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To understand how Republicans lost the African American vote, we must first understand how we won the African American vote.
In Kentucky, the history of black voting rights is inseparable from the Republican Party. Virtually all African Americans became Republicans.
Democrats in Louisville were led by Courier-Journal editor Henry Watterson and were implacably opposed to blacks voting.
Watterson wrote that his opposition to blacks voting was “founded upon a conviction that their habits of life and general condition disqualify them from the judicious exercise of suffrage.”
In George Wright’s “Life Behind the Veil,” he writes of Republican General John Palmer standing before tens of thousands of slaves on July 4th, 1865, when slavery still existed in Kentucky, and declaring: “my countrymen, you are free, and while I command, the military forces of the United States will defend your right to freedom.” The crowd erupted in cheers.
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Democrat-controlled legislature voted against the 13th, the 14th, and the 15th amendments.
William Warley was a black Republican in Louisville. He was born toward the end of the nineteenth century.
He was a founder of Louisville’s NAACP but he is most famous for fighting and overturning the notorious Louisville segregated housing ordinance.
Warley bought a house in the white section in defiance of a city segregation law. The case, Buchanan v. Warley, was finally decided in 1917 and the Supreme Court held unanimously that Kentucky law could not forbid the sale of a house based on race.
The Republican Party’s history is rich and chock full of emancipation and black history.
Republicans still prize the sense of justice that MLK spoke of when he said that “an unjust law is any law the majority enforces on a minority but does not make binding upon itself.”
Republicans have never stopped believing that minorities, whether they derive from the color of their skin or shade of their ideology should warrant equal protection.
Everyone knows of the sit-ins in Greensboro and Nashville but few people remember the sit-it in the Alexandria public library in 1938.
Samuel Tucker, a lawyer and graduate of Howard University, recruited five young African American men to go to the public library and select a book and sit and read until they were forcibly removed.
Tucker’s sit-in set the stage for students who organized the sit-in at Woolworth’s in Greensboro that brought down Jim Crow in many areas, years before the civil rights act of 1964.