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 138 years.
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 of Lincoln.
period in history from 1863 to 1876 is called “Reconstruction”
and the first time Black people began to participate vigorously in
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.
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
In 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 United 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 Compromise.”
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.
As pointed out, 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.
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
1972 in Gary, Indiana 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.
Chicago, for example, since the death of the late Mayor Harold
Washington, African American leaders have been divided over strategy
and tactics to continue the movement for Black political empowerment
as evidenced in the upcoming Mayoral run-off. 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.