Ohio History Journal

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Black Insurgency in the Republican

Party of Ohio, 1920-1932





An extraordinary change in Negro voting patterns has occurred between the post-

Civil War period and the present. The black vote was remarkably consistent for the

party of Lincoln from the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the New Deal

period, but this solidly Republican bloc vote was broken during the 1930's. The

black vote became more and more overwhelmingly Democratic following the New

Deal. A misleading implication of these facts is that the disaffection of the black

Republicans, which was clearly manifested in the 1936 election, lacked significant

antecedents in the pre-New Deal period. A substantial number of historians and

other professionals have implied that the alienation of Negroes from the Republican

party occurred suddenly after 1932. They have generally emphasized the high per-

centage of black votes polled by Herbert Hoover in 1932 and the mass exit of Negro

voters from the Republican party in 1936. Furthermore, their explanations of the

phenomenon have largely involved changes effected during the New Deal period.

Theodore H. White, for example, wrote:


Time was, forty years ago, when Negroes voted solidly Republican out of gratitude to

Abraham Lincoln and emancipation. ("I remember," once said Roy Wilkins, Executive

Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, "when I

was young in Kansas City, the kids threw rocks at Negroes on our street who dared to

vote Democratic.") But Franklin D. Roosevelt changed that. Under Roosevelt, govern-

ment came to mean social security, relief, strong unions, unemployment compensation.

... And, like a heaving-off of ancient habit, as the Negro moved north he moved to the

Democratic voting rolls.1

1. Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1960 (New York, 1961), 232. Others

who have implied, by focusing upon the black voting record in the context of the New Deal

period, that black Republicans suddenly became disaffected are John A. Garraty, The American

Nation, A History of the United States (New York, 1966), 741; T. Harry Williams, Richard N.

Current, and Frank Freidel, A History of the United States Since 1865 (New York, 1969), 538;

Richard B. Morris and William Greenleaf, U.S.A., The History of a Nation (Chicago, 1969),

II, 842; August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, From Plantation to Ghetto, An Interpretive History

of American Negroes (New York, 1969), 212; Samuel Lubell, White and Black: Test of a

Nation (New York, 1964), 52-61; Harold F. Gosnell, Negro Politicians, The Rise of Negro

Politics in Chicago (Chicago, 1966), viii; David Burner, The Politics of Provincialism, The

Democratic Party in Transition, 1918-1932 (New York, 1968), 237; Henry Lee Moon, Balance

of Power: The Negro Vote (Garden City, New York, 1948), 17-19; John M. Allswang, A House

for all Peoples, Ethnic Politics in Chicago, 1890-1936 (Lexington, 1971), 205-206; Louis M.

Killian, The Impossible Revolution? Black Power and the American Dream (New York, 1969),



Mr. Giffin is Assistant Professor of History, Indiana State University, Terre Haute.