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From Lincoln to Obama, the African American Vote by Daily Kos, guest writer aaraujo

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth president of the United States of America.  He was the first Republican to be elected president.  In 2008, Barack Obama was elected as the forty-fourth president of the United States.  He is the first African American to be elected president.  The historical irony was that Lincoln was a Republican and Obama is a Democrat.  Lincoln’s presidency was defined by the American Civil War and the emancipation of over four million African Americans from slavery.  A century and a half later Obama was nominated by the Democratic Party with ninety-five percent of the African American vote.  How and why did the Republican Party of Lincoln that ended slavery completely lose the African American vote?  

Throughout the course of human history there has been a primary motivating factor in the development of civilizations.  This motivation has usually been that of the powerful exploiting the weak for economic gain.  From the establishment of the first permanent English colony in Jamestown, America was built on the backs of subjugated labor with the first African slaves arriving in Virginia in 1621.  The plantation system was developed in the Caribbean colonies and had evolved from medieval feudalism in Europe.   Feudalism was an agricultural system based on land ownership by the rich and powerful and serfdom of the poor and weak peasants that provided cheap labor.  

Slavery had been a political issue from before the founding of the United States with the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  The Revolutionary War was not only America’s fight for independence but the largest slave revolt in American history. There was a conflict in that white Americans wanted freedom but at the same time enslaved black Americans. After the war, the northern states gradually began abolishing slavery partly due to acknowledging the hypocrisy.  America was culturally divided between the industrializing North and the agricultural South.  These differences created radically diverse attitudes towards slavery.  The North became morally opposed to slavery and a fervent anti-slavery abolitionist movement began to flourish.  This added to the already growing animosity between the North and the South leading up to the Civil War in 1861.

    The political structure of the United States has traditionally consisted of only two major political parties at a time, and since the Civil War they have been the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  The Democrats are the nation’s oldest political party dating back to President Andrew Jackson in 1828.  The party emerged from the fracturing of the Democratic-Republican Party established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1800.  The party’s power was based on the wealth of the southern states, which in itself, was based on the plantation system and slavery.  With five elected presidents between 1828 and 1860, the Democrats, and southerners in particular, dominated presidential politics.

    The Republican Party arose from the breakdown of the Whig Party.  The Whig Party was formed in the 1830s as an opposition party to the Democrats but had fractured and dissolved over the contentious issue of slavery.  The Republican Party was formed around the issue of abolishing existing slavery, preventing slavery from expanding into newly acquired western territories and, specifically, opposing the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854.  The Act formed the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowing settlers in those territories to determine through popular vote whether they would allow slavery within each territory.  The Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of the 36th parallel but excluding Missouri. Maine was made a state to balance the number of southern pro-slavery and northern anti-slavery states.

                                                          Abraham Lincoln


    The polarizing differences over slavery finally came to a violent resolution with the Civil War.  With the election of a northern Republican, Abraham Lincoln, the South had realized that it had forever lost its traditional electoral advantages and decided that separating from the United States was the only way it could preserve its long held institutions of slavery and of the plantation system that had provided it with so much wealth, power and way of life.  Four years later, the war had ended with a Northern victory and slavery was abolished throughout the South.   In perverse vengeance, Lincoln was assassinated by Southern supporter, John Wilkes Booth, on April 14, 1865.

    Like most northerners of his time, Lincoln hated the institution of slavery; but he still held ignorant and bigoted prejudices against African Americans.  Frederick Douglass, a former slave and powerful abolitionist leader said of Lincoln in 1876,   “I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery.”

                                                           President Andrew Johnson

    The Era of Reconstruction began as the war ended but was already off to a shaky start with Lincoln’s untimely death.  Lincoln’s successor was Vice President Andrew Johnson.   Lincoln chose a Democrat as a running mate on a National Union ticket attempt to bridge partisan divides and bring the nation together.  As a Democrat he disliked Reconstruction and pushed for rapid reinstatement of the southern states.  He did not offer protection to the former slaves and soon came into conflict with the Republican Congress leading to his impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1868.

                                                            Ulysses Grant


      The Republicans quickly regained the White House with the election of popular Civil War general Ulysses Grant.  He was concerned with the difficulties of the former slaves in the South.  Grant made great strides in civil rights and prosecuted groups that cruelly terrorized African Americans such as the Ku Klux Klan. He provided the right to vote to African Americans with passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution that was ratified in 1870.   It read, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  

   With new political freedoms, African Americans naturally aligned with their liberators and protectors and registered as loyal Republicans.  With Reconstruction now unhindered, African Americans saw a golden age in political activism.  Hiram Revels of Mississippi was elected the country's first African American senator.    During Reconstruction, sixteen blacks served in Congress and about 600 served in states legislatures and all were Republicans.

     The Compromise of 1877 abruptly ended Reconstruction and basic civil rights for African Americans quickly eroded away.  The compromise was a deal that settled the disputed 1876 presidential election between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden.  Hayes was allowed to take office in trade for federal troops being pulled out of the South and ending Reconstruction that the South saw as federal tyranny.  

     Left to their own without protections, the situation for African Americans in the South quickly deteriorated.   It became so desperate that many sought escape.  In a 1880 congressional testimony it was recorded, “In the spring of 1879, thousands of colored people, unable longer to endure the intolerable hardships, injustice, and suffering inflicted upon them by a class of Democrats in the South, had, in utter despair, fled panic-stricken from their homes and sought protection among strangers in a strange land. Homeless, penniless, and in rags, these poor people were thronging the wharves of Saint Louis, crowding the steamers on the Mississippi River, and in pitiable destitution throwing themselves upon the charity of Kansas. Thousands more were congregating along the banks of the Mississippi River, hailing the passing steamers, and imploring them for a passage to the land of freedom, where the rights of citizens are respected and honest toil rewarded by honest compensation. The newspapers were filled with accounts of their destitution, and the very air was burdened with the cry of distress from a class of American citizens flying from persecutions which they could no longer endure.”  

        While the South regressed into Jim Crow Black Codes and legally sanctioned racial segregation, the Republican Party dominated presidential politics for the next few decades and enjoyed loyalty from the few African Americans that still were allowed to vote.  The attitude of African American leaders at the time, such as Booker Washington, was political acquiesces to the white establishment and that was detailed in the Atlanta Compromise of 1895.  Washington said, “The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house.”  

     For generations after the Civil War, it remained that the Democrats were the party of the Solid South and that Republicans were “less bad” for African Americans.  Republicans offered platitudes and tokenism towards African Americans but basically took a hands-off approach to civil rights and the advancement of African Americans in general.  

      This all changed with the onset of the Great Depression and election of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt, a liberal northerner, in 1933.  As the country geared up for World War II in 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802.  It was the most significant progress in civil rights since Reconstruction and overnight lifelong African American Republicans became African American Democrats.  The order stated, “NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the statutes, and as a prerequisite to the successful conduct of our national defense production effort, I do hereby reaffirm the policy of the United States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries and in Government, because of race, creed, color, or national origin, and I do hereby declare that it is the duty of employers and of labor organizations, in furtherance of said policy and of this order, to provide for the full and equitable participation of all workers in defense industries, without discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin.”

                                                              Franklin D. Roosevelt


African Americans progressed well under President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs to combat the effects of economic despair.  There was a new sense of hope that things could get better.  Roosevelt held high approvals from African Americans until his death in office in 1945.

     Another great leap forward in civil rights was Executive Order 9981 issued by President Harry Truman in 1948, Roosevelt’s succeeding vice president. It abolished racial discrimination in the military and eventually led to the end of segregation in the services. The order read, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale. “    

                                                            Harry S Truman


      After twenty years of Democratic control, moderate Republican Dwight Eisenhower was elected president in 1952.  The Eisenhower presidency saw the growth of modern civil rights movement.  Brown versus the Board of Education was a Supreme Court case in 1954 that decided that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional.  It delivered a mortal blow to the Jim Crow Black Codes of the South.  For the first time since Reconstruction, Eisenhower deployed federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to protect the students and enforce the Brown decision in 1957.  But in these turbulent times of change, Eisenhower was viewed as being unenthusiastic towards the cause of civil rights.

    African Americans had become politically energized during the Civil Rights Movement and came out strongly for Democrat John Kennedy in 1960.  With the advancements in civil rights moving forward with greater intensity President Kennedy delivered a Civil Rights Address in 1963.  This was the first time that a president called on all Americans to recognize civil rights.   He called for the end of racial discrimination. Kennedy had been hesitant about civil rights because of the strength of southern Democratic opponents in Congress but called for a Civil Rights Act.  Sadly, Kennedy did not live to see the Civil Rights Act as he was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963.

    Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy all pushed forward civil rights by having to fight members of their own party from the South.  With the death of Kennedy, southern Democrat Lyndon Johnson became president.  Johnson overcame southern resistance and convinced the Democratic Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation.  This was soon followed in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed African Americans the right of the vote in the South.  In 1967, Johnson selected Thurgood Marshall to be the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court.

                                                            Richard Nixon


    With all the rapid social changes, racist white southern Democrats began to leave the party.  As early as 1948, breakaway Democrats formed the “Dixiecrat” movement.   The Republicans saw this as an opportunity.  As African Americans flocked to the Democratic Party, Republicans targeted the white southern remainders.  Richard Nixon appealed to white fears and hate of an ascending African American community.   In 1968, Republicans had decided, “From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that...but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are.”   Using the cynical scheme called the “Southern Strategy”, Nixon won the presidency and his reelection in landslides but was later forced to resign in disgrace due to the Watergate scandal in 1973.


     Mirroring the Reconstruction Era of a century past, with newly found political strength, a new political class of African Americans emerged but this time as Democrats.  In 1972, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm became the first African American and first woman candidate to seek the nomination for President of the United States from one of the two major parties.  She won 152 delegates and survived numerous assignation attempts.    


     Richard Nixon’s succeeding vice president, Gerald Ford, was a moderate Republican but
due to the long, dark shadow of Nixon was not able to do much within his short presidency and was voted out of office in 1976.  Democratic President Jimmy Carter served for only one term before being ousted by Republican Ronald Reagan due to many factors to include a weak economy and the Iran Hostage Crisis.  

     Reagan followed the Nixon playbook by appealing to white voters’ fears and anxieties regarding African Americans.  Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Reagan began his run for president by giving a “States' Rights” speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  Philadelphia, Mississippi was where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964.  Reagan opposed the Martin Luther King holiday.  It had seemed as if Reagan went out of his way to alienate African Americans in order to attract southern whites.  

    In opposition to Reagan, in 1984, the civil rights leader the Reverend Jesse Jackson became the second African American to run a national campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.  He had gained 21% of the popular vote.  In 1988, Jackson again ran for the nomination and won almost seven million votes.  Jackson mobilized African American voters and proved that an African American could be a legitimate contender for the highest office in the land.

    Vice President George Bush won the presidency in 1988 by going after his opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, with a negative advertisement campaign showcasing Willie Horton.   Horton was an African American convicted felon who, while serving a life sentence for murder, was the beneficiary of a state weekend furlough program.  While on furlough he escaped and committed assault, armed robbery and rape.  This struck a nerve with white fears of black crime.  With twelve years of Republican neglect, African American inner cities suffered hardships of high unemployment, crime, drugs and police brutality.  It all came to a head with the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

                                                             Bill Clinton


    In 1992, Arkansas Democrat Bill Clinton won with strong African American support and was even dubbed the “first black president” by African American writer Toni Morrison.  She wrote in 1998, “white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class”  

      Texas Republican Governor George W. Bush, the son of President George Bush, came into office under the highly disputed 2000 election.  He campaigned as a “compassionate conservative” and appointed high ranking African American Republican members to his cabinet such as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice who were more than just tokens.  African Americans were intrigued but that soon changed when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.  Bush’s lack of response and perceived indifference to the plight of poor inner city African Americans angered the African American community.  African American hip hop entertainer Kanye West blurted out the raw frustration that African Americans felt towards the President during a live national television broadcast for the hurricane victims, “George Bush doesn't care about black people.”

    The final political threshold had been crossed with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.  In context to the likelihood of an African American becoming president during the nominating primaries he said, “We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can.”

    In conclusion, the movement of the African American voting bloc from the Republican to Democratic Party happened in numerous stages. First, the Compromise of 1877 that ended Reconstruction; Republicans betrayed African Americans to the southern Democrats in order to retain the White House.  Second, the Republican hands off approach to civil rights, except for some platitudes and tokenism, for the next several decades created apathy and alienation among African Americans.  Third, the wholehearted support of African American civil rights, while bucking their own party members, by Democratic presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson attracted overwhelming support from African Americans between 1933 and 1968. Next, the implementation of the Southern Strategy started in 1968 by Republican President Nixon, and followed through by Reagan and Bush further pushed away African American voters from the Republicans to the Democrats.  The campaigns of Shirley Chisholm in 1972 and Jesse Jackson in the 1980s for the Democratic nomination for President engaged African American voters.   Finally, the election of Barack Obama as the first African American cemented the bond between the African American electorate and the Democratic Party.

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                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

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Upwards social mobility in America is becoming more of an exception than a rule. New York Times: Racial Diversity Efforts Ebb for Elite Careers, Analysis Finds.
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As a partner and chief diversity officer at Thompson & Knight, Pauline Higgins was not afraid to press the issue of hiring minorities at the 126-year-old Texas law firm. But when she left in 2008, she was replaced by an associate with less influence.

Pauline Higgins was a partner who served as the chief diversity officer at a 126-year-old law firm in Texas. When she left the job in 2008, she was replaced by an associate with less influence.

Now, current and former partners say, the diversity committee meets less often, and the firm has fewer black lawyers than before. It is a trajectory familiar in many elite realms of American professional life. Even as racial barriers continue to fall, progress for African-Americans over all has remained slow — and in some cases appears to be stalling.

“You don’t want to be a diversity officer who only buys tables at events and seats people,” Ms. Higgins said recently. “It’s about recruiting and inclusion and training and development, with substantive work assignments.”

Nearly a half-century after a Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, helped usher in the era of affirmative action, the Supreme Court is poised to rule as early as this week on whether the University of Texas can continue to consider race as one of many factors in its admissions policy. It is a case that could have a profound impact on race-based affirmative action programs across the nation, and it has reignited a discussion of how much progress minorities, blacks in particular, have made in integrating into some of the most sought-after professions, especially since the recession.

Pauline Higgins was a partner who served as the chief diversity officer at a 126-year-old law firm in Texas. When she left the job in 2008, she was replaced by an associate with less influence. (T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times)

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Michelle Obama's darker complexion may play a role in how actresses are cast in film and television. The Root: Could First Lady End Hollywood Colorism?
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Recently I had the pleasure of moderating a conversation hosted by New York Women in Film and Television and the Fox Broadcasting Co. on the issue of diversity in Hollywood, particularly in terms of casting. The panel included some of the industry's leaders on the subject, among them film executive Zola Mashariki, who has worked on films such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Antwone Fisher Story; Dante Di Loreto, president of the production company responsible for Glee; Shana Waterman, a programming executive who has overseen The Mindy Project and Family Guy; and Seth Yanklewitz, who has cast major projects such as The Hangover and the hit series New Girl. The industry veterans spoke candidly of the challenges that still exist in Hollywood regarding making the entire industry more diverse, challenges they have all confronted through their efforts to make diversity a priority in their projects.

While the entire conversation was enlightening and at times inspiring, one moment was particularly memorable. A black woman with a dark complexion spoke of how rare it is to see someone who looks like her on-screen. Acknowledging that there is still room for improvement, the executives nevertheless pointed to the successes of various darker-skinned black actresses, from Gabourey Sidibe to rising star Emayatzy Corinealdi.

But despite these successes, one inescapable fact remains: Rarely is an actress cast as a romantic interest who has a darker complexion than her leading man. Think of any classic film with a black leading man -- Boomerang, The Best Man, Love Jones, Brown Sugar -- or even nonclassic films, such as Hitch. There appears to be a formula: Black male paired with lighter-skinned black female or nonblack female.

To be clear, this is not a criticism of these actors or actresses. It is a criticism of one of the world's most influential industries for perpetually reinforcing a narrow definition of what constitutes beauty. But it appears that this definition may finally be changing in Hollywood, thanks to a certain first lady.

First lady Michelle Obama (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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Hopefully he get's almost no support from communities of color and their allies. New York Times: (New York Mayoral candidate) William C. Thompson.
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The aggressive era of stop-and-frisk policing in New York City is, in every sense of the word, on trial: the subject of a high-stakes federal court case, scorching denunciations from civil rights leaders and emotional calls for its dismantlement by liberal lawmakers.

But in a stand that is surprising black leaders and worrying some allies, William C. Thompson Jr., the sole African-American candidate for mayor, is steadfastly unwilling to join the tear-it-down chorus.

Instead, Mr. Thompson is embracing elements of the polarizing crime-fighting strategy and winning praise from an unlikely duo deeply associated with it: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

On Wednesday, Mr. Thompson’s restrained approach paid by far its biggest political dividend when a coalition of unions representing about 100,000 city law enforcement officials voted to endorse his Democratic campaign, making clear that what appealed to its members was his comparatively conservative posture on criminal justice, according to people told of the decision.

But in a city whose racial politics are never far from view, Mr. Thompson’s moderate stance on an issue that has consumed the city’s black and Latino community is inflaming a number of high-profile African-American Democrats, even holding up the endorsement of a party stalwart, the Rev. Al Sharpton.

William C. Thompson Jr., a Democrat, criticizes stop-and-frisk excesses but defends the procedure as a useful police tool.

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The government of Malawi has defended a controversial deal it struck with South Korea to export up to 100,000 of its young people as migrant workers. BBC:Malawi defends South Korea labour deal.
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Opposition MPs in Malawi have called the deal "slave labour". But the labour minister, struggling to create new job employment opportunities in her own country, has denied that.

Eunice Makangala told the BBC she "just" wanted "to help the young people in Malawi" who are due to leave for Seoul to work.

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre says Malawian President Joyce Banda made an agreement with the government of South Korea on a visit there in February this year. It involves sending young Malawian men and women aged between 18 and 25 to jobs in factories and on farms on the Korean peninsula, he says.

Accurate unemployment figures in Malawi are hard to compute because of the lack of a national identification system to track those out of a job. But recent research suggests that 80% of secondary school graduates in Malawi return to their villages every year because they can neither find jobs nor employ themselves.

Job opportunities are few and far between in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi

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Welcome to the porch, where the warm air is blowing, and the conversations are just fine.

Originally posted to Black Kos on Fri May 31, 2013 at 01:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community and Barriers and Bridges.

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