Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) Political Context

Political context for the formation of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO)

Almost all white southerners in the 1960s were Democrats because their ancestors equated the Republican Party with the Emancipation of slaves and with the Radical Republicans who advocated for full citizenship for Freedpeople following the Civil War. (The meaning of Radical Republican has changed drastically.)

Before the Voting Rights Act, the Democratic Party in the South was explicitly affiliated with white supremacy. When the Mississippi Democratic Party used violence to take power in Mississippi in 1875 and overthrow the alliance of Radical Republicans and Freedpeople, it called itself the “The White Man’s Party.” In Alabama in 1965 and 1966, the state Democratic Party’s slogan was “White Supremacy for the Right.” In the 1960s, the national Democratic Party was split between southern segregationists and New Deal Democrats who were more liberal on race. Southern Democrats, known as Dixiecrats, did everything they could to undermine civil rights. However, even the liberal wing of the national Democratic Party had a mixed record on civil rights. During the 1964 Democratic Convention, for example, when SNCC and others organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the state of Mississippi’s white supremacist “regular” party delegation, instead of supporting the Freedom Democrats, Lyndon Johnson used the FBI to spy on the challengers and exerted considerable pressure to defeat their bid to be seated. He did this, with the support of other liberal democrats, despite considerable evidence that the “Regular” Democrats actively disfranchised African Americans, even to the point of using violent repression. The Republican Party was also split at the national level. The Barry Goldwater wing of the Republican Party was opposed to civil rights legislation, for example, while progressive Republicans were strong supporters. John Lewis references these national divisions when he delivered SNCC’s March on Washington speech,

For the party of [John F.] Kennedy is also the party of [James O.] Eastland. The party of [Jacob] Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march in the streets of Birmingham? Where is the political party that will protect the citizens of Albany, Georgia? (See John Lewis and SNCC’s March on Washington speech.)