The History Of Racism In The Presidency

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The White House (Pexels Public Domain)
The White House (Pexels Public Domain)

Let's talk about racism and the presidency.

Recently released tapes of a 1971 phone conversation between then-California Gov. and future-President Ronald Reagan, and then-President Richard Nixon, reveal a disturbing exchange referencing African political leaders. The tapes were requested and released by Tim Naftali, director of the Nixon Presidential Library from 2007 to 2011.

During the conversation, Reagan refers to African delegates to the United Nations as "monkeys" who are "still uncomfortable wearing shoes." Nixon responds with laughter:

REAGAN: "Last night I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did, to see those monkeys from those African countries...damn them they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes."

NIXON: [Laughter] The tail wags the dog there doesn't it?

REAGAN: [Laughter] "Yeah."

NIXON: "The tail wags the dog."

This, along with the numerous controversial comments by President Trump, got us thinking about the history of racism in our country's presidency.


Leah Wright Rigueur, professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and author of "The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power."

Heather Cox Richardson, professor of history at Boston College and author of "To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party." She tweets @HC_Richardson.

This segment aired on August 6, 2019.


Paris Alston Host, Consider This
Paris Alston was WBUR's host of the Consider This podcast and a former producer for Radio Boston.


Tiziana Dearing Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.



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