"I didn’t turn Democrat three years ago for nothing."
The donkey is the Democrats' unofficial symbol
Creative Commons AttributionThe donkey is the Democrats' unofficial symbol - Credit: DonkeyHotey

Having been active since the early 1790s, the Democratic Party is the oldest continuously operative political party in the United States. Though Barack Obama made history when he was elected America’s first black president in 2009, the party’s relationship with African Americans has not always been so progressive. Indeed, it was in order to contest slavery that its opposition, the Republican Party, first formed. However, as the years passed and African Americans became increasingly disappointed by the numbers of their race appointed to office, allegiances began to shift.

 

Thomas Woodrow Wilson
Public DomainThomas Woodrow Wilson - Credit: Harris & Ewing

The first Democratic President to attract significant black support was Thomas Woodrow Wilson, who bolstered his presidential campaign by promising “not more grudging justice but justice executed with liberality and cordial good feeling”. As a result, African Americans voted for him in record numbers at the 1912 election. Their sense of victory, however, was soon to turn to bitter disillusionment. Once in power Wilson proved more interested in decreasing friction for whites than in advancing black rights. Many existing black federal employees were dismissed and segregation was imposed across the civil service. It would not be until the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1929 that a Democratic leader would implement reforms for true racial advancement.