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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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