Last modified on August 3, 2021, at 04:46

Oscar De Priest

Oscar Stanton De Priest
Oscar De Priest.png
Former Member of the Chicago City Council from the 3rd Ward
From: 1943–1947
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Former U.S. Representative from Illinois's 1st Congressional District
From: March 4, 1929 – January 3, 1935
Predecessor Martin B. Madden
Successor Arthur W. Mitchell
Former Member of the Chicago City Council from the 2nd Ward
From: 1915–1917
Predecessor Louis B. Anderson
Successor ???
Former Member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners
From: 1904–1908
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Information
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Jessie Williams

Oscar Stanton De Priest (March 9, 1871 – May 12, 1951) was an alderman and civil rights activist from Chicago who was the first black Republican to be elected to Congress in the 1900s. He was very vocal in his fight for racial equality, even speaking in the South despite death threats by violent Democrats.

U.S. House of Representatives

De Priest campaign.jpg

Following the death of Republican representative Martin B. Madden, De Priest ran for the House seat in Illinois' 1st congressional district with the backing of William Hale Thompson, the city's mayor.[1] In a contest with four opponents in the 1928 election, he won by seven percentage points,[2] and would be re-elected twice.[3][4]

Soon following his election to the House of Representatives, De Priest's wife, the former Jessie Williams, was invited by First Lady Lou Hoover for tea along with other congressional wives who were tolerant on racial issues.[1] Southern segregationists were in a furious uproar, to which the newly elected De Priest responded:

I want to thank the Democrats of the South for one thing. They were so barbaric they drove my parents to the North. If it had not been for that I wouldn’t be in Congress today. I’ve been Jim Crowed, segregated, persecuted, and I think I know how best the Negro can put a stop to being imposed upon. It is through the ballot, through organization, through eternally fighting for his rights.

De Priest pushed for anti-lynching legislation.[1] FDR always opposed the federal anti-lynching law. Although the measures did not pass, he did successfully introduce an amendment which desegregated the 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps. De Priest also said on the House floor regarding the injustices blacks faced:[1]

...I am making these remarks because I want you to know that the American Negro is not satisfied with the treatment he receives in America, and I know of no forum where I can better present the matter than the floor of Congress.

In addition to his powerful civil rights advocacy, De Priest was a conservative who opposed the New Deal as socialistic and believed in initiatives at the local and state level rather than at the federal level.[1] He furthermore advocated for investigating the Communist Party and its subversive efforts. Some civil rights activists who praised his advocacy for fellow blacks would oppose his economic viewpoints, and De Priest lost election in the 1934 midterms to Republican-turned-Democrat Arthur W. Mitchell.[5] a black liberal who supported the New Deal. This marked the first phase of political realignment of Northern black voters from Republican to Democrat, which despite left-wing misconceptions, was largely motivated ultimately on the basis of economics rather than racial issues.[6]

New Deal segregation

See also: Jim Crow
In 1933, the Democrats won an overwhelming majority in the House, picking up 97 seats, bringing their total to 313. On the Republican side De Priest was re-elected. The Democrats changed the House Rules to conform with their wishes. The Democratic chairman of the new Congress' Committee on Accounts, Rep. Lindsay Warren, ordered a De Priest staffer and his son to be thrown out of the House Democrats' whites-only cafeteria. There was a separate facility for blacks in the basement. De Priest introduced a resolution calling for an investigation. On the House floor, De Priest refuted Warren's claim that African-Americans had always been banned from the restaurant, recalling that he and other black patrons had frequented the House cafeteria. De Priest implored his colleagues to support the resolution, remarking,
“If we allow segregation and the denial of constitutional rights under the Dome of the Capitol, where in God’s name will we get them? If we allow this challenge to go without correcting it, it will set an example where people will say Congress itself approves of segregation.”[7]

The effort to desegregate the Democrat-controlled House cafeteria was defeated. Civil rights were not on the New Deal Democrats agenda.

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 FascinatingPolitics (February 27, 2019). Oscar Stanton De Priest: The First Black Congressman of the 20th Century. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  2. IL District 1 Race - Nov 06, 1928. Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  3. IL District 1 Race - Nov 04, 1930. Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  4. IL District 1 Race - Nov 08, 1932. Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  5. IL District 1 Race - Nov 06, 1934. Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  6. Party Realignment And The New Deal. US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  7. https://history.house.gov/People/Listing/D/DE-PRIEST,-Oscar-Stanton-(D000263)/

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at Find a Grave