By Rand Paul
On June 30, 1870, 10,000 African-Americans gathered in Court Square in Louisville, where slaves had historically been sold and separated from their families.
They came to celebrate the passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited using race as a disqualification for voting.
George C. Wright recounted the event at Court Square in his book, Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky, 1865-1930. According to Wright, those gathered sang: “Come all ye Republicans, faithful and true, here is a work for you/The Democrat Party its race has run, to give a way for an era that freedom has won.” It was the Republican Party that ushered in abolition, then emancipation and then voting rights. And blacks — virtually all blacks — became Republicans.
Democrats in Louisville, led by Courier-Journal editor Henry Watterson, were implacably opposed to blacks voting. Watterson wrote in the Courier-Journal that his opposition was "founded upon a conviction that their habits of life and general condition disqualify them for the judicious exercise of suffrage."
Wright’s book also tells of Democrat-turned-Republican John M. Palmer, an abolitionist and Civil War general who commanded the federal forces in Kentucky.
President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but it had only applied to the occupied South. Slavery still existed in Kentucky. On July 4, 1865, an estimated 20,000 blacks gathered in Louisville hoping that Palmer would declare them free.
Palmer stood before the crowd and said: "My countrymen, you are free, and while I command, the military forces of the United States will defend your right to freedom."
The crowd erupted in cheers. (Palmer was soon met with an indictment by a Louisville grand jury for aiding fugitive slaves.)
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Democratic-controlled legislature would vote against the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.
Another Republican, William Warley, was an influential black civil-rights activist from Louisville. Born in 1884, Warley was editor of the Louisville News and president of the Louisville chapter of the NAACP…
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Rand Paul: GOP rooted in push for racial progress | Op-Ed | Kentucky.com