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Blacks and Politics

"Allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Olivia Pope, and I don't have to explain myself to anyone" -Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal. While in preparation for our fundraiser at the Skating Rink, I felt like this was the perfect place to submit a paper I wrote while was an undergraduate student at North Carolina A&T State University. This is the backbone of what I believe my organization is moving towards. It's important to understand history as it really occurred, and what occurs when that information is diluted over time in order to cater towards a specific audience. I felt this way in 2013, and I believe now it's more apparent. However, the simple point does remain. I don't have to explain myself to anyone. This paper, I believe, will give insight into the type of person I am. I hope you enjoy the read.

Blacks and Politics

Tierra Lanier

Independent Study

Dr. Hall

North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University



This paper contains information concerning the political community and African Americans post slavery. It contains documented history of black men who has served in the political communities such as the cabinet, senate, and congress prior to the civil rights movement. It discusses why decisions were made and the impact of the mindset of African Americans generation after generation. The paper begins with the reconstruction period. It address the question, “If our generation became more aware of how African-Americans were politically active, would it open the mindset of young black men and women to see that we could progress our race as a whole?” This question will be answered with psychological factors and a point of view from a student studying psychology while attending an HBCU.


“There can be no black-white unity until there is first some black unity….We cannot think of uniting with others, until after we have first united among ourselves. We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves” (Malcolm). This quote by Malcolm X is a thought that I feel when I return home to Maryland. While my education has given me the opportunity to succeed, I quiver for the day my family and friends feel like I have abandoned them. I remember going to elementary school, and every morning our teacher would teach us about American history. We would learn about Thomas Jefferson, and Christopher Columbus, comprehending the events that led to the creation of the nation. Even after that, memorizing the former presidents of the United States and their political party affiliation always seemed challenging for me. It’s easier for me to learn through experience than just reading something printed on paper. Then the month of February would show its face, and it felt like in one month the world saw it’s reflection through a different pair of eyes. We would become endowed with Black History Month. My second grade class had to do a project on a famous black person who was not Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. Who did I choose? Florence Griffin Joyner, a woman who loved to run. Her love allowed her to enter the Olympics, obtaining more than two gold medals. Even the radio stations would have more soul in their tunes during this month. The Tom Joyner Morning Show would wake my mother and me every morning at six o’clock informing us with a random black history fact. What’s wrong with knowing extra knowledge when it pertains to your race? I also remember that the same radio station worked together with McDonalds when it came to spreading knowledge. In every happy meal, there would be a small color booklet of an unsung hero. I eventually lost track of them, but I wish this ambition was present in the world again. As the month of February would end, March would begin. The eyes would reset, and the world turned like three days before we were discussing the pain that provided progression for the black community. This was always a troubled fact to me, not fiction. The next time I saw someone black in my Social Studies class was either for the discussion of slavery or for a brief discussion of Egyptian culture. I eventually realized that the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement were getting their deserved respect. But that was it. As a freshman in high school I experienced brief discussions of those who played a role in the formation of our government post slavery and before the civil rights movement. That was very brief as well. Now, I write as a woman attending an HBCU. This is a school that has been the foundation of organizing the student body to have our human rights recognized and respected. Since the reconstruction period to today, there has been 43 African American Members serving the 112th congress, all in the House of Representatives. 133 African American Members of Congress. 127 elected to the house, 5 elected to Senate, and 1 appointed to the Senate. 104 Democrats, 101 in the House and 3 in the Senate; 29 Republicans, 26 in the House and 3 in Senate. The information that I have researched is open to the public, however these men are not taught in the current school curriculum. My goal is to make this information easier to obtain for anyone to read. I believe that if this information was taught in high schools in correlation with an LSN (Local State and National) class, then our outcomes of black men graduating would have a slight increase. I also believe that if our generation became more aware of how African-Americans were politically active, it open the mindset of young black men and women to see that we could progress our race as a whole.

Reconstruction Period

The United States of America experienced a dramatic turn of events for the year of 1865. The thirteenth amendment was passed under President Lincoln. It became approved in January, and then ratified in December. The thirteenth amendment states that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction" (Cornell). Congress also established the Freedmen’s Bureau in March of 1865 to provide assistance to the emancipated slaves. The Civil War began to come to a close, and Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th, 1865. On April 15th, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Vice President Andrew Johnson became president. President Johnson believed in what Lincoln stood for, and began presenting plans for Reconstruction post Civil War. Benjamin Butler, who supported the union and was a strong advocate of rights for African Americans, was elected to Congress and a radical member of the Republican Party. Later in the year of 1865, Mississippi enacted the Black Code which was used to disguise slavery. The Ku Klux Klan originated in Tennessee, and the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction was created (Carr).

Congress granted African American men the status and rights of citizenship, including the right to vote as guaranteed by the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the US Constitution. As the year 1867 began to come around the corner, the states had already experienced the Civil Rights Act being passed, and massacres’ occurring in both Memphis and New Orleans months apart the year before. This displayed that this was not going to be an easy victory. In 1867, the branches of the Union League encouraged political activism of African-Americans. This led to the republican convention in New Orleans, including equality for African-Americans as part of the party’s platform. The first, second, and third reconstruction acts were passed over Johnson’s veto. Through 1867-1869, blacks and whites stood side by side for the first time. Blacks made up the majority of republican voters, forming an alliance with derogatory terms such as carpetbaggers and scallywags. In 1868, former slave Oscar J. Dunn was elected lieutenant governor of Louisiana. Francis L. Cardozo was elected secretary of state in South Carolina from 1868-1872. John W. Menard of Louisiana was elected to Congress. Menard was barred from his seat by white members of congress. But he pleads his case, and became the first Black representative to be seated and the first black representative to speak on the floor. James Harris and P.B.S. Pinchback are the first African American delegates to the Republic convention. The fourth reconstruction act was passed in the same year, and the ratification of the fourteenth amendment also occurred. This entitled “everyone born or naturalized in the United States to citizenship and equal protection under the laws of the United States” (Manning & Shogan, 2012). During this time period, 265 African-Americans were elected while over 100 had been born into slavery. Half of these men served in South Carolina and Louisiana. 16 African Americans served in the US Congress during Reconstruction. 600 were elected to the state legislatures (Carr).

Congress and political parties

After the Reconstruction Period, African American men still had to feel the turmoil of post-slavery. It was very rare to find a black man who was educated. Rare, but not impossible. While men such as Oscar J. Dunn and Francis L. Cardozo were the stepping stone of blacks becoming politically active, that was only the beginning. As the years continued, it became harder for an average man to become part of this elite group of men. Black Americans began to no longer have this disadvantage in their homes. They were going to become part of this political community to ensure that their children and wives would obtain better opportunities to excel in the United States. The first African American member in congress was Hiram Rhodes Revels. He served in the Senate in 41st congress 1870-1871, and began his term 20 Jan, 1870. He was chosen by the Mississippi legislature to take seat. He was also the first African American Senator to serve a full senate term of six years. Joseph H. Rainey served from 1870-1879. He was the first African American Member of the House of Representatives, beginning service in the 41st congress. It was also inspiring that these men served since they entered congress through a difficult time for black people. The only light that shinned on this dark hour was Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution which requires all members of the House of Representatives must be “chosen every second year by the people of the several states” (Manning & Shogan,2012). This did not mean that blacks were only allowed to become a part of certain political parties. African-Americans


No African Americans served in Congress from the 57th Congress (1901-1903) until the 71st Congress (1929-1931), when one Member was elected to the House. This was in part because (1) the congressional focus on racial equality had faded; (2) the slow disintegration of the Republican-dominated Reconstruction governments had a detrimental effect on the rights of black voters, and those seeking political office were vulnerable to Democratic state governments controlled by former Confederates and their sympathizers; (3) a variety of impediments such as the poll tax and educational tests prevented African Americans from voting; and (4) some state legislatures attempted to gerrymander congressional districts to restrict the election of African Americans (Manning & Shogan,2012). William L. Dawson was a Representative from Illinois. He was born on April 26, 1886, and died in office November 9, 1970. He was elected as a Democrat to the 78th through 91st Congresses. He served from January 3, 1943 to November 9, 1970. You also have Oscar S. DePriest, a Representative from Illinois. He was born on March 9, 1871, died on May 12, 1951. He was elected as a Republican to the 71st through 73rd Congresses, whom served from March 4, 1929, to March 3, 1935. He is the first African American Member of Congress from Illinois (Manning & Shogan,2012).

Hypothesis of the modern black American mind set

I believe that if our generation became more aware of how African-Americans were politically active prior to the civil rights movement, it would open the mindset of black men and women to see that we could progress our race as a whole. I personally feel that one of the qualities seen in black people is that we do not promote our own race to succeed in the business world. Even though we are taught as a child to make the correct decisions, our peers skew that vision and alters it. We are quick to call a black man who is educated an “Uncle Tom”. We have been consumed by the media of what and how black people should respond to what the world has given us. The stereotypes of black people become infuriating to the point where it feels that there is no point to strive for an education. In reference to my quote in the introduction by Malcolm X, we must be able to unify before we conquer. We have begun to damage ourselves mentally. Even being a college student at an HBCU, this has become the make or break point of succeeding. This world is an evil place, and perception is reality. The information that were mention earlier makes it very clear that for us to even obtain this point of livelihood in America, it was not an easy task. The first obstacle we must overcome is the doubt of our own race. It has become unacceptable that we do not promote small black businesses within our community; however we support other consumers with the same product, just different faces. The second obstacle we must overcome is encouraging our youth to own businesses, not become workers. It is taught in schools that we have worked on this nation, in unlivable conditions, a time before. This is a time where we should not continue to feel that succeeding is just obtaining a job. I believe that we encourage strong black business, overcoming the fear of black in the corporate world, then the anger that I feel when I walk around campus. My goal is to make sure my family continues to beat the odds of budgeting with the government. The third obstacle we must overcome is embracing the past to allow us to excel in the future. This will be a difficult task because this includes becoming more aggressive of having African-Americans who were active post-slavery beginning with the Reconstruction Period in the history books of middle and high school students. It’s common knowledge of the man who discovered the United States. The civil rights movement is taught to our generations to come, but has that proven to be enough?

When discussing blacks and politics, you have to able to pursue the study of the political psychology of race. “Race-related social identifications also appear to play a role in various forms for political involvement and participatory behavior” (Federico & Lucks, 2005). An article was published in 2005 by Political Psychology. Mr. Federico and Ms. Luks discussed how race plays a dominant role in outcomes for an individual’s life, social, and political attitudes. They bought together the contributions of five young scholars working on the psychological dimensions of the intersection between race and politics. “Perhaps the most important contribution of political psychology in this area has to with matters of social identity-or to be more precise, attachments to racial in-groups and in-group-related social institutions, on one hand, and resentments towards racial out groups, on the other(Federico & Luks, 2005). When receiving contributions from the 5 participants, the first four examined the differing beliefs of supporters and opponents of affirmative action. These participants were Christine Renya, Amanada Tucker, William Korfmacher, and P.J. Henry. They argued that supporters of affirmative action may think of the policy in terms of making special efforts to recruit member of underrepresented groups, while others thinks of it in terms quotas. They also found that both supporters and opponents of affirmative sows more support for merit-upholding than merit-violating applications of the policy. The fifth contributor, Christopher Federico, held a completely different perspective. He focused on the relationship between negative perceptions of African Americans and attitudes toward welfare. Through research on the liberalizing effects of education suggests that these effects might be weaker among college educated whites. He argues that the role of education may be more complex. “While education should lead to an increased awareness of tolerant norms, reducing the overall prevalence of negative racial perceptions, it should also lead to high levels of cognitive ability, therefore strengthening the relationship between these perceptions and policy attitudes” (Federico & Luks,2005). He then goes into the fact that racial cues are more likely to strengthen the relationship between negative racial perceptions and evaluative responses. Once the participant’s responses were recorded, another aspect that was evaluated by Cara Wong and Grace E. Cho was White racial identification. White identification relates to racial attitudes among whites in the same relation as blacks to African Americans. They suggested that social identity may be relevant not just to the attitudes of minority groups, but also to the attitudes of majority groups often assumed to have no sense of attachment to the in-group (Federico & Lucks,2005).


When I interned for the District Attorney’s office during the summer of 2012, I asked a lawyer, “What is one of the most important things to remember if you become part of the legal system?” He wanted me to understand that as a black lawyer, you have to make this decision for yourself. He said, “You can either help your best friend or step over your brother.” I believe that this statement is relevant for any African American who plans to become a member of the legal system. People of color account for sixty percent of those imprisoned while they make up thirty percent of the United States Population. “According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime” (Kerby). When you become part of the legal system, one of the challenges you wake up to every morning is the question of ethics. Some members of the legal system are only focused on conviction rates and pay checks, while others would help those who found their self in unacceptable situations find justice and peace.


Carr, F. L. (n.d.). Retrieved from (Carr)

Federico, C., & Luks, S. (n.d.). The political psychology of race. (2005). Political Psychology, 26(5), 661-666. Retrieved from (n.d.). Retrieved from

Kerby, S. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Library of Congress, C. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Manning, J. E. Shogan C.J. (2012, November 26). Retrieved from

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