The Republican Party Invented Affirmative Action Then Deleted It
Photo by Simon Ray / Unsplash

The Republican Party Invented Affirmative Action Then Deleted It

The party didn't always have the philosophy it now has.

It’s hard to believe, but it was the Republican Party that invented affirmative action back when they were the Party of Lincoln. In fact, there’s very little comparison between the Republican Party of now to when they were young and idealistic. They don’t get enough credit for the positive change they’ve inflicted on America.

Republicans formed in 1854 with the express purpose of stopping the expansion of slavery. They were a little iffy about ending enslavement altogether. Abraham Lincoln, one of the founders, was utterly accepting of slavery continuing if that’s what it took to keep the Union intact. He was even in favor of shipping off former slaves to Liberia or Central America. Lincoln was convinced it was a great idea until the combination of a failed experiment on Cow Island and Frederick Douglass telling him how stupid an idea it was changed his mind.

Republicans got Lincoln elected President in 1860 and again in 1864. They did show a lapse of faith when switching out vice presidents in his second term. They thought a segregationist from Tennessee, Andrew Johnson, would balance the ticket and improve their chances of winning. They didn’t anticipate that Lincoln would get shot and killed and that Johnson would actually become President days after the end of the Civil War.

Related: How the End of Affirmative Action in College Admissions Will Affect Black Students

Republicans held a majority in both houses of Congress. They passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, bestowing citizenship to freedmen. This came shortly after the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which had passed Congress while Lincoln was still alive. When Republicans saw Southerners weren’t abiding by the spirit of the law, passing Black Codes to reinvent slavery. Republicans passed the 14th and Fifteenth Amendments and the four Reconstruction Acts to give Black men the right to vote and establish several civil rights, all backed up by the presence of federal troops. President Johnson vetoed all of the Acts, but Republicans overrode his vetoes and implemented their own policies.

Republicans also established the Freedmen’s Bureau in 1865; the federal government provided special treatment to a specific group of people at the exclusion of others. That, my friends, is affirmative action, and I give all the credit to Republicans for inventing it. Technically, they invented affirmative action for Black people as special treatment for whites has existed since the nation’s founding.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the efforts Republicans have made to end affirmative action. They successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to end most race-based criteria in college admissions. Nobody is arguing that Black people have achieved equity in admissions; the argument runs more like this much and no more. The struggle continues with Republican-backed forces working to remove affirmative action programs from private companies.

A few Republicans occasionally refer to themselves as The Party of Lincoln in attempts to take credit for acts over 150 years ago. I personally feel they started their slippery slide in 1877 when they agreed to remove federal troops from the South to win a contested presidential election, but that’s me. You could point to any number of points in history when they’ve forgotten their roots. Whenever it happened, they’re now the party of protecting Confederate monuments and voter suppression, the polar opposite of what they once were.

Related: Where Do Confederate Flags and Monuments Go Once They're Removed

Let’s give a hand to the Republicans of yesteryear who once tried to make America greater. The Party of Lincoln hasn’t existed for some time and perhaps never will again, but Republicans were once worthy of the nation’s pride. Where the hell did they go?

This post originally appeared on Medium and is edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of William Spivey's work on Medium. And if you dig his words, buy the man a coffee.