Kevin M. Kruse @KevinMKruse Historian. Author/editor of White Flight; The New Suburban History; Spaces of the Modern City; Fog of War; One Nation Under God; Fault Lines. Feb. 08, 2019 1 min read

Yes, it *is* a tradition!

A thoroughly bipartisan tradition, involving Democrats and Republicans alike.

Let's dig in.

As my colleague Rhae Barnes @DigitalHistory_ details in this new @washingtonpost piece based on her years of tireless work on this topic, presidents from *both* parties were fans of blackface minstrelsy.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/yes-politicians-wore-blackface-it-used-to-be-all-american-fun/2019/02/08/821b268c-2b0d-11e9-b011-d8500644dc98_story.html?utm_term=.8d37f7b1f069 

Even if we just focus on presidents, this is clear.

As Rhae notes in that piece, Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who famously showed the Klan film "Birth of a Nation" in the White House, celebrated the Paris Peace Conference with a minstrel show on the USS George Washington:

Woodrow Wilson's racism is a topic historians have covered at length.

But as Rhae continues in that piece, the Republicans who held office in that same era -- Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft before him, Warren G. Harding after -- likewise attended blackface shows.

In 1928, Republican President-Elect Herbert Hoover watched a blackface minstrel show put on by sailors on the USS Maryland.

You can watch the footage here yourself:  https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/video/president-elect-herbert-hoover-wife-lou-at-right-with-news-footage/965369884 

Again, all of this is not to say Republicans were *worse* than Democrats on this issue.

Like Woodrow Wilson, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed his enjoyment of blackface minstrel performances.

Future presidents of both parties were complicit in the practice as well.

In this link from Rhae Barnes' piece, Ronald Reagan directed a blackface performance by soldiers while in character in the 1943 film This is the Army:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkm49zfReMs&t=3631s 

As you can see, contrary to D'Souza's repeated claims, the ugly history of racism isn't a tradition for one party alone, but runs across the partisan divide.

Truman and JFK likely attended minstrel shows, but then again so did Eisenhower and Goldwater.

History is messy. And if you follow the evidence where it leads, as a real historian does, you'll find that it defies the kind of easy categorization that D'Souza tries to sell.

If he'd ever taken a history class in college, maybe he'd understand that.


You can follow @KevinMKruse.



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