Cross-posted from The Nation
The Republican Party was, for a vital century, the major American political party that most frequently aligned with the cause of civil rights. The invariably realistic Frederick Douglass explained, "I knew that however bad the Republican Party was, the Democratic party was much worse. The elements of which the Republican Party was composed gave better ground for the ultimate hope of the success of the colored man's cause than those of the Democratic Party."
Well into the twentieth century, many leading Republicans took seriously their party's history and the responsibility that went with it. They worked to earn the votes of African-Americans and all supporters of equal justice under law, declaring in the party's 1960 platform that...
"[t]his nation was created to give expression, validity and purpose to our spiritual heritage -- the supreme worth of the individual. In such a nation -- a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal -- racial discrimination has no place. It can hardly be reconciled with a Constitution that guarantees equal protection under law to all persons. In a deeper sense, too, it is immoral and unjust. As to those matters within reach of political action and leadership, we pledge ourselves unreservedly to its eradication."
True to their word, top Republicans in Congress provided advice, counsel and support that was essential to the development and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.