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Black Conservatism Is Taking Off in Memphis

March 23, 2013

That’s not a shiver running down the New Madrid fault making the earth move under our feet, but a growing wave of black conservatism getting both the Democrat and Republican parties in Greater Memphis All Shook Up.

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The Democratic ship is listing farther to the left with every breath. God’s out and gay rights are in. President Obama is focusing his second term on liberal causes that don’t enamor many black Memphians, a community of voters who  cherish their religious freedom, support traditional marriage, value babies over abortion, and are increasingly frustrated over 48 years of misguided welfare initiatives that have  increased rather than ended poverty. Congressman Steve Cohen no longer has influence in a Republican-dominated House of Representatives. President Obama and the Democratic Party don’t seem to be really listening to the black community, and have been accused of taking for granted the voting block most responsible for re-electing him last November.

While that  politically Blue brew of discontent simmers, black Republicans are growing in number and looking to reshape and restore the party that was created by abolitionists in 1854 to end slavery and ensure justice and opportunity for black Americans. A wave of popular,  black conservative leaders are bringing new attention, influence, and energy to the Grand Old Party, including  (to name only a few) acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson; Tim Scott (newly elected Republican Senator from South Carolina); Artur Davis, a  former Democrat and Alabama Congressman who supported President Obama in 2008;  former Florida Congressman Allen West; and Crystal Wright, columnist and blogger of, who recently founded Conservative Melting Pot PAC to elect conservative women and people of color.

Politics has  a dynamic  history. Parties change, flip positions, then change again. Today’s Memphians tend to forget that, WALLACEwith some election variances, virtually all African Americans identified as Republicans for 100 years following the Civil War. The KKK, after all, was made up of Democrats. Their primary aim was to prevent newly freed slaves from voting, and voting Republican. Jim Crow laws were written and passed by southern Democrats, who argued that States Rights trumped federal Republican attempts to bring voting equality and social justice to the black race.  Throughout his term of office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican,  fought valiantly for civil rights legislation, but Democrats in Congress consistently blocked it. During the civil rights era, southern Democrat governors like George Wallace, Orval Faubus and Ross Barnett fought integration of schools and colleges.

The civil rights movement bred fear among many whites.Despite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign of non-violent civil protest, violence threatened always to explode. Sometimes it was waged against demonstrators by undertrained and overzealous police. Sometimes it erupted in the form of looting and riots in black neighborhoods when frustration and anger could no longer be contained. Always there was an undercurrent of foreboding.

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was incarcerated in Birmingham. Neither of the two national political parties had the courage to speak out on his behalf,  fearing backlash from white voters. A savvy JFK  aide suggested that President Kennedy offer his personal, “off the record” support to Mrs. Coretta King, and then made sure the press knew about it.   The call was a brilliant strategic move that won the Democrats points with all African Americans. Many began to see the party in a new light, despite its culpability for maintaining racial discrimination throughout the south.


When President Johnson took office after Kennedy’s assassination, he seized the  opportunity to convert black voters to the party by signing the Civil Rights Act into law.  During his second term, Johnson’s Great Society programs cemented the loyalty of the black community.  Ever since, for nearly 50 years, black voters have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates. Democratic leaders – including respected black activists such as The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – have so indoctrinated  black voters to believe that Republicans are evil racists, that conservative blacks are called every demeaning and vile name if they express their views publicly.

Memphis’ rich political history includes 100 years of Republican dominance in the black community. The Shelby Co. George W. LeeRepublican Party evolved from the Lincoln League,  an African American voter registration organization founded in 1916 by Robert Church, Jr. Mr. Church is considered to be the developer of Beale St. His father was one of the country’s first black  business moguls. Lt. George W. Lee, businessman, writer, historian, and politico, was a local and national leader in the Republican Party in the 1920’s-30’s. It was the black vote in Memphis that enabled Dwight Eisenhower to win Tennessee in 1952, according to Republican strategist and Memphis luminary Louis R. “Lewie” Donelson, III.

Black conservatism has been gaining strength as a movement since General Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice each served as Secretary of State under  President George W. Bush. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams  have long been among America’s most respected economists, writers, and political commentators. Dozens of prominent black conservative writers and commentators have huge followings, including Alfonso Rachel; Star Parker;  former 1960’s leftist radical Shelby Steele; Kevin Jackson; and radio hosts Larry Elder, Tennessean Carl Boyd, Jr., and former Presidential candidate Herman Cain. Notably, President Obama won 95% of the black vote in 2008 but only 93% in 2010.

Polling data indicate that many African Americans in Memphis vote their conservative beliefs, even though they do not openly identify themselves as Republicans.  Increasingly, black conservatives in Memphis are speaking out against the liberal social and economic policies of current and previous administrations. Andrew Clarksenior, a Vietnam veteran and self-idenfied “hardcore conservative” who served in the West Memphis police department for 22 years, has been a popular radio host for several years. He is currently heard on WKIM-FM Talk Radio 98.9 from 6:00-9:00 a.m. weekdays on “Talk Memphis with Ken, Bev and Andrew.”

charles johnsonCharles Albert Johnson, III, radio host  and elder with Apostolic Olivetree Ministry, has also built a following over several years with his outspoken, entertaining style. He is back on radio after a brief hiatus, this time on KWAM 990. He has teamed up with former Congressional candidate Charlotte Bergmann for “Straight Talk with Charlotte and Charles,”heard Saturdays from 9:00-10:00 a.m.  On March 23, their content-filled and highly listenable show will feature County Commissioner Terry Roland and KCarl Smith, author, political activist and founder of the Frederick Douglass Republican® Movement. Frederick Douglass Republicans®  believe foremost in respect for the constitution, respect for life, limited government, and personal responsibility.

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Black conservatives believe that many leaders of the Democratic party have manipulated and exploited  African Americans for their votes. They see failed policies that have increased poverty, broken the once-strong black family structure, and forged a permanent underclass of struggling minorities. The award-winning 2012 movie Runaway Slave was created  by former NAACP officer and Baptist minister C. L. Bryant as a wake up call to African Americans who compulsorily vote Democratic. Charlotte Bergmann appeared as a panelist in Runaway Slave. She created the super PAC CharlottePAC in 2012 to support and elect values voters.

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When does loyalty to a party or philosophy become blind obedience?

How many voters take the time to do their own research of issues and candidates, from sources expressing a variety of viewpoints?

Do your votes reflect and confirm your values?

Should any person bow to pressure to believe a certain way because of family or ethnic tradition?

These are tough questions that deserve our careful thought.

He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
~Thomas Jefferson

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2013 10:37 am

    As a teacher in a suburban middle school, I was excited to follow the elections last fall with my students. I found an outline of election issues with a brief summary of each candidate’s position. I then had my students make a chart with the issues down one side, and a column for each candidate. They were to put a check mark under the candidate they agreed with on each issue. Each of my students took one issue and became the “expert” on that issue to report to the class. The overwhelming majority of my seventh graders put check marks under the Republican candidate, but when i had them write an essay about which candidate they supported based on how they checked off the issues, they nearly all said, “I agree with Romney’s position on most of the issues, but I am voting for Obama because he is black.”

    The conditioning of students to vote for Democratic party candidates no matter what seems to have created schizophrenic potential voters. They will feel like they have betrayed their race if they vote against any black candidate.

    • March 23, 2013 3:36 pm

      Thanks for sharing your insight, Darrell. I’ve been told similar stories. As southerners, we both know “Yellow dog Democrats” who proudly proclaim they would vote for a yellow dog with a “D” beside his name rather than a Republican. This tradition is still strong among some older southern whites, whose families have voted exclusively for Democrats since the Civil War because the Republican Party was the party of Reconstruction and equality for African Americans. How sad – and ironic – that the Democrat voting block includes the Yellow Dog whites as well as blacks who vote color before character, despite Dr. King’s dream.

  2. Travis Lewis permalink
    March 25, 2013 1:17 am

    Great piece, Eve. Thanks for sharing this with us. Travis Lewis, C3

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