With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Bernie Sanders Reached Out to Black Voters. Why Didn’t It Work?

Two years ago, Bernie Sanders journeyed south to trace the history of a past revolution, and to imagine a new one.

On April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., thousands of people gathered on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, for a rally and a march. Sanders was one of the speakers. He took the stage and gripped the podium with one hand, the microphone with the other. “Dr. King was not just a great civil-rights leader,” Sanders, who had not officially announced that he would run for president again, said. “He was a nonviolent revolutionary!” The crowd broke into applause as he paused for a moment. “He was a man who wanted to transform our country morally, economically, and racially.” It wasn’t enough to simply remember King, Sanders explained: People needed to follow in his footsteps.

Later that day he traveled farther south, to Jackson, Mississippi, where, in June 1963, the famous civil-right activist Medgar Evers—who led economic boycotts and voter-registration drives in the state—was murdered in his driveway by a white supremacist after an NAACP meeting. The city’s mayor is now Chokwe Antar Lumumba, a 36-year-old who wants to make Jackson the most “radical city on the planet.” Onstage at the Thalia Mara Concert Hall, the pair had an hour-long conversation about economic exploitation—one of the three evils King railed against—and economic justice.

Each stop on Sanders’s journey through the South doubled as early outreach to a demographic he would desperately need if and when he sought the presidency again.

Sanders’s agenda—dismantling broken systems and replacing them with ones that benefit working-class people, regardless of race—is intimately bound up with the nation’s civil-rights legacy. But, some argue, Sanders has struggled to clearly articulate that connection in a way that earns black voters’ support.

Read entire article at The Atlantic