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The Loneliness of the Black Republican

The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power

Leah Wright Rigueur
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    The Loneliness of the Black Republican
    Book Description:

    Covering more than four decades of American social and political history,The Loneliness of the Black Republicanexamines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials, and politicians, from the era of the New Deal to Ronald Reagan's presidential ascent in 1980. Their unique stories reveal African Americans fighting for an alternative economic and civil rights movement-even as the Republican Party appeared increasingly hostile to that very idea. Black party members attempted to influence the direction of conservatism-not to destroy it, but rather to expand the ideology to include black needs and interests.

    As racial minorities in their political party and as political minorities within their community, black Republicans occupied an irreconcilable position-they were shunned by African American communities and subordinated by the GOP. In response, black Republicans vocally, and at times viciously, critiqued members of their race and party, in an effort to shape the attitudes and public images of black citizens and the GOP. And yet, there was also a measure of irony to black Republicans' "loneliness": at various points, factions of the Republican Party, such as the Nixon administration, instituted some of the policies and programs offered by black party members. What's more, black Republican initiatives, such as the fair housing legislation of senator Edward Brooke, sometimes garnered support from outside the Republican Party, especially among the black press, Democratic officials, and constituents of all races. Moving beyond traditional liberalism and conservatism, black Republicans sought to address African American racial experiences in a distinctly Republican way.

    The Loneliness of the Black Republicanprovides a new understanding of the interaction between African Americans and the Republican Party, and the seemingly incongruous intersection of civil rights and American conservatism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5243-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. A Brief Note on Sources
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  6. INTRODUCTION: The Paradox of the Black Republican
    (pp. 1-12)

    There is a fascinatingsaturday night livesketch from 1980, a piece almost entirely forgotten by most viewers of the NBC comedy show. The sketch survives in the pop culture arena only because it features theSNLdebut of comedian Eddie Murphy. Airing about a month after the country elected an ex-actor to the presidency (ousting a former Georgia peanut farmer in the process), the skit is a spoof ofMutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, that unconventional animal wildlife series sponsored by an insurance company. In theSNLpiece, a Jim Fowler–type zoologist braves the “savage” landscape of a...

  7. CHAPTER ONE Running with Hares and Hunting with Hounds
    (pp. 13-51)

    “The republican party,” mused an african american voter in the early 1930s, “is the party for all, regardless of race, color, or creed.” Added another: “It was good enough for my father and it’s good enough for me.” “My politics is like my religion,” insisted a black Chicago resident. “I never change. I am careful about serving my Lord and voting the Republican ticket.” “The Democratic party is controlled by devils from below the Mason-Dixon line,” offered yet another.¹

    For almost seventy years, such declarations accurately captured the political sentiments of nearly all African Americans. After emancipation, black voters firmly...

  8. CHAPTER TWO A Thorn in the Flesh of the GOP
    (pp. 52-94)

    On november 3, 1964, more than 60 percent of americans cast ballots for Lyndon B. Johnson in the presidential election, a decision that was as much a referendum against his Republican challenger, Barry Goldwater, as it was a victory for the Democratic incumbent. No group was more visibly alienated by the candidacy of Goldwater than the black electorate. Abandoning the Republican Party en masse, only 6 percent of African American voters pulled the lever for the GOP nominee in the national election. The percentage was a stunning drop—even considering the vacillation of the black vote over the past three...

  9. CHAPTER THREE The Challenge of Change
    (pp. 95-135)

    In november 1966, in one of the country’s most intense senatorial races, Massachusetts attorney general Edward W. Brooke stunned the nation when he soundly defeated his Democratic challenger, Endicott Peabody. Earning the support of more than 60 percent of the Massachusetts electorate, Brooke skirted the political bureaucracy of a volatile Republican Party to become the first black senator since Reconstruction. His triumph occurred in the midst of a nationwide white backlash, an onslaught of the “worst displays of anti-Negro feelings which [lay] in the souls of whites.”¹ Brooke’s victory was a tremendous statewide upset; but more than that, his success...

  10. Illustration section
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER FOUR Richard Nixon’s Black Cabinet
    (pp. 136-176)

    When readers opened the november 1968 special election issue ofJetmagazine, they were inundated with slick political advertisements from three of the four presidential candidates. The black weekly offered no-nonsense messages from Freedom and Peace Party representative Dick Gregory and Democratic contender Hubert Humphrey; not to be outdone, the Republican Party also tried its hand at wooing the magazine’s African American audience.¹ Richard Nixon’s two-page glossy insert opened with a close-up of a young, well-dressed black man clutching a thick stack of books. “This Time,” the headline solemnly advised, “Vote Like Homer Pitts’ Whole World Depended On It.” On...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Exorcising the Ghost of Richard Nixon
    (pp. 177-219)

    By the early 1970s, black republicans understood that the gop was on the cusp of a major transformation—a political crisis that appeared to motivate even the most cynical within their ranks. At a moment when black appointees inside the White House were fighting to retain some semblance of influence on President Nixon’s policies and political strategies, black Republicans in the rest of the country were in the midst of a revolt. Refusing to abide by the GOP’s “eleventh commandment” and remain silent, black Republican “outsiders,” or those who worked outside of the Nixon administration, aired their frustrations publicly in...

  13. CHAPTER SIX More Shadow than Substance
    (pp. 220-260)

    When gerald ford announced his nomination for secretary of transportation in January 1975, no one—not even black Republicans—was prepared to hear William T. Coleman’s name. Though black leaders and political elites had bandied about his résumé for years, they could not have predicted that a Republican president would appoint a black man to a cabinet position. The National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing a conglomerate of more than one hundred black publishers, congratulated Ford for his “tangible demonstration” of equality—a “commendable first step,” the group noted, that illustrated the new president’s commitment to appointing African Americans to influential...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN The Time of the Black Elephant
    (pp. 261-301)

    On a brisk january morning in 1978, republicans from across the nation traveled to Washington, D.C., for a special meeting of the Republican National Committee. Upon their arrival at the Mayflower Hotel’s Aviation Club, more than a few of the delegates were “visibly shocked” to see Jesse Jackson standing behind the main podium, dressed in a colorful three-piece suit and sporting a large Afro. The RNC members puzzled over his presence on the conference agenda, as they were well aware of his outspoken criticisms of the GOP. But minutes after the session was called to order, the “spellbinding country preacher”...

  15. CONCLUSION: No Room at the Inn
    (pp. 302-310)

    The date was june 18, 1987. Clarence thomas, the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stood at the podium at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., preparing to deliver a talk on blacks, conservatism, and the Republican Party.¹ His audience, a group of conservative Republicans, was mostly white, with the exception of Thomas’s mentor, J. A. Parker, of the Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, who was nearly always in the crowd whenever the young black conservative received some kind of public accolade.

    Thomas was part of a rapidly growing group of African Americans rising through the ranks of...

  16. Appendix
    (pp. 311-314)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 315-382)
  18. Index
    (pp. 383-398)