Why Republicans are whitewashing Andrew Johnson’s racism

In crafting their arguments against President Trump’s impeachment, Republicans are attempting to rewrite the problematic history of Andrew Johnson, the first U.S. president to be impeached in 1868. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Vice President Mike Pence lauds Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas for breaking with party lines to vote for Johnson’s acquittal in 1868. Pence calls Ross “a profile in courage” for his decision. But Manisha Sinha, professor of American history at the University of Connecticut, says this is historically inaccurate. “We know now … that in fact Edmund Ross was bribed for his vote. So he was not a profile in courage — he was a profile in corruption.” Sinha argues that Pence’s defense of Johnson is a defense of racism. “What Johnson did was basically endanger the result of the Civil War, which was emancipation. He allowed seven state governments to pretty much issue black codes that would put black people back to as close a state of slavery as possible,” she says. “For the Republican Party today to bring up both the defense of Johnson and portray Ross as an honorable person is astounding.”

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