Setting the Record Straight – American History in Black and White, Part 6: Black Americans were lynched and disenfranchised by Democrats to sabotage votes and maintain segregation. Many today are unaware of how much pain there was. Learn how segregation was reinstated, how Republicans tried passing federal anti-lynching laws, how it became a felony for any black to marry a white in Washington D.C., and much more in today’s episode on WallBuilders Live. Tune in to hear part 6 of Setting the Record Straight – American History in Black and White!
Air Date: 02/10/2022
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Welcome to WallBuilders Live with David Barton and Rick Green. Thank you for joining us today! This is a seven-part series, on Setting the Record Straight, American History in Black and White. If you missed the first five parts, don’t worry they’re all available right now WallBuildersLive.com. You can download them and listen to them. And today we’ll get part six and then we’ll get the conclusion next time on WallBuilders Live. Let’s pick up right where we left off last time with Setting the Record Straight, American History in Black and White.
Devices Democrats Used To Disenfranchise Black Americans
Southern Democrats went well beyond black codes, however, and also imposed forced segregation. Those Democratic pro-segregation state laws replaced the anti-segregation federal laws passed by Republicans in 1875. And regrettably, those state laws became the legal standard for the next 75 years.
The sixth device to disenfranchise black voters was bizarre gerrymandering. Once Democrats regained state legislatures they began to redraw election lines to make it impossible for Republicans to be elected, thereby preventing blacks from being elected.
For example, after reconstruction, Democrats regain the legislature and began to redraw voting lines so that when the last African-American left the Texas State House in 1897, not another one was elected either a Republican or a Democrat for the next 70 years until federal courts struck down the way Texas Democrats drew voting lines. This pattern was typical in other southern states as well.
The seventh device used to disenfranchise black voters was that of “white only” primaries. When the US Supreme Court finally struck down the state law in 1927 the Democratic Party simply enacted internal Democratic Party policies to prevent blacks from voting in Democratic primaries.
Because Democrats at that time solidly controlled every level of government in the South, this Democratic Party policy had the same effect as a state law and thus ensured that no black would be elected. In 1935 the Supreme Court upheld this Democratic Party policy of white only primaries but in 1944 the court reversed itself and finally struck them down.
The eighth device used by Democrats to disenfranchise black Americans was that a physical intimidation and violence. Obviously, the Ku Klux Klan was a leader in this form of violent voter intimidation.
As confirmed by Representative James T. Rapier of Alabama, “Democrats were hunting me down, like the partridge on the mount. Night and day, with their Ku Klux Klan, simply because I was a Republican and refused to bow at the feet of their bÃªl.”
Life Only A Little Better Than Slavery
The ninth device used by Democrats to disenfranchise black voters was the revision of state constitutions. To negate many of the rights that had been gained. Other devices, employed by Democrats, to keep blacks from voting included property ownership requirements. Democrats also used restrictive eligibility requirements, such as residing in a state two years before voting, or the pain of excessive annual voter registration fees. Fees were not struck down by the courts until 1971.
Democrats utilized nearly a dozen devices to keep black Americans from voting, something that would have come as no surprise to the earliest African-American civil rights leaders. For example, Representative Joseph Hayne Rainey had earlier declared, “You cannot expect the Negro to rise while the Democrats are trampling upon him and his rights. We ask you, Sir, to do by the Negro as you ought to do by him in justice. If the Democrats are such staunch friends of the Negro why is it that when new propositions are offered here and elsewhere looking into the elevation of the colored race and the extension of right and justice to them, why do the Democrats arrayed themselves in unbroken ranks and vote against every such measure?”
Frederick Douglass agreed with Rainey and also confirmed the basic Democratic hostility for those civil rights, “In all the southern states the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution are practically of no force or effect. By means of the shotgun and midnight raid, the old masterclasses triumphed over the newly enfranchised citizen and put the Constitution under their feet. The colored people who largely outnumber the whites and who in Republican politics have been banished from the ballot box and robbed of representation in the councils of the nation and the social condition of the colored people in that section is but little above what it was in the time of slavery.”
When Democrats Gained Power They Did Nothing To Advance Civil Rights
The unrelenting Democratic efforts to suppress black voting were successful. For example, in Mississippi in 1892, there were almost 70,000 more blacks than whites in the state. Yet, white voters outnumbered black voters by a margin of eight to one.
In Birmingham of the 18,000 blacks who lived in that city, at the turn of the century, only thirty were eligible to vote.
In Texas, the number of black voters fell from 100,000 to only 5,000. The number of black voters in Alabama and Florida was reduced by nearly 90 percent. And by the 1940s only 5 percent of blacks in the South were registered to vote.
In fact, in 1965 in Selma, Alabama a city with more black residents than white residents, the voting rolls were 99 percent white and only 1 percent black. Clearly, Democratic voter suppression efforts had been successful. Returning to the eighteen hundreds, recall the Democrats regained partial control of Congress in 1876. That partial control continued for the next 16 years until 1893 when Democrat Grover Cleveland was elected as president and Democrats gained control of both the House and the Senate.
Black Voting Rights
For the first time since Abraham Lincoln, the Democrats had full control of the law making process. Given their new powers, what did Democrats do to assist civil rights? Nothing. Not a single civil rights law was passed by Democrats during that time. In fact, the Democrats immediately passed laws repealing civil rights laws that had not yet been struck down by the Supreme Court.
Specifically, Democrats repealed the laws protecting black voting rights as well as those punishing Klan violence. By 1900, Democrats actually began actively to seek the repeal of the 14th and 15th Amendments.
As Democratic Senator Ben Tillman from South Carolina explained, “We made up our minds that the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were themselves null and void. That the Civil Rights Acts of Congress were null and void. That oaths required by such laws were null and void.”
Moment From America”s History
This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. Federal courts have made several amazing rulings recently. Ordering the removal of a cross from a cemetery, banning religious holiday displays, removing the Ten Commandments from public view, prohibiting student prayers whether verbal or silent and numerous other similar restrictive rulings.
As one current justice has noted, “The Supreme Court has now become “a national board of theology.” Our Founding Fathers would be astounded. They designed the First Amendment to keep the federal courts completely out of this issue.
As Thomas Jefferson forcefully declared, “I consider the federal government as prohibited by the Constitution from meddling with religious exercises. The First Amendment was designed to keep decisions on religious expression out of the federal courts and in the hands of the local communities.” For more information on God’s hand in American history contact WallBuilders at 1 800 8 REBUILD.
Wilson Reinstated Segregation
In 1901, at the same time that Democrats were seeking to roll back the Civil Rights Amendments to the Constitution, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt raised the ire of many Democrats by inviting Booker T Washington to the White House. Washington became the first African-American to dine with the president at the White House.
While Booker T. Washington’s wise counsel was snubbed by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, it was gladly sought by three Republican presidents for whom he served as adviser, including William Taft, William McKinley, And Teddy Roosevelt.
In 1915 the pro-Klan movie, Birth of a Nation, was released. It became a recruiting tool to help the Klan reach its peak membership of almost 2 million. That film incorporated material from Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s History of the American People including Wilson’s latent support for the Klan and its abominable practices southern redemption.
Amazingly, Wilson had received more black votes than any previous Democratic presidential candidate. But after his election, he quickly revealed his racism. He showed the racist Klan recruiting film Birth of a Nation at the White House, the first film ever shown at the White House.
He also reversed the Federal Government’s policy on race. All the Republicans had integrated the federal government after the Civil War, Wilson reinstated segregation.
When he took control in Washington he dismissed black federal supervisors, already holding office, and replace them with whites. He then extended that policy to federal offices across the nation. Throughout his eight years as President Wilson made only nine black appointments and eight of them were carryovers from Republican presidents.
During his presidency, the Democratically controlled House also passed a bill making it a felony for any black to marry a white in Washington D.C.
Black Americans Response To Roosevelt
By the way, much attention has been focused on state and federal legislatures on reparations proposals, that is, on the seeking of government payments to African-Americans for the historical violation of their civil rights. Yet, given the political history of African-Americans, it might be much more appropriate that those demands and reparations were made to the Democrat Party rather than to the federal government.
By 1932 Republican Herbert Hoover had finished his first term as president and was running for re-election. His challenger was Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In that election, Roosevelt in an unusual move for Democrats invited black Americans to vote Democratic in the elections. Roosevelt understood his party, however, and made only subtle overtures to black Americans while avoiding any overt civil rights promises.
So how did black Americans respond to Roosevelt’s invitation to join the Democrats? They printed and distributed this handbill. At the bottom its caption reads, “Who’s a Democrat!” Most would assume the statement to be a question, however, it’s not.
It’s a declaration rather than a question. Notice the exclamation mark rather than the question mark at the end of the caption. So, what statement was being made here about the Democrats? Examine the picture, a young black boy gazing prayerfully up toward heaven as if seeking hope or help. At his foot is a newspaper. Notice the title of the paper, “Lets two more in Florida.” That headline referred to two recent lynchings in Florida. Those are Richard and Charles smoke on August 28, 1931.
For black Americans in that day reminding them of lynchings was enough said about Democrats. Of all forms of violent intimidation, lynchings were by far the most effective. Between 1882 and 1964, 4,743 individuals were lynched, 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites.
Republicans often led the effort to pass federal anti-lynching laws and their platforms consistently called for a ban on lynching.
Anti-Lynching Bills Killed By Democrats
But Democrats successfully blocked those bills and the Democratic platforms never did condemn lynchings. One of the many Republican attempts to ban lynchings is described in this 1921 newspaper.
Republican Representative Leonidas Dyer of Missouri had introduced that federal anti-lynching bill but it was stalled by Democrats. The effect of that delay was costly. The NAACP sadly reported that, “since the introduction of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill in Congress on April 11th, 1921 there have been 28 persons murdered by lynchings in the United States.” The Dyer Bill was eventually killed by Democrats.
In fact, Democrats killed every single anti-lynching bill introduced in Congress. Even those occasionally introduced by an individual Democrat. As a result of the Democrat obstruction on this issue, Congress never passed an anti-lynching bill.
The accounts of lynchings are not just the lore of ancient American history. Many alive today still vividly remember those horrid occurrences, and many were personally and directly impacted by lynchings.
One such individual is the Reverend Charles Jackson of Houston. Reverend Jackson is well-known across the nation as one of its most successful ministers. He was the first pastor in America, the first pastor of any color, to be nationally televised from the pulpit on a weekly basis. He also built a large successful mega church in Houston, the Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church with more than 5,000 families.
Pastor Jackson has preached across the world, has helped start hundreds of churches in America and abroad, and has traveled to foreign nations in company with the U.S. president. But Reverend Jackson’s beginnings were very humble.
He was raised in East Texas eight miles from the nearest city. His mother would walk those eight miles into town at the beginning of each week. Then she would remain in town all week working for one dollar a week sometimes picking cotton, sometimes doing housekeeping chores, and then she would walk home for the weekends.
One night a terrified young black boy came running up to their house. Pastor Jackson’s grandfather went out onto the front porch to defend the young man.
“What’s going on, son?” “They after me! They gon” string me up is what they are going to do.”
“Simmer down, simmer down. Get on in here. Come on.” “They are coming now, I can’t stay here with you. I can’t put you through this, they will kill me and they will burn your house down and everybody in it. I”ve got to go” “Come back!”
“They are coming now. I can’t stay here with you. I can’t put you through this, they will kill me and they will burn your house down and everybody in it. I’ve got to go” “Come back!”
“Don’t get a face full of buckshot.”
“I can’t put you through this. Look, look, they will kill me and they will burn your house down and everybody in it. I’ve got to go.” “Come back!”
“Come on, come back!”
Dogs and people approaching…They then watched the boy get caught,….Voice from lyncher:
“Well, lookie here what I got. Look at this, boy. Take a look at that. I gotcha. Be still.”
Understandably, these events etched vivid indelible pictures in the mind of Pastor Jackson’s mother who had witnessed the lynching and whose own sister had been raped and murdered by the mob. Mrs. Jackson later became pregnant but did not know at that time whether her unborn child was a boy or a girl. Nevertheless, she faithfully prayed over that unborn child every day.
“Lord, if this baby be a boy don’t let him hang from a bridge.”
That unborn child for whom she faithfully prayed was Pastor Jackson.
Forgiving All Who Have Done You Wrong
How has Pastor Jackson handled this incident that so early shaped his own life and that of his family? In the same way that so many others from that era, and from previous eras, handled the problem. Relying on their faith in God, which has always been at the core of the African-American community. They forgave their tormentors and oppressors.
The Reverend Richard Allen like so many black Americans before and after him provides an excellent example. He had been a slave in Delaware and while only a boy he was sold separately from his mother whom he never saw again. While still a slave, Allen became a Christian and began to preach on his and on neighboring plantations.
He eventually obtained his freedom, served in the American Revolution, became a minister, and then founded the AME denomination. Despite the grief and tragedy that he had personally experienced in his own life, he understood that bitterness only harms one of the two parties involved. Quite frankly, it harms the innocent party rather than the guilty one.
Therefore, Reverend Allen wisely admonished those who had been mistreated, “Let no anger or ill will lodge in your heart, for any bad treatment you may have received from anyone. If you do, you try his grace against God, who will not hold unforgiveness. He would not suffer it even in his beloved the people of Israel. And you think he will allow it unto us? I am sorry to say that too many think of the evil than of the good they have received.
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.
Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders” library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.
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Opposition Went Beyond Lynchings
Reverend Jackson, like so many black Americans before and after him, follow the teachings of Christianity and forgave his persecutors. Holding no bitterness or ill will, even to this day. Many today are unaware of how much pain there was and how real lynching was in recent generations, generations still alive right now.
Recall from the lynching numbers that even though almost five thousand Americans were lynched black Americans were lynched at a rate almost three times higher than whites. Why? According to Representative John Roy Lynch, “More colored than white men are those persecuted simply because they constitute in large numbers the opposition to the Democratic Party.”
Representative Richard Kane agreed, “The bad blood of the South comes because the Negroes are Republicans. If they would only cease to be Republicans and vote the straight out Democratic ticket it would be no trouble. Then the bad blood would just sink entirely out of sight.”
While the opposition of Democrats to African-Americans was vividly demonstrated by lynchings, that opposition went beyond lynchings and included every possible form of obstruction to civil rights in general.
This fact was widely known by black Americans as confirmed by Representative Joseph Hayne Rainey, “You gentlemen on the Democratic side of the House have voted against all the amendments of the Constitution and the civil rights laws enforcing the same. Why did you do it? I answer because those measures had a tendency to give the poor Negro his just rights and give them freedom of speech, freedom of action, and the opportunity for education that he might elevate himself to the dignity of manhood. Now you come and say to us that you are our best friends. We would that we could look upon you as such.”
“We would that your votes recorded from day to day only demonstrated. But your votes and your actions proved to the Negroes of the entire country that the Democrats are in opposition to them. And if the Democrats could have their way our race would have no foothold here. The Democratic Party may woo us, they may court us and try to get us to worship at their shrine, but I will tell the gentleman that we are Republicans by instinct and we will be Republicans as long as God will allow our proper senses to hold sway over us.”
Democratic Sponsored Racism
Frederick Douglass agreed in fact, he recommended, “Each colored voter of the state should say in Scripture phrase, “may my hand forget it”s cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if ever I raise my voice or give my vote for the nominees of a Democratic Party.”
Given the long historical record of Democrats opposing black Americans prior to 1932. It was amazing that in that election that Roosevelt should reach out for black votes. So this hand-bill to remind black voters of what the Democrats simply reminded them of lynchings. Not surprisingly then, in that 1932 presidential election incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover, received more than three-fourths of the black vote over Democratic challenger Franklin D. Roosevelt. Black Americans, being the victims of Democratic-sponsored racism and segregation, continued their loyalty to Republicans well into the 20th century.
Despite the strong and united opposition of black Americans, Roosevelt narrowly won that election. And he did genuinely begin to try to make some changes in the direction of his Democratic Party. It was under Roosevelt that Democrats, for the very first time, placed language in their platform calling for an end to racial discrimination. Yet, despite the new language in their platform, Democrats and Congress still killed every piece of civil rights legislation introduced in that era.
A Democratic leader much more courageous than Franklin Roosevelt was president Harry S. Truman. Perhaps, the first national Democratic leader vigorously to advocate for strong civil rights protections.
Despite his noble goals, Truman, like FDR before him, learned that it was difficult for rank and file Democrats to reshape their long-held views on race. The death of this Democratic opposition was apparent in Texas when Democratic candidate for governor, Ferguson, dared to criticize the Klan’s role in the Southern Democratic Party. She was directly opposed in the Democratic primary with a Klan candidate, thus costing her the widespread cohesive support of the Texas Democratic Party.
Truman Got It Right
In fact, at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, a resolution was introduced to condemn the Klan but it failed to pass. And a number of Klansmen ran on the various Democratic tickets in that era and were elected. And at the national level, several Democratic US Senators both ancient and recent were members of the Klan and wore its white hood and robe.
Despite the existence of the Klan and other racist groups within the Democratic Party, Truman worked boldly and openly to change his party. In 1946 he became the first modern president to institute a comprehensive review of race relations and he introduced an aggressive ten point civil rights legislative package that included an anti-lynching law a ban on the poll tax and desegregation of the military.
But Democrats again killed all of his proposals including his proposed civil rights commission. Some Southern Democratic governors, fearing that Truman might eventually succeed in his goals, denounced his civil rights agenda and proposed a meeting in Florida of what they called a “Southern Conference of true Democrats” to plan their strategy to halt civil rights progress.
That summer at the Democratic National Convention when Truman played strong pro-civil rights language in the national Democratic platform it resulted in a walkout of Southern delegates. Southern Democrats then formed the Dixiecrat Party and ran South Carolina Democratic Governor Strom Thurmond as their candidate for president.
Well, that’s all the time we have today, folks. That was part six of Setting the Record Straight, American History in Black and White. Next time on WallBuilders Live we’ll get the conclusion. If you missed the first five parts you can get them right now at WallBuildersLive.com. You’ve been listening to Wallbuilders Live with David Barton and Rick Green.
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