Monday, April 12, 2010

Day One: National Republican African American Caucus Has It’s Say!: An 18 Day Political Revival

National Republican African American Caucus [NRAAC] Blog

April 12, 2010

NRAAC's National Chair
Dr. Jean Howard-Hill

National Republican African American Caucus [NRAAC] Blog

The National Republican African American Caucus Has It's Say!: An 18 Day GOP Political Revival

Day 1: Why the National Republican African American Caucus was created, its vision and mandates, and why it has been kept a quiet political secret by the GOP.

[Because the history of the National Republican African American Caucus [NRAAC] has its history in its leader, who also is its founder, the discussion begins with her.]

As an infant of the Civil Rights Movement, in 1979, I made a rather interestingly naïve entrance into the GOP, as the first African American candidate to run in Hamilton County, as a Republican for the office of State Representative.

My campaign was well received by the Republican Party, and became the center of media attention. Unfortunately because of the racial climate at that time, Blacks were untrusting of the Republican Party. President Ronald Reagan had refused an invitation to the NAACP's National Convention, which was seen by many Blacks as a snub. His "trickle down" economic plan had not yet "trickled down" to those who needed economic relief the most, i.e. the black community. This struck panic in the minds of those who were already questioning if Republicans could understand the racial and economic plight of the black community.

Added to this, locally two Black women had been shot on Martin Luther King Boulevard by the Ku Klux Klan, who had come into the black community with its own brand of racial hatred and terrorism. This was the straw that broke the political camel's back for any embrace of a Republican candidate - even one who was African American and well known within the community. To even think of aligning with the Republican Party was politically taboo, especially for someone who had experienced a cross burning. [My family's birthright was Georgia. But because a cross was burned in front of our house and the KKK sought my father's life, we fled to Alabama where I was born. After being there for a few years, they found us, and around the age of two, my family again fled to Tennessee.]

Also, having made the shift from the Democratic Party, this made any efforts to embrace a black Republican candidate highly suspect to those who did not fully understand and have an appreciation for why anyone of their race would give up the donkey for the white elephant.

I saw it as a sign of true freedom, where a descendant of slaves could align again with the party of Lincoln and embrace some of the Republican values. I also sought to bring about full participation in both political parties, so that blacks could be equally represented politically on all levels.

The core values of the party, especially economy empowerment was to me the answer to racial disparity. If you could own the store, then you didn't have to worry about if you could shop there! I guess I never forgot Mama drawing my foot on cardboard paper and taking it to shoe stores just in case the clerk would not allow us to try on shoes. Back then, in some stores, Blacks were not allowed to put their feet in shoes like other white customers to try them on before purchasing them.

Looking back, I was young, and perhaps even naïve. Nevertheless, despite the political turmoil of those times, call it courage or stupidity, I dared to wear the GOP label, challenged the incumbent to debates, preached the message to blacks not to put all of their political eggs in one basket, and for that faced ridicule from even my own race for aligning with the Republican Party. Very quickly, I wore the scarlet letter and found myself an outsider to my own community!

There were lots of meetings with me, even one with the local Democratic chair to try to get me to stay with the Democratic Party. I had a bright and promising future as a Democrat and to stay would have meant, a sure political future with the sky being the limits. But something inside of me kept saying, "You cannot stay. You have been called to make a difference. You have to go to the other side to make a difference."

I received endorsement from the Chattanooga News Free Press, and 35% of the votes from the 29th district. I did not win, but I ran a good race that opened the way for other African American women to run for elected office at the state level. Additionally, it afforded the Republican Party the unique opportunity to show itself as a party of inclusion of minorities by backing a black candidate.

My campaign also received national attention as President Ronald Reagan sent a letter of personal endorsement, and national and state political figures such as former Governor of Texas John Connaly, former Governor Lamar Alexander, his wife Honey Alexander, and former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice George Brown, made the campaign stump in support of my candidacy.

After marrying New York Attorney Bobby Lee Hill and becoming Jean Howard-Hill, in 1986, I began the National Black Republican Women's organization with my husband heading the National Black Republican Men for Change. Unexpectedly in 1991, at the age of 38, he died from an aneurysm, leaving behind a three year old daughter, LaShunda.

After his death, with his last public appearance being at the Hamilton County Republican Convention the night he became ill, I remained active in Republican politics on a national level. But seeing that the Republican Party even on a national level was not willing to reach out to African Americans in masses and only sought to embrace a selected few, there was no other choice than to take the national organization, regroup as a non-partisan national women's organization, called the National Impact Coalition of Politically Active Women. The men's organization was headed by Joe Willis of Connecticut, which fell by the wayside. No fault of his. Not willing to give up on the GOP and the notion of inclusion, in 1999, all three organizations were merged into the National Republican African-American Caucus with state and county chapters throughout the United States.

Believing then that the GOP was more accepting of African Americans, I returned to the local Hamilton County Republican Party in 2000 to find that the party had changed even more drastically to the point where it now had become mean spirited and politically territorial.

Despite the success in attempting to bring other minorities into the party numbering 1,276 locally, this was met with less than a welcoming embrace by both the local chair and third district congressman. The local party leadership demanded that we acquire legal approval before they would recognize the NRAAC as a Republican organization, something which was not required of any other Republican organization or heard of within the GOP. Nevertheless, we spent time and money venturing to Washington, D.C. to the RNC and even with the help of former Congressman Van Hilliary, those attempts to get recognition for the group were of no avail. As national chair, I was investigated, our members humiliated when attending GOP functions, blocked, blackballed and ignored. Finally, we silently retreated, but remained active and determined to continue to try to make a difference in the Republican Party, and to tear down territorial and any remaining racial barriers that prevented African Americans from being active in the Republican Party.

The issue of racial exclusion begins and will have to end with those at the top. However, there are many Republicans at the grassroots level and within the party, who are warm, inviting and accepting without biases and territoriality. This alone is encouraging, and provides evidence that not everyone feels this way.

It is unfortunate that the unique opportunity to show itself as a party of inclusion of minorities, afforded to the Republican Party has become tarnished by some in appointed and elected leadership within the Hamilton County, the Tennessee GOP and national RNC levels. Yet we have continued and have hope one day, that the small percentage of those at the elected and appointed leadership helm of the Republican Party, who have not been so welcoming, will come to this same point as Democrats have, in allowing the involvement and participation of all people.

As an organization of spirit filled people of faith, through the National Republican African American Caucus, our vision is to see a political landscape where party affiliation no longer divides, but provides the opportunity for meaningful and constructive debates and discussions that lead to policies and laws being enacted in the best interest of all people regardless of race. It is our hope that the Republican Party will return to truly being the party of Lincoln, and will embrace those of color, without relegating them to tokenism within the party in order to wear the GOP label.

Fully convinced that partisan politics which exclude anyone because of race or because those in power feel threatened is not a part of the democratic process, the NRAAC will not stop short of full inclusion of African Americans within the Republican Party!

To reach the NRAAC national chair:

Jean Howard-Hill
423-702-5622 NRAAC office

[Dr. Jean Howard-Hill is the author of Black Eyes Shut, White Lips Sealed. She has serves as the national chair for the National Black Republican Women with her late husband, Attorney Bobby Lee Hill serving as the head of the Black Republican Men for Change from 1987 to his death in 1991. After his death up until 1993, she remained head of the organization, and in 1999 combined the two groups to form the National Republican African American Caucus.

She has taught full time and as an adjunct, American Government, State and Local Government, and International Politics and Culture of Nonwestern Countries at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and was voted 2006 Outstanding Professor of the year. Additionally, from 1976 to 1979, she designed and directed the "Democracy In Action" Program, which was a civics program taught in the local school systems. Howard-Hill also is a local political commentator and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Law. She also is ordained clergy and heads The Healing Place Ministries International, overseeing 47 ministries throughout Africa.

She also is a TN third district congressional candidate. If elected, she would be the first African American Republican and female to be elected from the third district. Her campaign website can be found at: and;;;;; JHHCongress.]

The National Republican African-American Caucus is an organization that is comprised of Spirit filled people of faith within the African American community, that works in conjunction with local, state and national party efforts to embrace, and offer African-American Republicans opportunities for inclusion and involvement in the Republican Party, and builds bridges between the African-American community and the Republican Party. In doing so, it seeks to carry out the philosophy and mission set before President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas to build a stronger and more inclusive Republican Party, where those guiding principles are more important than politics.

More information on the NRAACcan be found at:; [NRAAC] National Republican African American Caucus Social Issue Network (members only); [NRAAC Blog]; [NRAAC Youth on the Horizons Blog]; [NRAAC New Generation-New Direction Blog]; and [NRAAC National Chair's Blog]. Each State Caucus can be accessed by state. See related links at Also can be found on the RNC group page at

Rev. Dr. Jean Howard-Hill,

NRAAC National Chair

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