Anti-slavery activists established the DC Republican Party on June 19, 1855. This was before all but a few state GOP organizations came into existence. Known at first as the “Republican Association of Washington,” it denounced Democrats for extending slavery to the territories. Chairing the group was abolitionist newspaper editor Lewis Clephane.
The DCGOP played an integral part in formation of the Republican Party nationwide, as its bylaws explained: “In order to secure concert of action, and more direct interchange of intelligence and general cooperation throughout the country, we invite the formation of similar associations in every State, County, City or Village, in the Union.” This appeal, published around the country in newspapers and pamphlets, contributed mightily to just that!
In January 1856, the Association published, on behalf of five state chairmen, the call for convention where the GOP formed a national organization. It also sent several delegates to the Republican National Convention that year. Abraham Lincoln elected to the presidency, the Association reconstructed itself as the Republican Party of the District of Columbia.
Civil rights hero Frederick Douglass, mayor Alexander ‘Boss’ Shepherd, Medal of Honor recipient Christian Fleetwood were among the luminaries serving on the DCGOP’s central committee in its early years. Appreciating the District’s diversity as well as economic and cultural assets, the DCGOP builds on this legacy today to promote opportunity and security and liberty for all our residents. As ever, Republicans are the Party of Emancipation.
Michael Zak, who wrote this article, is author of Back to Basics the Republican Party, a civil rights history of the GOP. He blogs at www.grandoldpartisan.com about Republican heroes and heroics. Here he is at the grave of Lewis Clephane, founder of the DCGOP.