Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Raymond L. Koch


There have been many works written on both the Republican and the Democratic parties. Many works have also described the problem of civil rights and the historical difficulties blacks have had in an attempt to fit in politically. These works, however, have left out one major aspect of this process. Relationships of blacks to the political parties themsevles must be studied to understand one aspect of their continuous struggle for civil rights in America.

It is time that an overview be done on how the political parties have dealt with the civil rights problem throughout their histories. The Republican party had its roots buried in its support for civil rights; however, the percentage of black voters for Republican candidates is extremely low. It is the purpose of this thesis to try to show why blacks shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats. The history of the Republican party and black civil rights is a very broad topic.

This topic is a very complex one. Little specific research is available on the relationship between black Americans and the Republican party. Individual black attitudes and party policy can be discussed, however, through the use of numerous works and articles, many of which are secondary. This will attempt to show the importance of Republican party policy and its connection with civil rights.

The background of these policies must be briefly noted before any modern Republican attitudes on civil rights can be fully explained. A short summary of the pre-Reconstruction period of Republican civil rights action is necessary to demonstrate the party's first set of goals. These early roots have had an important impact on the civil rights struggle which has taken place since 1954.

The major emphasis of this study describes civil rights actions under Republican presidents. Legislation occurring under these presidents continues to influence black civil rights today. Black reaction against limiting legislation is also a factor in understanding the attitude of blacks toward the federal government. Republican presidents have found themselves in difficult positions because of the need to maintain national unity while at the same time juggling civil rights, economics, and support from their own perceived constituencies.

Republican attitudes on civil rights have had a great impact on the black community, but the nature of Republican policy on civil rights makes it unlikely that blacks will swing toward the party in the near future. The purpose of this thesis is to survey the historical and political reasons which have changed the focus of Republican policy through the years.