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Black Senator and Representatives in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States – 1872

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During the Reconstruction era period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Black and Tan Republican Party emerged. The party was comprised of African Americans who supported the Republican Party, hoping to achieve equality, political representation, and economic opportunity. The Reconstruction era, which ensued following the Civil War, provided opportunities for political representation and engagement for formerly enslaved people of African descent. This period was marked by African Americans serving in various legislative and governmental roles for the first time in U.S. History.

Black and Tan Republicans faced much opposition in their fight for equality. With the majority of the African American population residing in the South, the legacy of slavery continued to loom large. Many white Southerners sought to reinstate the power, control, and subjugation of the formerly enslaved. Southern Democrats were opposed to the idea of treating the formerly enslaved as equals. They actively sought to undermine Black communities through fear, intimidation, voter suppression, economic disenfranchisement, and violence.

Despite their loyalty to the party, Black and Tan Republicans often found themselves marginalized and dismissed by white Republican Party members. As the 20th century began, the American political landscape continued its oppression against Black political activism by establishing the “Lily White” Republican faction within the Republican Party. Lily White Republicans sought the exclusion and segregation of Blacks from the Republican Party to maintain White control. The emergence of the Lily White faction sought to challenge the ideas of inclusion and equality promoted by Black and Tan Republicans.  The marginalization experienced by Black and Tan Republicans caused many of them to question their allegiance to the Republican Party, which, following emancipation, no longer seemed to represent their interests. The rift between these two factions served to foreshadow the future realignment of Black voters with the Democratic Party, which ensued decades later.

Black voters would slowly begin to transition to the Democratic Party, which by the mid-20th century was the primary political party embraced by black voters. The Democratic Party’s backing and support of the civil rights movement also made it the party of choice for Black voters. Today, the legacy of the Black and Tan Republicans serves as a reminder of the historical and present-day battle for freedom and justice.  

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