The photo of the men above illustrate part of the reason I made my transition from the plantation of the Democratic Party on which many Black Americans continue to languish. These men elected during the period of Reconstruction were the first, and for a very long time, the only Black Americans elected to the United States Congress. They were all of them, courageous and bold men who put lie to the then prevailing notion that Blacks were innately inferior to Whites and they served with distinction.
Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first Black member of the Senate and of Congress, and he was elected from the state of Mississippi in 1870.
Joseph Rainey was the first Black elected to the House of Representatives. from South Carolina.
These men, and the others, were all republicans. In fact the Republican Party “owned” the Black vote until the 1930’s when FDR’s New Deal programs began to peel away Black voters from their allegiance. It wasn’t until the 1960’s and 1970’s however that Blacks began to move solidly into the Democrat camp. Ironically, it was continued Republican support for Civil Rights that led to the re-enfranchisement of Blacks throughout the South, something that had been systematically stripped from them by Democrats as quickly as possible after the Reconstruction Era. The infamous Compromise of 1877 that ended Reconstruction gave Democrats a free hand to institute as reasonable a facsimile of slavery as possible while Whites on both sides of the Mason-Dixon agreed to agree on making as much money as possible and looking the other way as the US Constitution was trampled underfoot.
Why is it that this rich history was something I and most Americans are never exposed to? Could it be that acknowledgment of Republicans long standing commitment to Civil Rights and the Democratic Party’s long standing use of race politics stands counter to conventional liberal wisdom? Perhaps it simply doesn’t suit the narrative that Republicans are all racists and that Democrats are the party of peace, love, and equal opportunity. I once remember being told by a teacher that the Republicans who championed Civil Rights would be Democrats today.
The absurdity of this claim is obvious to anyone who knows the history, as many unfortunately do not. It was in fact the Republican Party that was from the outset anti-slavery and pro-civil rights. Then and now the Republican Party supported the rights of individuals to stand and fall on their own accord, and not based on his or her race, creed, or confession. Then as now, the Democrat Party held firmly to a doctrine of control.
After all, what else is a plantation but a world in which men are systematically separated from their families, women and children are supported by the plantation establishment, educational opportunity is determined for you, religious expression is smiled upon as long as it doesn’t threaten the status quo, working in the big house is held up as the highest possible attainment (and is usually only permitted for biracial folks who uphold the establishment), and one and all are threatened that freedom of conscience, of self determination, and of life outside the plantation means nothing but sure destruction? A plantation or the state of Black Americans under Democrat control?