A Reconstruction Milestone That Went Unnoticed

Tim ScottTim Scott was sworn in today as the newest Senator from the state of South Carolina. That’s not such a big deal until we add in the fact that he is the first African American since Reconstruction to be elected to the Senate from a former Confederate state. I’ve been surprised by how little this fact has been referenced since his election among my “friends” on Facebook and Twitter.

Could it be the fact that Scott is a Republican?

Civil War Memory has moved to Substack! Don’t miss a single post. Subscribe below.

26 comments… add one
  • Mark Dec 22, 2014 @ 13:45

    Thanks for bringing this up. You’re correct this milestone was ignored because Scott is a Republican.
    For those commenters concerned that Scott received only a small portion of the AA vote think about the fact he won the white vote by a large majority. Simply unthinkable 50 years ago.
    And Scott got his start on the national scene by trouncing Strom Thurmond’s son in a primary for the Republican nomination for a U.S. House seat, a race he ran as the Tea Party insurgent.

  • Jack Dec 5, 2014 @ 10:42

    Congrats to Mr Scott. This is fascinating and good for the Republican Party. It would be interesting to see the RATE at which blacks are elected as a percent of actual attempts at office. In other words, if you don’t run then you can’t win.

    • John Betts Dec 6, 2014 @ 7:19

      The more the merrier on both sides of the aisle as far as I’m concerned, cynic though I may be regarding our major parties.

  • George Geder Dec 4, 2014 @ 20:53

    To Pat Young – perhaps 90% of the African American voters thought he was the wrong man for the job.

    To John Betts – that’s 10% of the 100% who voted, not of the the total AA population in SC. What was the the percentage of the white voters who chose him? It could also be low, but combined they might have been enough to beat his opponent. I would tend to agree with you as to his prospects of getting elected a few decades ago.

    To Bummer – are we to assume his friends are Black? His friends could be white. Either way, “wasn’t Black enough” is code for not having due considerations for your people. To the uninitiated; ‘every Brother ain’t a Brother’.

    To Bryan Cheeseboro – your very good friend stated that President Obama’s election was an achievement for African American history. His statement would have been more powerful if he had simply said ‘American history’.

    To John Betts again – ‘your guy’ didn’t have a chance, but none-the-less he was ‘your guy’. that is the point.

    To Eric A. Johnson – you need to separate the two. Representing your race (ironically a political construct) has nothing to do with your party affiliation. It’s just silly rhetoric that any middle schooler can debate. That said, many talking heads and editorialists haven’t evolved in their critical thinking skills beyond junior high school.

    To Pat Young – most Latinos loathe Ted Cruz because he’s against immigration. Nobody finds anything historic when anybody opposes their community’s interest, only the above mentioned talking heads and editorialists.

    To john Betts – you got that right!

    To Joshua Brown – what is the significance of this? Who is Tim Scott?

    To Andrew Raker – reconstruction should be seen as an economic shift. Yes, incumbancy is not that big of a deal.

    To Kathleen Wyer – Let’s hope, no pray, that Tim Scott doesn’t consider for a moment that Clarence Thomas is a role model. Voting to weaken the Voting Rights Act is tantamount to pushing your people to the back of the equality bus.

    To John Betts – If the Voting Rights Act is incompatible with the Constitution – and was designed with pen, blood, sweat, and tears – and it furthered the rights of Americans to be part of the political landscape – which was systematically denied to many of its citizens; why shouldn’t one be cautious of the appointment of Tim Scott? Of course, the Voting Rights Act is incompatible with the constitution of 1788 – ours was a country knee-deep in slavery at the time. And mind you, reconstruction was a failure, not a success.
    Ok, I felt the need to address/respond to all of the comments posted here. There’s so much at stake just on the human landscape in this country. We need to be wary of perceptions and attitudes publicly expressed when it comes to politics. usually there’s more to the picture than meets the eye.

    • John Betts Dec 6, 2014 @ 7:18

      George, if I’m guessing anywhere close to your real age from your photo than like myself you’ve seen how politicians on both sides of the aisle pass crap legislation with awesome-sounding titles. No Child Left Behind. Patriot Act. Affordable Care Act. Etc. Even if the overall thrust of the legislation is fine, there may still be portions of it which are not or at least are constitutional overreaches. There’s nothing wrong per se with the Voting Rights Act of 1964, it was certainly implemented better than the one just after the Civil War. From what I recall, Justice Thomas and a majority of the USSC objected to some of the enforcement aspects which the government failed to demonstrate a need for today and thus were deemed to be unconstitutional. It’s not just about violating the Constitution of 1787, it’s also all the Amendments since then including the post-Civil War ones. I’d have to go back a read the decision again but from what I recall the Court left open to the Feds an avenue on many of these of the enforcement aspects if they could demonstrate a legit need today. That’s fair.

  • Kathleen Wyer Dec 3, 2014 @ 13:55

    Hi Kevin:

    I’m glad to see that a black guy was elected. My personal message to him is:
    Yes brother, show us that the Republican party has turned the corner on equality. What? You’re a conservative? How conservative? Like (Gulp) Clarence Thomas? Like wanting to turn back the clock on voting rights? I hope not. Please don’t follow in his footsteps.
    See what UBER-QUISLING Clarence has done to his fellow African Americans.


    • John Betts Dec 4, 2014 @ 9:25

      “UBER-QUISLING”? Yeah, I don’t think a difference in views on the constitutionality of a law makes one anything close to that. Or are you saying that as an AA someone like Clarence Thomas can only make rulings one particular way due to his race, while ignoring what he sees as his constitutional duty of office? He saw the law as incompatible with the Constitution. That’s his job as an Associate Justice on the USSC to make such determinations, as it is for all the others who serve there. You may disagree with his decision, but remember that Thomas doesn’t hold office just for AA’s but for ALL Americans.

      As for an article from HuffPo, that’s about as credible as something from World Nut Daily or the Freepers on the Right.

  • Andrew Raker Dec 3, 2014 @ 11:06

    I wonder if part of the reason this isn’t getting much attention, besides his political party, is that he doesn’t seem like he’ll mark that big of a change in the political landscape, either at the S.C. or the federal level. Reconstruction could be seen as a major political and racial shift; this is just a racial shift.

    I also think some of the importance of this event might be tempered by him already being an incumbent, since he was appointed to the seat before his election. And while he did face a primary challenge, since he won that election with just under 90% of the vote, it could not have been a serious one.

  • Joshua Brown Dec 3, 2014 @ 10:14

    Great question to ask, Kevin, and thank you for sharing this. I admit that, as someone who perceives the current Republican Party as inept on racial isssues (though not necessarily outright “racist”), I feel confused at times when I see an African American Tea Party member or conservative Republican. But that’s a perception which, like so many others I’ve had, is challenged as I learn more and listen to other perspectives. We seem to assume that certain demographics should fit in a box (not all Evangelicals are conservative; not all gun owners are right-wing NRA members). And when all is said and done, I congratulate Tim Scott and wish him all the best. I certainly will be sharing this news with my friends on Facebook and explain the significance of this.

  • Eric A. Jacobson Dec 3, 2014 @ 8:00

    Yes, I believe it is because Scott is a Republican. Moreover, the idea that because he is a Republican he does not represent those of his race is mind boggling. I mean seriously, whites can be Dems or Repubs, but blacks should only be Dems?? Or other minorities should only be Dems? How patronizing is that?

    • Pat Young Dec 3, 2014 @ 10:02

      Has anyone suggested that?

      • Eric A. Jacobson Dec 3, 2014 @ 14:49

        No one here has, but that wasn’t what I was suggesting. But plenty of talking heads and editorialists don’t just suggest it, they actually say it. I’ve heard one after another say that if a black voter supports a Republican they are voting against their own people. What the heck does that even mean??

        • Pat Young Dec 3, 2014 @ 16:22

          Sometimes I hear white people speak about Latino voters that way as well. The white conservatives say that most Latinos loathe Ted Cruz, for example, because he is “too white” or because he is “a Republican.”

          In fact, other light complexioned Latino Republicans like Lincoln Diaz Balart have gotten good receptions among Latinos. They represent community interests.

          Cruz is not despised because he is a Republican, he is despised because he opposes the Latino community’s interests as that community defines them. Few Latinos would celebrate the election of Ted Cruz to the presidency, even though, to white people, it would be a historic event.

          In the 21st Century, I find few people of color willing to accept that there is anything historic about a non-white who opposes their community’s interests being elected to some office.

          • Eric A. Jacobson Dec 3, 2014 @ 17:40

            Well said. Point taken.

          • John Betts Dec 4, 2014 @ 17:27

            President Ted Cruz? Yeah, no thanks. Yet if he did win, however unlikely that really is, it would still be historic regardless. Not only would he be the first of Hispanic ethnicity but also the first born in another country! His election would still open up the field to other possible candidates. Of course it would be a long, very long, four years…

            • Dave Jordan Dec 8, 2014 @ 16:18

              If he was born in another country he can’t be President according to Article II of the Constitution

              • Eric A. Jacobson Dec 9, 2014 @ 9:29

                Not true. A person born of U. S. citizen parents can be President. Chester Arthur is one example and Barack Obama is another. Even John McCain was not born in the U. S. and certainly could have been President.

                • Eric A. Jacobson Dec 9, 2014 @ 9:33

                  P. S. I mentioned Obama because those who believe he was not born in Hawaii don’t have a leg to stand on anyway. I believe he was born in Hawaii, so it’s a mute point anyway. 🙂

                • Dave Jordan Dec 9, 2014 @ 22:07

                  Chester Arthur was born in Fairfield, VT. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, a US territory. Cruz was born in Canada.

                  • Eric A. Jacobson Dec 10, 2014 @ 16:58

                    I disagree about Arthur, as does one of his biographers, but that is semantics. You’re right about McCain (although the Senate ultimately issued a decision). But a person born of U. S. citizens parents may indeed be President, because that child is automatically a U. S. citizen.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Dec 3, 2014 @ 7:07

    When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, a very good friend of mine who is a conservative Republican called me and said congratulations to me on the achievement as a moment for African-American history (I am Black). He didn’t have any idea if I voted for him or not (I’ve voted for both parties before) but I really appreciated it that he was able to see the moment for what it was even if he disagreed with President Obama politically.

    • John Betts Dec 3, 2014 @ 9:55

      I didn’t vote for the man either in ’08 or ’12 because of his politics, but I too was pleased to see that “color barrier” broken and history made. Quite appropriate that he used the Lincoln Bible to be sworn in on too.

      I probably should mention that in ’12 at least I didn’t vote Republican either so “my guy” didn’t have a chance in Hades of making it anyways, but that’s beside the point I guess. Truth be told I’ve grown weary of both parties over the years, extremists seem to run them both IMHO.

  • bummer Dec 2, 2014 @ 19:06

    Tim was asked what his friends felt about his conservative views and he responded that they felt that he” wasn’t black enough.”


  • Pat Young Dec 2, 2014 @ 14:55

    A milestone, although hardly one of Reconstruction.

    Perhaps the fact that only 10% of black voters cast their ballot for him is more telling than his party affiliation in the response to his election. It was celebrated by conservatives and overwhelmingly opposed by African Americans in SC.

    • John Betts Dec 3, 2014 @ 9:51

      The fact that perhaps only 10% of AA in South Carolina voted for Scott doesn’t detract from the historical nature of this. Actually though, it should probably be said “of those voters who bothered to show up at the polls or submit an absentee ballot”. There’s something that would completely boggle the minds of AA’s and poor white males and women in general prior to the early 20th century who agitated a long time to exercise this right, but I digress. The fact remains that Scott is the first AA freely elected to the Senate since Reconstruction from the South and I think the first from South Carolina ever. If he was elected largely on votes of whites and other non-AA’s, that may say something about racial divide in politics but also just how far we’ve come that they would support him. Turn back the clock a few decades and there’s no way in Hades someone like Scott would have elected by Southern white voters especially, regardless of his political views.

  • Daniel Sauerwein Dec 2, 2014 @ 13:51


    A wonderful post and your ending question hits on an important issue. I do believe that it is being overlooked because of Scott’s party affiliation, which is sad because of the significance of the event, regardless of party allegiance.

Leave a Reply to Andrew RakerCancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *