Today is Juneteenth, a day that marks the abolition of slavery and while the day is hailed today by Democrats, it is an ugly reminder of the Democrat Party’s long history of mistreatment of black Americans before and after that day in 1866.
The path to freedom for African Americans began on September 22, 1862, by Republican Party President Abraham Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s proclamation paved the way for the eventual abolishment of slavery in the Democrat-run southern states.
The Republican Party was founded in 1854 when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act that expanded the footprint of slavery in America. Abraham Lincoln, an Illinois lawyer who felt slavery was immoral and wrong stood up against slavery. Knowing powers against him in the south were formidable, initially, Lincoln did not try to fight slavery in slave states, but fought the south’s desire to expand slavery into the U.S. territories.
The outset of the Civil War sparked a mass exodus of slaves from the south to non-slave states in the north. In 1862, the first step toward eradicating the Democrat-sponsored slavery of the south was called the Confiscation Act allowed slaves who were freed from southern ownership to be freed. Many were be offered positions helping the union’s war effort against the south.
Although Lincoln was clear during the war, he did not feel it was a war primarily over slavery, but to preserve the Union of the United States, it was always a present concern.
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery,” Lincoln wrote. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”
On January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Democrat-run south, but it omitted the slave states of Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky as a way to keep them from joining the Confederate States. While the Emancipation Proclamation did not actually grant any southern slaves the authority to be free, it was a symbolic act that showed that the Union supports the abolishment of slavery. Lincoln’s proclamation carried no legal authority in Confederate states.
After the Civil War, slavery was abolished, but the Democrat governors and power structure of the south remained intact. They created a powerful voting bloc in Congress that allowed them to maintain tight control over African Americans for another 100 years.
The Democrat Party, formed in 1792 was now split between northern Democrats, which more resemble today’s modern Democrat Party and Southern Democrats who were essentially the political powerbase that delivered the Klu Klux Klan, Jim Crow and lynching over the next 100 years.
“Southern Democrats insisted on protecting slavery in all the territories while many Northern Democrats resisted. The party split over the slavery issue in 1860 at its Presidential convention in Charleston, South Carolina,” according to the Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. “Northern Democrats nominated Stephen Douglas as their candidate, and Southern Democrats adopted a pro-slavery platform and nominated John C. Breckinridge in an election campaign that would be won by Abraham Lincoln and the newly formed Republican Party. After the Civil War, most white Southerners opposed Radical Reconstruction and the Republican Party’s support of black civil and political rights.”
The Democrat Party was known as “the white man’s party” before and after the Civil War and the party maintained a tight grip on the deep south for decades after the war.
“The South remained a one-party region until the Civil Rights movement began in the 1960s. Northern Democrats, most of whom had prejudicial attitudes towards blacks, offered no challenge to the discriminatory policies of the Southern Democrats,” RFJC continues.
One of the consequences of the Democratic victories in the South was that many Southern Congressmen and Senators were almost automatically re-elected every election. Due to the importance of seniority in the U.S. Congress, Southerners were able to control most of the committees in both houses of Congress and kill any civil rights legislation. Even though Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a Democrat, and a relatively liberal president during the 1930s and ’40s, he rarely challenged the powerfully entrenched Southern bloc. When the House passed a federal anti-lynching bill several times in the 1930s, Southern senators filibustered it to death.
After the Civil War, during the reconstruction era, southern states enacted a series of laws that sought to disenfranchise the black community and to remove the economic gains and freedoms afforded to them after the war. Jim Crow Laws were the poster child of the south’s Democrat party. While African Americans were now free, Jim Crow established a “separate but equal” legal standing for blacks in the south.
That meant they would be treated ‘equally’, but could not utilize many of the services and were not afforded many of the rights of whites in the south. Southern schools were segregated until 1954 and in 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed and abolished the Democrat-sponsored Jim Crow laws.
Over 90% of Southern Democrats in Congress and the Senate voted against the Civil Rights Act, 103 in total. Twelve Southern Republicans voted against it. Northern Democrats and Republicans came together in what was one of the greatest displays of bipartisanship in American politics to overwhelmingly approve the bill.
95% of northern Democrats voted for the bill and 84% of northern Republicans voted in favor of it. In Congress, no northern Republicans voted against it. Twelve voted present and twelve others did not vote. Five northern Republicans voted against the Civil Rights act in the Senate.
Ralphy Yarbororough, a Texas Democrat was the lone southern Senator to break away from his party and vote to pass the bill while eight southern Democrats in Congress voted in favor against 83 who did not.
African Americans were finally completely equal in the eye of the law across the entire country, but the next forty years were a difficult time as the community struggled early on to build their own foothold in America.
On June 15th, 2021, the United States made Juneteenth an official federal holiday. Prior, it was known by many names across the country, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, and Black Independence Day. The first celebrations of the holiday date back to 1866 in Texas. It slowly spread across the south and became more popular during the roaring twenties and 1930s.
The popularity of the holiday began waning in the 1960s through the 1980s but in recent years there has been a resurgence in the day. Now, it is an official holiday which has once again brought Republicans and Democrats together in the spirit of bi-partisanship.
If only Democrats in the 1800s and 1980s had the same vision as many of the Democrats today, America could have been a much different place today.