June 19, 2020
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day, is an unofficial American holiday and an official Texas state holiday, celebrated annually on the 19th of June in the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger’s reading of federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on 19 June 1865, proclaiming all slaves in Texas were now free. Slavery had legally ended in 1863 but wasn’t announced in Galveston until 1865.
Background of African Americans and Texas Politics
Did you Know?
• The Republican Party was formed in 1854 after the Democrats voted to protect and to extend slavery.
• The 1860 Democrat platform declared its support for the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision.
• The 13th Amendment passed without a single Democrat vote in Congress for civil rights for African Americans.
• The Republican Party of Texas emerged in Houston on July 4, 1867 with 150 African Americans and 20 Anglos. The same year, the Ku Klux Klan actively began to attack African Americans and Republicans.
• Two of the first three statewide leaders of the Republican Party of Texas were African Americans.
• The first 42 African Americans elected to the Texas Legislature were all Republicans.
• From 1865-1869, Texas Democrats passed “Black Codes” to prohibit African Americans from voting, holding office, and serving on juries. They also refused to acknowledge Juneteenth and even drafted a new State constitution requiring that State Representatives and Senators only be “of the white race.”
• When the Republicans gained the Texas Legislature in 1869, they established a system of free public schools to educate all the children of the State (something Democrats had refused to do) and started a Texas State Militia and a Texas State police in which African Americans proudly served.
• When Democrats recaptured Texas government in 1872, Democrat Governor Richard Coke’s election was described as “the restoration of white supremacy and Democratic rule.”
• Texas Democrats engaged in bizarre gerrymandering specifically to prevent African American members from being re-elected to the Legislature. When African American Republican legislator Robert L. Smith departed in 1897, no African American was elected in Texas until 1966, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Texas Democrats to redraw districts.
• Texas Democrats enacted a poll tax that reduced African American voter turnout in Texas from 100,000 to only 5,000 and passed white-only primary laws as well as Jim Crow segregation laws.
• As victims of Democrat racism and segregation, African Americans were loyal to the Republican Party they started. In fact, Republican President Herbert Hoover received more than three-fourths of the African American vote over his Democratic challenger Franklin D. Roosevelt.
• Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to appoint an African American to an executive position on the White House staff.
• A higher percentage of Republican Members of Congress voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 than did Democrats.
• African Americans made their most significant political and civil rights progress while affiliated with the Republican Party, and only in recent decades have African Americans become a principal constituency of the Democrat Party.
As Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, I am committed to re-claiming our party’s historical prominence with black voters in Texas. Our party understands the difference between symbolism and substance and between politics and policy. As we move toward the November 2020 Election and continue to engage African American voters in Texas, we will remember our past and find the best, principled path forward to more liberty and equal justice under the law for all.
James R. Dickey