Image Former DC Mayor Marion Barry – a treasure-trove of great material as ever was – famously said: "I heard a funny story that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Well, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, and I can tell you he was not a Republican."

Hizzoner’s comment came to mind this past week when I read about the controversy over some campaign ads sponsored recently by the National Black Republican Association. Aired in Ohio, Washington (DC), Georgia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, they assert that civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican.

The ads produced howls of outrage from Democrats and black leaders who said the "Republican" claim "crossed a line". They didn’t say what line, but the Rev. Joseph Lowery, former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (founded by Dr. King in 1957) put it this way:

"To suggest that Martin could identify with a party that affirms preemptive, predatory war, and whose religious partners hint that God affirms war and favors the rich at the expense of the poor, is to revile Martin."

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who marched with Dr. King in the 1960s, denounced the ad as an "insult to the legacy and the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. [and] an affront to all that he stood for."

NBRA Chair Frances Rice, who sponsored the ads, stands by them entirely, despite the flack. She repeats that Dr. King "absolutely was a Republican. We all were in those days. The Democrats were training fire hoses on us, siccing dogs on us."

Probably most schoolchildren know that Lincoln and the Republicans freed the slaves. But I doubt if students are much taught, nowadays, that Democrats were the party of the Confederacy, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, segregated water fountains, school-segregation, poll taxes, voter-literacy tests and Sheriff Bull Connor. (How many under-35 voters know this?) Republican Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (unrelated to Frances Rice) grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, in the Jim Crow era. She affirms that only Republicans would let black people vote.

Democrats like to recall that after presidential candidate John F. Kennedy helped get Martin Luther King Jr. released from jail, Dr. King endorsed JFK and blacks began to regard Democrats as supporters of their cause. But JFK did not approve of the great march on Washington in August 1963. Southern Democratic senators (including Al Gore Sr., Robert Byrd, and Sam Ervin) filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights bill for 83 days before Republicans shamed some Democrats into breaking the filibuster and passing the landmark law.

On a web-site which records comments about the NBRA ads, some writers were as ignorant as Mr. Barry. Wrote one: "This has Karl Rove's M. O. all over it. Use outright lies to divide and conquer." Another said: "How could anyone believe that MLK Jr. and David Duke, the founder of the Klan, would be in the same party?" But another writer scolded: "What are you, 15? The KKK was around a long time even before David Duke was born in 1950..." (Details, details.)

The controversial NBRA ads underscored Dr. Rice’s article of August 16, 2006 – "Why Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican" – in which she outlined the true history of Democrats’ and Republicans’ treatment of blacks. (1) She puts Democrats in a bad light and depicts Republicans as far more helpful than they usually get credit for. The mainstream media mostly ignored the piece, but the NBRA ads upset Democrats’ attempts to obscure inconvenient historical facts.

Dr. Rice points out that Republicans have championed freedom and civil rights for blacks since 1854, while Democrats have been the party of the "four S’s: slavery, secession, segregation, and now socialism". Democrats fought civil rights legislation like tigers from the 1860s through the 1960s. Democratic President Woodrow Wilson segregated the federal civil service in 1913. Decades elapsed before that action was reversed. Harry Truman signed a 1948 executive order to desegregate the military, but Republican President Eisenhower actually completed the task.

Dr. King was fighting Democrats who stood in schoolhouse doors and kept blacks from voting. Dwight Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren to the Supreme Court, signed the Civil Rights Bill of 1957, and sent troops to Arkansas to desegregate schools. The Warren Court produced the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling which desegregated all American schools.

Although now retrospectively revised into a great friend of black civil rights, JFK actually voted against 1957 Civil Rights legislation while he was a senator. He also opposed the 1963 march on Washington, organized by black Republican A. Phillip Randolph. Robert Kennedy, JFK’s Attorney General, had Dr. King wiretapped and investigated on suspicion of being a communist.

Frances Rice also notes the following seldom-recalled historical details about Republicans’ involvement with black civil rights:

  • Following the Civil War, Republicans amended the Constitution to grant blacks freedom (13th Amendment), citizenship (14th Amendment) and the right to vote (15th Amendment).
  • Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867 – the latter designed to enfranchise blacks in the Democrat-controlled South.
  • Black Republicans started the NAACP in 1909.
  • Republicans founded most of today’s black colleges and universities.
  • President Richard Nixon's 1969 Philadelphia Plan (designed by black Republican Art Fletcher) established the nation's first "affirmative action" goals and timetables to help reverse President Wilson’s 1913 action.
  • Senator Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois) – key senator for civil rights legislation in 1957, ‘60, ‘64 and ‘65 – wrote language for the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

Other conveniently "forgotten" facts about Democrats, detailed by Dr. Rice, include:

  • Racist "Dixiecrats" who still remain Democrats include Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) – once a "Keagle" in the Ku Klux Klan – and former Senator Ernest Hollings who flew the Stars and Bars Confederate flag over the South Carolina capital when he was governor.
  • Democrats oppose school choice opportunity scholarships that would help black children escape failing schools and have a chance at a viable educational future.
  • Democrats oppose Social Security reform, although the current system disadvantages blacks, whose life-expectancy is five years shorter than whites’ (72.2 vs. 77.5 years).

Frances Rice says Democrats want to keep blacks poor, angry, and voting for their socialist agenda. She concludes with this powerful contrast:

"Democrat Party policies of socialism and dependency on government handouts offer the pathway to poverty, while Republican Party principles of hard work, personal responsibility, a good education and ownership of homes and small businesses offer the pathway to prosperity."

Black "leaders" like Marion Barry, Joseph Lowery and John Lewis think the mainstream media will help them revise history and keep black people ignorant and Democrat, but the charade can’t last much longer. As the scales finally fall from their eyes, large numbers of black voters will turn toward the true party of opportunity. The party of "slavery, secession, segregation and socialism" will be reduced to a radical-left splinter. And "Free at Last" will take on a joyous new meaning.


(1) See Dr. Rice’s article at