It's hard to believe but the fact is the Republican Party, Grand Old Party aka GOP, was co-founded by a Black abolitionist and revolutionary.
The great Frederick Douglas was perhaps one of the proudest Black Americans who ever walked this earth. His vintage phrases such as "Power concedes nothing without a demand"; "Your Independence Day is not my independence day"; "There must be a struggle. You may not get all that you pay for but you will pay for all that you get."
He was probably the first prominent African American to don an Afro. Such a contributor to American history and the great legacy of Black struggle. This man feared nothing but God almighty. I just love his story.
No less was his protégé, Booker T. Washington. He was more subtle but just as resilient and demonstrative in his vision for Black America. Born outside of Charleston, W.Va., he literally walked hundreds of miles to Hampton Institute, Va. to get his formal education. His vision of capitalism and proper education were realized in his Tuskegee Institute project. He built this great college through the work and sacrifice of the very students who attended it. It was a perfect example of recycling Black dollars. The students physically built the school and attended class in between with tuition being paid for from their labor. Today, there are many fine institutions, but none is "better" than the dynamic Tuskegee Institute. Some of the best veterinarians and civil engineers in the world learned their skills here and recruiters line up constantly to hire them.
Booker T. Washington's vision for entrepreneurship resulted in his forming the National Negro Business League which was a network of Black chambers of commerce. This was done at about the same time President Taft appropriated federal funding to start the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Such was the way of many of our early leaders. They were Republican and capitalistic. Another who cannot go unnoticed is the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. who was quite active in the Republican Party and taught his two famous sons the values of self sufficiency and capitalism. In fact, the vast majority of Blacks from emancipation to the Great Depression were Republicans.
The Democratic Party contained the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow activists from the southern states. It was a natural for us to see the Republican Party as the way to liberation.
Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and the Second Migration to the northern and western urban industrial areas transformed a new image of the political parties. Democratic President Harry Truman integrated our armed forces, which was well appreciated by all of us. The Dixiecrats (southern Democratic Jim Crow supporters) started getting uncomfortable in the Democratic Party and started walking to the Republican Party, which welcomed them, as they were desperate for a new base.
Republican President Ronald Reagan sealed the deal when he kicked off his election campaign from rural Mississippi (the Reagan Southern Strategy).
The message was clear: The Dixiecrats and their off-spring were officially welcomed into the GOP. Prior to that, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed off on the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and acknowledged the victories of the Civil Rights Movement. The transformation was complete. The vast majority of Blacks were now Democrats.
In my travels, I find some of the loneliest conferences and summits can be those of Black Republicans. There is little to smile about or tout. Some of the characters or spokespersons, usually seen on the Fox News Channel, appear to be frustrated comedians or proponents of self hatred. Read some of their articles and you will run to the drugstore for Pepcid.
While there are some great Black Republicans such as Gen. Collin Powell and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, they are vastly outnumbered by the celebrated self-hating Blacks like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas and Shelby Steele. Good, solid-thinking progressive capitalists (with the general philosophy of the Republican Party) who happen to be Black, find themselves isolated and on the defense.
The intolerance displayed by the ultra-conservatives in the media is too much for them to be comfortable. Hate just isn't our (African American culture) way and we refuse to get mixed up in it. So, the typical Black Republican travels like the lone wolf.
Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. He is a registered Independent.