Last week, I received a letter from a Warner Robins gentleman. It went like this: "Your comparison of the Donald to the so-called 'Dixiecrats' of the '50s and '60s was way off base and I, for one, am going to call you out on it. How about some examples to support your allegations? I'm no Trump fan but this editorial was way over the top, in my humble but usually valid opinion, and I think you owe your readers an apology for this bit of muckraking.
"And while we're on the subject of Dixiecrats, can you offer an explanation as to why a majority of our black population fawns all over the Democrats in light of how deplorably they have been treated by them during the last century? I have never understood that."
He deserves an answer. The editorial wasn't about Trump at all. I was comparing the crisis the Democratic Party was going through over 50 years ago that spawned the Dixiecrats. The spark was segregation. The Democratic standard bearer, President Harry S. Truman, by executive orders, banned segregation in the armed forces and opened up civil service jobs to African Americans.
During the 1948 Democratic Convention, held in Philadelphia, part of the platform dealt with civil rights. That was too much for many Southerners who walked out of the convention, and the States' Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrats) were born. In the election of 1948, the Dixiecrats took South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana with Gov. Strom Thurmond as its presidential nominee. By the way, Georgia went for Truman.
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The Republican Party is going through its convulsions now. Some are worried that if they tick off "The Donald" with some convention chicanery, he will take his delegates and go the third party route, which would spell doom for Republican hopes of winning the White House. That's the same line of thinking some Democrats had in '48 about pushing a civil rights agenda. Truman still beat Thomas Dewey, the Republican, no matter what the Chicago Daily Tribune said.
On his second question. Why are African-Americans loyal to the Democratic Party? It's true, the party of Abraham Lincoln was responsible for bringing slavery to an end. It's also true that Democrats controlled the segregated South. It was Democrats who led the Ku Klux Klan and other terrorists organizations.
So what happened?
According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, blacks voted Republican post-Civil War into the first part of the 20th century until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along in 1932.
By 1936, for FDR's second term, he received 71 percent of the black vote, but even then, just about as many blacks thought of themselves as Democrats as Republicans. Truman changed all that, grabbing 77 percent of the black vote in 1948. Republicans, however, still received black support (Dwight Eisenhower 39 percent, Richard Nixon 32 percent).
When Barry Goldwater received the Republican nomination in 1964 any black allegiance to the GOP would fade. The Arizona senator opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legislation sponsored by his Democratic opponent, President Lyndon Johnson. The rest is history. No Republican candidate for president has received more than 15 percent of the black vote since. There you have it.
While the letter writer is quite correct about Democrats doing little or nothing to address the plight of black people, they haven't been openly hostile, either. That cannot be said of the modern Republican Party. The GOP employed its Southern Strategy to perfection, and a region that was solidly Democrat is now rock hard Republican.
Unfortunately, the demographic table has shifted. A party appealing to mostly white members can't win the White House. The GOP had been trying to reach out to people of color, but along came Trump. It will take decades for the GOP brand to recover, if it survives.
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph's editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.