What is a Party Platform?
A party platform is a document produced by a political party every four years
(prior to each presidential election) that sets forth that party’s beliefs and values as
well as its policy positions on important issues of the day. While a platform ad-
dresses dozens of issues and sets forth that party’s vision for America, this booklet
has compiled the position of the two major parties only on civil rights and racial
justice issues – a subject at the forefront of American policy debates for decades.
The Democrats and Republicans platform declarations on this subject that ap-
pear in this booklet commence with the year 1840 and continue until the 1964 plat-
form immediately preceding the creation and passage of the three major landmark
civil rights measures in 1964 and 1965: the 24th amendment abolishing the poll tax,
the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. These civil rights decla-
rations reveal how, or whether, the parties embraced the belief set forth in the
Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, and are endowed by
their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
The following excerpts have been taken directly from the platforms and have
not been altered. Annotations have been added to chronicle the history of specific
civil rights events and issues mentioned by the platforms across the years.