African American

by Marc Schulman

Since the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, African-Americans have voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic party. Until the election of FDR African-Americans voted almost exclusively for the Republicans; the party of Lincoln who had freed the slaves.

Vernon E. Jordan working on a voter education project, seated at a desk with a typewriter at the Southern Regional Council, Atlanta, Georgia]

In the last US Presidential election 95% of African Americans voted for Barack Obama. That is no surprise, of course, since Obama is the first African American President. However, African American support for President Obama was only slightly higher than the 88% of African Americans who supported Presidential candidate John Kerry (Democrat) over President George W. Bush (Republican) in 2004. Yet, until the Roosevelt Presidency, those African Americans who could vote, voted for the Republicans. After all, the Republicans were the party of Lincoln, and it was Lincoln who freed the slaves. Thus, African Americans remained loyal to the Republicans until the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

However, before that time, a large percentage of African Americans were barred from voting by all sorts of poll taxes, literacy tests and the like. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first President to take any actions, however small, to improve the plight of African Americans. African Americans responded by increased support for the Democratic Party. African American support for the Democratic Party increased further when President Truman took the significant action to integrate the Armed Forces. President Eisenhower received credit for ordering Federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas on orders to carry out a Supreme Court mandate. However, it was the words of President Kennedy, followed by the Civil Rights Legislation passed by President Johnson that solidified African American support for the Democratic Party. African American support for the Democratic Party was only strengthened when Richard Nixon developed what became known as the "Southern Strategy" for the Republican Party. The "Southern Strategy" was designed to capitalize on the resentment Southern Whites had toward the support the Democratic Party exhibited for the Civil Rights Legislation. This policy successfully established Republican dominance in the South for at least a generation. However, it also solidified African American support for the Democratic Party.