It was 1960, and hundreds of Black voters were crammed into a room in a Northern city to discuss the upcoming election. One question dominated the conversation:
Should they vote Republican, as they always had? Or support the Democrats?
One man reminded the crowd that power was essential. The Republicans used to be for us, he reminded them, but now they don’t want us to lead or hold office. The Democrats had promised leadership roles in the party to Black leaders. Could there be power without leadership?
Down South we had land and still couldn’t vote, an older woman recounted. Here, though, they could vote and get land if they did it right. The crowd murmured in agreement.
But both Southern Republicans and Southern Democrats opposed Civil Rights laws. Why would we support a party that can’t clean up its own house?
It was time for the community to settle the question. Should they vote Republican as they had always done, or should they vote Democrat because they promised benefits for the Black community?
The decision was made.
Black people in cities across the nation had local meetings like this. Since that time, many elections were clinched because of our votes. Regardless of party or tradition, we must critically support those who align with our best interests.