There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Next, I will research Woodrow Wilson’s Twelve Points (or, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet)

Recently I’ve been reading about some of the changes that have taken place over the last several decades in the U.S. political landscape – for example, how the state of California – a shoo-in for Obama this year – was a Republican bastion just a few decades ago. And it wasn’t just because we were nominating Californians for President – during the period from Eisenhower’s election to George H.W. Bush’s election, the only time a Democratic won California’s Presidential electoral votes was in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson crushed Barry Goldwater.

I eventually began reading about a related topic – how did the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, shift from one that received nearly unanimous black support to one that receives very little black support today?

While researching this, I ran across this post by Timothy Sexton. Sexton advanced various reasons for the shift in support, naming some specific things that happened during the Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft administrations. I never got around to independently corroborating these items, however, because I got to Sexton’s statements about Taft’s successor, Woodrow Wilson.

It was the last great white hope of leading African-Americans of the day that Woodrow Wilson would put an end to the racist policies of Roosevelt and Taft. Wilson was seen as a highly educated, very intelligent and progressive man and such leading African-America lights of the day such W.E.B. DuBois strongly supported Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Unfortunately, what DuBois and others failed to appreciate is that despite his having been President of an Ivy League college, Woodrow Wilson’s heart belonged to Dixie.

Sexton is correct here. Wilson, who came to national fame as President of Princeton and Governor of New Jersey, was not a native of New Jersey.

Sexton continues:

Wilson had been born and raised in the heart of the slave-owning, rebel-flag waving, KKK-electing south: South Carolina.

Uh, no.

Wilson did spend a significant portion of his childhood in South Carolina, but as this biography, and others, indicate, he also spent a great deal of time in Georgia, and also spent a year of his childhood in Virginia. The biography above is from the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, which is located in Staunton, Virginia – Wilson’s birthplace. Having been raised in Virginia myself, and having made many trips to the Boy Scout summer camp at Goshen, I am well aware of this fact, even if Sexton isn’t.

OK, one can argue that this does not negate Sexton’s main point – Wilson did spend his entire childhood in the South, even if it wasn’t all spent in South Carolina. But Sexton then makes a more serious error.

During Woodrow Wilson’s term, all agencies of the federal government as well the buildings in which they were housed were fully segregated. When confronted on this issue by black delegations Wilson confirmed the worst fears that African-Americans had about the new Republican Party.

Um, how could Wilson confirm the worst fears that African-Americans had about the new Republican Party?

Perhaps Sexton was not aware that in 1912, the three people that he named – Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson – all ran against each other for President. Yes, all three of them – and the Republican in that election, William Howard Taft, actually received fewer popular and electoral votes than the other two. Roosevelt ran, not as a Republican, but as a Progressive. And Wilson ran, not as a Republican as Sexton indicates, but as a Democrat. (Think about it – if Wilson were raised in the South in the late 19th century, and if his father served the Confederacy, it would be very unlikely that Wilson would become a Republican.)

Basically, if you’re going to argue why blacks turned to the Democratic Party in the early 20th century, you shouldn’t be listing Wilson as one of the reasons why.

This is still a fascinating subject, and one I plan to investigate – at soon as I can find some reliable sources.

P.S. I may also want to research why Daniel Tompkins doesn’t think Timothy Sexton is a good movie reviewer either. Apparently his movie reviews somewhat parallel his historical articles.

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