Once Again I Must Address the Racist Comments in My Feeds

A triptych of video stills of Garrison Hayes from a commentary in which he addresses unenlightened retorts. In the left image, Garrison uses his hands to create the quotation marks sign. In the center image, he's speaking as the word 'SHOCKER,' in all caps, appears over his head. In the right image, he leans forward on his desk, arms folded, and, with a knowing smile, stares into the camera.

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Donald Trump is reportedly vetting Florida congressman Byron Donalds to be his running mate. “Here we go,” I thought, as the predictable flurry of commentary about the history of the Black Republicans began in earnest. 

Whenever I tell stories about Black leaders and political figures from the 1800s and early 1900s, self-appointed experts hit me with comment-section paragraphs about how those Black men and women were, without a doubt, Republicans. The shitposters think this is a “gotcha” moment, sticking it to someone they perceive to be progressive. But like most things, it’s more revealing of their ignorance, as my new video explains: 

It’s true, Black people like Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Gayles, and many others were Republicans—finding their home in “The Party of Lincoln” in the decades following emancipation. What is also true is that these figures advocated for progressive policies, were labeled as radicals at the time, and were deeply committed to representing the interests of Black social and political progress in America. 

In the years following emancipation, known as the Reconstruction Era, Black voters in states like Mississippi, North Carolina, and Georgia sent more than two dozen Black politicians to represent them in congress—all of whom were Republicans. Across the South, hundreds of Black men (and a few Black women) were elected to state-wide office most of whom were, again, Republicans. 

Today, however, Black Americans vote for and identify as Democrats at staggering rates; more than any other group. The history of this shift in party allegiance maps directly to the political shifts in America’s two major parties across the 20th century, from the Lily-White Movement, to the nomination of Barry Goldwater. By midcentury, most Black Americans felt out of place in a Republican Party that seemed committed to catering itself to white identity politics over civil rights and social equality for all. 

The Republican Party is, today, more diverse than it has been in nearly 150 years, with five Black Republicans in Congress. But a notable difference between Black Republicans today and Black Republicans during Reconstruction is that all four of the Black Republican congressmen in the US House (Tim Scott is the lone Black Republican in the Senate) were elected in majority-white congressional districts— a fact they seem to be especially proud of.

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