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Text and Context in Ohio’s 1938 Senate Campaign: Race, Republican Party Ideology, and Robert A. Taft’s Firestone Memorial Oration

By: Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr.

In the spring of 1938, Ohio Republicans were well aware of the erosion of support among the African-American population for the “Party of Lincoln.” Between 1932 and 1936, black voters had transferred their allegiance en masse to the Democratic Party. Although most African Americans had remained with Hoover and the Grand Old Party (GOP) in 1932, a massive electoral “realignment” began with the 1934 mid-term congressional races. The 2.4 million blacks who had migrated to northern cities were no longer willing to accept their lot as second-class citizens. New Deal programs politicized black voters across the nation; numerous measures that augmented black incomes, increased literacy rates and education levels, and engaged citizens in community activities also mobilized African Americans for the Democratic Party. While black political organizing became commonplace in the cities of the industrial North and Midwest, urban blacks in the Upper South likewise registered and voted in increasingly large numbers. For the first time in 1934, a majority of black Americans voted for Democratic candidates.1 Continue reading

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  1. The author wishes to thank Kenneth J. Bindas for his numerous suggestions for improving the argument and Austin McCoy for his insights into American race relations provided during the Spring Semester 2009 Research Seminar at Kent State University as this work neared completion.  Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor’s extensive comments on an earlier and much longer assessment of Senator Taft’s views on race were absolutely crucial to this more modest project. Mary Ann Heiss scrutinized the manuscript with her keen editorial eye, made several suggestions to strengthen the conclusion, and improved the work immeasurably.
    Harvard Sitkoff, A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 84-89.