Why African Americans went from Republicans to Democrats


An analysis of why black African Americans shifted their support from the Republican Party to the democrats’ party. This research will further describe the events that led to such actions by the African Americans. Every political party has a set of programs through which it governs its people. The programs describe details on how they intend to run the government. Nowadays, most political parties put very little concentrations on their principles and ideologies, rather, they emphasize on bringing solutions to the major problems affecting voters (Berelson, 2004)  Political parties not only attract the attention of the voters but also their loyalties. A number of political parties rely on these to win elections.

Platforms for governance normally involve passage of laws, such laws ensure that there are increased job opportunities for and equal chances for both the blacks and the whites. These are the platforms that the Democratic Party is mainly used to attract its followers, particularly the African Americans. Despite the fact that most African Americans were founded on the Republican Party, certain events have made them shift their loyalty from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

The African Americans, whom at one point in time believed that republicans were the best, drastically changed their minds and opinions into believing that democrats were the best. They believed the democrats could offer them protection, promote their ideals and their political aspirations as a race. They felt that the democrat party was the best vehicle to lead them to their political empowerment (Donna Brazile, 2006). The aim of this research is to explain the possible reasons that could have led the African Americans to develop a habit of voting to the Republican Party during the early stages of the 19th century. This research will also aim at studying the main reasons why the African Americans deviated their support and loyalty to the Democratic Party. The research will also aim at trying to make findings as to whether the democrat party may continue enjoying the warm support of the African Americans.

Annotated bibliography

History of African Americans vis a vis the republican and democratic parties

Franklin, J. H., & Hugginbotham, B. E. (2010). A history of African Americans. 9th edition, McGraw-Hill.

In their book, Franklin & Hugginbotham asserts that African Americans were initially founded on the Republican Party. In the 1940s, the southern racists began moving to the Republican Party. This was after the national Democratic Party realized the changing demographics among the northern voters were supporting tepidly, an African American civil rights. Their book clearly shows that when President F. Roosevelt came to power, a Democratic Party that for long was dedicated to slavery, defense of lynching, and segregation changed its position dramatically (Franklin & Hugginbotham, 2010).

Leuchtenburg, W. E. (2003). Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 ([1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

In his book, Leuchtenburg explains on the new power deal that began benefiting the African Americans. He points out that Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady at that time, openly sympathized with the blacks freedom cause. President Roosevelt was a bit reluctant and did not want to insult the segregationist democrats whom he had greatly relied on for the passage of his new deal (Leuchtenburg, 2003). Leuchtenburg explains how Roosevelt held regular meetings with the black community representatives, who later on were referred to as the black cabinet.”

The author in his book states that at one point, a group known as the Daughters of American revolution (DAR) declined the African American contralto Anderson Marian to give presentation of their performance at the constitutional hall. This act was met with much contempt from the first lady who was also a member of the DAR. She publicly resigned her membership and then persuaded the then, secretary of the interior, Ickes Harold to organize so that Ms. Anderson could present an outdoor concert at Lincoln Memorial on 9 April 1939. Roosevelt, by then who was a New York patrician was continually considering himself a southern honorary and was in fond of making regular trips to the warm springs in Georgia to relieve his polio symptoms.

Blackmon, D. A. (2008). Slavery by another name: the re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Doubleday.

In his book, Blackmon explains how the black civil rights movement constantly applied pressure on him about their freedom. During that time, the US was preparing for World War II and there was massive production of weapons (Blackmon, 2008). In 1941, March, the leader of brotherhood of sleeping car porters issued a threat of holding a massive protest against improper hiring in the defense industry.  Because of not wanting to show disunity during war with the Axis powers, President Roosevelt gave consent to an order that prohibited racial discrimination of any form in the defense industry by the federal contracts.

This act set a new pattern for the relationship between the Africa Americans and the two major parties. Founded in 1850, the Republican Party was meant to stop the spread of slavery above the point where it had already existed. The opposition was formed based on a notion that existed; they felt that unpaid slave labor was not a fair competition to the paid white labor. They also believed that the associations of blacks owning certain jobs were likely to compromise the dignity of the other manual labor tasks, and in turn, white workers would decline to perform their jobs.

Morris, R. B., & Morris, J. B. (2006). Encyclopedia of American history (Bicentennial ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

In their book, Morris, R. B., & Morris, J. B. shows that by the early 1850s, a good number of republicans began viewing slavery as evil, but their number was not so major. At the time of reconstruction, the radical republicans, as they were referred, were looking forward to establishing a competitive party in the southern region that was dominated by the members of the Democratic Party.

During the reconstruction era, between 1863 -1877, the radical republicans pushed for changes in the rules regarding Americans racial politics. With this 13th amendment, they scrapped out slavery (Morris, R. B., & Morris, J. B., 2006). They then enacted a 14th amendment, which established citizenship for all the naturalized residents of the United States, plus all the others that are born therein, including the African Americans. Using the 15th amendment, this team of radical republicans barred the American states from conducting their voting depending on race, color, and appearance of individuals. After the American civil war, the Americans entered a state of racial idealism. This is where the northern whites could imagine peaceful multi racial democracy.

However, various factors strongly undermined the idea of racial idealism. Such included the continuous Ku Klux Klan terrorism attacks, increased poverty among the freed persons, corruption of the republican during the administration of Ulysses S, depression that occurred between 1873 &1878 among other things.

Schlesinger, A. M., & Israel, F. L. (2001). History of American presidential elections, 1789-1968. New York: Chelsea House.

Schlesinger & Israel in their book highlights on how the white southerners had lots of racism and opposed reforms. This affected the republican voters. As a result, there was a big support for the GOP President Rutherford B. after the 1876 elections; he withdrew the union troops from south, an act that abandoned the blacks in the hands of the whites (Schlesinger, 2001). The two authors in their book outlines that during the same time, the immigrating parties like the Chinese, Jews, Italians, and the Japanese faced the northerners with onslaught. They began to empathize with the northern whites after realizing that they suffered from their own racial problems.

Consequently, the southern white men who were attending the Columbia University in New York dominated the history profession. Their professor William dunning who was very sympathizing and confederate believed that the liberation of the black slaves was a mistake, which was being forced on the nation by fanatical abolitionists. In that respect, he claimed that the African Americans were not qualified for the American citizenship. He considered the racial experiments conducted at the time of reconstruction to be destructive and wrongheaded, and that it was a means of ushering black criminality and corruption. He believed the Africans were very incompetent in their work. Professor Dunning’s view of the American race became one of the strongest mindset for the academic experts. His students wrote books on American history and were used across the country.

At one point suddenly, the Klansmen and the minutemen emerged heroes according to the history that was written by the Dunnian students. James Truslow and Charles garret was another pair of Dunning students, they stated in one of their published books that violence could be justified in cases where it was used to preserve the white power. This justified the violence of the southern whites claiming other methods had failed.

This historic understanding greatly affected the popular culture. It then inspired a plot line of the very first Hollywood movie called “the birth of a nation.” A director made it from the south, called D.W Griffith in the years 1915. The movie, which was watched by many people, depicted the black soldiers who were in the union army as rapist, and anyone that was favoring the rights of the black people was insane.

The Republican Party was compelled to move deeper into racialism to an extent that even Abraham Lincoln could have contemplated. At the emergence of the 20th century, the republican leaders sought to form their own party. It was dubbed “Lilly white party” and then President Hebert Hoover decided to implement a strategy from the south, whereby he distanced the GOP away from the Lincoln era and then made Republican Party more competitive by supporting segregation actively, and eliminating the black republicans.

Nichols, R. F. (2007). The invention of the American political parties. New York: Macmillan.

Nichols points out in his book that, in 1945 when President Roosevelt died, the vice President, Harry Truman came to power. Truman originated from Missouri, a regional border state, and had great contempt for black people. In one of his letters addressed to his daughter, he complained about black waiters in a restaurant in Washington DC (Nichols, 2007). He referred to them as the army of coons. He was however worried about the cold war resulting from the racial injustice in the US. Since the 2nd term of Roosevelt reign, the African American voters in the west and north did supported the democrats, and in certain states like Michigan and California, the black people managed to control the elections.

The presence of the southern whites on the Democratic Party caused much resentment. There was therefore a drop in the number of African American supporting democrats. President Truman, wanted a way of winning votes from these people, he however feared that post-racial violence could occur.

Most black activists confronted President Truman and bitterly complained of the manner in which black people suffered. They narrated a scene in which white men shot black African Americans; they went further and killed the wives of these two because they had witnessed the murder of their husbands. The black activists further complained to the President that most African American who had returned from world war were lynched and suffered severe persecutions.

Another incident, which they narrated, was when an African American black sergeant was severely beaten by Aiken, a police chief by then. The sergeant known as Isaac Woodard was severely beaten to an extent that one of his eyes gorged out. Truman was greatly moved by these complaints and he saw the need for doing something about this. Despite the pressure from the southern white group to abandon the quest for civil rights, he stood out and condemned these acts citing them as bad. On 5 December 1946, the resident established a commission for civil rights. In this commission, he appointed racial libels. The commission did its findings and gave a report of the same.

In their report, they recommended a wide range of reforms. The reforms included a statute for federal anti-lynching. This was designed to deal with the southern courts that vehemently ignored prosecution of white criminal offences against blacks. They also recommended banning of the poll tax, which was put in place to reduce black voting. Their report also recommended the prohibition of discrimination in public employments. They wanted establishment of permanent commission for civil rights and increase in the size of justice department.

They urged the department of justice to file various lawsuits against the housing developments whom they claimed used secret covenants to decline others housing. This was mostly done along racial and religious lines. They called upon the congress to integrate the public facilities in the washing ton DC. These included the public schools and hospitals. The President embraced most of these recommendations.

Kennedy, D. M. (1999). Freedom from fear: the American people in depression and war, 1929-1945. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kennedy(1999) in his book asserts that during a democratic national convention, a group of southern delegates walked out of a meeting when a pro civil rights plan was added in the Democratic Party’s platform. President Truman went further and issued out two executive orders (July 26, 1948). The first order disintegrated the armed forces while the second order was meant to prohibit the discrimination in federal civil service. Despite the new orders, the army maintained the 10% recruiting quota for blacks into the forces. This continued until the outbreak of the Korean War. The high number of casualties in the war triggered a massive recruitment of African Americans into the forces. By 1953, 95 % of African American troops served in the forces.

In the late 1940s, President Truman used his powers to bring down a panel at the commission on higher education; this helped in reducing racial and religious quotas in the universities to put limits on the number of blacks and Jews joining the universities (Corbould, 2009).

After his reign, Truman dismissed martin Luther king junior and called a troublemaker. He also considered the civil rights movement as being inspired by a spirit of communism. Despite all these, his presidency, led the national Democratic Party into supporting black people and opposing segregation.

There were constant splits in the Democratic Party; most of these were because of their civil rights. One of the senators Stevenson from Illinois was nominated for white house in 1952 and 1956 he however failed to secure the set, but he is remembered for constantly fighting for black voting rights I the southern regions. This led to a great African American allegiance Republican Party. In the 1990s to date, nearly 90 percent of African Americans support democratic candidates who vie for presidency.

Analysis of the Major causes of Africa American shift from Republican Party to democrats’ party

In the mid 20th century, relationship between African American and the Republican Party began turning sour. African Americans were highly affected by the great depression. Most of them lost their jobs and had no means for feeding their families. They set all their blames on the republican Presidents who during their leaderships did so little or nothing to find solution to their problems. The favor for the Republican Party disappeared and they engaged in ways of finding better alternatives (Franklin & Hugginbotham, 2010).

The actions of President Franklin Roosevelt during his reigns were actively involved in finding solution to their problems. He also marked history as the only person who won elections four times and got the presidency. He fought for reforms in the manner in which African Americans were treated. The new deal programs that he came up with helped African Americans survive during the harsh economic times. His focus was on unemployment, recovery of economy, rural distress and long term structural reforms, which could prevent a repeat of the great depression.

Corbould, C. (2009). Becoming African Americans Black public life in Harlem, 1919-1939. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

According to Corbould, between the years 1932and 1980,  Republican Party won the Presidential elections four times and enjoyed having the majority numbers in the congress for only 4 years (Corbould, 2009). In his reign as a President, Roosevelt enacted the following laws, the civilian conservation corps (CCC), agricultural adjustment Act (AAA), the national industrial recovery act (NIRA) and Public works Administration (PWA), Federal emergency relief Administration (FERA).

Even though these laws had little to do with the African American civil rights, they earned major supports from the African Americans. The President ensured that all Americans, both the blacks included got equal aid from the government. This is what brought the signal that African Americans were shifting to the democrat’s side.

Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. (2008). Washington: U.S. G.P.O.

According to the author of the book ‘Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007’, every form of discrimination was also eliminated and all the citizens were treated equal irrespective of their color and race. The fair implementation of programs in his governance implied a great change for African Americans. The African Americans also felt that for the first time, they had a democrat that treated them fairly and equally. At this point, allegiances began taking new positions.

In addition, President Franklin Roosevelt earned favor of the blacks not only because of the programs that he implemented, but also because of the attitude and manner in which he treated them. Many are the times when he was seen taking pictures with his wife among African Americans (sue Pennington). This act was considered very unusual especially for the reasons that no President that was before him ever did that.

In his time, he appointed several African Americans into high rank federal positions. During his tenure, he also created the very first black cabinet, which served as his main advisors in the implementation of policies and programs. The black cabinet was allocated two main responsibilities; first, was to ensure that African Americans had government jobs in various agencies, also, the cabinet stood out for African Americans who were working from within the government structure.

The various controversies that faced the republicans also contributed to the great shift. A republican Richard Nixon did ruin the reputation of his political party. This was when he was involved in the Watergate scandal. He vehemently denied being involved in the scandal and finally when he was faced with impeachment, he decided to resign. This factor strongly broke the hearts of African Americans who were supporting the Republican Party. In the long run, the African American shifted their focus and started supporting the democrat part

Future of the Democratic Party

Berelson, B. (2004). Voting; a study of opinion formation in a presidential campaign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

In politics, it is said that there are no permanent enemies, there exist only permanent interest. According to Berelson, this may seem to be a mere clinch, but it greatly captures the reality facing the American politics. He points out that as the trend is always in politics, the voters’ loyalty will always remain in one political party or candidature as long as their cries are listened to, and their interests protected.

In most cases when the political parties or the candidates begin ignoring the voters’ interests and then follow their own interest, there is always a shift of voters to the best possible alternatives. The above is the similar case that befell the Republican Party after they lost the loyalty and support of the African American. Despite a good number of African Americans in the democrat party, if the party should disown the interests of its voters, then they are likely to lose their loyalty and support.

Dea, S., Richards, A. W., & Collins, S. M. (2006). From suffrage to the Senate America’s political women : an encyclopedia of leaders, causes & issues. Millerton, NY: Grey House Pub.

According to Dea et al, 2006, some recent statistics revealed that a political allegiance and support is like a pendulum, which can swing from one direction to the other within a very short period. Another study conducted by national Opinion poll revealed that 63 percent of African American people branded themselves as democrats. The percentage increased significantly in 2000 when the number was 74%. In the year 2002, only 4 African Americans identified themselves as members of the Republican Party.

Dea et al thus hold on a believe that there are still signs and evidences that democrats will continue enjoying the future support of the African Americans. One strong reason for that is that they are continually engaging in fight for interest of the African Americans. Their quest to promote equality for all the races will make them gain support from these black people.

In the course of their campaigns, both republicans and democrats talk about equality, but in the real sense, it is only democrats who have the true value for equality. Considering the forty-three African Americans who are members of the congress, the same are also democrats. Furthermore, the democrats have intensively shown their capability to place an African American in the top leadership positions. This is not only limited to the party, but also limited to the government itself.

One of the major predictions is that once the democrats have gained majority members in the House of Representatives, then an African American will chair the judiciary. The judicial committee will be a branch of government that oversees civil proceedings, enforcement of constitution among other things. Such will help in ending violation of civil rights of their fellow African Americans, which has never ceased to date.

The election of President Barrack Obama is another strongest evidence of the African Americans support for the democrat party. They are confident that they will achieve the dream that was once spoken of by martin Luther king. The new shape that the American politics is taking has greatly influenced the well-being of African Americans. They are certain of enjoying equal Medicare, increased employment and benefits welfare among other things.

Another major thing that greatly caused the democrat party to gain support of African Americans is their respect and quest for equality and human rights. They have continually helped the black people to have a voice in shaping the nation.


In conclusion, this research has established that the basic reasons why the African American supported the democrat party were that they wanted to support the rights of African Americans. They also wanted abolition of laws that that created inequality among them. Such laws mainly discriminated them based on their races and religious affiliations. Another concrete reason that I discovered for the movement of African Americans from Republican Party to democrats party was the massive failures of the republican Presidents to act quickly and efficiently during the great depression.

There was also the involvement of republican President in a scandal known as the Watergate scandal. The great efforts placed onboard by President Roosevelt drew many African Americans to the democrat party. The attitude he developed towards African Americans and the manner in which he assigned the African Americans senior positions during his administration, a factor that greatly drew the blacks to the Democratic Party.

Consequently, the African Americans realized that under the rule of the democratic party, there was the emergence of the black people in the middle class, as well as they witnessed a significant reduction in the economic gaps that existed between the whites and the blacks. The same was also witnessed in the health sector.


Berelson, B. (2004). Voting; a study of opinion formation in a presidential campaign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. (2008). Washington: U.S. G.P.O.

Blackmon, D. A. (2008). Slavery by another name: the re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Doubleday.

Corbould, C. (2009). Becoming African Americans Black public life in Harlem, 1919-1939. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Dea, S., Richards, A. W., & Collins, S. M. (2006). From suffrage to the Senate America’s political women : an encyclopedia of leaders, causes & issues. Millerton, NY: Grey House Pub.

Franklin, J. H., & Hugginbotham, B. E. (2010). A history of African Americans. 9th edition, McGraw-Hill.

Kennedy, D. M. (1999). Freedom from fear: the American people in depression and war, 1929-1945. New York: Oxford University Press.

Leuchtenburg, W. E. (2003). Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 ([1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

Morris, R. B., & Morris, J. B. (2006). Encyclopedia of American history (Bicentennial ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

Nichols, R. F. (2007). The invention of the American political parties,. New York: Macmillan.

Schlesinger, A. M., & Israel, F. L. (2001). History of American presidential elections, 1789-1968. New York: Chelsea House.