While researching data for another answer of mine, I came across Factcheck.org’s breakdown of the Black presidential vote from 1936. Unfortunately, this data only goes back until the first re-election of FDR, but it shows a clear Black preference for the Democratic Party across its entire timescale.

Most people – including me – assume that in the first couple of elections after the Civil War Black Americans, or rather: freed slaves, voted overwhelmingly Republican. Furthermore, it is well-known that most Blacks lived in southern states where extensive voter suppression and disenfranchisement took place (mostly exercised by the Solid South’s dominant Democratic Party). Obviously, there must have been a flip somewhere in-between.

What did the Black American (presidential) vote look like prior to 1936? How does it break down by state and what was the turnout/what fraction of the eligible Black population was registered?

  • er, really this is a massively broad question, and it's going to vary by state and by year. And to answer, "what did the Black vote look like..." -- you have to remember basically every state passed legislation to disenfranchise Black voters but within the framework of the 15th amendment. On top of that was actively violent dissuasion from voting (KKK etc). See wiki Disenfranchisement after the Reconstruction era to get started. But I really think this question should be narrowed down a bit.
    – BurnsBA
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 14:07
  • 2
    Did anyone actually try to collect data on how people voted in those days?
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


The 1936 election was the precise turning point with regard to Presidential elections. The 1932 United States presidential election was "the last time a Republican presidential candidate won a majority of black and African-American votes." A Slate article mentions that FDR got "just 23 percent of the black vote" in 1932.

This was the culmination of a transition that began in the late 1920s. Here is an article on black representation in Congress which explains:

The realignment of black voters from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party that began in the late 1920s proliferated during [the New Deal] era. This process involved a “push and pull”: the refusal by Republicans to pursue civil rights alienated many black voters, while efforts—shallow though they were—by northern Democrats to open opportunities for African Americans gave black voters reasons to switch parties.

  • 2
    Added another source (Slate) which still isn't great, will try to keep digging.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 12:47
  • I suspect the sources themselves might not exist, but it would be good to add that to the answer if that's the case.
    – gktscrk
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 23:19

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