On Black History Month, an African-American civil rights pioneer reflects on today's political landscape

February marks Black History Month, when we honor the many achievements of African- Americans and their important contributions to our nation throughout our history.

In the past year, African-Americans – like all Americans – have benefitted in many ways from the policies and actions of President Trump. When he took office just over a year ago, the president promised to fight for the wellbeing and prosperity of all the American people and our nation’s diverse communities. Since then, he has delivered.

The biggest tax cut in a generation – approved by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Trump – has led more than 4 million Americans to receive bonuses and benefits from hundreds of companies. Tax cuts are spurring job creation, which is a boon to African-American workers everywhere.

Since President Trump was sworn into office, African-American unemployment has reached a record low. The president is creating more opportunities, empowering all Americans to build up their communities and protect their families.

Democrats have taken African-American support for granted for far too long. As we approach midterm elections in November, voters should know that the Republican Party has been fighting for their interests all along.

The Republican National Committee will celebrate African-Americans’ contributions to our party at our Trailblazer Awards next week. Our honorees are remarkable individuals who embody the principles that make America great, much like those who came before them.

I recently had the honor of meeting a great African-American named Clarence Henderson, who helped change American history for the better many years ago as he fought for justice and an end to racism. He joined historic sit-ins in 1960 that propelled the civil rights movement forward and he continues to work to improve our country today.

The sit-ins began in February 1960, when a group of black college students, including Henderson, sat at the whites-only lunch counter at a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina to protest racial segregation. They refused to leave when they were denied service because of their race. Sit-ins spread to 55 cities in 13 states by the end of March and led to the end of segregation at dining facilities in the South.

Henderson went on to become a champion of liberty and opportunity, fighting for the principles at the heart of the Republican Party.

When I spoke with Henderson a few weeks ago during my visit to North Carolina I asked him to share his story and perspectives about President Trump and the future of the Republican Party. Here is what he said:

McDaniel: One of the first things we ask our Republican Leadership Initiative fellows during their training is to share the story of when they knew they were a Republican. Will you share your story with us?

Henderson: After years of voting for the Democratic Party based upon indoctrination and relying on what others said, I began to investigate all of the promises they had made and not kept. At the same time, I researched the Republican Party and what they had done to advance the cause for African-Americans. I saw that the values of the party lined up with my beliefs. I knew I was a Republican when I voted for George W. Bush.

McDaniel: As we celebrate the bicentennial of Frederick Douglass’ birth this year, we celebrate his lasting legacy and contributions to our nation. What does this milestone mean to you?

Henderson: This milestone demonstrates what a person can do against all odds. If one has the determination, the things they can accomplish are practically limitless. Frederick Douglass is a true example for all to see just how freedom is worth the cost.

McDaniel: How do you think President Trump and his administration are doing? Are there any accomplishments or issues they have tackled that stand out to you?

Henderson: I think President Trump and his administration are doing a fantastic job and are using a commonsense approach to put America back on the right economic track. America thrives when our economy thrives. The accomplishments that stand out are that they have worked to ensure America’s freedoms stay intact – namely freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the protection of the sovereign rights of each individual citizen.

McDaniel: What more could the Republican Party do to engage with African-American communities?

Henderson: The Republican Party can engage the black community by focusing on the issues that matter most to them, such as education and jobs. That means instituting training programs for the jobs that build American infrastructure, and promoting economic programs – like those of the Small Business Administration – which create employment in minority areas. The party should continue to engage black faith leaders on their communities’ concerns, and host more events for women. After all, productive communities promote strong families. The party should also help black Republican candidates and elected officials with fundraising, and encourage them to hire black staff members.

McDaniel: What do you think it will look like to celebrate Black History Month 25 years from now?

Henderson: What it will look like to celebrate Black History Month 25 years from now is anyone’s guess. My hope is that there would be no need to celebrate Black History Month on its own – instead, the black community’s contributions to American society would be celebrated throughout the entire year.