Blacks in Politics, Part 2
Following Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, throughout the twentieth century, not a single African American was elected senator of a southern state. But in 1990 the first black mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, attempted to shift that trend. Harvey B. Gantt, also notable for being the first black student at Clemson College in 1963 (shown here), embarked on a historic political race to unseat North Carolina's ultra-conservative senator, Jesse Helms. The political showdown that sought to differentiate the racist and exclusive "Old South" from the moral and inclusive "New South" caught the attention of the nation, though Helms defeated Gantt in 1990 and again in 1996. Today, Gantt is often invoked as example of how white voters, regardless of what they say to pollsters, will not vote for a black candidate when in the voting booth.