When I was younger and watching the nightly news, the term “House Minority Leader” or “Senate Minority Leader” made me think that both positions were held only by, what has come to be the “social definition” of a minority. Meaning, I in all of my whiteness, thought that only black people held those positions. Later, as I got older, I came to realize that I, as a woman, am categorized as a minority.
Looking further at politics, I began to see a trend: most black people were Democrats and most Republicans were white men. This got me interested in researching both parties. The Democratic – Republican Party was introduced by Thomas Jefferson, and is the predecessor to today’s modern Democratic Party. Andrew Jackson was the first President to be considered a Democrat, as by then the Republican was dropped from the party’s name.
Years later in 1858, the Republican Party was formed as a way to protest the Kansas-Nebraska Act. One of those members, Abraham Lincoln, would go on to become the 16th President. Those in the party were strongly against slavery and wanted a change, as they knew the Union was heading for turmoil. Lincoln’s rival, Democrat, Steven Douglas, was pro-slavery.
During his time in office, Lincoln would go on to write The Emancipation Proclamation and deliver it in 1863. Two years later the Civil War was over and Lincoln was killed by a Confederate sympathizer. However, after Andrew Johnson, a Democrat took over the Presidency by default; the Republicans still controlled the Presidency as evidenced in the next election where former Union General Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican, was elected.
The Republicans encouraged the new Freedmen to vote and even protected them during election time so they could cast their vote without fear or worry from persecution. These Union Leagues believed in equal voting rights but were also concerned about keeping their party in power. The most popular of the supporters of this 14th Amendment was President Grant.
The party was successful in this endeavor until it started promising political positions to Freedmen, and very rarely fulfilled its promises. Unfortunately, this may have been differently if the Union Troops had been able to stay in the South longer, as the Compromise of 1877 returned the last states back over to themselves.
After learning this, I began to wonder why more minorities were not Republicans. Well, women are out of the question because they were allowed to vote (19th Amendment) under the Wilson Administration in 1920. Wilson was a Democrat, so I can see if women wish to be a Democrat (there were 3 Republican Presidents before Wilson, so maybe it took a Democrat to get the Amendment passed).
For Mexicans, the Mexican-American was from 1846-1848 during Democratic President Polk’s administration. However, during the Spanish-American War, Republican President McKinley was in office which affected people in Puerto Rico and Guam. Also during McKinley’s Presidency was the Philippine-American War; which Filipinos wanted to be free of U.S. occupation in their country. So, for these different minority groups, I can see how each may lean to a different side based on historical events.
Unfortunately, this still doesn’t answer my question about African- Americans. I do know that during the 1960’s was the period of Civil Rights in America and during that time, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson (both Democrats) were in the Oval Office. Perhaps because of Desegregation Laws that is why many modern-day minorities of all races (because you were either white or colored back then) choose to side with the Democratic Party.
I would like to close by inviting any historians or professors who can provide further insight on a conclusion to please comment on this article. I welcome all opinions; especially since this year’s Presidential Race, no matter who the Democratic nominee is, will be a new event in American History.