by Louis ‘Hop’ Kendrick, For New Pittsburgh Courier
My first time I went to the election polls was 1949. Too young to vote, but it provided me with the opportunity to observe and learn. At that period of time we were negroes and colored and were a bloc of voters the Democratic Party could count on. At every poll there was a picture of President Franklin Roosevelt, and the colored voters referred to him as the Messiah.
Prior to 1932, colored voters were captivated by the Republican Party because President Abe Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but the country was in the throes of a depression. The owner of the Pittsburgh Courier coined the phrase, “The time had arrived that colored persons should turn Abe Lincoln’s picture to the wall and vote Democratic.”
This was the beginning of a marriage between colored voters and the Democratic Party in Allegheny County, particularly in Pittsburgh. A minister always uses the phrase during marriage, “until death do us part,” and the colored voters have remained married to the party for the last 85 years on a local level. Political death is knocking at our doors and the colored spokesperson keeps telling us to ignore it. It took the colored voters from 1934 to 1996 (62 years) to ignore these colored spokespersons and install a Republican majority in Allegheny County. I could list a number of cities across this country that suffer from this same problem across this country, but my main concern is PITTSBURGH. A glaring example of ineffective colored leadership is the city of Philadelphia where the population is 46 percent Black and only 2 percent of the businesses are owned by Blacks.
It took from 1932 until the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the late 1960s that persons now owned by the Democratic bosses stepped up and positive changes started to occur. We began to march, picket, boycott, and file lawsuits. Across America we began to fill the courts with legal actions headed up by the GREAT ONE, Attorney Thurgood Marshall, who became the first Black to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is regretful that nothing lasts forever. Do you recall the period of time that there were two stadiums being built in Pittsburgh at the same time? William “Bill” Robinson (then Pa. Rep. Bill Robinson) put together a report card that would grade the Democratic Party on the percentages of contracts awarded to Black contractors. The lack of Blacks who were awarded contracts was so dismal that Rep. Robinson awarded the Democratic Party a red “E.” The Democratic Party was livid and summoned the colored spokespersons with one order: “Bill Robinson must go,” and the unanimous response was, “Yes, Boss Man.”
Developers and contractors across this city are flourishing and you can count the Blacks on one hand and the colored spokespersons are silent. The City of Pittsburgh just recently hired 78 police officers and only three were Black and the colored spokespersons once again were absolutely silent. White Democrats are turning their backs on the party, they are now Independents or Progressives, but many of them are different than the colored spokesperson. They, more and more, have begun to reject that saying…”The party comes before the people.”
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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