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Sen. Rand Paul's Speech at Howard University

By Sen. Rand Paul - April 10, 2013

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In Kentucky, the history of black voting rights is inseparable from the Republican Party. Virtually all African Americans became Republicans.

Democrats in Louisville were led by Courier-Journal editor Henry Watterson and were implacably opposed to blacks voting.

Watterson wrote that his opposition to blacks voting was “founded upon a conviction that their habits of life and general condition disqualify them from the judicious exercise of suffrage.”

In George Wright’s “Life Behind the Veil,” he writes of Republican General John Palmer standing before tens of thousands of slaves on July 4th, 1865, when slavery still existed in Kentucky, and declaring:

“my countrymen, you are free, and while I command, the military forces of the United States will defend your right to freedom.” The crowd erupted in cheers.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Democrat-controlled legislature voted against the 13th, the 14th, and the 15th amendments.

William Warley was a black Republican in Louisville. He was born toward the end of the nineteenth century.

He was a founder of Louisville’s NAACP but he is most famous for fighting and overturning the notorious Louisville segregated housing ordinance.

Warley bought a house in the white section in defiance of a city segregation law. The case, Buchanan v. Warley, was finally decided in 1917 and the Supreme Court held unanimously that Kentucky law could not forbid the sale of a house based on race.

The Republican Party’s history is rich and chock full of emancipation and black history.

Republicans still prize the sense of justice that MLK spoke of when he said that “an unjust law is any law the majority enforces on a minority but does not make binding upon itself.”

Republicans have never stopped believing that minorities, whether they derive from the color of their skin or shade of their ideology should warrant equal protection.

Everyone knows of the sit-ins in Greensboro and Nashville but few people remember the sit-it in the Alexandria public library in 1938.

Samuel Tucker, a lawyer and graduate of Howard University, recruited five young African American men to go to the public library and select a book and sit and read until they were forcibly removed.

Tucker’s sit-in set the stage for students who organized the sit-in at Woolworth’s in Greensboro that brought down Jim Crow in many areas, years before the civil rights act of 1964.

I think our retelling of the civil rights era does not give enough credit to the heroism of civil disobedience.

You may say, oh that’s all well and good but that was a long time ago what have you done for me lately?

I think what happened during the Great Depression was that African Americans understood that Republicans championed citizenship and voting rights but they became impatient for economic emancipation.

African Americans languished below white Americans in every measure of economic success and the Depression was especially harsh for those at the lowest rung of poverty.

The Democrats promised equalizing outcomes through unlimited federal assistance while Republicans offered something that seemed less tangible-the promise of equalizing opportunity through free markets.

Now, Republicans face a daunting task. Several generations of black voters have never voted Republican and are not very open to even considering the option.

Democrats still promise unlimited federal assistance and Republicans promise free markets, low taxes, and less regulations that we believe will create more jobs.

The Democrat promise is tangible and puts food on the table, but too often doesn’t lead to jobs or meaningful success.

The Republican promise is for policies that create economic growth. Republicans believe lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budgets, a solvent Social Security and Medicare will stimulate economic growth.

Republicans point to the Reagan years when the economy grew at nearly 7% and millions upon millions of jobs were created.

Today, after four years of the current policies, one in six Americans live in poverty, more than at any other time in the past several decades.

In fact, the poor have grown poorer in the past four years. Black unemployment is at 14%, nearly twice the national average. This is unacceptable.

Using taxes to punish the rich, in reality, punishes everyone because we are all interconnected. High taxes and excessive regulation and massive debt are not working.

The economy has been growing at less than 1% and actually contracted in the fourth quarter.

I would argue that the objective evidence shows that big government is not a friend to African Americans.

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Rand Paul is a U.S. senator from Kentucky.

Sen. Rand Paul

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