Meet the little-known African-American journalist who ran for president in 1904. For one reason or the other, the name George Edwin Taylor does not come to the minds of many when highlighting the many African Americans who broke boundaries and made history across several fields and industries.
In politics, Shirley Chisholm is regarded and celebrated as the first African American to run for the presidency in 1972 in the USA, however, 68 years earlier, George Edwin Taylor made the first attempt.
In 1904, George Edwin Taylor ran for the office of president of the United States of America against Theodore Roosevelt as the candidate for the National Negro Liberty Party.
Unfortunately, he ran into several difficulties with the government and social systems that gave him a hard time to even campaign or solicit for votes. Many described his run as unrealistic and over-ambitious, nevertheless, Mr Taylor and his party established the fact that African Americans were more than ready to attain equal recognition in what had become their homeland.
The National Negro Liberty Party established that if given the opportunity to serve in America, their priorities included government ownership and control of all public carriers to ensure equal accommodations for all citizens, federal protection of the rights of all citizens, anti-lynching laws, additional black regiments in the U.S. Army, federal pensions for all former slaves, as well as, home rule the District of Columbia. These were also the grounds of George Taylor’s campaign.
Unfortunately, George Taylor did not get the proper support from his party which had promised to assign 300 men to support his campaign and candidacy because they were unable to recruit willing and confident men. Newspapers and media houses which were white-owned refused to support and report about his running.
At the time George Taylor was running for the presidency, African-American men had been given the right to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment of 1870, but that did not have any impact on voter turn out. For one, only the Blacks that found themselves in the upper class could have the confidence to vote or partake in politics.
Secondly, the State Law gave Taylor and his party a hard time as it kept the party from listing candidates officially on election ballots. Taylor’s name was not added to any state ballot. The votes he received were not recorded in state records and according to the NPR, he recorded about 2,000 votes.
Born on August 4, 1857, George Edwin Taylor was not enslaved, thanks to the fact that his mother, Amanda Hines, was a free woman while his father, Nathan Taylor, was an enslaved African American whom much is not known about.
Amanda and George moved to Alton, Illinois where he became an orphan at an early age after losing his mother to Tuberculosis. George fended for himself until he managed to move to Wisconson in 1865 by a paddleboat. He was taken in by a politically active family who gave him a sound education and upbringing.
From 1877 to 1879, George attended Wayland University to study journalism. He returned home to work for the La Crosse Free Press, La Crosse Evening Star and became a columnist for several newspapers.
Through his work as a writer, Taylor gained interest in politics and joined the Republicans to re-elect the pro-labour mayor, Frank “White Beaver” Powell, in 1886. He later became a senior member of Wisconsin’s statewide Union Labor Party that made his newspaper, the Wisconsin Labor Advocate, the party’s newspaper.
He later became a Democrat after moving to Oskaloosa in 1891 and was with them until joining the National Liberty Party in 1904 created exclusively for and by blacks. It was there that he was asked to represent the party and run for the presidency after the party’s candidates were jailed.
After losing the elections, George Taylor remained in Iowa until 1910 when he moved to Jacksonville. He married a schoolteacher Marion Tillinghast and went back to journalism while giving political addresses when called upon until he died in Jacksonville on December 23, 1925.