Covering more than four decades of American social and political history, The Loneliness of the Black Republican examines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials, and politicians, from the era of the New Deal to Ronald Reagan’s presidential ascent in 1980. Their unique stories reveal African Americans fighting for an alternative economic and civil rights movement—even as the Republican Party appeared increasingly hostile to that very idea. Black party members attempted to influence the direction of conservatism—not to destroy it, but rather to expand the ideology to include black needs and interests.
As racial minorities in their political party and as political minorities within their community, black Republicans occupied an irreconcilable position—they were shunned by African American communities and subordinated by the GOP. In response, black Republicans vocally, and at times viciously, critiqued members of their race and party, in an effort to shape the attitudes and public images of black citizens and the GOP. And yet, there was also a measure of irony to black Republicans’ “loneliness”: at various points, factions of the Republican Party, such as the Nixon administration, instituted some of the policies and programs offered by black party members. What’s more, black Republican initiatives, such as the fair housing legislation of senator Edward Brooke, sometimes garnered support from outside the Republican Party, especially among the black press, Democratic officials, and constituents of all races. Moving beyond traditional liberalism and conservatism, black Republicans sought to address African American racial experiences in a distinctly Republican way.
The Loneliness of the Black Republican provides a new understanding of the interaction between African Americans and the Republican Party, and the seemingly incongruous intersection of civil rights and American conservatism.
Leah Wright Rigueur is assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
"[B]lack Republicans are perceived to be the token black person in a group of Republicans, and the token Republican in a group of black people. This sense of isolation has shaped the black Republican experience for decades. Their plight is chronicled exceptionally well in The Loneliness of the Black Republican by Harvard Kennedy School professor Leah Wright Rigueur. Her thorough examination traces the winding journey of black Republicans from the inception of the New Deal to the election of Ronald Reagan."--Theodore R. Johnson, The Atlantic
"The Loneliness of the Black Republican is meticulous, well-crafted, and consistently astute about the fractious recent history of the Grand Old Party."--Artur Davis, Weekly Standard
"African American Republicans! An absurd contradiction in terms? Not so, as historian Leah Wright Rigueur tells us in her riveting, splendidly well-researched, and illuminating book. She finds many black conservatives and explains how and why they became such political contrarians."--Donald T. Critchlow, Arizona State University
"While this book offers the definitive history of African Americans in the twentieth-century Republican Party, it also tells so much more. It provides a fresh and fascinating account of activists who frequently failed to influence their own party's trajectory, but helped chart out the broader path of black neoliberalism, which continues to have a profound impact in the Obama era."--Paul Frymer, Princeton University
"No previous book has analyzed the role of African Americans in the Republican Party in such a thematically and chronologically diverse manner, and it challenges us to rethink the party’s history. Developing a distinctive and interesting argument, this book is important not only for historians, but for Americans generally."--Robert Mason, University of Edinburgh
Table of Contents:
A Brief Note on Sources xv
Introduction: The Paradox of the Black Republican 1
1. Running with Hares and Hunting with Hounds 13
2. A Thorn in the Flesh of the GOP 52
3. The Challenge of Change 95
Illustration section follows page 135
4. Richard Nixon’s Black Cabinet 136
5. Exorcising the Ghost of Richard Nixon 177
6. More Shadow than Substance 220
7. The Time of the Black Elephant 261
Conclusion: No Room at the Inn 302