Monday, September 27, 2021


Early black politicians paved way for Obama…

December 6, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Politics

(Akiit.com) One of President Woodrow Wilson’s famous quotes reads as follows: “A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.”

On Jan. 20, the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama, will be sworn into the highest and one of the most powerful positions in the world.

I am trustful and hopeful that President Obama will never forget the forgotten and omitted blacks that paved the way for him. I am also hopeful and optimistic that historians who reject blacks’ contribution to our nation’s history, and those who have conveniently forgotten and refuse to have black history as American history, someday will officially document and include black history as proven and credible American history that will be taught in lower and higher educational institutions. In this day and age and perhaps with the election of President-elect Obama, that will change for the greater good of all Americans.

Students of history will find that during the era of Reconstruction (1865-67), 16 black Southerners, some former slaves, were elected to the United States Congress. Former slaves and the new and very large black voting blocks elected blacks in the Southern congressional districts. These new Reconstruction black politicians also received the support of the Republican Party and many white Southerners. Barack Obama’s election reflects a new-age political coalition of the Democratic Party and millions of white, black and Latino voters, women and other sympathizers and supporters.

I have listed some of the brave black men and women who paved the way for President-elect Barack Obama. There was even a black governor during Reconstruction. There are many forgotten black political leaders that paved the way for President-elect Obama, including present and past members, both men and women, of the Congressional Black Caucus, such as my former employer, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and the first black United States senator from the commonwealth of Massachusetts, former U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke.

The long road to a black American president began with past black political leaders and men and women of means, such as Hiram Revels. In January 1870, Hiram Revels was America’s first black United States senator. Sen. Revels of Mississippi, along with other former slaves, served with distinction. Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first black member of the United States House of Representatives, and there were also others. Black men served in every political capacity — as sheriffs, mayors, aldermen and state-level secretaries of state, just to name a few of the political offices held by blacks during Reconstruction.

There are far too many former and present black political leaders to name in this writing who paved the way for President-elect Obama, however I would be remiss if I did not mention men like Paul Cuffee, who was a wealthy shipping magnate and the first black man ever to be invited to the White House. He met with President James Madison about a disagreement with the British, and to talk about Mr. Cuffee’s plans to settle freed slaves back in Africa.

Paul Cuffee also financed Westport’s first free public school, which was for both whites and blacks. I cannot help but think out loud, “Where are the Paul Cuffees and black political leaders in this 21st century in the commonwealth of Massachusetts?” And let us never forget the late great Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to run for president of the United States.

The following historical acts and dates hopefully will be a reminder to President-elect Obama, as history often repeats itself.

1. 1787 — The newly adopted Constitution of the United States defines slaves as three fifths’ of a person for the purpose of census, and continues to allow the importation of slaves. The Northwest Ordinance bans slavery in the Northwest Territory, essentially splitting free and slave states by the Ohio River.

2. 1857 — The Supreme Court denies citizenship to slave Dred Scott, and in doing so rules that no black American could be a citizen, despite the fact that some northern states recognized them as such. That decision, as well as the election of Abraham Lincoln, helps lead to the Civil War. Citizenship was denied to black Americans even though over 5,000 slaves fought in the Revolutionary War and help defeat the British.

3. 1863 — President Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the freedom of all slaves in Confederate states. Later, in 1865, slavery is banned nationwide by the 13th Amendment.

4. 1866 — The Civil Rights and Reconstruction acts are passed by Congress, dissolving the governments of the Confederate states and guaranteeing the rights of freed slaves.

5. 1870 — The 15th Amendment forbids the denial of the right to vote on account of race. Yet we have the 1965 Voting Rights Acts, which have to be approved every 10 years, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which overrules and waters down the 1866 Civil Rights Act, with no present agency of government, federal, state or local, enforcing any of these laws.

6. 1877 — After a disputed presidential election, the “Compromise of 1877” is reached, in which Democrats concede the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president if Republicans no longer intervene in the South. Using literacy tests, poll taxes and other tactics, southern Democrats deny blacks the right to vote, and many blacks lose their seats in Congress.

7. 1963 — The March on Washington organized by the late greats A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most memorable speech.

President-elect Obama is and should be the president for all Americans, regardless of race, gender, class or sex. Let us hope and pray that this will be the case, and that history will not repeat itself.

Written By Eddie L. Johnson


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