July 29, 2014 5:51 pm

First Mayor of Washington D.C. Was Sent Truckload of Watermelons by Racist Congressman

Americans tend to take a short view of history, so when Congressman Joe Wilson yelled “You lie” at President Barack Obama during Walter Washingtonhis State of the Union speech, many observers reached the conclusion that Obama was the most disrespected black politician in American history. He may very well be the most disrespected president, but it’s good to recall the disrespect that other black lawmakers have faced throughout history.

After Lyndon Johnson appointed Walter Washington mayor of Washington, D.C. on September 6th 1967, the black lawmaker faced overt racism. And like Obama, Washington, a Howard University graduate, had the credentials for the job, but that didn’t do anything to thwart the racism that was directed toward him. One Dixiecrat in Congress even took pleasure in sending Washington watermelons.

From Wikipedia:

Washington led a city that was torn by racial divisions, both locally and congressionally. When he sent his first budget to Congress in late 1967, Democratic Representative John L. McMillan, chair of the House Committee on the District of Columbia, responded by having a truckload of watermelons delivered to Washington’s office.[3]

And The Economist tells the same story, but with more context:

Mr Washington was tested personally and politically almost as soon as he took office. John R. “Johnny Mac” McMillan, a notorious segregationist democrat from South Carolina, chaired the House Committee on the District, which governed a city whose population was about 70% black. A colleague of Mr Washington’s told an interviewer that McMillan “would give Walter a watermelon and say, ‘Here’s a letter from home.’”

The point isn’t that Obama hasn’t been the target of racist attacks, but let’s face it, these sorts of attacks are nothing new.  Both political and non-political African-Americans navigate these treacherous waters day in and day out.


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  • NotWhoYouThinkIam says:

    This may be a surprising comment from a white conservative, but I agree that that the level of disrespect for President Obama is shameful. No, I did not vote for him. But he was elected and holds the office, and as such deserves the respect due that office. He is the leader of the greatest nation in the world. Calling him Barry, or Hussein, or anything else shows a lack of respect for the office and our country. Name calling is the sign of a small mind. Let’s have real conversations about the issues facing our country in a mutually respectful way.

  • queenofmeanest says:

    Thank you.  For the record, this black woman did not vote for Obama for both terms.  Cynthia McKinney got my vote for the first term.  There were no good candidates to vote for the second term.

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