Almost a century before Barack Obama made history as the first African American to become president of the United States in 2008, a black man by the name of George Edwin Taylor set his eyes on the White House in 1904.
Born in 1857 as the son of a free woman and an African American slave, Taylor worked as a professional journalist before getting involved in politics. However, he discovered that neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party represented the interests of people of color.
In 1904, an all-black independent party called The National Liberty Party nominated Taylor to run for president on a third-party ticket. Taylor’s candidacy was largely ridiculed as a joke and his name was left off the ballot in most states. Nevertheless, Theodore Roosevelt was re-elected as president. Still, Taylor’s run symbolized the growth of political power that black Americans acquired following the Reconstruction Era.
According to Jacksonville.com, a few days after the election, Taylor explained in a newspaper interview why he decided to launch a presidential campaign.
“Yes, I know most white folks take me as a joke … but I want to tell you the colored man is beginning to see a lot of things that the white folks do not give him credit for seeing. He’s beginning to see that he has got to take care of his own interests, and what’s more, that he has the power to do it,” he told the paper.
Eight years later, Taylor moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in late 1912 and worked as the manager of the Promotion Publishing Co., which printed a newspaper aimed at the city’s black residents. Records also show that he worked as the editor of the “colored section” of the Florida Times-Union and later for the Florida Sentinel, a progressive newspaper. He died in 1925. Forty-seven years later, congresswoman Shirley Chisholm launched a presidential campaign under the Democratic ticket, becoming the first African American candidate for a major party.
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on February 1, 2019