Since his loss of the presidential election, Donald Trump has blamed cities with large black populations, such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Atlanta. Specifically, Trump connected these cities with Corruption, claiming for example that “Detroit and Philadelphia are two of the most corrupt political places in our country – easily.” It is widely believed that these cities are not responsible for Trump’s electoral loss. Trump’s strategy of linking black political participation to corruption is just that – a strategy made more effective by the fact that it has a history deeply rooted in American politics.
The era of reconstruction, immediately after the Civil War, was a brief decade in which black South Americans could vote. Southern whites have spoken out against black political participation on the grounds that black elected officials are engaging in endemic political corruption. In his masterful 1935 book, Black Reconstruction, WEB Du Bois completely debunked this view, revealing that it was just a cynical political tactic to retain white political power in the South. As Du Bois writes, “the center of the corruption charge was in fact that poor men ruled and taxed rich men.” And in describing the strategy of using bogus corruption charges to justify denying their rights as black citizens, Du Bois states:
The south, finally, with almost complete unity, named the negro as the main cause of southern corruption. They said over and over again this accusation, until it turned into a story: that the cause of dishonesty during reconstruction was the fact that 4 million disenfranchised black workers, after 250 years of exploitation, had received the legal right to have a voice in their own government, in the kind of goods they would manufacture and the kind of work they would do, and in the distribution of the wealth they created.
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