The GOP and Civil Rights

Published September 1, 2000

The Grand Old Party was formed in opposition to slavery, and the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, was responsible for ending slavery in the United States. But the GOP also was instrumental in achieving passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a measure proposed by Democrat President Lyndon Johnson but opposed by his fellow Southern Democrats–including Tennessee Senator Al Gore Sr.

As The Wall Street Journal recently noted, it was a Republican Senator, Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who received the NAACP’s 1964 award for civil rights leadership, and it was Republicans who overwhelmingly voted for the 1964 act. In the Senate, 82 percent of Republicans, but only 69 percent of Democrats, supported the bill. In the House, 80 percent of Republicans, but only 60 percent of Democrats, supported it.