From the archive, 30 April 1912: The Republican party and coloured gentlemen

Republican electioneering is markedly deferential to coloured electors in a presidential year, writes a correspondent

No class of American citizens gets more fun or more passing importance out of a presidential election than the coloured people, who, since they were emancipated by Lincoln in 1862, have always been the political wards of the Republican party. Between elections the Republicans care as little about the coloured people as they do about the Chinamen in the cities who compete with the steam laundries for their washing. But at election times the local bosses of the Republican party are assiduous patrons of the coloured voters. Hence it happens that at least once in four years the coloured man temporarily is permitted to feel that he is not a mere hewer of wood and drawer of water. Care is taken by the local bosses to make him realise that he is part-owner of the flag and that he has a proprietary interest in “Yankee Doodle” and “The Star-spangled Banner.” Coloured pastors are invited to offer the opening prayer at the second or third day of the Republican conventions. Coloured men are appointed assistant-deputy-sergeants-at-arms at these conventions, and “Way down upon the Suwannee River” and “Marching through Georgia” are played by the brass bands to arouse the enthusiasm of coloured delegates and coloured spectators in the galleries.

Even the daily papers – those, of course, that support the Republican party – are markedly deferential to coloured electors in a presidential year, especially in communities where the vote is likely to be close. I was reminded of this very sharply, writes an Anglo-American journalist, in my first presidential year. I was working on a Republican newspaper in St. Louis, and it fell to my lot to attend an open-air mass meeting of coloured men, who, with the help of a brass band, much red fire, and hundreds of Chinese lanterns – all provided at the expense of the local bosses, – were to ratify the nomination of Blaine and Logan as the Republican Presidential candidates. American politics was new to me in those days, and, unfortunately for me, I described the meeting as a demonstration of negroes. For this I was sharply called to account by the city editor (the American name for the news editor or chief reporter). “Don’t you understand,” he said, “that in a Republican paper in a presidential year all niggers are coloured gentlemen?” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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