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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, July 28, 1976. Interview G-0056-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Intersection of race and politics with party affiliation

Simkins explains her reason for being a member of the Republican Party in South Carolina up until the late 1940s. By 1952, she had become a Democratic Party member instead. Simkins emphasizes the role of Truman's civil rights report in the shifting of political loyalties that characterized the era. Overall, her comments here highlight the intersections of race and politics and their relationship to party affiliation during these years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, July 28, 1976. Interview G-0056-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you stay in the Republican party for so long?
MODJESKA SIMKINS:
Well, for the simple reason that I always believed that we ought to have a two-party state. And then too, there was a time that the only way you could show any evidence of party interest—that is that Negroes could—was in the so-called Republican party. I did not belong to what was called the Joe Tolbert faction of the party. Old Joe Tolbert, they called him "tieless Joe;" he never wore a tie and his shoes were never laced up that I remember. I never was connected with the Joe Tolbert group. I was connected with the J. Bates Gerald group of the Republican party; it was sometimes spoken of as the Gerald Massering group. And I hoped all through that time that eventually we would have another political entity, that is some way to strike back at what I hated in the South Carolina Democratic party. And so after the rise of the Progressive Democratic party and the effect it had on making certain inroads into the regular Democratic party, then and then after 1948… In 1948 when the Civil Rights Report was brought out, the Truman Report, certain people who were in the Democratic party and who would not have dared to be called Republicans ran out of the party like a bunch of drowning rats, or rats scared to drown, and came over into the Dixicrat party, which fed again into the South Carolina Republican party. They were not people that were Republicans because they wanted to be Republicans or because they admired the actions of Lincoln or anything like that. They just didn't, could not tolerate the idea of the Civil Rights Report and Truman's actions in that connection. So then when in 1952, that is when Adlai Stevenson was running and when the platform of the… I mean, I left the party at a meeting where I saw a lot of these people that had come in and had never been in the movement like I was with some other young white Republicans, particularly young men who were anxious, as I was, to see a real sort of party-building, not on emotions but just on actual strategy, because we thought there should be eventually a checks and balances process in the political system, you see. So the last meeting that I attended was in Jefferson Hotel here in Columbia. The hotel is no more; it's where Jefferson Square is now. And I saw all of these tramps coming out and calling themselves Republicans and looking funny at me, and I could see that they… Well, they looked like they had crawled out of some cracks from somewhere. I didn't know where they had come from. But anyway, I knew from some things they were saying in there that I wasn't going to tolerate that situation. So the last Republican meeting that I attended was in Jefferson Hotel. And when they talked some things I didn't like to hear I gave them a little piece of my mind and walked out and slammed the French door. And that's the last I've been in the Republican meetings. And so in 1952 I voted the Democratic ticket in the Stevenson campaign. I remember we did not have the vote in the Democratic party all that time before, so the only action we could show was every four years to vote in the general election on the Republican ticket, because the primaries were tantamount to election. So the general election didn't mean anything then like it does now. It did in North Carolina, but not in South Carolina. We were definitely a one party state. So the only way you could say where you took a part in politics was every four years to vote in the general election. And then you voted the Republican ticket; that was all you could vote. And my father always said that whatever you could do politically, whenever you had a chance to do anything do that. He always voted; he voted in every general election. And of course when I got my registration ticket I tried to do the same thing. Now we did have in the city what they called a city general election, but it was just a farce because, after all, these Democrats got it in the primary, you know.