Why The Democratic Party Should Apologize To The Families of Lynching Victims

A Similar Apology is Long Overdue from a Group<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Even More Responsible than the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />U. S. Senate
On Monday, June 13, 2005, the U. S. Senate approved a resolution (S.Res.39) apologizing to the families of lynching victims for never passing a federal anti-lynching law. As demonstrated by several important facts set forth in the resolution, this apology was both appropriate and long overdue.
However, the unstated causes that created the facts set forth in the resolution indisputably demonstrate that there is a specific group directly responsible for the Senate's egregious failure to pass an anti-lynching law. That group should join with the Senate and offer its deepest regret and humblest heartfelt apology to the families of lynching victims. Which group? The Democrat Party.
Consider the irrefutable historical documentation behind the Senate's resolution:
Apologizing to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation.
Whereas the crime of lynching succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction;
v     Indisputably, the Ku Klux Klan was the primary domestic terrorist group responsible for racial lynchings during and following Reconstruction.
v     The Ku Klux Klan was formed by the Democrat Party in 1866-1867 as part of their efforts against Reconstruction. [1]
v     In 1871, as lynchings were escalating in the nation, a bill was passed in Congress to punish Klan violence; not one Democrat in the House or Senate voted for that bill. [2]
v     In 1893, Democrats regained control of Congress and the Presidency for the first time since 1861. Democrats promptly passed – and Democrat President Grover Cleveland signed – a federal law repealing federal protection from Klan violence. [3]
Whereas lynching was a widely acknowledged practice in the United States until the middle of the 20th century;
v     Republicans regularly spearheaded the congressional efforts to ban lynching. [4]
v     Republican platforms consistently called for a ban on lynching. [5]
v     Typical of the anti-lynching language in Republican platforms was:
Ø      We proclaim our unqualified condemnation of the uncivilized and preposterous practice well known as lynching. (1896)
Ø      We urge Congress to consider the most effective means to end lynching in this country, which continues to be a terrible blot on our American civilization. (1920)
Ø      We urge the Congress to enact at the earliest possible date a federal anti-lynching law so that the full influence of the federal government may be wielded to exterminate this hideous crime. (1924, 1928)
Ø      We favor legislation against lynching and pledge our sincere efforts in behalf of its early enactment. (1944)
Ø      Lynching or any other form of mob violence anywhere is a disgrace to any civilized state, and we favor the prompt enactment of legislation to end this infamy. (1948)
Ø       Etc.
v     Democrat platforms never called for a ban on lynching. [6]
Whereas lynching was a crime that occurred throughout the United States, with documented incidents in all but 4 States;
v     Eighty-three percent of all lynchings occurred in the 11 former Confederate States and the 4 so-called Border States [7] – the states that comprised the "Solid Democratic South" [8] established at the end of Reconstruction. [9] Even though those fifteen strongly Democrat states comprised only 30 percent of the nation, they perpetrated 83 percent of lynchings; other states with high lynching numbers (such as Oklahoma) were Democrat-controlled at the time of the lynchings.
Whereas at least 4,742 people, predominantly African-Americans, were reported lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968;
v     Of those lynched, 3,446 were blacks and 1,297 white. [10]
v     Why were blacks lynched at a rate almost three times higher than whites? Two African American legislators who served during Reconstruction – and who personally led the successful fight in Congress to pass civil rights bills to punish Klan violence – explained the reason. According to U. S. Rep. Richard Cain (South Carolina): "The bad blood of the South comes because the Negroes are Republicans. If they would only cease to be Republicans and vote the straight-out Democratic ticket there would be no trouble. Then the bad blood would sink entirely out of sight." [11] U. S. Rep. John Roy Lynch (Mississippi) agreed: "More colored than white men are thus persecuted simply because they constitute in larger numbers the opposition to the Democratic Party." [12] Numerous similar declarations are found in the congressional speeches of black Reconstruction legislators as well as the many congressional investigations into Klan violence. [13]
Whereas 99 percent of all perpetrators of lynching escaped from punishment by State or local officials;
v     In the states where lynchings were most frequent, Democrat state legislatures prevented the passage of state anti-lynching bills. For example, anti-lynching legislation proposed between 1916 and 1931 in the Democrat-controlled states of Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee all failed to pass. [14] If states had earlier passed anti-lynching laws, Democrat-controlled state legislatures (such as in Texas and Alabama) repealed such laws. [15]
v     Why did lynchings go unpunished in so many communities? U. S. Representative Joseph Hayne Rainey – the first African American elected to the House – explained the reason during the passage of the 1871 civil rights bill to punish Klan violence: "When we call to mind the fact that this [Klan] persecution is waged against men for the simple reason that they dare vote with the [Republican] Party, . . . [t]he question is sometimes asked, 'Why do not the courts of law afford redress?' . . . We answer, that the courts are in many instances under the control of those [Democrats] who are wholly inimical to the impartial administration of law and equity. What benefit would result from appeal to tribunals [courts] whose officers are secretly in sympathy with the very evil against which we are striving? . . . I will say that in the State of South Carolina, there is no disturbance of an alarming character in any one of the counties in which the Republicans have a majority. The troubles are usually in those sections in which the Democrats have [control]. . . . I say . . . to the entire membership of the Democratic Party, that upon your hands rests the blood of the loyal men of the South. Disclaim it as you will; the stain is there to prove your criminality before God and the world in the day of retribution which will surely come." [16]
v     So close was the affiliation between the Klan and Democrats that a number of Klansmen ran on various state Democrat tickets and were elected. [17]
v     At the national level, several 20th century Democrat U. S. Senators – both early [18] and recent [19] – were members of the Klan and wore its white hood and robe.
Whereas lynching prompted African-Americans to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and prompted members of B'nai B'rith to found the Anti-Defamation League;
v     On February 12, 1909 – the 100th anniversary of Republican President Abraham Lincoln's birth – the NAACP was founded by Republicans and women's suffragists (specifically Ida Wells and Mary Terrell). [20] On that same day in 1909, black Republican James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) penned the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to honor Abraham Lincoln; that song has now been adopted by black Americans as the Negro National Anthem. [21]
Whereas nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century;
v     Republicans were diligent in their efforts to end lynching both at the national and state level. On occasion, individual Democrats also offered anti-lynching bills or worked to reduce racial violence against blacks, whether from the Klan or community mobs. However, they were usually thwarted and sometimes even punished by their own party for such efforts. For example:
Ø      Democrat Rep. Emanuel Celler (New York) introduced an anti-lynching bill in Congress in 1934, but his efforts were blocked by members of his own party.
Ø      Mississippi Democrat Governor Andrew Longino addressed the lynching situation in his state by proposing strong anti-mob violence legislation; he explained the consequence of that proposal: "[I]n my inaugural address to the Legislature, I had the courage – or perhaps more aptly speaking, the temerity – to recommend the passage of certain laws for the better protection and safeguard of the lives, liberty, and property of the people, putting special emphasis on the importance of better enforcement of the laws in the suppression of mob violence. . . . The said message proved very unpopular, and about the only effect it has seemed to have was to sound the political knell [death-bell] of its author, causing his subsequent defeat for United States Senator, Supreme Court Judge, and for Governor a second time." [22]
Ø      By the 20th century, the Klan was no longer the primary perpetrator of lynchings; community mobs – particularly in southern Democrat states – often took the place of the Klan. Nevertheless, the Klan remained a symbol of terror, violence, and lynchings; and when Texas Democrat candidate for governor, Ma Ferguson, dared to criticize the Klan's role in the southern Democrat Party, she was directly opposed in the Democrat primary with a Klan candidate, thus costing her the widespread cohesive support of the Texas Democrat Party. [23]
Ø      When Democrat George Wallace ran for governor in Alabama, he initially refused the Klan endorsement and lost the race. On his next attempt, he adopted a white-supremacy position and was elected governor. [24]
v     These are simply a few examples of how Democrats often treated their own who sought to lessen violence against African Americans.
Whereas, between 1890 and 1952, 7 Presidents petitioned Congress to end lynching;
v     On each occasion, Democrats rejected the presidential petitions or subsequently blocked the passage of anti-lynching legislation as it moved through Congress.
v     As an example, when Democrat President Harry Truman introduced a ten-point civil rights legislative package that included an anti-lynching bill, Democrats in Congress killed their own President's proposals. [25] In fact, Southern Democrat governors, fearing that Truman might eventually succeed, denounced his agenda and proposed a meeting in Florida of what they called a "southern conference of true Democrats" to plan their strategy to halt civil rights progress. [26] That summer at the Democratic National Convention when Truman placed strong pro-civil rights language in the national Democrat platform, the result was a walkout of southern delegates, who then formed the Dixiecrat Party. [27]
Whereas, between 1920 and 1940, the House of Representatives passed 3 strong anti-lynching measures;
v     On each occasion that the House passed an anti-lynching bill, the bill was filibustered or killed by Democrats in the Senate.
v     One of the many Republican attempts to ban lynchings occurred in 1921 when Rep. Leonidas Dyer (Missouri) introduced yet another federal anti-lynching bill. It was filibustered by Democrats, [28] and the effect of that delay was costly. The NAACP sadly reported that "since the introduction of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill in Congress on April 11, 1921, there have been 28 persons murdered by lynchings in the United States." [29] The Dyer bill was eventually killed by Democrats – as was every single anti-lynching bill introduced in Congress, including those occasionally introduced by a Democrat. [30]
Whereas protection against lynching was the minimum and most basic of Federal responsibilities, and the Senate considered but failed to enact anti-lynching legislation despite repeated requests by civil rights groups, Presidents, and the House of Representatives to do so;
Whereas the recent publication of 'Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America' helped bring greater awareness and proper recognition of the victims of lynching;
Whereas only by coming to terms with history can the United States effectively champion human rights abroad; and
v     The Senate has come to terms and openly acknowledged its own history regarding lynching and its failure to pass an anti-lynching law; the Democrat Party should now do so.
Whereas an apology offered in the spirit of true repentance moves the United States toward reconciliation and may become central to a new understanding, on which improved racial relations can be forged: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate--
(1) apologizes to the victims of lynching for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation;
(2) expresses the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States; and
(3) remembers the history of lynching, to ensure that these tragedies will be neither forgotten nor repeated.
David Barton

[1] See the 13-volume congressional investigation: Report of The Joint Select Committee to Inquire Into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872; reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1968), Vol. I; Vol. II, p. 220, "North Carolina"; Vols. III, pp. 26-27, IV, p. 848, and V, "South Carolina"; Vols. VI and VII, p. 1005, "Georgia"; Vols. VIII, IX, p. 899, and X, "Alabama"; Vols. XI, p. 286, and XII, "Mississippi"; Vol. XIII, p. 66, "Miscellaneous and Florida"; see also Eugene Smalley, Brief History of the Republican Party (New York: John B. Alden, 1885), pp. 49-50, and The Handbook of Texas online, "Ku Klux Klan" (at http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbok/online/articles/view/KK/vek2.html).

[2] Congressional Globe, 42nd Congress, 1st Session (Washington, DC: Congressional Globe Office, 1871), Appendix, p. 808, April 19, 1871; p. 831, April 20, 1871.

[3] Bernard Schwartz, Statutory History of the United States, Civil Rights (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1970), Part 1, p. 803.

[4] Robert L. Zangrando, The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, 1909-1950 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980), pp. 16, 24-25.

[5] National Party Platforms, 1840-1976, Supplement 1980, Donald B. Johnson, editor (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982), see, for example, Republican Platforms of 1920, 1924, 1928, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1952. Cited in the American Reference Library (Orem, Utah: Western Standard Publishing Company, 1998).

[6] Although the absence of something cannot usually be footnoted, nevertheless a review of Democrat Platforms confirms the absence of any anti-lynching platform plank (c.f., National Party Platforms, 1840-1976, Supplement 1980, Donald B. Johnson, editor (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).

[7] Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia accounted for 3,925 of the 4,742 lynchings; see University of Missouri-Kansas City: School of Law, "Lynching Statistics by Year" (at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/shipp/lynchingsstate.html); see also Negro Almanac, Harry Ploski and James Williams, editors (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989), pp. 365, 368

[8] Harvard University Press, "The Transformation of Southern Politics," from a book review of The Rise of Southern Politics by Earl Black and Merle Black (at http://www.hup.harvard.edu/Newsroom/pr_rise_south_repubs.html); see also The Atlantic online, Grover Norquist, "Is the Party Over?" (at http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/forum/gop/norquist1.htm).

[9] Digital History, "Reconstruction: Redemption" (at http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=137), "The End of Reconstruction" (at http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=138), "The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876 (at http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=139); Francis Simkins and Robert Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1966), p. 547.

Support Our Broadcast Network

We're a 100% Listener Supported Network

3 Simple Ways to Support WVW Foundation

Credit Card
100% Tax-Deductable
100% Tax-Deductable

Make Monthly Donations



A One-Time Donation

Mail or Phone
100% Tax-Deductable
  • Mail In Your Donation

    Worldview Weekend Foundation
    PO BOX 1690
    Collierville, TN, 38027 USA

  • Donate by Phone


WorldviewFinancialTV.com Banner