Blacks became Democrats

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On December 5, 1946 Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9808, which established the President's Committee on Civil Rights (PCCR). The committee was instructed to investigate the status of civil rights in the country and propose measures to strengthen and protect them. The committee submitted its report, To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights, in October 1947. The 178-page report proposed strengthening existing civil rights laws. More specifically, it aimed to establish a permanent Civil Rights Commission, a Joint Congressional Committee on Civil Rights, and a Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, to develop federal protection from lynching, to create a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), to abolish poll taxes, among other measures.[1]

On July 26, 1948, President Truman advanced the recommendations of the report by signing executive orders 9980, ordered the desegregation of the federal work force, and 9981which the desegregated of the armed services.[3] He also sent a special message to Congress on February 2, 1948 to implement the recommendations of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights.

These highly visible moves were met with outrage in the South and at the Democratic National Convention later that year, the party adopted a plank proposed by Northern liberals led by Hubert Humphrey calling for bold action on civil rights leading 35 southern delegates to walk out. The move was on to remove Truman's name from the ballot in the South. This required a new party, which the Southern defectors chose to name the States' Rights Democratic Party, with its own nominee: Governor of South Carolina and future Republican icon Strom Thurmond. The Dixiecrats held their convention at Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama,[1] where they nominated Thurmond for president and Fielding L. Wright, Governor of Mississippi, for vice president. They later adopted a platform in Oklahoma City, on August 14, 1948, that centered on racial segregation.[2]

The Dixiecrats did not expect to win the presidency outright; rather, they thought that if they could win enough Southern states then they would have a good chance of forcing the election into the House of Representatives, where they believed Southern bargaining power could determine the winner. To this end Dixiecrat leaders worked to have Thurmond-Wright declared the official Democratic ticket in Southern states. They succeeded in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In other states, they were forced to run as a third-party ticket.

On election day 1948, the Thurmond-Wright ticket carried the previously solid Democratic states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, receiving 1,169,021 popular votes and 39 electoral votes. The split in the Democratic Party in the 1948 election had been expected to produce a victory by GOP nominee Dewey, but Truman defeated GOP candidate Thomas Dewey in an upset victory.

The moves by Truman, the shedding of the most overtly racist elements within the Southern Democratic party, and 1948 election marks the first time that a majority of blacks reported that they thought of themselves as Democrats.

Even after that, Republican nominees continued to get a healthy percentage of the black vote for several elections with war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower getting 39 percent in 1956, and his Vice-President Richard Nixon got 32 percent in his narrow loss to John Kennedy in 1960.

Kennedy's actions in sending in Federal Troops to desegregate schools in Arkansas, and to protect the Freedom Riders after violent clashes, and beginning to work on sweeping Civil Rights legislation continued the political shifts within the parties over civil rights.

This seismic shift between the parties became inevitable when, after the Kennedy assassination then President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 (outlawing segregation in public places) and his eventual Republican opponent in that years election, Sen. Barry Goldwater, publicly opposed it. He famously saying upon signing it, that “we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.” Johnson went on to get 94 percent of the black vote that November, still a record for any presidential election until 2008 when Barack Obama garnered a single percentage point more than Johnson had 44 years earlier.

The following year Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act and no Republican presidential candidate has gotten more than 15 percent of the black vote since.

With the aid of Harry Dent and South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who had switched parties in 1964, Richard Nixon ran his 1968 campaign pandering to Southern whites on states' rights and "law and order."[3]

The independent candidacy of George Wallace, former Democratic governor of Alabama, partially negated the Southern strategy.[4] With a much more explicit attack on integration and black civil rights, While Wallace won all of Goldwater's states (except South Carolina), as well as Arkansas and one of North Carolina's electoral votes, Nixon picked up Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, leaving Texas as Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey's only southern state.

The black Democratic vote by year [16][edit]

1936: 71% (white guy)
1942: 67% (white guy)
1944: 68% (white guy)
1948: 77% (white guy)
1952: 76% (white guy)
1956: 61% (white guy)
1960: 68% (white guy)
1964: 94% (white guy)
1968: 85% (white guy)
1972: 87% (white guy)
1976: 85% (white guy)
1980: 86% (white guy)
1984: 89% (white guy)
1988: 88% (white guy)
1992: 82% (white guy)
1996: 84% (white guy)
2000: 90% (white guy)
2004: 88% (white guy)
2008: 95% (black guy) - GOP "RACSIM!"
2012: 93% (black guy) - GOP "RACSIM!"


See also[edit]


  1. J. Barton Starr, "Birmingham and the 'Dixiecrat' Convention of 1948," Alabama Historical Quarterly;; 1970 32(1-2): 23-50
  2. "Platform of the States Rights Democratic Party, August 14, 1948". Political Party Platforms, Parties Receiving Electoral Votes: 1840-2004. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  3. Johnson, Thomas A. (August 13, 1968). "Negro Leaders See Bias in Call Of Nixon for 'Law and Order'". The New York Times. p. 27. Retrieved 2008-08-02. (subscription required)
  4. Childs, Marquis (June 8, 1970). "Wallace's Victory Weakens Nixon's Southern Strategy". The Morning Record.,5431957&dq=southern-strategy&hl=en. 
  1. ^ "Executive Order 9808, Establishing the President's Committee on Civil Rights, Harry S Truman" from Federal Register, retrieved January 23, 2006. For more details on the assigned tasks of the committee, see President's Committee on Civil Rights. To Secure These Rights: The Report of Harry S. Truman's Committee on Civil Rights. Boston: St. Martin's, 2004. ISBN 0-312-40214-7
  2. ^ "Agency History, Records of the President's Committee on Civil Rights Record Group 220" from the Truman Presidential Museum & Library, retrieved January 23, 2006
  3. ^ President's Committee on Civil Rights. To Secure These Rights (2004).
  4. ^ "Executive Order 9980, Regulations Governing Fair Employment Practices Within the Federal Establishment," and "Executive Order 9981, Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, Harry S Truman" from Federal Register, retrieved January 23, 2006. For more details on the desegregation of the armed forces see, "Truman Library: Desegregation of the Armed Forces Online Research File" from the Truman Presidential Museum & Library, retrieved May 4, 2010
  5. ^ "Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights, Public Papers of the Presidents, Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953" on February 2, 1948, from the Truman Presidential Museum & Library, retrieved January 21, 2006
  6. ^
  7. ^ Zinn (2003:189)
  8. ^
  9. ^ Zinn (2003:190)
  10. ^ Gardner (2003: xi)
  11. ^ Gardner (2003: 13)
  12. ^ Gardner (2003: 20)
  13. ^ Gardner (2003: 21)
  14. ^ Gardner (2003: 22)
  15. ^ Gardner (2003: 18)
  16. ^ Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies New York Times
  17. ^
  18. ^

External links[edit]

President's Committee on Civil Rights