Nixon's Piano: Presidents and Racial Politics from Washington to Clinton
Kenneth O'Reilly, whose Racial Matters blew the lid off the FBI's investigation and harassment of black leaders, now scrutinizes each president's record on race. Nixon's Piano reveals that instead of being the agents of progress in racial relations, American presidents have a long and consistent history of supporting slavery, obstructing civil rights, and deliberately fanning racism. With the exceptions of Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson, argues O'Reilly, every president has sacrificed black rights for white votes. Perhaps most alarming, O'Reilly offers substantial evidence of presidents whose repressive political policies violated their own moral code. George Washington corresponded with Lafayette about the evils of slavery and mused about establishing a plantation for freed blacks, but President Washington kept his slaves and refused to lend the weight of his office to the abolitionist movement. Jefferson, certain and eloquent on the subject of equality in the Declaration of Independence, found no voice as president to oppose slavery. Lincoln, the first president to allow blacks at White House social functions and the eventual hero of the abolitionist movement, opposed black efforts to vote, sit on juries, hold office, or marry whites. Like many other presidents, Lincoln supported the colonization movement as the simplest solution to the nation's racial strife. FDR, the father of twentieth century social reform, but fearful of offending white voters, refused to support an anti-lynching law, banned black reporters from press conferences, and undermined his own Fair Employment Practice Committee. More recent presidents, according to O'Reilly, have pursued a racial politics rangingfrom the timid to the devious. With substantial evidence and insightful analysis of both official policy and private conduct, O'Reilly illustrates that the principle of white over black has been the fundamental organizing principle of American politics from the beginning of our nation's history to today.
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