Kenneth (kensmind) wrote in potus_geeks,

Cal Coolidge and Native Rights

In my humble opinion, Calvin Coolidge was under-rated as a President. He gets a lot of marks from me for his attitude of racial tolerance and expansion of civil rights. Today is a pretty good example of that because it was on June 2, 1924 (87 years ago today) that Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act into law, granting citizenship to all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States.

Under this law indigenous people did not have to apply for citizenship, nor did they have to give up their tribal citizenship to become a U.S. citizen. Most tribes had communal property and in order to have a right to the land, persons had to belong to the tribe. Recognizing this issue, the new law allowed dual citizenship. The law still required state approval before First Nations people could acquire voting rights, and it took 24 years for all the states to comply (Arizona and New Mexico were the last to do so).

Coolidge was also very progressive for his time in recognizing the rights of African-Americans and in combating racism. He spoke out in favor of the civil rights of African Americans and Catholics and refused to appoint known members of the Ku Klux Klan to office. Any political influence that the Klan had declined significantly under Coolidge.

In 1924, someone wrote to Coolidge claiming that the United States was a "white man's country". This upset Coolidge and he responded:

"I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. As President, I am one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party. Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution."

Coolidge repeatedly called for anti-lynching laws to be enacted, but most Congressional attempts to pass this legislation were filibustered by Southern Democrats. He also appointed a number of African Americans to federal government jobs. Walter L. Cohen of New Orleans, Louisiana, an African American, had been appointed as the comptroller of customs under Warren Harding. Coolidge kept Cohen in the post, and later offered to appoint Cohen as Ambassador to Liberia, a position that Cohen declined.
Tags: calvin coolidge, civil rights, warren harding
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