Ever since Republican President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, African Americans had given their almost unanimous loyalty to the party of Lincoln and Reconstruction, the Republicans. National Republican candidates had been able to rely upon the support of almost all African-American voters because of the Republicans' past record of racial moderation, at least when compared to the racial record of the Democratic Party.
However, since the abandonment of Reconstruction, the Republican Party had become less concerned about protecting the rights and lives of African Americans. By the early 1900s, African Americans began questioning their allegiance to the Republican Party.
In contrast to the Republican Party, the Democratic Party claimed the unquestioned allegiance of voting whites in the "Solid South," a region of both codified and customary racial segregation. Following the end of Reconstruction in 1877, white Democrats governed the former Confederate states without serious, long-term challenges. Although over ninety percent of the nation's African Americans lived in the South, and although the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution supposedly guaranteed them equal rights, these men and women had virtually no political or legal options available to them for protest about their treatment.
Some did, of course, protest. From 1890 to 1910, over two hundred thousand African Americans protested with their feet, migrating from the South to the North. Others left North America entirely, leaving for Africa, South America, or Europe. The North, while better, was not the "promised land" for African Americans. There racial prejudice also existed in virulent and violent forms. However, in Northern states, African Americans could vote.
And vote they did. In 1912, for the first time, many chose not to vote blindly for the Republicans. Frustrated by the inactivity and unresponsiveness of President Taft to their interests, many African Americans looked at all of the candidates. A surprising number voted for Wilson and the Democrats.