The Corner

Republicans and Civil Rights

Today, I wade once more into the question of what Republicans and Democrats were really up to vis-à-vis civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, exploring the case of an important desegregationist: Barry Goldwater.

The myth that the GOP lost the black vote because of Goldwater’s opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which was passed on Republican support in Congress) does not stand up to scrutiny, and neither does the Democrats’ self-serving lie that the parties somehow “switched places” on civil rights in the 1960s.

A few fun facts: The Republicans began to lose their hold on the black vote in the 1930s, not the 1960s, and the proximate cause was the New Deal, not civil-rights legislation — all of which, including the 1964 act, was passed on Republican support in the face of Democratic opposition. The majority of black Americans became Democrats by the 1940s, not in the 1950s or 1960s — Truman won nearly 80 percent of the black vote in 1948. The last Republican presidential nominee to win the black vote was Herbert Hoover. Fred Vinson, the chief obstacle to the Brown desegregation mandate, was the last chief justice appointed by a Democrat. And the Deep South did not abandon the Democrats after 1964: Republicans did not win a majority of southern congressional seats until the 1994 election, 30 years later. 

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