First part — never listen to Katrina Pierson about anything, but especially not U.S. history.

Second part — Abraham Lincoln was the first person to run for the presidency of the United States as a Republican. The other Party, the Democrats, depending on how you want to count it, had elected several presidents, most of the presidents, between 1800 (if you count Thomas Jefferson as a Democrat, which the Party itself does) and 1856. For a while, the other Party was the Whig Party, but they only elected two presidents, both of whom died in office, and split apart as slavery and the expansion of slavery into new territories became the dominant issue in U.S. politics during the 1840s and 1850s.

The Republican Party was the recrudescence of the Whig Party without any supporters of expanding slavery where it already existed. Lincoln, as he would prove when it really counted, did not think the federal government had any power to interfere with slavery where it existed, but he equally thought that it had the power to prevent the expansion of slavery into the huge new territories the United States gained from the Mexican War (most of the current southwest) and the still unorganized parts of the Louisiana Purchase, which was the “state’s rights” issue of the day — giving the lie to the silly idea that the Civil War was “really” about “state’s rights” as opposed to slavery — in the operative period, the two were essentially the same.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Lincoln saw the purpose of the Union — his purpose — as being to restore the Union, to force the seceded states to rejoin the United States. Asserting as he did national authority, he also felt obligated to respect national rights, including the Fugitive Slave Act, which created a specific procedure to return runaway slaves to their owners, expressly with the help of the federal government. When the military operations of the Civil War had the effect of causing Confederate military and civilians to flee, leaving their slaves behind, Union military leaders faced the question of how to treat the (maybe, maybe not) slaves. On one hand, the abandonment of property usually causes the former owner to forfeit title to that property. On the other hand, the government on behalf of which Union troops fought had an explicit mechanism, duly enacted in a statute, for returning fugitive slaves to their owners. Lincoln initially ordered his military commanders to return runaway slaves to their owners.

With the secession of most of the slave states, their representatives abandoned their seats in the United States Congress, leaving the Republicans a free field to enact nearly any law they wished. The Whig Party (remember them?) had bequeathed to the Republicans their platform of using the power of the federal government actively to promote economic growth and national development in general. The Democrats then were adamantly opposed. Huh. Sorry. The Republicans of the 1860s were the Democrats of today and vice versa. This is an important point.

The Republicans in Congress passed two Confiscation Acts, which provided for the confiscation of any slaves whose service helped the Confederate war effort, which was effectively all slaves. Enforcement ended up in the hands of the conservative Attorney General, Edward Bates, who minimized its effect. In order to prevent Kentucky from seceding (it was one of the slave states that did not secede), Lincoln also reversed the order of a general providing broadly for emancipation of slaves in territory then under his control. As is usually the case in history, the actual events were complicated and do not much lend themselves to broad generalizations. Sorry, Katrina.

The legal provision that definitively ended slavery as a legal institution in the United States (its de facto perpetuation in various forms to the present day is another matter) was the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which “Radical Republicans,” with Lincoln’s active assistance, passed through Congress. Lincoln died before it won ratification by the states, but Republicans indisputably took the lead in ending slavery. They also led the way in enacting and ratifying the other two Reconstruction Amendments, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth, which had the goal of ensuring some measure of equality for the newly freed slaves and their descendants.

Those two Amendments went almost entirely unenforced for another one hundred years, with the result that most freed slaves and their children and grandchildren continued to live near the sites of their former enslavement, performing much the same work for the same employers who had once owned them, only now under badly lopsided contracts and laws allowing local authorities to return them to de facto slavery on flimsy pretexts.

With the end of Reconstruction in 1877, neither Party did much to help African Americans for nearly 90 years. Republicans were still somewhat better than Democrats — Republican Teddy Roosevelt scandalized the nation by inviting leading black educator Booker T. Washington to dinner in the White House, while Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner, was a segregationist who increased racial segregation in the federal government — until the New Deal. President Franklin Roosevelt was not much of a champion of racial equality himself, although the New Deal’s focus on fighting poverty in the South inevitably provided ancillary benefits to African Americans, the vast majority of whom still lived in that section. His wife, Eleanor, however, was much more an advocate of equality for African Americans and took what steps she could towards that goal.

Third part — Franklin Roosevelt died soon after his inauguration to his fourth term, leaving Harry Truman as president. Facing a difficult battle to win election in his own right in 1948, Truman decided to make African American civil rights a central plank in his platform that year. As part of this effort, he ordered the desegregation of the U.S. military using his authority as commander in chief. In the nominating convention that year, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond bolted the Party out of opposition to the strong plank in favor of African American civil rights. He ran for president on the “state’s rights” ticket in 1948 and lost miserably, then became a Republican, thus foreshadowing the wholesale departure of “white supremacists” from the Democratic to the Republican Parties.

The trickle that was Strom Thurmond became a flood after Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, who knew the ways of Congress better than anyone else alive during his time in Washington, D.C., bent his power as President and his incomparable political skills to assembling a coalition of Democrats and Republicans — back when moderate Republicans would cooperate with Democrats (yes, that used to happen, in the distant past) to enact civil rights legislation — to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and, in our age of fighting over immigration, the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, which eliminated the forty year old, explicitly racist, National Origins Quota system from U.S. immigration law).

The South has long famously been the Solid South, but it was solidly Democratic from at least the administration of Andrew Jackson, 1829 to 1837, until 1972, when Republican Richard Nixon swept the South as part of his landslide winning a second term as president.

Fourth part — anyone who wants to carry Ms. Pierson’s claim that Republicans have always cared about racism (presumably she means eradicating it, rather than perpetuating it) needs to explain two more recent events. In 2002, Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi earned a lot of free, unwanted press when he noted that his state had voted for Strom Thurmond in 1948, and really rammed his foot down his throat by going on to state that the entire country would be better off had we elected Thurmond that year — effectively endorsing racial segregation. Lott apologized, but only after the furor erupted.

In 2013, the State of Alabama, home to the capital of the Confederacy, then firmly in control of Republicans at the state level, pursued a case to the Supreme Court for the purpose of incapacitating the Voting Rights Act, which decision — one of the worst, most nakedly partisan in the recent history of the Court — has since enabled a rash of changes to state laws with the effect of making voting more difficult for African Americans, who are now a loyal constituency of the Democratic Party, a fact that prompts from Republicans the very patronizing exhortation to “leave the Democratic plantation.” So, Republicans know better than African Americans themselves what is good for them? Voting results strongly indicate that very few African Americans much listen to Republicans, or they listen, but they really do not like what they hear One wonders if Ms. Pierson has asked any of them.

Poor Ms. Pierson. Her ignorance is vast.

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Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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