Since the end of the Civil War in 1865, when African Americans
were granted the right to vote, through the 15th Amendment
in 1868, electoral politics has played a dominant role
in the African American Community. African
Americans have been participating in electoral politics
for 147 years.
With the North winning the Civil War and chattel slavery being
abolished, under the Emancipation Proclamation, and as
we were given the right to vote, through the 15th Amendment,
many Black leaders began to feel that maybe conditions
would change in America. Therefore, most leaders started urging
Black people to join the Republication Party, the Party
This period in history from 1863 to 1876 is called “Reconstruction”
and the first time Black people began to participate vigorously
in electoral politics.
During the late 1860s and early 1870s, many African Americans were
elected to Congress and an African American Senator, Hiram
Revels, was elected from Mississippi.
The Political Abolition Party and the Equal Rights Party
ran Frederick Douglass for Vice President of the United
States in 1856 and 1872.
Many Black colleges were established during this period through
the land grant act that called for public education at
the college level. Because of these responses on the part
of the government, many African American leaders felt
that Black people’s situation could be resolved in America
through governmental intervention and effective voting.
The presidential election of 1876 brought into focus the real agendas
of the white ruled Republican and Democratic Parties.
Rutherford B. Hayes was the Republican candidate who was
supposed to be representing the vital interests of the
North and Samuel Tilden was the Democratic candidate alleging
to represent the real interests of the South.
a very close election, the South actually won the popular
vote; however, during the Electoral College proceedings,
neither candidate received a majority of electoral votes.
The Southern representatives made it clear that their
interests did not include winning the presidency of the
States, but reclaiming full autonomy
for the South. Through much wrangling, a decision was
made by those present that later became known as the “Great
The Compromise of 1876 resulted in the Republican Hayes being announced
the winner of the presidential election and both sides
received what they basically wanted in the first place.
Obviously neither side was interested in the liberation
of Black people. The emerging northern industrialists
wanted entry and new markets into the South and the southern
plantation owners wanted their land back.
The net result for African Americans was the repealing of some
of the voting rights laws that immediately began to wipe
out Black elected officials and made it virtually impossible
for Black people to vote in the South again until the
passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964.
Through all of this, Black leaders, and those African Americans
who voted, remained loyal to the Republican Party even
though their voting rights had been sold down the drain.
After Reconstruction, many Black people still remained loyal to
the Republican Party and tried to fight for change within
it, just as some Black people are still fighting for changes
in the Democratic Party today. This loyalty lasted until
the 1930s when African Americans began to switch their
allegiance to the Democratic Party and the so-called “New
Deal Era” of the Roosevelt Administration. Essentially,
since the 1930s to the present, African Americans have
voted for Democratic Party candidates in large measure.
There have been a small group of African Americans who have historically
called for a Black Political Party in response to the
domination of the white ruled Republication and Democratic
Parties. In fact, in Gary, Indiana in 1972, 10,000 Black people participated
in the National Black Political Convention in which the
call for the development of a Black Independent Political
Party was a prominent discussion at this meeting. However, the allegiance of Black elected officials to the Democratic Party
prevented any real movement toward the development of
a Black Political Party or independent Black Political
Organization. Instead, a strategy of the third force inside the Democratic Party was developed.
In Chicago, for example,
since the death of the late Mayor Harold Washington, African
American leaders are very much divided over strategy and
tactics to continue the movement for Black political empowerment.
This trend can be observed around the country.
There is no question that we need our own political party, or at
best, our own political organization. But this must occur
in a manner that truly represents the best interests of
the African American Community.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Conrad W. Worrill,
PhD, is the National Chairman Emeritus of the National
Black United Front (NBUF).
Click here to contact Dr. Worrill.