“But as we know from the story of Joseph in the Old Testament and the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –you can attack the Dreamer, but you cannot destroy the Dream.
Such was the case of the Republican vision for America after Lincoln.
For the next one hundred years, Republicans stood against those that sought to destroy both dreamers and their dreams. They fought in the annuals of governments and with the conscience of our nation to advance equality for all Americans. In fact, the diversity we enjoy today stems from the adversity they overcame.
A Republican-led Congress passed the 13th Amendment to outlaw slavery. Republicans passed a Civil Rights Act in 1866 recognizing blacks as U.S. citizens. Republicans continued their march for equality, proposing the 14th Amendment, which became part of the Constitution in 1868.
Republicans also led the fight for women’s rights. Women’s suffragists Susan B. Anthony and NAACP co-founders Ida B. Wells and Mary Terrell all displayed loyalty to the Republican Party due to our historic commitment to equality.
Senator Aaron Sargent, a Republican from California, wrote the women’s suffrage amendment. Unfortunately, it was delayed from being passed into law for 40 years. It took a time when Republicans had control of both houses of Congress before women’s voting rights could be secured by law.
The age of women’s suffrage brought about a new era of women’s representation in government. The first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives was Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana. The first woman mayor in America, Republican Bertha Landes, was elected in 1926.
More generations of women civic leaders came afterwards, from Governors Jodi Rell of Connecticut and Jan Brewer of Arizona to US Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the second consecutive African-American Republican to serve as secretary of state this decade.
Secretaries of State Rice and Powell do not represent all of the African-American Republican political leaders that we share in our common history. In fact, every African-American member of Congress until 1935 was a Republican.
Among these Republican pioneers was South Carolina’s Joseph Rainey, the first Black member of the House of Representatives. Republican Hiram Revels of Mississippi entered the Halls of Congress with Rainey as the first Black United States Senator. In 1872, Republican Pinckney Pinchback of Louisiana became the nation’s first African-American Governor, an accomplishment only matched by the Democrats over 100 years later.
From Republican Congressmen Oscar Stanton de Priest of Illinois and JC Watts of Oklahoma to Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, we have stood proudly for diversity: in government as African-Americans and as Republicans in modern-day Black America.
For 100 years, Republicans stood up for what was right even when it was wrongly opposed.
Starting in 1875, Republicans enacted laws to expand federally-protected rights to include equal access to all public accommodations. The Supreme Court struck down their efforts eight years later, only to have these efforts resurface as a critical foundation for the 1964 Civil Rights Act down the road.
America remembered that you can attack the Dreamer, but you cannot destroy the Dream.
It is important for Republicans to say that we are sorry for not engaging minorities appropriately, but it is more important for Republicans to show that we are sorry through initiating efforts that display our willingness to partner with Black America. As well, it is important for Black America to hear these apologies from the Republican Party, but it is more important for Black America to remove the typecasting and other barriers that prevent us from continuing the historical partnership that brought America so much progress. I come…extending the hand of the GOP for a new era of partnership. I hope that it is time that we join hands and join forces and together, we continue building The Dream. For as a people, we must debate political and social solutions with open minds, loving hearts, and common goals, goals that further the promise of The Dream.”
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