republicans Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania and George W Julian of Indiana favoured massive land redistribution to break the power of the plantation aristocracy. Backed by federal troops, former slaves made incredible progress under Reconstruction. In South Carolina and Mississippi, they constituted a majority of the electorate. In other areas blacks outnumbered whites due to former Confederates being disenfranchised. Under these circumstances, blacks made incredible progress. Republicans fiercely protected ex-slaves from white vigilantes. In 1871 President Grant signed the Ku Klux Klan Act which empowered federal troops to arrest Klansmen to be tried in federal courts, often with black-majority juries. As such the Ku Klux Klan was destroyed. Republican state administrations built roads, hospitals and schools.
Hence African-Americans were elected to state, national and local office. They served in large numbers as state legislators and local officials, including sheriffs. In South Carolina, African-Americans constituted a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Two black senators and fifteen black representatives were elected to Congress before 1877. For example, US Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi was sent to Congress. While Radical Republicans called for continued punishment of ex-Confederates, Revels argued for amnesty and a restoration of full citizenship, provided they swore an oath of loyalty to the United States. Former slave Blanch K Bruce represented Mississippi as a Republican in the Senate from 1875 to 1881; he was the first elected black senator to serve a full term. In February 1874, Bruce was elected by the state legislature to the Senate as a Republican, becoming the second African American to serve in the upper house of Congress. On February 14, 1879, Bruce presided over the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American (and the only former slave) to do so. Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback became first African American to become governor of a U.S. state. A Republican, Pinchback served as the 24th Governor of Louisiana from December 9, 1872, to January 13, 1873 and was later elected to the state legislature, serving from 1879 to 1880.But they remained the junior partners of white Republicans. The white Republicans themselves were keen not to permanently alienate Southern whites, who blamed the excesses of Reconstruction on emancipated blacks and their northern Republican allies. The South remained an essentially rural society. Former slaves were forced to eke out a living as sharecroppers on land owned by whites. But by now Radical Republicanism was itself on the wane. By the time of the 1875 Civil Rights Act, the energy and willingness to help blacks had vanished. Reconstruction was blamed for bringing excesses of corruption by incompetent inferior blacks and their white carpetbagger and scalawag masters. The Democrats told poorer whites that the Republicans were favouring the former slaves. Kolchin:
Under the onslaught, most white Republicans – reviled by their enemies as “nigger-lovers” and “scalawags” – broke ranks and defected to the Democrats, who portrayed themselves proudly as the “white man’s party.” Although few blacks followed them, some stayed home on election day and others were prevented from voting Republican by subterfuge, fraud, and outright theft. In state after state, new Democratic administrations came to power: joining Georgia and the upper-South states, all of which were “redeemed” by 1871, were Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama in 1874, Mississippi and South Carolina in 1876m Florida and Louisiana in 1877.
In 1876 President Grant regretted having given blacks the vote. Republicans complained that ex-slaves were not taking their responsibility as citizens seriously, especially in willingness to work. These included Republican senator Carl Schurz who had supported Reconstruction. In 1872 the Freedmen’s Bureau was abolished.
White Democrats versus Black Republicans
The Republicans were seen in the South as the party of blacks. Hence Democrats easily swept to power. New terrorist groups sprang to ensure white supremacy: Red Shirts, White Leagues, Rifle Clubs. African Americans were violently turned away from polling booths, as violence and fraud marred voting. Under the compromise of 1877, President Hayes withdrew federal troops from the South, leaving former slaves to the mercy of whites. By the use of literacy tests, poll tax, residency requirements, or just outright violence, Southern Democrats ensured that by 1900 blacks were effectively disenfranchised. Segregation became the norm, and Jim Crow only codified the stratification and bifurcation which already existed. In 1883 the US Supreme Court ruled that the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was a local issue. Hence disenfranchised by the Democratic Party continued without hindrance from the federal government or the Republicans. In the case of Plessy v Ferguson in 1896, the Supreme Court legalised racial segregation if facilities were separate but equal. They were rarely the latter.
Redemption by whites rapidly reversed the advances made by Reconstruction, because blacks lacked equal economic power. The South remained overly dependent on cotton and its falling prices. Lack of land reform and available credit impoverished millions of whites and blacks alike. Overwhelmingly white planters and merchants therefore asserted control. Faced with an interracial revolt by the Populist Party in the 1890s, the elite of planters and industrialists injected extreme racial hatred into politics by appealing to racial prejudice among the lower class whites. The result was the segregation system known as Jim Crow. While this only reflected how society had been developing, the de jure segregation was bolstered by what was now mainstream scientific racism, as well the pervasive threat of lynching. In 1890 Mississippi adopted poll tax, literacy test and residency requirements to disenfranchise blacks. In 1896 there were 130,344 black votes in Louisiana. By 1900 there were just 5320. The Democrats effectively created a one-party state as well as an apartheid style social order.
In 1903 the former preacher Thomas Dixon Jr, rote ‘The Leopard Spots’ which glorified the Confederacy and warned of the dangers of racial Africanisation. Across America the ‘Negro’ was now seen as a problem. In 2012 Douglas A Blackman of the University of Virginia, wrote ‘Slavery by Another Name’:
“White Americans across the country were adopting a dramatically revised version of the racial strife of the nineteenth century – a mythology in which the Civil War had sufficiently ameliorated the injuries of slavery to blacks and that during the ensuing decades southern whites heaped assistance and opportunity upon former slaves to no avail. The new version of events declared that African Americans – being fundamentally inferior and incorrigible – were in the new century, a burden on the nation rather than victims of its past.”
Confederate chivalry was incorporated into the collective American historical narrative. Lee and other leaders of the secessionist South were extolled. The South no longer needed to be ashamed because the Civil war was said now to be over regional patriotism and not about slavery. Indeed slavery itself was dismissed as being a benign anachronism. The venomous contempt for black life was celebrated, helped by racist police structure and brutality by white mobs. Newspapers revelled in reporting racial clashes, such as in Indianapolis, on 3 July 1903, where Independence Day celebrations degenerated into pitched battles when whites attacked blacks.
Segregation was a response to racism not the expression of it. Radical racists in the South wanted to exterminate all blacks. Vardaman of Mississippi and Tillman of South Carolina were two such specimens who preached genocide in the Senate itself. Benjamin Ryan Tillman (August 11, 1847– July 3, 1918) or ‘Pitchfork’, was Governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894, and Senator from 1895 until his death in 1918. Involved in the notorious Hamburg massacre of 1876, Tillman pushed for further radical measures in 1890:
“The whites have absolute control of the State government, and we intend at any and all hazards to retain it. The intelligent exercise of the right of suffrage… is as yet beyond the capacity of the vast majority of colored men. We deny, without regard to color, that “all men are created equal”; it is not true now, and was not true when Jefferson wrote it.”
Five years later he bragged:
How did we recover our liberty? By fraud and violence. We tried to overcome the thirty thousand majority by honest methods, which was a mathematical impossibility.
He believed earnestly that blacks should be exterminated, but that such a proposal would also involve white casualties. Hence subordination was the solution. In 1906 Tillman told the US Senate:
Republicanism means Negro equality, while the Democratic Party means that the white man is supreme. That is why we Southerners are all Democrats… History has no record of Negro rule. The situation is grave, and calls for wisdom and all manner of statesmanship. If we had our say, the Negro could never vote. I believe that God made the white man out of better clay than that which the Negro was made from… We don’t need another race to help us at this time. In some of the states, the Negro holds the vote of control… In Chicago, the Republicans needed the Negro vote to elect their whole ticket, so a nigger was nominated for judge and elected… Look down that aisle, there’s a nigger as black as the ace of spades!
Again three years later:
We reorganized the Democratic Party with one plank and only one plank, namely, that this is a white man’s country and the white men must govern it.
James K Vardaman was known as “The Great White Chief”, and was Democrat governor of Mississippi from 1904 to 1908.,and senator from 1913 to 1919. His power base, as with Tillman, lay in the poorer section of whites. Hence his appeal to raw radical racism:
“If it is necessary every Negro in the state will be lynched; it will be done to maintain white supremacy.”
Referring to the 1890 Mississippi state constitution, Vardaman said:
“There is no use to equivocate or lie about the matter. … Mississippi’s constitutional convention of 1890 was held for no other purpose than to eliminate the nigger from politics. Not the ‘ignorant and vicious’, as some of the apologists would have you believe, but the nigger. … Let the world know it just as it is. … In Mississippi we have in our constitution legislated against the racial peculiarities of the Negro. … When that device fails, we will resort to something else.”
But the ruling ‘Bourbon’ southern elite, while agreeing with black inferiority, did not go as far as extermination. Jim Crow was the uneasy compromise. Through violence and legal restrictions, whites often prevented blacks from working as common labourers, much less as skilled artisans or in the professions. Under such conditions, even the most ambitious and talented black people found it extremely difficult to advance.
In 1870 affluent blacks had lived alongside whites in the best areas of Savannah. But by 1918 segregation was complete. From 1900 streetcars began to be segregated, 1912 on railroads and steamships, and in 1921 a separate public library was opened for blacks in Atlanta. Discriminatory lending practices and white control of economic levers impeded black advancement under Jim Crow.
Under such circumstances Booker T Washington encouraged his fellow blacks to be industrious in order to earn the respect of whites. Only then would social equality follow. This was known after his 1895 speech as the Atlanta Compromise. Washington secured the support of wealthy industrialist Carnegie and Rockefeller for his education programmes, notably the Tuskegee Institute. Du Bois by contrast saw Washington as too compliant and passive. But behind the scenes Washington worked for means to undermine white supremacy, in an age when it head become the norm.
Robert Cook, lecturer in American History at the University of Sheffield, in his 1998 book ‘Sweet Land of Liberty’, page 26:
The chief political vehicle by which segregation and disenfranchisement were accomplished was the same one that had engineered secession and rescued the South from the ignominy of carpetbag rule. The Democratic Party had been the party of white supremacy for most of the nineteenth century, so it a hardly surprising that that most southern whites gravitated towards it at election time. Blacks played virtually no role in the organisation, not only due to the various discriminatory suffrage provisions but also because of the white primary – racially exclusive contest to decide party nominees prior to general elections – which was introduced in most southern states during the early years of Jim Crow.
By 1910 one could be forgiven for thinking that the South had actually won the Civil War.
Although disenfranchised, African-Americans could decide the outcome of the Republican primaries by sending delegates to the party’s national convention. The political base of the Republican Party in the South was almost wholly African-American and remained so until 1912, when the party in that region banned entry by blacks. Hence Theodore Roosevelt needed black support to become leader. For that reason he cultivated Booker T Washington and spoke at his Tuskegee Institute. He was progressive but paternalistic, believing that self-reliance would diminish racism, and would avoid having to confront southern whites on the issue. Roosevelt even invited Washington to supper at the White House. The reaction among radical racists was quick. Democrat Senator Ben ‘Pitchfork’ Tillman:
“Now that Roosevelt has eaten with that nigger Washington, we shall have to kill a thousand niggers to get them back to their place.”
Vardaman said the White House was “so saturated with the odor of the nigger that the rats have taken refuge in the stable” and that Roosevelt was a “little, mean, coon-flavored miscegenist”. Referring to Washington’s role in politics, Vardaman said:
“I am just as much opposed to Booker T. Washington as a voter as I am to the coconut-headed, chocolate-colored typical little coon who blacks my shoes every morning.”[
In 1868 African-Americans formed demographic majorities in Louisiana, Mississippi, southern Alabama, southern Georgia, and South Carolina. Former slaves in that last state were coerced into signing lifetime labour contracts. Now the Thirteenth Amendment had abolished slavery in 1865. Except that is for convicts. Hence the South enacted laws to purposely criminalise being black. By 1865 only Arkansas and Tennessee were the exceptions to former slave states that now outlawed vagrancy; any African-American could be subject to arrest and thus slave labour by being unable to pay the fine imposed by the sheriff, deputy, and courts. This law was rarely enforced on whites. Blacks needed to prove they had meaningful employment by whites or possess discharge papers. They were kept on plantations, in mines, in timber yards, leased to corporations, or trafficked across the South. It was a tidy mechanism by which whites could simultaneously keep blacks down and build up the industrial sector at minimal cost. Sheriffs controlled the supply to labour agents who were always scouting for new slaves. This was a very lucrative arrangement which morphed law enforcement into a vehicle for a new slave trade.
The actual crime was trivial: violation of etiquette, carrying concealed weapon, laughing too loud, playing dice in public. The black victims were always found guilty and could be held in servitude indefinitely by using pretexts to add more to the supposed debt. Convicts in mines were whipped, tortured and killed. Even children and adolescents were not exempt from capture and slave work. Beatings and rape were commonplace. Police and guards raped black women with impunity, just like the former slave masters, and produced scores of mixed race offspring at the mines and camps. Yet it was black women who were blamed for being sexually promiscuous. Coleman Livingston Blease (October 8, 1868 – January 19, 1942) was Democratic state legislator and from 1910 to 1915 was governor of South Carolina. Blease accused African-American women of being sexual animals. A protégé of Tillman, Blease drew his support from poor white tenant farmers and textile mill workers. He encouraged the practice of lynching and strongly opposed the education of blacks. Under such circumstances African-Americans found it impossible to improve their position or assimilate. Being black was basically a crime. In fact it was worse than slavery as they was no incentive to even keep these convicts alive. If any black person died there was no financial penalty, and on top of that a plentiful pool of more victims to draw upon by state law enforcement.
President Theodore Roosevelt, relying on support of southern blacks to help him win leadership in the Republican primaries, sent secret service agents to the South to uncover evidence of this slavery known as ‘peonage’. In 1903 he appointed Judge Jones of Alabama to investigate black slavery and trafficking. However nothing was done despite minor reforms. Thousands of mostly black men in chain gangs were very profitable when leased out. In 1927 in Alabama, one of out of nineteen black males over 12 were kidnapped into slavery. In total there were 37,701 such arrests. In 1930 half of all African-Americans lived in the southern ‘Black belt’. The majority were in some form of servitude such as peonage. In 1929 two Mississippi sheriffs made $20,000 and $30,000 respectively from supplying black labour to the plantations. In August 1932 there was a plea for more cotton pickers in Macon, Georgia. The police then arrested sixty blacks on the pretext of vagrancy, and supplied to the plantation of JH Stroud.
GOP leaders at the presidential level adopted a “Southern strategy” by investing heavily in maintaining a minor party organization in the South, as a way to create a reliable voting base at conventions. As a consequence, federal patronage did go to southern blacks, as long as there was a Republican in the White House. During this period, Republican administrations also appointed blacks to political positions. Republicans regularly supported anti-lynching bills, but these were filibustered by Southern Democrats in the Senate. For example, in 1900, as the 56th Congress considered proposals for apportioning its seats among the 45 states following the 1900 Federal Census , Republican Representative Edgar D. Crumpacker from Illinois filed an independent report urging that the Southern states be stripped of seats due to the large numbers of voters they had disfranchised. He noted this was provided for in Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provided for stripping representation from states that reduced suffrage due to race. However Southern Democrats blocked this. President Theodore Roosevelt made public statements against lynching in 1903, following George White’s murder in Delaware, and in his sixth annual State of the Union message on December 4, 1906. When Roosevelt suggested that lynching was taking place in the Philippines, southern Democrats filibustered this. In 1903 Roosevelt refrained from commenting on lynching during his Southern political campaigns. Nevertheless he lost political support in the South and suffered death threats for his efforts.
in 1920 the Republican Party promised at its national convention to support passage of such a law. Leonidas C. Dyer was an American politician, reformer, civil rights activist, and military officer who served 11 terms in the U.S. Congress as a Republican Representative from Missouri from 1911 to 1933. In 1918 he sponsored an anti-lynching bill; it was passed in a subsequent session of the United States House of Representatives in January 1922, but a Senate filibuster by the Southern white Democratic block defeated it in December 1922. With the NAACP, Representative Dyer spoke across the country in support of his bill in 1923 and tried to gain passage that year and the next, but was defeated by the Solid South Democratic block. Dyer had been distressed by lynch mobs attacking and killing blacks in 1917. The Republican President Warren G. Harding spoke in favour of Dyer’s anti-lynching bill at an appearance in Birmingham, Alabama. With high interest in the bill across the country, it passed the House on January 26, 1922 with the help of Liberal Republicans and eight Democratic Representatives, and went on to the Senate. President Harding stated he would sign the bill if it was passed by the Senate. Following the defeat of his first bill in the Senate in 1922, Dyer tried unsuccessfully two more times to get it passed by the Senate. Of course not that the Republican Party was immune from radical racism. The members of the first Klan in the South were exclusively Democrats. In the South, Klan members were still Democratic, as it was essentially a one-party region for whites.
The Depression effects were catastrophic for African-Americans. They were dependent on cotton which was crop hit hardest by the Depression. New Deal agencies discriminated against blacks. NRA excluded blacks from skilled jobs and discriminated in wage rates. CCC operated segregated camps. TVA established all-white model towns. Roosevelt needed support of Southern Democrats so refused to legislate against lynching. But New Deal won black support and broke ties African-Americans had traditionally had with Republicans. Many helped by New Deal relief. By 1935 thirty percent of black families on relief, three times that of whites. Federal funds were given to black schools, colleges, housing, hospitals. In the north, Democrats had long welcomed other immigrants into the fold. With growth of black population these also concerned southern Democrats as they feared the New Deal would corrode the southern racial caste system. This was despite the fact that New Deal projects mainly benefited whites. For example the introduction of State Security excluded farmworkers, thereby disqualifying the majority of African-Americans in the South. It was designed that way to keep southern Democrats on side.
Democrat president Harry Truman was raised in Missouri town of Independence where whites were nostalgic for the Confederacy and African-Americans confined to living in ‘Nigger Neck’, banned from the public library and many stores. Truman’s own ancestors had owned slaves. He thought Negroes belonged in Africa, yellow men in Asia, New York was full of ‘kikes’ and ‘wops’ and eventually he made good on this like any good racist Democrat by joining the Ku Klux Klan. However in the 1930s as Missouri senator he supported moves to end the poll tax and lynching despite using th epithet ‘nigger’ privately. As president he awakened America to civil rights issues and thus alienated Southern Democrats who tried to form a Dixiecrat platform under Strom Thurmond. Despite being racist himself, Truman realised that in the Cold War, America’s standing would suffer. He was also sickened by attacks on returning black servicemen, and indeed desegregated the armed forces in 1948.
In seeking the black vote Eisenhower civil rights legislation in the face of Democrat opposition, which weakened the provision’s to make them almost irrelevant. John F Kennedy had in fact been one of those Democrats. While appointing blacks such as Thurgood Marshall to important posts, President Kennedy also appointed southern judges who were openly racist and obstructed blacks from voting. Lyndon B Johnson made efforts to dilute the civil rights legislation of President Dwight Eisenhower. Johnson had worked during the Depression for a New Deal Agency, the National Youth Administration. In Congress, he sided with the Southern Democrats, and had always privately referred to blacks as ‘niggers’,. In 1956, as Senate majority leader, he helped kill a civil rights bill. But he helped the passing of Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Act the following year. Yet as president Johnson championed of the very same civil rights for blacks which he opposed in the decade before he became president. Also, according to then-Air Force One steward Robert MacMillan, Johnson passed civil rights because he candidly admitted in 1964:
“I’ll have them niggers voting Democratic for two hundred years.”
Segregationist George Wallace, the Democrat governor of Alabama, found surge of support among the white proletariat in 1968, and in fact won the presidential primary in Michigan. Even though federal spending since the New Deal had largely benefited whites, with civil rights this same federal money was extended to blacks as well, with forced busing and affirmative action.
When Truman had desegregated the military in 1948, South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond attempted to thwart his re-election by organising the strongly racist States’ Rights Democratic Party, or Dixiecrats. With the passage of Civil Rights Act in 1964, Thurmond switched his allegiance to the Republicans, supporting Nixon and Barry Goldwater. To his death he never renounced his support for racial segregation, despite impregnating his sixteen-year old African-American domestic servant, Carrie Butler. Goldwater won many southern white votes in his 1964 campaign to oppose civil rights legislation as federal interference. Johnson won by simultaneously portraying Goldwater to southern whites as supporting civil rights He was the first Republican presidential candidate since Reconstruction to win the electoral votes of the Deep South states. A Lyndon B. Johnson ad called “Confessions of a Republican,” which ran in the North, associated Goldwater with the Ku Klux Klan. At the same time, Johnson’s campaign in the Deep South publicized Goldwater’s support for pre-1964 civil rights legislation. In the end, Johnson swept the election. Goldwater was at odds in his position with most of the prominent members of the Republican Party, dominated by so-called Eastern Establishment and Midwestern Progressives. A higher percentage of the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did Democrats. Meanwhile Alabama governor and Democrat, George Wallace, ran in 1968 as candidate for the far-right American Independent Party, on a segregationist platform: “there’s not a dimes difference between the two major parties”. Wallace emphasised states’ rights, law and order, and against Leftist youth such as anarchists and hippies, and attracted various racists from the KKK, White Citizens council and John Birch Society.In the midst of this the historical memories were obliterated and now regarded with inconvenience.