…in order to falsely smear his political opponent as a racist while pandering for black votes. That’s a thought we can’t seem to shake as John Bel Edwards, the descendant of one of the largest slave-holding families in Louisiana, whose ancestors didn’t just own slaves but were in the business of slavery, puts out door-hangers and robocalls attempting to equate Eddie Rispone with Duke.
It’s a breathtaking bit of audacity on Edwards’ part. You’ve probably seen this already…
But that isn’t the only David Duke reference Edwards’ camp is letting fly against Rispone. The latter’s campaign got hold of a robocall Edwards’ supporters are inflicting on the black community…
The amazing bit about this, though on second thought it isn’t amazing at all, is that Rispone might be the last Republican in Louisiana you would want to accuse of being an old-school David Duke-style racist. Rispone has a large number – we understand it’s more than 1,000 – of black employees at ISC and he has spent millions of dollars trying to promote school choice in the state, the vast majority of the beneficiaries of which are black families who he has helped to escape failing schools. Republicans get accused all the time of ignoring the black community and not caring about African Americans and so on, but Rispone has been a very significant force for good where black people in Louisiana are concerned, and that was true long before he ever decided to run for public office.
As for Trump, the racism angle is laughable given that before he got into politics he palled around with the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons of the world, who gave him awards in return for money he’d showered on them, and since he’s been president he’s overseen the best economic performance by the black community in American history, with personal income at all-time highs and unemployment at all-time lows.
If these are racists like David Duke their actions and results show they’re not particularly good at it.
As for Edwards, who denies he has any hand in the David Duke references, he hardly comes to this debate with clean hands. The Washington Times had a scathing piece a few weeks back about the governor’s family history, which Louisiana’s media did everything they could to ignore, that detailed some of the skeletons in that family’s closet where race is concerned.
There is the history of segregationism, particularly on the part of his grandfather, whose picture appeared in a TV ad Edwards ran this summer touting his “family tradition” of “public service.” Frank Millard Edwards, who was the sheriff in Tangipahoa Parish from 1928-48 and then a state senator from that part of the world in the late 1950’s, had a pretty noxious voting record. From the Washington Times piece…
While in Baton Rouge, in 1956, Frank Millard Edwards voted for legislation that would have kept state schools segregated in violation of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which mandated segregation at all athletic and “public” events such as dances, and required white teachers for white students.
Another bill that earned Frank Millard Edwards’ approval would have classified donated blood. In July 1958, records show, the governor’s grandfather voted for legislation that would have required donated blood to be labeled “Caucasian,” “Negroid” or “Mongoloid” to indicate the race of the donor and require blood recipients to be informed of its origin except in emergencies.
The problems go back further. The 1860 census shows the Edwardses had no less than fifty-seven slaves, which would have made them among the top one percent of slave-holders in Louisiana.
Not to mention the current governor’s great-great grandfather Nicholas Stone Edwards, who fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side, ran the fugitive slave patrol in Washington Parish before the war.
And then there is the Edwards family’s history of not just owning slaves but selling them. We’ve had friends do some digging at the courthouse in St. Tammany Parish, which Tangipahoa Parish used to be part of, and found a number of items like this one…
That might be hard to read, so here’s a transcript…
David Edwards to Robert Edwards
State of Louisiana
Parish of St. Tammany
Be it known and remembered that on this sixth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty and in the year of the independence of the United States of America the fifty fifth before me John R Jones Judge of said parish duly authorized by law to execute the powers of notary public herein have personally came and appeared Daniel Edwards of the same parish and state who do declare and say that he has bargained, sold, conveyed, and delivered unto Robert Edwards of the parish of Washington present and accepting for himself and his heirs a certain negro female slave named Temple aged about fourteen years warranted free of the vices and diseases considered redhibitory by the laws of this state said slave was required by purchase of a (?) Alston by act before GR (?) notary public in New Orleans dated March last and said vendor engages to warrant and (?) forever defend the title of said slave from all liens, mortgages (?) privileges and encumbrances and from the legal claim of all persons whomsoever this sale is made for an inconsideration of the sum of four hundred dollars all in hand paid the receipt whereof is (?) by acknowledge it appears by the certificate the registered mortgages for this parish (?) this date that this property is free of any special mortgage registered against the (?) there is a general mortgage on all of the property of the seller by (?) of two bonds in (?) of the governor of the state of Louisiana (?) jointly with James Daniel and others amounting to the sum of seven thousand three hundred twenty dollars conditioned by the faith of performance of said David Sheriff tax collector of parish of St. Tammany this done and (?) and the parties have signed their names in presence of David Myer and James R Bradley witnesses who have signed with me the judge of foresaid recorded September sixth eighteen thirty
We found another document indicating there were four “mulatto” children belonging to Temple in a later census count from the Edwards plantation, which would indicate some rather unspeakable behavior on the part of the governor’s ancestor.
Given that kind of documented family history, is it really a good idea for John Bel Edwards to allow his campaign or its supporters to sling allegations of racism at Eddie Rispone?
We would say probably not.
But this campaign has become appallingly dirty, and we’re not sure we’ve seen the bottom yet.