COMMENTARY: Republican Party’s Anti-Slavery Roots


“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”~ Marcus Garvey

It is always good to subtract fact from fiction and since many of our conversations will revolve around the Republican Party. It is important that we set the record straight with some of their historical contributions.

The Republican Party was formed as the anti-slavery, abolitionist party in 1854.

On November 6th, 1860 Abraham Lincoln became the first elected Republican president and on January 1, 1863 President Lincoln issued by Executive Order the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves.

Republicans pushed for and passed the Thirteenth Amendment January 31, 1865 to abolish all slavery in the United States.

Republicans pushed for and passed The Fourteenth Amendment that was ratified in 1868 granting Blacks full US Citizenship.

Republicans pushed for and passed the Fifteenth Amendment which granted Blacks the right to vote.

Abolitionist and ex-slave Frederick Douglass opined “I am a Republican, a Black dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.”

The first Black Republican was elected to the US Senate in 1871.

The first 22 Blacks elected to the US House were all Republicans.

Republicans started the NAACP in 1909 to commemorate the 100th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

The first Black leader of the NAACP was Republican James Weldon Johnson who became the general secretary in 1920. Mr. Johnson is also well known for writing the lyrics to “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Republican president Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect the school children and desegregate the Little Rock, Arkansas school district. This was the first time federal troops had been sent to the South since Reconstruction.

Republican Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois was the main architect and was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Legislation of 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965 and 1968. Dirksen wrote the language for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commended Dirksen’s “able and courageous leadership” and the Chicago Defender also praised Senator Dirksen “for the grand manner of his generalship behind the passage of the civil rights measures that have been enacted into law since Reconstruction.”

All the Civil Rights Legislation of the 1960’s and before was voted overwhelmingly with

Karen Watson is author of the book, “Being Black and Republican in the Age of Obama”
Karen Watson is author of the book, “Being Black and Republican in the Age of Obama”

Republican support.

Republican president Ronald Reagan signed into law the Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. National Holiday on November 2nd 1983, the first and only Federal Holiday that recognizes a Black American.

This is only a small snapshot of the intertwined history of Black Americans and the Republican Party, yet many still ask:

Is the Republican Party racist? As a lifelong Republican I can easily answer no, the Republican Party is not racist. And yet I do acknowledge that there are racist Republicans just like there are racist Democrats and racist Libertarians within each political party.

Next week we will divide the fact from fiction of the Democratic Party.


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