The Democratic Party has a long and fascinating history, with its origins dating all the way back to the 1780s, with Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s Democratic-Republican Party. The party adopted its current name in the 1830s when it was founded by supporters of President Andrew Jackson.
Throughout the 1840s and ’50s, the Democratic Party was deeply conflicted over the issue of slavery and its expansion into Western territories of the United States, with Southern Democrats passionately for protecting slavery rights in all territories and Northern Democrats against the idea. The dispute came to a head in 1860, when the party split.
Following the splitting of the party at the Democratic Presidential Convention of 1860, Southern Democrats supported a pro-slavery platform and nominated John C. Breckinridge, while Northern Democrats nominated Stephen Douglas as their presidential candidate. Abraham Lincoln, the nominee of the then newly formed Republican Party, would ultimately go on to win the presidency.
Following the Civil War, the Democratic Party attacked the Republican Party for being “Negro dominated” and positioned itself as America’s “white man’s party,” appealing to Southerners who were against Radical Reconstruction and did not agree with the Republican’s support for black political and civil rights.
By the end of Reconstruction in 1877, the Democrats controlled every single Southern state. For decades, Southern Democrats dominated the majority of Congressional Committees and successfully blocked civil rights legislation.
In the 50s and 60s, the platform of the Democratic Party began to change, and the party strongly supported civil rights for minorities and women. After Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the party gained the backing of the majority of African Americans and lost the support of white Southerners, causing a flip, in which the Republican Party became dominant in Southern states.
In 2008, the Democratic Party nominated its first African American presidential candidate, Barack Obama, who defeated Republican John McCain in the general election to become the first African-American president in U.S. history.