Insight News

Friday
Jul 25th

Obama in 07 compares to Carl B. Stokes in 67

E-mail Print PDF

B. Kenneth McGee

Louisburg, NC (BlackNews.com) - Forty years ago in 1967, Carl B. Stokes was elected the first Black Mayor of a major American City. I was the operations manager of that campaign along with my partner, Geraldine Williams. In 1965, Stokes had run and almost won in a city that was 70% white and 30% Black. In 1965 he had come so close to winning that there was a recount. His victory in '67 was hailed as one the greatest moments in the civil rights struggle and also a triumph of the brotherhood of man. Louisburg, NC (BlackNews.com) - Forty years ago in 1967, Carl B. Stokes was elected the first Black Mayor of a major American City. I was the operations manager of that campaign along with my partner, Geraldine Williams. In 1965, Stokes had run and almost won in a city that was 70% white and 30% Black. In 1965 he had come so close to winning that there was a recount. His victory in '67 was hailed as one the greatest moments in the civil rights struggle and also a triumph of the brotherhood of man. Partially, yes – partially, no. In the 1965 campaign there were practically no white votes for Stokes. In '67 there was only 15%. Not exactly a triumph for the brotherhood of man. In fact, in 1965 I was his "white" aide and traveling companion to show not only the white community, but also just as importantly the Black community, that he had white support. Many in the Black community said "it's not time – he's not ready – will he win and bring disgrace to the community – will he be killed by the racists?" Do these same sentiments sound familiar in 2007?

Also, in 1965 Stokes was up against a potent political machine, one that regularly "bought off" members of the Black community. There were city councilman and Black pastors all of whom had ties to the white establishment. Sound familiar in 2007?

In both 1965 and 1967 it was the Black community that turned out in large numbers and then voted 97% for Stokes. He still lost in 1965 because the councilman and pastors disaffected some of the Black vote, but it was so close that in 1967 and with the blessing of the establishment he won – but by a very small margin. Again, it was the Black turnout and overwhelming percentage of vote in his favor that carried the day.

How does the Barack Obama campaign of 2007 differ from those two campaigns of long ago? He is running against the establishment (the Clinton machine) and there are Black "leaders" that are staying with the establishment. Polls are showing that many in the Black community are saying the same things that they said in 1965 – "it's not time – he's not ready – he will be killed if he is elected." Are these sentiments carried down through time going to defeat Obama in 2007?

Here is the reason that the campaigns are not alike. The white support for Obama is huge compared to the white support for Stokes forty years ago. Who would have dreamed then that a Black man running for the President of the United States could garner such white support, attract such crowds and be so close to winning? When I see campaign crowds, I see a sea of white faces cheering him and I see a much different time than that of 1965 and 1967.

Following is an example from the 1965 campaign. It shows how extraordinary the idea of a Black mayor (there are now hundreds) was to the Black community at that time.

The last weekend before the election we had a parade through the streets of the East Side of Cleveland. It wasn't much of a parade, as parades go; a handful of cars with balloons and banners on the them, horns honking, people waving, and Carl and is wife sitting on the back of the last car. I was in the front seat. As the caravan pulled past the corner, there was a small boy about ten or eleven standing in the middle of a group of children. The cars had been going past honking with signs "Stokes for Mayor" on the sides.

As the car with Stokes sitting on the back came to the corner the boy stood straight up, his eyes widened at the sight of Carl and he cried out, "HE'S COLORED." He started to clap his hands and jump up and down. "HE'S COLORED, HE'S COLORED," he cried out to no one in particular. "HE'S COLORED, HE'S COLORED," and he started to skip down the st
 

Recent Comments

Powered by Disqus



Facebook Twitter RSS Image Map

Latest show

  • July 22, 2014
    "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art " at Walker Art Center... Valerie Cassel Oliver, curator; Fionn Meade, Walker coordinating curator; artist Jamal Cyrus and artist Maren Hassenger.

Business & Community Service Network