Photos From The 1948 Democratic National Convention In Philadelphia May Resemble This Year's Event
The long anticipated Democratic National Convention is finally coming in just two weeks, and many spectators and commentators are postulating that there has never been a convention quite like this one. The intra-party challenges and split platform priorities may seem like uniquely modern problems, but in fact, the 1948 DNC mirrored a lot of the same political turmoil that the Democratic party is experiencing today. These photos from the 1948 Democratic National Convention, which also took place in Philadelphia, prove that things aren't so different from way back then.
More than 1,000 delegates and many more spectators filled Convention Hall in Philadelphia on July 12, 1948 to nominate a presidential candidate and decide on the direction of the party. Delegates wore coordinating white shirts, held signs and posters for their preferred candidates, and cheered with a familiar enthusiasm that will definitely be present at this year's convention. Incumbent President Harry S. Truman faced a considerable, though ultimately unsuccessful, challenge from Sen. Richard Russell of Georgia, who had the support of the Southern Democrats without whom a win was thought to be impossible.
The party was severely split on civil rights — some Democrats leaned more progressively and wanted a strong civil rights platform, and three dozen Southern delegates, including Senator Strom Thurmond, felt so strongly about segregation that they walked out of the convention without voting. Thurmond and his Southern delegates decided they could no longer stand by the direction of the party and formed their own, the States' Rights Party, better known as the Dixiecrats. Thurmond became the party's nominee for president that year, coming in third place with 39 electoral votes and about 1.1 million popular votes.
Minneapolis mayor and future vice president Hubert Humphrey lead the charge for civil rights, asking the party to "get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights." The Democrats ended up settling on a moderate civil rights plank, including desegregation of the military, which Truman signed into law via executive order just a few weeks later.
The DNC that year was historic for another important reason — it was the first year the event was televised. The convention was broadcast on the only two networks at the time, CBS and NBC, and as many as 10 million people tuned in to watch, albeit mostly limited to the northeast U.S. Legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow covered the convention as part of the CBS News team, one of his first ever televised assignments.
This year's convention will certainly be bigger and more media-saturated than 1948's, but the parallels between the two years are pretty interesting. 68 years later, the party is still struggling with both civil rights and burgeoning third parties that threaten the future of the party as it stands today. However, as it did back then, it seems the Democratic party will live to fight another day, no matter what happens at this year's convention.