A Civil Rights’ history that is routinely ignored — on purpose

Juan Williams: Say it Loud: Black, GOP and Proud.

 As a black Democrat I have to say: 2014 was a marquee year for black Republicans.

 But the reaction from the NAACP and black Democrats has been revulsion.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a member of the Democratic House leadership, dismissed Republican South Carolina Senator Tim Scott’s victory as insignificant: “If you call progress electing a [black] person … who votes against the interests and aspirations of 95 percent of the black people in South Carolina, then I guess that’s progress.”

 Another critic of the black Republican ascendency, Darron Smith, wrote in the Huffington Post that Mia Love’s achievement in becoming the first black Republican woman elected to the House is “dangerous.”

 Someone needs to fill Rep. James Clyburn and the NAACP in on some civil rights’ history.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first civil rights legislation to further the participation of Black people in the political process since the Reconstruction Era. It was a Republican bill signed into law on September 9, 1957 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The impetus for the law was to further implement the Supreme Court’s anti-segregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.  It also contained provisions to strengthen voting rights of Black Americans.

Although influential Democrat congressman whittled down the bill’s initial scope, it still included a number of important provisions for the protection of voting rights. It established the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department, and empowered federal officials to prosecute individuals that conspired to deny or abridge another citizen’s right to vote. Moreover, it also created a six-member U.S. Civil Rights Commission charged with investigating allegations of voter infringement.

President Eisenhower was also the first to send Federal troops into the South to enforce de-segregation.  Does the name Orval Faubus ring a bell with anyone anymore?

The final version of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was approved in the Senate with 82% of Republicans voting yea and only 69% of Democrats. In the House it was approved by 80% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats. Eighteen Democrats and one Republican had filibustered in the Senate for 57 days before a vote of cloture finally allowed the bill to be brought up for a vote.

Democrats who joined the filibuster included Robert Byrd, Clinton’s hero William Fulbright, and Al Gore’s father Albert Gore Sr. Republicans were key to the cloture vote that ended the filibuster.

Democrats must have been ashamed of their performance the year before because when the final version of The Voting Rights Act of 1965 came up in the House the yea vote was 80% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans (Democrats 217-54, Republicans 111-20). The bill was passed in the Senate with 74% of Democrats and 97% of Republicans (Democrats 49-17, Republicans 30-1).

In fact, Republican actions that favor Black Americans began much earlier. It was the newly founded Republican party that ended slavery, and Blacks who could vote voted solidly Republican until 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt successfully demonized Herbert Hoover (not a difficult task) in the 1932 election and converted Blacks to the Democrat party where they have remained since.

It was the Republican party that championed and got the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments in 1867, all of which were to the benefit of the newly freed Black slaves.  These would have been much more to the benefit of them if the Southern Democrats had not successfully replaced slavery with Jim Crow laws.

Chief Justice Earl Warren was a Republican appointed by President Eisenhower.  Justice Warren, through his efforts of urging other justices, gets the credit for the Brown v. Board of Education being a unanimous 9-0 decision.

Despite being shunned by Black Americans in 1932, it was Republicans in Congress who pushed for an anti-lynching law in the 1930’s and Democrats, including President Roosevelt, who consistently blocked it from coming up for a vote.

How is it that Democrats today have so successfully demonized Republicans as racist? Maybe they get away with this because today’s Republicans are too chicken to challenge them on it by defending the stellar record of the Republican party on behalf of Black Americans?  It’s a truly stellar record that is easy to champion. So why, oh why, don’t they do it?  Now, with the recent election wave for Republicans, is surely the time.

Postscript: I’d be here all day if I tried to cite a reference for each and every fact and number stated above. They are all simple facts of history that can be easily checked by anyone who has any doubt of their accuracy.  You can be your own fact checker.



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