From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Frederick Douglass, Convention Presidential Nominations, and Kentucky

June 23, 1888 is hailed as the day that Frederick Douglass received one vote from the Kentucky Delegation at the Republican Convention in Chicago, making him the first African American nominated to be a U.S. presidential candidate. This was actually the second time that Frederick Douglass had received a single vote to be a U.S. presidential candidate; his first vote came during the National Liberty Party Convention, June 14-15, 1848 in Buffalo, NY [source: The African American Electorate, by H. Walton, Jr. et al; see chapter 10: "The first African American nominees and public office holders, 1776-1870," pp. 179-190; and African Americans and the Presidency, edited by B. A. Glasrud and C. D. Wintz; see chapter 1: "Beginning the Trek," pp. 17-30].

Douglass was also nominated as a vice president of the United States candidate during the Equal Rights Party Convention in June 1872; he was to run with Victoria Woodhull, who was nominated as the presidential candidate for the Equal Rights Party; Frederick Douglass declined the nomination. [Source: The Woman Who Ran for President; the many lives of Victoria Woodhull, by L. B. Underhill] More attention is given to the fact that Frederick Douglass received one presidential nomination vote at the 1848 convention and one at the 1888 convention.

Douglass was never a contender for the presidential election; there was some very stiff competition. In 1848, the newly named National Liberty Party nominee was Gerrit Smith; during the presidential election, the party was on the ballot in only four states and Gerrit Smith got 2,545 votes. The Liberty Party members were abolitionists, and their party was in decline; it had lost members to the newly formed Free Soil Party, which was opposed to the expansion of slavery, but members were not necessarily abolitionists.

Martin Van Buren won the Free Soil Party presidential nomination in 1848; both he and Gerrit Smith were defeated in the presidential election by Zachary Taylor.

At the 1888 Republican Convention, former Indiana Senator Benjamin Harris won the presidential nomination and went on to win the presidential election, defeating President Grover Cleveland.

Frederick Douglass was a supporter of the Republican Party (see the Frederick Douglass' Papers), beginning in 1856. He believed that the Republican Party had the political strength to end enslavement in the United States, much more so than his party, the Radical Abolitionists [source: Frederick Douglass: oratory from slavery, by D. B. Chesebrough]. He would eventually join the Republican Party. In 1888, when Frederick Douglass received a vote from the Kentucky Delegation at the Republican Convention in Chicago, the event was not noted in U.S. newspapers. It was not until the early 1980s that media sources, including those on the Internet, made the 1888 presidential nomination into an annual note, while perhaps not knowing about Frederick Douglass' earlier presidential nomination vote at the 1848 Liberty Party Convention and the vice president nomination at the 1872 Equal Rights Party Convention.

Kentucky Delegation at the 1888 Republican Convention
[source: Proceedings of the Ninth Republican National Convention held at Chicago, Ill., June 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 25, 1888, printed by order of The Republican National Committee, pp. 92-93].

At Large

  • William O. Bradley / Lancaster 
  • John W. Lewis / Springfield
  • George M. Thomas / Vanceburg
  • George Denny / Lexington
  • William L. Hurst / Campton
  • Thomas Forman / Maysville
  • Isaac Curtis / Louisville
  • Hugh Mulholland, Jr. / Paducah


  • 1. W. J. Deboe / Marion
  • N.S. Allison / Mayfield
  • 2. George W. Jolly / Owensboro
  • Ed. W. Glass / Hopkinsville
  • 3. E. U. Fordyce / Bowling Green
  • W. S. Taylor / Morgantown
  • 4. Andrew Thompson / Springfield
  • Charles M. Pendleton / Hartford
  • 5. A. E. Wilson / Louisville
  • W. P. Hampton / Louisville
  • 6. John M. Wilson / Williamstown
  • John P. Errnst / Covington
  • 7. William Cassius Goodloe / Lexington
  • Louis Lebus / Cynthiana
  • 8. John Bennett / Richmond
  • Logan McKee / Danville
  • 9. W. W. Patterson / Ashland
  • W. A. Warford / Flemingsburg
  • 10. John W. Langley / Prestonsburg
  • G. L. Kirkpatrick / Mt. Sterling
  • 11. E. A. Hobson / Greensburg
  • W. W. Jones / Columbia


  • J. B. Tyler / Princeton
  • G. W. Witty / Milburn
  • 2. T. W. Gadner / Madisonville
  • A. H. Cabell / Henderson
  • 3. E. Scott Brown / Scottsville
  • J. H. Gray / Russellville
  • 4. John W. Sayers / Deatsville
  • S. A. Smith / Elizabethtown
  • 5. Burton Vance / Louisville
  • J. J. Johnson / Louisville
  • 6. Paris E. Morgan / Falmouth
  • D. B. Wallace / Warsaw
  • 7. A. B. Sowards / Georgetown
  • James Walker / Owenton
  • 8. John T. Ballard / Shelbyville
  • James M. Sebastian / Booneville
  • 9. H. C. Metcalf / Brookville
  • H. H. Gambril / Louisa
  • 10. D. G. Colston / Pineville
  • J. L. Bosley / Winchester
  • 11. E. W. Porch / Somerset
  • W. L. Hazelip / Glasgow
Republican National Convention. Fifth Day. Saturday, June 23, 1888. The Fourth Ballot. [p. 183]

Kentucky Total Votes 26
  • Russell Alexander Alger 3
  • William B. Allison 2
  • Walter Q. Gresham 2
  • Benjamin Harrison 6
  • John Sherman 10
  • James G. Blaine 1
  • Joseph B. Foraker 1
  • Frederick Douglass 1

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Frederick Douglass, Convention Presidential Nominations, and Kentucky,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 23, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-03-15 16:52:36