On day one of black history month, I mentioned my intense admiration for Shirley Chisholm – so I won’t talk about her again for presidents’ day (although she is in my heart today as all days). Instead, I’ll point to the first African American who ran for president – George Edwin Taylor, in 1904. He was an Iowan journalist, running outside of the major parties, but not as an independent; he was selected by the delegates of the National Liberty Party.
The NLP wanted universal suffrage regardless of race, federal laws against lynching, pensions for former slaves, and more. (The more includes home rule for the District of Columbia, something on which the major parties are still largely silent.) Taylor knew he had no chance of winning, but figured that the fact of his running would help encourage blacks to register to vote, which would have implications beyond the presidential election. (He was a smart guy who had done a lot of labor organizing.)
He got 2000 votes nationally, which doesn’t sound like a lot but is more votes than YOU’VE ever gotten for president.
From the NPR interview linked below, to show you why it’s worth reading:
“David Brodnax: Given the fact that Taylor received fewer than 2,000 votes when he ran for president in 1904, it is hard to call him “the right man at the right time.” Another way to look at this is to ask why he in particular became the first African American to run for president; why did he do what Frederick Douglass, T. Thomas Fortune, Blanche K. Bruce, and other leading black politicians before him could or would not.”