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7 Firsts in US Presidential Election History

August 20, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

The first Black presidential party nominee ran 104 years before the first Black president.

U.S. presidential history is filled with “firsts.” First president? George Washington. First president to die in office? William Henry Harrison. First president to serve two non-consecutive terms? That would be Grover Cleveland, who won the 1884 election, lost the 1888 election, then won again in 1892. Cleveland is both the 22nd and the 24th president and the only commander-in-chief to hold this dubious distinction.

But there are other “firsts” in presidential election history that mark the changing of the nation. Not all of them involve the major parties of their day. For a long time, third parties were the only way for anyone who wasn’t a white man to launch a bid for the White House. Below are seven key examples of “firsts” in presidential (and vice presidential) history.

WATCH: Ultimate Guide to the Presidents on HISTORY Vault

First Woman to Receive Presidential Nomination

Victoria Claflin Woodhull, circa 1872.

The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull, the Equal Rights Party’s nominee in 1872. The party nominated Frederick Douglass as Woodhull’s running mate, which technically makes him the first Black vice presidential nominee. However, Douglas didn’t accept the nomination and he gave stump speeches for Republican incumbent Ulysses S. Grant, who won that election.

Like many white suffragists, Woodhull resented the fact that Black men had won the vote before white women, and made racist appeals to white men when arguing for white women’s right to vote. This likely influenced Douglass’ decision to endorse Grant.

READ MORE: How Early Suffragists Sold Out Black Women

First Black American to Receive Presidential Nomination

George Edwin Taylor, circa 1904.

Douglass himself was a minor presidential contender at a couple of conventions: he received one vote at the Liberty Party’s convention in 1848 and one at the Republican Party’s convention in 1888 (the nominee in 1888 was Benjamin Harrison, who became president). However, the first Black American to receive a presidential nomination was George Edwin Taylor in 1904.

Taylor, the son of a formerly enslaved man, was a journalist and politician who’d served as an alternate delegate-at-large at the 1892 Republican National Convention. In 1904, Taylor won the presidential nomination at the convention of the National Negro Liberty Party, also known as the National …read more


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6 Events That Laid the Groundwork for the Vietnam War

August 20, 2020 in History

By Jessica Pearce Rotondi

The conflict in Vietnam took root during an independence movement against French colonial rule and evolved into a Cold War confrontation.

The Vietnam War (1955-1975) was fought between communist North Vietnam, backed by the Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam, supported by the United States. The bloody conflict had its roots in French colonial rule and an independence movement driven by communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

Vietnam was a battleground in the Cold War, when the United States and Soviet Union grappled for world domination. By war’s end, North and South Vietnam would be reunited, but at great cost. Here are six events that led to the as a model for his Proclamation of the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, writing: “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!”

2. Battle of Dien Bien Phu

The conflict between the French and the Viet Minh came to a head at the decisive Battle of Dien Bien Phu, when, after a four-month siege, the French lost to the Viet Minh under commander Vo Nguyen Giap, marking the end of French rule in Vietnam. The question of who would rule Vietnam and how drew the interest of world superpowers, who watched the situation in Vietnam with growing unease.

3. The 1954 Geneva Accords Divide Vietnam

Diplomats from the United States, the USSR, the People’s Republic of China, the United Kingdom, North and South Korea, and France, as well as representatives from the Viet Minh (northern Vietnam), the State of Vietnam (southern Vietnam), Cambodia, and Laos, in session at the Geneva Conference in July 1954. The resulting Geneva Accords would dissolve the French Indochinese Union.

The Geneva Accords were signed in July of 1954 and split Vietnam at the 17 parallel. North Vietnam would be ruled by Ho Chi Minh’s communist government and South Vietnam would be led by emperor Bao Dai. An election was scheduled in two years’ time to unify Vietnam, but the U.S., fearful that a national election would lead to communist rule, ensured it never took place.

“The ‘temporary’ division of the country at the seventeenth parallel into two ideologically-opposed states meant that the civil conflict in Vietnam would collide full-scale with the East-West rivalry,” says Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Dorothy Borg Associate Professor in the History of the United States and East Asia at Columbia University.

4. …read more