Last week a video of Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Job Tour made the rounds of the Internet. In this video Carson claimed the Tea Party was preventing African Americans from making progress toward equality with whites. He said “This is the effort that we are seeing of Jim Crow. Some of these folks in Congress right now would love to see us as second class citizens. Some of them in Congress right now with this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me…hanging on a tree.”
Let’s just take a look at the historical record and see who was hanging who from trees, who was trying to get it stopped, and who was thwarting that effort.
The Tuskegee University has recorded 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites lynched between 1881 and 1968.
After the Civil War, there was a period of heavy violence in the South. White Democrats attacked blacks and white Republicans. Military historian Stephen Budiansky’s book The Bloody Shirt details the violence and the guerrilla war waged by Southerners desperate to assert white supremacy. Southern newspapers waged war on Republican Party officials. ‘Upstanding’ citizens aided the Ku Klux Klan and other insurgents who burned black schoolhouses, incited riots, assassinated public officials and beat and whipped blacks who tried to take part in civil society. It was a period of partisan political violence.
After this period, from the 1870’s on, violence in the South continued. In Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida, the Democratic Party relied on groups such as the White Camelia to terrorize, intimidate and murder blacks and white Republicans in an effort to regain power. The campaign worked and Democrats were swept into power in the state legislatures. White Democrats then passed laws making voter registration more complicated; a move to further exclude black voters from the polls.
In Mississippi, Democrats passed the Mississippi Plan to control the 1876 election and used armed militias to murder political leaders, hunt down community members, and to intimidate and turn away voters, successfully suppressing black suffrage and civil rights.
More than 85 percent of the post Civil War period lynchings occurred in the South. After the creation of the Jim Crow laws in the 1890’s terror and lynching were used to enforce these laws and a variety of unwritten rules meant to control blacks and assert white domination.
In a 2008 New York Times column, Bob Herbert tells of one southern Democrat, Benjamin Tillman, who had prominent positions in South Carolina.
“They still honor Benjamin Tillman down here, which is very much like honoring a malignant tumor. A statue of Tillman, who was known as Pitchfork Ben, is on prominent display outside the statehouse.
Tillman served as governor and U.S. senator in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A mortal enemy of black people, he bragged that he and his followers had disenfranchised “as many as we could,” and he publicly defended the murder of blacks.
In a speech on the Senate floor, he declared: “We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organized support from white and black Americans and ran a national campaign to get a federal anti-lynching law passed. In 1920 the Republican Party promised at its national convention to support an anti-lynching law. Rep. Leonidas Dyer, a Missouri Republican, sponsored an anti-lynching bill in 1921 and it was passed in the US House of Representatives in January 1922. A Senate filibuster by Southern white Democrats defeated the bill in December 1922. With the NAACP’s help, Rep. Dyer spoke across the country in support of his bill in 1923, but the Southern Democrats filibustered it again.
From 1882 to 1968 nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress and three passed the House. Seven presidents between 1880 and 1952 petitioned Congress to pass a federal anti-lynching law. No bill was approved by the Senate because of the strong opposition from the Southern Democrats.
In 1934 Senators Robert Wagner and Edward Costigan drafted the Wagner-Costigan bill to require local authorities to protect prisoners from lynch mobs. Like Dyer’s bill, it made lynching a Federal crime. Virtually all Southern Democrat senators blocked the Wagner-Costigan bill by using a filibuster to prevent a vote on the bill.
There are many other examples that could be given to show that the white Southern Democrats were the driving force behind lynching and disenfranchisement of blacks. The Civil War may have ended in 1865 but the war against Republicans and blacks continued, even intensified in guerrilla fashion. Whenever an effort was made to put a stop to the lynching, that effort was always thwarted by white Southern Democrats.
Rep. Carson says the Tea Party would love to see “you and me” hanging on a tree. Saying that at the Congressional Black Caucus Job Tour leaves no doubt he was meaning other black people.
Carson is either completely ignorant of his own party’s history or he decided long ago to sell himself and black people out to the party of lynching. The party of the Ku Klux Klan. The party of Jim Crow. The party of Bull Connor. The party of segregation.
So why are Carson and other African Americans in the Democratic Party? This poster I found on the Internet might be supplying the answer.