Without Black People, American Politics Would Be A Completely Unbalanced Affair

This month, learn how impactful Black history has been to the world.

Although there was record voter participation in 2020, resulting in more people of color and more Black women elected to office than during any other American election, the right to vote remains a battle in many states.

Voter suppression is alive and well! 

Less than a decade ago, 27 measures were put on the books that made voting harder in at least 19 states. This fight began as far back as 1870, when two years after Black people were officially declared citizens, the 15th amendment guaranteed us the right to vote—in theory anyway. Poll taxes, literacy tests, a grandfather clause, and good, old-fashioned intimidation were tactics used to prevent African Americans from practicing this inalienable right. 

More than 150 years later, America finally voted Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, to two-term appointments from 2009 to 2016.  Obama’s presidency was part of the dream first realized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech to over 200,000 people during the March on Washington. It has since been realized by even more people who have aspired to help govern this country in various ways.

For this year’s Black History Month celebration, wants to reflect on just how much we’d all miss out if Black people did not take a stand and get involved in American politics.

RELATED: Without Black People...Social Media Wouldn't Be As Influential

  • Without Black Soldiers Fighting in America’s Battles, Wars Would Have Been Lost

    (L-R) Harriet Tubman, Black volunteers in the Yankee army, African-American soldiers of the 369th Infantry pose for a photo during World War 1, and Hell Fighters Privates Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts.

    About 179,000 Black soldiers served in the Union Army and another 19,000 were part of the Navy during the Civil War. While Black women could not officially join the military, Harriet Tubman served as a scout and spy for the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, while also working with abolitionists and the Union Army to help enslaved Blacks travel North to freedom.

    There were more than 370,000 Black soldiers willing to lose life and limb fighting for America in War World I.

    And even though, Privates Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts, as well as the other Black soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment, dubbed the “Hell Fighters” by the German enemy, were heralded in newspapers across the country and celebrated in a parade up New York City’s Fifth Avenue, they returned to a country that denied them the respect and rights that were given to their white counterparts. It’s said that African-American activism grew as a result of their efforts. Efforts that helped shape what we’ve come to know as the civil rights movement.

  • Without Black Women Fighting for Inclusion, Politics Would Still Be an All-Boys Club

    (L-R) Activist Sojourner Truth, Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, Stacey Abrams and Shirley Chisholm.
    (L-R) Activist Sojourner Truth, Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, Stacey Abrams and Shirley Chisholm.

    Born into slavery in 1797, activist Sojourner Truth, was the first African-American suffragist. She gave the now famous Ain’t I A Woman speech at an 1851 women’s rights convention and let it be known that all women deserve the right to vote.

    After the Civil War, Truth was invited to the White House by President Abraham Lincoln. While in Washington, D.C., she showed her disgust for segregation by riding on the whites-only streetcars, long before Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus.

    In 1968, Shirley Chisholm, a woman who fought for voter’s and civil rights during her career, became the first Black woman to be elected to Congress. By 1972, Chisholm had the audacious presence of mind to become the first woman from a major political party to run for a presidential nomination.

    Fast forward to Stacey Abrams, who in 2018, won more votes than any other Democrat in the states of Georgia’s history, while running as the first Black-female Democratic nominee to seek the governor seat. Although Abrams lost this race by a narrow margin (and again during her 2022 bid) her commitment to fight voter suppression continues.

  • Without Black Elected Officials, There’d Be No Equal Representation

    President Barack Obama, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore.

    While Barack Obama became the first Black President of the United States, he wasn’t the first to pursue the helm as commander-in-chief. A few decades after the emancipation from slavery was declared, George Edwin Taylor ran for president as a candidate of the National Negro Liberty Party, back in 1904. Subsequently, Frederick Douglass, Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Al Sharpton, have all pursued an opportunity to serve in this prestigious office.

    The predominantly Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) recently celebrated 50 years of service. The group was established to make certain African Americans and other marginalized communities in this country have the same opportunity to achieve that part of the American Dream.

    New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is now the first African American to lead a party caucus in either chamber, as House Democratic Leader of the 118th Congress. Jeffries uses his platform to create more affordable housing, lower prescription drug prices, and equal education opportunities. He replaces Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

    Vice President Kamala Harris rose higher up the ranks than any other woman serving in politics before her, not only because she became the first Black person to serve in the role of Vice President of the United States of America, but also the first Black and South Asian woman to have presidential power while President Joe Biden was under anesthesia during a colonoscopy.

    When Wes Moore took office just a few weeks ago, he became the first African American Governor of Maryland, and the only sitting Black governor nationwide.

  • Without Black People Leading Grassroots Movements, the Fight for Civil Rights Would Be Impossible

    (L-R) Fannie Lou Hamer, Huey Newton & Bobby Seale, Children Children in front of the Supreme Court /Schools, and segregated Water fountain in Oklahoma City.

    Civil rights leaders Fannie Lou Hamer fought against voter suppression tactics that prevented Blacks from exercising their constitutional right to vote, including unfair literacy tests. She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Party and showed up at the 1964 Democratic National Convention to expose what Blacks in the South were having to endure just to participate in the elections.

    A year after MLK’s speech, the 1964 Civil Rights Act was put in place to prohibit discrimination in public places, which meant desegregation could no longer legally exist. It marked the beginning of the end to Jim Crow.

    The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was established October 1966 in Oakland, California, by political activists Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, to protect the Black community, particularly from police brutality. Local chapters, often led by women, helped their communities survive by providing free food programs, clothing distribution, health clinics, and legal aid.

    For more on this Black History Month series, check out the other ways Black Americans have contributed to the greatness of our country. 

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