First African-American To Run For U.S. President

February 1, 2012 by staff 

First African-American To Run For U.S. President, Major party African American candidates for President of the United States did not run in primaries until nearly the third quarter of the 20th century, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Voting Rights Act (1965) opened up political participation to blacks in the South.

In addition, party changes to give more weight to candidates’ performance in primaries, rather than to party leaders’ negotiation in secret, opened up the fields. In 2008, Senator Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, the first African American to win the office.
In 1888 Frederick Douglass was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention. Afterward during the roll call vote, he received one vote, so was nominally a candidate for the presidency. In those years, the candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency were chosen by state representatives voting at the nominating convention. Many decisions were made by negotiations of state and party leaders “behind closed doors.” Douglass was not a serious candidate in contemporary terms.

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American major party candidate for president. She was a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination and participated in the Democratic primaries in numerous states. She campaigned in 12 states and won 28 delegates. In 1984 and 1988, Jesse Jackson was the first major party black candidate to run nationwide primary campaigns. He also ran as a Democratic Party candidate.

In 1992 Alan Keyes was the first African-American candidate to run in the Republican presidential primaries. Keyes ran again, unsuccessfully, in 1996, 2000, and 2008. In 2004, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton ran as unsuccessful candidates in the Democratic primaries. “Tea Party” Republican Herman Cain has announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2012, though he has since suspended his campaign.

Senator Obama was identified as a potential candidate for president of the U.S. after his eloquent speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The distinct possibility of an African American becoming elected was realized as the Democratic primary elections got under way in early 2008. Barack Obama emerged as a serious contender for the nomination and was the first African American to win the nomination of a major party in a United States presidential election. As the Democratic Party’s nominee he went on to win the general election on November 4, 2008. On January 20, 2009 he was sworn in as the first African American president of the United States.

The implications of his victory were discussed during the race, and one focus included the effect on race relations, American society and federal politics. The discussions took place in political circles, on cable news by pundits and professionals, in print journalism, academia, and on the blogosphere. Analysts addressed his heritage and cultural identification, his strong emphasis on family, academic training, community work, and two decades in an active faith community.

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