1928 October 17

Al Smith, Dem. Presidential Candidate, Promises to End Abuses of Native Americans


Al Smith, Democratic candidate for President on this day promised that if elected president he would end “abuses” of Native Americans under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In particular, he promised to end the”systematic starvation” of Indian children in federally-run boarding schools. He also promised better accounting of the $1.7 billion dollars in Native American funds administered by the federal government.

Smith charged that the Indian “subjects” of the U.S. government were living “under a despotism unknown elsewhere in the Western world.”

In the 1928 presidential election campaign, Al Smith was widely attacked for being a Roman Catholic. Many of the attacks were led by KKK members, which not only believed in the inferiority of African Americans but was prejudiced against Catholics and Jews (April 18, 1927, September 18, 1928). Smith lost the election to GOP candidate Herbert Hoover in a landslide. His loss gave rise to the myth than no Catholic could ever be elected president of the U.S. John F. Kennedy, despite facing some attacks because of his Catholicism (September 12, 1960), shattered that myth by winning the 1960 presidential election.

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