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Blacks, he said, “were transported overseas and experienced the life of countries where their color aroused less of antagonism than it does here.
Many of them aspire to go to Europe to live.” The service brought African-American soldiers their “first real conception of citizenship – the first full realization that the flag was their flag, to fight for, to be protected by them, and also to protect them.
As Harding and his entourage left the train station for the city, the Alabama National Guard fired a 21-gun salute, and every factory whistle across the city answered in welcome.
reported that more than a hundred thousand people lined the streets as the President and First Lady rode in a white Premocar manufactured by the city’s Preston Motor Corporation.
The called the speech an “untimely and ill-considered intrusion into a question of which he evidently knows little.” Mississippi Senator Pat Harrison said, “If the President’s theory is carried to its ultimate conclusion, then that means that the black man can strive to become President of the United States.” Georgia Senator Thomas E.
Watson declared Harding had planted “fatal germs in the minds of the black race.” The junior senator from Alabama, Thomas Heflin, said, “So far as the South is concerned, we hold to the doctrine that God Almighty has fixed the limits and boundaries between the two races and no Republican living can improve upon His work.” Some senators were supportive of Harding, including fellow Ohioan Frank Willis, who said the country “will applaud President Harding’s clearness of statement and patriotism of purpose.” Harding’s friend Oscar Underwood praised the speech as well.
He’d been elected in a landslide in the first year that women – many of whom, like him, supported Prohibition – had the right to vote for President.
“I would accent that a black man can not be a white man,” he continued, “and that he does not need and should not aspire to be as much like a white man as possible in order to accomplish the best that is possible for him.“Prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.” The Alabama governor and the state legislators seated behind him sat in stone silence.Harding, who once admitted he was not a gifted public speaker, was just getting started.Though his writings were at the time considered to be mainstream, and not the rants of a white supremacist, Stoddard achieved a backhanded kind of fame in , in which Tom Buchanan mentions a “book by this man Goddard” on the threats to white civilization.Harding, too, had some familiarity with Stoddard’s ideas, turning to them in the speech – and turning them upside down.
After remarks by Alabama Governor Thomas Kilby and Birmingham Mayor Nathanial Bartlett, Harding took the stage.