The Republican Party began losing the Black vote around 1936. Since then, Republicans have commissioned reports, hired consultants, and spent huge sums of campaign dollars trying to win back Black voters. The project continues today: This year’s Republican National Convention presented a lineup of speakers far more diverse than the Republican Party itself, making the case for the “Party of Lincoln.” A third of African Americans, after all, self-identify as “conservative.” And yet, no Republican presidential candidate has won more than 15 percent of the Black vote since 1964 (many have received well under 10 percent).
Leah Wright Rigueur is a historian and public policy scholar at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican, a remarkable study of the distinct ideologies woven through the Black conservative and Black Republican traditions. The book traces the history of why Black voters left the GOP and what the Republican Party has tried to do — and what it has refused to do — to win them back.