Since Hillary R. Clinton left the secretary of state post in February, she and her husband have been quietly working to improve their relationship with African-American voters, after it endured hardship during her first run for president, the New York Times reports.
The effort comes five years after Bill Clinton inflamed tensions and created deep fissures in the black community by dismissing Barack Obama’s South Carolina primary win, saying the Rev. Jesse Jackson had wone the state twice, among other comments. The remarks took many by surprise because Clinton was once known as the country’s “first black president.” Now with an eye toward 2016, they are trying revive some of those positive sentiments.
To that end, Hillary Clinton has used two of her most high-profile speeches, the Times points out, including one before a black sorority convention, to address minority voting rights—an important issue for African Americans, especially after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in June.
The Clintons also went to the funeral of former Pennsylvania Rep. William H. Gray III in July, which was attended by luminaries of Philadelphia’s black political world.
“Dozens of politicians—city, state and federal—packed the pews as former President Bill Clinton offered a stirring eulogy, quoting Scripture and proudly telling the crowd that he was once described as ‘the only white man in America who knew all the verses to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” ‘ ” the Times writes.
A month after Gray’s funeral, the two asked to speak at the service for Bill Lynch, a black political strategist credited with helping David N. Dinkins become mayor of New York, and stayed for more than two hours in a crowd full of well-connected attendees, the Times reports. And the former president has even made personal gestures.
“I think that this is an effort to repair whatever damage they felt may have been done in ’08,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told the Times. The Clintons “know that there are some who have lingering questions, if not antipathy, towards them,” Sharpton continued.
Read more at the New York Times.