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Dewey Attacks FDR’s Running Mate Harry Truman for Alleged Ku Klux Klan Ties
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I should be very happy to run with Harry Truman. He’ll bring real strength to the ticket!

This anti-Klan message would not have helped Dewey in the South; white southerners voted solidly Democratic from 1876 through 1964, while African Americans were prevented from voting. So, this poster was meant to appeal to Catholic and immigrant voters, whom the Klan targeted, as well as to black voters in northern cities.

[THOMAS E. DEWEY]. Poster. Anti-Truman “Vote for Dewey: Kill the Klan” Presidential Election Poster, picturing Truman in a Ku Klux Klan robe with a lynching party in the background. 1944. 1 p., 28 x 41 in.

Inventory #26053       Price: $1,900

When the 1944 Democratic National Convention re-nominated President Franklin D. Roosevelt for an unprecedented fourth term, delegates dropped Vice President Henry A. Wallace in favor of Senator Harry S Truman of Missouri as Roosevelt’s running mate.

Republican national chairman Herbert Brownell declared, “The New Deal’s dependence on the support of Communists, corrupt bosses and even elements as un-American as the Ku Klux Klan has finally been emphasized in all its ugliness by Senator Harry S. Truman....” (A young Harry Truman allegedly joined the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, but is said to have ended any association with them after being warned not to appoint any Catholics.)

Following the liberation of Paris in August and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in October 1944, Roosevelt and Truman went on to beat Dewey with 53.4 percent of the popular vote and 432 vs. 99 electoral votes. FDR/Truman received about 70 percent of the African American vote, as FDR/Wallace had in 1936 and 1940.

Ironically, President Truman’s signing of Executive Order 9981 to desegregate the military in July 1948, and the inclusion of a Civil Rights plank in the 1948 Democratic platform accelerated the African American shift away from the Republican to the Democratic party. A group of “Dixiecrats” split away to form the States’ Rights Democratic Party, whose main goal was to enforce Jim Crow laws and segregation. The white conservative Southern splinter party soon dissolved, but many supporters found a new home in the Republican Party once Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law in 1964.

Thomas E. Dewey (1902-1971) was born in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1923 and from Columbia Law School in 1925. He served as a federal prosecutor then had a private practice in New York City. In 1937, he was elected New York County District Attorney and prosecuted several high-profile cases, gaining the conviction of organized crime boss Lucky Luciano. After narrowly losing the gubernatorial election in 1938, Dewey was elected in 1942. He sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1940, but was considered too young. In 1944, Dewey was nominated almost unanimously, but lost to Roosevelt and Truman. In 1948, as the Republican candidate again, he faced incumbent President Truman. With the Democratic Party divided over Civil Rights, Dewey seemed unstoppable. However, his loss of Ohio, Illinois, and California by less than one percentage point each cost him the Electoral College. Dewey was reelected as New York governor in 1946 by the greatest margin in state history to that point, and again in 1950. After his third term, Dewey retired from public service and returned to his law practice. Both Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon offered to appoint him as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, but Dewey declined.

Condition: Several edge tears, and small tear in the center, to be expected in a poster of this size. The colors remain vibrant and bold.

Provenance: Ex David & Janice Frent Collection. 

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