The Black Split With the Republican Party, From Ebony’s Perspective

The previous post analyzed the magazine Ebony during the Civil Rights era. The post utilized the magazine’s archive, which can be found here.

The archive also provides a fascinating picture into the gradual alienation of the black community from the Republican Party. In the early 1960s Republicans were still very competitive with the black vote. Indeed, the April 1962 issue of Ebony has a story titled “What Republicans Must Do to Regain the Negro Vote” in which Ebony interviews a prominent Republican. The interviewee? Richard Nixon!

Mr. Nixon is still visibly reliving his defeat to President John F. Kennedy, when Mr. Kennedy’s phone call in support of the jailed Martin Luther King Jr. swung the black vote Democratic. Mr. Nixon blames himself for losing the black vote; “It was my fault for not selling myself in such a close election.” He also argues strongly against the views of Senator Barry Goldwater, who wishes not to pursue the black vote, stating:

If Goldwater wins the fight, our party will eventually become the first major all-white political party. And that isn’t good. That would be a violation of GOP principles.

What irony!

By 1964, the Republican Party and the black community have visibly moved apart. A March 1964 article is titled “How Republican Leaders View the Negro.” In it, only three of eight prominent Republicans are willing to respond to a questionnaire by Ebony. Mr. Nixon is not amongst them. In February 1967, Ebony writes, “At no time since the Republican Party ended slavery has it been so flagrantly anti-Negro.”

When Mr. Nixon is elected president, Ebony’s mood has hardened even further. It writes, in January 1969, “Outside of the familiar breed of white segregationists and supremacists, few men in American public life have incurred the wrath of blacks as Nixon.” The magazine accuses Mr. Nixon of abandoning blacks during the 1960 presidential election. Interestingly, the magazine is a lot more upset about the 1960 election in 1969 than it actually was during 1960.

By then the rupture with the Republican Party is complete. Ebony’s 1969 article about Richard Nixon could, with different details and names, be written about any Republican politician in 2011. In less than a decade the Republican Party has gone from a legitimate contender of the black vote to the party of white people, in the eyes of the black community. It is a shocking and sad development.

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