Robert Greene II spoke to students over Zoom on Friday, October 23, in Andover’s third installment of the Presidential Election Speaker Series. Greene, an Assistant Professor of History at Claflin University, has researched and written about African American and Southern history for various websites and magazines.
Greene addressed the increasing impact of Black voters in American politics, especially for the Democratic Party, specifically pointing to several elections where Black voters were crucial in the outcome.
In his talk, Greene said, “Everyone recognized in the South there was potential for a sleeping giant in politics, and that, of course, was Black Southerners.”
Using maps from several historical elections, Greene showed how Democratic presidents such as Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson won the White House by appealing to Black Americans in the Deep South.
“[Johnson] felt it was time for the South to move on from the politics of racism and embrace the politics of shared prosperity, and he believed that with a strong Black vote in the South, this could actually be achieved,” said Greene.
Greene continued, “[It was Johnson’s dream] to have a wing of the party that was defined by progress, by a Southern-style populism that could bring together Whites and Blacks across the color line and to help them embrace their shared class and economic interest.”
According to Greene, the importance of Black voter turnout has carried into recent elections as well.
“The Black vote is so important precisely because when it was galvanized, Obama won. When it went down or decreased in 2016 in places like Wisconsin and Michigan, Hillary Clinton lost,” said Greene.
Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information, and Library Services, expressed how Greene’s work is insightful from both a historical and contemporary standpoint.
“Dr. Greene has done some really compelling research with regard to the Democratic party and African American voters. I think his work is relevant because of how critical that vote is to American politics historically, and particularly in this election,” wrote Barker in an email to The Phillipian.
Elizabeth Reppas ’23 attended the webinar in hopes of gaining more perspective on voter demographics in the U.S. Reppas looks forward to drawing on what she learned from Greene’s presentation as the presidential election approaches.
In an email to The Phillipian, Reppas wrote, “I found it quite interesting how impactful, important, and decisive the Black vote is in terms of winning an election… Although I can’t vote, I [will] keep in mind what [topics] Dr. Greene spoke about, and how that currently affects America.”
Some Andover students will be able to vote in the upcoming election. According to Greene, however, there is still work to be done for those who cannot vote. Greene encouraged all students to begin conversations on and recognize the importance of voting.
Greene said, “Young people, students, have a pivotal role to play, not just in terms of voting, but in terms of galvanizing voters, in terms of educating voters, and just getting these conversations about voting and the importance of voting started amongst not only their peers, but also their brothers and sisters, their parents, folks in the community, and so forth.”