African Americans 15th Amendment and SCOTUS

Following the Civil War, Radical Republicans in Congress introduced a series of laws and constitutional amendments to try to secure civil and political rights for black people. This wing of the Republican Party was called “radical” because of its strong stance on these and other issues. The right that provoked the greatest controversy, especially in the North, concerned black male suffrage: the right of the black man to vote.


In 1867, Congress passed a law requiring the former Confederate states to include black male suffrage in their new state constitutions. Ironically, even though African American men began voting in the South after 1867, the majority of Northern states continued to deny them this basic right.

In the North, the Republican’s once-huge voter majority over the Democratic Party was declining. Radical Republican leaders feared that they might lose control of Congress to the Democrats.

One solution to this problem called for including the black man’s vote in all Northern states. Republicans assumed the new black voters would vote Republican just as their brothers were doing in the South. By increasing its voters in the North and South, the Republican Party could then maintain its stronghold in Congress.

The Republicans, however, faced an incredible dilemma. The idea of blacks voting was not popular in the North. In fact, several Northern states had recently voted against black male suffrage.

In May 1868, the Republicans held their presidential nominating convention in Chicago and chose Ulysses S. Grant as their candidate. The Republicans agreed that African-American male suffrage continued to be a requirement for the Southern states, but decided that the Northern states should settle this issue for themselves.

Grant was victorious in the election of 1868, but this popular general won by a surprisingly slim margin. It was clear to Republican leaders that if they were to remain in power, their party needed the votes of black men in the North.

The 15th Amendment

When the new year began in 1869, the Republicans were ready to introduce a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the black man’s right to vote. For two months, Congress considered the proposed amendment. Several versions of the amendment were submitted, debated, rejected and then reconsidered in both the House and Senate.

Finally, at the end of February 1869, Congress approved a compromise amendment that did not even specifically mention the black man:

Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Once approved by the required two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, the 15th Amendment had to be ratified by 28, or three-fourths, of the states. Due to the reconstruction laws, black male suffrage already existed in 11 Southern states. Since almost all of these states were controlled by Republican reconstruction governments, they could be counted on to ratify the 15th Amendment. Supporters of the 15th Amendment needed only 17 of the remaining 26 Northern and Western states in order to succeed. At this time, just nine of these states allowed the black man to vote. The struggle for and against ratification hung on what blacks and other political interests would do.

The Blacks

Only days after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox in April, 1865, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. In his speech, Douglass explained why the black man wanted the right to vote “in every state of the Union”:

It is said that we are ignorant; admit it. But if we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote. If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag for the government, he knows enough to vote ….What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.

While Congress debated the 15th Amendment early in 1869, 150 black men from 17 states assembled for a convention in Washington, D.C. This was the first national meeting of black Americans in the history of the United States. Frederick Douglass was elected president of the convention.

The delegates praised the Republicans in Congress for passing the reconstruction laws and congratulated General Grant on his election to the White House. They also pledged their continued support of the Republican Party.

Those attending the convention also spent time meeting with members of Congress, encouraging them to pass a strong amendment guaranteeing black male suffrage nationwide. When the meeting adjourned, the delegates were confident that a new era of democracy for the black man was about to begin.

A poster celebrates the passage of the 15th Amendment. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Democrats

The Democrats realized they were fighting for political survival. They feared ratification of the 15th Amendment would automatically create some 170,000 loyal black Republican voters in the North and West.

In debates over the amendment, Democrats argued against the ratification by claiming that the 15th Amendment restricted the states’ rights to run their own elections. The Democrats also charged the Republicans with breaking their promise of allowing the states, outside the South, to decide for themselves whether to grant black male suffrage. Democrat leaders cited the low level of literacy in the black population and they predicted black voters would be easily swayed by false promises and outright bribery.

Victory, Then Tragedy

Despite Democratic opposition, the Republicans steadily won ratification victories throughout 1869. Ironically, it was a Southern state, Georgia that clinched the ratification of the 15th Amendment on February 2, 1870.

On March 30, President Grant officially proclaimed the 15th Amendment as part of the Constitution. Washington and many other American cities celebrated. More than 10,000 blacks paraded through Baltimore. In a speech on May 5, 1870, Frederick Douglass rejoiced. “What a country — fortunate in its institutions, in its 15th Amendment, in its future.”

The jubilation over victory did not last long. While Republicans acquired loyal black voters in the North, the South was an entirely different matter. The Ku Klux Klan and other violent racist groups intimidated black men who tried to vote, or who had voted, by burning their homes, churches and schools, even by resorting to murder.

When the election for president in 1876 ended with a dispute over electoral votes, the Republicans made a deal with the Southern Democrats. First, the Southerners agreed to support Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes for president. In turn, the Republicans promised to withdraw troops from the South and abandon federal enforcement of black’s rights, including the right to vote.

Within a few years, the Southern state governments required blacks to pay voting taxes, pass literacy tests and endure many other unfair restrictions on their right to vote. In Mississippi, 67 percent of the black adult men were registered to vote in 1867; by 1892 only 4 percent were registered. The political deal to secure Hayes as president rendered the 15th Amendment meaningless. Another 75 years passed before black voting rights were again enforced in the South.

For Discussion and Writing

  1. What was the “Republican dilemma” in 1868?
  2. During the ratification of the 15th Amendment, women’s suffrage leaders were told that it was “the Negro’s hour.” What did this mean? How did Elizabeth Stanton and Susan Anthony respond to this argument? Do you think they did the right thing? Why or why not?

For Further Reading

Douglass, Frederick. Frederick Douglass; selections from his writings, edited, with an introduction, by Philip S. Foner. New York International Press, 1964.

Gillette, William. The Right to Vote: Politics and Passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1965.


Voting Rights Convention

In this activity, you will have a chance to re create history by going back to the year 1868 to participate in a voting rights convention. You will be assigned to a group that had a particular viewpoint on voting rights in 1868. Your group and four others at the convention will write a voting rights amendment to recommend to Congress. In this way, your class will have the opportunity to improve upon the original 15th Amendment that was passed by Congress early in 1869. For the purposes of this activity, it does not matter what your own sex or race is when you are assigned to one of the convention groups listed below.

Voting Rights Convention Groups: Republicans, Blacks, Abolitionists, Woman Suffragists, Democrats

  1. At random, assign each student to one of the five groups listed above.
  2. You should first re read the section of the article relating to your group (For example, Republicans should read “The Republican Dilemma.”)
  3. Next, discuss with your group what you think your purpose should be at this voting rights convention. For example, is your group in favor of a voting rights amendment? If so, what should it include? Write your purpose on a sheet of paper and have your teacher check it.
  4. Now re read the section titled, “The 15th Amendment.” If you are a member of the “Blacks” or “Abolitionists” also re-read the last section, “Victory, Then Tragedy.”
  5. With the other members of your group, write your own voting rights amendment. Remember to pay attention to the views and purpose of your group at this convention. You can use the wording of the actual 15th Amendment as a guide, but try to change or improve it from your group’s point of view.
  6. All the amendments written at the convention should now be put on the board. Each group with a proposed amendment should explain it to the entire convention. Members of other groups may ask questions or argue against it at this time.
  7. Finally, the convention members should vote on which voting rights amendment to recommend to Congress. However, the rules of the convention require that in order for an amendment to be recommended, two thirds of the convention members must approve it. If none of the proposed amendments receives at least two thirds of the convention votes, the group members should try to negotiate a compromise amendment that will attract the support of the other groups.
  8. After completing this activity, contrast your convention’s amendment with the original 15th Amendment. How are they different? Is the convention amendment better? Why? If the convention amendment had been ratified in 1870, would it have made any difference to black voters, women or other groups in American society?

Return to Black History Month Home Page


Democrats keep Delaware’s government blue with huge special election win

DE State Senate: On Saturday, Democrats scored a critical win in a hotly contested special election for the Delaware state Senate, allowing them to maintain control of the chamber and, with it, the state’s government. Democrat Stephanie Hansen, an attorney and former president of the New Castle County Council, handily defeated Republican realtor John Marino by a 58-41 margin, but the result was no foregone conclusion.

In 2014, Marino nearly unseated the prior occupant of this seat, Bethany Hall-Long, losing just 51-49. And the stakes were high: Hall-Long won election as lieutenant governor last year, leaving the Senate with a 10-10 deadlock between the parties. Long had been able to break ties in her role as lieutenant governor, but had Republicans prevailed on Saturday, they’d have taken control of the Senate for the first time since the 1970s. And even more importantly, it would have given them veto power over the agenda of Delaware’s Democrats, who control both the state House and governorship.

That crisis was averted, and in fine fashion. Remarkably, turnout for this race—a Saturday race February—was higher than it was during the regularly scheduled midterms in 2014: 12,580 votes were cast this weekend versus 12,193 three years ago. That’s something you almost never see in a special election. And the energy was heavily weighted toward the Democratic side: Hansen took 7,314 votes, versus 6,230 for Hall-Long last time.

In addition, Hansen outran Hillary Clinton’s own 2016 performance. Clinton carried this seat 54-41, a net of 13 points. Hansen, though, won by 17 points, meaning she ran 4 points ahead of the top of the ticket. That might not sound like much, but it’s actually enormous. In elections when there’s no presidential race on the ballot, turnout among Democratic voters almost always tends to drop disproportionately. Indeed, a rigorous study by analyst Sean Trende of 170 races that took place in 2013 found that, on average, Democrats performed an average of 12 points worse than Barack Obama had just a year earlier. That means we’d ordinarily expect a seat Clinton carried by 13 to essentially be a tossup in a special election. In this case, we got a blowout.

And while it’s still very early, Saturday’s result appears to fit in with a new trend we’ve seen ever since Election Day. Nationwide, there have been six legislative special elections so far pitting a Democrat versus a Republican. In five of them, the Democrat has performed better than Clinton’s margin. In three of them, Democrats have even done better than Barack Obama, and even when they haven’t, the differential has been far less than the typical 12-point dropoff indicated by Trende’s analysis. It’s very possible that an intense “Trump effect” is at play here, driving Democrats to the polls when in the past some had been less inclined to show up.

However, as analyst Nathaniel Rakich has noted, all of these races have taken place in districts where Clinton did worse than Obama—seats where you might expect a reversion to past trends. The real test will come in places where Clinton exceeded Obama’s performance. Will Democrats be able to showcase their sky-high levels of enthusiasm in areas like that? We’ll soon have an excellent test, in the upcoming special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, a traditionally conservative seat where Donald Trump cratered compared to Mitt Romney. The primary there is April 18, with a runoff on June 20, so stay tuned—and stay involved.


TN-Sen, TN-Gov: GOP Sen. Bob Corker is up for re-election next year, and it’s possible he won’t seek a third term. Back in December, when Corker was mentioned as a possible pick for secretary of state, he mused that the “first thing we’ll do is sit down and think about what our future should or should not be inside the United States Senate.” Corker added that “you know what we do is something we’ll be thinking about over the course of the next several months.” It was clear at the time that Trump was going to name his choice for secretary of state very soon, so Corker’s comments that he’d be mulling his future in the next few months indicates that, at least back in December, he was considering leaving the Senate for something other than the State Department.

The Times Free Press writes that there’s been “speculation in some Tennessee Republican circles” that Corker is interested in running to succeed termed-out Gov. Bill Haslam, a fellow Republican, instead of for re-election. Corker hasn’t said anything publicly to indicate he’s interested in a gubernatorial bid, though if he truly has no intention of seeking the job, there’s nothing stopping him from just saying so. Haslam himself amplified the rumors that Corker may run to replace him a few days ago, when the governor didn’t rule out a future Senate bid. However, Haslam soon said that he assumes Corker will run for re-election. A number of Tennessee Republicans are eyeing the governor’s office, though if Corker actually is serious, he could scare many of them off.

However, if Corker does seek re-election, he may not be able to avoid a GOP primary. The Times Free Press recently asked Andy Ogles, the state director of the Koch brother’s Americans for Prosperity, about rumors that he’s interested in challenging Corker. Ogles did nothing to dispel them, just saying that “[t]here has been speculation along those lines,” before he went on to talk about taxes. After a reporter noted that Ogles hadn’t actually said no to a Senate bid, he promised “we’ll have another conversation in a few months.” There’s no sign that Corker has angered many conservatives, and an Ogles’ challenge may have a tough time gaining traction.

TX-Sen, TX-16: In a new Washington Post profile, Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke sure sounds like someone who has the Senate itch. The El Paso-area representative hasn’t officially pulled the trigger just yet, but when asked if he were leaning toward seeking a promotion in 2018, he responded, “I’m pretty close. I really want to do this.”

Beating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a midterm in a state that voted 52-43 for Trump will likely be a very steep hill to climb for any Democrat, but O’Rourke isn’t the only one to consider running. Rep. Joaquin Castro has previously said he too was looking at the race earlier in February. O’Rourke might have a distinct disadvantage in a primary when it comes to geography, given El Paso’s great distance from most Texas voters both physically and culturally, but his outsider image could also be an asset in the age of Trump.

O’Rourke had previously pledged to adhere to a four-term limit in the House, and if he stands by it, then he’ll be leaving the House at the start of 2021 at the latest. Hillary Clinton won this majority-Latino seat in a 68-27 landslide, and it should remain safely blue. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser isn’t running for re-election in 2017, and he said in January that he’d consider running if O’Rourke doesn’t run again, but several more Democrats could look at the House seat if it opens up.

WI-Sen: Far-right firebrand Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has never personally indicated that he’s interested in running for Senate against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018, but that hasn’t dampened the wishes of some of his supporters to see him enter the race. Now, a spokesperson for Clarke has explicitly refused to rule out a bid, but says Clarke isn’t “making plans to run for Senate.”

Despite being a nominal Democrat, Clarke is an extreme Trump supporter and one of the most reactionary sheriffs in America. If he were to run for Senate, he almost certainly would run as a Republican rather than in the Democratic primary. Nonetheless, a recent survey from GOP pollster Magellan Strategies found Baldwin easily fending off Clarke in a hypothetical general election by 49-35, though they found he wasn’t well known statewide.

Those who do know him best may just like him the least, though. PPP recently found Milwaukee County voters disapproved of Clarke by a staggering 62-31 margin. If he seeks a fifth four-year term as sheriff in 2018, he could finally lose the Democratic primary for this populous dark-blue county after just barely scraping by in 2014, or lose a general if he finally runs as a Republican. That prospect might be why Clarke is keeping his options open, since he could just be looking for an escape hatch, especially if he can’t get a job he wants with Trump.


CT-Gov: Another Republican is looking at running for the governor’s office in 2018, when unpopular Democratic incumbent Dan Malloy may or may not be running for a third term. State Sen. Toni Boucher has formed an exploratory committee for a potential gubernatorial bid and confirmed she’s giving a statewide run “serious thought.”

Boucher also formed an exploratory committee for the 2014 race, though she ended up pulling the plug well before the primary. It’s possible the same thing will happen this time, with Boucher saying that of the many Connecticut Republicans eyeing this race, “There are a lot of other good people by the way and others who I would even support, and others who I would not support for policy reasons,” though she didn’t name any names. Ctpost also reports that House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, whose name we haven’t heard before, is interested, though there’s no quote from Klarides.

FL-Gov: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, only recently acknowledged he was interested in this open seat, but he told Ebony Magazine that while he “believe[s] in being courageous,” he doesn’t “believe in suicide missions. I think there has to be a relevant place to make a difference and a pathway to get there.” But Gillum appears to have decided that attacking this Death Star actually is his idea of courage, since he sounded a whole lot more enthusiastic about running for governor on Friday. The mayor declared on Twitter and in a speech that he’s “seriously considering running for governor.” If Gillum wins, he’ll be Florida’s first black governor.

No Democrats have entered the race yet, but several are positioning themselves. Ex-Rep. Gwen Graham has made it no secret that she plans to run, while wealthy Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has expressed interest and begun hiring for his political committee. Wealthy trial attorney John Morgan, real estate company owner Chris King (whose self-funding capacities are unknown), and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn are also looking at this race. It won’t be easy for anyone to win what could well be a crowded primary, and the GOP will fight hard to win their sixth gubernatorial race in a row.

GA-Gov: GOP state Sen. Josh McKoon, who has pushed for anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation, recently announced that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election to the legislature. However, we probably haven’t seen the last of McKoon, since he recently expressed interest in running for higher office. McKoon didn’t say which office, only saying that, “The only thing for certain right now is that Gov. [Nathan] Deal is term-limited. So we’ve got to wait and see what some other people decide to do.” However, last month, a McKoon allied suggested he would run for attorney general in 2018. A number of other Peach State Republicans are eyeing the governor’s office.

KS-Gov, KS-02, KS-03: The Democratic game plan for the 2018 cycle in Kansas is starting to take form. Bryan Lowry of the Kansas City Star reports that the state party is hopeful it can win the race to succeed deeply unpopular term-limited GOP Gov. Sam Brownback and put two of the Sunflower State’s four congressional seats into play. To that end, former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis has been the focus of much attention within the party after he lost to Brownback 50-46 during the 2014 GOP wave.

Davis hasn’t given a strong indication of whether he intends to run for governor again or for Congress, but says he’s “very interested in being on the ballot in 2018.” He reveals that he’s been approached about running for the 2nd District, which contains his home of Lawrence and covers eastern Kansas outside of the Kansas City area. Incumbent Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins isn’t running for another term, and Davis even carried the 2nd by 6 points amid his 2014 gubernatorial defeat. However, voters there favored Donald Trump by 56-37, and such a red seat will likely be less hospitable toward Democrats in a federal race.

In the Kansas City-based 3rd District, Democratic businessman Jay Sidie says “there’s a strong likelihood” that he’ll run again. Sidie lost to Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder 51-41 in 2016, but Hillary Clinton managed to eke out a 47-46 victory here in a reversal from Obama’s 54-44 loss four years earlier. Yoder is reportedly considering a bid for governor though, and Democrats almost certainly wouldn’t mind not having to face an incumbent if he vacates the 3rd.

Meanwhile, turning back to the gubernatorial race, Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer’s office claimed last month that he “has not even considered” whether he’ll run to succeed his unpopular and termed-out boss, Gov. Sam Brownback. Well, Colyer has dropped the charade and told the National Journal that yep, he is considering.

MN-Gov, MN-01: Democratic Rep. Tim Walz didn’t rule out a 2018 gubernatorial bid when we last heard from him in December, and he now confirms that he is actively considering the race to succeed retiring Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and expects to decide by April.

Donald Trump won a 53-38 blowout in Walz’s southern Minnesota district, which was a stunning reversal from Obama’s 50-48 edge in 2012. Democrats would almost certainly have better luck holding such a tough seat with a popular incumbent like Walz than without him.

However, Walz had a shockingly close call with defeat against an unheralded opponent in 2016 when he prevailed by just a 1-point margin, likely due to Trump’s unexpectedly large victory in the 1st District. Walz might simply be thinking that his chances of becoming governor in a state that Hillary Clinton won by 47-45 are better than winning another term in his far redder House district, much to the chagrin of national Democrats. A slew of other candidates from both parties are also contemplating gubernatorial bids.

OK-Gov, Oklahoma City, OK Mayor: On Wednesday, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, a Republican, announced that he would not seek a fifth term next year as chief executive of Oklahoma’s largest city. However, Cornett doesn’t sound done with politics yet, saying that he’s considering seeking a job in state government and won’t rule anything out. Cornett doesn’t appear to have named a particular post he’s interested in, but with GOP Gov. Mary Fallin termed-out, he may be eyeing her job. Cornett is OKC’s first four-term mayor, though that’s not entirely by choice. In 2006, just a few months after he overwhelmingly won re-election, Cornett ran for the 5th Congressional District and lost the primary runoff to Fallin 63-37.

Regardless of what Cornett does, there’s likely to be a crowded race to succeed him in the mayor’s office early next year. Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan, a Republican, has already announced he’ll seek this post. All the candidates will compete on one non-partisan ballot in February of 2018 and if no one takes a majority, there will be a runoff in April. Oklahoma City is quite conservative for a major U.S. city and it’s been led by Republicans since the mid-1980s. However, the city is still one of the more Democratic areas in this very red state, and if Team Blue can snag this office, it will go a long way towards building up a bench for future races.


MN-07: Last cycle, Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson beat Some Dude Dave Hughes by a surprisingly close 52.5-47.5 as Trump was carrying his rural northwestern seat 62-31. Hughes has announced that he’ll seek a rematch, but it’s unlikely he’ll scare off many Republicans who are eyeing this seat. The local Minnesota tip sheet Morning Take says that state Rep. Tim Miller is strongly considering” challenging Peterson, though Miller doesn’t seem to have said anything publicly.

The GOP made a serious effort to oust Peterson in 2014, but the congressman turned back GOP state Sen. Torrey Westrom 54-46 despite the GOP wave, so he’s hardly a pushover. But Peterson will be 74 on Election Day, and he constantly flirts with retiring; if he does call it a career, it may be impossible for Democrats to hold his seat. However, Peterson told Roll Call a few weeks before the 2016 election that he was enjoying his time in Congress more than before, and added, “As long as I think I’m making a difference, I’ll probably keep going,” so he may stick around a while longer.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Stephanie Herseth Sandlin rocketed on to the political scene with a huge upset victory in a special election in 2004, picking up South Dakota’s lone congressional district from the GOP and giving a shot in the arm to Democrats everywhere after several miserable years of George W. Bush. That made her a rising star in the party, but her trajectory was disrupted when she narrowly lost in the 2010 Republican wave. Since then, as South Dakota’s Democratic bench has grown barer, Herseth Sandlin’s name continued to top recruiters’ wish lists, especially for the state’s Senate race in 2014.

But Herseth Sandlin always declined, and now, though she’s just 46, she says her political career is over. In accepting a new job this month as president of Augustana University, a small liberal arts college in South Dakota, Herseth Sandlin declared, “I am done seeking political office.” Of course, Herseth Sandlin wouldn’t be the first politician to make a pronouncement like this only to change her mind later, but as Democrats cast about for candidates in the Mount Rushmore State, they should probably cross her off those old lists.

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.

To advertise in the Morning Digest, please contact

A Month to Celebrate – Lonnie G. Bunch III, Founding Director of the NMAAHC

Lonnie Bunch, museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, is proud to present A Page from Our American Story, a regular on-line series for Museum supporters. It will showcase individuals and events in the African American experience, placing these stories in the context of a larger story — our American story.

A Page From Our American Story

February is Black History Month, and as this month comes to a close, it is a reminder to reflect on the many ways African Americans have influenced, improved and shaped our country. It is a month to honor and celebrate the ever-unfolding African American story.

The roots of Black History Month go back to 1926 when noted historian, Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), the son of former slaves, launched the first observance of Negro History Week in February of that year. It is said that he chose February because the month contained the birthday of Abraham Lincoln (the 12th) and the accepted birthday of Frederick Douglass (the 14th). His goal was to bring together historians, business leaders, educators, church leaders, and people from all walks of life in a week-long celebration of the accomplishments of blacks in the United States.

Dr. Woodson dedicated his life to documenting and preserving African American history and culture and is often called the “father of black history.” In 1915, he created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and founded the Journal of Negro History soon after. What began as Negro History Week in 1926 has been celebrated every year since and eventually became Black History Month in 1976.

Since then, Black History Month has been a treasured time to celebrate African Americans who have struggled, sacrificed, and triumphed throughout history to make our country what it is today.

And this year, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is proud to commemorate Black History Month in our very own iconic building on the National Mall, where we have welcomed more than one million visitorssince opening in September.

While the museum exists to celebrate the contributions of African Americans all year round, it has marked Black History Month with numerous special events and programs to further explore and showcase African American history and culture.

Among this month’s offerings, the museum held an exclusive screening of I’m Not Your Negro, a compelling new documentary on literary icon James Baldwin; a curator-led talk giving a “Behind the Scenes” look at our Slavery and Freedom exhibition; special offerings in our Sweet Home Café from award-winning African American chefs; and a musical performance of works by esteemed African American classical music composers.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is honored to uphold the legacy and vision of Carter G. Woodson. Our museum is dedicated to serve the nation as the most comprehensive cultural destination to explore, document and showcase the African American story in celebration of Black History Month—and every month, for generations to come.

Please visit our website for information about upcoming events and programs.

All the best,
DD YE year end 1 signature
Lonnie G. Bunch III
Founding Director
P.S. Your support has made this Museum possible. I hope you will consider making a donation today, or joining us as a Charter Member.

To read past Our American Stories, visit our archives.

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Steve Bannon – judge, jury and executioner

Trump appointed white supremacist Steve Bannon to the powerful National Security Council that can put people on “kill lists.”

Congress has the power to stop this. Demand they immediately remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council!

Take the pledge.


Trump has appointed his extreme white supremacist advisor, Steve Bannon, to the powerful National Security Council (NSC). Among other secretive duties, the NSC creates “kill lists” that even contain U.S. citizens.1

Trump has effectively put a white supremacist in charge of who the U.S. government will assassinate.

Tell Congress: No white supremacists on Trump’s National Security Council!

Trump’s executive order giving Steve Bannon a seat on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee is not just unprecedented and dangerous, it’s also illegal.2 Even Republican members of Congress are shocked about Bannon’s placement on the NSC.3 And just this weekend, the spokesperson for the NSC resigned in opposition to Bannon’s “disturbing” appointment.4

Congress created the National Security Council, so they have the power to stop Bannon from sitting on the council. Now is a moment for all members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to choose a side. Will they trust our national security to a white nationalist with a reckless, racist, apocalyptic worldview, or will they stand up and fight back?

Tell Congress to do their job: No white supremacists on the National Security Council!

Before joining Trump’s team, Steve Bannon was in charge of Breitbart, an extreme-right white nationalist propaganda machine. Under his leadership, Breitbart actively published racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and misogynistic content. Bannon’s beliefs and actions are so alarming that even Glenn Beck has pointed out Bannon’s clear white nationalist ties and called him “a terrifying man.”5

Bannon believes in the dangerous lie that the U.S. is at war with Islam and that America should be the center of a new movement of right-wing populism centering on white nationalism.6 He’s already worked to make this nightmare a reality by drafting the Muslim ban for Trump and openly pushing racist, sexist, and homophobic policies.

Bannon is so extreme, that many say he is the most unhinged Trump political operative. Dangerous political operatives have no place in deciding the national security of our country.

Tell Congress – Don’t let a white nationalist control our national security!

No president’s political advisor has ever been a principal member of the NSC. The NSC Principals Committee is the one place where the Cabinet secretaries and top military and intelligence officials meet to discuss national-security crises, events, and policies to come up with a plan of action — or to present a set of options for the president to approve or reject. The National Security Council is supposed to be made up of career military and intelligence officials who advise the president, not political advisors like Bannon.

By elevating Bannon and downgrading the roles of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence, Trump has put politics and white supremacy over the national security advice of his top military and intelligence advisers.

Congress cannot allow a dangerous white supremacist to drive our national security policy. It has the legislative power to stop Bannon. It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to pick a side.

Tell Congress – Remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council

Until justice is real,

— Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Evan, Jade, Anika, Corina, the rest of the Color Of Change team.


1. “Secret panel can put Americans on “kill list’,” Reuters, October 5, 2011.

2. “Steve Bannon’s Presence on the National Security Council Is Not Just Terrible. It’s Illegal.,” Slate, February 1, 2017.

3. “Bannon’s power puts Republicans on edge,” The Hill, February 1, 2017.

4. “National Security Council Spokesman Resigns Over Donald Trump’s ‘Disturbing’ Actions,” Huffington Post, February 21, 2017.

5. “Glenn Beck: Steve Bannon ‘Is A Terrifying Man’,” Right Wing Watch, November 14, 2016.

6. “Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable,” Huffington Post, February 8, 2017.

Stop the Corporate Power Grab in Congress

Tell Congress to reject these anti-democratic bills: Sign the petition today!

Republican leaders in Congress and President Trump are pushing dangerous legislation to put corporate interests ahead of America’s interests. Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican House members have already passed three dangerous bills to help Trump further his plan to dismantle our democratic institutions—and now this legislation is headed to the Senate. If passed, these bills would result in thousands of premature deaths in the United States by rolling back vital health safeguards.

We need your help to stop these anti-democratic bills before Trump signs them into law.

Add your name to this petition urging the Senate to reject three bills:

(1) The Regulatory Accountability Act;

(2) The REINS Act; and

(3) The Midnight Rules Relief Act.


These bills set a dangerous precedent to put corporate interests above community health and welfare:

  • The Regulatory Accountability Act, or RAA, makes it easier for corporations to challenge public safety rules, adds dozens of additional steps for agencies to form safeguards, and—by making agencies select the cheapest option, rather than the best option—puts corporate profit above clean water, clean air, child safety standards, and other important protections.
  • The REINS Act prevents any major agency rule from going into effect until both chambers of Congress affirmatively approve it within 70 days. Members of Congress do not have to be accountable for striking public health safeguards; they can simply sit on their hands, ignore public input and agency expertise, and ultimately kill efforts to hold corporate interests accountable for their actions to American families.
  • The Midnight Rules Relief Act changes the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to allow Congress to reject all public protections finalized near the end of presidential terms, rather than reviewing them one at a time—as is currently allowed by law. This scorched earth approach ignores agency expertise and accountability, and allows Congress to prevent agencies from publishing similar safeguards ever again.

If these bills are signed into law, the democratic process through which our nation establishes basic protections against corporate abuse—a process in which citizens, stakeholders, and experts have a voice—would all but vanish. Click here to sign a petition that calls on United States Senators to put community health and safety above corporate interests.