Friday, February 12, 2016

George Edwin Taylor: First African American to run for President of the U.S.

Taylor and other independent-minded African Americans in 1904 jonied the first national political party created exclusively for and by blacks, the National Liberty Party (NLP). The Party met at its national convention in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904 with delegates from thirty-six states. When the Party's candidate for president ended up in an Illinois jail, the NLP Executive Committee approached Taylor, asking him to be the party's candidate.

While Taylor’s campaign attracted little attention, the Party's platform had a national agenda: universal suffrage regardless of race; Federal protection of the rights of all citizens; Federal anti-lynching laws; additional black regiments in the U.S. Army; Federal pensions for all former slaves; government ownership and control of all public carriers to ensure equal accommodations for all citizens; and home rule for the District of Columbia. Taylor’s presidential race was quixotic.

In an interview published in The Sun (New York, November 20, 1904), he observed that while he knew whites thought his candidacy was a “joke,” he believed that an independent political party that could mobilize the African American vote was the only practical way that blacks could exercise political influence. On election day, Taylor received a scattering of votes.

The 1904 campaign was Taylor's last foray into politics. He remained in Iowa until 1910 when he moved to Jacksonville. There he edited a succession of newspapers and was director of the African American branch of the local YMCA. He was married three times but had no children. George Edwin Taylor died in Jacksonville on December 23, 1925.

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