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Colonel Roscoe Conkling Simmons and the Mechanics of Black Leadership

  • ANDREW M. KAYE (a1)

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I want you to have power because I will have power.

Roscoe Conkling Simmons (1881–1951) was an African American journalist and lifelong Republican, frequently acclaimed as the greatest orator of his day. He wrote for the Chicago Defender, the nation's largest black paper, and was later a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. A sometime advisor on black affairs to Republican administrations during the 1920s, Simmons seconded the re-nomination of Herbert Hoover for president in 1932, where “His exit from the platform was blocked by senators, committeemen, governors and others high in the public life who sought to touch ‘the hem of his garment.’” Throughout his career, the Colonel, as Simmons was often called, forged close links with black organizations. On regular speaking tours, he participated in the affairs of fraternities, churches, and educational institutions nationwide. Simmons was a social chameleon, on familiar terms with black America's most powerful businessmen and editors, entertainers and mobsters, but equally comfortable among the working men and women with whom he gossiped in barber shops and at church picnics. Senators, mayors, and aldermen admired his talent on the speaking platform and valued his connections to the black community. When white Republicans needed help in rallying northern black voters, Simmons was the fixer they summoned. He gladly obliged, out of loyalty to the Grand Old Party and in anticipation of reciprocal dispensations.

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Colonel Roscoe Conkling Simmons and the Mechanics of Black Leadership

  • ANDREW M. KAYE (a1)

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