The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

There are likely fewer black delegates to the Republican convention than at any point in at least a century

Donald Trump addresses delegates during the evening session of the Republican National Convention (DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, the Republican party's national director for African-American initiatives sent an email to a number of reporters, including our Jonathan Capehart, delineating the diversity of the delegates at the party's convention. The big number was 18 -- out of 2,472 delegates in total.

A figure that's lower than 1 percent.

Daniel Donner of Daily Kos graphed the density of black delegates at the convention over time, using data compiled by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. We created our own version of that graph, including a look at how the number of delegates has changed over time.

The peak came in 2004, during the reelection effort for George W. Bush. That year, nearly 7 percent of the Republican delegates were black, including 16 percent of those from Louisiana, 13 percent of those from Maryland, and 13 percent of the delegates from New York and Michigan. By 2008, those figures had plummeted: 1.6 percent overall, including none from Louisiana and none from Maryland.

Lovelace told Capehart that his estimate from last month was still preliminary (hence the dotted line, above) and that the party was working with outside groups to "ensure people from diverse backgrounds are able to participate during the convention." Attempts to contact Lovelace on Tuesday morning were not successful.

That said, this year's gathering will almost certainly rank among the bottom tier. The 2008 convention had the second-lowest density of black delegates, excluding 2016, trumped only by the 1964 convening that nominated Barry Goldwater. That was the year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, one of the precipitating events that moves black Americans firmly into the Democratic camp.

That year, Barry Goldwater lost in a blowout -- earning less than 10 percent of the black vote. Only once, in 1968, has the party won when the density of black delegates was under 2 percent. (It is Richard Nixon's 1968 acceptance speech, incidentally, on which Trump is apparently modeling his own.)

The lack of diversity at the RNC has already been the subject of some debate. On Monday, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) caused an uproar when he defended the lack of diversity on the convention floor, asking "where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization" than white people?

A poll from Quinnipiac University earlier this month showed Trump earning 1 percent of the black vote nationally. NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling in Ohio and Pennsylvania had worse news: In those states, Trump's share of the black vote was at zero.