*Sen. Rand Paul faced a skeptical audience at Howard University in Washington on Wednesday, as he tried to sell students at the HBCU on the positive history between the Republican Party and the African-American community.
Paul (R-Ky.) insisted under questioning that he “has never wavered” in his support of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — an issue that dogged his 2010 Senate campaign after he questioned the act in a televised interview.
“No Republican questions or disputes civil rights,” Paul told the students, according to Politico. “I’ve never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act.” He added that he does “question some of the ramifications” of the act on business.
But overall, the students were not impressed by the Kentucky senator’s plea to give the GOP a chance.
“He just focused on the past rather than tell us what the party will do for us now,” said Felicyana Lowery, a sophomore marketing major. “I need to know what they have in store for my future.”
“All his examples were from 100 years ago,” said Brendon Patterson, an economic major from Chicago. “I wasn’t moved.”
Paul, who told Politico that he is seriously looking at the 2016 presidential race, has been reaching out to minorities to expand support beyond his conservative tea party base. The last Republicans to address students at the school was former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in 2009, and before that Colin Powell in 1994.
“Here I am today at Howard University, a historically black college …some have said that either I’m brave or crazy to be here today,” Paul said. “My hope is that you hear me out and see me for who I am and not as a caricature put forward by political opponents. “I can stumble into the areas — I may stumble and fall but at least I can try.”
According to Politico, Paul went on to then describe the GOP’s rich Civil-War era history with the emancipation of slaves, and assailed the Southern Democrats of the era for discrimination. “How did we lose the support of an entire race?” he asked “How did we lose that vote?”
Paul disputed the suggestion that Republicans sanctioned voter suppression in states where GOP legislatures passed voter ID laws. One student accused the measures of targeting the poor, seniors and minority voters.
“I think if you liken using a driver’s license to a literacy test you demean the horror of what happened in the 40s and 50s. It was horrific. No one is in favor of that,” Paul said. “But showing your driver’s license to have an honest election is not unreasonable.”
He did stumble at one point when he couldn’t recall the name of the first African American elected to the Senate, and was prompted by students shouting “Edward Brooke.” At another point he asked whether they knew that the founders of the NAACP were Republicans. Groans could be heard and one student shouted, “We know our history!”
Watch Rand Paul’s entire appearance at Howard below. Scroll down for specific clips and a sampling of tweets sent out during his speech.