White Supremacy: A Long History in American Politics

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A member of the Ku Klux Klan salutes during American Nazi Party rally at Valley Forge National Park September 25, 2004 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
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Apart from a memorable speech in Philadelphia, during his first campaign for president, then-Senator Barack Obama rarely touched on America's racial history and the historic nature of his campaign.

Recently, after a number of officer-involved police shootings and the murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, the president seems to have found his voice on the subject.

"The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution—that casts a long shadow," President Obama said on n the latest episode of "WTF with Marc Maron" podcast. "That's still part of our DNA that's passed on. We're not cured of it,"

That legacy still casts a shadow over American politics today. This week, The Guardian discovered that Earl Holt III, the leader of a white supremacist group—an organization that apparently influenced Dylann Roof, the suspect in the Charleston church murders—donated thousands of dollars to a number of Republican presidential campaigns.

Some of the candidates, including Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, have since returned the donations.

As Joe Crespino, author of "Strom Thurmond's America" and professor of history at Emory University, explains, Holt's group, the Council of Conservative Citizens, began as the Citizens Councils—a group of local organizations that developed in opposition to the Supreme Court's ruling against school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education.