on the

A Frenchman's Report on the American Negro Struggle


p 4 1 ...

Daniel Guerin




L. WeiSl'ill1alJ. 325 East 17th Sf., New York

3, New Yon:

First En/dish Impression.






Copyright 1951 by Rene Julliard, Paris



...... U.






Translated and edited by Duncan Ferguson










tym ..




niSiributor iu Gr",otDrUuio: PUBLICATIONS, Room 26, No. 93 & 94. Chanc~,y Lane; London




I dedicate the English edition of this little book to the memory of my great-grandfather. Gustave d'Eichthal, a disciple of Henri de Saint-Simon. French "utopian socialist" of the early 19th century. Jewish by birth. he had "kept an ineradicable memory of the griefs" he had experienced in childhood because of "the opprobrium attached to the word Jew"; and he had acquired the conviction that "the emancipation of the Jews and the emancipation of the Negroes"a direct result, in each case, of the French Revolution-were "indissolubly bound up with each other." In 1839, he published in Paris his Letters on the Black Race and White Race, in which he took up the cause of the black people in North America and denounced the hypocrisy of the white planters who, "compelled to keep the blacks in slavery, contrary to their Own religious dogmas of equality . . . have sought to justify themselves in their own eyes by looking at their black slaves no longer as men but as beings little different from brutes . . . and have treated them as SUCh." But Gustave d'Eichthal was not content simply to stigmatize oppression for what it was; he prophetically announced emancipation. "In the 16th century," he wrote, "the two races united to open up and populate the American continent. But in this union the black race figured only as a servile instrument; it had no independent existence of its own. The impetus toward emancipation which the French Revolution gave to the world has changed this whole order of things. The insurrection in San Domingo. its recognition as a free state, the Act of Emancipation which freed the black people in the British colonies in 1833 . . . have made absolutely inevitable the independence of the black race from the white in America." And he added, a quarter of a century before Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: "The struggles between the Abolitionists and the anti-Abolitionists in the United States are in reality the most important happenings in the New World today." And he saluted







in advance "the efforts that will be made to put an end to the sufferings of the black race." . But the thinking of Gustave d'Eichthal went far beyond that 01 the Abolitionists of his day. He wished for, he announced the union of the bl,,;ck and white races, their marriage: "Between these two races destined to an unfettered association there is today only om b~nd at sympathy: sexual love; and only one connecting link: the mIXed. race, born of the two." Reading into the future, he foresaw the birth of "a new human generation, the mulatto generation produced by their union." And it was with deep feeling that he looked forward to this "new humanity still in the cradle."




The same concern is to be found in an article entitled "Negro Employment: A Progress Report," in Fortune magazine for July of the .same year, in which the author, John A. Davis, addressing the .employers. warns: "In a world that is about 65 percent non-white, the communist charge of racial exploitation in America reverberates *Actually. ~e translation here published is only an extract from a much with a crashing emphasis." larger work entitled 014 va le Peuple Americain? (Whither the American People?), of which Vols. 1 and 2 Were published in Paris in 1950 and 1951 Another reason for the occasional concessions granted by Jim and VoL 3 is now in preparation. ' Crow in America is, without doubt, the repercussion from the massive

T~e present book is the product of a two-year stay in the United States ,m 1947 ~ud 1948.~ when I had the opportunity to make an extensIve. ~cqu.amtance WIth the Negro community. I visited almost all the CIties 10 the North with a sizable colored population. and devoted several. mon~hs to a systematic and detailed study of the South. . Trave~mg With. a Negro driver in that region of odious segregll:tlOn, ~ lived the life of my Negro friends. staying at their hotels, eatH~g 10 [~~I~ resta~rants. going to their public meetings and church ser;'lces, _v~sltmg then schools and colleges, their hospitals; meeting ~helr political, trade union, intellectual and spiritual leaders, their ~ournahs~s, wr;lters,. artists; fraternizing with colored workers on the Job and m their union halls, greeting the victims of Jim Crow in their prison cells. And on my return to France, heavily laden with a w~o.le library of books, I decided that before starting on my own writing I would read everything of importance that had been written on the Negro question in the United States. . The present work appeared France in 1951. It had the effect of preventing my return to the United States, for I have been refused a new visa, But after all, no matter if the author is physically excluded-so long as his writings and ideas can circulate freely! I have wanted to make ~y .w~rk available to the English-language reader and at the same time bring It up to date by noting the main occurrences and developments between 1951 and 1954. A number of changes have taken place in the field of interracial relations since my re~urn from the United States. Some of these are minor. others more Important. Negro progress has been continuous since I left the country, But. it. is necessary. I believe, to be on guard against exaggerating the significance of these changes. as some people do both


discrimination in the United States remains a source of constant embarrassment to this government in the day-to-day conduct of its foreign relations; and it jeopardizes the effective maintenance of our moral leadership of the free and democratic nations of the world."

Gains have indeed been made. but they are not very substantial. I am sorry to have to say that as yet there has been no fundamental change in the political, economic or social position of the American Negro. This does not mean that the struggle for the emancipation of the colored people is marking time. or, even less. that it is hopeless. On the contrary, emancipation is on the march, and all hopes are warranted. But it would be a grave error to underestimate the stubborn and fanatical resistance that Jim Crow puts up, at every step. to each gain of the Negro community; and an even graver error to rely upon the intrinsic virtues of capitalist "American democracy" and expect from the latter a rapid. peaceful and amiable solution of the race problem. The obstacle to be overcome lies not simply in the irrationality of race prejudice. but above all in the powerful economic interests which thrive upon discrimination. The Jim Crow walls aren't tumbling down of themselves. They won't tumble or crumble automatically. There is a lot of battering and fighting to be done yet. To understand this. it is useful to analyze briefly the reasons that led the American government recently to make certain modifications in the policy of segregation. notably in the armed forces and in the schools. . First of all, the American Empire has come to understand that its position in the world is untenable so long as it continues to present itself to the "free" peoples as the champion of "democracy" and"freedom," while at the same time trampling democracy and freedom underfoot in its relations with the colored tenth of its own Population. The American ruling class finally became convinced that to win "leadership" of the world it would have to make some sacrifices at home-not merely in words. but also by some deeds. That was the sentiment bluntly expressed by Secretary of State Dean Acheson when on December 2, 1952, he submitted a statement to the U.S. Supreme Court, in connection with its hearings on public school segregation, in which he said: "The continuance of racial

in and outside the United States.





uprising of the colorualpooples against the imperialisms of Europe. It is not to belittle my American Negro friends to say to them that. despite their courageous and unremitting struggle .agains; race prejudice. they have been far from manifesting, in.recent years,. the extraordinary and heroic combativIty of the ASIan and African peoples, This irresistible surge. toward freedom has already resulted in the independence of India, Indonesia and Indochina. and is in process of preparing the liberation of North Attica in the near future. in order to win it. Nor will my colored friends be angry if I say to them iliat. as a result of a quite American kind of "isolationism," they have not always given sufficiently active support to the colonial peoples in their revolt against imperialism.. Yet the oppression they suffer in the United States is, as W. E. B. DuBois correctly states, only one particular case of colonial oppression, 8.!lQ every step ahead made by the colored people of the Gold Coast or of Kenya. by the Moslems of Tunisia. or of Morocco, is also a step ahead for the colored people of the United States. It is because white rule is in retreat today everywhere in the world that it is also in retreat in North America. The author of this book is of French. nationality, and in devoting _ much space to a denunciation of the injustices and crimes com so mitred on American soil. he is exposed to a double reproach: on the one hand, of meddling in American domestic affairs, which he is less qualified to deal with than Americans;. on the other hand. ofi neglecting the injustices and crimes committed by his own countrymen on the soil of the so-called "French Union," When parts of this book appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier. in the issues of March 31 to April: 28, 1951. I received a courteous but stern letter from. Atlanta. Ga. My correspondent, by all evidence a whiteman wrote me that in his youth he bad worked in the merchant marine: all over the world, and so had visited a number of French possessions. He had been able to see with his own eyes how all-prevailing racism and misery were in those places.. And he advis.ed m~ t9 sw.eep my own French doorstep rather than Involve myself 10 trying to right the wrongs itt distant countries such as the good old South of the United States, I should like to reply here to Mr. Henri Lamoine that in the eyes of. an internationalist, injustice ha~ ~o~ath~rland: that injustice in Tunis or Saigon does not excuse injustice m Atlanta; that the present writer has publicly fought French imperi.ali_smfor years, apd has just devoted an enure book'" to the denunciation ofa conectiv~ crime wbich,.as long as it is perpetuated on territory under Frenc]
Freedom is the reward of those who are ready to saarifice everything

But if the pressure of the WOrld. abroad and the contagionof the colonial revolution have helped the American Negroes to WID some recent gains. the credit for this is als? due to them.:selvesand their unflagging. direct action; and they wdl ~ot. cons?hdate these gains nor extend them unless. in closest association with. the gre~t progressive forces of the labor movement, ~hey resolutely tak~ their emancipation into their own hands. 00. this point I would like,_m conclusion to salute the symbolic gesture of that modern John Brown, the engine~r of Hillsboro. Ohio. Who in JUly 1.954 ~fd not hesitate to set fire to a segregated Negro school, declaring: We must take unto ourselves the whole armor of freedom."

Paris, October 9, 1954.

rule, will make him ashamed that he is French.
•A u Service des Colonisel. /910·/953.
Paris, 1954.












Biggest Scandal



Jt here does Race Prejudice

come from?
This book is a study of the most explosive progressive force in the United States; the movement for emancipation of the Negroes. My approach to the subject is not a static one, but dynamic. In Part L I shall sketch broadly a picture of racial oppression, and demonstrate that it is part and parcel ofcapitalist oppression as a whole, and one of its most virulent and repulsive forms, In Part Il, I shall examine the question of to what extent and in. what ways the Negro people are likely, first of all. to take their emancipation into their own hands. and, then, to ally themselves with the labor movement for the common liberation of all the oppressed, white and black, The seriousness of the Negro question has been noted and stressed by most observers from abroad. Over a century ago Toequeville remarked; "The most formidable of all tbe ills that threaten the future of the Union arises from the presence of a black populationupon its territory . .. Ifever America undergoes great revolutions, they will be brought ebout by the presence of the black race on the soil of the United States." Iii 1927, Andre Siegfried wrote, with trembling hand : "The color problem is an abyss into which one can look only with terror." And most recently, Gunnar Myroa) commented; "The treatment of the Negro is America's biggest and, most conspicuous scandal." The manifestations of race prejudice. its various aspects in social customs as well as in Jaw, have been brilliantly described in numerous books ip the English language. The story of the inner life of the Negro, whom white society treats as a pariah-when it doesn't inflict horrible atrocities On his body-has been told with great feeling in modern imaginative literature. No one can read the novels of Richard Wright, ChesJer Himes, Ralph Ellison-to Cite only a few names-without shuddering. But the basic cause of that oppression, and its essential mechanism. have not been thoroughly exposed. Yet the problem is insoluble so long as the social conditions and the historical evolution UJat brought them into being are not traced back to their source.








Studies which do not explore these basic causes can only come to the fortuJ.1e agreed to subsidize a "monumental" work on the Negro s~mple conclusion that it is a case of virtually incurable mental question. ... . sickness. In the presence of the Negro, the white American, that . S~c~ l~rge-~cale IOq~mes into the most blatant economic and relatively sane and civilized man, suddenly becomes turned into a ~OCI~ Injustices I~ the Um~e~ States act as safety-valves. From time madman. And his insane behavior, reacting on the black man's Ito .tIme the. public authorities, both executive and legislative. turn behavior, produces psychological disturbances in the Negro-though their attentIOn. t? problems s?ch as economic concentration, or to a lesser degree, of course, since the persecutor is far more mad freedom ~f. OP1ll~°f!•. or the plight of the poor farmers. Tons of than the persecuted. paper go into printing their effusions. But these torrents of indictIf it were actually a case of mental sickness; if there were no roenFs. read by no more. than a hand.ful, a~e ~oon gathering dust r~lationship b~tw~en the factors that produced, nourished and inten- on librar shelves, The fact that the disease IS ?penly wntten .about sified race prejudice, and the factors that led the American industrial saldves t: conscler:tce of those ~ho are responsible for the disease, workers to organize into a solid bloc so as to be able to check an ~t! e same. hm~ the conscience ?f the general public. As for Big .Business-then I would be wasting my time in exploring the the victims, the 11l~lSlO~ th~t for a brief moment they w~re able to possible bases, as well as the first symptoms. of an alliance between attract some atte?tl~n l?SplfeS them with a renewed patience, the labor m<:>vement and. the Negro people. And I could leave it But. race pr~JudlCejS su?h a burning issue that not. until a very to the Freudians to expatiate hopelessly on the "frustrations," "guilt ew rears. ago dId. th~ public authorities dare launch investigations feelings," "anxieties" and sexual obsessions of the white population in In this lipId: ~o CIte Just one example: The moment the question of America. ~reJudlCe IS touc~ed, the unity of the Democratic Party becomes But is it really a case of mental sickness? And if so, how was imperiled and ..t~e t~, t~r~ad that ties the Southern Bourbons+ to it caused, by whom, and why? ~e Northern hberals IS ill danger of snapping. Hence a private Here we come up against an almost universal conspiracy of mquiry was th~ most that coul~ be undertaken; and it was considered silence. The vast majority of white persons in the United States the p~rt of WIsdom, at th~ time, not to turn over the job to an refuse to come anywhere near the subject; and in the South they Ameflc~n.t So the Carnegie Corporation brought over from Sweden are even more reticent, of course, than in the North. If you ask ~e S?Ctal Democrat Gunnar Myrdal, and supplied him with an them the why of their attitude, they will dodge your question and unposmg team of American research experts, both colored and white. look away. "There is no Negro question," the most cynical of them The book that came out of this project, An American Dilemma claim. "It's a question we don't want to discuss," others will mutter was published un~er. MyrdaI's name in 1944. Containing no Ies~ who are not quite at peace with their conscience. How often I ~an 1,483 vages, It IS a compendium of all previous works on the heard these pitiable answers in the course of my travels across the '\ egro question and, at the s~e time .. of the rep_orts prepared by the country! aumerous collaborators associated WIth the project. It is therefore There is,. however, a small but slowly and steadily growing l v~ry useful referen~e work, a m~e of. facts and documentation. number of white people who have finally come to understand that 1 ki~d of. encyclopedia .. The manifestations of race prejudice are they have more to lose than gain by stopping their ears and pretending lescribed m profuse detail and in all their present aspects. There is to ignore the race problem. These "enlightened" whites come not Wn~st a .superabu~d~ce of material. Myrdal's concern to omit only from the liberal petty-bourgeoisie. the intellectual and religious aothing, hIS reworking in a single book of material from such diverse circles and the progressive elements among the labor leaders; there ---------------------_ are also sprinklings to N°S found even hin dthe lofty d spheres of Big iandled . quite innocuously '. In ''Los.t Boun dari "f or examp 1 a preacher's be . · I hi I Rio W.h he ni anes, e, n is nove ative on, c ar ng t rew t e picture !eDnon IS enough to work the miraculous cure. of ridding a whit co" iunit B usmess, of . a businessman who bore good will to the Negro people" ~f its race prejudice. Ie mmuru y Philanthropic acti?ns have been undertaken, suc~ as t~~ capitalist trust. tThis label has been attached to. the reactionary and anti-Negro ~unds or foundations that subsidize private untversities for Negroes ;Pemocrats of the. South becaus~, of. their resemblance to the, too-famous to the South.* And to cap it all, the trustees of the vast Carnegie rench roya.l family wh~ could learn nothing and forget nothing."



tLater, m 1946, President Truman set up his "Committee on Civil Rights" .. make a study of the race problem. The committee, whose members were "'It should be added that .a few 1;'ears ago Hollywood decided to m.akerrshonall~ appointed by the President, submitted its re.po.rt, entitled To Secure some films ~n the race question. The mnocent movie-goer might be surpnsed I,,_ese Rights, at the end of 1947. But the committee had no official at the relative boldness of these fllms. But the subject platter is always ~racter.




sources, as well as his professorial snobbishness, doom him to IOJlg'!~QI}SCIOLlsness: by educatio~, moral reform, and the passage of time, windedness, repetitiousness and a certain ponderousness and al had no trouble getting carte blanche from his backers, But we must not be too barsh. We of French nationality, who * * * almost never had the courage to look our own scandals in the face and '."ho have never pain,ted the full pi~~re of our OWn French But ~et,us look, at Myrdal's thesis somewhat more closely, colonial rule, would be III a poor position to throw stones a~, In his introduction he announces: "Throughout this study we Myrdal's work. , ., . will ~onstantly ~ake our starting point in the ordinary man's ideas, In liberal circles in the United States, however, the book hasi:ioctrllles~theories and mental constructs.' In a word in the race a~hieved ~ reputation that c~lls for ser!ou~·reservati.o~~. ~t bas,1;>ee;lprejudice white people. Thu~ at the ,very outs~t we' are plunged of Widely haile? as an "exhaustive ando~JectIve analysts. a definitive 'IDtO. the my~ter,r Myrdal describes "this totally irrational, actually study, Abridgements have been pubhshed. The book has become ma~cal,. belief which constitutes, according to him, the basis of sort of bible for innumerable interracial and cultural clubs. committeesanti-Negro preJ~dIc~, ~nd he. delves into "this magical sphere of and groups. ithe white man s mind, In the eyes of the white man he tells Yet though the book may be without criticism so far asus, the Ne~o "is inferior in a deep and mystical sense." • description goes, it is feeble in its interpretation. It does not answer To designate the gulf created oy the whites between themselves the question which seems to me to be fundamental: that is. it doesiutdthe Negroes, Myrdal uses a word no less mysterious, unexplained no~ expiait_lhow, by. who_m and why race prejudice was .brought into~. unexPlama.~le: taking after certai.n American sociologists, he being. WIthout calling into question Myrdal's good faith, we mustf~O"0'Ysfrom ,Hindu theocracy the word "caste." Just as the Hindu nevertheless make the observation th,!-t.his m~thod is quite in harmo~Joaste IS a SOCIalstratification _of aUegedly divine origin, so Myrdal's ~ith the co~cerns of those who sub~ldlZed hIS work, and serves the~lcaste ~ppears as an Idea. (in th~. Hegelian sens~ of the word), interests quite well. For what did the trustee,s of the Ca~ne~,eprefa?nca,t;d and pre-estabbs~ed: When slavery disappeared, caste Corporation actually want? They wanted. t~e evil of race preJudlceoremamed., He seem~ .to attf1~ute a magical power to "caste." and frankly described, for the same reasons-which I referred to above-presents It a~ a condition which has a special interest in its own that periodically inspire large-scale public inquiries in the UnitedSelf~preservatlOn.. "The caste system is upheld by its Own inertia States. B~t they didn't want much emphasis given to the remediesend by the sUl?enor caste's. in.terest in upholding it." . If the Negroes for the disease •. be_cause they understand thoroughly that n.o realare poor and ill-educatedvit IS becauseof th~ir "caste position." If remedy exists within the framework of the present economic andthe .Negroes are depnved of their civil rights, it is because of social system. And they most certainly didn't want the real caus~pphcahon of the "caste principle." The word "caste" becomes a of th~ evil to be laid bare; ~or if a cau~e.and-effect relati0.ns~ip wereSo~ of pass-key, or a convenient screen, obviating the necessity of e~ta,bhshed between .ca~ltalist oppresslo~ and race preJudice,. thll80mgt.o the, origins of the 'phenom~non. ~~d it is a dangerous word victims of race preJ~dlce would b~ likely ,to ?r~w concl~slO~~SO. since It ~vo.kes the Idea. of immutability and tends to confine dangerous to the established order, while the white Victims of capltahsithe Negroes within a closed circle of Hell which it is impossible to oppression would be inclined to ally themselves with the coloreJ>reak out of. . people. Myrdal's inquiry could be acceptable to his s~bsidizef51. Busy describ.ing bow this. mysterious "caste system" functions o~ly if it steered clear of these dual reefs and helped conjure awa)today, .Myrdal, hke most. soclOI<_lgists, artificially isolates sociology this dual danger. from history, He makes only brief reference to the long and tragic If there had been a desire for fun clarity, it would have beeirocess that led ~p to the _present SItUatIOn. This compiler, who necessary to view this mental sickness as an end-result, the fina~as ~ead everythmg., and. cites ~undre?s of books. refrains from product of a whole chain of material and historical causes. But foprawmg upon t_hosehistorical studieswhich have pierced the shadows Myrdal, on the contrary, it is a starting point. He describes it a~d thro~n.a httle light on the COn~ltlOnsthat formed and nourished though it were some sort of magical phenomenon. He is djstresse~ preJud~ce. He makes very little use, tor example, of Black about it. He bewails the fact that it produces attitudes among tht~econstructlO;t, the excel~ent book, by W. E. B. DuBois, patriarch white population in America that are in contradiction with anothelof the I"~egr~intellectuals III the United States; yet this book, in which magical phenomenon, namely, their attachment to the "America/white historians a~e caught red-handed in their lies, lifted a large Creed" of democracy. And then. entangled in this "dilemma," h~gme.nt of the veil: Myrdal mentions the author of Black Reconcan propose no other solution than the transformation of theil'1r11ctlOn only to ann barbed arrows at him. DuBois deplores the









fact that after their emancipation the Negroes didn't receive Myrdal in peace; she presses him, pushes. him int? c?rners, of even small plots of land. Utopianl=-growls Myrdal. him into contradictions. For example, he lets slip ~n o~e regrets that after the Civil War a united front of the .._~,a!;~<t~~I;:;. that "diseeimination against Negroes is thus rooted. in t.Ws poor whites was not realized. But that was unpossiblel-c-M of economic exploitation"; and in another, that the function dismisses him. His entire. book, moreover, labors to race prejudice is "to defend interests.:' ~imiIar1y, in one of the that an alliance of the Negroes and the exploited whites is passages which he devotes to the histoncal. hack~~(lund. of the To believe Myrdal, the poor white is more an enemy of the question' Myrdal writes that when the Negroes werepushed than is the wealthy capitalist .. And this, to be sure,. is the su into chattel slavery . . . the need was felt, in this Christian appearance, if race prejudice is taken as the starting pomt. for some kind of justification above mere econormc on the contrary, one starts from the economic causes of the and the might of the strong." So the arg~ent was then the real enemies Of the colored people stand exposed. the Negro was' a heathen and ~ barbanan , , . a them, however. is precisely what Myrdal does not wish. t~ do: of Noah's son Hain,cursed by God himself and doomed H~ is compelled to admit, nevertheless, that DuBQl~ 1D his be a servant forever on account of an ancient sin." Bu~ doesn't writings brought out certain aspects of t~e ~eg(o. quesh~n that passage clearly reveal tb.;tt racep~eju~ice is an att1t,ud~dehberately now commonly accepted, and that DuBOIS did this well 10 by the exploiters to ]u.S:hf~.the .ex~~Oltaho~.of ~lav~ of white writers. who since then have had to revise their Myrdal here abandons hIS mystical or.. D?-aglCal But Myrdal insultingly attributes Dulsois' farsightedness to , His starting point is no longer race prejudice, but accident." He will not grant that the objective conditions to exploitation, from which race prejudice follows. the colored race is subject are precisely what made it possible But these occasional break-throughs of the truth are. only a Negro writerto be the first to arrive at the truth. . lapses <?n Myrda]'~ part. . He tries to.. c.oyer hl!Dse~~ Mytdal's contained irritation with DuBois has. it seems, a by taking refuge. 1.nwh~t he .aaUs the • Vl~lOUS circle cause: namely, the fact that the author of Bll!c~ . This theory of ~he VICIOUS Circle IS t~ebewn~lllg and en~ frankly makes use of Karl Marx: and the matenalIst,. sociology. According to Myrdal, there IS no, pfll;l1arycause history and that, moreover, he Was one of the first .A?1encan. no "one predominant factor" ... "everything IS cause, to to apply this method. Since then. the ~aten.ahst. conc~ptwnelse.'· How does the theory work? An example: 1he history has fertilized and regenerated American historical science. prejudice of the ~hites keep,s the living conditions of t~e Negroes inspired the watks of liberal historians such as Charles A. a very low level; ill turn, this low level of th~ Negroes standard though when it comes to the Negro question Beard does not living furthers. race prejudice; and .so .the elr~le goes. ~y~dal in ridding himself entirely of white prejudice, and. his eyes to the fact that at the .be~mnmg o! h~s so-called. V~CIQUS materialist method withnruch less sureness than the Negro there is a primary cause: capitalist exploitation, the originator But the Sw edish Social Democrat Gunnar Myrdal will n.ot prejudice . race· . . . . 'k" . _,. either of them for introducing the economic factor into history, Moreover, the basic disadvantage of expressions .like VICL<;mS . refers peevishly to Beard's book ~>n the AI?eric~ Constit?~ion;. or the word "caste" is that they imply that there IS no ,solutIOn complains that "a vague conception of econonuc determinism oppression. And, it is precisely to ~Ws conclusion that invaded even modern writings that are "far outside the thesis would lead if pushed to Its logical end. school." For Myrdal, the materialist method has But. My.nlal. also EDses a~ a soci~I r~fonner: H~ b~asts ~at acquired the reputation of being scientific. whereas . job is-In his particular Jargon- ,SOCIalengmeenng, W~c,h "unrealistic and narrow." And if the Olympian professor . . that he must propose remedle~,. And so the f~tahshc adopts such an aggressive tone, isn't ~t ~ecause the we,akest P?int . suddenly turns into the morah~t: the Negro qu~stlOn, ne his structure is being touched? When It comes to this question is essentially a "moral" questton, And he. paints us a doesn't argue, he doesn't offer proof, he simply makes . the white people in America caught in a "dilemma." pronouncements, There isn't "any reason". or ."any· .. have, he tells us, a split personality, a divided soul. Two insists, of explaining "the Negro's caste status III Amencan (but magical only for Myrdal, wh~ IS careful not to by "singling out 'the economic factor' as basic." Myrdal has about their origins) compete in .their COnS~1?USness:on. one -and that settles it. the "American Creed," democratic and Christian; on the other, But truth is a most annoyingly persistent goddess, She mass of hideous "prejudices' that are in contradiction and conflict






fact that after their emancipation the Negroes didn't receive ownersni Myrdal in peace; she presses him. pushes him int? c?rners. of even small plots of land. Utopian!-growlsMyrdal. him into contradictions. For example. he lets slip m one regrets that after the Civil War a united front of the N . that "discrimination against Negroes is thus rooted in this poor whites was not realized. But that was . of economic exploitation"; and in another, that the function dismisses him. His entire book, moreover, labors to demonstra race prejudice is "to defend interests." Similarly, in one of the that an alliance of the Negroes and the exploited whites is ~himp.rI(,) passages which he devotes to the historical background of the To believe Myrdal, the poor white is more. an ene~y of the . question; Myrdal writes that when the Negroes "~ere p~s~ed than is the wealthy capitalist . And this. to be sure, IS the supernci into chattel slavery ... the need was felt in this Chnsha,n appearance, if race prejudice is taken as t~e startmg point. for some. kind of justification above mere econormc on the contrary, one starts from the economic causes of the and the might of the strong." So the argument was then the real enemies of the colored people stand exposed. 'that the Negro was a heathen and a barbarian . . . a them. however, is precisely what Myrdal does not wish. t~ do: of Noah's son Ham. cursed by God himself and doomed He is compelled to admit, nevertheless, that DuB01~ In his be a servant forever on account of an ancient sin." But doesn't writings brought out certain aspects of t~e ~egro. questl~n that passage clearly reveal that race prejudice is an attitude deliberately now commonly accepted. and that DuBOIS did t~IS well m by the exploiters to justify the exploitation of slave of white writers, who since then have bad to revise their "'Ui"'uv,,, Myrdal here abandons his "mystical" or .."magical" But Myrdal insultingly attributes DuBois' ~arsi.ghtednes.s. to "l1iLS(CmC; His starting point is no longer race prejudice, but accident." He will not. grant that the objective COndI!IOns t~ exploitation, from which race prejudice follows. the colored race is subject are precisely what made It possible these occasional break-throughs of the truth are only a Negro writerto be the first to arrive at the truth. lapses on Myrdal's part. He tries to cover himself Myrdal's contained irritation with DuBois has, it see~~~m~:s~'J~a~t;;;di:;lt:~ ... them by taking refuge in what he calls the "vicious circle" cause: namely, the fact that the author of Blf!C~ l'Io • This theory of the vicious circle is the beginning and end frankly makes use of Karl Marx and the materialist . . his sociology. According to MyrdaJ, there is no "primary cause" history and that, moreover, pe was one of the first.A!Dencan. . . no "one predominant factor" .... "everything is cause to to apply this method. Since then, the ~aten.ahst. concepnon else." How does the theory work? An example: The history has fertilized an~ regene.rat~ American histoncal science. prejudice of the whites keeps the living conditions of the Negroes inspired the works of liberal. historians s~ch as Charles A. a. very low level; in turn.' t~is low level of th~ Negroes' standard though when it comes tl? the Negro 9uestlO~~eard does not living furthers race prejudice: and so the mole goes. Myrdal in ridding himself entirely of white prejudice, and his eyes to the fact that at the beginning of his so-called vicious materialist method with much less sureness than the Negro there is a primary cause: capitalist exploitation, the originator But the Swedish Social Democrat Gunnar Myrdal will. not race prejudice. '. . ". "." either of them for introducing the economic f~ctor into ~ist?ry. Moreover, the baSIC disadvantage of expressions like VICIOUS , refers peevishly to Beard's book ~m the Amenc~ Constlt.u~on;, or the word "caste" is that they imply that there is no solution complains that "a vague ~~nceptton of ee~nomlc determinism oppression. And it is. precisely to this conclusion that invaded even modern writings that are far outSide the thesis would lead if pushed to its logical end. school." For Myrdal, the materialist method has But Myrdal also poses as a social reformer. He boasts that acquired the reputation ·of being scientific, whereas job is-in his particular jargon-"social engineering." WJ:ric.h "unrealistic and narrow." And if the Olympian professor .. that he must propose remedies. And so the fatalistic adopts such an aggressive tone. isn't it ~ecause the we;akestp?1Ot suddenly turns into the moralist: the Negro question. he his structure is being touched? When it c?mes to this question • is essentially a "moral" question, And he paints us a doesn't argue -. he doesn't offer proof, he Simply makes of the white people in America caught in a "dilemma," pronouncements. There isn't "any reason" Or ."any. .' have, he tells us, a split personality, a divided soul. Two insists. of explaining "the Negro's caste status 10 American (but magical only for Myrdal, who is careful not to by "singling out 'the economic factor' as basic." Myrdal has about their origins) compete in their consciousness: On one -and that settles it. . the "American Creed," democratic and Christian; on the other, But truth is a most annoyingly persistent goddess. She. mass of hideous "prejudices" that are in contradiction and conflict










with this "Creed." Why this split, why this struggle? A ......<'t .. ,•• l.Resolute opp?nents of re~i~on do not simply wait for the day when , So~etunes Myrd~1 suggests that race prejudice is a "mistake' ~ manure-pile that fertilizes the monstrous flower of superstition ~hlte people which they would correct if only they were will have bee? s~ept away; ~hey do what they can right now to push informed on the question. Sometimes he attributes their' back the prejudices of religion. The ultimate emancipation of the to "a century. long lag of public morals." Sometimes he N(:groes c~n. also be p~ep!'lredand advanced by immediate demands, the oracu~ar judgmen,t that race prejudice is "only a special and by ,rals~~ p;ople s con~clOusness, The minimum program of of the erugma of philosophers for several thousands of years: Truman s CIVIlRights Committee, which he himself endorsed in 1948 problem' of Good and Evil in the world." He even writes that (but the app~ca~ion of. which. hasn't gone very far). is not to be need ~or race 'prejudi~e is a "need for defense on the part of sneered at. Timid and insufficient as it is, its adoption would clearly Americans against their own national Creed, against their own constitut~ a ,step a~ead. The "education" and the propaganda against cherished ideals." But .he offers no explanation for such a race prejudice ~hich Myrdal advocates are not without usefulness, masochism. Through education and propaganda the most ,progressive trade unions He prefers to preach sermons to the white people in have succeeded to some extent in altering the thinking of their white and exhort them to reform. 'The American nation will not members. . . peace with !ts conscience until inequality is stamped out, .. " But reformis.m ~s dangerous when it is proposed as an end In d~s America ~ant to !llake peace with itself? Myrdal is and w~en It alms at diverting attention away from the need entirely sure. If America does not tum fascist" he writes tor more basic changes. ~yrdal's work is pernicious on two scores: white pOl?ulation will" be j~pelled to let the Negroes becom~ first, when. My~dal, takm~ t~e -,:?s~t~onof fatalistic sociologist, beneficiaries of the American Creed." In other words if suggests that racial oppression IS a VICIOUS circle" without solution' reactionary prejudices in the United States, which are chr~nic and .secC?nd, hen, assuming the ~uise of social reformer, he uphold; w virul~nt, do I!ot develop to the point of fascism, then they will the illusion that tbe Negro question can be solved within the frameby disappearing. But to say this is to say simply nothing. work of the present economic system. . Myrdal, however, entertains the hope that the Negro The argument according to which the maltreatment of the WIll be solved by "moral" means, by a slow and gradual ~egroes is in ~ontradiction wit~ the "American Creed" of democracy of "education." He proposes to solve the question in the !S ~Iso not WIthout some merit. From a purely tactical viewpoint, the Church proposes to solve the social question: by It 18 ev~n an excellent argument For this famous "Creed," though people's hearts, by imbuing their hearts with benevolence contradicted at eyery turn by the facts, remains despite everything brotherhood. But even as he winds up his book Myrdal can't a motive power III the c~>nsclOusness Americans, a living reality of .contra~icting him~elf .once aga~. He states that all the people !lDd ,not a mere formal ~Itual, It remains a reality because for the came in contact .with In the United States, on every social level, ~!grants-aI1:d ,~or their de~cendants-who fled the oppression in "good ~eople" who 'Yanted ~to be "rational and just," yet at the old countnes of Europe m order to found a new society without turn their conduct belied their good will, And Myrdal is ~pp~ession. a "U~opia.". the word "democracy" preserves a far vaster to admit that the fault lies with the "institutions." But if the ~gn!fic.ance than It has ill the disfigured version of capitalist society: reasoning were followed through to the end, it would then be it signifies the total emancipation of all mankind. Myrdal is not to consider first how to "reconstruct" society rather than !'£ong !n suggesting to. the Neg_roesthat they have "a powerful tool" nature." It would be necessary first to do away with the m their ~truggle against Whlt~ America, namely. "the glorious conditions that create race prejudice. But Myrdal has the' ~encan ideals of democ~acy, liberty and equality to which America not to press any further-and the curtain falls. ll! pledged O?t only. by !t~ pol!!ical C~:)Qstitutionbut also by the ~r~ ~evo~on of I~ CItizens. Again from a tactical point of Vlew,.It IS using a skillful argument to say to the American people * * * Myrdal's theses, to be sure, are not to be rejected in their that If they really want to appear as the champions of democracy Consider. first, his reformism. To reject reformism does not throughout the world, they would do well to see first of all that their to scoff at reforms.. A so~ial. disease c~nnot be fought solely own colored population enjoys the·,benefits of democracy. If "the struggle for, the ultimate elimination of its causes. Trade "">' Negroes became finally integrated into modern democracy," writes 'Yho set as their final. goal the abolition of the system of ¥yrdal. this would endow America with "a spiritual power manv tight no less determinedly for a program of immediate times stronger than aU her financial and military resources." .

24 But this argument is a two-edged sword. It can serve the of Negro emancipation-or it can do it a disservice. It is a argument only insofar as we explain at the same time the America was led to betray its own ideals. We would have to how the democratic aspirations of the pioneers who colonized New World came to birth; and how the steady growth of .... al"_..'uJ.~' •.ii 1 and, more recently, imperialism, increasingly emptied the' "-"""".'''<u Creed" of its content. We would have to expose the incomnauoum between democracy and today's dictatorship of the monopolies. of course Myrdal evades such an analysis, and thereby supports illusion-so carefully nurtured by the possessing c1ass-that America "democracy" as it exists in our day is an instrument of emancipatio for all the oppressed, whether white or black. Nor is Myrdal wrong in laying stress on the study of wha Marxists call the "superstructure," that is. the reflection in the human consciousness of the material social conditions. True materialists, and this is too often forgotten today, especially in "existentialist' circles-have never claimed that the image had less importance thar the object. The object creates the image, but the image reacts or the object. In my book La Lutte de Classes sous la Premiere Republique, I cited a letter of Engels in which he rose up agains those who twist the materialist conception of history "into the state ment that the economic element is the only determining one." And he corrected them: "The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure. . . also exercise thei influence . . .." To understand the Negro question, we must grasp the mechanisn of economic exploitation which gave rise to race prejudice, and athe same time view the mental sickness of the white people as : phenomenon in itself, detached from the relatively remote cause that brought it about and which has acquired over a period of tim! a semi-independent existence. DuBois, while insisting on the economir origins of race prejudice, agrees that little by little. throughout th years, a "racial folk-lore" was superimposed on the consciou determination of the white people to exploit the Negroes, a folk-lor which Was grounded on centuries of irrational instincts and menta, habits and which finally sank into the depths of the subconscious. The surest way to cure this mental sickness is, no doubt, t do away with the conditions that produced and nourish it. But j is possible, right here and now, to reduce the virulence of the diseas by appropriate treatment; and on the other hand, we have to expe ~----.------------------.----*ClaudeLefort, in Les Temps Modernes, November 1. 1945, criticized Il1


that even when the causes are finally eliminated the illness can still last a considerable time .. Race prejudice, like religious prejudice, is tough-lived. If Myrdal had limited himself to making this point, there would be no argument with him, and genuine Marxists could join with "existentialists" in congratulating him. But he is not content to isolate the superstructure and consider it as a phenomenon in itself, which would be an entirely valid method. He will not recognize, or, at best. underestimates the "infrastructure," that is, the economic foundation, and he refuses to accept the cause-and-effect relationship between infrastructure and superstructure. This "idealist" thesis, incidentally, has won but few adherents among Negro intellectual circles. Not only has it been vigorously refuted by those Negroes who make use of the Marxist method, such as the sociologist Oliver C. Cox, but it is contrary to the ':lews of some of the specialists on the Negro question who were associated with Myrdal's project. DuBois loudly repudiated it. It is not shared either by the Social Democrat and trade unionist A Philip Randolph or by the authors of Black Metropolis, St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton, all of whom insist on the economic origins of race prejudice. In The Crisis, liberal ~agazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Hugh H. Smythe seems to share the viewpoint of those who consider Myrdal "as being too. mystical in his treatment, of relying too heavily on the moral or ethical baSIS as a cause of contemporary conditions." And Willard S. Townsend, a Negro, pre-sident of a CIa union, not a Marxist, reestablished. the correct order of factors that Myrdal had reversed, stating: "Inequalities in our economic order are not initiated as the result of individual or stereotyped collective prejudices. It is exactly the other way around, Stereotyped prejudices result from inequalities and are merely by-products of the inequalities ." . ,. I propose to show in the course of thl~ st~dy that race prejudice is not born spontaneously but has been arh~clally and systematically manufactured by the subtlest and most diabolical methods, by a constant mass propaganda comparable to that put out by European fascism. To show how the mechanism of this "brain-washing" works, to attack race prejudice. at its source, to reveal how it has served the interests of the ruling class and has been one of the instruments through which this class bas been able to exploit both Negroes and whites, is aI.ready t? deal a .fatal blow to. the ment~l sickness. For the immediate period, that 1S to say, while we await the elimination of the basic causes of the disease, this is the most effective remedy we can employ. But Myrdal, who boasts of changing people's hearts, refrains from speaking to them in the only language for reducing my analysis of fascism to its economi.c aspects. The criticis that could really touch them. seemed to me unjustified, for I believe that in my book Fascism and Bi There is a final argument that can be offered in Gunnar Myrdal's Business I endeavored to study the "fascist mystique" as a phenomena, defense. Certain persons who are wen-disposed toward him assured in itself.





me that. as a captive of the Carnegie Foundation. Myrdal didn't hay an entirely free hand and couldn't say everything he wanted to-sse that we must read him between the lines. This hypothesis did no seem very convincing to me. Still" I wanted to be sure of the full truth. So I went to Geneva. where Myrdal had an important post in the UN. and I asked him outright if there was something in this rumor I had heard. His reply was categoric: "J said everything l wanted to say, and there is nothing to read between the lines." Since' which, I have felt no reluctance in disputing Myrdal's work.


A Bit oj" History
It is impossible to understand the Negro question without going back to its origins. These are neither "mysterious" nor "mystical." As Eric Williams points out in Capitalism and Slavery, the slave system was first established, and later abolished. for economic reasons. It was not the fruit of either the "Inferiority" of the Negroes or of was not the fruit of either the "inferiority" of the Negroes or of some "moral deficiency" of the whites. Slavery flourished as long as it was profitable. Race prejudice was engendered in. order to justify. at every step. the exploitation of colored labor. Oliver C. Cox remarks that before Columbus discovered America in 1492, the world had never known racism. * Racism was born with modern capitalism and colonialism. It was one of the fruits of the proletarianization of Iabor, The servitude of the Negroes (of which slavery as such was only one of the historic forms) had as its counterpart the SUbjugation of the white workers. Colonization of the New World required manpower. It began with exploitation of the native population. the American Indians. But this initial source of labor proved to be inadequate, and was quickly exhausted. So England instituted a sort of slave-traffic in whites. Those who were seeking to flee from feudal oppression bound themselves under contract to recruiting agents or sold themselves to ship captains. The courts, deliberately increasing tbe number of penal sentences. provided tbe American colonies with convict labor. The white chattel were transported across the Atlantic under frightful conditions. But even this reservoir of labor was insufficient. and also became exhausted. Indentured servants were too expensive, and they were not docile; they ran away from the plantations and set off to win the West. At the same time, production of rice. tobacco. cotton and sugar On an increasingly large scale demanded abundant and cheap labor. The planters bad no choice. They drew from the only reservoir open to them, namely, Africa. As early as the end of the 16th century. England had begun to
.Cox's observation .is correct so far as anti-Negro racism is concerned. But racism against the Jews existed from far earlier times, for different reasons. .equally material and economic, (See The. Jewish Question: A Marxist interpretation by A. Leon. Pioneer Publishers, New York.)





thrive on the Negro slave-trade. Encouraged by the royal go"errunent and blessed by the Cburc~, the slave traffic brought fabulous profits to the ?ompa.:mes engaged III It. The trade was "triangular' ; first, English ships transported the human merchandise from Africa to the New World colonies; next, they carried raw materials coming from the plantations and destined for the industrial centers of Great Britain or New England; finally, they dumped manufactured products on the African. coast. This hade made Liverpool's fortune. Slave traders occupied the highest ranks of British society. As: for the Negroesor more exactly, those of them who did not die during the crossing ~they arrived in the New Wor:ld chained ill pairs by wrists and ankles. after an interminable ocean voyage where they were so tightly packed in that each one had less space than ina coffin. . The traffic in slaves was carried on by both the British and the French. The working of large plantations by Negro slave labor was developed first and foremost in the West Indies, which were colonized by both powers. Sugar from Jamaica and San Domingo was a veritable gold mine for British and French capitalists of the 18th century. To understand. the development of slavery in the United States. it is essential to refer to the precedent set by the West Indies. * In the United States the Negro slaves were first put to work at tobacco growing, in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. But the really large-scale importation of Africans did not develop until the beginning of the 18th century. when the cultivation first of rice and then of cotton was introduced in South Carolina and Georgia. These two states became the strongholds of the American slave system. Here it should be pointed out that the introduction of slavery was limited to the Southern colonies. Not that the need for manpower was any less urgent in New England and the North generally, Nor was it that the godly Puritans were opposed to the principle of slavery as such. Proof of this is the fact that the colony of Rhode Island became a major c-enter of the Negro slave trade and thrived on the traffic. But the extension of slavery to the North encountered obstacles of a physical nature. The newly imported Negro could not take the Northern climate. Furthermore. semi-tropical types of agriculture were not then possible there-not even tobacco-with the result that one-crop farming was excluded and multiple-crop small farming had to be developed, Now the Negro was considered a profitable commodity only for one-crop farming; where the work requires hardly more than an automaton. Multiple-crop farming requires skills and initiative of which the Negro was capable. to be sure, but only after a somewhat lengthy period of adjustment->
"The victorious slave rebellion led by Toussaint Louverture in San Domingo, for example, explains why the American slaveholders lived urtder. ihCl constant haunting fear of an uprising of their own slaves.

qualities which. moreover, were actually incompatible with the slave system. which. could survive only if it deliberately blocked the intellectual development of its victims. These physical conditions thus divided. the future United States i~to two quite distinct regions: one, the. regron of multiple-crop farming, based on small property and w~te labor; the other, the region of semi-tropical one-crop fanning. vf1th large plantations and Negro slave labor. This physical division of the country already contained in itself the seeds of the Civil Wur. By the end of the .lSth century, however, the .slave system was aIteady in dec1~e. Many people even in the South (except for the two above-mentioned states) began to have doubts about its economic value. The English economist, Adam Smith, had already pointed out the economic superiority of free labor over slave labor. But a technological revolution resuscitated the slave 'system and gave it a new lease on life: that is, the invention of the mechanical cation gin by Eli Whitney in 1794. The first essential step in the production of cotton from the cotton plant is removal of the seeds from the cotton tiber. This operation, when done by hand. was a very slow and therefore costly process. A hard-working slave could not expect to toFn out more than a pound qf cotton a day. Cotton culture began its real expansion once this problem Was solved. It required less attention and was better adapted to slave labor than rice or tobacco. South Carolina and Georgia were quick to give up rice for cotton. and, cotton farming spread rapidly to the neighboring regions of Alabama and Mississippi. The South became the Cotton Kingdom and supplier of the whole world. Huge landholdings became concentrated in a few bands. The planters, whose numbers never reached 400,OOQ, became largeseale capitalists with whole armies of slaves, The demand for slaves was such that the slave trade. although illegal after 1808. flourished with new vigor. There were as many slaves brought into the country from 1808 to 1860 as from the beginning of the slave trade to 1808. And just before the Civil War the planters attempted to have this traffic in human beings again made legal, . In the mid-19th century, slavery was not, as one might think, a rather shameful residue, an anachronistic vestige of the past, on the verge of disappearing. On the contrary, it reached its height in the years 1820 to 1860, the period when Cotton was King. It was not a feudal but a capitalist institution. In 1860, the number of slaves rose to the record figure of 4,000,000. And the market value of a slave. which Was $300 before 1800, rose to $2,000. Moreover, the steadily declining price which the planters received for their cotton in the markets of New England and Europe narrowed their margin of profit and induced them to redouble their exploitation of the slaves. The institution of slavery, far from being mitigated, became ever more vile, ferocious and inhuman when modem

30 capitalism




revived it and worked it to the fullest.


The economic exploitation on which the slave system was based gave birth to race prejudice. It was possible to treat the Negro only like an animal if one refused to consider him human. For bow could Christians enslave their fellow-men? To be able' to look on Negroes as a piece of merchandise, sen them atauction in the public square, wrench child from mother and husband from wife, it was essential to insist that the Negro was not really a human being. This necessity produced the entire racist attitude. As Dubois has said, the theory of the inferiority of the colored man was the product of the "conscious Of unconscious determination" Nevertheless, despite all the evils and horrors and despite the of the white cotton planters "to increase their incomes by taking economic disadvantages of slavery, this rnstitution was not itself the full advantage of this belief ... The income-bearing value of race essential and direct cause of the Icing and bloody war that eventually prejudice was the cause and not the result of theories of race put an end to the system. The tr~th is that the North and the South inferiority." Thus the Negroes were considered to be fundamentallyleonstituted twoccnflicting productive systems; and once they became and unalterably degenerate and inferior creatures. members-as incompatible they could no longer co-exist peacefully. Years before. Georges Clemenceau put it-"of a category unrecognized in any the task of federating the )3 colonies into the United States of natural history. somewhere between men and monkeys in the animal America had been a most difficult one. It was made possible only scale." In Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel, Uncle Tom's through a compromise negotiated between Northern industrial and Cabin, Simon Legree roars at Tom. "What! ye blasted black beast! financial capitalism, employing free labor, and the slaveholding ten me ye don't think it right to <,10 what I tell ye! What have any p1anter aristocracy of the South, The compromise endure~l, for better of you cussed cattle to do with thinking what's right?" Similarly. in or worse. through a number of decades. But by the middle of the Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone with the Wind., the Negroes are 19th century the whirlwind development of industry shattered the frequently c?ropared to apes, They are said to have. an an~al smell. equilibrium ~tween. the two partn~rs. . .. . They are likened to animals, bemg lumped together with horses, The conflict was both economic and political m character. mules. dogs and cats. . . .... . (1) The economic conflict. In order to develop, industry required If the slaves were "anu~als" and not human beings, then It w~s . protective tariffs. The South, which was exporting cotton. in ever"legi~imate" to tteat them mh~manIy. And at the. same time. this inereasiJ1g quantity (3 million bales i~ 1850, 5 million in .18.59) ~nd provided the, re~s~p for refUSl?g them anyeducation. As PIerre which as a buyer of Northernindustrial products wanted their prices Belperron writes: It wa~ ~orbIdden to teach. the slaves t? read. so kept low, could prosper only on the baSIS. of free trade. The as to pre;;nt themfrom nsing out of the apathetic and resigned state increasing protectionism of the North provoked. reprisals in ~urope~ of cattle. .. . . . countries~ m 1828, for example, England replied to a nse In duties To get some Idea. of the torturesendur~d by. the slaves, It~s on U.S. imports by purchasing its cotton elsewhere. and the market still today worth reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. Be~per~<in, who IS price of the commodity feU from more than 15 cents a pound in 1824 always careful to .go ~asy on the slaveh~lders, mamtams that the to less than 10 cents in 1830. Rising tariffs thus threatened to close horrors recounted In this book were exceptions. There wer~,. he tells off more and more of the market outlets for cotton. At the same us, "good" as well as "bad" 1_llasters. But he does not dispute the time, the products of Northern manufacture were rising in price. accuracy of t~e facts. He admits that .some plantatIOns wer~ ve~ita?le The South was compelled to sell on. a. free trade world market and hens, and POInts out that the most hideous aspect of the mstitunon buy in a protected domestic market. Until 1844 the high tariff an utterly advocates had the upper hand in Washington. w~s the slave trade .. -:rhe sl,ave dealer, he agrees, Was a But then the free WIthout pity, who didn t hesitate to use lash. manacles, chams Or cells traders came into control-i-to the great discomfort of the Northern to hold onto his; huma_n. merc!landise. industrialists. One of the first moves of the 'latter, shortly after . Margaret MItchell Jee~s spitefully at a gr~up of Northern w0tllen the secession of the Southern states, Was to establish sharply increased 1U her story who were against slavery and believed every word of the tariff rates,



in Uncle Tom's Cabin about the atrocities inflicted Oil the Negro slaves. But this contemporary novelist lets slip a number of termS which confirm the picture drawn by her 19th century redeeessor, "Liar," "idiot." "insolent," "cheat." "stupid," imbeCiJe," "brutish"~tbese are some of the epithets that the heroes of Gone With the Wind use regularly when speaking to their Negro slaves, And the interminable novel is full of sentences such as, "The air was alway? thick with threats . . . of direful whippings" or "She'd like to have them all whipped until the blood ran down their backs."







in the famous words of Senator Seward, an "irrepressible (2) The political conflict. The North and South were .... ., And it was solved, as most imperialist conflicts are solved for control of the federal government in order to be able legislation in favor of their own respective' and diametrically ormoseo Will'. interests. At the time of the compromise that made * founding of the United States, the North had given, among its concessions to the South, an extravagant one. It had On the question which in retrospect appeared as the main issue representation in Congress from the slave states would be ~~1_._1_. the :war-the abolition of slavery-Northern capitalism was hesitant on the basis of the white population plus three-fifths of the divided. It was aware that the use of slave labor was outdated popl,lla_tion. This arrangement gave the Southern whites a represenunocenomic, thereby impoverishing the South and retarding its tation Itt Congress out of all proportion to their number. As Senator The North saw in the South a source of raw materials, William H. Seward of New York described it in 1858, 'The slavefor its manufactured products, a. field of investment for holding class . , . practically chooses 30 of the 62 members of and areservoir of cheap labor. Abolition of slavery would Senate, 90 of the 235 members of the House of Representatives, and possible ]owercotton prices, increased purchasing power in 105 of the 295 electors of the President avo Vice-President of the South, speedier and more profitable colonization of the area United States." And the South, he further pointed out, controlled the development of a new reserve army of workers for Northern all the important Senate committees, The South naturally wanted to hang on to this advantageous arrangement. and the North wanted the other hand. North and South had certain economic to abolish it. ill common, As Belperron writes: "For the. North. the Also, the North and South were in disagreement. not on the was both an excellent market and a~ the same time the supplier principle of slavery=but on the extension of the slave system. As the cotton which was enriching the New England mill owners." colonization spread westward, the question arose whether the new . the Northern capitalists to a certain extent were tied to territories would be opened up by free men or by slaves. From a Southern planters by class solidarity. They had already, when purely economic point of view, expansion was a vital necessity for' -United States was founded. Overcome any repugnance they might slavery. Slave labor rapidly exhausted the soil, Scientific agriculture felt for slavery; and had given the South a free hand to maintain was incompatible with a slave society, After exhausting the land ill institution even though it was in flagrant contradiction with the the East, the planters could only move on, with their armies of "American Creed." (The newly-adopted federal Constitution. for slaves, further and further West The Northern capitalists, for their ezample. did not either recognize or forbid slavery.) These part, wanted to colonize the West for their own profit interests; and t-elflanap·i,oDS of private property did not venture to dispossess the South they had the support, as We shan see, of the. small settlers who in of its capital. the slaves. The abQlition of slavery in the West Indies their irresistible westward drive were steadily pushing back the by England in 1833 and France in 1848 did not change their minds, frontier. . The desire for compromise on the part of both the exploiters .of Thus the South needed to enlarge the number of slave states so whites in the North and the exploiters of Negroes in the South has as to. strengthen its control over the federal government. With the been (except for the. period of open conflict in the Civil War) One. same aim, the North sought to enlarge the number of free states. of the constant features of American politics.. Whenever a territory was to be taken in as a state. the same fight During the whole first ha1f of the 19th century, there was 11 broke out: was It to be a free state Or !l slave state? Sometimes, combination of two processes; On the one hand, an increasingly as in lSI? and 1850 •. the dispute was temporarily patched over by violent antagonism of interests pitted North against South;' on the a makeshift eompronuse. other, the possessing classes of both. North and South tended to form Lastly, .the South, blocked off from expansion toward the West, a united front against the rising social forces which threatened their began to think of extending the slave system toward the Caribbean ptivileges: the democratic forces of the small farmers. the workers Sea-whi!e the North wasafrai:d that the nation might thereby be and the Negro slaves impatient to be free. Fora period the united dragged into wars for the conquest" of Cuba, Mexico or Central .front took shape in the Whig Party. This party embraced both America, ~ Nortnern Big Business and the dominant section of the Southern In short, two e~pires,equany dynamic, had developed under planters, who were fearful of the radicalism of Jackson's Democratic the. same flag. ~helr r~specttve needs fer expansion pitted Party. But in the end the conflict of "imperialist" interests prevailed against each other Just as If they were two separate imperialist nations, over elass solidarity. The Whig Party broke apart; the planters


.U·".A>.'"II ..





returned to the Democratic Party, to. take it over; the capitalism, having decided to stand up against .th~;' So~th, Party was born, a coalition at first of various enemies of the the moral position of Abolitionism. The agitation aga!nst planters, but one which soon came under the control of N stimulated by the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act which, Business, But even after this realignment of forces. of the compromise of 185~. r~uired the _return of capitalists were slow to enter into open conflict with the slaves to their masters. The secret aid given to fugitive slaves planters; they exhausted every possibility for of the Underground Railroad effected the transition of resigning themselves to an open break, the initiative for from words to action, . Southerners foolishly took. And even after the break had white Abolitionism would have been no. more than phil anstill clung to the hope of a reconciliation: with hostilities fervor had it not been stimulated by Negro Abolitionism, raging, they offered the South to guarantee forever the . the Negroes attacked slavery, they were struggling not only slavery if only the secessionists would return to the fold of the abstract principle, but for life .and libe~ty.~hey were the And the slaves of the South who came to join the Northern the movement, and nourished It first WIth their revolts-the were at first turned down as undesirable! When Lincoln of which was Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831-and then decided, on September 22, 1862, to issue the Emancipation fugitive slaves, tion, he invoked only strictly military reasons: what was involved, The leader of Negro Abolitionism, Frederick Douglass, was made his mind, was the need to disorganize the enemy forces which different stuff than the leader of white Abolitionism. William Lloyd using large numbers of Negroes in auxiliary services such as .. Slavery had marked his flesh, Horribly abused by a commissary department and for manual labor. , he managed to escape and reach the North. There he If the Civil War did in fact bring about the emancipation the fearless voice of an accuser: "You boast o,f ¥o~~ love .of the slaves, this was because powerful social forces broke superior civilization, a~d your p_ure Christianity, while swept over the cautious Northern capitalists and gave a political power of the nahan, . , IS solemnly pledged to revolutionary character to this final reckoning between the and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your empires, .. When, after 1840. Garrison turned pacifist and wanted One of these forces was the Free Soil movement. The slavery only with the methods of "non:resis.tance" and "moral settlers who opened the West, and those who wanted to settle •• Frederick Douglass broke sharply WIth him and bec~me the advocated "free soil." Their demand was two-fold: they champion of direct action, He was.a ~lose fnend of slavery banned in these vast lands they coveted. and they Brown the only white man who had dared incite the Negroes the land given to them either free or at a very low price,· free themselves by force of arms, whos~ decisive action ~t H.arpe!'s platform they nominated a candidate for President of the in 1859 sounded the toll of the comjng war. and who l?~ud·with States in 1848, In 1854 they played a decisive role in forming for this magnificent act of courage. Republican Party. Once in power. the Republicans pushed * * * the Homestead Act of 1862, which was favorable to the Free . .. '., hN slaves deserted the giving 160 acres free to each settler to open up, The program When hostilities broke out. te ,e~ro . . h .. . the Free Sailers could be imposed on the slaveholding planters plantations in huge num?ers and joined the Norternbarffilesj by force, The democratic torces of the West contributed much first rejected as un~eslfable •. t~:y later cat?e "to, e usee the break between North and South, . as laborers and as soldiers. Thi~, general strike of half a .. , ., . men was to a large extent decisive for the outcome of the Along, WIth this develop~er,tt, the Abolitionists held a gun It eatl weakened the Southern economy while reinforcing the back of the Northern capitalists, They were never as nt .. '1'. gr. dY. mic potential of the North It was the direct ith id mi itary an econor that finally wrested from the previously '. as th e F r~, S'1 ers, b u t thei ac ti iti 01 . err IVl ,les me t WI f ar, WI ~r . of the Negroes I. The AbohtIO~ !ll0vement attracted Its support~rs p~n~anly Lincoln the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The war petty b?Urge,Olsle. It att~cked slavery, from an l,:ieahstI~ and not have been won without the participation of the Negroes, viewpoint, ~ke the Anti-Slavery SOCIety established, III England . With the defeat of the South in 1865, the tempo of the revolution 1823 by, WIlberforce. The m~vement was largel.y. Isolated an~ It~~. kened. The Northern. capitalist. s wer~. 1. . rt;Iuch further along ed f<?llowers. thought to be fanatics, ~ere per~ecuted and sometimes d th the wanted to go, * The military victory of the North killed=-the fate, for example, of Elijah Lovejoy who was murdered roa an. y__ __ , at Alton. IlL, in 1836, This isolation lasted until the time when .Georges Clemenceau, the future statesman. who was contributing




had not been enough to crush the slaveholding aristocracy of out his own destiny in conjunction with the southern p<?0r South. Hardly had they been defeated on the field of batUe~::;,.Ptes! and that in an eight-year period of workin~ o~t. ~ha~ de~!my they began to rise up again and attempted to restore their bad created a fine. a just, and a truly democratic civilization. supremacy through enactment of the Black Codes. The The period. moreover, is difficult to understand because •. as managed to win mastery only by extreme measures: a the French Terror of 179,3, two regimes existed alongside dictatorship in Congress analogous to that of the Convention : on one hand, the dictatorship of a revolutionary French Revolution: prolonged military occupation; and the on the other, the embryo of popular power and of the ment of local governments in which a large place was given revolution. The plan of Northern capitalism was to ta_ke those who, only yesterday, had been under the planters' yoke. that power from the former slaveholdi.ng aristocracy, and to colonize the freed slaves and the poor whites. This is the famous era South. With the protection of Northern bayonets, a horde of as the Reconstruction. ters and speculators overran the conquered country; No period in American history has been so and bribery flourished. But the North could not. attain misrepresented. by historians, novelists and rnovie-m except by taking from the rebel planters the right to Howard Fast concludes his novel. Freedom Road, with the and giving it to the former slaves.. For the freed Negro~s and words: "The very memory [of Reconstruction] was poor whites this meant the estahlishment, under protection at Powerful forces did not hold it to be a good thing for (he military dictatorship. ~nd by means .of uOlv.ersal suffrage, of a people to know that once there had been such an' based on political and econonnc equality for the oppressed, that the experiment had worked. That the Negro had been distinction as to color. For a bnefpenod these two the right to exist in this nation as a free man, a man who co-existed. the best alongside the worst. "Frightful yea.rs," on equal ground with his neighbor. that he had been given the Andre Siegfried. following the lead of most American "An upheaval of humanity like. the. Reform~tIon unsigned articles to the newspaper Le Temps in Paris, wrote in 1869: 'Tk_ .. the French Revolution." retorts the Negro histortan DuBOIS. Northern merchants ... didn't know themselves where the The embryo of popular power had some ~ha.~actens~lcs of what taking them." "Most of the radicals of today embarked 011 the bFXi.sts call "the dictatorship of the proletariat, that 1S,. complete sea without any dear idea of where their course would lead. for the masses, dictatorship against the enemies of the arrived at their present position only after being forced on from one wac at one and the same time parliamentary and extrato another." "Years might have elapsed before the North decided e complete justice to the black race, but the obstinacy of the The constitutional conventions in the various states forced it upon them ... " And although Lincoln, according to C in general open to representatives of the Negroes and poor played an important role in "one of the most radical revolutions in Paralleling these conventions, popular clubs were orgamzed, he was an "instrument" and not a "promoter" of it. "For, though to those of the Fren ch Revolution. These Union Leagues. stances made of him a revolutionary, he was at heart conservative," (An English translation of Clemenceau's articles was dubs were called, were the soul of the revolution. Moreover, in 1928 under the title, Americall Reconstruction, 1865-1870.) the federal troops, popular Negro militias saw to It 'lThe novel. Gone With the Wind, which ran into millions of copies the will of the people was imposed on .recalcitrMl:ts~ . which. reached an even larger public in movie form, abruptly But this revolution, like all bourgeois revolutions, stopped frivolous style, its society gossip, its trite and affected Political emancipation was not accompanied by econom~c the story comes to the Reconstfuctionperiod. At that point it Most. of the large plantations, abandoned by their turns into a. political tract whose blind fanaticism is expressed. ~n had been sequestered. The Negroe s continued to cultivate .. language breathing hatred. The Reconstruction appears as a horrible sccmrl",me:rs, The Negroes are pictured as having become so insolent that they insult under control of the federal authorities, In some cases, the and force them off the sidewalk. They will not work. any more. were given the right to divide and hold t~e plantat~on under are drunk on whiskey and freedom. They commit every kind of title' in others they were able to buy it. Sometimes they Northerners are given no better treatment ill the story. They tell the 'I't and defended their new property arms in hand. +-horror of horrors-that from now on they are as good as whites. go So far as to invite Negroes to their homes to eat or spend. the . they worked it on a cooperative basis. But the spirit They take them riding in their carriages, ~n~ let them eat c_h1cken led the Negroes to take over and divide the land was ~roken. times a day. Worst of all, they talk: about gjvmg Negroes the right to dream of "40 acres and a mule" for everyone remained a Which leads one of the characters to exclaim. "And if they give the The efforts of Thaddeus Stevens, the great. statesman of the vote, it's the end of us . ,. It isn't to be borne . .. Soon we having nigger judges, nigger legislators-black apes out of the jungle->, the Reconstruction. to have Congress adopt his proposals for division


of the land came to nought. The bourgeois Republicans would go along with him. Capitalism itself was too hungry for land be interested in satisfying the Negroes' hunger. The most indebted plantations were sold at auction and, as with the nation •. holdings during the French Revolution, were acquired by the bourgeoisie orthe South or by Northern speculators. Sometimes former owners were able later on to buy them back, at least in or they were simply returned to them. There was a large shifting in property ownership. But the plantations survived. Negroes who had for years cultivated the land remained on manual laborers. Their condition of servitude changed only in From slaves. they became sharecroppers. possessing only their power and bound to their masters. But this revised' and amended form of slavery was not ..r"'''H'''' different from the earlier form. The labor power thus the cotton plantations continued to be cruelly exploited, methods were devised to forge new chains to bind the their masters. Little by little the institution of . , originally conceived. for the Negroes alone, was extended to. the. whites. that .is, the former small property owners who had ruined and dispossessed of their land. Since the sharecropper owns nothing but his labor power. landlord has to see to it that he and his family are kept the cotton harvesting season. So he gives a few advances in in the form of food and clothing, which are charged to the at exorbitant prices. Then when it comes to the division of the the owner robs his helpless tenant again. allotting him only a of his due. Thus the sharecropper. cheated at the point purchase. and sale, cannot get put of debt and remains indetini'teIy to the plantation. As Rene Dumont remarks. ... sees to it that "there is always a debt" and therefore "an remain." l\.J.1d necessary, the planter does not hesitate to use if to deprive his tenant of any desire to escape. * Furthermore. the sharecropper can take no initiative He is completely under the thumb of the owner. who dictates aspect of his work and is always ready to terrorize him if he the least sign of recalcitrance. The exploitation which the cropper himself suffers extends to his wife and children. who forced to contribute their own heavy-and unpaid-labor. In most Southern states the sharecropper is legally to be a farm day-laborer. He has no rights of ownership to land, to his working tools, to the crop or to his scrawny, Ii The owner can take whatever he wants to reimburse himself for
. ~In recent years, however, the sharecropper has acquired a "Ull~"'UU''''';'O' of his rights amI' lias cleared out when his patience came to an end.

he has forced on his tenant. And at the end of the year he the right to kick him out. In short. the sharecropper suffers all the oppression of the wage_ker with none of the. advant~ges. He li_vesunder conditions ?f '\tire misery" and "semi-starvation" -on this there is agrj!emeJ?tin f!the writings on.·the subject, whether governmental or pr,tvate Ucations. The photographs in the 1937 report of President sevelt's committee, entitled Farm Tenancy, are even more joquent than the text. And Gunnar Myrdal labels the plantation.ant system "one of America's 'public scandals,' " a system "which Us no real parallel in other .advanced parts of the Western world." After its halfway stop, the revolution receded. Slavery as such was not re-established, but the Negroes, and to some extent the (por whites, lost the political rights they had woz:t. No~thern eapitalism had raised the ma.s~es of the Sou~~ on to their feet simply • order to make certain of Its own definitive supremacy over the planters.. But once the objective had been attained, class solidarity iJain welded together the united front of the propertied classes that lid been momentarily broken by the Civil War. The rapid develop~t of industry, the economic crisis of 1873, the first signs of werking-class revolt in the North. the haunting fear among the . classes that a lasting alliance might develop between the and poor whites in the South. the concern of the North to order in its Southern colony-all these factors caused the of America to bring Reconstruction to an end. In the field, the Republican candidate for President in 1876 was *hIe to win election only with the agreement of the Democrats, who lad again become a pow~rful force in the ~outh and throughout the country. After a foul piece of horse-trading, the North and So~th teached a compromise. The federal armies evacuated the occupied areas. The Negroes were betrayed by their champions of yesterday UId banded over to the mercies of the Bourbons. White supremacy was restored in the South. The counter-revolution began. The white terror-white in the literal sense of the word-had an open road. It forged for itself its special. we~pon:, th~ .Ku Klux. ~lan;, This organization proceeded to fascist-like puninve expe~ltlons. .~he Negroes were. "put in their place" by. means of horrible atrocities: they were robbed of all political rights and once more brought under the planters' yoke. t _
tPierre Belperron falsely maintains that. "if the Radical ~yranny had continued . . . the Radical Reconstruction would have concluded ~n !!- horrible race war." Thus he tries to justify the Southern counter-revolutl<?,n: But Georges C)emenceau refuted these "slanders against the Negro race In" one af hiS letters to Le Temps. '" do not see,"he wrote on November 8, 1867, that




40 The 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, during the revolutionary period of the Reconstruction, had J;<iU'UUllLI';1J\a the Negroes the right to vote. But with the complicity of the C!."n¥Q'''',s Court, these amendments came to be treated as scraps of paper. 1896, as an example, the Supreme Court gave its approval to segregation laws that had been adopted in the Southern states. after another, the Southern states passed laws which, by one or another, prevented the Negro from voting. The so-called father clause" denied the right to register to those persons or descendants who had not voted prior to 1867-at which time course- no Negroes had the right to vote, The, poll tax set as prerequisite for voting the payment of a tax which was too for the Negroes to meet. Other laws disfranchised those who, not read or "correctly" interpret some' artiele of the The "white primary" was a device whereby candidates for electi4)tI. were nominated in conventions of the Democratic Party that open only to whites; and since the Democratic Party, after the compromise, was for all practical purposes the only politicalin the South, the real elections took place-s-with the Negroes no say-s-in fhese white primaries. In order to justify these attacks on democratic rights, a "<Or. campaign of hatted against the Negro was begun, The prejudices, which were first engendered in order to legitimatize and which began to vanish' during Reconstruction, were ....,,~.,"'A! and pushed to new heights of frenzy. But the fanatical hysteria not arise overnight. The fire did not start immediately; it had be carefully tended and fanned. The program and statutes of Ku Klux Klan at its outset reveal that race prejudice played an auxiliary part The basic aims of the Klan, as stated in program, were. first, to restate the former privileges of the , protect their property against the land-hunger of the Negroes reduce the-Negroes to the status of servile labor; and next, in to achieve .these goals, to rob the freedmen of their political The racist theory. the dogma of white superiority. the concern
HI<',"M I


the Negro resorted to any reprisals. And yet the war of the re offered the Southern Negroes a perfect opportunity." And the future man added ; "Yes, there is unquestionably a race war-but Who and who is carrying it on?" From 1868 on, We see Clernenceau by the fear. that "the South wouldagain possess the power which it defeat," .aIJ,o that the Negl'oe~ might be. "left to the mercy_ of .their masters." He watched fue birth of the Ku Klux Klan which, "not with secret sallies at night to beat the Negroes and assassinate.fhe now "c~>rt~esoutopenly _ht fu~1 daylight:' to prevent elections from And this jo..~tnahst, wrrting With ,enthUSiasm about the "successful concrusiorr of the "second Arnencan revolution," remarked: "It would be a strange· if the American people should abandon their principles . _ , and destroy one day the fruits of seven years' struggl~." Yet thanis what happened. .

Jmaintaining the purity of white blood," came only in the third place, fWhen in 1890 Governor Tillman of South Carolina tried to get a tlw passed that would have compelled separate railroad coaches for )legroes, his proposal was turned down by the State Senate: as the liistoriap, Francis Butler Simkins comments, "The growingsentiment for racial segregation had not as yet been sufficiently developed." Between 1890 and 19QQ the Populists were partially successful (as we shall see later) in re-establishing a united front between the Negroes and poor whites in the South-wllich is proof that, race, prejudice luld not yet then become the mental sickness that it is today. The fear which the experience of the Populist movement inspired in the Southern masters increased their determination to create an unbridgeable gulf between whites and Negroes. The name of this gulf is segregation. The two races were _cily separated and aHcontact between them was systematically tendered impossible. The division of the South into two worlds that do not know each other and who fear 'and hate each other is in no way some vestige of the past, with its justification to be found in "ancestral traditions.t'" It dates only from the beginning of the 20th century, The system was established in the period of the height of American capitalism. with the approval and blessing of WaIl Street. Earl B. Dickerson" a lawyer, sets 1914 as the date when .. the legal- status of the American Negro had degenerated to the pattern that existed prior to the Civil War." The 1876 compromise between Northern Big Business and the Southern Bourbons has lUI'Vived to the present day. The monstrous governmental system that still rules the "Old South" today is its fruit. The two partners in the compromise are equally concerned with seeing that the system is maintained. H)r by pitting the two races against each other, the system makes it possible to keep them both in SUbjection, and guarantees to the exploiters of the South (both Northern and Southern) a reserve of cheap labor. As the South has been increasingly colonized and industrialized by Northern capitalism, Northern Big Business has become the main beneficiary of racism. It is no accident that the powerful white press labors hard=-in the words of Franck Louis Schoell-"to impress in the minds of the people. the axiom that, 'the Negro is a criminal and hateful simply because he is a Negro' "; for the press is "the ally ... of those interests whose aim is to perpetuate the enslavement of the race." It is no accident that racial tension is particularly acute in such Southern industrial cities as the textile centers, which are largely controlled by New England magnates, and in the steel mills of Birmingham, tile
. ·Editor's note: An excellent study of this question, appearing after the Pl'e!ent work, is The Stran8c Career of lim Crow, bye. Vann Woodwatd. OMara 'University Press, 1955.



There lies the real source of the mental sickness from which : can hardly be said that the country has recovered.


of U.S. Steel Corporation. '"



Negroes enchained? . First. how do things stand today with the elaborate apparatus JJrhich was contrived to rob the Negroes of their political rights? Is I only a bad memory, and is American. democracyfunctioDing at list with the participation of all its citizens? Or is government "of the people, by the people and for the people" still only a. white flvemmeo:t-a government of the whites. by the whites and for the


Wore proceeding to look into the future. What is now the state ci the institution which the Southern Bourbons, with the complicity the Northern capitalists. deliberately constructed in order to keep

With this brief historical

sketch, we return now to the present.

The system which was established after the compromise of 1876·77 has unquestionably undergone some wear and tear. But the ~s in the structure have been quickly and for the most part electively plugged up. The so-called "grandfather clause" was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1915. The "white ~ary" . was invalidated in 1944 by the same authority, which la1fumed its ruling in 1948. Yet the Democratic Party in Arkansas ItiUrefused to allow Negroes to run as candidates in June 1950, when • Negro minister. Rev .. J. H. Gatlin, was not permitted to file as candidate for alderman in the Little Rock municipal elections. But the poll tax has been harder to get rid of. Although It bas been abolished in six Southern states, it is still in effect in five: Alabama. Arkansas, Mississippi. Texas and Virginia. In the latter two states a proposal to abolish the poll tax was defeated by Itferendum vote in November 1949 .. Some observers argue that the poll tax does not keep any large pereentage of potential voters away from the polls----and indeed. die "'In. 1948 a speaker on a radio broadcast of the Voice of A.·merrea. sponsored by the State Department, said in reference to Birmingham tax is not very high ($1, $1.50 or $2 a year, according to the state). the state of Alabama that "in no other part of the United. States has the But it is primarily the way the tax is collected that in some states colored race struggled and suffered so much as here." Reactio~ry Senators prevents potential voters from exercising their right to vote. In some raised a furor, the author of the script was fired and the supervisor who had states the tax is cumulative; only recently did Alabama reduce the reviewed the script was relieved of his post. In September 194.8,. Henry Wallace, discussing his election campaign in ~e. South, said that ?IS party. cumUlative requirement from 24 years to two years. And in some had not been able to hold meetings in the Birmingham area, dominated by paces the tax collectors use various pretexts to refuse payments from the steel trust. In Alamaba, he ~id. "we taw the economic ba~ 9f. h!lt~ 14egro applicants, and 1"lI"egati@n. In the steel towns it is profitable to keep labor divided,




45 registration blanks. 6. Requir.ing Negro applicants to .s~ffer long tvaiting periods before the officials serve them. 7. Requiring Negro ~p1icants to fill out t~eir own blanks, while ~hose of the 'Yhites filledout ~y the officials. 8. Evasion-s-informing Negro applicants that regtstratlOncards have run out, that all members of the .r:egistration board are not present; that it is closing time, or that tbe applicant will be notified in due time. 9. Deliberate threats by dlicial hangers-on." In Mississippi, the right to vote is restricted to those who c~n read and explain the state constitution to the satisfaction of the white election officials. In 1947 the legislature passed a law barring from the primary elections persons "not in accord with the. statement <;>f 'the principles of the party holding such a primary." The Democratic State Committee's statement that year explicitly opposed any FEPC legislation. federal or state, anti-lynching and anti-poll tax legislation. etc. The hope was, of course, that potential colored voters wo~ld refuse to. subscribe to such a statement. Not so long ago, during the lifetime of Senator Bilbo, sworn enemy of the colored people, Negroes in some pJaces were asked, "If Bilbo is the party nominee. will you vote for him in the general election?" If they said "No," they were removed from the list of registered voters. In Georgia. a law was passed in 1949 requiring new registrants to give "satisfactory" answers to a host of difficult constitutional and factual questions. State legislators themselves, when questioned by reporters, were unable to give the correct answers to some. "They are questions," editorialized the New York Times, "that probably not one voter in a hundred in the United States could answer." Since'1950, South Carolina has had a registration law requiring voters to be able to "both read and write" any section of the state constitution-and, for good measure, never to have been "convicted of wife-beating, fornication. sodomy," etc., etc. 'But the most effective methods of keeping Negroes from the polls are what Truman's Civil Rights Committee describes as the "techniques of terror and intimidation." Reproduced on the next page is a photostatic copy of a letter postmarked Lake Arthur. La., January 15. 1948, and sent by anonymous white persons to Howard Higginbothan, a Negro of that town. The letter Warns him tbat if he. his wife and six other Negroes whose names are listed try to vote in the election of January 20, he will "be the one to pay" for all of them. At the bottom is a skull and crossbones, and the signature K.K.K. (Ku Klux Klan). In March 1948, in Wrightsville, Ga., the Ku Klux Klan organized a cross-burning demonstration on the eve of a primary election. The "Grand Dragon" asserted to the crowd of his hooded foUow~rs that "blood wi1l flow" if Negroes were treated on an equal footing Vith whites. Not one of the 400 qualified Negro voters (out of

Statistics prove, moreover, that the rati~ of actual voters potential voters is much lower i~ th~ states .wlth a poll. tax than m those without. In the 1944 presidential elections the ratio ~vas 18.31 percent in the poll tax states (then eight in number) as agall.lst 68.74 percent in the 40 other states. Adoption of the poll tax lI?- Texas in 1902 reduced the number of voters from over 400,000 m 1900 to about 250,000 in 1904. On the other hand, repeal of the poll tax in Louisiana resulted in a 44.5 percent increase in the number of registered voters. . ' ., Up to now every bill introduced into Congress to do away with the poll tax as a requirement for federal elections has been defeated. In. 1937 the Supreme Court ruled that it was both "reasonable" and constitutional. But as the old barriers crumble, the Southern legislato~s seek to replace them with new devices. As Herbert Hill put it III he Crisis (May 1954); "Greater than the pol~ t~x ~s a ~>arner to. votmg, and far greater as an instrument for race distinction, IS the registration requirement. It has been extended to emphas~ze such tests. of applicants as personal ch~racter, property owne~shlp~ and educatL?n. There is very little centralized state control of reglstr~tlon. and election officials are left free to do as they please.' One registrar may require more, or another may require less than the law o~ the state demands. Registration is pa{ticular~y d~c~lt for a Negro. in rural areas,,, as It involves a personal relationship 10 a very hostile atmosphere. I One such device, the Boswell Amendment to ~he Alaba~a state constitution, which went into effect in 1946, restncte_d the nght of electoral registration to "those who c.an. read and wnt~. understand and explain any article of the Constitution of the United States, 10 the English language" and who, more<:)Ve~, "are of go~. chara~t~~ and who understand the duties and obligations of good citizenship, Election officials-white of course-were gwen the power to ?ecide which applicants met these requirements, As a result, ~ccor?mg to I NAACP estimates, only :2.000 Negroes were a?ie to register 10 1948 out of 80,000 who might otherwise have qualified, ., ' .. In 1949 the Boswell Amendment was ruled unconstitutional. B?t that did not lead to free and equal registration of Negroes. HIli cites the following practices included .in a recent study, "A Report of Negro Voting in Alabama by Counties": . "1. Requiring Negro apphcant~ to produce one or more white character witnesses. Sometimes .this man must .go to the board of registrars' and sign (eight counhe~ reported this to. ~ the case). 2. Applying severe property quah,ficatlOns ~d requlfln~ a .Negro 'applicant to show property-tax receipts. ~. Strictly enforcing hte~acy tests against Negro applicants. 4. Putting uDreasonab!e questions about the Constitution to the Negro aPl?bcants: 5. B~sJOg r,eJectIon of Negro applicants on alleged technical mistakes 10 fillIDS' out




.. lIo;J.....,rn


population of 4,500) dared to appear at the polling booths day. In Mt. Vernon, Ga .• the Klan sent letters to aU .iste:red Negro voters in March 1948. advising them to stay away the pons. As a result. only about 120 registered Negroes voted. named Isaiah Nixon was shot and killed on September 8. night of Georgia's primary election. because he had insisted voting that day after being warned not to. On the eve of the ber 1948 general elections, the Klan organized night cavalcades a route in central Florida. Negro voters considered it advisable stay home on election day. In November 1952, John Lester Mitchell, one of three Negroes had filed suit through the NAACP for the right to register. shot dead by a deputy sheriff in Opelousas. La. As recently as 1954'. a Negro in Greensburg. La., was seized and severely ten because he had exercised his right to vote on the previous day. In short. although some of the former obstacles have been 1CID0ved.the vast majority of Negroes in the South are still prevented. " One means or another; from exercising their voting rights. The 8Dber of registered Negro voters in the South is estimated to have daen from about 700,000 in 1948 to 1,300,000 in 1952; but since ~e are now more than 6,000,000 Negroes of voting age in the eleven of the old Confederacy. this means that the proportion of Negroes allowed to vote in the South is still considerably less than the proportion of citizens nationally who do exercise their right ., vote. Aside from a few successes in municipal politics, the Negro people have not registered any significant political gains.





The social barrier erected between the two races is still as rigid as ever in the Southern states; whatever slight modifications have been made in recent years are insignificant. Not a single Southern llfate has repealed or modified the laws that endow the social barrier with a legal character. In one state only. Virginia. a bill was iatroduced in the legislature to abolish segregation in public transportation; it was not adopted. It is hardly possible within the framework of the present book to give a complete picture of segregation as it exists today. Charles S. Johnson, a specialist on the subject. had to devote an entire book to it (Patterns of Negro Segregation). I can here give only a rapid *etch. highlighted by a few personal recollections. The very layout of Southern towns reveals to the traveler the ctivision of society into two worlds, foreign to each other and unequal. The colored town is to the white town what the "native" quarter of our colonial cities is to the "European" quarter. The dividing line between the two sections is usually well defined: in most cases it fo11ows the rai1road tracks. Houses in the white town are in general








commodious and kept up. Fans buzz in them during the summer months; windows are screened against the- bugs; and the occupants enjoy such coolness as is possible in that climate. The streets are paved and telephone wires run through the trees, On "the other side of the tracks," the scene is quite different Here the houses are small. dilapidated. lacking in all modern often they are no more than shanties. At night oil lamps through the windows; electric lights are a rarity. 'Most streets are not paved,. to say nothing of being cleaned. The bumps and holes in the roads make driving a car dangerous. In the evening whole families crowd on to their porches trying to get a little cool air, since they have no fans or electric refrigeration. . . I have borrowed this description from Prof. John Dollard (Caste and Class in Sou/hem Town}, so that I might claim the support of an authority; but I could just as well have cited from the memory of my experiences. In some Southern cities there are lovely parks where white and women stroll and white children play. But Negroes are admitted: this paradise is not for them. In 1951. Kentucky had state parks for white patrons and none for Negroes. The two N state parks in Tennessee comprise 350 and I.O()() acres whereas a single one of the 13 all-white parks covers Louisiana has 12 state parks for whires=-but Negroes are forced eat their picnic lunches at the side of the road. In New Orleans. an art museum stands in the middle of one the city parks. When I went with my Negro driver to visit it, white people looked at us in horror, as though We were . some Holy of Holies. On trains. Negroes have their own cars, which are the antiquated of the rolling stock; in railroad stations and bus they have their own waiting-rooms. On streetcars and city colored people are allowed to use only the rear of the vehicle. they venture to break the rule, they are arrested by the police, fined and sometimes beaten up. As recently as the end 48 Negro soldiers were arrested God fined in Columbia. S.C., one of them took an empty seat next to a white woman. In dining cars on trains, a curtain is drawn across one end to off the colored diners from the view of the whites. . . Mixing of the races is not tolerated in hotels and If the president of a Negro university should come to visit a person at a hotel. he could not take the passenger elevator but have to use the service elevator. The difficulties encountered ~h[te and a Negro traveling together, as we did, can be Arriving in town late at night. we had to find one white Ne~r~ hotel, sometimes located several miles apart; and we separate restaurants. We were able to be together only


hotel or restaurant Was willing. at its own risk, to take in. Sometimes the Negro restaurant-owner deemed it wiser ~CClnoealus in the kitchen. In Dade City. Fla. things nearly took a bad turn. Thanks to obliging colored man, we found a rooming house run by a Negro where we could get two good rooms. But she did not want me in unless I got permission from the white policeman down block. The cop, quite at a loss in this unusual situation. took to his superior who was making the rounds in a patrol car. The was "No." So I left. by myself, to look for a white hotel and But as I was finishing my solitary meal. a policeman me up and took me off (it was ten at night) to the office at sheriff. one Leslie Bessenger. There I found my Negro driver, had also been arrested. We were held several hours. guarded thug types with. revolver-holsters draped all over them. who eyed malevolently and tried to provoke us. Finally my driver (whose . license had some sort of flaw in it) was thrown in a cell. pointed out that a white man would never have been arrested a trifle. As I was white myself. I was released. But the day FBI agents and immigration men were brought in by car a long distance. and put me through a grilling. Things were finally straightened out, and we were able 'to go 01: way. I went immediately to Tallahassee. the state capital, to a complaint with the governor. I was directed to the Attorney ~ 1'_ assistant. I asked him to show me the text of the law prohibited me from renting a room in a private house belonging Negro. There was no such law. "Well then." I said. "if 1 actually rented that room (which I didn't), I would not have any law. So what could have happened to me?" His reply a soft. fatherly voice as he confided: "Perhaps your body have been found in the river the next day." When we were 00 the road and lunchtime came. we would have stop at a white eating-place. My driver had been a sergeant the U.S. Army, and fought in Europe "in the cause of freedom." he was colored-so he had to stay in the car, as though he a leper, while I brought him his food on a tray. I brought it him myself. since usually the white waitresses were afraid to be waiting on a Negro. Sometimes the owner would yield to insistence and let us eat together-but in the kitchen, sitting on to the astonishment of the Negro kitchen help. The difficulties of an "interracial" trip are such that sometimes White family will decide not to take along their Negro nurse because feel unable to cope with all the incidents and problems that come up every step of the way. For Negroes by themselves (and I speak here of Negroes with social status). traveling by car is a complicated undertaking.


H>.~ •





the (white) University of North Carolina, Prof. Howard W. Odum set up a remarkable center for study of the race problem: bo?ks, IKOL,U'",""", wal~ displays are at the disposal of studen~s of. the s.ubJect. intention IS laudable-but five mmutesof social Me with the would teach the young white students more than all this book -learning, ' Between the white schools and colleges and the Negro schools colleges there is often the same difference as between white town Negro town. The Negro institutions=although there are so~e ones-all too often resemble poor relations, On the baSIS , compiled for 1945-46, the Southern~egicinal, Council in 1949 that the value of school property In the South was for each Negro pupil enrolled and $221 for each white pupil. average per capita expenditure for the education of Neg;ro in the South in 1942 was only 38 percent of that for white In 1947, of $137,000,000 spent annUaIlyOn higher in the states where segregation was maintained, approxi126,000,000 went to institutions from which Negroes were In the early 1940's, Mississippi was spending $37 annua~ly pupil, $ 9,.70 per Negro pupil; Alabama, $ 59.79 per w~te $26.90 per Negro pupil; the city of Atlanta, $1?8. 70 per whi~e $37.80 per Negro pupil. Many years ago,. III a speech In in 1895 the educator Booker T. Washington accepted Itejgatlon On c0~dition that there be equal treatment: "separate but But in actuality there is both separation and inequality. deficiencies are particularly striking ill the specialized fields learning such as medicine and law. In recent years, colored who could not get instruction in these subjects in Neg_ro have succeeded in breaking open the doors of white But it has been a hard struggle. • At first they were admission;' then they were allowed to listen to the lectures a corridor or adjoining room where, with the door open, they see the professor. Not until June 1950 did the Su preme Court they must be admitted without restrictions; hilt this ruling to only two states, and did not reject t~e principle .of as such. Negro students were admitted to white ~v:e:rsrties in Texas and Oklahoma only because there were no Negro that could give them equivalent instruction. It was to argue, to be sure, that where th-ere is segregation there be equality, and, that therefore the Supreme Court ruhng dea!t blow at segregation itself. But it was necessary to walt May 17, 1954, for the highest judicial authority finally to come with an explicit rejection of the doctrine of "~eparate ~ut equal" the principle of school segregation. In spite of this success, battle, as we shall. see later, is still not won. . In the field of public health, the myth of "separate but equal"

Sometimes they have to drive long distances before they can find place to eat, since all the roadside restaurants are white. As m colored hotels leave much to be desired. due to the low of living of the colored population, Negroes in the liberal keep address lists of guest homes in various towns use for stop-overs. In the entertainment field also, the races are segregated, are all-white movie houses, and all-black ones; still others are with whites occupying the orchestra arid Negroes the balcony, usually a Negro with any race consciousness will refuse to to the humiliation of the balcony, and, goes only to the theaters. Segregation extends to sports as well. Not only are the segregated according to race, but even the competing individuals teams cannot be of different races, It was sensational news November 1947, when the first footballgatne was played in South between a Negro team and a white team, at the Durham, N athletic field. Negroes are allowed in large department stores, but they forbidden to tty anything on since that would "defile' it. If want a pair of gloves they have to make the purchase without them, and a hat without seeing how it looks on the head. salesmen and saleswomen keep their distance, virtually never "Madam" at "Sir" t.o colored customers but, if they know calling them by their first names, The only place where sezreaatron does not exist is the banks: money and those who handle no smell.




Institutions of learning were until recently strictly segregated; even in this field, where the Supreme Court has finally and decided to intervene, the social barriers are falling only and with much resistance. Here more than in any other mutual ignorance of the two worlds is revealed. With that are still quite few in number, white and Negro students come into contact. American colleges are by their nature far removed, both geographically and spiritually, from the real world. Negro colleges and white colleges are so many remote islands, Washed by the waves of unreality, and their two fantastic universes never meet. In Baton Rouge, capital of Louisiana, the Negro and universities are located some distance from the center of town, t~ the north and the other to the south. One day I happened to pick up in my car students from both colleges, and I was able, despite the race prejudice, to establish a fraternal contact between them-but I felt as though I were introducing Eskimos to Papuans,

52 is likewise at variance with the facts. According to figures of U.S. Bureau of Census in 1940, the infant mortality rate in the States as a whole was 69 percent higher among Negroes than whites. The death rate from tuberculosis was three times among Negroes than whites. In .1942, the proportion of . doctors to the total Negro population was one to 3,377. while ratio for the United States as a whole was one doctor to inhabitants. A study in Jacksonville. Fla., showed that in 1944 the mortality rate among Negroes was 50 percent higher than whi'es, and that in 1943 the infant mortality rate was twice In 1945. there was only one Negro doctor to 7,385 persons=-annougn according to public health experts, the proportion should be every 1,000-1,500. In Mississippi, where the Negro' and population are about the same size. there were, in 1944-45. hospital beds available for whites. 1,275 for Negroes; and white doctors as against 57 Negro doctors. The head of the NAACP branch in Montgomery, Ala., mtorme me that in Alabama. in 1944, the infant mortality rate for children under a year old was 52 per thousand, while for children it was 79 per thousand; and that the incidence of was twice as high among Negroes as among whites. syphilis 16 as high, gonorrhea eight times. as ..high. A r~port made .by Atlanta Urban League showed that in 1946. the infant mortahty in Atlanta was 26.46 per thousand for white children, 53.36 thousand for Negro children; and the mortality rate for the ." population of Atlanta was 7.48 per thousand,compared with 13. for the Negro population. for his death sentence to 'be carried out. His execution was a number of times but the sentence was never reversed. and killing took place on MayB, 1951. S~ven ~o~g Negroes Va., were executed ill the electric chair m Februar)' year for a similar offense, that is, "rape" not accompanied contrast, if a white man attacks a Negro woman, as happened case of Mrs. Recy Taylor of Abbeville, Ala., in 1945, the has. nothing to worry about. .' .. behind the curtain of the sex taboo. the two races intermingle Between white men and Negro women. relations are and frequent; between Negro men and white women, .... '., ...... and far more infrequent. " According to the estimates Qt SCX::lQIOgISts, at least 70 to 80 per centof all American Negroes ......, .."'''"''.. The authors of the segregation laws cloaked .....' with the argument that these laws were necessary to so-called "mongrelization. " But despite their artificial the intermingling of the. races "keeps right on. The two. ignore each other-except in bed. Segregation, like everything contrary to nature, produces a host I will cite only a few examples. Until a few years the Red Cross refused to use the blood of Negroes for transto whites. 'In Miami. I saw American Indians among the llCt;ilto:rsat a wrestling match-where Negroes were not admitted. the Creoles, who are of French descent, Catholic and names, have been arbitrarily separated into two categories "white" and so-called "Negro." But a New Orleans !Bel,lIo:glst (as I was informed by Prof. Harlan Gilmore, head of the Department at Tulane University) had. gathered records every "white" Creole family proving irrefutably that they were mixed descent When he died, the entire colony of wealthy Creoles was in fear and trembling-until the city finally up the compromising archives from the man's widow and put "under lock and key! A Negro clergyman from New York to go to the South to. fulfill certain engagements and did not to be subjected to the segregation he had experienced there . so he simply put on a. rented turban-and was received .m ordinarily restricted to whites, and accorded courtesies he went. Toward the end of 1947. a "Freedom Train" throughout the United States. a traveling museum of precious documents from the days of the founding of American 1IIl()Cnl.cy. But the train had to pass through some places without notably Birmingham, Ala., Memphis. Tenn., and _U"""~'U'.~!i>' Miss., because officials in these cities insisted that Negroes not be allowed to visit the train in "mixed" groups-even the sponsors of the tour had announced at the outset that

As for sex relations, the gulf between the races is '"""V"'''\.-''''I, unbridgeable, Mixed marriage is prohibited by .law ~n states and punishable by as much as five years ill. prrson (Lennesse and Texas). A veteran named Davis Knight, who had the Navy as a white man and had married a white girl, was in 1947 under a state law against "miscegenation" and <:ernf':lr ....~I'~ five years in prison. The. point at issqe: his gre~t.-gI'anld,rnlo migh: have been colored! When a Negro IS caught IiI act a white woman, the only way she can save her honor, and her life. is to cry "Rape!" Whereupon the Negro JS sentenced the electric chair. That is what happened to Willie McGee of Laurel, Miss. of his friends told me that when McGee was in the army in during the war he had gone out frequently with white girls, kept up the habit after he came home. For six years; from to 1951, this unfortunate young man suffered the mental torture



the black, man in the Southland from his earliest boyhood to bed in which he dies . . . For 250 years of slavery and 85 years. and limited freedom the white South has ruled .its black with rope and stake and pistol. It still does-exoept that few years the rope and the stake have given way to the less sensational but just as effective pistol. .. Every Negro South, no matter wbat his station in life, his accomplishments, possession s, his college degrees or his services to humanity, lives every moment ofhis life." most trivial pretexts, Southern policemen will use their on a Negro. The Civil Rights .Committee report states: "In of instances> Negroes have been shot [by the polite] . , . circumstances indicatiug . , , a callous willingness to kill." how eight Negro prisoners were killed by their white guards 11, 1947, in Glynn County, Ga., "with no justification for " as a witness later testified. Floyd C. Eddins, chief of Ala., a company town of the U.S. Steel F.V',~auv.u, a'''4lUl~,U quite a special reputation for violence: I Was when was in Birmingham that during the single month 1948 four Negroes were killed byhis cops. It was estimated Birmingham alone close to a hundred Negroes were shot to death on the streets or in the police stations from 1949 to the end of 1951. You have to immerse yourself in this atmosphere of terror to the full horror of it. I shall never forget the frightened eye" voice of my Negro driver when he Came to me, Miss .• hometown of the novelist Richard Wright, to urge we cut out stay short. He had been talking with the colored at the gas station, and had beep. given such a vivid picture the maltreatment of Negroes thereabouts that he had only One in his head-to get out. Yet throughout our trip he had shown of evidence of his courage. *
the December 1950 Cahiers Fernand Pelloutier, Roger Hagnauer, had read this passage in the newspaper Combat, charged me with having my facts in order to "give a false impre~sion." and stated; "To "'J~_~~" live' . constant terror in the Southern states is one of those !Unalis:tic_· .. which hardly help the Cause of the Negroes." wrote him on March 12,. 1951, that he was "surprised" and his tone and attitude, and added: "In support of thestatements Guerin, let me point ant to you. the following facts , ,. An l1iT.,~~i,~n so completeand deep-going and which has lasted for three hundred. not have been carried_ opt against millions of colored people terroristic means. The aim of that terror was to keep the Negro a pOSition of inferiority, to prevent him from owning any effective property, bar from educational facilities that would have aroused his sense obaressien. to keep him from ·votingand participating in the political .cllltnety of tile State, Let us not forget that this proscription was directed against a distant colonial people beyond_ the seas, but against next-door

segregation of visitors would not be tolerated, In New Orleans, J~nuary 8, 1948: three Negro. schoolteachers were arrested whe~ they tried to take their Negro pupils on a tour of the "Freedom Tram." Examples like these could be multiplied indefinitely, Race prejudice is so ingrained in the social customs and such powerful pressure that even the most p'fogressiveamong white people are not free from it. In Georgia, a professor who had been dismissed from a white university far his progressive let my colored driver wait several hours for me in our car, .in middle of the night. with no thought of taking him something to eat or drink. In Natchez. Miss., a worker who was secretary of a CIO union urged me to ask my companion into his house. In the darkness he had not noticed that the man was colored; but when he saw his mistake, lie instinctively recoiled-s-and the Negro had to go back to the car, raging mad. In New Orleans, a Communist Party leader agreed to let the Negro come in, but only after much hesitation,and even then, only by the kitchen door. Plain fear of "what the neighbors will say" paralyzed these men of good will, But segregation. insufferable as it is, is not as bad as terrorism. The Negro in the South is doomed to live every day of his life in an atmosphere of danger. "Every Negro in the South," writes Prof. John Dollard. "knows that he is under a kind of sentence of death: he does not know when his turn will come, it may never come, but it may also be at any time." The report of Truman's Civil Rights Committee states: "The threat of lynching always hangs over the head of the southern Negro: the knowledge that a misinterpreted word or action can lead to his death is a dreadful burden." FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover testified before the Committee: "The arrogance of ' most of the white population [ina certain Southern county] ..was unbelievable, and the fear of the Negroes was almost unbelievable. " And the C'ommittee's report. adds that in the South the white population can physically attack and even kill Negroes with "almost complete immunity," . The majority of those who had a hand in the 43. lynchings ?etween 19.3.6 and 1946 were not even prosecuted' .. In ~~bruary 1947:1 tn Greenville, S.c., a 24-yelJ.r old Negro named Willie Earle was I [~ra:;1ed from the county jail out to a country road where he was mutilated and then shot to death by a gang of white men, The r-urderers were brought to trial-s-and triumphantly acquitted. . The Nesv York Times, however, editorializing on the outcome, considered that a "start" had been made and a "precedent" set-merely becau the murjere.rs were prosecuted! Ray Sprjgle. reporter for the New York Hera!d Tribune, who traveled through the South disguised-as a Negro, wrote i'n his book In the Land of Jim CfOw,::"Fe_ar.\"aIk~






. In spite .of. st~tistics proving that lynchings are less frequent. the gun, Mrs. Ingram disarmed the madman; whereupon he spite ,of optimistic and biased statements by the lick-spittles his knife and. when he could not open it. struck her a American democracy, t in spite of 1,500-page books blow on the forehead with the knife-handle. Mrs, Ingram pleading with the white people to make peace with their for help, and two of her sons, aged 14 and 16, came running. and not go on violating the American Creed-in spite of all older one begged Stratford to spare his mother, and, when Middle-Age datkness still envelops the South, and brute force ruffian paid no attention. grabbed the gun and fired. The white fanaticis~ still rule. The Negro author Langston Hughes has written fell dead. Mrs. Ingram immediately sent the children to notify that the sincere efforts of a small handful of liberals to ameliorate the sheriff, and put herself in the hands of the law. She was arrested, conditions of Negroes in the South have been "but a drop in a muddv four of her children. On January 27. 1948. she and her 14-year bucket" If "official" lynchings have diminished in number, they 16-year old sons were condemned to death. The jury that have. been replaced by other forms. of terror such as bombings and down this barbarous verdict was all-white. (The report of shootings. In a letter to President Truman dated November 10. 1951, "-"_O'~'s Civil Rights Committee states that "all too frequently" 20 members of the Psychology Department at the City College of people are tried before juries which include no Negroes.) The New York wrote that the pattern had shifted from mob violence "to eourt-anoouitea defense lawyers. who put up the weakest sort of the more. subtle forms of quasi-Ie~al executions or violence at the def1ens1e were also white. .. , (In all of Georgia there were only 13 hands of 'law-enforcement' officers' -in short, to "legal murder." lawyers in a colored population of over a million.) A campaign For seven years,. from 1947 to 1954, I haye been clipping out organized for, the defense of Mrs. Ingram. and in April 1948 of !he New Y ark Tun~s reports of acts of VIOlence and injustice death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Despite agarnst Negroes. Looking back through this file, I am' appeals, Mrs. Ingram is still behind bars, myself to find how thick it is. I would like now to take from The second case involves two young Negroes of Groveland. Fla., just two cases as examples. . Lee Irvin and Samuel Shepherd, both veterans. who on First. t~e story of Mrs. Rosa Lee Ingram, of Americus. Ga. iSelPtelmber 8. 1949. were condemned to death. while a third, Charles A r~cent widow, Mrs. Ingram had laboriously raised 12 children, was given life imprisonment. What were the circumstances? ranging fron~ 17 t;U0nths to 24 years. She made a meager' Norma Lee Padgett. a 17-year old white farm housewife. claimed from the soil, which she worked as a sharecropper. A on July 16 she had been raped in a car by four Negroes. She named John E. Stratford, a white sharecropper who worked furnish no evidence, medical or otherwise, The white lawyer same ~andowner. had been making advances to her for some handled the defense of the accused men demonstrated conbut without success. One morning, in 1947. he came to her in al_a,elusivelv that the alleged rape was pure romance, invented to cover rage and told her he was going to get his shotgun and kill her' a brawl the young wife had had with her husband. The Negroes and mule if they continued straying on his land. Even this area had already incurred the hatred of the whites for refusing animals were broug~t ba~k to their enclosure right way, work in the local citrus groves at starvation wages. For three who had returned. WIth his gun. threatened Mrs. Ingram after the cry of "rape," terror and arson reigned in the countrythen struck her across the head with the butt-end. Blood The homes of many Negroes were burned and pillaged, and governor of the state had to send in the National Guard to quell neighbors.. Hence, the necessity of direct terror, Under such a system the disorder. Ernest Thomas, one of the four Negro suspects, was ~eepest sentlIl~ent of the Negro was fear. ThIS fear was total and all-embracing murdered by a lynch mob posing as a posse. On the night of the in the plantation regions of the Deep South. while in the industrial North it verdict. the two Negro defense lawyers and two Negro reporters who assumed the form of anxiety and tension. These are elementary ••rcts, ........ had covered the trial were chased 40 miles down the road by a buttressed ~y a mountain-high pile of evidence; they constitute the f hi of. the relations between Negroes and whites in the United States . . . gang 0 w te men. this essence 'has not been radically altered," 1951. however, the U.S, Supreme Court ruled that Irvin and tThe radio broadcasts, for example, of the Voice of America, planned had not received a fair trial, reversed the death sentence, by the St!lte Department for foreign consumption, are used to picture ordered a new trial But this decision was not to the liking of relations In the United States in the most favorable light. But Willis C. McCall. sheriff of Lake County, Fla. On the night of this propaga{lda IS!l cover for cruder methods: for example, when a November 6, 1951, while transporting Irvin and Shepherd for their was called to testify before. a Congressional committee in August 1 the next day. he stopped his car. ordered the handcuffed Rep. H. L. Lanham of Georgia tried to attack hun physically for saying that Negroes had no democratic rights in that state, prisoners to get out, killed Shepherd in cold blood and wounded




Irvin almost fatally. A local grand jury quickly exonerated Sheriff MCCall on grounds of "self-defense"! On February 14. 1952, Walter Lee Irvin was again brought to trial, and again condemned to death. The verdict was appealed to the State Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal. It was then carried to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused a hearing. A final appeal for clemency was turned down by a state board. Thus all methods of legal appeal have been exhausted as this is written, though the date of execution has not yet been set. * But that is still not all, On Christmas night, 1951, Harry T. Moore, a leader of the NAACP in Florida, who had very courageously stood up against the perpetrators of the Groveland frameup, and hIS wife Harriet were murdered by a bomb which blew up their home in Mims, Fla. This new crime aroused a nation-wide wave of indignation, but their murderers were never apprehended. I toured the central Florida region where the Groveland tragedy occurred. I especially remember spending several hours in Orlando, an earthly paradise, in the midst of fragrant groves of oranges and grapefruit. Racial tension was invisible, yet it was present everywhere. It made your throat choke. When it breaks out, flames shoot up and emit the acrid smell of burning flesh. The Negro problem is not, as one might think, a regional problem. Race prejudice is. not confined within the geographical borders of the "Old. South." It undoubtedly reaches its height there. since the great majority of Negroes in the United States (ten out of fifteen million, accordi ng to the 1950 census) live in the South. But its stain spreads like oil, and poisons the whole country. Because of its poverty and economic backwardness, the South has a surplus population. Both white and colored people are leaving the region to try their luck elsewhere, attracted by the industrial areas of the North and the West Coast. The white emigrants take their fanatical prejudice with them, and wherever they settle they infect the white communities with it. As the Negro emigrants move, they move the zones of racial tension along with them, and in Chicago, Detroit, New York they find the same pogrom atmosphere that they thought
·Editor's note: In December 1955? after six years 'in a deathcel! or under its shadow, Walter Lee Irvin's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Florida Pardon Board. Gov. Leroy Collins coupled his announcement of the commutation with an attack. on the NAACP for allegedly making the "handling of cases of this type more difficult." To which Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP correctly retorted: "Gov. Collins is completely in error in every statement about the NAACP. Had the NAACP not intervened, all originally charged would be dead and the Governor would not have had to request the Pardon Board to commute Irvin's sentence. to




been left behind when they quit the South. The industrial expansion accompanying World Wars I and II the absorption of Southern workers into Northern urban with the result that there was an outburst of "race riots" racial explosions. In Chicago, the two races battled each other an entire week in July 1919:. 22 Negroes and 16 whites were 342 Negroes and 178 whites injured. The conflict started a swimming pool, where Negroes were not allowed to cross an . line of racial segregation. A Negro youth who swam too far was stoned by some young white fellows, and drowned. death infuriated the Negroes. The whites responded by throwing off streetcars and beating them senseless. Negro districts looted. The Negroes returned blow for blow. After World War II the main center of racial tension was Detroit. local journalist gave this explanation of its origin: "The present is due to the fact that the immensity of the war work here brought scores of thousands of people to Detroit who have new conditions to which they apply old standards. Ol.nI1,th.~rn whites have come here in vast numbers, bringing with them Jim Crow notions of the Negro. Southern Negroes have come to jobs which give them for the first time in the lives of many them a decent wage; and a sense of freedom they have never before." Their new conduct as free men, in contrast to submissiveness (at least, apparent) of Negroes in the South, Incen!>edwhites who had come up from the South. The numerous and racist organizations that spawned in Detroit (the Ku Klux others) poured oil on the fire. first outbreak occurred in February 1942 at the Sojourner housing project. The scene was a low.rent housing development had been put aside especially for Negroes=-tor whom the housing was particularly intolerable. Racist organizations started a paign to have the new development allocated to white tenants; the campaign was not successful. Then. on the night when the colored families were due to move in, white pickets formed .r--IJroulnd the project and refused them entrance. Soon after, a truckmilitant Negroes arrived on the field of battle. A clash ._'U",,'U, with the police openly taking the side of the whites. Twentyfell injured to the ground. Far more serious was the outbreak in June 1943, in which 34 killed (26 of them Negroes) and 461 injured (mostly Negroes). explosion was sparked on Sunday at Belle Isle, a public park uented by both white and colored people. Some white sailors themselves on a bridge leading from the island where the is situated, and began a systematic attack on Negroes returning city. For several days Detroit was a scene of rioting and Once again the police took the side of the whites. The




Negroes demonstrated a 'combativeness quite equal to that of their

Today racial tension in Detroit is still very acute, Howe and Widick. in their book The UAW and Walter Reuther, express the opinion that "the terrible events of the past . .. [could] repeat themselves. perhaps in even more terrible ways." In Harlem, the Negro area of New York, five persons were killed and over 300 injured during a. similar outbreak in August 1943. A white policeman tried to arrest a young colored woman in a hotel, and was stopped by a Negro MP. The two men struggled. and the white cop shot the Negro. The news spread rapidly through Harlem and the entire district rose in resentment. This outbreak was more of a Negro insurrection thanan interracial fight. Negroes grappled with the police and raided shops owned by Whites, though they refrained from attacking the latter. In Harlem, as in Detroit, very little would be required to kindle the fire again. This could be seen in November 1949, when City Councilman Benjamin J. Davis Jr., a Negro leader of the Communist Party, was released pending appeal of his conviction under the Smith Act. The release of Davis excited tumultuou~. enthusiasm. which was certainly more racial than political. Meetings and street demonstrations were organized. The police were bombarded with every sort of object showered down on them from windows and rooftops, "For a time [it] looked as if it might develop into a riot," reported the New York Times.

servicemen, In Houston, Tex .• in September 1917,at Camp Ga., in June 1943, and on numerousother occasions, Negro finally became fed up with the, brutal treatment from their and mutinied, There were casualties, both killed and Presldl~ntTruman, during his 1948 election campaign, issued an order on July 26 which declared demagogically that there be "equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons armedforces without regard to race, color, religion or national " But these fine words were not translated into action. The particularly, put up the most vigorous resistance. In a public in August 1948, Gen. Omar Bradley outlined the Army's policy as follows; "The Army is not out to make any social . The Army will put men Of different races in different "'.l<U,}<""",·~~... It will change that policy when the nation as a whole (Earlier that year, in April 1948, Gen. Eisenhower, by a Senate committee about segregation in the armed expressed similar views: ."I do believe that if we attempt by passing a lot of laws to force someone to like someone else. are just going to get into trouble.") Bradley's attitude was not result of the stupid obstinacy of a tough old brass hat: he lroc:ee(lOO from the premise that the abolition of segregation in the forces would threaten the whole political, economic and social "".·TI...t ..·~" of the "Solid South." Negroes who were sent to the Korean war in 1950-Sr were at beginning assigned to segregated. units. After one of these units. 24th Infantry Regiment, had gone through some especiallysevere "t'of.·..·~E. a number of men Were court-martialed wholesale. and given sentences far "cowardice" and "misconduct under fire." (A charge was made in World War II when. during the Italian '--~r--'","." a Negro unit. the 9Znd Division, Was both cruelly cut to and at the same time accused of "misconduct under fire.") NAACP sent its special counsel, Thurgood Marshall, to Korea try to get the men out of Geo. MacArthur's clutches. On his Marshall stated in his report that a majority of the Negro cases were the result of the segregation policies. mainby MacArthur; and he viewed the severity of the sentences a manifestation of race prejudice. Nevertheless, despite aU the resistance .. segregation in the armed was finally abolished in 1953, for primarily technical reasons. Another reason for the racist contamination of the entire United is the powerful intluenc~ exercised by the Southern Bourbons the federal government. This influence is out of all proportion their numbers. and results from the fact that political representation calculated on the basis of total population (white and colored). the ballot box in the South is largely a monopoly of the



The Army has been one of the main vehicles of transmission of race prejudice in the North. The professional cadres of the Army and Navy are recruited largely from among Southerners. Moreover .. many Army units are stationed in the South. The military authorities injected race prejudice into thousands of young men in peacetime: and in wartime into millions of men who. before they were in uniform, had never been affected, or affected only slightly. by race prejudice. In addition, the federal government. transferring Southern customs to a national level, established its own segregation in the armed forces. President Roosevelt; despite all the pleas, would not venture to abolish segregation during the last war. In September 1940, to be sure. he signed the Selective Service Act which. as Lee Nichols points out in Breakthrough on the Color From, "contained a clause barring racial discrimination toward men drafted into the armed forces." But this clause changed nothing. Shortly after. the President received and initialed a memorandum written by Assistant Secretary of War Robert P. patterson. which stated that "the War Department policy of segregation must be maintained." Colored soldiers. asked to shed their blood for a sacred cause, were all too often subjected to outrageous humiliations and abuse from


the ~ity of Washington as "the nation's greatest shame" In .whlch no Negro c~uld "live and work with dignity." on J~ the schools was finally relaxed at the opening of the term In September 1954. Despite. this and the recent legal o~ segregation III the restaurants. Washington was more Jim In 1954 than it was in 1904. Bu~ the basic ~ause of the. spread of ra~e prejudice throughout United ~tates IS the exploitanon of anti-Negro feelings by the financial powers w~o rule America-who exploit all human and emonons which can turn men against each other. The . .are the most pers~l~ted minority. but there are others. victims of race and religious prejudice. yesterday and today not only Negroes., but Irish. Italians. Jews. Japanese. Chinese: If!- the. United States. as in other countries. "divide and a favorite ,me~hod of the oppressors. For American race prejudice IS a powerful instrument of diversion. They 19U'}I;;l.:tL"'.IIY nourish a wh<?le mass of fears and hatreds which, as ob~e~es, contribute enormously to "counteract the drive class division on economic and social questions." It was not accidental that after World War I the anxiety inspired the . .classes by the glow of the Russian Revolution with a tidal wav~, of the Ku Klux Klan. which suddenly th~, bord~rs ~f th~ O~d South" and flourished all over the . ,Amenc~I1I~m. which exalts the purity and supremacy thewhite ra~e within the United States, as wen as the superiority white ~menc~~ over the. rest of the world. was born in the It IS the spiritual OffSI?~illgof the Klan. which loudly proclaims .. . and boasts of Its "100 per cent Americanism." The IS Its chosen land. because the white population of the South old Anglo-Saxon. Protestant stock. hardly touched by the On of past decades, But this reactionary and mystical tend~ to contaminate the entire country. Paradoxical as it appear 10 a co~n~ry where th~ majority of the population have lately been assimilated, the distrust of the "foreigner" and the sort of nationalism are current coin. Presept international tensions and the "a~ti-communist" hysteria I': the United States today have given this chauvinism a wind. Throughout the United States the growth of ISO? has encouraged the local. racists. For example. during recent racial outbreak at Trumbull Park. Chicago, a McCarthyite the Southeast E_conomist, poured oil on the fire and came supp'ort of .the Jim Crow. attempts to drive Negroes out of a ."~,,,,;,h .•o;~u._smg project. In Detroit, a group calling itself the "National .. .for the Adv~cement and Protection of the White , whlchyvas set up In 1954, combines red-baiting with NegroIn an infamous leaflet they accuse "this great monster the

white planters. t The Democratic Party, which was in power from 1933 to 1953. has in the South one of its main strongholds. Roosevelt would not have been elected president in 1932. when be ran the first time, without the support of the Southern Bourbons. His campaign manager, James A Farley. made a special trip to the South to secure the cooperation of the Ku Klux Klan. Subsequently, Roosevelt never ceased to handle his Southern supporters gently, and remained more or less their prisoner. President Truman appeared slightly more courageous-but actually he broke only with a minority of the Southern Democrats. tbe extremist group of so-called Dixiecrats, while continuing to rely on the support of the main body of Southern Democrats in Congress. Witb only one interruption during 20 years, the latter were assured. by the seniority rule. of control of most of the important Senate and House committees. In 1942 they held the chairmanship of over half these committees-though the South's population is only a little more than a quarter of the total population of the country. Finally. the alliance of Republicans and Southern Democrats. an extension of the sordid compromise of 1876-77. insures the perpetuation of rad,sm on the legislative level and blocks the adoption of any federal CIVIl rights program favorable to the Negroes. The national capital. Washington, is a symbol of the great influence of the Southern Bourbons in the federal government. Lt is a racist city. The founders of the Republic did not want the capital to be part of any state; and so the District of Columbia. including the capital city, was created. with the exceptional status of being under the direct control of Congress. The late Senator Bilbo, most unrestrained of the anti-Negro bigots in Congress, was for a number of years chairman of the Senate committee in charge of the administration of the District of Columbia. Segregation was-and still is to a large extent-the rule everywhere, in restaurants. hotels. theatres and movies. taxis. residential areas. hospitals. schools, government agencies. churches, even the very Christian YMCk Only a few steps away from the magnificence of the Capitol building sprawl the wretched Negro slums; and colored foreign diplomats are constantly in danger of being treated like pariahs. This system is not, as one might think, a vestige from the past: actually. segregation did not become a systematic practice in the national capital until 1912, Several years ago Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, a Negro. whose mediation in Palestine won him the Nobel Peace Prize and world renown.
+This is because the devices employed by the Bourbons to keep Negroes from voting (poll tax. literacy tests, etc.) also deprive many poor whites of their right to vote. DuBois, in analyzing the. 1946 election figures, calculated that the system gives each Southern landowner a voting power greater than that of six workers or farmers in the North.



in many universities, hospitals and theatres. In about half in the North. Negroes are never accepted in white hotels. are fewer than 20 cities where they are not completely barred white-owned restaurants. There are less than half a dozen along the beaches of the Atlantic Coast where Negroes may bathing privileges along with whites. Sixteen states outside prohibit mixed marriage, under severe penalties, In some states, such as Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, the is even more savage than in the South-ten years in prison! * able to verify personally the truth of Schuyler's On the way back after our tour through the South, driver and I crossed the Mason-Dixon line with ~preSS11)le relief. At last we were returning to a free country, At were going to be able to eat together, stay in the same hotels, the same movies together. But, on the other side of the line, owners in Ohio accepted us, but with their noses in the Pennsylvania. late at night, a tourist motel rudely refused us itt In Harrisburg, the state capital, the police could not us to a single white hotel where we might have a chance being admitted, and we finally went to a colored hotel. Even the state of New York. where acts of racial discrimination are mishable by law, we ran up against the same ostracism a number times. In Amenia. a restaurant owner refused my companion of cotfee=-and among the white customers in the place not . willing to serve as witness for us. The proprietor of a hotel on Staten Island, which is part of New York City. a fellow of Norwegian descent, welcomed us warmly and told he did not go for racial segregation, and besides it was against law. But the next day he looked me up to say, sheepishly, that .of his regular patrons had notified him that if he ran into that Once more in {he corridors he would never set foot in the again; and he asked me "as a personal favor" not to bring more colored people to his place again. One night I went to dinner with a Negro writer at a French in New York. The evening went by without incident. when we got out on the street, my guest said with a certain p1b:arnlssrnenlt:· "That was fine. But do you really think that if gone there alone I would have been received in the same " That simple question told much about the affronts Negroes walk of life have to suffer every day, even in New York

NAACP" of being "inspired by other racial groups and especiaUy by the Communist Party." In 1953, the holy alliance of racism and McCarthyism attempted to prevent Dr. Rufus E. Clement, president of Atlanta University (a Negro institution), from running for election to t~e Atlanta Board of Education. Although he had already won nornmanon in a citywide primary, he was challenged on the ground "that he had shown left-wing sympathies"! In 1954, Mrs. Annie Lee Moss, a colored woman, was suspended from a minor job as a mechanical teletype operator in the Pentagon after vicious attacks by Senator McCarthy. Theodore Griffin. president of the NAACP branch in Asbury Park, N.J., was fired from his civilian government job on the ground that he had associated with alleged "communists."* The color of their. skin apparently had as much to do with their removal as their politics. The collusion between racism and McCarthyism is so flagrant that it was denounced by the 44th annual conference of the NAACP in 1953. in the following words: "Already there is discernible a pattern which tends to link the advocacy of full equality for Negroes and other minorities to subversion or 'un-Americanism.' . . . any organization working for interracial democracy may be chal1enged for its campaign against race prejudice. discrimination. and inequality." . In conclusion. the South is not an accidental vestige of th~ Middle Ages, a limited area of reaction, isolated and lost ina great country that is marching toward democracy and social progress. The South is the cradle and the home of the American counterrevolution, of aU the prejudices, all the hatreds, all the. violence that retard and block the emancipation of the American people. If some day an American form o~ fascism were to ove~whe~. the United States (which fortunately 1S by no means certain), It 1S from the South above all that it would draw its "mystique" and its shock troops. therefore, that anti-Negro prejudice has crossed and continues t6 cross the Mason-Dixon line, the dividing line between the former slave states of the South and the free states of the North and Northwest. In an American Mercury article entitled "Jim Crow in the North" (June 1949), George S. Schuyler wrote that the white people in the North have no reason to pride themselves on the racial situation in their region-c-and he went on to describe the real picture. Segregation, he said, is still the practice in the public schools of several non-Southern states. It is also the *Editot'S note: Both were later cleared of charges and reinstated.

It is not surprising.




+Editor's note: The. North Dakota law was repealed in 1955. In of the same year the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an o.;illI,lICIIgUlg the constitutionality of Virginia's law against interracial



largest in the world-Harlem. I lived for a time on the dividing !;>e:tween~he white and Negro worlds. Nothing could have been instructive, West 96th Street is one of the main crosstown and a number of blocks are inhabited by well-to-do white IUlI.l,llC'1>. T~e highest-rent apartment buildings have canvas awnings '. the sld~walk to protect the ladies from the weather as they out of their cars, and uniformed doormen to meet them at the Two blocks away we are already in the Negro quarter.z HUJlLLl!'~1>. are squeezed into tiny apartments with the most radimentai furnishings. The streets are dirty and swarm with The whites seem to be completely unaware of this ~USllnhented world that displays its sores just a few steps away from comfortable and resp~table dwellings. One day I took my :Iall!ghter to VISIt~ Negro family on 98th Street. Despite their poverty, a family of dignity and distinction; but so great was the eontrast with the world We had just come from that the child could believe her eyes. I shall stop here. A complete description of the manifestations race prejudice would require numberless pages. I have wanted to set down my personal testimony, and to recreate for my flCi:llUC:11i the atmosphere in which I lived-an oppressive and foul which in time poisons and deranges mind and body. It me ~any months to recover mentally from this experience. The American Negroes who have chosen to live in our "old countries" Europemight be accused, and not without reason .• of running . from a great battle. But there. are extenuating circumstances one lives only once, and human beings, during their short rn on this earth, aspire to live. and to be treated like men,

Across the Hudson River from the big ,city, the Palisades Amusement Park, in the state of New Jersey, attracts large crowds of New Yorkers on Sundays. But until the summer, of 1954 any time a Negro went to the swimming pool entrance he was rudely turned away as a "non-member, " It took a six-year struggle against Jim Crow before the management finally pledged to end this practice and open the pool to all comers. The biggest American insurance company, Metropolitan Life, built a huge low-rent housing project, called Stuyvesant Town, on New York's East Side, with some 8,000 apartments. But until a few years ago no Negro families were admitted. The powerful company stubbornly resisted every undertaking to break down this racial discrimination. Dr. Lee Lorch, a professor at Pennsylvania State .College, was dismissed from the college faculty because he accepted the vice-chairmanship of a committee to fight discrimination in Stuyvesant Town, Only under pressure from the City of New York did the company finally yield. The United Nations had negotiated van arrangement WIth the same company for housing UN employees in another apartment project then under construction; but they canceled the agreement as discriminatory when Metropolitan Life insisted on its right to refuse to rent to anyone whom it considered "unsuitable." Segregation, public and legal in the South, is hypocritical and private in the North. Thus, when there are no laws requiring residential segregation. Whites prevent Negroes from moving into their residential districts by signing mutual agreements called "restrictive covenants," I have before me one of these contracts. The si~ers undertake not to allow the use or occupancy of. any land within a defined area to "any person whose blood is not entirely of the Caucasian or white race." The covenant holds good until January 1, 1987, and binds not only the signers but their successors, In this way they manage, without intervention of the law, to keep the Negroes penned up in ghettoes and to reproduce the division into two segregated worlds that characterizes the South. As a result, the Negroes in Baltimore, Md., for example, though constituting 20 percent of the population, are packed into less than 20 percent of the inhabited areas. In Chicago, the population density in the Negro districts is 90,000 per square mile, though 35,000 per square mile is considered the desirable maximum. The Supreme Court struck one blow against restrictive convenants when it ruled in May 1948 that they may no longer be enforced through the courts, and another in July 1953 when it declared that the courts may not award damages far breach of restrictivecovenants. But it did not prohibit their continued use as a private arrangement, and they arestill widely used. In tb.e very heart of New York stretches anImmense ghetto,

progress is certain. In Virginia, where the poll tax is still retained. the Negro vote doubled between 194$ and 1952. reaching around 70.000 latter year; when the potential Negro vote was 382.000. In icbrnolld. an interra~jalciti.zens committee. one of whose vicewas a colored professor. carried on an active campaign to . Negroes in 1948; a Negro was elected to the city council. the support of many whites. something that had. not happened 52 years. In Durham. N.C., in May 1953, a Negro candidate. R. N. Harris, his white opponent in a predominantly Negro ward by 4,200 3.700. Since 1947 Negro city councilmen have also been elected Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Fayetteville, The registered Negro in the state was estimated at close to 100,000 in 1952. In Georgia, where the poll tax was ended in 1945. there was marked increase in Negro registration, thanks to the campaign a voters league led by a Negro lawyer .. A. T. Walden. It is that the 150.000 registered in 1948 were reduced that to 125,000 by legal and illegal elimination and that only dared to go to the polls. But this was nevertheless not figure. In Atlanta alone, the colored registered voters 7,000 in 1946 to more than 20.000 in 1948. In May 1953. Rufus E. Clement. president of Atlanta University, won a cityprimary for a seat on the Atlanta Board of Education by a of 22,000 to 14,000 for his white opponent. In Savannah. of Negroes registered rose in three years from 900 to The Negro longshoremen's union went to the polls in a The mayor was elected with the help of Negro votes. He haste to name nine colored policemen. In the Augusta election of 1949, a white elected by 740 votes was closely by a Negro candidate with 574 votes. But the return to of the Talmadge machine raised new barriers against Negro and endangered the gains that had been made. Florida, where the poU tax was lifted in 1938, Negro ~stration reached 9S,OOO ten years later, and almost 150.000 in when the potential Negro vote was 350,000. In a Negro candidate who was defeated in 1948 received than Negro votes. That year the new mayor of Tampa, Negro support. appointed COlored policemen. paved of the Negro district. planned construction of a swimming for Negroes, and authorized mixed football matches. The picture is not the same in all Southern states; it remains' of all in states like Mississippi and South Carolina. But if . is considered in its totality. there has been progress. The of Southern Negroes qualified to vote rese from, around in 1940 to 750,000 in. 1948 and reached between l.l00,OOO and



In the preceding pages the emphasis has been placed on the stubborn resistance which race prejudice puts up against the march of progress. Emphasizing the persistence of the evil was necessary [0 refute the optimists who, with a very American smile on their lips, contend that the Negro problem is on the road to rapid solution. This is, in fact. the official thesis. As Drake and Cayton observe in Black Metropolis, it is an American imperative to pretend to believe that all SOCial problems can be solved peacefully and without conflict. Americans are expected to make a display of gaiety and optimism in regard to their solution. even when facts prove the contrary. Most Northern newspapers and magazines willingly publish articles on the race question. But on condition that their authors give proof (at least in the title) of confidence and good humor. It is often necessary to read the te~t carefuUy to discover, behind this facade. a reality much less rosy. But even if progress is extremely slow, even if it is much slower than it should be in such a dynamic and fast-changing society. still there is progress. * Humanity continues to march forward despite all obstacles. In the following pages the accent will be put on progress. In the field of political rights. the outlawing of the white primary by the federal courts and the elimination of poll taxes in certain Southern states have. created openings through which the Negro vote has sought to enter, Where these openings are narrowed by new restrictions, progress has been virtually nil. But where they remain
*Richard Wright. Who read the proofs of the French edition of this book, remarked to me: "The rhythm of American industrial development can be used as a gauge for measuring the exact pace of the rhythm of Negro progress. For example, after the Civil. War, and While America Was still mainly an agrarian country, the Negro kept better pace with American progress than he does today. Between 1865 and 1900, Americanmdustrial progress advanced rapidly; and it was precisely during this period when the American Negro was thrust backward under the terror of the Ku Klux Klan . .. This should be emphasized mo~e than you have done. Negroes in America lose sight of this important point of comparison, and it is from

thi' that theit over-optimism comes,"

1,350,000 in 1952.



71 This delay furnished the South with time in which to adapt itself the new situation, that is, to hunt for the most effective means evading the court's decision. The governors of 15 Southern states met in Richmond and 12 of them announced that they would attain some conformity with the court ruling and yet keep segregation as possible." Several Southern states proceeded buttress their prohibitions of mixed schools. notably by amendments constitutions giving the state authorities the power, as a last to transform the public schools into private schools. outside nscicuon of the Supreme Court. Simultaneously, several new groups launched a wave of terror and economic pressure a!!ll of intimidating Negroes into accepting "voluntary evertheless, a certain number of stales which had practiced segregation began, slowly and partially. to apply the Supreme decision. The District of Columbia set an example by when its schools reopened in September 1954. with a aimed at their complete desegregation. But in some areas attempts were made to comply with the court's decision, the provoked incidents which led the school authorities to to Jim Crow. y, it must not be forgotten that even if school segregation be completely banned by law, it will continue to exist in everywhere tbat housing discrimination continues to isolate the in ghettos. It is therefore an exaggeration to pretend. as Walter White of NAACP did, that the school decision demonstrated conclusively "American democracy works for Negroes"; and the Voice of ..... rica, when it announced to the world. with great fanfare and in e Ji1U,gU,1g"", the end of segregation in the United States, was certainly chickens before they had been hatched. The decision 17, 1954, was unquestionably a great legal victory. due in to the persevering activity of the NAACP. but this victory is far from being fully translated into life, and the battle is still definitively won. In health and hygiene, the gap between Negro and white has

Some progress can also be noted in the field of social segregation. A majority of the states outside the South have passed laws punishing discrimination in various public places, under penalty of fine and imprisonment. Three states have fair education laws. Several states forbid segregation in the National Guard. Texas and South Carolina adopted anti-lynching laws in recent years. Six Southern states have forbidden the wearing of masks and burning of crosses. But, as we have seen, there is still a wide gap between laws and customs. And segregation continues, more often than not, under hypocritical forms, despite the texts of laws. In the universities, interracial relations have a tendency to improve. Many colleges in the North have made gestures in favor of Negroes. Some have outlawed student fraternities which exclude Negroes. The students at Penn State College threw picket lines around barber shops that discriminated against Negroes. In 1948 white students in Alabama took the initiative in organizing a mixed student conference against discrimination and segregation. Visits. to Negro colleges by white students and to white colleges by Negro students were arranged. The white participation in this undertaking is still very limited. But it is a beginning just the same. The Supreme Court decision of 1950, which opened the doors of higher education to Negroes in Oklahoma and Texas. was followed by other court orders applying the same ruling to other Southern states. In 1954, it was reported, some 2,000 Negroes were attending integrated college classes in the South. The number of Negro bachelors' degrees has doubled in the last decade, and that of Negroes going to college rase from 5,000 in 1910 to 88,000 in 1948. As to pre-college education, while Negroes continue to be cruelly handicapped. the situation has been improving, although too slowly. In 1870, 90 percent of the Negroes were illiterate; in 1950, about 10 percent. In 1950, Negroes aged 25 and over had completed an average of 7.0 years of school (the comparable figure for whites WH~ 9.7 years); this represented a gain for Negroes of 1.3 years OVP" 1940 (and a gain for whites of 1.0 years during that period). On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court finally ruled, in a unanimous decision, that "segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race ... [deprives] the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities," that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," and that "such segregation is II denial of the equal protection of the laws" and therefore uncon stitutional, But the court did not venture beyond this declaration of principle. It put off until after a future hearing any ruling on when. and .. how this illegal practice should be stopped.





*Editor's note: On the first anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1954 the NAACP reported that an estimated 250,000 Negro and white were attending classes in 500 previously segregated public elementary schools. The number of Negro students involved was 134,000, a in the District of Columbia, according to the Southern Education lOpc:lrtiIlg Service. Altogether, 9,821,000 white and 2,397,000 Negro children in schools in the segregated areas. the spring of 1955, the Supreme Court concluded new hearings on the question. The NAACP lawyers urged the court to set September the outside date by which desegregation must be completed." ~n,orneys· for Southern states urged that no deadline be set and that federal





73 The Jim Crow Dodgers bought . Robinson. and now most of the big league teams have one Negro players. Negroes have also been accepted in 'mHJize:d hockey, and are permitted to play in tournaments of the Tennis Association, the Amateur Fencers League and the ole:SSLon:a·! Golfers Association. .The American Bowling Congress forced to delete its "white males only" clause, and some universities are now permitted to play football against teams Negro players. . But the greatest victories have been obtained in the armed forces. could even speak, no doubt with a little exaggeration, of a "mill· racial revolution." The Navy took the first step, on February 27. when the following order went out to all naval stations and "All restrictions governing the types of assignments for which naval personnel are eligible are hereby lifted." The Navy's was. soon followed by the Air Force which, by the end . could boast that it was tbe only branch of the armed with no all-Negro components left. But the Army. as Lee writes, "was the mule of the military team in this issue. a vastly greater share of Negroes, both in numbers and lI'oent:agle. and was more sensitive to pressure from southern t:lnlll,.a~I.W'i." Around the middle of 1950, however. it finally decided join march of progress and it switched from almost complete tgJ'legaltion to a point where better than nine out of every ten Negroes, , were serving in racially mixed units. Yet the Navy, which been in the vanguard until 1949. still persisted. in the summer 1953, in maintaining its almost all-Negro stewards branch. But this "revolution" was not caused by a sudden attack of on the part of the top brass. nor by a miraculous evaporatheir race prejudices. The ~easons were essentially military_L._:~,_I, and the change was a direct consequence of the war in The experts ended by perceiving that the all-Negro units low morale and were "unreliable in combat," while. on the hand, mixed units were superior in morale to both all-Negro alJ-whiteunits, because the races competed with each other 'battlefield wherever integration took place. They reached the as Nichols writes. that "the 15,000,000 U.S. Negroes were part of the manpower pool for present and future military and that the militarily fit portion of this critical one-tenth nation could not be utilized to full effectiveness except in WA ••_~"AA military organizations." And, with the aid of military they succeeded in making the change without too much permit an evaluation of all the repercussions
The abolition of segregation in the armed forces is still too recent on civilian life. But

narrowed also. In 1919-21 the average life expectancy of a Negro male was 47.1 years, of a Negro female 46.9 years; by 1949, that of the male had risen to 58.. and that of the female to 62.9. But 6 the gap was still quite wide. The life expectancy of a white male was 7..3 years higher, and that" of a white female 8.6 years higher, than their Negro counterparts. In housing also some improvements are to be noted. After the Supreme Court ruling against restrictive covenants in 1948. thousands of Negro families were able to move into residential districts previously reserved for whites. In several Northern cities Negroes succeeded in extending the limits of the ghetto and even in escaping it. Beginning in 1950. a number of city housing authorities outside the South ended segregation in public housing jJrojects.. But these are stiU exceptions rather than the rule, and the federal authorities continue to allocate funds for building construction from which Negroes are barred .. White racists put up a bitter resistance to the arrival of Negro families in residential districts where whites claim to have a monopoly. In Cicero, near Chicago, in July 1951, the family of Harvey E.Clark, moving into an apartment building recently purchased by a Negro real estate company, was attacked by a mob that grew as large as 8,000 people; their apartment was completely wrecked and their furniture sent up in flames, The Cicero chief of police was convicted of having been one of the main participants in the riot. Similar outbreaks with the same motive took place the next year in Los Angeles and Chicago. At the end of July 1953. still in Chicago, the family of Donald Howard was greeted by a screaming mob when it moved into the Trumbull Park federal housing project. Violence, including the explosion of bombs, continued without let-up at Trumbull Park during the following year. and the Howards finally moved out, although a number of other Negro families courageously remained th~e. In August 1954, a mob attacked a Negro family that had acquired a home in an all-white section of Philadelphia. the City of Brotherly Love. On the other hand. the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was forced by the pressure of labor and anti-racist organizations to halt its plans to evict 19 colored .families from Stuyvesant Town in New York early in 1952.

In Sports there has also been some progress. in baseball was breached when the Brooklyn

district courts be authorized to settle the issue in the light of local conditions. The Eisenhower administration made a similar recommendation. On May 31, 1955, the Supreme Court issued its second ruling: Reaffirming 'the principle that school segregation solely because of color is unconstitutional, it assigned to local school boards the task of determining how and when to end segregation, and gave the district courts the authority to determine whether or not the school boards carry out desegregation in "good faith." It set no date. The NAACP interpreted this ruling as a victory; so did the Southern authorities, .



state .. and constitute a grave weakness in our

Nichols is undoubtedly not wrong in thinking that "the military acted as a spearhead toward non-segregation throughout the U.S. as a w~ole." The contacts made between the two races in the military umts, the non-segregated schools for children of servicemen at military posts, the usa clubs. etc., wiilcertainly contribute to reducing the ~ace prejudice in the country as a whole. But the integration achreved III thearrned forces still does not extend to social relations; interracial dancing. for instance. is still. as Nichols' says, "discouraged. ,,* Finally. an increasing number Of interracial organizations have turned toward the Negro problem, with varying degrees of success, We Can point, with good reason, to the futility of their efforts to find effective solutions within the framework of the status quo. But their growing good will is nevertheless a sign of the times. growing good will is nevertheless a sign of the times. To summarize: a certain over-all improvement is undeniable. But Charles S. Johnson, Negro President of Fisk University, exaggerated when. he claimed that "the symbols of segregation are on the wane in all parts of the country" and that progress in race relations has taken on "the proportions of an orderly revolution." And so did Dr. Channing H. Tobias when he compared this progress to the falling of the walls of J ericho, President Truman's Committee on Civil Rights correctly noted in 1947 that progress in the exercise of political rights remained "limited. and precarious." Dubois too warned against excessive optimism. The progress recorded in recent decades, he said. was impressive. only when compared with the semi-slave condition in which the Negro was still sunk: in 1900; but when compared with the progress achieved in every field by America as a whole. "the lag." he said, "is ominous." V. O. Key Jr. concluded that "the way is hard and progress is slow." And Dr. Ralph J. Bunche said ill 1950 that while it could not be denied that race relations were improving, "neither can. it be doubted that these relations remain
*Editor's note; On February 13, 1955, the Associated Press transmitted the following dispatch; NEW YORK-(AP}-Rep. Powell (D., N.Y.) said Saturday President Eisenhower's program of facial integration in the armed forces is in "serious trouble." . "Negro men now serving in the defense establishments of our nation are deliberately prevented from advancing and, in the case of the Navy, are being discouraged from enlisting and re-enlisting," Powell said . Powell said Negroes comprise one tenth of one percent of the officers in both the Navy and Marine Corps and "this is definitely not integration." He said "another alarming fact is that Negro civilians are definitely being discriminated against by the Pentagon." Powell. said he based his information on a tour. of Army and Air Foree bases in Europe and information furnished him by the Department of DefeDIC.

was this "weakness' that President Truman attempted to when he launched his civil rights program for Negroes. The !SldtenUal initiative could be classified in the category of progress; further than the very timid gestures made by President for the benefit of Negroes. But it remained quite limited: Content and in its results. President Truman Was certainly not inspired by any particular the colored people and it was doubtful that his program his personal views. This petty bourgeois from Missouri, raised close to the Mason-Dixon line, was imbued with the ~'lI1j{'··,>·" of his birthplace, and the gossips claim that in private, chats with his boyhood cronies, he uses the word "niggers,' .in the school of the Democratic Party, tied to the Bourbons r,,'n<Tr~~.~ by his long sojourn in the Senate, Barry Truman has but contempt and hate for the great revolution which .gave to the Negroes, while the Republican Party was in. power. his 1948 election campaign. he blurted out the view that done by the 80th Congress had not been. equaled in history by the Congress of the Reconstruction period. If Harry Truman risked his political career by taking -sides with Negroes, it was because he had urgent reasons. . First of all, the Democratic Party found itself in danger of losing confidence and sympathy of the colored people which it had won the relatively liberal policies of the New Deal. While "",."""",,.1. was still alive, the Negroes had shown dissatisfaction and In 1941, as we shall see; A. Philip Randolph launched March on Washington and compelled the President to make concessions. The Harlem dot in 1943 further revealed the seontent and combativity of the Negroes. But Roosevelt persisted nUl'llolring Bourbons in his own party, and the 1944 Democratic the on racial issues was so inadequate that it aroused strong protest the Negro leaders. Walter White, secretary of the NAACP, it as a concession to the South. The Negro press was vehement: "The South is running the government," wrote Walker in the Cleveland Call and Post, "it dominates the· House, it controls the Army and Navy, all because President: is too weak . . . to stop them. He has failed to defend wife or his close friends . . . from the calumny of southern, hatred." The Pittsburgh Courier wrote that "thousands of who distrust the Democratic Party but who' have confidence . Roosevelt. are finding that .. . the President has not able. to cope with the malignant influence of the South when ..
.. lUUU\&U






if the exploitation of race prejudice was not now rebounding their own interests. As George S. Schuyler wrote, "the white Melna<:vpropaganda has become a Frankenstein's monster which, largely served its purpose, the mote intelligent ll!embers ruling class would fain destroy ,but now are terrorized ~y own creation," It was not by accident that the chairmanship 's Committee on Civil Rights was given to Charles E. the General Electric magnate, later appointed as economic during the Korean war, In 1947 the Committee presented the report that had been by the President. This document, published under the To Secure These Rights. contained a much sharper indictment seerezation than was favored by several of its leading members. our work as a Committee, we have learned . . . much that made us feel ashamed." it said. In conclusion, the Committee commended the passage of federal laws against lynching, poll taxes segregation in public transportation between the states, and the of segregation in the armed forces; it even went so far sanction, in principle, the elimination of all segregation. But daring to attack states' rights, it did not go beyond ><. as a plan of action, that federal funds no longer be used support segregation in teaching, public health, public housing, etc. On February 2, 1948, President Truman sent a special message Congress in which he advocated a 10-point civil rights program. it he endorsed a certain number of his Committee's recommendabut not all of them. His main requests were for the of a permanent commission on civil rights and a ssion against discrimination in employment, federal legislation lynching, more adequate protection of the right ,to vote, the elimination of segregation in inter-state transportation, As be seen, this program was quite limited. The Democratic chairman J. Howard McGrath, hastened to explain that "'''''[<01''[ had 'not proposed any measures against segregation in nrp,r_"t<lt ... transportation, nor bad he advocated any mixing of races the public schools. . .' . Nevertheless, this program, inadequate and feeble though It was, a furious explosion among the Bourbons. They accused '~'''rd~' of "knifing the South in the back" and of wanting to , the U.S. Rep. Eugene Cox of Georgia charged t~e with having borrowed his program from the Commurnst asserted that Harlem "still is wielding more influence with than the entire. white South." Rep. John E. Mississippi endorsed the view that the program was communistic, unconstitutional. anti-American." A New Dealer, Donald R. Richberg, wrote that the presidential ............ was probably the most trouble-making document since Marx ,~
U<I".. M,·II U __

the Democr~tic Party is in power." George S. Schuyler deplored that the President was a man Who could speak sympathetically about the tortur~ J~ws of Europe but was "too callous or too cowardly to speak likeWIse about the tortured Negroes of America." The ~egroes continued to put pressure on the White House after Roosevelt s death. Harry Truman felt it necessary to make certain concessions to them to .keep them from turning toward the "reds." In 1947,. the former VIce-President, Henry Wallace, formed a new party, With the support of the Stalinists. In the summer of 1948 the Progressive Party conducted a loud campaign in behalf of th~ ~egr~es. * Wallace accuse~ Truman an_d. hi,s party of having presided over the gradual liquidation of civil nghts" in the United States, no! re~l~y believing in his civil rights program, and denying It by .mamtammg segregation in the armed forces. During the cam1?rugn the Progressive Party. candidate undertook a courageous election tour of the So~th, acclaimed by large Negro audiences and copiously bombarded With eggs and tomato~$ by the white population. In. order to. check the Wallace candidacy and assure his own re-election, President Trum~mjudged it indispensable to raise his demagogy to the pitch of his rryal. But to these domestic political reasons ~ere added no less .pressm~ conslderatlOn~ of foreign politics. Truman s advisors report.ed. to him the angry international reperc~sslOns o~ the trea~~nt inflicted on American Negroes: Lynchings, his Committee on CmI Rights told him. "echo from one end of the globe to the other .. "A!1 American. diplomat cannot forcefully argue " for free elect~ons ill foreign lands. WIthout meeting the challenge that m many sections of Amenca qualified voters do not have free access to the polls." America's enemies "have tried to prove our democracy an, ~mpty fraud, ,~nd our. nation a consistent oppressor of under" privileged people. Fo~ his o~n part Professor Dollard stated. "We cannot wIthout, deadly inconsistency lead a campaign in the name of freedom when we tolerate at home a system which is onlya good long Jump from slavery as far as Negroes are concerned." At the end of 1947~a! a sub-commission of the United Nations, ~he Russian delegates insisted that It proceed with an immediate investigation of the Negro problem in the U.S. Walter White of the NAACP warned the President that Soviet propaganda was using Ku Kl.ux K18? attacks, lynchings and other manifestations of race prejudice to line up the African and Asian peoples against the U.S. As . ~~hng Secretary of. State, Dean Acheson complained in 1946 that the existence of discrimination against minority groups in this country has an adverse effect upon our relations with other countries." Even among the spokesmen of Big Business, some began to
*During his many years of service in the Roosevelt and Truman cabinets I am told, Wallace's record on civil tights was much less creditable. '

...... ' ......3nT



vice-presidency J. Strom Thurmond, governor of South Carolina, Fielding L. Wright, governor of Mississippi. But the Dixiecrats, . were called, did not succeed in taking with them the greater the South. Truman was triumphantly re-elected in November Dixiecrats, winning only four states (Alabama, Louisiana, ........ '- =r: pi and South Carolina), suffered a severe defeat: they had to take 100 of the 127 Southern electoral votes, but got only They did not receive more than 19 percent of the Southern Some observers declared. perhaps too hastily, that the Dixiecrat ~""'"''''nl could well have been "the dying gasp of the Old South." And yet these vanquished without glory were winners in the Their revolt encouraged the Bourbons who remained faithful Democratic Party to continue stubborn resistance to the civil program. And it caused President Truman himself to cease conflict with the Solid South; attempts were begun to win strayed sheep back to the Democratic fold. Now that he had returned to office for another four years, it no longer seemed to Truman to raise the Negroes to the dignity of human these troubles at home were added others flowing from policy. To the extent that the President moved on the path of he had to lean more and more on both old parties, the "'m.t'V',r~ and the Republicans, in order to give his diplomatic and enterprises a flavor of "bipartisanship" and "national unity." So in Congress the Republicans and Southern Democrats made alliance to block the road to a civil rights program. It was a of the old and sordid combination which had come out the compromise of 1876-77 between the big Yankee capitalists and Southern planters. Truman, who could have dealt smashing to this combination and perhaps might have been able to it, chose not to try. The New York Times, although prostrongly denounced the attitude of the Republicans and mpnasizeo that. thanks to their complicity, the States Rights Party real winner, in spite of its setback at the polls. So far as action on civil rights goes, it added, the U.S. continues "to ruled from Birmingham." The Truman administration finally left office without having a piece of the civil rights program enacted into law by Congress. .r 1952 convention the Democrats showed that they were far concerned with a reconciliation with the Dixiecrats than with vole. Both the Democratic and Republican parties adopted ts planks which represented a big step backward from those . 1948.. So much so, that Georgia's Gov. Talmadge declared that South got the best deal in 20 years" at the. Democratic .vu v" •.LU·,VU , while Negro Rep. Adam Clayton Powell called a public to protest "the sellout of the Negro people" by the conven-

and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto one hundred years Gov. Fielding L. Wright told the Negroes of Mississippi in a talk that "if they envisioned any social equality with whites restaurants and schools they had better leave the state." Besides, what good was such intervention by the federal ment? Negroes, declared Rep. Sam Hobbs of Alabama smiling, "get more than justice" in Southern courts, because judges and juries there "have an understanding of the Negro is absent in other sections of the country. We love our N The federal government was laying a sacrilegious hand on sacrosanct rights of the states. The Southern Democrats the shades of Jefferson and Jackson. The Democratic Party deserted the principles on which it was founded. Democracy in danger. "It was the beginning of the end." The "infamous" program of the President would lead to the establishment totalitarian government in the U.S., centralized and a police state, a dictatorship. The plot had been hatched in Kremlin itself to divide the American people and its aim was install a sort of Kremlin in Washington. The real motive for this great outburst was revealed by the New York Times in an editorial which said that those "who out blindly against any change in the status quo ... simply not wish to see any improvement in the Negro's political and economic standing." Was this Bourbon call to arms intended to make Truman reconsider and would it make him pull his UU"""'"'' Southern spokesmen asserted that he had political blunder of his career" and had fatally chances of re-election. But that was not the opinion of advisors. Besides, the pressure of the Negro emancipation TTl(,vpm~m kept growing, while Wallace's demagogy and the success that it seemed to be having with the Negroes pressed ever harder On the White House. At the 1948 Democratic nominating convention, Walter White in the name of the NAACP called on the party to quit dodging the racial problem as it had done in 1944. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party, at the insistence of Minneapolis Mayor (and future U.S. Senator) Hubert H. Humphrey, succeeded, in spite of the furious opposition of the reactionary wing, in introducing into the election platform a categorical endorsement of tbt civil rights program of Harry Truman. This was too much for the Southern madmen. Walking out of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, they moved to Birmingham to hold a dissident convention. On July 17, they fanned a new party, named States Rights, and nominated for the presroencr









tions. of both old parties. The Democratic presidential candidate Adlai ~teven~on,. openly offered his hand to the Dixiecrats; tho~ ~ho rejected tt .did so more because of his stand on the tideland oil Issue than. becau~e of .bis civil rights position. Stevenson's running mate as vrce-presidential candidate was a Southerner and an avowed Opponent of the civil rights program, Sen, John S. Sparkman of Alabama.. A year after the election, Stevenson paid a good-will visit to the racist Talmadge in Georgia. The Negroes, betrayed by both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, are still waiting for the enactment of equal rights.

"_ ..~",i" white South is not yet ready to attack race discrimination ..
recent article, DuBois had but little softened his verdict: "The South . . . The present situation therefore is the direct result continued refusal of the liberal South to make a front forward on at least the more outrageous aspects of race discrimination." Most of the Southern "liberals" (teachers, labor leaders, . businessmen, preachers, journalists) are grouped around called the Southern Regional Council, which was in February 1944. While concerning itself with the Negro the Council tries to smooth it over by prescribing gradual peaceful remedies and diluting it in other problems. According the Council, it would be a mistake to consider the problems of South simply from a racial point of view. Exploiting in its manner the entirely correct idea that racial frictions have an _~~~'" economic cause, they aim to eliminate them by modernizing mdustnahzing the South, that is, by opening new fields of ,Plll1t<l.UUU to Business from the North. In 1945 the Council an alluring pamphlet designed to entice the captains of to the South. But the Negro question will not be solved creating a dozen new Birminghams below the Mason-Dixon line, fact, this paean to "industrialization" is a method of conjuring the open struggle against segregation. In an impassioned article, Smith answered the Council that it will contribute nothing establishing racial democracy until its leaders publicly ~.I(r.n"'/1f'I1!'f' the evil that segregation represents in all fields.* In of a white writer, Bucklin Moon, who denounced the "refusal to face the question of segregation squa rely," of the stalling tactics which are helping to hold the



Since the problem is posed above all in the South because the great majority of Negroes live there, its solution de~nds to a certain extent on the South itself, that is, on the Southern whites. Is there is the South today a liberal movement capable of putting pressure on the Bourbons. and. of democratizing the Democratic Party? I looked desperately for 1t all through my travels in the South and I was never able to find any traces of such a movement. It is true I met some self-styled. liberals, b.ut these were so timid that they conten.ted themselves WIth demanding a "more equitable segregation" an? WIth preaching "tolerance," which is, in effect, as Henry Wallace pomted out ill an angry speech, preaching "the tolerance of intolerance, tolerance of segregation." . . This ~evere judgment is continued by other qualified observers. Lillian Smith, the writer, whose novel on race relations Strange Fruit was a _great success and w~o co~es from an old Southern family. wrote In 1948: "Southern liberalism maintains its old grim silence. Not. one Southerner has taken ~. strong stand in a Southern newspaper a~amst segregat.lOu . '. It IS hard to understand at a time like this . .. CautIon. has become a cherished habit . .. Silence is a poor way of changing people." Developing this indictment in Killers of the Dream. she. accuses the liberals in the South of "forfeiture." Even the more .. bbe:~l . n~wspape.rs, she writes, imagine that to denounce segregation WIll incrte VIolence' and insist that affirmations of human rights can 'onl1 do ,harm.' .They seem to have forgot that. words can arouse a man s conscience as well as his baser pas~iO.ns;" .. Old _DuBois is neither more indulgent nor more optimistic: No liberal movement ... has been able to make ~dv~nc~ among Southerners;" he observed in Black Reconstruction. It. IS singular and almost peculiar to the South how seldom Southern whites have had the courage to stand up and suffer for nghteousaess' ~ake against the mass terror of public opinion. In the South the Iconoclast, the ma~r . . . have been conspicuously absent;· and where they have ansen, they have soon either subsided into silence or retreated to the more tolerant atmosphere of the North," In a




Like Diogenes, lantern in hand. I patiently sought throughout South for consistent liberals. At the University of North Carolina, worthy professor Howard W. OduID, a regional sociologist, smiled kindly from behind his glasses. Had I found my man? Alas, university doctor thought, in the purest Southern language, that South has been invaded so often . , . by thousands of reformers accusers that it is automaticaJly prepared to defend itself." He
*In his book, Southern Exposure, a liberal fellow-traveler of the Stalinists, Kennedy, reproached Lillian Smith for demanding too much of the Regional Council. In a pseudo-Marxist jargon, he counsels waiting: the economic and political functions of Jim Crow have been negated, social aspect will vanish as the subterfuge it is." But this reasoning is a bit Marxist. FOT a real socialist, the attack on the "superstructure" to be made at the same time as the struggle for the destruction of economic "foundation." (See page 25.)

82 believed that a reform of the South must be achieved within ~ramewo~k of co~~titutional demands "rather than through t'..n~~""'ft.l irresponsible political demagogues, and subversive forces." . A~e thejournalists any better? In Richmond, Virginius editor III chief of the Times-Dispatch and author of a book on South, pontificates, Some y~ars. ago, he had the audacity to for the abolition of segregation ill the streetcars and buses of state .. But h~ was. not long .i~ withdrawing his proposal, to applause .of his white fellow-citizens. And in 1943 he predicted tern~le "interracial explosion"-if the Negro had the impudence continue to make demands! In Louisville, Mark Ethridge made himself an reputation in the Courier-Journal as a "liberal." But in June 1942 he wrote that "there is no power in the world . . . which Could no.w .force the Southern white people to the abandonment of the principle of SOCia) segregation." In Greenville, Miss., Hodding Carter pretends to defend the cause . of progress I~ the Delta Democrat Times and in various novels, At schoo~, his chtld~en ,~ere b,~dly treat~d as the children of a "nigger. l?ver. But this liberal took hIS stand against Truman's civil ~lghts program and agrees with the Bourbons in protesting any federal Lnter,,:entlOn III the social life of the South. According to him, "A standing a,~my w0';1ld be necessary to end general segregation in the So~th. Nothing, ill the near future, he opines, "can change the white South's convj~tion that racial separateness . . . is the only acceptable way by which large segments of two dissimilat peoples can live. side by side in peace, Any abrupt Federal effort to end s~grega~lOn .. , would also dangerously impair the present progressive adjustments between the races." In Atlant~, ~alph McGi.l1 has built up a reputation in the Atlanta Constitution by ·crossmg swords with the Ku Klux Klan. But he too I.S opposed to. the .civil rights program in the name of ~he sacrosanct constitutional fights of the states. And he campaigned III ?ehalf of th~ Republican Party, partner of the Bourbons in the anti-Negro parliamentary coalition. . Is this to .say that I. did not meet a single consistent liberal III the So~th? (By "consistent" I mean a liberal publicly taking a s~and against segregation.) I. will not &0 that far. I ended by discovering a number of specimens of this rare species, But they could be counted on the finge~s,. and a~e singularly dispersed .. First, . th~ courageous and arde!lt Lillian Smith, already mentioned. who. retired m he~ small Georg.la. town, stands a little like a solitary beacon. T~en, there IS Aubrey Wr1hams~ an old New Dealer, and one of the principal supporters of the civil rights program. This fearless man was booed for declaring publicly in Montgomery, where he lives, that It was a pleasure for him to receive Negroes if! hi~ home, At

83 1948 Democratic convention, he resisted the Bourbons and threw at them the truth that opposition to the civil rights program more from the party chiefs than from the people themselves. the ex-governor of Alabama. Chauncey Sparks. pretended that ....... _um " relations in the South were "friendly," Williams him, "There is great tension." Finally, Williams declared he was opposed to every kind of racial segregation. In Mississippi there is the Rev. H. Brent Schaeffer..a Lutheran whom the pressure of white prejudice did not curb and was not afraid to entitle a pamphlet "White Mississippi Citizens the Character and the Courage to Give Negro Citizens Fair and Rights as Citizens." In Atlanta there is another clergyman, the Rev. I. J. Domas, Protestant minister who had to give up his work because he let Negro atterd a service, upon which the white faithful ~~ltellea to leave the church. Also in Atlanta there is the lawyer, Duke, ex-attorney general of the state under Gov. Ellis Arnall, actually executed .the duties of his office by fighting the Ku Klan. This white man did not hesitate (I saw it myself) address Negroes in their ownchurches," And finally in Charleston, S.C., there was that imposing figure. Judge J. Waties Waring, who gave the death blow to the primary in his state in 1947. To Judge Waring. the whites the region are "mentally sick" and "obsessed." The evil cannot cured. according to him. by "gradualism," which he calls "the dangerous doctrine of our age." "The cancer of segregation never be cured by the, sedative of gradualism," he asserts. "An . is necessary." In Charleston, Judge Waring and his wife the butt of complete ostracism by the white population; a IInrlth""",, magazine printed an article about him aptly entitled. "The Man in Town." Judge Willing had a strong back and his irremovable federal him a certain independence. But not all of the consistent can resist as he did the cruel isolation with which the whites them. In 1934, Clarence Cason, who taught journalism at . of Alabama, committed suicide. according to W. J. "in part at least because of his fear of the fiercely hostile which he knew that both the school authorities and his faculty members would take toward his criticisms of the South" his forthcoming book. And even Judge and Mrs. Waring finally to New York City. The Southern liberals will stop being pariahs and will stop
·Atlanta, which is the capital of the South as well as one of the capitals the Southern counter-revolution, could also be the capital of Southern But its liberals still hesitate to speak out frankly and as a group.

killing themselves (in the real as well as the figurative sense) a great mass movement. led by labor. both white and black. restore their self-confidence and warm them in its fraternal basom, But signs of progressive development must be sought not 80 much in the "upper crust." among the so-called representative figures, as in the ranks of the people, and especially among the youth, I will never forget the unexpected and warm cordiality shown by a white student from Mississippi toward a Negro student, both of thern hitch-hikers brought together by accident in my car, When I later congratulated the mother of the white lad on his attitude toward the Negro. her first reaction was. anxiety: "Please. for go?dness' sake, don't tell that to his father!" Then. with a tender smile, she confided: "I am proud of my son," I was happy to see my impression shared by a native Southerner who had returned there for a visit after a long absence, He wrote in The Militant in 1953: "Among young white Southerners a real revolution is occurring in their attitude toward the race question, The generation now coming out of school and out of the armed services has a qualitatively different outlook than did my own generation only 10 or 12 years ago, This is the most surprising and encouraging thing that I encountered. " Tills new generation has yet to make its weight felt. Meanwhile the South remains in the grip of the counter-revolution. led by men like James F. Byrnes. Herman Talmadge. Harry F. Byrd and Allan Shivers. who symbolize irreconcilable war against any fundamental change. And the fact that progress proceeds with such slowness gives the counter-revolution innumerable opportunities to return to the offensive.





rimination in Employrnent
- have thought it best to reserve discrimination in employme!1t I separate treatment. On top of political segregation ~nd SOCI~ !re1l[a{llDn. here we have. crowning all. economic segregation. This the worst of the three forms of segregation. To certain human beings. solely because of the color of their skin. work that they could do as well as whites and thus condemn to a lower standard of Iiving=-is this not even worse and more than 'it is' to keep them from voting. or sitting at the same with "Caucasians"? Discrimination in employment is not only complement but also the result and ultimate aim of the other forms of segregation. A large part of the reason why Negroes barred from the ballot box and restricted to live in Negro ghettos make it easier to exploit them on the job. With the political social forms of segregation. the utilization of ,race prejudice by moneyed interests is. more or less hid,den. I_t IS sensed, but not But with economic segregation. this role IS nakedly revealed. . in employment and the sharecropping system rn are modern versions of slavery, methods of assuring a of semi-slave and cheap Negro labor.* It is not surpris~ng that the various measures aimed at putting an end to Job scnmmanon brought forth greater howls of rage from the capitalist than did any other parts of the civil rights program, In fact. although there has been a certain amount ?f .pro~ress dealing with segregation in public and goven;unental IOStItutIO.ns. corresponding progress has been recorded 10 the field of Job Insofar as public institutions are conce~ned, t?e ., u is seeking to rid itself of the on,:,s of segregation while the discriminaton that segregation was designed to If segregation was the means. and discrimination the end. discrimination is to a certam extent possible WIthout
employers are the instigators of and bear the responsibility for in employment. But some ,trade unions, particularly the craft ICl'ilmlnatlol! a helping hand by excluding Negroes from the s~1I17d ,trades, naturally tries to throw responsibility for discriminatory on the workers and their unions. But" as the Negro journalist S. Schuyler states. it is the employer who IS the main culprit,






87 of Negroes, Jews, or Mexicans in the process of hiring in various ways-by newspaper advertisements requesting or gentiles to apply, by registration or application blanks a space is reserved for 'race' or 'religion: by discriminatory orders placed with employment agencies, at by the arbitrary efa company official in charge of hiring." It recalled t~at . total job orders received by United States Employment Service in 11 selected areas during the period February 1-15, 1946, 24 of the orders were discriminatory, including specifications with to race, citizenship, religion, or some combination of these * Among private employment agencies the situation is even

s~grega~ion: as millions. of Negroes in the North can testify. discrimination can survive even after segregation is ended. . Negroes are relegated to the worst jobs, the heaviest, dirtiest, least skilled and poorest paid. The dividing line is so sharp that two categories of work are recognized; Negro jobs and white jobs. In the textbooks on labor problems, Negro labor is often dealt with in a separate. chapter; and sometimes discussed along with convict labor! The 1950 census revealed that skilled Negro craftsmen {epresented only 7.6 percent of all employed Negro men while skilled white craftsmen represented 19.3 percent of all employed white men. A study on "Employment and Economic Status of Negroes in the United States," issued by a subcommittee of the U ..5. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare in 1952, added: "The 3 percent of Negro men in clerical work in 1950 was about half the proportion of white men in this occupational group. The proportion of Negro men in professional occupations in 1950 was low-about 2 percent compared with 8 percent for whites. Although appreciable gains up the occupational ladder have been made during the last decade, in comparison with white workers, Negroes are predominantly employed in the lower-paying and less-skilled occupations, such as operatives, laborers. and service workers." . While gains have been recorded in the last decade and a half. progress has not been steady or uniform. In 1910 the Negroes represented 6.2 percent of all manufacturing employees; by 1930 the figure had risen to 7.3 percent, reflecting gains of the first world War and the prosperity of the 1920's; but by 1940 it had fallen to 5.1 percent, reflecting the relative loss in position suffered by the Negroes during depression; in 1950, thanks to the greater employment opportuniues produced by the second world war and the postwar boom, it had risen again to 6.8 percent. But this 1950 figure, it is important to note, was still lower that that of 1930. Statistics also reveal the extent of discrimination in wages. Hourly rates for Negro common laborers averaged 47.4 cents in July 1942, as compared with 65.3 cents for white laborers. A more recent study by the AFL showed that. in Houston, Tex., the average weekly income of white veterans was 63 percent higher than the average Income of Negro veterans. The 1952 Senate committee study says: "In 1950, Negro families had an average annual income of $1.869, 54 percent of the average income of $3,445 among white families. The differential seems particularly wide in view of the fact that a higher proportion of Negro family members are in the labor force .. .. In 1946, the last year of World W<:LrII, the average money income of all Negro families was almost 57 percent that of whites-a comparative level that has not again been reached in more recent years." Truman's Committee on ...Civil Rights reported III 1947:


In 1949 an Urban League member who was also a spokesman Northern industry estimated that if the six and a half million Negroes were hired at their highest skills (we were mtonned what ceiling was set on "highest skills" -no doubt a one), their income would increase from $10 billion a year to billion. In 1954 Elmo Roper estimated "the total cost of to American business and industry in actual dollars cents at roughly $30 billion annually." Industrial and vocational training for Negroes has been woefully . In 1934-35, out of federal funds allocated for vocational in 18 states practicing SChbOI segregation. $4.75 was spent pupil in contrast to $8 per white pupil. Robert Wea~er in 1946 that most vocational school officials were closely allied management and union leaders who were opposed to the training Negroes for skilled work. It took the second world war, WIth huge manpower demand, to bring the public authorities to make , improvement (though small indeed) in vocational training for Discrimination in employment is not only unjust, but unjustifiable the technical point of view of the Negro's abilities. Whenever are given the opportunity, they reveal aptitudes quite equal whites. I was able to see this for myself in the South. In .tobacco industry Negroes were assigned to the unhealthiest

·Editor's note: On June 4, 1955, the Pittsburgh Courier cited a study the Ohio Bureau of Unemployment Compensation of requests by employers workers in Ohio cities in the January I-September 15, 1954 period .. It in part: "Discrimination as to race was practiced to a rather high in hiring of 95 percent" of the companies in the areas studied. ."In nearly three out of every five (57.3 percent) orders ~ere discriminaneady four out of every five (78.9 percent) were restricted; out of every ten (71.4 percent) were discriminatory." as 1955 "reports show that three of every five orders (60 for regular job~ in our Akron office were. discriminatory; similarly, just prior to the passage of its FEP ordinance, a survey revealed .percent of the orders were discriminatory." .



still discriminated against when they tried to get the war did bring about some progress for Negroes in Employers who had said that they would not hire Negroes to change their minds, not because their opinions of changed but because. of the Jabal' shortage. In September there were around a million and a half Negroes in war industries; half of them concentrated in areas of acute labor shortage. have pointed out, the Negroes. continuing an exodus which with the first world war. left the South in huge-numbers for Northern and Western industrial centers. The Negro population the North and West, 5 percent in 1910. 13 percent in 1930 and percent in 1940. reached 25 percent in 1945, A million and a Nezroes migrated from the rural South in the three decades 1914. In the ten mast congested production centers, while population had grown 19 percent by 1944. the Negro IUP'.I1'H·1UU had increased by 49 percent. Between 1940 and 1950. population in New York rose from 477.000 to 775,000; '''....,~~,.~ from 282.000 to 509.000; in Detroit, from 150.000 to pv~ ••VV'lI. In Los Angeles. from 97.000 to 211.000; in San Francisco, 31.000 to 81.000; in Oakland. from 14.000 to $5.000. Within the South itself. 250.000 Negroes shifted from rural to areas between 1942 and 1945. Only about one-seventh of Negro population in the South was urban in 1900; the figure had to one-third by 1940. and to one-half at the mid-century poiot. the country as a whole. the increasing percentages of Negro population were as follows: '22.6 in 1900. 47.9 in 1940; and

departments of tobacco processing, But when given the chance to operate the cigarette-making machines. they did the iob just as well as the whites-as I observed when I went through the Reynolds Camel cigarette plant in Winston-Salem. N.C. The management-with good reason-sallowed visitors only in the departments where white women were producing cigarettes. But on my insistence I was finally, and most reluctantly, given permission to See the departments where Negro women were doing the same operation-vand there was no visible difference. The textile industry generally excludes Negroes. or at best hires them only as sweepers and common laborers. But in New Orleans I visited shops where Negro and white women worked at the same operations, and here again-in the opinion of the employer himself-c-there was no difference.


During World War President Roosevelt. prodded both by the manpower shortage and pressure from the Negroes. decided to take action. On June 12. 1941, he wrote to the Office of Production Management: "Our Government cannot countenance continued discrimination against American citizens in defense production. Industry must take. the initiative in opening the doors of employment to all loyal and qualified workers regardless of race, creed. color, or national origin." But this was only a recommendation. On June 25 Roosevelt went. a step furtherand created. by Executive Order 8802. the Fair Employment Practices Committee. which was authorized to investigate all complaints of discrimination in employment. But the FEPC was given very limited staff and funds. It was able to conduct hearings only in a few big cities. It had to confine its investigations to war industries. It could take action only when a complaint was presented. It had no legal means of enforcing. its decisions and was helpless against non-compliant employers. Moreover, it was established on a temporary basis; as a wartime measure-and the war over. it wasabblished. in June 1946. For the most part management did no more than hire a few Negroes .. to make it seem that they were abiding, by the presidential orders; but job discrimination continued to prevail in their plants. At a hearing in Los Angeles four months after the FEPC was set up, it Came out that of 33,000 workers employed by one large company only ten were Negroes, and that at another plant with 48.000 employees, 55 Negroes had recently been hired merely to forestall FEPC investigation. At the end of 1941 the Employment Service sent inquiries to hundreds of industrialists with large war contracts to determine if they would employ Negroes; 51 percent stated they did not-and would not=-employ Negroes: only half of the remainder stated without equivocation that they would, In 1944 A Philip Randolph estimated that over .75· percent of the .. Negro



in 1950.


The growing: mechanization of agriculture is steadily displacing contingents of Negroes. The sharecropping system is on its last Moreover. the exodus of Negroes to the cities ftequently pr~:¢(h~s the actual introduction of agricultural machinery, Fed up living under wretched conditions of semi-slavery, the. share~rf1,nn.. "c start leaving the plantations even before mechanization that they can do better by selling their labor power labor market, If they return for temporary employment in cotton fields. they go there as wage-workers. This self-chosen of sharecroppers has resulted in speeding up the tempo mecnaruzation. During my travels I found some plantations employed only wage-workers. Others, such as the Delta and Land Co .. were attempting to combine the old and new systems: of the plantation (each year a smaller part) Was still worked by while another section (larger each year) was worked by Oa1v-l<lbclrel:s.: r more precisely. the remaining sharecroppers worked o in one as tenants and sometimes in the other as aa~l'-l~lbClrel:s--w.rucn made it possible to exploit -them twice. Some






91 And when an economic slump causes unemployment, Negroes the first hit NAACP secretary Walter White told the Senate Committee in February 1954 that unemployment Was almost as great among Negro workers as among whites, It, is true that recent statistics show a slight percentage increase average income of the Negro worker in relation to income of white worker. But as Prof. Donald Dewey wrote in the Pittsourgh of September 4. 1954: "The importance of these gains, , should not he exaggerated. By themselves they reflect a weakening of the color bar in Southern industry nor a of Negro handicaps in the labor market through better jIMI,UVll." And Julius A. Thomas of the Urban League concluded, issue of the Courier, that in spite of these gains, "the fact is that Negroes do not enjoyequal employment in most areas of our economy." Since FEPC was abolished in 1946. tue federal government has exercised power to act against discrimination in employment, the Supreme Court has been no help. In May 1950. for example, court upheld a California decision prohibiting the use of picketing compel a store to' hire Negro sales clerks in proportion to its clientele. more than one-fourth of the states, all outside the passed laws against discrimination in employment. Some state laws provide punishment for violations, While others investigations but provide no legal means for implementing ro1lJ!Iu~nda.1 hons, A few big cities, such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati, have enacted similar ordinances. By all efforts to enact anti-discrimination legislation in certain such as California, have been in vain. Prof. Charles S. stated in 1948 that the extension of state laws. against ~~·JLUiLua.'VLL in employment "has been retarded almost to a standstill political influences. backed by industrial pressures scenes." And even in New York state, where an anti..... ~...... u.<L,u.uu law has been fairly actively enforced, it is still Only successful and employers have managed to get around in one way or another. The abolishing of the wartime FEPC in 1946 was a profound . '. for the Negroes, who since 1943 had been demanding the government establish the FEPC ona permanent basis.' In a National Council for a Permanent FEPC was set up, headed A. Philip Randolph, one of the most active Negro 'trade unionists. demand for a. permanent. FEPC had 'a prominent place in the POllUllleo1q;.ltiClnS Truman'S Civil Rights Committee in 1947. It of in the ten-point civil rights Pl'r8ram that the ~UeJl:t announced .in his special message to Congr~ss on Februa,ry_

planters, of course, are reluctant to replace a system that assures them of "docile" tenants with one that threatens sooner or later to supply only "indocile" wage- workers. But they cannot long stand in the way of an irresistible development. The mechanization of cotton culture (in operations other than cotton-picking) that 'began in Texas in 1928 has completely eliminated the semi-tendalsharecropping system there. The "Old South." in its turn, is now witnessing the death of the system. As Rene Dumont writes: "Capitalism is succeeding feudalism: the day-laborer is replacing the sharecropper." . According to the census figures, the number of sharecroppers feU from 770,2.78 in 1930 to 446,556 in 1945 and to 346,765 in 1950. Prof. Charles S. Johnson, sociolcgist.at Fisk University, was quoted in 1947 as saying that as many as four million Negroes might leave the South in the next 10 to 15 years. This prospect of course delights the Bourbons. Here at last they see Ii way to get rid of the "niggers"! "If that lessens our Southern percentage of colored population," remarked the Alabama journalist John Temple Graves in 1947. "and increases it in other places. the race problem will be easier for us tohandle and for other places to understand." The Mississippi journalist Hedding Ca,rter wrote in 1948 that some whites in the South got a. malicious pleasure when they heard of growing racial tensions in various Nonhero cities. And some even wanted to forcibly speed up this movement of Negroes away from the South. Early in 1949 Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia and ex-Governor Sam Jones of Louisiana proposed-c-quite seriously -that the Negroes (two-thirds of whom still live in. the South) be apportioned out to the 48 states on the basis of '10 pereentof the respective state populations. . But if the last war brought some gains to Negroes in industry. many of these were wiped out with the end of hostilities and the reconversion of War industries. "Last hired," Negroes were "first fired." The final report of the FEPC in 1946 noted that "the wartime gains of Negro, Mexican American. and Jewish workers are being lost through an unchecked revival of discriminatory


has been aggravated by technological advances, Negro workers are victims in far greater proportion than whites of each innovation in production, of eachnew step in. mechanization. This is' especially true in steel. coal, the construction trades and shipbuilding. When new machinery Was introduced in the coal mines, the jabs were given to whites-since operation of a machine had traditionally been a white man's job in mining. In shipbuilding, replacement of riveting by welding was disastrous for the Negroes; tod'ay there. are . few Negmes employed as welders. whereas a, .large p~op?.rtion()f the riveters bad. been c()lored. '..: . ..: .. , c'

This situation






2, 1948. This new FEPC proposal, had it been adopted. would have given the new committee the advantage. in comparison with the wartime body, of functioning permanently in all (not only defense) industries and of having enforcement" powers. The courts would have been required to see that FEPC decisions were complied with and that violations were punished by fines or imprisonment. The anti-discrimination decrees, however. would have been legally applicable only to concerns employing more than 50 persons. which would have exempted 98 percent of American businesses. Despite these restrictions which would have sharply limited the effective operation of such. an agency. the proposal for a permanent FEPC aroused a greater furor in the South than any other point in the civil rights program. The Atlanta Journal declared that it was "the most obnoxious. the most dangerous measure" of the President's program and that it challenged "not only the sentiment of the South, but also a basic principle of the American way of life:" The Atlanta Constitution wrote; "To say that an employer is to be jailed and fined because he prefers one person for a job over another. .. is to take from him the liberty of choice that is guaranteed under the Constitution." As if to refuse someone the means of earning his livelihood because .of the color of his skin was not a far niore shocking violation of the "American Creed"! Senator Olin D. Johnston of South Carolina asserted that the adoption of this "monstrosity" would mean a "Pearl Harbor for the South." Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia said that establishment of a permanent FEPC would mean the "nationalization" of industry and that the, idea came from Russia. J. Strom Thurmond, Dixiecrat candidate for President in 1948, declared that "FEPC is the closest this country has yet come to Communism." To tty to prevent discrimination in employment meant, said Virginia Governor William M. Tuck in 1948, a "Gestapo for the harassment and persecution of the successful business man," and white women workers having to take orders from Negro foremen. Even the so-called Southern liberals, men such as Senators Pepper and Graham and the journalists Virginius Dabney, Mark Ethridge and Hooding Carter, came out against the proposal. One of President Truman's closest collaborators, Jonathan W. Daniels of North Carolina, exclaimed: "You cannot have a prohibition law against discrimination in the South." In Congress the unholy alliance of Republicans and Southern Democrats successfully blocked the bill. President Truman, while givingbis proposal a pretense of support. did little to get it passed by Congress. In the New York Times of January 26. 1950, Arthur Krock pointed to a number of indications that the President would not 'be unhappy to' see the FEPC bill shelved. It was evident, he observed. that everybody, from the Republicans to the Democrats

93 including Harry Truman himself, wanted to make FEPC an but not a law. And Krock rightly remarked that the whole was a parliamentary farce. Dem~r&.tic administration left office in 1952 without having any kind of FEPC law. The Republican administration foUo",,:,ed has, sh?wn n.o sign of greater eagerness. During the election campaign Eisenhower dared to come out against a lsory federal FEPC. In 1953 a new FEPC bill was introduced Congress, but it was still languishing there at the end of the session, On December 3, 1951, however-before the 1952 campaignrn~:Slll~nl Truman set up a fake substitute for FEPC: the Committee Contract Compliance, charged with "study" of ulliO".u.lI,natory practices, but only in businesses holding government and Without power to enforce anti-discrimination clauses. t 13, 1953, President Eisenhower rebaptized this as the on Government Contracts, with Vice-President Nixon as Name and personnel were changed" but nothing more. * Thus, on the federal level, the FEPC farce continues-while the lNa.,""",~~ still wait for any legal guarantee of their right to work.



of Negro


or Integration?
Having briefly described the disease, I have yet the task of the means undertaken to Cure it. r wish to study how community conceives its emancipation and how it is !!<U.l1L.~~'z.; itself to hasten the hour. What exactly does "(he race" what path does it want to emerge from hell? By from or by integration with America? So as not to the reader, I must tell him immediately that the race has chosen total assimilation with American society and

American 'anthropologists will long be debating questions about cultural characteristics of the Negroes in the United States. Are "Afro-Americans" more African than American or more tne.I!lC8:n African? The Negroes themselves do not know quite than define themselves, and they oscillate between two opposite At times they are offended when their African origin is and when the emotional traits which they inherited from black continent are emphasized. They wish to be considered civilized Americans, not as tom-tom players. They are afraid the stressing of Africa and insistence on their primitive past to kee them in a subordinate position in America. This primarily among young intellectuals. r had discussions with colored students On this subject My for the "Negro sou]" (which I idealized no doubt in a summary and superficial way) did not please them at other times. however, American Negroes, as MyrdaJ notes, r""l'i""CON> an "emotional attachment to Africa." Far from. denying they take pride in them. A notable case is the of W. E. Burghardt DuBois. The great Negro intellectual . African by race." "Africa," he writes, "is of course my ." My tie to Africa is strong. On this vast continent and lived a latge portion of my direct ancestors going a thousand years or more. The mark of their heritage is upon color and hair . . ." But it is hot So milch the common race b.vs:iol'Of!V which matters to DuBois as the human adventure which o
...... o,Hh,~.






~;Lw~.lIH1''''''' and have at the same time donned the Anglo-Saxon ...,~~," impressed upon the country by the descendants from its .. settlers: that is to say, the language, customs. juridical and institutions of England. Each national minority wears this .. with simultaneous ease and awkwardness. Among those have the greatest ethnic affinity to the Anglo-Saxons, ease wins over awkwardness. Among the others who are less closely • awkwardness wins out over ease. The Negroes are probably the most awkward. They are proud of their American " but upon intimate acquaintance with them. we gain the )t~,sicm that it was not tailored for them and that they do not completely at ease in it. This constraint is particularly obvious the man of the Negro people expresses himself in the E!lglish I have the impression that the Negro has adapted himself American civilization somewhat like the Asian or African native adapted himself to European civilization: in a more O.r less fashion. I recall having once seen a Turk at Constantinople on the carpets of St. Sophia, his head covered with a cap whose visor was turned toward the back of his neck not to hit the ground during his prayer. The man of the in the Negro ghettos of the United States wears the Anglo. "uniform" a little like the Turk wore his cap: askew. And. moreover, is what makes him so appealing to me. * the viewpoint of the anthropologist does not advance us step, for these problems of assimilation, we repeat, c?nfr~nt national minorities and are not peculiar to the Negro nunonty. the other hand, however; the viewpoint of the sociologist teaches that racial segregation has stamped the Negro minority with a characteristic: it has tended to make of the Negro masses, emphasizes, a "nation within a nation," with its own churches, hospitals, newspapers and businesses. The authors Black Metropolis, for their part, observe that the "culture" of Negro section in Chicago is an integral ~art of'u wider Negro re, ala national Negro culture. Its inhabitants being bound .up thirteen million other Negroes by innumerable family, '6".U.I ... and church ties, and by a common minority status~ all else it is the common suffering of "discrimination and as DuBois puts it, which have welded the Negroes int?, a In short. segregation gives t~e Negro mlI~ont}' 10 the, U.n1:te~ a race consciousness-sometImes developing into chauvinism . none of the other ethnic minorities has in the same degree. This race consciousness often manifests itself in an obsession to

was lived in common. "One thing is sure," he adds, "and that is the fact that since the fifteenth century these ancestors of mine and their other descendants have had a common history; have suffered a common disaster . ., The real essence of this kinship is its social heritage of slavery: the discrimination and insult . .. It is this . . . that draws me to Africa." But when DuBois tries, by searching back into his distant past, to find the direct cultural links that bind him to Africa, he succeeds in finding little of anything: a melody in African dialect which his great grandmother used to sing. One cannot overcome the impression that there is something artificial and romantic in his attachment for Africa. He exalts the ancestral continent somewhat as Chateaubriand tried to revive the "Genius of Christianity" in France and as a modern French writer, Maurice Banes, invoked his "land" and his "dead". However, a school of anthropologists has endeavored to rediscover the African heritage in the music, dances, religious practices of American Negroes, and even in their family life where it is said that certain vestiges of matriarchy may be seen. DuBois himself stresses the "emotional wealth" of the American Negro and is concerned with transferring "the communalism of the African clan" into the contemporary Negro community. The African descent of the Negro is still perceptible today, especially among the less developed populations of the old South, among the sharecroppers along the Mississippi. Those who were privileged to see King Vidor's Hallelujah, filmed in the Delta, can testify to this. As for me, I was present at something similar in this region: a religious ceremony in which prayer, interspersed with lyrical public confessions, punctuated by drumbeats and plaintive "Amens," took on a rhythmic character which made it tend toward the dance. But let us not be swept away by lyricism. The African contributionstill remains very meager, The rudimentary civilization of their place of origin and the conditions under which they were brutally torn from it did not allow the slaves to bring a real cultural baggage with them, Tocqueville Observed. as early as 1833. "The Negro of the United States has lost even the remembrance of his country; the language which his forefathers spoke is never heard around him; he abjured their religion and forgot their customs." He has ceased "to belong to Africa." Besides. American civilization. with its extraordinary faculty for absorption, has more Or less melted up the Negroes in its crucible, as it has done with immigrants coming from the four corners of the world. But are we dealingwith a deep imprint or only a superficial veneer? The question rat~ed here goes beyond the framework of the Negro problem. It concerns all the nationalities which have been subjected to the phenomenon of "Americanization." All of them have retained original cl..ltural i

.American friends have expressed disagreement with the subjective points view presented here and in the preceding pages. I answer ,them III an to this volume (p. 188). .




.:101 and the scant resources of the country did not permit. the of prosperous communities. Besides. the. American collided with the hostility of the Europeancololllal. powers, and France, who regarded the installation of thes~ mtr~ders baleful eye and forced them to surrender part of their ternt?ry. "'"IV--'d:'L but not least-they entered into conflict with the African they eventually con9~ered. Even tod~y, t~e natt~e of Liberia (over a million and a half inhabitants) IS billl~ated by a rich and corrupt aristoc~acy of 15,000 descend~ts . American Negroes. The latter. havl~g. escaped from Ame~lcan have themselves become colonialists under the mighty UlDUUlJ'll of the American Empire and the Firestone Tire and Rubber then the idea of deporting the Negroes from America has re~ewed by leaders of the United States. !e~erson 1di.1tated on it. Lincoln considered it senously after deciding on Emancipation Proclamation, and. secured credits from Conwess settling the Negroes in some tropical ~ount~y outside United The project even had a beginning WIth the ceding of an by Haiti. But it was finally abandoned. . In our time Senator Bilbo of MissiSSippi, ?ne of t?e mas! r~bI~ l)DO:nentsof the Negro race, proposed a bill aimed at repatnattng. NI':!!T(Jes in Africa and boasted of baving found support for hIS among the Negroes themselves. But despite its exploitation by whites the "back-to-Africa'.' idea iIIl.UUUt;u· to arouse the imagination of Negroes. It even experienced revival of popularity when it was again launched after the world war by an agitator who was half-prophet. half-charlatan, Garvey. Of West Indian origin and pure black, Garvey the color black as a source of strength and beauty, no~ of ltel'iOIity. He preached race purity and condemned amalgamation. even declared that God and Christ were bla:k. s<? .as to. spare the humiliation of having to borrow their religious Images whites. This theme later inspired the authors of that IlUJIllllJ'l; film fantasy. Green Pastures. Garvey ~augh.t the American . in their African ancestry. Evoking the magnificence i:UJ'~lCJllL Egypt. Ethiopia and Timbuctoo, he. revealed to them that '.."~~r", i was still inhabited by a race of savages and p'ag~ns, civilizations flourished in Africa.. And he invited to flee the continent where they were oppressed in order. to to the countries of their origin and contribute toward found~ng African nation there. The Negroes, accord 109 to him, had nothing hope for from the American whites. The Iatter pretended to a War for democracy, but at home they contlllu~ to refuse Negroes. It was a waste of time to appeal to t~elr sense of Colored men could prove their will to survive only by

escape the ghetto, to find a refuge somewhere. Such an obsession is a manifestation of despair and defeatism. It assails the Negro at .moments when he doubts that be will ever be able to break down the wall of race prejudice. A Negro writer. James Weldon Johnson, observes that there are moments when even the most persistent partisan of integration into American society curses the white world and becomes an "isolationist. " "This tendency.. . . is strong because it springs from a deep-seated, natural desire-s-a desire for respite from the unremitting, grueUing struggle; for a place in which refuge might be taken." DuBois, for his part, writes that separatist aspirations reappear continuously in the consciousness. of "tbe black man who is tired of begging for justice and recognition from foTh: who seem to him to have no intention of being just and do not propose to recognize Negroes as men." This need for escape and refuge sometimes takes individ ual forms; such are the cases .of .the Negroes, quite few in number, who succeed because of their light color in "passing," that is, in gaining surreptitious entry into tbe white world; such are the few colored men who come to settle in 'l-lt old European countries in order to escape the nightmare on the other side of the ocean. But the aspiration for separation also takes on collective forms. And collective forms of the most varied kinds. "Back-la-Africa" was one of these dreams. It obsessed American Negroes beginning with the 18th Century. It attracted them and frightened them at the same time. For if On the one hand the idea of escaping servitude by returning to their ancestral land appealed to them. on the other hand they perceived that it would also not be displeasing to the Whites to get rid of them by sending them back to the continent they came from. As early as 1788. a Negro organization in Newport, R.I .• proposed to the Free African Society of Philadelphia a general exodus of free Negroes to Africa. The idea was taken up again in 1~17 by the AtnericanColonitation Society. The perspective of founding an independent -civilization in their Own mother-country delighted many Negroes who saw in it a solution to a hopeless situation. But the Society was rapidly swallowed up by supporters of slavery who, on their side, saw in it a means of expelling from America the free Negroes, Whom they considered a danger to the institution of slavery. Consequently the plan for colonization was strongly opposed by most Abclitionists," white and black. Very few Negroes agreed to emigrate. and those who did so resigned themselves to it only as the price for obtaining their freedom. Beginning in 1822, about 20,000 Negroes were transported to Africa and settled on an inhospitable land which adopted the name Liberia. The undertaking ended in failure. The capital needed was inadequate. The equatorial









founding their own empire. And Garvey, having created a Universs] Negro Improvement Association, appointed himself. in 1921, provisional president of the African Empire, endowed this empire with a black-red-green flag ("black for the race. red for their blood, green for their hopes"), created a nobility of Knights of the Nile and Dukes of the Niger, and raised an army (with officers and uniforms) for the reconquest of Africa. He held enormous meetings in New York, paraded his troops and his nurses of the "Black Cross" in the streets of Harlem and. to transport them across the Atlantic, he acquired ships and founded a shipping company baptized the Black Star Line. And in order to prepare the Negroes to take their destiny in their own hands, he even organized Negro cooperatives in the United States: groceries, laundries, restaurants. hotels, printing plants. Garvey's success was enormous. The movement he inspired was the only Negro mass movement which ever existed in America. While the Negro intellectuals fought it furiously (he returned this in kind, accusing them of having sold out to the whites), the people flocked to him. At his height in 1920-21, his Association numbered several million members and had amassed considerable capital. DuBois. who was Garvey's most implacable adversary, recognized his sincerity. his popularity, his talents as a propagandist and the sweep of his mass movement: "Within a few years," he wrote, "news of his movement, of his promises and his plans. reached Europe and Asia, and penetrated into the. most remote corners of Africa." But Garvey's triumph was brief. His business enterprises, which he administered in a mariner bordering on the illegal, were soon on the brink of failure. And that was his downfall. Sentenced to five years: imprisonment by the federal courts for "fraudulent" acts, he was finally deported. after serving two years of his sentence, and died in London in 1940, poor and forgotten. How can we explain the flaming passage of this meteor? In the first place, the shock of the first world war had stimulated the resentment and protest of the Negro masses against racial oppression. And; immediately after the outbreak of hostilities. the war-born migration of Negroes toward industrial centers had as counter-effect a sharp revival of racial terror throughout the whole country. The Ku Klux Klan took a new lease on life. The Negroes had to close ranks to defend their race. At the time there was no white workingclass, or simply progressive. movement in the United States to organize them. no really dynamic colored movement. Garvey .filled a void. He brought the Negro masses to their feet because-he was able to give them confidence in themselves and in their face. He helped them rid themselves of their inferiority complexes and to gain consciousness of their strength. Before him. many Negroes had been ashamed of their color and hesitant about identifying themselves

their racial group. If tbe cult of Negro heroes, Negro calendars Negro dolls are everyday things today in Negro homes in the States. this is due to Garvey. Most of his followers. it appears, not really believe that they were about to embark for Africa. plan was obviously impossible to execute. As DuBois "Negroes have no Zion," they have no place whatever they can go today and the expansion of European imperialism Africa har made that continent the last place in the world where might hope to find refuge. Therefore Garvey offered no more Negro masses than: a myth. But this myth charmed them it opened up to them the perspective of an imaginary home they could be free from white domination and would be of their own destiny. Myrdal observes that Garvey's success to the basic unrest in tbe Negro community" and "tells dissatisfaction so deep that it mounts to hopelessness of ever a full life in America." Garvey's success calls for another observation. It made apparent depths of the chasm existing between the Negro popular m;asses the Negro intellectuals. Although the latter were practically . in condemning the agitator, the crowds followed hun. Two explanations are possible. According to the first. the Negro masses may be far less i.ntegrated American society and more "nationalistic" than their leaders. . observes that "the upper class Negro has practically never nationalistic." Nationalism "has always been a thought from the mass." because the latter could not bear the of race prejudice. Myrdal notes that Negro intellectuals practically united against the "back.to-Africa:' proposal: A~d he says, is understandable: "They are entirely Arnencan III culture; they want to stay in America." But the masses? is far more reticent about them, and he hesitates to take a stand. At times he judges that "racialism" of the Garvey is harbored among them. At times he is prudently content t,o that "the thinking and the feeling' of the Negro masses on this remains a mystery." A second explanation can be proposed. it seems to. me. It Is only a variant of the first. The profound difference 1D standards existing between the Negro masses and . the ~aU;;>l.OlUi:J.I~ (to which I shall have occasion to return) is the essential of the divorce between the two groups. The masses vegetate 1~'VL'CLL"_'" andpo:,ert.y. and they suffer far n;t0r~severely from the of race prejudice, segregation and discrimination than. do The intellectuals too undoubtedly suffer from the ostracism the color of their skin brings them. But they find a compenfor these humiliations in the fact that they hold a certain ~1I11nhl~r of lucrative and honorific social positions. They are therefore







better adapted to society than the mass of Negro pariahs. They do not question the fundamental basis of the social order, they seek only to improve their own specific status. They reach a sort of compromise with the white world, a compromise in which they attempt by continuous bargaining to achieve more favorable conditions. On the other hand, the Negro masses cannot succeed in adapting to a society which. makes life impossible for them. They remain the irreconcilable adversaries of the white world. They doubt that simple negotiations with whites can bring about a reversal of attitude. In a word, their living conditions are developing a radical instinct in them. Deep down they too would very much like to integrate themselves within American society and profit from all the rights which American citizenship should confer upon them. But they feel that this integration can be effected only, as Judge Waring states, by a surgical operation. And since-c-or when-i-no surgeon presents himself, their impatience and their despair turn them in quite another direction. They seek to escape, to flee. And it is then that separatist myths, that "black Zionism" of the Garvey type, fascinates them. It is interesting to note here than an intellectual like DuBois, who stood up against Garvey, but who at the same time has a feeling about the masses which is lacking in most of his colleagues, makes considerable concessions to "nationalism." "My plan." he writes, "would not decline frankly to face the possibility of eventual emigration from America of some considerable part of the Negro population, in case they should find a chance for free and favorable development unmolested and unthreatened, and in case the prejudice in America persisted to such an extent that it would not permit the full development of the capacities and aspirations of the Negro race." Elsewhere DuBois comes close to Garvey when he considers oppression of the Negroes in the United States as a special case of the oppression of colored peoples in the whole world and when he asserts the solidarity of American Negroes with their brothers enslaved by Europeanimperialism. As OUf coinpatriot Franck Louis Schoell writes, "DuBois has had the masterly conception of integrating his rather small black world of America into the whole of the great, the titanic African black world." As far back as 1911, DuBois participated in a congress of races at London. After the first world war he launched a Pan-African movement which held four congresses in Europe, in 1919, 1921, 1923 and 1927. uniting Negroes of all origins and nationalities, comparing their aspirations and coordinating their activities. The 1921 congress adopted a manifesto, drawn up by DuBois,' which denounced the crimes of imperialism, the outrageously iniquitous division of the world's resources between dominant and dominated peoples, the enslavement of black, brown or yellow workers and the no less tragic fate of the white proletarian. unwilling accomplice of imperialism, who is bound, gagged and

md!ere:dimpotent by this same cruel oligarchy. These established this indictment angered the colonial powers (France, , England) and a fifth congress which was to have been held in 1.,929was banned by the French government. At the congress, DuBois met Marcus Garvey face to face. In 1923, made a trip for study in Africa. After the second world war, in 1945. DuBois participated in a Pan-African congress. Two of his more recent books are devoted the world enslavement of colored peoples by imperialism. Despite great age, W. E. B. DuBois today animates the Council on NI:lca,n Affairs of New York. and recently he announced the of the African masses: "The Dark World is moving its destiny much faster than we in this country now realize." Magdeleine Paz, in 1930. summarized the viewpoint of DuBois the French reader in this way: "The strictly racial struggle will strength and breadth going beyond the continent only to the that solid and decisive contacts will be established among the people of the whole world." But the Negro intellectuals of the United States did not follow .... UJ..lV.l·~ in his campaign for Pan-African solidarity. "Chauvinism! " answer. "They were interested in America," writes DuBois, securing American citizens of all and any color, their rights. had no schemes for internationalism in race problems . . . felt themselves Americans, not Africans. They resented and any coupling with Africa." During my travels, I myself JV"r~v";lrprt a polite reaction of ignorance and disdain among many intellectuals whom I tried to interest in the problems of Africa. DuBois also has in common with Garvey the concern with preparing the Negro masses to take their destiny in their Own hands purely racial economic institutions. Whether the future of development be separation or integration, this apprenticeship, seems to him. is in any case an indispensable introduction to the emancipation of the race. He wants to settle down in the segregation imposed by the enemy and transform it into a planned and organized self-segregation. "Let us dig in for a long siege against the fortresses of race prejudice," he tells his fellow Negroes. Taking his cue from the precedent of Negro consumer cooperatives established in 1919, notably at Memphis, Tenn .. he proposes a rather utopian plan of Negro "industrial democracy," based on producer and consumer "l''',''n..r''h·''p~ and on "mutualization" in banking, insurance, and medical professions. The pessimistic-e-we may even defeatist=ic tea behind this plan, true of all projects of separation, is evident. The wall of race prejudice will not be shaken down for many years, perhaps for many generations, DuBois estimates. While waiting, one must live. Let us organize separately! But to settle down in segregation, isn't this, despite the denialsof the aqth~;

" f" if :~~.~1,I -.·
" .1





somewhat like accepting it? reproached him for this. *


107 "independent republic" slogan was rounded off at the edges. they continued to proclaim the "right of Negroes to self.. . and to assert that the American Negroes constituted "nation." I have before me an official pamphlet published by Communist Party in 1947 in which it is stated that unlike all ethnic minorities in the United States, the Negro minority a common territory . . . of sufficient size so. that it can sensibly designated as a nation." The Black Belt is "the heart and center the Negro nation" and the Negro people there "have all of the which go to make up a nation." A "very young" !'IMUVJel.. undoubtedly. and "still in the process of development:' but a nation. The Negro demand for self-government in the Belt, it is added, will not "inevitably" take the form of a separate Negro republic, but it could, sooner or later, mature and appropriate the status of the French Canadians in Canada. This "phantasmagoria." to use Myrdal's expression, does not stand up under examination. It is a. mechanical application to the United States of Lenin's ideas on the "national question," as if the conditions of the American Negroes presented similarities with those of the colonial peoples or those of the various nationalities in the U.S.S.R. The American Negroes are the most heterogeneous of all the racial minorities in the United States. As has been mentioned before. the conditions of their enslavement did not allow them to bring a civilization with them from their land of origin. They have mixed extensively with whites and Indians. They have even less of the attributes of a "nation" than the Jews of New York or the Swedes of Minnesota. On the other hand, the steady migration of the Negroes toward the great Southern cities and toward the North is continuously depopulating the Black Belt of its Negro population. From 1900 to 1940. the percentage of the latter relative to the total population dropped from 47 to 36, in Louisiana, from 58 to 43 in South Carolina . .The number of counties in which the Negro population exceeded 50 percent dropped from 286 in 1900 (representing 45.9 percent of the total Negro population of the United States) to 180 in 1940 (representing 20.5 percent of the total Negro population), In Virginia this number dropped from 36 to 18. in Louisiana from 31 to 15, in Georgia from 67 to 46. in South Carolina from 30 to 22. The industrialization of the South and the mechanization of its agriculture, now in full swing, have since accelerated this movement of depopulation. Furthermore. the rapid development of trade unionism in the South tends to create new bases favorable to the assimilation of the two races. On the other hand. bow would it be possible to found a "Negro nation" in counties where the white population. although at times in a minority, is nonetheless very significant? Of the 180 counties

Many of his fellow Negroes have

The aspiration for secession has taken other forms. Instead of going to seek an imaginary "Zion" across the seas. instead of returning to the cradle of the race, why not Create. right here on the soil of the United States. a black state or republic. where the Negroes would at last be delivered from the presence of whites and their persecutions? The idea, championed by several authors, gave birth to the "National Movement for the Establishment of the Forty-Ninth State." Its promoters wanted to found a Negro state in a low population region of the United States and transport the race to it. Their idea, however, was not to found a separate nation, isolated from the rest of the country by a sort of Chinese wall, but a state federated with the .forty-eight others. The movement was abortive. But why transport the race? Would it not be more expedient to grant it the "right of self-determination" in the plantation region of the South where it constitutes the majority of the population? During the ultra-left "Third Period" of the Communist International, from 1929 to 1934. the American Stalinists became the champions of the most extreme Negro nationalism. They went even further than the partisans of the "forty. ninth state" and launched the slogan of an "independent Negro republic" in the "Black Belt." The Moscow demagogues, surprised by the great depression and seeking to camouflage their actual .opportunism under a purely verbal radicalism. sought to give the idea that they considered the revolution to be imminent. There was not a moment to lose. Forward to a "Soviet Negro Republic!" Later, after 1934, when the "Third Period" was abandoned and replaced by the tactic of "People's Fronts," when the American Stalinists began to support Roosevelt,
*Even today, a certain number of Negro educators in the South, molded by DuBois. have a tendency to settle down comfortably in segregation. Were the latter abolished, they would unquestionably lose a part of the sovereignty which they exercise in their little kingdoms, Not long ago they showed themselves a little too much in a hurry to collaborate with the governors of the Southern states in a pIan for Negro "regional colleges." Actually the aim of this plan was to perpetuate segregation. It attempted to prevent the Supreme Court from forcing white universities to admit Negro students on the ground that they were not receiving instruction at an equal level in their separate institutions. Therefore the authors of this plan sought to raise the level of Negro higher education. by combining the resources of various states in the region. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1948 vehemently denounced this "collaboration" between certain Negro educators and the governors of the South. It named no names but the main target among the university authorities was the president of Atlanta University, Rufus E. Clement.


having in 1940 a Negro population exceeding 50 percent of the total population, 85 had a Negro population tess than 60 perceD:t. 54 a Negro population less than 70 percent, 36 a Negro population less than 80 percent, and only five ha4 a Negro population emb~acmg between 80 and 85 percent. In Mississippi. which has the highest percentage of Negro population, there w~re in 1940 only 35 countres out of 82 in which, the Negro population exceeded 50 percent?f the total population. In South Carolina 22cowitles,. out of 46, In Alabama 18 counties out of 67, in Georgia 46 counties out of 1.59. The Stalinists get around this by stating that the status .of the whites in the' Black Belt is that of a "national minority," whIch of cou~se only shifts the problem. Such a position is. hardly li~ely, to inspire the "poor whites" with a cons~iousness of the, solidarity ~mtrng them with their Negro brothers In poverty, and It .runs. the risk of delaying the hour when the united front of the exploited In the South will be established. Only two or three localities in the Un~ted Sta~e~ are. 1,00 p~rce,nt Negro. One of these is Mound Bayou, MISS. ~,vIslted this cun0S.Ity in the course of my travels. All the. authorities and o~tstandmg people there are Negro: the mayor, police oomnnssioner, postmaster, editor of the local paper. Of course segregation does not exist and it is possible to breathe there. I was received ~1tP. open arms, could. sit down "in a Negro restaurant, rent a room ~ a Negro hotel 'or take a seat in aNegro motio?, ~icture h~use without, attracnng the wrath of the law. Race prejudice raged only on the national road which crossed the village: a white motorcycle policeman, who was passing at high speed, st~p~ and q~es~one~ me rudely. when he caught sight of, this unusual, tbipg: a white ill fn~ndly, convers~fion with a Negro. Is It at all astonishing that Negro nationalism flourishes at Mound Bayou? The population there was in open sttu~e with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People about a hospital. for Negro veterans which the federal govern.m~nt has decided to set up, Whereas the, NAACP was opposed. to having veterans taken care of in a separate establishment, Mound Bayou, which already has a public hospital it is. proud of, favored the governmental project But Mound, Bayou is an exception and the conditions which would make legitimate the: slogan of a Negro "nation" or "republic" appear to me to exist only in this little community of 3.000 inhabitants. Everywhere else the Stalinist demand collides ~ith reality. Even if the Negroes desired to secede, they have the feeling that the Black Belt is au. integral part of the United States ,and. they d~. not see by what magical touch of a wand theycould set It up as an independent nation." . . . Moreover, the formula runs the risk of offending them.. By ; dangling before the Negroes t~e bait of "right of self-determination,"

, white Stalinists expose themselves toihe danger. of seeming to to impose upon them anew form of segregation, to relegate to a new "ghetto." But it is not certain that the Ne~ro,ma.sses, their "nationalism," deliberately want separate 1nst1t~tlOns, more probable that they aspire to being treated •. mall of their life, on an equal footing with whites. . In fact. the slogan of the "Negro nation" never stirred more a very feeble echo in the. Negro population, It was even badly i'f>ocf~iVtX1 in the beginning by the Negro Stalinists, Who finally had to . . . to the. imperious orders of Moscow. Today the is lying on the back shop she!ves and i~ no lon,ge.r exhumed anyone except the federal courts, interested III convictrng leaders the American Communist Party' of "high treason." [The only point on which .th~ Stalinists saw corr~ct1y is, this: t~e masses have "nationalist" tendencies and Will participate l.n struggle to establish socialism in the, United States only If this ,uV.". ··ct......struggle is accompanied by a specIa.l struggle for the emanciof the Negro race as such. But their mlstak~ ;vas t~ prese,nt separation as the method for obtaiaing this racial

[Despite certain tendencies to separatism (~hich arise because ~egro masses are left skeptical by. what! III the next cbapter the liberal methods of struggle for. integration, ~d because t~ey not yet been sufficiently convinced of the etI.ectIv~ness of r.adl~al ,nr~~th(?dsJ,the Negroes still seem to have as then pnmary objective integration into American civilization, Tocqueville noted, as long ago as 1838: "The Negro race wl~lnever leave those s~or~s of the American continent .. , the destiny of the Negroes IS ill some measure interwoven with that of the Europeans, These two races ate fastened to each other." The Negro has ceased "to belong to Africa" and he "makes a thousand . , . efforts to insinuate himself among men who Tep~lse ~i!!1: he conforms to .th~ t~stes of hIS oppressors, adopts their opimons, and hopes by mutating them to form a part of their community." In our days, Myrdal observes: "Negro institutions , . . are similar to those of the ~hite man. They show little similarity to African institutions, In his cultural trarts, the Negro is akin to ,other A,mericans .., , , He imitates t/le domina!!t culture as he sees It and 10 so far as he can adopt It under his conditions of life. For· the most part, he is not proud of those things in which be differs from the white American," The Negroes "protest. not, b~ause they feel ~hemselves differ~nt, but, because they want to be similar and are forcibly held to be different,"] . Olivet C. Cox, who is opposed to Myrdal on so ~any other points, is in agreement with him on this one, The United States,



he says in substance, is a nation of immigrants. amalgamated by a common language, the prestige of "Americanism" and the economic and political advantages which are offered to the assimilated foreigner. "No nationality group in the United States can reasonably hope to become independent and secede." "The solidarity of American Negroes is neither nationalistic nor nativistic. The group strives for neither a forty-ninth state leading to an independent nation. nor a back-to-Africa movement; its social drive is toward assimilation." Summarizing; the Negro at times despairs of ever being treated like an American citizen; it is then that he dreams pf separation. When he recovers self-possession, be longs desperately to become an American citizen.


There are a number of ways to struggle for integration. . We break: them down roughly into two: the liberal way and the Each of course includes variant methods. [The first makes legal means; it appeals to tbegood will" of the federal Ithc:)rities,executive, legislative and judicial; it avoids as much as steps that might lead to the intervention of the masses. second considers purely legal means inadequate; it believes in need for direct action: it does not hesitate to engage the masses the struggle; its most consistent adherents believe that it is rnsible eradicate race prejudice only by changing the social order 0 The liberal way is the one followed by the upper class of the community. Let us examine the social composition of this more closely. Negro upper class is not comparable in any respect to the class of the white community. It corresponds. at most, to the section of the white middle class. It is, in fact. oniy a petty rurllel:Jisie.· It is composed of small business men (a few bank and ~l.Iln1Jll"C company directors, small merchants, undertakers), members professions (doctors. dentists, lawyers, teachers, journalists). a certain number of independent farmers and skilled craftsmen. This upper class is of relatively recent formation. The following indicates the rapid increase of the number of Negroes in the 1890 1900 1910' 192081,771 1930 1940 1950 Before the Negro petty bourgeoisie 33,994 47,219 68,350 135.926 119,000 180,164 took shape, the only natural

·Nevertheless, E. Franklin Frazier, the distinguished Negro scholar, belives it should be called a "bourgeoisie." See his remarkable book whose 'u:anSUlUo.n, wider the title Bourgeoisie noire, appeared in France in October before it had been published in its original form in the U.S.A.





113 Second. they show that they are quite disposed to IOttIm()da.teto the white upper class, and .if the. latter will. just them a small bone, they are ready to pay for It by contalm~g controlling the Negro masses. Finally, they have acert~m interest in the maintenance of segregation; for segreganon them a monopoly of the Negro clientele in a number of spheres and protects them against competition from the moreover, the ignorance and poverty imposed on the Negro by racial segregation allows the Negro elite to exploit and upon these masses without hindrance. As one observer writes. "feed on the. credulity" of the Negro masseS] But alongside these negative traits, the petty 'bourgeois Negroes a number of positive traits. Un the first place, despite their become a capitalist class, they are still a long way from Until now t~.y have engaged only in small-scale business, and agricultural enterprises. They have scarcely entered the production, and they do not exploit industrial workers. The of this petty bourgeoisie, moreover. are in the professions the business world, Their conservatism is therefore far less , than that of the white ruling class, In recent years they moved in the direction of agreater understanding of the labor Finally and most important, race prejudice ~~int~in;; the Negro intellectuals a permanent state of irritation, ~palttellceand combativeness. Despite the interests they have in with white capitalist society, they are denied any social with it, and theycannot reach the positions and jobs through Big, Business attaches the white. petty bourgeoisie to nself. the repugnance they feel for the Negro masses, they are to seek their support and submit to their pressure. the masses take the initiative in action. the elite sometimes choice but to follow ~hemJ .' . ...short. the petty bourgeois Negroes are m a ~lghly contradictory * On the one hand, they have a certain matenal interest the continuance of segregation; on the other, they cannot tolerate humiliations, and, moreover. in order to hold their clientele and support among the Negro masses they are compelled to. fight all forms of race prejudice. They fear the masses, but .must concessions to them. The outcome of these opposing tendencies a vacillating attitudewherein resolute action~ (such as the ~ampaign a civil rights program) alternate With compromises and tions, As Cayton and Mitchell note, the intellectuals do, to sure, support agitation for an extension of civil rights; but ,their
=This contradiction is revealed especially clearly in the Negro press, is at one and the same time militant and timorous, conservative .and rol!'re.~~:ive.honest and corrupt. :

leaders of the Negro community were the religious ministers. But they did not bestir themselves much t9 improv~ the lot of the Ne~?es. They preached to. their flocks a passive submission .t? the conditions of life On this earth below. As the petty bourgeoisie grew III Size, however, its members began to take the leadership of the communi~ out of the hands of the preachers. Although the Negro churches still constitute a powerful and prosperous institution. they have no real political influence today. . One of. the most characteristic traits of the petty bourgeois Negroes is their .isolation fn?m the masses ~n~ disd~in o~ them. Myrdal noted this . "dictatorial and paternalistic attitude, .The 'distance between the Negro elite and the Negro masses sometimes seems greater than between the white elite and white masses. Some petty bourgeois Negroes speak o.f the Negro common man a~ sco~nfully. and harshly as do the whites, They often refer to him with the 'epithet "nigger." This attitude stems from several causes: first. the extremely low living conditions and educational level of the Negro masses; second. the need of the colored intellectuals to compensate for the humiliations and frustrations that the whites inflict upon them, by humiliating _in turn the "c<;>rnmonpeople". of their Own race; finally. the example of the white upper .c!ass In the. South,. ~hose haughty manners the Negro petty bourgeoisie unconsciously Imitate. * Precisely because of its economic position, the Negro upper class is socially conservative. Even though the white world deals deep wounds to its self-esteem, it is tied to this world by a solid bond of common interests. "The leadership of the Negro c.ommunity,"write Cayton and Mitchell in Black Workers the Ne.w .Ur;ions, "!s for the most part in the hands of a conserv~tIve, caplt~hshcany-mmde~ educated class. anxious to cooperate With the white upper class. "The educated upper class Negro does not ... care to champion doctrines which purport to help the black worker. by changing the social system. for he recognizes that it is this social system that has given him a position of privilege. within his group : . '. His primary interest tends to be in that which protects the differential between himself and the Negro masses, rather than in an effort to improve the conditions of the majority of his group in a manner which almost necessarily endangers his own position," DuBois observes that most well-to-do Negroes aim at "the gradual evolution of a Negro capitalist class 'which exploit ?oth Negro ~nd white labor,:' \Thisattitud. eof SOCIalconservatism has several Important consequences. First, the upper class Negroes incline (or more exactly, they inclined until the 1930's) to be hostile to the labor



·Myrdal was' struck-r-and I. was ~q\Ullly so during my travcla=-by the arrogance and condescension With which some Negro umversrty presidents (happily n6~ all) 'tr,eat~d their students. .




115 ASSOCIation for the Advancement of Colored People. The then began an open struggle against all manifestations of . It started an anti-lynching crusade. It defended the .TIghts of the Negroes before the Supreme Court: from 1915 '. It won favorable. decisions in 24, out of 27 cases. It fought eve~ for~ of discnmm~tlon: In employment, in housing. teachers salaries etc ..; and It undertook the legal defense of who were victims of violence or arbitrary acts. This wide brought the ~AACP a certain amount of active support from commuruty: and not only from the elite but from the well. During WorId War It the awakening of Negro onscrousness.. alon$ WIth the. exodus of Negroes from tbe South the l!ldustnal centers, swelled its membership, which rose 85.000 In 1940 to 530.000 in 1946. . .. But for all that, the NAACP remains tainted with the traits of , Negro "petty bour~eoisie. It is not a genuine mass organization, rs dominated by mteUectu.als .Who. are isolated from the Negro Just as the great Russian intellectuals were isolated from the " __ .1 •• __ peasant ~as~es ,p.rior. to the advent of the proletariat. expressed this isolation in hIS conception of the "Talented ". He attributed to the elite a historical mission of exaggerated . . . "The Negro race," he wrote, " ... , is going to be saved .1t~ exceptional men . : ' it is the problem of developing the Best this race that may guide the Mass away from the contamination , death of t~e Worst. '. C~nthe J?assesof the Negro people III any pos~lble :way more quickly raised than by the effort and of this aristocracy of talerit and character?" the actual outcome of this romantic conception was the is\lll)oI'dirlat,ion of the Negro masses to a layer of leaders wbose i«;1"ll()m:icinterests, as we have seen, were distinct from those of the and whoconsequent}y prevented them from conducting a , .for themselves and With their own rnetlto-ls, DuBois himself joined tbo.se who reproached the NAACP for having in the concerned Itself too much "with exceptional folk, the Talented the well-to-do" and who demanded that henceforth the stress placed on "the welfare and social uplift of the masses. '''] Unfortunately. the social composition of the NAACP still reflects the primacy of the elite today. Its branches are composed mainly of merchants, undertakers, doctor~ •. lawyers. teachers, journalists. (I was able to, confirm this when I VISIted a number of branches during my travels III th~ South.) As Myrdal observes, "They have nowhere been abl€. to .buil~ up a real mass following among Negroes. The !llem~ership ,IS still largely confined to the upper Classes." This isolation is III a large measure self-imposed. The petty-bourgeois elements w~o run ~he organization are. afraid to. get close to .the masses, afraid of bemg overwhelmed by them, afraid of being dr~wn

protests are seldom carried to the point where the struggle might endanger the comfort of their class positioJil · Despite the profound differences of interest, the Negro masses have acc~pted theleade~'shi1? ?f this. elite. They have bro~e~ 4Way from the influence of their ministers to follow their men of distinction, As Cayton. and ~it~b~~l write. race consciousness has built up "a semblance ofsohdanty between the upper and lower classes. But this alliance is an artificial and temporary thing, It has been abls to last onlyso long as no one else offered leadership to the Negro masses, Today, as we shall see, a new Negro leadership is in process of growing up within the trade unions. The hour of the liberal elite will soon be over. The petty bourgeois leaders have forged an instrument fOr struggle.: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, The NAAC,P was formed in the early years of the century in reacti?rt against the autocratic control exercised over the Negr~ coml1'l:ulllty by the noted educator, Booker T. Washington. Washington had counseled the Negroes to remain in the South, resign themselves to segregation, submit to the will of the white majority and gradually, through this servile attitude, win their sympathy. Work hard,. he told them, learn a skilled trade, choose vocational rather than higber education, make money, become property-owners, keep out of politics, and in this way you wiU get to be accepted by American society. This language was of course pleasing to the whites, who- showered Washington with their praise and tbeir bounties, · Carnegie opened his pocketbook for him, and he was invited to' lunch at the White House by the President of the United States, But at the same time the whites showed their "sympathy" for the Negro · race by adopting or alIowing the adoption of tbe shameful racist legislation which succeeded in depriving tbe Negroes of their civil rights and in penning them up in the ghettos- . . The bankruptcy of the strategy advocated by Booker T, Washington was so patent that the young intellectuals of the period, led by Dulsois, set out to throw off the choking and baneful yoke of their pope. They booed him at a meeting where he took 1;be floor; and on July 9, 1905, they met at Niagara Falls, on Canadian soil, to launch a new movement. In an impressive manifesto. written by DuBois, they denounced the constant growth of segregation: "Step by step the defenders of the rights of American citizens have retreated ,.. Against this the Niagara Movement eternally protests . . ' We c!,aim for ?';lfSelve.s .every single right that belongs to a. freeborn Amer,lcan, political, cIVIL' and social: and until we get these rights, we Will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America." In 1910, the Niagara Movement joined in the formation of the




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'.5'OUU ......

intomassaction, In Mobile. Ala .. an important industrial city. the NAACP branch numbered 2,000 members when I was there, but I could not find a single worker among them. One of the few places where I saw a branch with a relatively proletarian composition was Montgomery, Ala.: the reason for this happy exception was that the branch secretary was also a trade union official. In those cases where a branch has recruited a sizable number of members from the factories (as in Detroit, where the membership was nearly 50,000 in 1948). there is practically never a general membership meeting. The leadership has no desire whatever to rub elbows with its "base." Among the new members who flocked into the NAACP during the last war, there were certainly many workers. But the petty bourgeois orientation of the leadership and its lack of vitality and dynamism prevented it from holding them. By the end of 1949 the membership had fallen, from the 1946 figure of 530.000, to 250,000, around which it has fluctuated ever since. Today the NAACP is an organization archaic in its structure, methods and spirit. Almost totally lacking in internal democracy, it is autocratically directed by an all-powerful secretary, assisted by a subservient board of directors, self-perpetuating and free from control by the ranks. The struggle for civil rights, which is the basic reason for the NAACP's existence, marks time under its leadership. because it either refuses to or does not know how to use the necessary methods. In spite of victories won before the Supreme Court, it relies too much on the federal courts to break down the wall of segregation. It continues, like 40 years ago, to lobby in the offices of the executive departments and in the corridors of Congress. In March 1949, Walter White, secretary of the NAACP, announced that he was going t6 Washington, to be on the spot-like a general who, at the decisive moment, leaves his headquarters in order to go to the front lines. White telephoned and had others telephone a number of "key persons," buttonholed and had others buttonhole a number of Senators. In JUly, the NAACP sent a telegram demanding a special session of Congress, and threatened to fight for the defeat of members opposed to Truman's civil rights program. This fine little uproar accomplished absolutely nothing. The failure was pitiful. Despite aU of Walter White's gesticulations. the civil rights program (as the reader already knows) was shelved indefinitely. The mere demand for civil rights is just not enough. Everyone except the Southern Bourbons is in principle for civil rights. There is a civil rights plank in the election platform of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. What the NAACP would have to do, if it were to be consistent with itself, is to undertake those forms of action which could transform these demagogic promises into a living reality. The NAACP would have to transform itself into an

for struggle, with rejuvenated methods and modernized and in the battle for civil rights it would have to engage Negro masses and the white masses organized in the labor

the NAACP will not venture any such initiative, for it underwell that action of this kind would lead altogether too far. about the tie between capitalist exploitation and lim Crow..."" ...... it tries to hide it. Nor is it unaware of the fact that the ~"Ul't"''"' emancipation of the Negro race is impossible within the social order. But at the same time, the upper layer, which NAACP, is either concerned with maintaining this order or terrified by the prospect of a social transformation. And so claim that the Negro can be freed-in the words of Frederick Patterson. president of Tuskegee Institute-"without destroying economic structure of the nation in terms-of those splendid aspects have made this nation a great one."> NAACP leadership refuses to confront the central problem, is the economic one. Thus, .they have done very little to fight main and worst feature of Jim Crow--job discrimination. They not want to compromise their "respectability" in radical underAnd so they are compelled to try to get the Negroes to that equal rights can be won within the framework of the '''''JJua .•. '''' system. within the framework of capitalist "democracy." the basic reason for the weaknesses of the NAACP, its ··ya''''lU'1Ll'Jll~. its capitulations and its failure to win complete victory own program.




.t· 'I




petty bourge?is e~ements. "were d.eeply Ame~·ican, with the theory of individualism, With. a de.sue t~ be rich .or ~t least . .. Most of them still believed m the basic nghtness industry as at present organized" and "they recoiled .. : from change in the organization of industry." They were afraid that . father had b e com e "radical... and even DuBois no longer spoke the same language as thes~ libe!a.ls. 1930," he wrote. "I had become convinced that the baSICpolicies ideals of the Association must be modified and changed: that . a mere appeal based on the old liberalism •. a .mere appeal .to and further effort at legal decision, was missing theessential In 1934, drawing the conclusions of this di~agreement, DuBois with the NAACP. But having taken this step. forward. he midway. He himself admits that he found himself alone, a crossroads. with one road leading' to communism and the \'t~er plutocratic reaction. He borrowed fro~ M~~ the matenahst of history. but refused to believe in the" dogma of revolution in order to right economic wrong. LIke the reformers of the 19th century, he did not go beyond a u~op~an bci:afu;m. Like Proudhon, and like the American trade ~ruOlllstS period before the development of modern large-scale industry, of freeing the Negroes through cooperatives and benefit [b(:i.eti~;:s the establishment of an "industrial democracy." But and found no followers. The Negro petty bourgeoisie turned a de~~ They clung "to the older ideas of property . .: and profits. more consistent Negro intellectuals passed DuBOISby and went to embrace socialist or communist ideas. DuBois the old front-line leader of the intellectuals, marked the lJ'Ul~H,IUll b~tween two epochs: he broke with the past, but stop~d threshhold of the future. Since then he has floundered l~ and solitude. In 1944 he made a reconciliation with the of the NAACP. only to break with the~ again in 1948;without really taking a new step ahead. ThIS last break WIth organization he had founde~ was. based ~ole1y on. questions of policy and in order t? ah~ himself ~th the still-born par_ty Wallace~ Today, m hIS late eighties, W. E. B: D~BOIs. and isolated from the Negro masses. is wandering In the alley of Stalinist-frontism,

Radical Mo~ements
The inadequacy of the liberal strategy could not help becoming obvious to the more perceptive Negroes and to those who had less at stake in the maintenance of the established order. The founder of the NAACP. W. E. Burghardt DuBois. was the first to recognize his error and to look uneasily upon the offspring he had nourished. "I realized," he writes, "that tao much in later years the Association had attracted the higher income group of colored people, who regarded it as a weapon to attack the sort of social discrimination which especially irked them; rather than as an organization to improve the status and power of the whole Negro group." DuBois also began to understand that the perpetuation (and even worsening) of segregation had other causes than the mental attitudes of the whites. "My basic theory had been that race prejudice was primarily a matter of ignorance on the part of the mass of men . . . ; that. when the truth was properly presented. the monstrous wrong of race hate must melt and melt quickly' before it." Nevertheless, despite a certain success in the agitation carried on by the NAACP, "the barriers of race prejudice were certainly as strong in 1930 as in 1910 ... and in certain aspects ... even stronger." And DuBois opened his eyes: "Beyond my conception of ignorance and deliberate ill-will as causes of race prejudice. there must be otiler and stronger and more threatening forces; forming the founding stones of race antagonism." He understood that a program "calling on white folk to desist from certain practices and give up certain beliefs" was merely "negative," and "that a continued agitation . . . that looked at political rights as an end in itself rather than as a method of reorganizing the state; and that expected through civil rights and legal judgments to re-establish freedom on a broader and firmer basis, was not so much wrong as short-sighted." Having finally discovered-no doubt with the help of the great depression-of. the 1930's-the link between race prejudice and the powerful financial interests, DuBois insisted that attention be focused on the ecoriomic system. But his colleagues of the NAACP bristled. For them it was enough "to continue to attack lynching, to bring more cases before the courts and to insist upon full citizenship rights."

The lesson of the NAACP's bankruptcy was pondered by others, by A. Philip Randolph. the spokesman of the f~llowmg There is a 21-year age difference between him and Their backgrounds were thoroughly different. Randolph








put ~.his apprentif~hip as an intellectual while doing manual labor. He ]oll}ed.the Socialist ~arty at an ea~ly age, and began a -brilliant cared· ill Journalism untilhe founded, III 1925. a labor organization, the Brotherhood of Sleepl.l~gCar Porters. This union, after a long and dramatic struggl~ against the tycoon Pullman, finally Won its recogrution. Toda~ 1~ IS one of the brightest jewels in the crown of. Negro trad~ umomsm. DuBOIS, despite his later development, epitomizes the intellectual aristocracy, the Talented Tenth. Randolph IS a spokesman of the mass movement. DuBois is a romantic and to~n extent, a "nationalist." Randolph is a technician of colIectiv~ action and an ardent supporter of the alliance between the black and the white workers. Randolph .~ees the tactics of the NAACP as inadequate. He has wntten: The regular, normal and respectable method of conferen~~s and petitions, w~ile proper and ought to be continued as CO~dItI.on.s ,",:arran!,.certainly don't work . ... Negroes cannot stop ~~scnml~aho~ WIth conferences of leaders and the intelligentsia ~lone: Again: ~o~er and pressure do not reside in the few, the intelligentsia, they he m and flow from the masses." He has understood how tlie"government must be dealt with. and he tells his fellow Negroes: "The promises .of a politician mean nothing. You must makt? them m~an. something by your pressure." He believes that ~ll kinds o~ agitation and organization should be used in the struggle tor .Negro nghts: newspaper articles, church sermons. public speeches, radi<? broadcasts, plays and films. But none of these will arouse public opiruon as much as direc~ action, mass action. Nothing brings ~orth a response from the public as much as physical action. That IS ,,:hy the main weapon of the labor movement is the strike. Transfernng the techniques of trade unionism to the race struggle front, Ran?~lph w~ote.: "Mass demonstrations against lim Crow are worth a million editorials and orations." Ra!ldoI~h ha~ also ,tried to get the Negroes to adopt some of the tactics df· passive resistance and non-violence inspired by Gandhi. He has suggested, for example. that the Negroes in the South demonstrate against segregation with a one-day student strike or a one-day boycott of streetcars and buses, and that they go to the polls in groups of at least ten, etc. To put these methods of struggle into operation, Randolph tried to establish, alongside the faltering NAACP, a new organization, a mass orgam~atlOn•.and In 1936 he"help~ to form the National Negro Congress. . The idea was born •. writes Myrdal, "that a national egrO agency, e~?racrng. all the existing Negro trade unions, religious, raternal, and .CIV~C bodies, could give more strength and unity to all those or~~lZat~ons and, particularly, help awaken a response from the Negro masses." Emphasis was placed upon economic and social betterment as well as upon civil rights. For a time it seemed that

National Negro Congress was on the way to becoming a powerful movement. But it eventually failed. On the one hand. the of the Negro community, troubled by i~s radical tendencies. shied away from it or actually fought It; ,on. the other. the maneuvered to gain control of the organization; and finally after having traveled a considerable way. in the cOII?pan): "''''-"1,''''''',* broke with them in 1940. leaving a moribund rganiz;ati()ll their hands. year (1941) Randolph, acting on his own initiative, ndl~rt(K)k a memorable action. The arms program was then III full But despite the critical need for manpower. Negroes continued themselvest barred from factory employment. Their bitterness acute, and Randolph was quick to ass~me leadership of the of discontent. He understood that President Roosevelt would PW..... ""~"" only if forced' to. t He therefore called upon his fellow to Organize a march on Washington on 1uly 1. to force of the chief executive. "On to Washington, ten thousand Americans! Let them swarm from every hamlet. village and . .. Let them come in automobiles, buses, trains, trucks and Let them come though the winds blow and the rains beat them. .. If the Negroes fail this chance for work, for ... it may never come again. Let the Negro masses



.ittees were set up in many cities to organize the march; funds were collected. When Randolph issued his first appeal, anuary 1941, he figured on no more than 10,000 demonstrators. by the end of three months he was already assured of the support 50 000 for the march, and by the end of June he had the backing 100,000. For the first time since Marcus Garvey's adventure. a movement had been launched among the Negroes. It was militant language that accomplished this miracle. In DUllUll.1J.; to his appeal. the Negro masses showed that they had confidence in the old organizations and the old liberal methods. turned their backs on the conciliators who. hat in hand. were ;~)~)<,U,',1'. for a few small reforms within the framework of legality'resnectabilitv." The Negro petty bourgeoisie, seeing themselves took. and denounced the movement in their paper. the Pittsburgh Courier. But the fear was ev.en ~eener amon~ the white ruling class. President Roosevelt sent his Wife as an emissary

*The evolution of A, Philip Randolph shows a certain parallel with that of Walter P. Reuther. Both of them trade union leaders, both of them beginning with socialist tendencies, they each made a united front WIth the Stalinists up to the outbreak of World War II, only to become subsequently their most frenzied enemies. . tIn ;a personal conversation in 1948. Ra;pdolpl~ told ~e ~hat .f-oosevelt "tried to use his personal charm to &et out of making concessione.





to this troublesome agitator to try to get him to give up the proposed march. Finally, on June 25. the President signed Executive Order 8802 which created the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) and which, at least on paper, banned discrimination in employment in the arms industries. But We have already remarked on how inadequate tt!is measure was and how illusory it later turned out to be in practice., {But Randolph hesitated to deploy his forces. He would not use the sword he had drawn. To the great relief and gratitude of the American capitalists, he took to the air tQ declare that the presidential order was a "second Emancipation Proclamation" and that he was calling off the march to Washington. At the same time he urged his forces to continue their local committees and to build them up. But this sudden decision of his was sharply criticized by the Negroes. many of whom left the organization. Despite these defections, the March-an-Washington Movement survived as a permanent organization, and Randolph continued to wave the threat of a new march over the nation's capital. Although his popularity among the Negro masses was somewhat shaken, the Negro revolt. to which he had given such a conscious expression. pursued its course'] Spurred on by it, Randolph made a new move in 1948, just as bold as his first one. This time he attacked segregation in the armed forces. Heading a delegation, he went to President Truman and told him bluntly that "Negroes are in no mood to shoulder another gun for democracy abroad while they are denied democracy here at home." And, he added, they are especially hostile to the idea of fighting or enlisting i~ an army in which. segr~gation rule.s. The President reacted with displeasure, and the interview ended ill hardly polite terms, Several days later Randolph went before the Senate Committee on Military Affairs and. stated that he would openly advise both Negroes and whites to refuse to be inducted into the armed services unless segregation was ended. He announced that he would give aid and assistance to s~c~ dr.aft evaders and would organize throughout the country a masscivil disobedience ~ovement on the Gandhi model. Finally, he called upon parents to give moral support to their sons when the latter, their heads held high, would enter federal prisons "as a telling demonstration to the world that Negroes had reached the limit of human endurance." Threatened by a Senator with prosecution for tr~ason, Randolph replied. th~~ "we would be willing to absorb the VIolence, absorb the t.err~msm" and that "that's a price we have to pay to get our democratic rights, The effect was immediate. American officialdom was not used to such language. Max Ler~er wrote in the.newspaper PM: ~'This is. in my memory, the first time that responsible Negro leaders. who are not playing the Communist game. . '.,have talked out .so. clearly and unmistakably on SO fateful an Issue. And after pointing out




not all Negro leaders approved Randolph's statement, he added Randolph came "closer to the true feelings of the m~ses of flmleOican Negroes, in the North and in the South, than do [hIS] more and circumspect colleagues." The petty bourgeois elements of the NAACP .v= flabbergasted the boldness of the tactic Randolph was advocating, and stated that would not advise civil disobedience as a way of combatmg IIC)l,JLt:~"llll' JU in the army. But the favorable reaction of. the Negro to this move of Randolph's impressed the Negro intellectuals caused them to somewhat revise their position. Secretary of Detense James Forrestal summoned a group of Negro leaders to a on April 26 and asked their advice on how to rmprove lSll'.. a<.'vu of Negroes in the segregated armed fotc~s. They flatly to cooperate. saying they would h~ve nothing to do WIth army based on the principle of segregation. When asked .at a conference if any of them opposed Randolph. not a single was raised. And Lester Granger, the very moderate secretary the National Urban League, found it necess~ to say: "The . of Mr. Randolph has been warmly praised by what"may be the majority of the Negroes throughout the country. . A later these same people sent Forrestal a report which ,W~'l"'~'U firmly on the necessity of ending segregation in all the armed

forces. for the chief executive, he deem~d it advi bl e ~o m ak e . As visa some quick moves. Just as Roosevelt had tssued the executive ?rder of June 1941 to forestall the march on Washington, Truman signed an executive order on July 26. 1948, in which he announced his intention of ending segregation in the armed forc~s "as soon as possible." Senator Richard B." Russel~ . of Georgia a~used "the President of having made an unconditional . surrender to the treasonable civil disobedience campaign" organized by Randolph. (But it was Randolph himself who, after winning this point. surrendered unconditionally. His first reaction was. ~o label the presidential order as "a misleading move, made for political purposes and deliberately calculated to obscure the issue of segregation." But heavy pressure was exerted on him and several weekslater, on August rs he stated he had received assurance that segregation m the armed fo;ces was "unequivocally banned': ?y ~he Ju~y 26 order •. and that he ITs therefore calling off the CIvil disobedience campaigfix .. Thus Randolph twice in succession halted ~oveme?ts 'Defore .they bad really gotten under wa~-movements which he himself had launched and which seemed certam of. support from the Negro masses. And twice he did this without havmg WOn any m~e tban va~e promises. Why? One of t~e main reasons .?ndguotedly. w~~ his unclear position on the question of war and natronal unity, In '1914 Randolph had been a pacifist and conscientious objector. He






stated that he was "fundamentally opposed to war." and he denounced the hypocrisy of a "war for deroocr;::l.c~" while Negroes in America were victims of segregation and lynching. During the second world war, there were moments when he remained loyal to this intransigent position. In 19~ he wrote; "Be. not deceived, This is not a war for freedom. It IS not a war for democracy . , . It is a war to maintain the old imperialistic systems . . . ,It is ~ ,?,ar between the imperialism of Fascism and Nazism and the imperialism of monopoly capitalistic democracy." But at other tunes he spoke a different language. In 1940 he stated that "in a war between the United States and Nazi Germany, the Negroes will take up ar~lS against Germany -. In a conflict between the United States of Ame~lca and the Soviet Union. the Negro people will go to war against Russia." In 1941-42 he frequently spoke of the necessity of "winning the war for democracy" and declared that "national unity" was "necessary for victory." On July I, 1950. be wamily congratulated President Truman for intervening "with a big stick" in the Korean war-"the only language Communist Russia c_an understand." Between these two extreme positions, he sometimes managed. a straddling posturecas when he declared, ~ 1942. that, whatever the character of the war, the Negroes should seize the occasion to demand equal treatment)... .. .. .. .. Crhese contradictory positions on such a fundamental question explain Randolph's repeated capitulations. On ~ch occasion the. people and the interests opposed to full emallClpat~on of the, Negroes would raise the "external danger" and argue that If he contmued. hIS agitation he would be "betraying his country." Each time he failed to carry his strategy through to the end. But the. ferments he planted in the consciousness of the Negroes, the unforgettable lesson of direct action which he gave them. may some day serve to leaven and ripen the Negro rev01.!?7





Concern for scientific objectivity requires that. among the radical movements for Negro emancipation. we include. the Communist Party. t This is without question a largely "white" movement. but.
.It is possible moreover; that Randolph has not yet spoken his last word. He seemed t() m~. when I was in the United States in 1947-4~, t? be the only man capable of heading a IJ?Assmovement for Ne~o emancipation. But he found himself squeezed and ISOlated between the liberals of the NAACP on the. one side and the. Stalinists on the other. And he had not yetsucceeded in outstripping. tJ?ese two mov~ments., Furthermore,. through his :suP:P!-'rt of the Tmman-Eisenhower foreign policy, he has for the time being tieil his own hands (just as the labor, leaders have ,dont:l), On February 28. 1~51, for example, he headed a delegation t~ ,the, WhIte House to solicit the appointment of Negroes to various war mobiliaatio» agencies. . tThe main portions of this book were written before tpe publication in 1951 of Wilson. Record's book, The Negro and the Commumst .Party, The reader millht well refer to this book.

the exception of small vanguard groups such as the Socialist Party (Trotskyist). it is the only one of the white movements has identified itself completely and unreservedly with the Negro . And. for a. period at least, it recruited such a. significant of Negroes and exerted such an influence on the Negro. ............. ..., that it has in fact acted like a Negro movement. MyrdaI. as reveals himself toward "Marxism," nevertheless concedes the Communist Party is "the only American group which has nr9l'fl'(.~p. offered Negroes full 'social equality,' and this is highly nat only among Negro intellectuals but much deeper down Negro community. particularly in the North," And,Myrdal outside of regular party membership, the Communist Party a considerable influence in the Negro community. authors of Black Metropolis, for their part, write: "No of 'atheistic Reds' at 'alien Communists' could nullify the here were people who accepted the Negroes as complete and asked other white men to do the same," "'The Reds,' ..' add. "won the admiration of the Negro masses by default. They the only white people who seemed to. care about what happened Negroes. " Negroes ar~ realists, They take 'friends' and where they can find the9 . . .. ' Lee Moon. who also could not be suspected of eommurust explains that among Negroes "Communism is not reaarceo as the enemy," They know their real enemy, their mortal first hand. And whatever they may think of communists, anyone may tell them of their diabolical character. the N"'urr .....,, still consider them as enemies of their own enemy. Fred Hart .. a representative of the Trotskyists, who certainly give evidence of sympathy for. the American Stalinists and who iuenolllnc:e·their incorrect policies On the Negro question, writes that Negro intellectuals are still sympathetic to the Stalinists because believe that the Stalinists "first raised the Negro question in an aneomprondsing manner and have done more than any other party to keep the Negro question before the American people and the world." I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with Richard Wright, This outstanding Negro writer once belonged to the Coramunist Party, finally broke with it. and since then h~s given his break considerable publicity, I asked him to recall hIS memories of the: 1930's. Contrary to my expectation, he paid glowing tribute to the service of the Communist Party in the Negro cause and stressed, that it had been popular among Negroes, particularly in Chicago where Wright himself was a witness of its activities, , The Communist Party made its penetration into the Negro community as a result of the depression of the 30's. One action in particular won the immediate support of the Negroes. In: 1931.



ON 'l'HE


127 small group of Negro intellectuals. .. There has of general radicalism in tbis group. and the present has been surprised to find how it has spread also t~ and, occasionally, even to the Negro press: writer whom I quoted above also agrees=while the error in their reasoning-tbat a number of Ne~ro continue, despite everytbing that can be charged against Stalinists, "to feel and to express sympathy and .eve?, for the activities of the Stalinists on the Negro question. favorable bias of the Negro masses and a .sectio~ of the ;·u,,"" .. ""' .... ,",.:> toward the Stalinists explains the ease WIth which. they .succeeded in gaining control of a mass organization like the National Congress-an achievement which was not solely the result of· ion. Similarly, starting in the 1930's, group~. of y(:m~g intellectuals under Stalinist influence maintained an Opposition within the NAACP which at times offered serious embarrassment to ~he leadership. They criticized the ine!Iectiveness of the NAACP tacuc~, its lack of internal democracy, Its refusal to face th~ economic problem. In 1949, the secretary of the NAA~ complained of the "infiltration" being carried on by the Communist Party. In June 1950. the NAACP annual conference -. after a stormy debate, voted 309 to 57 to do away with Stalinist influence by~uthless methods -the suspension, reorganization and even expulsion of branch~s that were considered to be under "communist" control. Cert.am branches the resolution stated, "are being rocked by internal conflicts between' groups who follow the Communist line and those who do not." .. The sympathy which th~ Stalirust-influenced party. of. Henry Wallace enjoyed in some sections of the. Negro commumty m 1948 revealed that the influence of the Stahmsts among the Negroes, though declining, was still considerable. In the South I encountered quite a sizable number of Wall~ce sUI:porters among Negro trade unionists, students, teacbers, journalists and ev~n c~ergy~en. Wallace's small vote in the elections does not entirely. invalidate my observation; for on the one hand, we know tbe relatively small number of Negroes who can actually vote 10 the South; and <;>n the other hand, Truman's increasing use of "leftist" demagogy In the COurse of the 1948 election campaign stole most of Wallace's thunde~; Truman also benefited greatly from the viol~n~ attacks he and his "civil rights program attrac~ed from the Dixiecrats: and so the Democrats retained on election day most of the v<?tes that Wallace seemed destined at the beginning of the year to receive from Negroes as wen as white workers. However, despite its successes among Negroes. the American Communist Party has suffered a number of handicaps, and has committed a number of errors.

nine young Negroes were sentenced to death at Scottsboro, Ala., for the alleged rape of two white women. The CP took on their defense, made a real effort to stir up public opinion, raised huge sums of money and succeeded in awakening the indignation of the whole world. The CP has been charged, to be sure, with having utilized the case more for its own interests than for the interests of the accused Negroes; but the fact remains that it did a splendid job of pillorying American racism for all the world to see. II< The Communist Party has fought for complete social equality of the Negroes, and within its own ranks has put this into practice. In this spirit the Stalinists have run a Negro as their candidate for Vice-President of tbe United States. Their members in the CIO contributed toward getting the new organization, in its early years. to take a militant attitude against race prejudice. They have advocated the alliance of both white and black exploited workers. They were first to teach the Negroes, especially in the North, the techniques of direct action and mass action, which were a break from the legalistic methods of the NAACP. In Chicago, one of their strongholds, the Negro CP members engaged in noteworthy struggles against tenant evictions and job discrimination. There have even been occasions when the Negro rank and file party members, carried away by their extraordinary militancy, kicked over the traces and tried to set up combat groups and adopt military tactics -which the leadership (fundamentally more reformist than revolutionary) vetoed. To measure the revolutionary potentialities of the American Negro, one must study tboroughly the story of the Negro rank and file CP members between the years 1930 and 1940. This story still remains to be written, and unfortunately I do not have the necessary documentation to do it myself. In the South, as I will indicate in greater detail in Chapter 10, the Stalinists were almost the only ones to attack Jim Crow consistently and to devote themselves systematically, and without the slightest concession to race prejudice, to organizing Negroes into trade unions. It must also be emphasized tbat the Communist Party exerted influence not only among the Negro masses but also among the intellectuals-a confirmation of wbat I said previously about the instability and relative susceptibility of the latter. Myrdal notes that "Communism ... had a considerable influence upon tbe mode of
·However, when the Communist Party, at the Kremlin's instigation, made the big "People's Front" turn in. 1935 and sacrificed both the labor movement and the Negro movement to the interests of promoting an alliance between Washin.ll;ton and Moscow, the Stalinist representatives on a new Scottsboro Defense Committee agreed to a deal with the Jim Crow authorities whereby some of the defendants would plead guilty in return for letting others go free. (See They Shall Be Free by Allan K. Chalmers, 1951.)






First, the. handicaps. By taking Negroes into their party on a basis of complete equality, they cut themselves off from the mass of white workers. As DuBois writes. by obliterating the color bar within their own ranks, they "absolutely blocked every chance they might have had to attract any considerable number of white workers to their ranks." Conversely. the very fact that the party was led by whites aroused racial distrust among many Negroes. SOme suspected the CP of trying "to make use of the Negroes." Taught by long and bitter experience, they asked themselves what were the selfish hidden motives that suddenly caused whites to stretch out their' hands toward them. Others doubted that white workers could so reverse a traditional attitude as to become their friends. and they told themselves that if the communists ever took power, they would then behave no differently from the other whites. There were many who considered the interracial picnics and dances organized by the party as mere "bait." Furthermore. the atheism of communism has caused the CP trouble in the Negro community, which is still highly religious-so much so that the party members enlisted the help of God and preached in Negro churches where the congregation punctuated their speeches with plaintive Amens. Finally. a number of Negroes have been reluctant-in A. Philip Randolph's expression -to add the handicap of being red to that of being black. Nevertheless others were quick to see that. in any case, the similarity between their program for emancipation and the program of the Communist Party gave their opponents an opening to label every kind of anti-racist struggle as "communist." Some, like the famous baseball player Jackie Robinson, acknowledged this similarity and then tried to escape from the stigma of being "red" by declaring that tbe struggle against racial discrimination is not the fruit of self-interested communist strategy, but that its exists independently of the communists. But merely to acknowledge the similarity between the agitation of the "reds" and the noble cause of Negro emancipation -isn;t this really an involuntary tribute to the "reds"? Second, the errors of the Communist Party. A major erroras we have pointed out-was the ultra-nationalist slogan for an "Independent Negro Republic" in the South. which never took on a concrete meaning for the Negroes. They instinctively felt that the slogan was concocted in Moscow, and the subservience of the American Communist Party to the Russian state roused their antipathy. Their mistrust increased every time the party made One of its "turns" in mechanically following the zigzags of Soviet foreign policy. After the sharpest and most famous of these turns-the signing of the Stalin-Hitler pact of 1939, which entailed a "defeatist" and anti-Roosevelt orientation on the part of the American CPA. Philip Randolph, for example, ceased his collaboration with tbe Stalinists in the National Negro Congress and vehemently denounced

submission to Moscow. "Since the Communist 'Patty itt " he stated. "stems from Communist ~Russia, its pOitci@s tactics and strategy are as' fitful, changeful and as the foreign policy and line of M?s~ow .. '. The not reject the Communist Party because It IS revolutionaey or because of its alleged extremism. They reject the Party because it is controlled and d?minated by a for~~ whose policy may, or may not be in the interest of the United or the Negro people." As early as 1933, the Negroes, to their astonishment. had se~n Stalinists make an abrupt about-face at their expense. The SO'-:let at the head of the motion picture industry were planmng big pro-Negro film, which was to show how the colored population treated in America. This project had been announced t? the with great public fanfare: But suddenly and.. wlth?ut ,·v"".p" .. .rc•.uV'U, it was canceled by Stahn. The Roosevelt administration to recognize the Soviet Union. and the Soviet gov~~ent to "refrain from propaganda against the policies or order of the U.S." It was necessary to appease the Southern particularly, since their support was indispensable {or ratification of the proposed recognition. And the Negroes were to the deal. * , 1941 Stalinism went still further, It simply abandoned the caus~ altogether. During the period following the Stalinpact, the American Stalinists had denounced the w~r as ("imperialist," and demanded that agitation ~or the ~egroes. be linked 'up with the "struggle against the imperialist war. Until the end .ef June 1941, they bombarded A. Philip Randolph and the .l~aders "of the March-on-Washington Movement with a barr~ge .of cnticrsms: +the program of the movem.ent was too moderate, It did not t~ke ,a .sufficiently clear stand against the ~ar. ~ut the mo~ent Hitler s armies were turned against the SOVIetUman, everything changed, • The American Stalinists now denounced Randolph not for having . called off the march, but for continuing the movement on a .permanent basis.. Everything, ~ccordi~g. to them, had to be subordinated to the crusade against Hitlerism. The struggle for Negro emancipation had to be laid over to a better day. One of the Negro leaders of the Communist Party, James W. Ford, wr?te in February 1942: "Four hundred years of Negro slavery are noth~ng besides Nazi persecution of Jewish peoples, peoples of the OCCUpIed countries." In March, Eugene Gordon of the Daily Worker stated
OJ,~~,"", .. ,., ..

=Richard Wright has pointed out to me that ~e~ was another reasen also for the film being abandoned: the Negro Stalinists who had .gone to the USSR insisted that the scenario had only the remotest~reseIIlblance' to

American reality.






service of the Russian government. Finally, anti-communist offensive that the ruling class has been on in recent years as ideological preparation for the next considerably reduced the influence of the Stalinists in the community as in all other sections of American society.

that "Hitler is the main enemy" and that "the foes pf Negro rights in ~s country should be considered as secondary." ] . lJn the 1944 collection of articles, What the Negro Wants,a Stalinist Negro writer, Doxey A. Wilkerson, undertook to clarify the Stalinist position at tedious length but with no equivocation. The Negroes, he wrote, "must declare their unconditional support of the war effort . .. They must declare their full support of the win-the-war policies of our Commander-in-Chief , ,. They must throw their full resources into . . . winning the war . . . There are also Negro leaders ... [who] denounce 'the Government' and 'white people' for still existing racial injustice and. . . organize mass struggles of the Negro people . .. They too are following a path which weakens the victory program of the nation . .. To draft idealistic post-war plans for the Negroes ... tends to divert much net;ded energy from the really urgent task of today; to win the war," [The Roosevelt adm~nistration was pic~ured as devoted to the Negroes. The executive order abolishing-eon paperdiscrimination in war industries was hailed with enthusiasm. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox was showered with praises fat a statement which, despite some window-dressing concessions. continued segregation in the armed forces, The NAACP was criticized as (of all thingsl ) "too militant." . During the 1943 race riot in Harlem, the Stalinists sided with the city and state authorities against the Negro masses."] (This position of the Sialinists caused a profound disillusionment among the colored people, and last the Stalinists support in the Negro community which they still have not regained. The Negroes, even those completely ignorant of the theoretical reasons for war in modern times; were skeptical about the "democratic" war aims of the United States. From their point of view, a crusade against fascism ought to begin at home, in America itself. While the Stalinists demanded that they give. unconditional support to the war, they themselves were convinced that they had to make their participation at least a conditional one, and that in return for their sacrifices they should demand full and complete equality. The Communist Party, with the pretext of winning the war for freedom, was tying them hand and foot. The Chicago Defender; a large Negro paper which in the past had been sympathetic to the Stalinists on some issues. wrote that they had broken faith with those "who looked to them as among our leaders" and that "they have destroyed their own influence and the in~uence of the organiz~t~ons they represent. Since the war, the Stalinists have striven to erase this painful memory and to regain the confidence of the Negroes. Their success pas been very limited. The performances of the popular singer Paul Robeson have been unable to dissipate the impression. strongly lodged in the consciousness of the Negroes, that the Communist Party




The same concern for scientific objectivity that led me to include Communist Party among the radical movements for Negro requires that I also mention the anti-Jim Crow of the Socialist. Workers Party, a revolutionary Marxist 1Jt.<U.LI.~~~""'" which supports the ideas of Leon Trotsky, and of the The Militant. This movement is; no doubt, numericallymuch than the CP, and of more recent formation. Its branches Chiefly in the industrial centers of the North and, unlike has somewhat neglected, or underestimated. the immense V'W.UlJ..aUI,"''', of the South. Like the CP, i.1 has also, unquestionably. )Dllnitlted. some tactical errors, and its theoretical program on the question has not always been free of indecisive formulations. the SWP has not succeeded in rooting itself among the Negro as deeply as its uncompromising attitude against Jim Crow have made possible, it nonetheless deserves tribute for the oru;istlen<:v and of its activities. It can be saluted the CP-for never having abandoned the cause Negro emancipation in the interests of Russian diplomacy. When at the end of 1935 the People's Front policy ledtM to shift abruptly from sectarianism to opportunism in the famous 11r."'''tt~boro case, the SWP vigorously denounced this unprincipled as a sellout of the Negro struggle. And in 1951 the chairman the Scottsboro Defense Committee confirmed the correctness of SWP's accusations. During World War II. when the CP made its fatal turn on Negro question that we have already discussed, the SWP remained . to the Negro cause. It was the only political organization. autsidle of the Negro organizations, to un:dertake a campaign in IkJfem;e of the 15 Negro sailors of the D.SS. Philadelphia who were in 1940 because they had. the courage to sign :t protesting against segregation in the Navy. The SWP gave support to the March-an-Washington Movement; its members _ ..,,,if,,.,.l hundreds of Negroes to that movement and were active in its key branches. At a time when every other political 1_,,.,r:ga:uiz;lticm, CP above all, tried to subordinate the Negro struggle the war effort, the SWP filled a real vacuum and stood out The government's efforts to suppress The Militaht were frankly motivated, in part, by the SWP's struggle against all forms of white supremacy, '








On most occasions of racist crimes and attacks 00 Negroes, SWP stood in the forefront of the fight on the Negro side. In 1 for example, it played a leading role in the defense of Odell W a sharecropper unjustly sentenced to death in Virgini~, In 1 it fought militantly on behalf of the Ferguson brothers in N.Y.; victims of police brutality, and organized a light against Ku Klux Klan at Fontana, Calif., after a whole Negro family been burned to death. In 1947 it initiated and carried through successful completion the defense of James Hickman, a . worker who slew his landlord in the belief that the latter had a fire which killed Hickman's children. (I had the opportunity the honor to pay a personal visit to James Hickman in his prison in Chicago, and I was deeply impressed by the calm courage and dignity of this father of a large family-now happily free More recently, the SWP played an active tole. in the case Trenton Six, in mobilizing protests against anti-Negro Cicero and Trumbull Park, Chicago, and in publicizing in the Groveland frameup and the bomb-murders of Florida leader Harry T. Moore and his wife. If I have certain personal reservations on the position of the in the anti-discrimination struggle inside the Seafarers' International .Union, AFL, as well as on the very delicate problem of mixed marriage among party members, and in general on its of the psychology of the Negro, I wish nevertheless to say that these reservations concern only questions of tactics. Tbe courage of the SWP and the correctness of its program have assured it, and should continue to assure it still more, of a response from the Negro community.




Despite the inadequacies, errors, inconsistencies and ups and downs of the movements for Negro emancipation-both liberal and radical-s-the struggle against Jim Crow is continuing and sharpening, The experience of two world wars. and the migration from the countryside into industry have brought about a maturing of Negro consciousness. With each passing year. the impatience and militancY of the Negroes increase. The temperature is rising, and is nearing the boiling po.int. On this all observers are in agreement. As early as 1929 Louis Schoell indicated how impressed he was by the awakening." Myrdal remarks: "America can never more its Negroes as a patient, submissive minority. Negroes continually become less well 'accommodated.' They will organize for defense and offense. They will be mare and more vociferous. They will watch their opportunities ever more keenly." The last war a powerful stimulus to their drive for emancipation. The

Black Metropolis write: "The war changed the c!ltire course of relations and brought America face to face with th~ contrain our culture in a manner and to an extent which made mILJV"'''lU'''' Ior either Negroes or whites to evade them longer war operated to change the Negro problem, almost o~ernight, a chrome social difficulty which the hopeful thought tune and would solve to a crisis in our national life," And they that a "racial radicalism . . , of gigantic proportions" might well spring up in the Negro community if the Negroes b,ecame that the second world war liberated the world but did not The Race." Malcolm Ross, one of the FEPC officials, writes that "the . of 1941 were not the small, compliant, hat-in-hand group been twenty-five years before," They now have~ he st~~es, leaders." Robert Weaver, who also held an otficial position the war, says that the Negroes have reached matunty. They promises and demand concrete results. They have ceased . Bucklin Moon notesvt'Tbe longer we delay the more will be the explosion, for Negroes are as determined to brea~ the walls of segregation as whites seem to be to maintain them. In the last few years the Negroes have given abundant e:,idence their fighting spirit. The 1943 riot in Harlem was not, like the outbreaks, an interracial brawl, but a revolt of the whole community. A few years ago, at Win~ton-Salem, N.C., attacked and threatened to lynch a white man who had on and seriously wounded a Negro girl. Some young Negro at Talladega, Ala., told me in 1948 that ever, smc,e the Klan in a surprise attack set up '.l fiery cross Fight m the of their campus, they had slept ,With loaded pistols under pillows, ready to use them on the ti~st occasion. But the most significant of all signs IS, perhaps, the. tendency the Negroes to seek out:-~hether. for defense or attack-the of whites who are VIctims of the same oppressors and are to carryon a joint struggle with them. A.s the authors Metropolis write. "The Negro broke QU~ of his caste-bound transcended his purely racial point ,o.f view-s-which l~d him began to see his position In ' . . Society as with that of all the 'disinherited. '" .,. The alliance of whites and Negroes in revolutionary orga~tzatlons so far been mainly symbolic. It has been only a harbmger of . in this direction. For reasons that I have already out, the vast majority of the white masses and the Negro have taken no part in moving toward this, go~l. . remains for us toexp]ore now are the .mdlcatlc:ms and of such an alliance between the exploited whites and ~,plloittld Ne~rot1s on a mass scale. »:
"" IlH 11 'v
. ":t.




Negroes and Poor Whites
.Here. we come to a very big and complex problem. The relationship be~ween the::Negro ~a~ses and white masses is so thorny and controversial a subject that if It is to be discussed at all we have to go to the very bottom. The reader will excuse me if I must ~>n~emore ~ead him through the historical background. Here again . It IS impossible to see mto the future without a clear understanding of the past. ' . The problell? is compli~ate~~y the fact that the Negroes have been mvo!ved With two quite distinct groups of white masses: the country fo~k.of the. Sout~~the so-called poor whites-and the wage workers, living mainly in the North. The recent industrialization of the. South tends, moreover. toward the merging of these two categones. . Beginning wit~ the relations between the Negroes and poor whites in the S~JUt~.I will show how. the Southern exploiters have fed the race prejudice of t.he poor whites. and played one race against the other. Then, turnmg to the future, I will try to assess the chances for the formation of a united front of the rural inhabitants white and Negro, in this region where the great majority of A~ericav Negroes live. ' First we must. demo~ish a lie; The. lie lurks in every nook and cor~~r .of American history (as in all history). The planters who wanted their Negro slaves to be considered as animals also saw the need of "attribJi~ing an "inferior" o~gin to those whom they had reduced to the sad state of poor whites. So they fabricated out of whole cloth the legend that the IXX>r hites were "degenerate" and w "corrupt" descendants of common law convicts and indentured seryants from Europe's worst slums, And thus the respectable v:-hite ~a~e t~at ,ful~s the Sou,~hwas Justified in repudiating all racial tl~S With this white tras~. The truth, of course, is altogether different, The first colonists, as we have seen, used .11 convict or indentured labor force. But the descendants of these laborers intermingled with the rest of the population. And the poor whites . of today descend from the same stock as the planters. They bear the same Anglo-Saxon names. They often have distant kinship with them. The only difference is that they have been less successful

struggle for existence. They are, to be precise, "poor As the system of slave plantations developed in the coastal plains. they were inexorably pushed toward the less lands .of the interior, toward the mountains. And when the f,lc:uIt"' •.I>, havmg exhausted the soil, moved westward with their slaves poor whites inherited these barren and abandoned lands. Unabl~ fight on equal terms against the competition of the great slave they were forced into a precarious and often miserable

origin explains the ambivalent social attitude of the poor between two equally profound feelings: a class feeling, hostility towa~d. the planters; a racial feeling, of hostility toward Negroes. Victims of the slave system, they came to hate both slaveholders and the slaves. But the planters soon sought to the first hatred by f~ing the second. They had more on~ tr~p-card to play. First of aU, they did not exploit the whites directly; they had left them some means of subsistence meager, and the illusion of independence. Next wliil~ the distance which they had established betwee~ themthese lowliest of th~ir race brot~ers, they held out a to th~ poor whites:, the pn~e of belonging, along with them. the white race, the 'superior race. Finally; the planter class not a' close~ aris~ocrac~ of the .European type; although it .to ,~':lsohdate increasingly dunng the years when "Cotton was King, It nonetheless preserved certain democratic features' it left its doors ajar to the "poor relations," allowing the most among them" to participate just a little in its social and giving ~hem the d~eptive hope that .if they made enough money they might enter ItS ranks. DuBOIS observes that the antagonism betwee. the p.I.antersand poor white masses was partially n moderated by ~his "middle class of poor whites in the making. "-J But the tn~ks used by the 'plante~s f:o .conciliate the poor whites were o~y partially successful m achieving white solidarity. Class antagorusm was not completely. twisted into racial antagonism. Herbert Aptheker shows 11 certam number of documents proving



·A~lly, three categories of poor whites can be distinguished during the penod of slavery. .. First, at the t?P of the. scale : a yeomanry,. or class of small landowning farmers, who cherished the IllUSIOn that they might get to own a Negro. Second, a class of parasites on the slave system, living on the edges of the plantations and receiving their crumbs, from whom the planters recruited their foremen and overseers. Third, .a class of mountaineers, far more primitive, isolated from the outside. \!orld, living by hunting an~, by culti~ating submarginal lands. Originally, It seems, the ~el'1Il: poor whites". applied only to the last two eategones, But by extensron It has come to include all the small white farman of tile South who do DOt belong to the planter class, _


r· :






that on the eve of the Civil War the masters of the South were. uneasily watching the beginnings of a common front between poor whites and Negro slaves. Even on the question of abolishing slavery, the poor whites were divided between contradictory sentiments: on the one hand. they hated an institution which was inimical to their interests; on the other, they remained bound to the planters by ties of racial solidarity and feared-the competition. which the Negroes would give them once they were freed. But in the course of the war, the first of these two sentiments won out, especially among the lower layers of poor whites. The conviction grew among the small farmers of the uplands. the Beards declare. that the Southern government was a slaveowners' agency of power and that toe war was "a rich man's war and a poorman's fight." The law exempting ffgnYCQPmpuls6ty military service the owners of at least 20 slaves (the If~r.:.>Was later reduced to 15) helped to turn many poor. whites ~nst~ the Confederacy. In the mountain regions of Virginia. Tennessee, North. Carolina and Mississippi. resistance to the war grew relentlessly and at times took the form of. open rebellion. If white. solidarity explains how the Confederacy was able to prolong. an unequal: fight. with the North for so long. the disaffection at the- poor- whites was one of too, determining factors in, the. ultimate sliipwrecl<icoff the- Southern side. Daring- the revolutionary period known as Reconstruction. the Negrees and- poor whites, in proportions which varied in the different states.' made up togetber the constitutional conventions and, pop-ular societies- whieh established the foundations of a new democracy in tll&- Sbuth. J antOi S. Alloll> (lstimate~ that a tfiird of the white population of the highlands belonged to the Union Leagues in J866. But- the united front of whites and Negroes, if concluded at all. was only imperfectly carried out. The poor whites continued to be torn between contradictory attitudes. On the one hand, Reeonstruetjon bll@ught them incontestable. gaim;, Dubois- observes that they were indebted to the Negro voter and to his protectors for a more general right to vote. to hold office and to receive education. privileges which the planters had always denied them. [the.. Beards. stress that the abolition of slavery altered. the. status, of, t~ white farmer in a fashion that oflers an interesting, analogy to the change in position of the French peasantry during, the, courseof die Reyolution of'1789. Where the plantations were divided" up and, sold III small parcels. the small white fanner bought the land' Moreover, the abolition of slavery allowed a, freer development of agriculture, as well as an extension. of the urban market. The ('Qbr whites showed themselves' determined to consoliClate their conquests and opposed to the reestablishment of a political power based on a. syst~~ of large plantations. But. on the other band. these gains tended to croote a ditferentiati9n in im~rtlst§ belween'

poor whites. enriched and promoted to the rank of a, rural petty. iol.:lrgc::Ol·:Sl·,e. the freed Negroes. and The latter, we have seen. had land and remained semi-proletarians: the shareA genuine alliance between Negroes and poor. whites. on common interests. could have been forged only if the ~, .. a!~V'l" had been confiscated and divided up among the small of both races. But precisely because of the desire. to prevent alliance, the revolution did not gp that far: and the differentiation interests. between the Negroes and the middle class of poor whites to prolong the race prejudices born in the period of slavery. ~SlaCes. another group. the poorest of the poor whites, rebelled idea of having to face the Negro as a competitor on the market and' the possibility of seeing him. reach-a .statu~ :.u.lperior to theirs. In addition, the poor, whites were apprehensive the right of Negroes to vote might permit the planters. to restore. political rule by controlling the vote of their former slaves. while the legislation of Reconstruction favored the small .~Jlllel·S. as has been said, the tariff, fiscal and financial policies .c;>i
"""uu<uv •• o

protection which it gave· to therailroad companies. tended, . . turn the poor whites of the South against the new regime and against the Republican Party) Even though the alliance of Negroes and poor whites took on ()n1y embryonic and- incomplete forms. it did not, on that ~unt, prove, less f~ghtenin~ to the possessing. ~lass. in the South. ..~.he unportant thing." wntes Bucklin Moon, "IS that Negroes and w tes were working together-s-if not with brotherly love. at least without too much friction, The effect which this must have had On the. aristocracy is not hard to imagine, for the one thing those who had &een .in control feared most WSlS that the poor wJllte and the Negro would form common political cause." Hesseltine quotes. a text e~hlbiting the anguish of a political observer of Georgia. The latter feared that if the poor whites of this state united with the JSegtoes" "so. "ast a mass of ignorance would be _found that, if, combined for any political purpose, it would sweep away all opposition the intelligent class might make." And the observer added: "Many thoughtful men are apprehensive that the ignorant voters will. in the future, form a party by themselves as dangerous to. the interests of society as the communists of France." (Emphasis ~upplied.)j There, was only one method of crushing this threatening. coalition in the egg: to rally the poor and rich whites. despite their different. economic interests. around the slogan of "race." The united front . the .P9or white and Negro against. their common. exploiters could ··pi:e.vented, 'oilly by. r.ati~jpg. the alleged "Community of "white " The compromise of 1876·77 broke up the temporary and


controlled. by Big Business, anlil the






more or less halting association which had made the white farmers of the Southern mountain regions collaborate with the Negro masses on the legislative level. The poor whites. embittered against the federal government and the Republican Party, and among whom it was not too difficult to reawaken anti-Negro prejudice. let themselves once again (although without enthusiasm) be drawn into the wake of the planters. To these pariahs of American society. the dogma of "white supremacy" was offered as a consolation and a compensation, Pride in belonging to a "superior" race made the least fortunate among them forget (or more exactly, its objective was to make them forget) their wretched living conditions, their hovels, their coarse food. the diseases snawing at their vitals. The wbite Wn. writes Lillian Smith. "became the poor white's most precious possession. a symbol ()f self-esteem and psychic security," race prejudice a "drug" by which these unfortunates were befuddled so that they might not become conscious of their exploitation. Segregation had as its goal not only to prevent contact between the two races; it was also an "irrational weapon" designed to remind the poor white continually of his racial superiority and to prove to him, whatever his living conditions might be, that while he was not fortune's favorite, the Negro was even less so. Finally, the racist incitement to which the poor whites were subjected served not only to give the masters of the South the shock troops which they needed in order "to put the Negroes back in their place"; the acts of violence and terror were also suggested to the poor whites in order to furnish them with a release to their suppressed anger, to their frustration. KUling a Negro was a substitution for killing a rich man. The hangman's job which the Bourbons felt repugnant to perform themselves was confided to the disinherited of their race. As Henry Wallace stated in a speech in 1948, "they don't personally engage in lynching ... just as they don't personally engage in wars from which they profit. But they inflame the passions of others. They have had others do their dirty work." The Ku Klux Klan, financed by tIbe rich, recruited mainly among the poor whites of the highlands. It gave them. Hesseltine notes. "renewed opportunity to wreak: their vengeance upon their Negro neighbors." The similarity with fascism is striking: just as the fury of the pauperized elements of the Third Reich was turned against the Jews, that of the "empty bellies" of the South was turned against the Negroes. But who in America. as in Hitlerite Germany. bears the real responsibility for pogroms? The lowly agents carrying out the crime or its secret instigators? Cox admits that the poor whites play a principal role in the great manhunts and lynchings; however, he observes. "it would be an egregious error to think oj them as initiators of racial antagonism in the South." (Emphasis supplied.)

The poor white of the post-Reconstruction period remained an ambivalent figure. His hatred of the rich slumbered under his hatred of the Negro. And when the former re-awakened, he himself was astonished at experiencing a feeling of solidarity toward the poor colored fellow whom he dreamed of lynching just the evening before. This is what occurred in the 1890's, when the white terror, which had followed upon the compromise of 1876-77. was suddenly interrupted by the explosion of Populism. Populism was a revolt of the small and middle farmers against Northern Big Business and its Bourbon allies in. the Sout~: plan!ers and city capitalists. It was largely an agranan reaction against the campaign for industrialization of the "New South," launched by Henry Grady between 1880 and 1890. a~ outburst of peasan~ ang;er against the «new gentlemen" of the cities, It recruited pn.marily among the poor whites of the highlands. They replaced th~If race hatred by class hatred with surprising ease. On the ~onomlc level, close collaboration was established between the Alliance of white farmers of the South and a similar organization of Negro farmers. which at its peak included over a million members, On the political level, the People's Party understood that it could not carve out .a place for itself at the expense of the Democratic ~arty unless It obtained the votes of the Negroes. It therefore energetically defended the. Negroes' right to vote. The poor whites 3;ppro~ed this attitude generally for they had discovered that the tricks invented by the Bourbon; to keep the Negroes from the voting. booths had also resulted in depriving many poor and illiterate Whites of the right to vote. In the election committees of the party. Negroes were admitted alongside whites. Election meetings were held at which Negro speakers agitated mixed audiences. N~groes were pr?posed as candidates of the party and elected to public office. In this way Negro magistrates. were elect~d in o~er 50 c0l!nt}es.of North Caroli!1a and had, in carrymg out their functions, to sit 10 .J~dgmen~ on white men and even white women. Negro inspectors VISItedwhite schools and gave orders to white teachers, etc. In the program of the party in Alabama for the elections of 1892, this passage could be found: "We favor the protection of the colored race in their legal rights and should afford them encouragement and aid in the attainment of 3: higher civ.ilization and citizenship, so that through the means of kindness, fair tr~atment. and just regard for them, a better understanding and more satisfactory condition may exist between the races." The fiery leader of the Populist Party in the South, one of the most original figures in American politics. Tom Watson, ~ept on repeating to the whites and blacks that they had common interests and a common enemy. "The accident of color," he declared. "can make no difference in the interests of farmers, croppers. and







of· the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both."

t~borets." And turning to. the oppressed of both races, he pointed his. finger at the real authors of race prejudice: "You are made to hate each Other because upon that hatred is rested the. keystone

prototype of these sinister mountebanks. Having returned to th~ cradle of the Democratic Party and later been elected Senator he 8s:oo'ured the votes of the 'smallW'hlte farmers of Georgia by a miiuu:'e ofpseudo-radicalism~ inherited from his Populist past, and racist fr~nzy. . At his death, he received-paradoxical as it may seemtribute from both the Ku Klux KJan and the socialist Eugene Debs. Shaped in the school of Tom Watson were such fanatics as "Cotton 'rom" Heflin in Alabama, Cole Blease and "Cotton Ed" Smith in South Carolina, James K. Vardaman and Theodore Bilbo in .~ssisSipPi._ Eug~ne. Talmadge in Georgia, Huey P. Long in ~o.Ulslalla, Jeff DaVIS rn Arkans'lls. They represented, Hesseltine writes, "the poorer classes of the Southern population and campaigned for the Democratic nomination against the politicians who represented the merchant-planters. the bankers and the industrialists." But. as Lillian Smith emphasizes, the conflict between these two groups was only a "false battle." . "These demagogues are supported by the same powerful group of rich men who have been feeding the rural white the drug of white supremacy in lieu of real food since the 1870's." To these class relations Was added a geographical factor. The ~eht~~ts 'most highly-and directly interestedin "keeping the Negroes In their place" wer~ the planters and capitalists in the regions where the Negro population Was densest: the famous Black Belt. This Black Be~t .cu~s ~ kind of circular. arc through the South, .sta~ting at the MISSISSlPPI delta and unfoldingalong the coastal plains In a northeasterly direction. It covers the most fertile lands of the South. those on which the slaveholding planters had from the beginning staked their claim. driving the poor whites into the hills. . It was estimated around 1940 that 45OQ,000 Negroes, -about a third of the total Negro population of the United States. lived in this area. In 172 counties of the Black Belt. according to the census of 1940. Negroes formed a majority of the population (63 percent on the average). The Black Belt is the backbone of the South; the alliance of its planters and city capitalists dominates the political life qf the entire region. It is the bastion of "white supremacy.'; However. this fundamental fact is concealed under deceptive appearances. The Bourbons of the Black Belt, knowing they are an object of suspicion and hatred to the poor whites of the mountain regions, prefer to have racist passions fanned to a white heat by intermediaries; They confide. this chore t? politicians who pose as spokesmen. for the poor whites of the hills. We therefore witness this paradox. which has derailed more than one political observer of the South:

s\1Pplied.) unus~ Ianguage .~as understood by many poor whites. And JIl, Georgia (yes. Georgia!) some 2,000 armed white farmers were seen riding on horses from a considerable distance in order to save .a young Negro pastor, who had campaigned for Watson. from being lynched. The night of the Dark Ages had suddenly given way to the day. "Never before or since," writes Woodward "have the two races in the South comeso close together." ' But the Populist cyclone was of short duration. Certain historians claim that the People's Party fell apart in the South because Its ?~? members turned renegade. out of fear of reviving the "black peril, and because hatred of the Negro finally won out over class hatred among the poor whites. This explanation seems biased to me. The .disintegration of the People's Party began at the top, when Its leaders let .the movement be captured by the Democratic Party. t~er~by robbing. it of its reason for existence and sowing demoralization among Its followers. In the South, the tout of the party was hastened. by the savage blows dealt if by the coalition of property owners. Terrified by the .renewal. of the alliance between the Negroes and poor whites, the Bourbons used every means (election fraud.; economic pressure, intimi~ation. terror) to put an end to Populism, An~ when they h~d dispatched Populism. the anti-Negro counter-revolution, momentarily halted, took on added vigor. No stone was le{t unturned to prevent the Negroes from voting and to separate them by an. even more impassable gulf than before from their. white br?th.ers in poverty. The iilstiS?-tors of this new wave of disenfrancaisement were the Bourbons and not the poor whites. Nevertheless, Populism left very deep tracks in the South. The class ~atred ?f the POO!. whites towar~ the coalition of planters and CIty capitalists, which expressed Itself so vigorously in the ephemeral People's Party. remained virulent. Even today it is only ~ecess~ to scratch the surface to find. a strong tradition of agrarian liberalism underneath the apparent "one-party" homogeneity.. The Bourbons had to resort to new methods in order to neutralize and ?iv~ this current, . On the one side, they pushed anti-Negro InCltement to the pomt of frenzy: on the other, they withdrew the represenfatiyes of rich families from the fibnr~ the stage and of presented the electo~atewith political personnel .of a new type, plebeian and extremist: the "demagogues of the South" began to speak a language borrowed from Populism and flatteredrhe class rancor of the poor whites, But at the same time they bellowed furiously against the Negroes. Tom Watson. in person. became the


the most violent anti-Negro demagogues have generally emerged from the regions where the poor whites are thedominant element, although basically hatred of the rich is more entrenched within the poor white than racial hatred, . In contrast. the upper classes of the Black Belt, whoare the real instigators ([nd beneficiaries of racism, adopt the


~ •. ""'1!10


142 appearance Of a more moderate attitude






the Negroes.

In no state does this strange. situation appear with such clarity as in Mississippi. The region known as the Delta (although it is well over 100 miles from the mouth of the great river) and which extends from Memphis to Vicksburg. is blessed with an extremely fertile soil On which cotton flourishes. By itself it produces onetenth of American cotton. It is completely monopolized by a feudal setup of planters. possessing plantations of 5,000 to 35.000 acres; and ruling over a Negro population which has been estimated as close to 80 percent of the total population. The hill-country of the state of Mississippi forms an astonishing contrast to this low country. We might say "another world .." The hills are peopled by poor whites, small farm-owners or tenant farmers. The soil there is poor and unproductive, living conditions are wretched. Few or no Negroes. Nevertheless. it is the votes of this hill-country which have brought to power the anti-Negro demagogues who have jnade Mississippi so lamentably famous. In contrast. the planters of the Delta have given evidence of rather "humanitarian" sentiments toward their exploited Negroes, insisting on the necessity of giving them a minimum education and technical training, and of improving their hygienic conditions. . This apparent contradiction however can readily be explained. The Bourbons of the Delta have entered upon a kind of division of labor. From the technical point Of view. they have an interest in raising the quality of their Negro labor force; from the political and social point of view, they have an interest, in a region where the Negroes form the majority of the population, in "keeping the Negroes in their place." They have therefore reserved a noble role for themselves: paternalistic solicitude toward colored workers. As for racism, they let the demagogues of the hill-country dirty their hands with that. In this way they have killed two birds with one stone: on the one hand, racial fanaticism helps to keep the Negro of Mississippi submissive: on the other, it furnishes the poor white with a useful counter-irritant, This subtle game was inaugurated by James K. Vardaman at the beginning of the century. He took from Populism its unost popular themes: diatribes against capitalist corporations! exaltation of the cause of the common man. "Millionaires produ~ paupers -the concentration of riches in the hands of the few breeds the poverty and squalor among the many," he said. At the same time. he bayed furiously against the Negroes, whom he labeled "savages" not warranting the waste of money to educate them. The political representatives of the Delta reproached him with dignity: "The Negro problem is beirig agitated for sinister motives, .. But Vardaman was, in fact, elected governor in 1902, with the support of the Delta, and kept the position only with its tacit consent.

Theodore Bilbo borrowed the methods of Vardaman and them. He. too, posed as a champion of the poor devils t-countrv, Be linked himself with President Franklin He supported progressive measures of the New Deal. supported federal government policies favoring the small tenant(which the planters of the Farm Bureau opposed). At the time, he pushed anti-Negro hysteria to a pitch which none of emulators reached. He wrote awful books in which he tried persuade the Americans that they were in danger of being transinto a bastard people. He proposed to send the Negroes to .Africa, . But, despite appean!.nces, and despite his routing "honorable" candidates nominated by the wealthy planter ~aIn1Jiles.he was never in serious conflict with the Delta. How could he have kept his senatorial seat if there had been such a contlict? Undoubtedly, the extreme vulgarity of his agitation made the planters assume shocked attitudes. But as V. O. Key Jr. observes, there was "fundamental agreement" between the Delta and Bilbo on the Negro question. At the end of his nrmultuous career, there was even an open "reconciliation" between the Bourbons and the Senator. In Georgia, practically the same scenario unfolded on the screen. Eugene Talmadge made his political Career there by courting the small white. farmers and by presenting himself as the champion of Ifie disinherited rural regions against the city capitalists. He also inscribed himself in the tradition of Populism. He took over the heritage of Tom Watson, still lively among the poor whites of this state. He thundered against the corporations. And he used tbe most outrageous anti-Negro demagogy. The powerful capitalist groups of Georgia, the bankers and power companies of Atlanta. eagerly supported this mountebank, even though he attacked them publicly. As Key writes. "Industrialists, bankers, corporation executives provided funds. Poor farmers provided votes." Thanks to this stratagem, the poor whites were tied to the chariot of the Bourbons. The comedy continued after Talmadge's death. his son Herman becoming Governor of Georgia by using the same tricks, In Louisiana. things went slightly differently. But the basic mechanism was the same. Huey P. Long's originality resided solely in the fact that in order to secure the support of the poor whites olms state, he had to push social demagogy somewhat farther than Vardaman, Bilbo and Talmadge, and anti-Negro hysteria somewhat less. Actually, the capitalist oligarchy of Louisiana (oil companies, shipowners. planters of sugar caneend cotton) had ruled with such harshness and such a lack of scruples, it had so completely monopolized the wealth of the state, it had let the majority of the population stagnate in such backward conditions. that the POOJ'fellow could be won over only by a radical program. Long did not limit himself to raising a hue and cry over the capitalist
,...... -!'.....'t"',-l




[ II

f!.1'Ai4 I"t'

7NEGR01iiS fiN


corporations, he established himself also by a certain number of concrete reforms. He built roads and bridges in the most disinherited regions. He distributed free school books. He compelled the great corporations to pay a share of the taxes. He threw all the representatives of the oligarchy out of office, and made himself master of an almost totalitarian political machine by means of corruption, venality and terrorism. At the same time, while he did not go in for an obstreperous racism, he rigidly maintained the principle of "white supremacy," just like the other demagogues of the South. And he secretly received large subsidies from the trusts which he was supposed to hurt so badly. In the final analysis, Huey Long saved the capitalist oligarchy of Louisiana by compelling it to throw out ballast and by militarizing it, Borrowing from fascism not only these techniques but the trick of the "man of destiny," he succeeded in reviving the enthusiasm of the poor whites, even more ferociously exploited than in the other Southern states, for a cause whose ultimate objective was to prolong the existence of their worst enemies. The fraud persists even today: the memory of Huey Long, assassinated in 1935,. is revered by the little people of Louisiana like that of a god. The Long family, thanks to the prestige of its name, was returned to power, the brother of the deceased dictator becoming Governor of Louisiana and his son a Senator.



This recollection of the past reads us to question the future. Will the poor white of the South always be the victim of the cynical swindle perpetrated upon him by the Bourbons? Will he never attain an independent expression of his class grievances? Is he really, as Andre Siegfried, Gunnar Myrdal, and so many other biased observers claim, the "worst enemy" of the Negro? Or, on the contrary, is he potentially a socialist and an ally of the Negro without .'knowing it? Let us stress, at the outset, that the poor white is not an absolutely static social factor. As the South becomes industrialized, he tends to become transformed from the small farmer and tenant farmer to the wage worker. Or he abandons the barren region in which he was born to try his luck as a worker in the North. The destiny of the . poor white, consequently, tends to blend with that of the whole working class movement. And his attitude toward the possessors, 'like his attitude toward the Negro, is increasingly determined by the political and racial orientation of the labor movement. I consider it preferable, for the sake of clarity, to treat in a separate chapter the question of relations between white and Negro workers, between the trade unions and the movement for the racial emancipation of the Negroes. At present. I am considering only the future of the non-proletarianized poor white, the rural poor white,


145 even today continues to make up the majority of the white ~1J'U!ijLLJ'LUU in the South. Wil~ his hatred of the Negro always prevail over his hatred the n~h? It seems that passions resting on irrational elements. emotions, ~re. less solid and less lasting than those based on econom;tc interests. The first are subject to sharp turns, we ,saw dunng the memorable experience of Populism. Actually, IS today no longer a conflict of economic interests between the Negro and rural poor white. The factors which roused the whites agai~st the Negroes in the time. of slavery, which r:V<"''''~'f1 the alliance of the two races from being completed in of Reconstruction, no longer exist in our day. Small farmers farmers, be they white or Negro, are equally poor, equally _~'VH"U.. It IS re~arkable to see how well they get along when like t~e National Farmers Union or the National Agricultural lTr"-Ir",,",, Union organize them together in certain regions of the I personally saw,. at Andalusia, A~3;., small white and Negro toge~her unloading ~ars o~ fertI~lzer purchased by their . III order to aVOId paymg tribute to the monopolies. their faces could be read only the quiet pride which their and their solidarity inspired in them. Professor John . 's collaborator, Leonard W. Doob, has made similar observa"The fact," he writes, "that outsiders have been able to weld . and colored sharecroppers and tenant farmers into unions .1C!~,,,,h"'r'" in the South merely demonstrates, . , that, with proper the class allegiance can be made stronger than the caste
lG.llt;J!.!WlI;t:: I.


the course of. his patient inquiry in a Southern city, this gathered considerable testimony tending to prove that race toward the Negroes was not as solid among the poor whites "VJUUlLVIlIY supposed. "Since poor whites," he writes "due to inferior .po~ition in society,. cannot exploit the N~gro caste along ec?OOmIClines, they. have little of a material nature to gain from thel~ ow.n ca¥te supenonty. T~e prestig~ gain from Negroes, although It ~Xlsts, IS ~ot very great, SInce the hie of a poor white is clfcul!lscnbed by his at.te~pt to keep alive ... on the one hand, whl~es are taught by their culture that the Negro caste is inferior them m every respect; and, on the other. they must see that their economic and social status is not one bit superior and that they be, therefore. lords in beggars' clothes. They try to .com<penSlltefor this state of affairs by retaining their social distance in . of Negroes and by perpetuating, whenever possible, the southern Idea of whl~e supremacy. The result of this policy, however, is not very satisfactory to them; and hence, on the whole. they have become more tolerant toward Negroes." Professor Dollard himself (eports that a number of informants, sounding out opinions in a







Southern city, believe that lower-class whites sympathize with tbe Negroes. An inquiry made by Fortune magazine in 1939 came to similar conclusions. It helped to establish that people of low income had far less race prejudice than those of high income. Among the opponents of segregation, the poor were 50 percent more numerous than the rich. Of course this inquiry covered the entir:e United States and not the South alone. Nevertheless, the indications it supplied warrant our recording them. The journalist, George S. Schuyler, who. professionally, was led to study closely the manifestations of race prejudice, declared that in this matter a minority sets the fashion in ideas for the masses, that the racial laws were made by a minority and not by the majority, that "Negrophobia is the philosophy of the ruling class," and that "there is much evidence that the color prejudice of the masses is not too deeply rooted," There has always been, according to him, a natural trend toward fraternization between the common folk. regardless of skin color, and as proof of this he points to the strenuous efforts which have had to be used throughout American history in order to prevent this fraternization. W. J. Cash, a son of the South, who has written a penetrating essay on the attitudes of his native region, declares that, "Contrary to widespread popular belief, which the South itself has fostered, the persistence of lynching in the region down to the present has not been due simply and wholly to the 'white-trash' classes. Rather. the major share of the responsibility . . . rests squarely on the shoulders of the master classes." Another observer of the South. V. O. Key Jr., denies that there is any truth in the legend that the poor white is at the bottom of all the troubles of the Negro. In reality, it is the rich whites of the Black Belt who are interested, in the most pressing and imperious fashion, in the maintenance of racial segregation and discrimination. It is, on the contrary, he writes, "the poorer whites who support candidates favoring governmental policies for the reduction of racial discriminations and for the alleviation of racial tensions." While the color prejudice on the part of the poor whites. according to these various observers. is not so entrenched as many imagine, on the other hand a repressed class hatred is solidly rooted in the depths of their consciousness and could store up some surprises for the future. In the same degree that their hostility toward the Negroes tends to become weaker, their anger toward the ruling class, being no longer contained by the counter-irritant of racial fanaticism, tends to explode.. Leonard W. Doob is recurrently insistent about the animosity which the poor white nourishes toward the planter class. According to him. the poor whites are ready to follow any leader knowing how to appeal to their emotions. "It may


violent strikes which took place in 1929 and 1934 in the industry of the South, during which the poor whites fought extraordinary fierceness, lead us to believe that the hypothesis sudden explosion of the poor whites on the level of the class ....t ... 'o,"l'" is truly not to be rejected. various factors are indeed delaying it. IIi the first place, and archaic mode of agricultural production in the which serves as an obstacle to the awakening of class can(However, the rapid development of mechanization is toward the disintegration of the sharecropping system.) Then. with which the organizations of poor farmers, shareagricultural laborers are penetrating the rural regions The obstacle cannot be surmounted until these L11~,"U.II'<'<LIC1V'''' will have a consistent program. more significant methods and will have at their disposal the support of a working movement which is stronger and more enlightened about its But the poor whites will achieve class consciousness only subjected to the revolutionary action of industrialization and '''UVll, they will cross over, in greater number, from the rural the industrial sector. The line of demarcation of economic will be clearly traced only when it will be the one employers and wage. workers. Solidarity between whites and Negroes, the perspective which frightens the masters o~ the •.. South. will flower fully only in the trade unions. The problem of the poor whites and of their relations with the Negroes thus converges witlI that of the labor movement, which I will now take up ..
""'l.U'-.lv,",UCl.l ~'I<"'lUll"5


" he writes, "that the latent aggression [of the poor white] will tapped and made to result in violent attacks upon the planter Anyone must acknowledge this possibility." (Emphasis


.... u, .... ,..


I 49


Negroes and the Labor Movement
I co~e now. to the long and tragic misunderstanding 'which has been setting white wage-workers against Negro wage-workers for ~s long as. men have been selling their labor power to other men I~ the. United ~tates: The story takes place chiefly in the North, since I~ was mam1r ill the North, at the time of its great industrial expansion, that white labor met the competition of tree colored labor. Bu~ a smaller part of the story unfolds in the South, where also white workers found themselves in similar competition with a small number Of free ~egro skilled and semi-skilled workers. The present survey was a difficult one because the sources to whom I had to go were almost always in disagreement: the trade union .spokesmen ,an~ the spokesmen of the Negro race, anxious in each case to defend their o\"n. groups, offered versions of the story which seemed to me equally biased. . ~'~~r1y in the 19th century free N~groes began pouring into the big cities such as New York. and Philadelphia, prepared to accept 10,,": wagesand competing for Jobs which the lower layer of unskilled white workers also wanted. The result was race war. Clashes spread and gre~ 10 number. In Cincinnati in 1829 a mob of whites wo.unded 3?d killed a number of free Negroes and fugitive slaves. In , Philad.elphm, a senes of race. conflicts occurred from 1828 on. The clash III 1834 took .on the dimensions of a pitched battle and lasted three d~ys: other nots occurred there in 1835, 1838 and 1842. , 'Y~lte workers tried in every possible way to curtail or prevent th~ hm~f of Negroes. "Before the Civil War," Magdeleine Paz ~ntes, , ~ort~ and South were in agreement on blocking any ,:olored .inVaSIOn of the trades. Whether by open opposition or hidden tricks, whether consciously or unconsciously, the whites bent every effo!t to close off all avenues for Negro expansion." Furthermore, white wo,rkers showed little inclination to support abolition of slavery, fearing that this would increase the number of Negro wage-workers. The attitude of the Abolitionists was hardly conducive to

'.... 'ho,o.

their suspicions. The Abolitionists had little sympathy for and condemned the growing class struggle between and labor. In the first issue of his newspaper, The Liberator, 1831, William Lloyd Garrison, using the occasion of a meeting in Boston, denounced the labor movement as an gmu£~;u conspiracy to "inflame the minds of our working classes' the more opulent." The unions, he declared, were "in the degree criminal." The workers resented the Abolitionists who could expresst'pity the southern slave, but would crush with an iron hand the white of the north." In their eyes, their own emancipation seemed important than that of the Negro slaves, and they feared that campaign centered solely around the abolition of slavery would attention from their own cause. "They declared," observes M~lgdeleine Paz, "that wage labor and slavery were intimately related, they were twin aspects of the same cause . .. The primary of slavery, they insisted, lay in the condition of industry itself; was this which first of al! had to be changed." " Thus the movements for racial emancipation and social emanci-: pation, which should have united, took different roads at their outset: "The abolitionist," DuBois writes, "did not sense the new subordination into which the worker was being forced by organized capital, the laborers did not realize that the exclusion of four million workers from the labor program was a fatal omission. " Yet, as DuBois also observes, union of the two movements would have made them "irresistible." They "exhibited fundamental divergence instead of becoming one great party of free labor and free land."

Of all the white workers in the North, the most disinherited were the Irish immigrants. Their lot was hardly less tragic than that of the Negroes. They had come to the shores of America to escape an oppression almost as harsh as that inflicted on the black slaves; and in the big cities of the North where they had to sell their labor power, they lived under conditions hardly any better than the Negroes in the South. Like the latter, they were at the very bottom of the social ladder and had to take the worst and poorest-paid' jobs. Instead of uniting, these two groups of the disinherited entered into fiercest competition and bloody battle. In 1863,' in the midst of the Civil War, a working-class insurrection broke out in New York. The White workers. Irish in their majority, were masters of the city' for several days, The violence of the uprising and the savagery with which it was suppressed offer analogies with the Paris Commune. In some of its "aspects we can discern its c1ass struggle character. The workers were tired of a war 1he financial burden of which fell on them; they deeply










resented the discriminatory conscription law which forced them to fight. lind qie for the rich. But unfortunately this social struggle was 'converted into a racial pogrom. The big mercantile interests in New York (which were losing money because of the war against the South) rushed 'to divert the just indignation of the workers away from the capitalists and toward their colored brothers. And so the embittered Irish workers blamed the Negroes for being the cause of the war, and giving vent to an old resentment against their competitors on the labor market, they killed all the Negroes they could lay their hands on. When Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Irish organizations in New York refused to march with Negroes. and the city council refused to allow Negroes in the funeral procession. As was pointed out in a statement of the International Workingmen's Association in 1869, written by Karl Marx. the Civil War had as an immediate result "a deterioration of tbe condition of American workingmen." While Big Business had reaped fabulous profits from the war, inflation had increased tbe suffering of the workers. Nevertheless. Marx continued, the war had "offered a compensation in the '.liberation of the slaves and the impulse which it thereby gave" to the working class struggle. * Unfortunately the labor movement scarcely heard these words cried in the wilderness, Witb few exceptions, the revolutionary content and significance of Reconstruction went unnoticed by the workers. The misunderstanding which previously had caused the early Abolitionists and trade unionists to turn their backs on each other, continued to prevail, The white workers of the North did not comprehend that the democracy established in the South under the vigorous leadership of the radical wing of the Republican Party represented a tremendous step ahead. They were busy fighting the new industrial oligarchy that was supporting Reconstruction as a way of curbing the Southern planters.r- The white Radical Republicans, for their part, men such as Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, showed little interest in or sympathy for labor. As for the Negro leaders in the Republican Party, they did not understand how greatly the new political regime in the South was dependent on the Northern capitalist oligarchy; and. dazed by the political liberation of their race, they could not
·In this remarkable Address, both the separate and common interests of the workers' movement and the movement for Negro emancipation were accurately evaluated. But Marx's position was not always so correct. In November 1864, he got the International to approve an exuberant letter to Lincoln, congratulating him on his re-election and addressing him (incorrectly) as a "son of the working class." "The workingmen. of Europe," he wrote, "felt instinctivew that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class," In picturing Lincoln as a champion of the working class because he had emancipated the slaves, Karl Marx. lost sight of the class character (bourgeois and capitalift) of the Northern regime, The Communist Club of New York protested against the letter,

the ·terrible danger that was being suspended over themselves, well as the whole country. by the whirlwind growth of .capita~lsm. were to pay dearly for this error. the day when BIg Business ..tr"'v~'ri them and turned them over to the mercies of the Southern The' labor movement, thinking this was the way to fight the oligarchy, tied its own hands in the Democratic Pa~y, party Southern counter-revolution. The Negroes, thinking this was the to fight the. Southern counter-revolution, tied their .hands in the blican Party, party of victorious Big Business. Neither .o! them the magnificent opportunity that lay open after the Civil War a great party of labor, a vast marshaling of the democratic progressive forces, which could have brought together the -"' ........'"" of political emancipation for the Negroes, the trc;tde ". the small landholders of the West and the poor whites the South. This historical failure, a result of the particular st~te development of the social forces in the United States, has carried to the present day. It is in large measure the reason why BIg Jusine:ss is still in the saddle today. After the Civil War, the labor movement headed toward national . and a new federation, the National Labour Union, was It had radical and internationalist tendencies, It established lelaltlOI1S with the International Workingmen's Association. It led for the eight-hour day. Its leading spirit, William, H. a relatively progressive position on the race quest,lon, T",,,'nr,,," unity of the white and Negro workers. He was conscious necessity of winning the Negroes over to the cause of la~?r, we can succeed," he stated during a tour m the South. ill these people that it is in their. inter.est to make common us . . . We will have a power ill this part of the country shake Wall Street out of its boots." But be h~d no progrru;n the Negroes which could have. met their democratic ~.",,;,.,.t;I"n His position on Reconstruction yvas timorous c;tnd He was openly hostile to the p?licies of the Radical .........IJ ... , the revolutionary content of which cOl?plet~ly esc<l:ped And he showered abuse on the Congress which With an iron was imposing this great social transformation on the recalcitrant
......... I a.l1i3 ..
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Like Sylvis, the 1867, co~gress of the National Labor Union understood that only organization of the. Negroes in the trade unions could prevent the employers. fro~, usmg them as strike~reakers, "Shall we make them our friends, the congress asked, or shall capital be allowed to turn them as an engine, against us?" .B~~ the attitude ~of the white workers to'Yard their ,c~lored brothers remained hostile, and the burning question of admission of Negroes into the existing unions was postponed from congress to congress.





At the 1869 congress. however. Negro delegates participated for the first time. and steps were taken toward organization of Negro workers. But at the end of the same year the Negroes. tired of waiting, met in their own National Colored Labor Convention, as a sign of protest against the continuing discrimination agaillst them in the white unions. The new organization, however, considered itself affiliated to the National Labor Union. At the 1870 congress, the drawing together of workers of ' both colors. which had barely started. received a sharp setback. The federation made a step forward when, breaking from its subservience to the Democratic Party. it voted to form a labor party; but it did this on a program of labor reforms which did not take cognizance of the special demands of the Negroes. such as protection of their civil rights and an end to all discrimination in employment and wages. The Negro workers, for their part. made the mistake of not seizing this opportunity to join with white workers in independent political action, They clung to the Republican Party, which had' brought them emancipation. The 1870 congress of the National Labor Union refused to admit a Negro Reconstruction leader, not because he was a Negro, but partly because he was a Republican officeholder. A Negro speaker. also Republican. vigorously opposed the establishment of a third party and called on the congress to affiliate with the Republican Party-which was the same as asking the workers to join the party of the bosses. The Negro union federation, the National Colored Labor Union. having failed to accomplish anything, broke with the National Labor Union and became a Negro appendage of the Republican Party. which could only result in its disintegration. Due to the mistakes of both federations, the break between the labor movement and the movement for Negro emancipation became complete.


And now the dark years, when victorious Big Business establishes its absolute domination. In the South, the Negroes are betrayed by the. Republican Party and the counter- revolution brushes their conquests into the dust-heap. In the North. large- scale industry erects its strongholds. throwing in load after load of immigrants. unskilled and unorganized; it feeds and plays upon their national characteristics, isolating one nationality from another and setting them against each other; and to crush any lingering ideas of revolt, it imports from the South car-loads of Negroes who are prepared to accept lower wages than the whites and to act as strikebreakers. The .gulf that the slaveholders had created between the two races served admirably the interests of the new employers. On the one hand, discnnunauon in employment led the Negro worker to accept eagerly any sort of job that gave him a foothold in industry.



even if at the expense of white workers; on the other hand, race prejudice blocked the growth of class solidarity between workers of both colors. Over many years Negro workers got used to the idea that the only way they could break: through the gates of industry=closed to them by the employers and the white workers alike=-was to serve as scabs. Strikebreaking offered their only chance of smashing through the barriers of job discrimination. And where an employer was prepared to give them permanent employment, as in the case. of Pullman, they felt more warmly toward management, to whom they owed their job, than to the trade unions which were trying to keep them from getting it. When Eugene Debs' American Railway Union was drawn into the Pullman strike in 1894, the Negro workers, instead of solidarizing with the strikers, turned scab. They could not forgive the otherwise progressive organization for the anti-Negro clause in its constitution. Debs later recognized that his union's policy of discrimination was one of the factors in its defeat. Not an the trade unions, however, were hostile to Negro workers. The Knights of Labor believed in the unity of the great human family. They welcomed all workers into their organization. skilled and unskilled. of aU nationalities. races and creeds. At their Richmond convention a colored delegation introduced the grand master of the order, Terence V. Powderly. Negro workers flocked to join, and at their high point in 1886 the Knights claimed 60:000 Negro members. But this bold attempt to organize the unskilled workers in large-scale industry failed. and the order began to disintegrate, yielding place to the craft and business unionism of Samuel Gompers. The AFL deliberately refrained from organizing the sectors of production where Negroes had succeeded in penetrating, and jealously closed the doors of its unions of skilled workers against the unskilled, whether white or Negro. For several decades the relationship between the labor movement and the Negro workers moved in a vicious circle: the discrimination practiced by white workers drove Negroes to serve as strikebreakers, and this role of the Negroes as scabs was then immediately utilized by the craft unions as justification for their ban against Negroes. But on occasions when trade unionists made an attempt to break out of this vicious circle and to win the confidence of Negro workers. their efforts were not always unrewarded. During a steel strike in 1901, for example. the company brought in 300 Negroes from Alabama to its plant near Chicago; four representatives from the AFL council in Chicago contacted the Negroes and explained the real issues at stake in the strike-with the result that the newcomers refused to act as scabs and their employer had to send them home. Similarly, in 1919 at Bogalusa. La .• employers in the lumber industry served to bring white and Negro workers closer




155 .aI1iated to the AFL or the Railway Brotherhoods, which flatly refused to admit them. either by constitutional provision or tacit understanding, Since then some of these unions have been compelled to change their practices or to change the form of their discrimination. Outright exclusion is no longer the predominant form of discrimination against Negroes, even in the craft unions; in many cases it has been replaced by a policy of admitting Negroes to membership, but only in auxiliary and segregated locals. The Railway Brotherhoods are among too worst offenders. Per~laps the worst of aU is the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen. no doubt because there were more Negroes among the firemen than in the other railway crafts. In 1909 the union started .a bitter strike against tse Georgia Railroad to have Negro firemen replaced by whites. An order by the Secretary of War in June 1918 removing the wage differential for Negroes caused the railway magnates to lose interest in hiring Negroes . . (puring ~h~ great depression D?-anywhite railroad workers were laid off; semonty clauses worked ill favor of the Negroes Who had been hired before the first world war. and the more recently hired whites were either downgraded or laid off. Acute racial tension resulted on the lines. Ten Negro trainmen and firemen were killed and 21 wounded in the Mississippi valley area between 1931 and 1934 by white fellow-workers. The number of Negro firemen fell from the 1920 figure of 6.505 to 2.263 in 1940. The Brotherhoods exerted effective pressure to keep Negro firemen from being hired on the main railroads after 1928. In 1940. 99.4 percent of the enginemen and 94.8 percent of the firemen were whites. Continuation of this policy would have led to the complete elimination of Negro firemen. In 1941 an agreement between the Brotherhoods and the' railroad companies stipulated that no Negro firemen were to be promoted to enginemen. In 1943 the FEPC formally ordered the railroads and the Brotherhoods to end all discrimination-but railroads and Brotherhoods alike refused to obey. In 1944 the Supreme Court ruled their discrimination illegal. This time both employers and Brotherhoods played deaf. In 1948 the Supreme Court reaffirmed its ruling. But except in New York and a few other areas where some progress has been registered as a result of court action and state intervention, Negroes are still victims of Jim Crow discrimination by the principal Brotherhoods. Yet under the Railway Labor Act of 1928 these unions had won the right, in negotiations with the employers, to represent all the workers in their crafts, whether white or Negro:] IThe International Association of Machinists had a ritual provision limitmg union membership to white persons. During the war when men were so urgently needed. the union stubbornly persisted in its discriminatory policy. In July 1941 the local union at Boeing

together when they had three white men shot in cold blood simply because they had had the courage to accompany and protect a Negro who was guilty of recruiting members for the mixed union among his colored brothers. One of these white men was president of the local AFL union. But these cases were exceptional, and the labor movement had to pay dearly for the arrogance and hostility of the craft unions toward Negro workers. At the end of the first world war, when the AFL, under' the pressure of the Chicago Federation of Labor, decided (or resigned itself) to try to organize the unskilled masses in the large-scale industries, it stumbled against the obstacle of Negro labor. The organizing campaign that was begun in the Chicago stockyards in 1917 had little success among the Negro workers, though they represented over 20 percent of the labor force in the industry. A well-known local Negro was hired by the employers to organize an all-Negro company union. This was supported by the Negro petty bourgeoisie and its various organs (press: church. liberal professions). The AFL organizers made the mistake of putting Negro union members in separate locals. In spite of all this. they did succeed in recruiting some Negroes-but the racial explosion in Chicago in June 1919 abruptly halted these attempts to organize Negro labor. Unionizing the steel industry encountered the same difficulties. During the great steel strike of 1919, the employers brought in to the various mills from 30,000 to 40.000 Negro strikebreakers from the South. As class war developed between the workers and the employers, a race war set Negro workers against white workers on the picket lines. The organizing committee showed little understanding of the special problems of ~ec;:ruiting~egro worke~s. It took for granted that Negroes would JOIn the UDIon ¥ong With the white workers. To have expected them to do so simply -beeause they were employed in the same industry showed that these organizers did not understand the ABC's of the Negro problem. * Race tension reached such a pitch that a conference had to be called between trade union officials and prominent Negro leaders. But the suspicions which the A.FL policy of discrimination had embedded in.the Negroes' consciousness proved stronger than these efforts at conciliation, The hostility of the Negroes contributed no small part to the defeat of the strike. There are still many craft unions that discriminate against N· egroes.. In 1944 there were about 30 international unions.
*William Z. Foster who later became a Stalinist leader, was far more liberal than the other leaders, but he too had little understanding of the state of mind of the Negro workers. In his books about these strikes, he revealed a biased and unjust attitude toward them.










Aircraft in Seattle voted unanimously to allow Negroes to work in the plant-but union officials overrode the decision. The following year, however,. the union.won out, and Boeing was opened to Negroes, When I was III the ~fllted Sta~es <l:. fight was going on inside the lAM t9-..40 away with the racist ritual, It was finally successful in 1948:J In the construction unions. discrimination still flourishes. During my travels. in t~e South I found that Negro carpenters everywhere were organized ill separate locals from the whites. The white locals usually arrogate to themselves a monopoly in negotiations with employers and afterwards "notify" the Negro locals of the terms obtained. The same situation exists among the painters. Since the employers are interested in Negro labor only when it is offered at a discount. a colored carpenter or painter often finds it easier to get work if he does not belong to the union or will work at less than the union scale. In Mobile. the Negroes who courageously clung to their membership in the colored carpenters local were almost all out of work. A preposterous situation-which eventually turns against the white workers. The Seafarers- International Union. AFL. on the East Coast is an example of a union which opens its. books to Negroes but excludes them from the more important jobs-in this case. from the deck and engineroom, preferring to keep them confined to the stewards' department. . The American Federation of Labor reflects the prejudices of its affiliated unions and uses their "autonomy" as an excuse to clos~ ~ts eyes t<?their discriminatory practices. It even accepts the affiliatlO~ of umons whose statutes openly exclude Negroes. It was not until after ,1900. that .the. ~L resigned itself to organizing N~groes, But ill doing this It introduced segregation in its own nudst. Negroes were shunted off into separate locals, or, when the craft u.lllons were opposed even to this expedient. Negro locals were constituted as federal unions, not attached to any of the craft unions but placed directly under the.jurisdiction of the AFL Executive Council. In these auxiliary and minor organizations. however, Ne~oes. have all the obligation~ .of a unionist, but virtually none of hIS rights, They do not participate ill working out union policy and have no voice in deciding their own 'affairs. Furthermore, when ,,:hite loc~s refused to have their delegates to a. central labor body SIt alongside delegates from a Negro local. the Federation. even chartered separate central labor organizations for Negroes. This practice was still common in some cities in the South when I was there. For example. a meeting of the AFL central labor union which I attended in Miami did not have a single Negro delegate present-in spite of the fact that there were important




Negro locals in the city, particularly among the longshoremen and laundry workers. On one occasion a Negro delegate from the longshoremen, 01:1 instructions from his national union, came bravely to a central labor union meeting. He was turned away. . Organizations defending the Negroes tried in vain for a long lime to get the AFL to adopt a more liberal attitude. In 1918 and again in 1920, the Urban League demanded of Gompers that Negro workers be taken into the unions on a basis of equality. In 1924 the NAACP sent an open letter to the AFL convention. "For many years." it wrote, "the American Negro has been demanding ,admittance to the ranks of union labor. . . Negro labor in the main is outside the ranks of organized labor . . . White union labor does not want black labor .", . If there is built up -in America a great black bloc of non-union laborers .who have a right to hate unions, all laborers, black and white. eventually must suffer . .. Is it not time, then, that black and white labor got -together?" And the NAACP proposed to the AFL the formation of an interracial workers' committee to promote systematic propaganda in the unions against racial discrimination. The same move was -made again in 1929. But the AFL did not even bother to reply. ~eginningin 1934, the struggle against trade union discrimination 'was conducted within the AFL itself by A. Philip Randolph. fiery president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. an all-Negro union. Ignoring criticisms from the Negro intellectuals. Randolph understood that his union had to attach itself to the organized labor movement, despite the anti-Negro prejudices existing within it. AFL president William Green, for his part,· was eager to accept the Brotherhood's request for affiliation because he hoped that its presence within the AFL would enable him to gloss over the discriminatory practices of the craft unions and not have to meet them head on. For the jobs held by members of Randolph's union were not being competed for by white workers. But, year after year, at every convention" of the AFL, Randolph's voice was a cry in the. wilderness; amid general indifference he was listened to with derisive smiles and sometimes open hostility from the white delegates. His proposals were always indefinitely shelved") At the 1934 convention, for example, Randolph demanded the appointment of a five-man committee to investigate discriminatory practices in the craft unions. After heated debate a compromise was reached. The committee was given the vague authorization to "investigate the conditions of the colored workers of the country and report to the next convention." At the 1935 convention the highpriests of the AFL .manenvered to juggle and emasculate the committee's report. William Green, put oft the spot, again invoked the sacrosanct "autonomy" of the affiliated unions.. .' At the 1940 convention, Randolph once more took the offensive. . .








Basing himself on a mass of incontrovertible evidence, he insisted that an interracial committee be set up with the objective of abolishing every form of trade union discrimination. But again in vain. A new fight took place at the 1942 convention when the president of the Sleeping Car Porters attacked both colonialism and racial discrimination. The ultra-reactionary Daniel J. Tobin, president of the Teamsters and one of the AFL vice-presidents, answered him: "Sooner or later, this kind of stuff will have to be stopped." At the 1944 convention Charles J. MacGowan, president of the Boilermakers and Shipbuilders, attacked Randolph, who had again brought up his charges of discrimination, in these words: "Some of us are getting a bit tired of being kicked .around by professional agitators." But Randolph, undiscouraged, continued to call on his fellow Negroes to join the labor movement, even those unions where race prejudice prevailed, and to fight discrimination from inside the AFL. The effects of his activities were not completely negative, though curiously contradictory. At the November 1944 convention, for example. the AFL adopted a resolution condemning race prejudice and demanding the establishment of a permanent FEPC. Yet shortly afterwards an AFL representative appeared before a Senate committee to speak against a permanent FEPC. At the November 1948 convention the AFL came out for a federal FEPC and an "effective" civil rights program. Yet shortly afterward. at an annual Department of Labor conference on labor legislation. the AFL representatives opposed a resolution endorsing President Truman's civil rights program.* The United Mine. Workers was one of the exceptional AH., unions which from its inception took a liberal attitude toward Negro workers. The Knights of Labor. from which it emerged and with whose impress it was stamped. had taught it human solidarity aD9 brotherhood. Moreover, the miners union was established on an industrial basis and was never tainted by craft union exclusiveness. Its statutes declare that it proposes "to unite in one organization. regardless of creed, color or nationality, all workmen ... employed in and around coal mines." Other clauses guarantee equality of treatment to Negro and white miners. Whites and Negroes are organized in the same locals. The union uses Negro organizers to facilitate the recruiting of colored miners. In many locals Negroes hold the posts of president Or secretary. When I was in the United
*It should be pointed out, however, that the 1951 convention of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL, gave notice 44 segregated locals (mostly in the South) that their discrimination against Negroes violated the union's constitution, and directed them to work for the elimination of aU

States there were at least 50,000 Negroes in the UMW. The Negro community has noted the attitude of the miners union and has always felt sympathetic toward it. When Mother Jones could not get a hall to hold a meeting for striking miners, she was offered the use of a colored church. In Alabama, one of the vassal states of the Southern counterrevolution, the union encountered some difficulty in securing a foothold. During the 1908 strike an employer-inspired "citizens committee" advised the union that "the people of Alabama would never tolerate the organization and striking of Negroes along with white men." The fact that 76 percent of the strikers in 1920-21 were Negroes brought the rage of the U,S. Steel underlings to the boiling point. But under the forceful and unstinting drive of William M:i:ch, the union did finally succeed in establishing itself in this nbappy region, It took the bull by the horns. When, for instance. the Ku Klux Klan was being used to attack the union, the white miners simply joined the Klan, took control and thus rendered it impotent. When I visited Birmingham in 1948. 45 percent of the union members in the district were Negroes. In recent years, however, mechanization of the mines has tended to displace Negro labor, and the union has not given this problem of technological unemployment the attention it deserves.




racial banien.

The example of the United Mine Workers in organizing Negro workers was the inspiration for the CIO, whose leadership at the beginning came largely from the UMW. From the outset the CIO adopted a race policy which was the opposite of that of the AFL craft unions. It opened its doors to Negroes, with no concern for the "accident of color." It won the same wages for Negroes as for whites. It brought them into the leadership in its unions, at every level. It was even able-particularly in the North, to eliminate social segregation among its white and colored members, to some degree even at social and sports affairs and dances. Furthermore, it carried on active propaganda, oral and in writing. against race prejudice, not only among its members but outside its ranks as well. It campaigned intensively, for example, for a civil rights program for the Negroes. In a pamphlet on the Negro workers. the CIO explains that when it was formed it had to "banish racial discrimination, just as it had to banish craft discrimination." "The modern labor movement," it adds, "could no more exclude workers because of the color of their skin than they could exclude them because of differences in their occupations." As Howe and Widick write, "The very nature of industrial unionism made impossible the racial divisions prevalent in the AFL . . . The new industrial unions could not have consolidated their power without winning some support from Negro workers."










When the Steel Workers Organizing Committee started its membership campaign in 1936, it received active support from the National Negro Congress. which did much to counteract the traditional hostility of the leaders of the Negro community toward the labor movement. The Negro workers, though at first somewhat suspicious, linked arms with the white workers .. During the Little Steel strike in 1937, Negroes fought alongside whites on the picket lines. Among the ten strikers at Republic Steel who were shot and killed by the guns of the cops. one was a Negro. As Drake and Cayton write, "The Republic Steel strike demonstrated that in a time of crisis white workers would not only struggle side by side with Negroes, but would also follow them leaders and honor them as martyrs . .. The incident strengthened the position of Negroes in unions, as well as the hold of unions over colored workers. The strike had shown that some Negroes, acting on the basis of their class alignments, would subordinate racial loyalty even to the point of criticizing and fighting Negro strikebreakers." The union attitude of tbe Negro workers proved to the white workers that the Negro was no longer the traditional strikebreaker whom the whites had had to face in the past.


South Gate, Calif. In this Iarge General Motors plant, the set conditions for hiring Negroes which it did not apply and even then would not hire Negroes who met the Vigorous intervention by the VA W'S international forced the personnel office to give equal treatment to 11\J".ar''_~. and whites, At Hudson in Detroit, the entire plant walked in November 1.948 in protest against the unjust disciplining of Negro woman worker. The UAW also takes action in other areas than production. example, when Negro delegates to the t 940 VA W convention SL Louis met discrimination in the hotels and restaurants of the the union voted to hold future conventions only in cities where delegates would be treated the sante aswhites, And the auto oman played a large part in restricting and quieting the terrible racial outbreak in Detroit in 1943.

,,,,"·h".,"~ on the part of the employer was the. action of Local 216

example of effectiveinterveiltioo

against discriminatory



The United Auto Workers is today in the vanguard of. the struggle against discrimination and race prejudice. As its president, Walter P. Reuther, stated in a propaganda. pamphlet, "the history of union development in America proves that whenever and wherever discrimination was practiced. it was a tragic mistake." "In the UAW." Howe and Widick write. "many Negroes have learned ... that the whole white world is not a conspiracy against them. but that there are unionists ready to risk their careers to help them." In March 1946 the VAW set up a special national department for fighting discrimination. with the task of implementing the union's policies on race questions by intervening both with employers and with the union members. Every local Was required to set up its local committee, with the same duties. The department was placed under the. direct supervision of the union president. assisted by a Negro co-director. The UA W. as we shall see. has not hesitated to penalize members indulging in discriminatory practices. But the union believes. correctly. that sanctions are not enough and that discrimination can be ended only if the race prejudice which engenders it is dissipated by education. With this end in view. the anti-discrimination department publishes numerous leaflets and pamphlets. lively, well-presented and of popular appeal to the workers. The "economic roots of discrimination" are exposed in this literature-but without clearly involving the capitalist system, so that the scope of the propaganda is quite limited.

But none of this was achieved quickly or easily. Over a long the VA W had to carryon a fight against race prejudice among members as well as against the Negroes' deeply rooted distrust of white unionists. During the 1936-37 sitdown strikes many Negro workers took a wait-and-see attitude (though oat all, for in the March 1937 sitdown at Chrysler a Negro was elected to the strike committee). Most of the colored workers simply stayed home until the strikes were over. They did not cooperate with the strikers, but neither did they scab. "It is not hard to understand why they took this attitude ... " write Howe and Widick. "The AFL. then still tbe dominant labor group. bad often been viciously discriminatory. and Negro workers had little reason-as yet=for suppo~ing. ~he VAW would be better .. .. To the Negro workers the union did not yet represent something new; it was merely a regrouping of white workers. whom they had good reason to suspect." In 1939 astrike at the Dodge plant in the Detroit area almost produced a racial expl~sion. . A Certain number of workers, mostly Negroes, crossed the picket line under police p~ot~tio~ to go back to work. . The union. ~a.d the go~ sense to restrain its pickets, and to place the responsibility for this back-to-work movement on the company. A race conflict was averted and the way prepared. for organizing the Negroes into the union. . The battle against Ford in 1941 presented particularly difficult racial obstacles. The great lord of River Rouge had always kept his plant doors open to Negroes, who before the strike. numbere~ about 11,000, or 12 percent of the total number of workers. This hiring policy-Myrd~l notwithstanding-was not inspired by "humaniA3









163 incidents such as I have reported, the top union officials have not always intervened as promptly Or energetically as they should. And sometimes they have thought it necessary to make deplorable concessions to the race prejudices of their members. >I< The unions took a great stride toward bringing the two races closer together when they made the bold decision in 1946 to '~i~~a~e" the South and get established there. The CIO ass~lmed the Imtlat~ve in this notable endeavor. But the AFL, catching the contagion Irom the CIO, got up from its paralytic couch and rolled up Its sleeves also. Both union organizations set out to carry the message of unionism to the serfs of the South. Not all features of t.ile campaign were positive, to be sure, and we will not be ~l?w to point out what seem to us negative aspects. But the PO~Ltlve fea.ture:; outweigh the negative. The CIO. even if i~ sometimes believed that it had to compromise with Southern reaction, nev_er~~eless gave the latter a real setback. And the semle AFL, even If us methods were sometimes out of date. inadequate or actually abhorrent, nevertheless in the final analysis did contribute to the cause of Negro emancipation and unity of the workers regardless of color. We have already discussed the reasons why t~e South, re~resenting a vast area and over one-fourth of the n~tlOnal RopulatlOn, has suffered from such historical backwardness III relation t? .the rest of the country. The South is still so backward that William Green of the AFL could compare it to China, India and MeXICO; and George Baldanzi, when he was a CIO textile union leader, could describe it as "a foreign colony," where the struggles were "reminiscent of the early troubles of the. col~ial ~oples." The South is still exploited as a colony by the Big Business interests of t~e Northeast, which have deliberately retarded .Southern industrial development. Its industrial enterprises, busllle~s and banking institutions are controlled by Wan Street. Wages III the South are conspicuously below. the national ~verage. (in 1944 the average annual wage in seven major Southern industries was 78 perc_ent. of the national average). The same IS true of a~erage per capita income, which-in 1945 was 69 percent of the national figure, although the cost of living was nearly as high as in. t~e rest Of. the co_un!ry. Th~ South has the highest proportion of tlhteracr, highest incidence ot disease, highest death and infantile mortahty rates, and highest
=Union leaders have even, on oc,?asion, .capi~alized on racial ~ensions when trying to organize a plant. An lllus~rahon IS. what happened In 1941 at the Curtiss-Wright plant in Columbus, OhIO. A st~lke broke. out, reportedly because a Negro had been upgraded .. But the .~ruon organizers made use of the incident to start a fight for uruon recogmnon ~rom the management. Moreover some cro organizers made senou~ concessions to. Iace. prejudice during th~ Southern organizing drive started In 1946, as I Will point out 10 the following pages.

tarian" considerations. Employment of Negroes was intended to prevent tbe unions from getting a foothold in the plant. Moreover, Negroes were given the heaviest and dirtiest jobs, with about half the Negroes in the foundry department. And in addition they had to get tbeir jobs through the recommendation of Negro ministers and other reactionary leaders of the Negro community who were economically and financially dependent upon Ford in their business and spiritual activities. Negroes flocked to the churches and Sunday schools in the hope of being hired at Ford. In contrast, Negro unionists and pro-union college professors were denied the right to speak in Negro churches. When Ford realized that he could not seal off his plants much longer against the rising tide of unionism, a group of Negro clergymen in his hire issued a public eulogy of the AFL, urging its support and-with straight face-declaring that this organization "has acted in the best interests of the Negro." But a minority of independent and progressive Negro leaders, inspired by the NAACP, whose secretary Walter White went to Detroit for that purpose, campaigned for the CIO auto union. The strike was finally won, without serious racial collisions. Since then the Ford local at River Rouge, the famous Local 600, has occupied a high place among American trade unions for its record of harmonious race relations and of bringing Negroes into the leadership. During World War II, the influx of Negroes into war industries and the fact that they began to get better jobs than those they had been restricted to previously caused a series of racial clashes between 1941 and 1943. These were in large part stimulated, if not actually provoked, by the Ku Klux Klan which was active in Detroit because of the many workers who had migrated from the South, and b) the bosses themselves. On two occasions at Packard, in 1941 and 1943, white workers started strikes in protest against the hiring and upgrading of Negroes. How would the union act in the fact of this new kind of strike situation? The Packard local took a weak and equivocal positiori. But the international union leadership stated it~ anti-discrimination attitude vigorously, When a similar incident took place at Chrysler in February 1942, the union advised the manage ment that they should fire all workers who refused to go back to work. At a huge rally called by the VA W .and the NAACP in Detroit in April 1943, attended by thousands of Negroes and whites. Walter Reuther unequivocally declared that his union "would tell any worker that refused to work with a colored worker that he could leave the union because he did not belong there." This firm attitude (at least on the part of the top leadership) helped to abate race conflicts' in the automobile industry. But neither the CIO in general nor the VA W in particular have yet thoroughly solved the problem of interfacial relations on the job.







to the South rather than pay decent wages in the North. David J. McDonald of the Steelworkers put it this way: "As long as there is one non-union man living in America, that non-union man is a threat to the standards of all union men in America." . The Southern organizing campaign was bound, to run up against formidable obstacles. It would have to come into conflict with the thoroughly rotten social, economic and political system through the Southern ruling class maintained its domination over both workers and poor whites. If the characteristic features of the struggle were sometimes somewhat blurted in the North, they bound to be exposed nakedly in the South by the CIO's organizing drive. As soon as the plans became known, Southern industrialists and their fascist-minded agents raised a hue and cry a'gainst this "invasion" of the South by "communists," "reds," "earpetbaggers'tand "ni~er.-Iovers." If the labor m~ve?Ient c~mpromised With the enemy, if It too .be~am~ .mired m a,ntI-coxpmums!ll. if it made concessions to race prejudice, rt was bound to jeopardize organizing drive and endanger the chance of success at the outset. this elemental conflict between reaction and progress, it was for all the progressive forces to subordinate their differences unite around a common program. But unfortunately that is not how things worked out. As soon as the AFL learned of the CIO's plans, it immediately called a conference of AFL unions in the Soutb, with a great barrage of publicity, arid declared war on the membership oampaign of its riv~] federation. William Green himself went to the conference In Asheville. N.C .., and there accused the CIO of being a communist organization. "Workers of the South," he declared, ".: . ~re patriotic Affi:ricans.. They canno! feel. at .bome .m an organization which seems Incapable of cooperatmg with mdustry and spends most of its time in trying to destroy private industry. They have nothing in common with the foreign philosophies of the CIO." And he '~ave Southern industrialists this warning: "Grow and cooperate witli· us or fight for your life against communist forces." George Meany, then secretary-treasurer of the AFL, called the CIa "an organization 01 Communist fifth columnists" and the AFL organizational director, Frank Fenton, denounced the "invasion" of the South by cro "carpetbaggers with their repulsive program of trouble.and .turmoil." "The CIa" he declared, "ceases to be a labor organization at all and becon1es a subversive instrument of 11:e foreign policy Of: a nation other than our own." In an attempt to smear the CIO, the AFL cited a mass meeting that had been called a few days before by the New York CIO CouncU.:...controlled by the Stalinists=-where a committee to support the organization of the South had been up. .The CIO felt 1t had to answer this outrageous attack=by joimng III the chorus of

proportion ofaub-standard housing in all the United States. In 1938 President Roosevelt asked bis National Emergency Council to prepare a report on economic conditions in the South, The conclusions of their report were somber indeed: "Its people as a whole are the poorest in the. country . . . The population problems of the South . .. . are the most pressing of any [in] America . . . Industrial wages are the lowest in the United Stales. Illiteracy was higher in 1930 than in any otber region. " The South is a belt of sickness, misery and unnecessary death . .. The South bas been forced to borrow from outside financiers, who have reaped a rich harvest in the form of interest and dividends." Organizing the. Southern workers had for years been considered an almost impossible task. Their backward mentality, the almost complete domination that reactionary and paternalistic bosses. held over them, the divisions. among them due to their race prejudices, the acute distrust that Southerners have of any movement coming from the North-all these appeared as stone walls against the penetration of unionism into the South. W. J. Cash, a white writer of liberal tendencies" discussing in 1941 the Textile Workers Organizing Committee in the South, expressed his doubts of the union's chance of success. "The old impression," he wrote, "is still too. powerfully stamped upon the mind of most of the workers." And in 1934 W. R B. DuBois believed that "there can be no real labor. movement in the South; their laboring class is cut in two ... Labor can gain in the South no class consciousness.' But these overly pessimistic predictions have been refuted, at least in part, by the relatively successful union organizing campaigns in the SOuth.




It was in May 1946 that the CIO decided on the Southern organizing drive. A $1,000,000 fund was established. contributed to fiy the big industrial unions (steel, auto, textile, electrical and others). The United Steel Workers, which received all-important financtalassistance from the United Mine Workers when it was being organized in 1936-37, threw its powerful financial resources behind the Southern organizing drive, and made the largest, contribution to the fund. The participating unions were not motivated by. pure philanthropic considerations. but by reas(;ms. of self-interest. ,!,he capitalist corPorations which had to recognize the new unions III the North continued to maintain the open shop in their plants south of the Mason-Dixon line. It was imperative to put an end to this. It was necessary to prevent the Northern industrialists from being able to make use of the "unfair competition" of Southern low-wage areas as a reason for withholding pay increases in the North. It was 1tl!l0 necessary to put a halt to their threats to move their plants







Green's "anti-communism." The director of the CIa organizing campaign, Van A. Bittner-an old offender from the Mine Workers, later of the Steel Workers when John L. Lewis turned him over to Philip Murray-immediately called a press conference to disavow the New York meeting. In a speech which was later widely Circulated as a leaflet, he exclaimed: "God knows that Philip Murray ... and I have dedicated a great part of our lives to fighting' communism in the United States!" And in another harangue: "Let me make one thing clear. There is no place in the Southern campaign for a single, solitary Communist! This organization of ours is an American institution fighting for America." At the 1948 CIO convention, George Baldanzi of the Textile Workers, one of Bittner's lieutenants, proclaimed himself: "I say it is high time that we shed ourselves of Our own internal enemies, to make the job a little bit easier . .. All of the money that we raise, all the energies of the staff . . . that we have in the South will be wasted until we can . . . face the workers of America as a one hundred percent American organization." And the Rev. Charles Owen Rice of Pittsburgh publicly congratulated the CIa for having rigorously Isept the "reds" out of the Southern drive. Statements like these not only served to break up the united front of the progressive forces at a time when they should have been linking arms in struggle against the Southern counter-revolution. They constituted not only a reprehensible actien=-they were a lie and an injustice. For-and this is an incontestable fact, which I challenge anyone to deny-the unionists who were considered or accused of being pro-communist, despite their "congenital vices," if I may call them such, did take a very active part in organizing the workers in the South and played a vanguard role in the main industrial centers of the region. This I was able to verify personally throughout my travels there. I wish to pay tribute here to Robert Ne\X of the National Maritime Union, who was stabbed to death by an "anti-communist." In New Orleans a Teamsters local was under the progressive leadership of Ray Tillman, a Negro militant of the highest caliber. In Tampa they exerted a healthy influence over the AFL Cigar Makers, most of whose members are of Cuban birth. In Hattiesburg, Miss., one of the most revolting centers of reaction and race prejudice, Frieda Schwenkmeyer,a valiant grey-haired woman, braved all dangers to organize the workers in the men's clothing 'facteries. In the great industrial center of Birmingham, Charles Wilson organized the iron mine workers. And at Monteagle, Tenn.r'the union training school under the guidance of Myles. Horton carriedon a tireless job of educating Southern workers, whites and Negroes, and made traveling instructors available to the unions. J saw some of these teachers at work. and remember especially Bill Elkuss.' formerly a militant in Germany, and his co-worker Mary

Lawrance. I saw them teaching the first rudiments of unionism 10 a group of Negro shop stewards. I have never witnessed anything more impressive.




.. Des.pite. t~e qo's repeated denunciations of every form of metal discrimination, the. leaders of the Southern drive made concessions to color prejudice; and it is a fact that those who were called pro-communist were virtually the only ones in the South to attack, openly and without reservations, the problem of organizing . and educating Negro workers. The tactic of Van Bittner's team was to organize white workers [ast; hut the so-called pro-communists opened their arms to all the Negroes, even when the whites in the same plant still had a reluctant or even hostile attitude toward the" union movement In Winston-Salem, for instance, a very fine union, with Negroes in the majority. was organized in the Camel cigarette plant. Through their example and the living evidence of the union's effectiveness, the leaders aimed to attract toward the union the white workers who were still distrustful or, more precisely, who were intimidated by the employer. In contrast, take the situation at the huge Standard Oil refinery in Baton Rouge, where the Bittner machine was in charge. By April 1948 this plant, employing nearly 10,000 workers, Was still not even partly organized, because the organizing staff insisted on deferring the recruitment of the Negro workers (who were waiting to be asked to join the union), with the excuse that they first wanted to recruit the whites (who were 'still reluctant). In New Orleans, CIa regional director Fred C. Pieper told me that the Southern drive organizers bad to go first "to the white leaders of the workers"! The same kind of opportunism appeared in other aspects of the official CIa propaganda, Ed Stone, publicity director of the drive; congratulated the Southerners for their "heritage of independence and militancy," forgetting that this "independence" and "militancy" consisted. in the launching of a bloody civil war for the perpetuation of slavery. George Meany of the AFL recalled that the South had given the United States some of its greatest military leaders (whereas in fact it is precisely the Southern origin of a large number of top officers in the U.S. that gives it a pre-eminently reactionary character-much the same as with the former German Wehrmacht which was dominated by the Junker caste). The CIa undertook to defend Southern capitalists against Northern capitalists. "The CIa," one of their leaflets stated, " ... is backing Southern capital in its efforts to establish Southern owned and controlled industries." The CIa pictured itself as being against strikes. "The strike weapon should be used only to remedy extreme injustices," another







leaflet stated. For the AFL. George Meany extolled the "perfect" way the Southern workers observed the no-strike pledge during the war. When Horace White. a militant member of the CIO Textile Workers and a non-Stalinist, was given a heavy prison sentence because in legitimate sell-defense on a picket line he slightly injured a scab, the CIO unions in Georgia considered the case "compromising" and formed a conspiracy of silence about the imprisoned man. In its desire to "adapt" to the reactionary South, the CIO appointed as regional directors men who were still imbued with Southern prejudices and moreover were rabidly "anti-communist" -men such as Charles L. Cowl in Florida. Fred C. Pieper in Louisiana and Robert W. Starnes in Mississippi. Starnes was an intimate friend of Mississippi Governor Fielding L. Wright, the most reactionary governor in the Uni'ed States at that time and one of the prime movers in the "revolt" against President Truman's civil rights program. Pieper was tied up with the political machine of apprentice-dictator Huey P. Long. former governor of L<~uisiana. In Birmingham, a citadel of the Southern counter-revolution, the CIO and the Steel Workers leaders Were outstandingly conservative, anti-communist and anti-Negro. The AFL leaders were even more reactionary-if that were possible. The official "coordinator'tof the AFL membership drive, George L. Googe, was merely a figurehead. His role was to mask beneath a "liberal" and "humanitarian" veneer the real face of the AFL in the South (craft exclusiveness, alliance with the worst reactionary elements, collaboration with the bosses, discrimination against the Negroes). But Googe was actually only a fifth wheel on the wagon. The real leaders of the AFL in the South did not even try to mask their face. And it was not a pretty one. In Georgia they had an alarming relationship with the Ku Klux Klan. Their newspaper in Savannah openly attacked President Truman for his civil rights program; and they joined with the local fascists against Frank W. Spencer. a liberal who accused of being a "red" and vilified because he would not go along with their prejudices. In Louisiana they were tied up in the rotten machines of former New Orleans boss Maestri and the Long family. In Memphis they were allied with the corrupt and corrupting machine of Boss Crump. In Florida they distributed leaflets calling on citrus fruit workers to report immediately to the FBI the appearance of any organizers of the rival CIO. In Dalton, Ga., they turned in to the employers the names of workers belonging to the G10, who were then immediately fired. And so on and so on. f;" Yet despite all these reactionary aspects, ite CIO's Southern drive and even that of the AFL were nonetheless progressive. The




Southern liberals. animated by the best intentions but scattered and timid, had never been able to come together into a sufficiently coherent force to lift the region out of its dark ages. The entry of the CIO on the scene drove a wedge for the first time into the Southern counter-revolutionary bloc. And the message the CIO brought has a greater possibility-greater than the message .of any political, racial cultural 01' religious orga~atioh~f reaching the disinherited masses of the South, restonng their self-confidence, welding together the two sectors of the working class, Negro and white. that are separated from and set against each other by the col9l:: barrier. LThe CIO, it is true, does not have a consistent social or political program. It accepts and defends the. pre~ent economic system. ~t rejects all socialist ideology. It remains tied to one of the two big capitalist parties and refuses to take. t~e road toward a .labor part¥. But the very requirement of organizing the workers 10 the basic industries gave its program a relatively radical character. The cra was born in struggle. It battled and won out over the mostpowerful monopolies in the United States. It rejected .and left behind. craft exclusiveness. It opened its doors to all and-m ~ontrast ~o W~a~ Green's efforts to hold the workers under his guardianship-s-it established the principles of workers' democracy. Despite its increasing bureaucratization in recent years,. democracy h?-s not disappeared from its local unions. In short. It ~d to orgaruze ~e . most diversified working class in the world, and It could accomplish this only if it solemnly affirmed the equality of all workers, regardless of race, sex, color or nationality. When the CIO~ embarking on its "invasion" of the South,' enumerated the points of its program in a leaflet, this simple enumeration assumed a revolutionary character.:...J The same Van Bittner whose reactionary statements shocked us "lrfew pages back. was blowing the trumpet of. human progress when in October 1947 he declared that the CIO had to carryon its Southern organizing campaign in "the spirit of pioneers"; and when he asserted that the CIO is bending "every effort to break the economic power of the giant monopolies"; and again when he explained in a leaflet directed to the oppressed worker~ o~ the South that "it is t~ union which gives the workers the dignity of men and women." Even the old AFL, in order to keep up with the CIO, was compelled to proclaim, at least 0!l.paper (b.ut ~ve~ that is something), its "opposition to race and religious prejudice, The personnel to wh?m. the gave t.he. task of organ~zlUg the South also reflected this dialectical contradiction. Some regional directors as we have remarked, were openly reactionary. But others were notably progressive; and the good will, the persistence, the









spirit o~ sacrifice and the physical courage ~ith which they carried ?ut their thankless task-most of the time Isolated. lost. enveloped ill the gloomy shades of the South---compel our admiration. These men cam~ to the movement in the great struggles of 1936-37, and they retained some of the. dynamic spirit of their past. William Smith in North Carolina, Franz E. Daniel in South Carolina. Paul R. Christopher in Tennessee. C. B. Gillman in Georgia. Charles Mathias in Atlanta, Ernie Starnes in Macon, B. T. Judd in Chattanooga-to mention only a few-these men accomplished a labor similar to that of the Jacobin missionaries who once tore the French provinces out of medieval darkness. * Even the most reactionary of the CIO organizers, such as Robert W .. Starnes. were unconsciously progressive. Starnes' desire was first and above all to organize the white workers, who in a state like Mississippi were saturated with conservatism and race prejudice. But the fact is that Starnes succeeded mainly in organizing Negroes -who in a racist state like Mississippi are in the vanguard of human progress. for they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by a social transformation. Poor Starnes reminds us of those unfortunate women who succeed in attracting only the type of men they do not like. And it was perhaps here in this backward state, under the reactionary leadership of Starnes, that the CIO recorded its most remarkable advances. The city of Natchez was an outpost of the worst backwardness and anti-labor and anti-Negro terrorism. A team of sociologists in 1941 published a detailed description of the place. a picture which leaves one with an almost complete hopelessness. Miserable wages, poverty, oppression. As you read it, you feel that the light of day will never pierce through here. But the CIO revolutionized Natchez. The workers in rubber and lumber organized stable unions, with Negroes and whites on an equal footing. Wage scales were lifted significantly. The counter-revolution is in slow retreat. Natchez has begun to live. And the same thing in Laurel, Miss. Here the 2500 workers, wh.ite and Negro, at the Mas.onife Corpo~ation p~ant built a strong union and won SIzable wage increases, paId vacations, sick benefits. life insurance, etc. And by setting up their Own cooperative food store, they managed .to check rising living costs, Previously one of the most backward small cities in the country, Laurel began to play a pioneer role after the CIO came to town. Even in the AFL areas the same miraculous transformation
·It would be unjust not to add the name of William Mitch director of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee in the South in. 19.36-37 and later a district director of the .United. Mine Workers in. Birmingham. Even though part of the LeWlS machine, Mitch 'Was one of the most honest progressive and experienced militants I met in the United States, and witbo~t doubt the beIIt trade unioJliat iDthe South. .

took place, though less frequently and not so sharply. In Florida, for instance, the 3,000 white and Negro workers in the phosphate mines were organized on an industrial basis, and they put out a union paper, of progressive tendencies, the leading spirit of which was a Protestant minister who also worked as a miner. Among the citrus workers (harvesting and canning), whom it was particularly hard to organize. an energetic membership drive was conducted. And occasionally, in one place or another, alongside the reactionary and corrupt bureaucrats, fine young militants were to be found, men such as W. H. C. Murray of Richmond, a printer who was elected to the state legislature by the support of the labor movement, and Stanton E. Smith of Chattanooga, a liberal schoolteacher who is the spark of the trade union council. What results did the Southern drive achieve? It was too early to give an answer to this question while I Was in the United States; but such evidence as I have seen since then tends to support tbe statement of Fortune magazine in February 1951 that "the big AFL and CIO drives [in the South] have almost petered out." Although some organizing continues now, and although campaigns will undoubtedly be resumed on a large scale in the future. it must be admitted that both the CIO and the AFL fell considerably short of the goals they set for themselves in 1946. The only available sources of information are the statements of the two federations themselves-which must always be examined critically. When the campaign was launched in 1946, the CIO stated it had 400,000 members in the South; the AFL claimed to have 1,800,000. There was a two-fold explanation for this large difference in Southern membership. First, industrialization of the South was just beginning, and the CIO, which concentrated on organizing basic industries, therefore did not have a very wide field for recruiting in the area. The AFL, on the other hand, had organized many of the crafts in the South, particularly the building trades. Second, the employers favored the AFL as against the CIO because it was more conservative, and the workers themselves often favored the AFL for the same reason. After three years of the campaign, according to estimates I offer with reservations, the CIO appeared to have gained nearly half a million members and the AFL between 200,000 and 400,000. How many of these were Negroes we unfortunately do not know. Yet it is clear that despite the difficulties, and despite the heavy handicap it assumed when it tried to compromise with Southern reaction. the CIO nevertheless did begin to change the face of the South. Nationally. the CIO has succeeded







in organizing

over half a












million Negroes. It has made considerable gains in winning Negroes equal pay for equal work. and in opening up jobs previously barred to them. But III ~oth. thes~ as~ts of the struggle-and especially the second-the situation is still far from satisfactory and much remains to be accomplished. . The majority of Negroes in the CIO-organized industries are ~till given only the unskilled jobs. At a Senate committee hearing in 1947, one Senator pressed Walter Reuther to. give the percentage of Negroes with skilled Jobs 10 some of the big plants like Ford. After trying several times to evade the question. the VAW president finally had t~ admit that the great majority of Negro workers at Ford were still employed III the foundry and at the heaviest and lowest-skilled work. . The results in steel have been no more conspicuous. Despite some pr<?gre~s.made, the Ne$fo steel worker still runs up against t~e definite limits beyond which he cannot rise in the Occupational


I 1· ,









1 ,





l' ,: :

In the shipyatds the balance shee~ has been no more positive. I personally visited the yards 10 Mobile, which in 1943 had been the scene of a violent race conflict when white unionists resisted ~he placing of Negroes in. skilled jobs such as welding. The union incorrectly supported solution of the problem by segregation: Negroes were allowed to work at all jobs in sbip-building-but in separate cre~s .. When the war ended. Negroes managed to retain some seml-s~lled work '. but tbey still run up against a job barrier which the umon does nothing to try to break down. The seniority clauses in many contracts are one of the main ?bstacIes ~o the upgrading of Negroes. most of whom got their jobs 10 the penod of labor shortage during the war. When the war was over many lost their jobs, in line with the union contract since they had less seniority than their white fellow-workers. fu 1946 Bucklin Moon estimated that union seniority could cost the Negroes from 60 to 90 percent of their wartime jobs. The test on such estimates is still to come-in a period of mass layoffs. Meanwhile it seems that the CIO unions have not yet found an equitable and satisfactory way of relaxing seniority rules in such a way as to reconcile the interests of white and Negro workers. The writers. of tw? articles ~ the Pittsburgh Courier of September 4, r~54, agree m. their recogm.tJOnthat the unions are still a long way from a solution of the racial problem. "Lab01" unions," writes Donald Dewey, "oft~n unwittingly become a bar to Negro economic advance. When whites and Negroes belong to the same union, the 7aslest way to m~1Ota!ngood race relations is by 'freezing' whatever Job pattern prevailed when the factory was organized. The national leaders of the AFL or CIO cannot publicly condone this compromise =-they have too often spoken out against- such discrimination. But






as yet nobody has discovered a Way of organizing Dixie without accepting the tacit division of the union plant into white 'and Negro jobs." And Julius A. Thomas observes: "In spite of the liberal pronouncements of some international and national unions, racial discrimination is practiced by too many local unions affiliated with these bodies. ,. f The fact is tbat at the local union level Negroes are not always treated in accordance with the principles of equality which the CIO proclaims. During my travels I saw an illustration of this in a CIO local of lumber workers at Laurel, Miss.. which had set up for its 700 members a separate local that held its own separate meetings. elected its own officials and collected its own membership dues. What is this-except in name-s-but the auxiliar local union for which the AFL has been so correctly reproached? ... At Fairfield, near Birmingham, I attended a membership meeting of Steelworkers Local 1131, 60 percent of whose members were colored. I observed that white speakers would refer to their colored fellow-workers by their first nqmes, while the Negroes acted deferentially toward the whites and addressed them by their surnames preceded by Mister or Brother. In many CIO locals Negroes are not invited to union dances and social affairs. I had personal verification of this in the case of the' clothing workers local in Richmond. Some CIO unions in the South reveal a deplorable vulnerability to the influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Such was the case with UAW LOCal 34 in Atlanta. A local union official estimated that 30 percent of the members also belonged to the Klan. For a long time the local had refused to admit Negroes; and by 1948 there were only 18 Negroes in the union out of a membership of 1,600 (though the population of Atlanta is 35 pereent colored). And this small colored minority would not venture to attend union membership meetings. Even in the North some union leaders ate still imbued with the most rabid Jim Crow prejudices. In 1952. for example. William Donovan, Steelworkers district director in Cleveland. told Negro foundry and mill employees, "I am going to take my doublebarreled shotgun and clean out these committees who fight against discrimination .•• r Although the CIa endorsed the civil rights program for Negroes. its-support has not been very energetic and has never assumed the form of direct. action. When A. Philip Randolph organized the March on Washington movement in 1941. the CIO leadership. fearing to embarrass their great friend Roosevelt. maintained a cautious neutrality. Yet had they supported the movement it would have been invincible. Similarly. when the national leadership of the NAACP early in 1952, after the brutal slaying of Florida NAACP official Harry T. Moore and his wife. called on the labor leaders to support



its protest movement by a' one-day nationwide work stoppage, the CIa ran out, answering that as "responsible" union leaders, they could not participate, Unless the CIa cuts the umbilical cord tying it to the Democratic Party. it cannot have a really consistent position on the Negro question in the South. and will continue to dodge, m~uver and evade,] he CIa's adherence to Truman's policy of "national unity" and ts participation in the hysterical campaign against the "reds" helped to strengthen the anti-Negro tendency within its unions. A considerable number of white unionists. especially in the South. seized the opportunity to display their race prejudice anew: they claimed that since the communists have set themselves up as front-line fighters in the struggle against discrimination, it would be following too closely in their footsteps to treat the Negroes on a basis of equality, For example. the local New Orleans leaders of the CIa National Maritime Union. which is violently anti-communist. listened sullenly to the remarks I made there in 1948 on discrimination, Rev, Father Vincent O'Connell, who was directing the anti-communist union forces in New Orleans from behind the scenes. admitted to me that redbaiting threatened to bring about a reawakening of race prejudice in the unions. The reactionary road along which American unionism is blundering threatens to impede the two sectors of the working class, white and Negro. from coming together, Nevertheless their fusion is on the way toward accomplishment. All things considered. the positive aspects are winning out over the negativ~


Toward an Alliance with Labor
The working class movement in the past few years has extended a more fraternal hand to the Negro. and on its side the Negro community-especially its petty-bourgeois leadership-has drawn closer to labor. Not so long ago the Negro upper class was still openly hostile to trade unionism, Why? It found its pretext in the discrimination which white workers and their organizations practiced against colored workers. But, not working with its hands, it was not a direct victim of this discrimination, and this was only a pretext, Here are the real reasons. In the first place. as I have already stated in Chapter 7. the Negro intellectuals are tied to the white rulers by a certain community of interest. Their activities make them economically and financially dependent on Big Business. They copied their attitude of animosity toward unions from the bosses. Also, tbe Negro upper class is conservative, It would like to continue taking the crumbs from the capitalist banquet table and fears like the plague the kind of unionism that might take a class struggle direction. After having denounced the AFL for its discriminatory practices, it turned its ire against the progressive CIa, which opens its doors to Negro workers. labeling it as a "radical" and "communist" organization. Even quite recently one of the Negro leaders of the' CIa, Willard S. Townsend, condemned Negro leaders for supporting reactionary legislation so long as it included an anti-discrimination clause, Finally, many petty bourgeois Negroes, as we have seen, have the dream of installing a "black economy" inside the "white economy." They have appealed for racial solidarity in order to try to obtain a monopoly of the colored clientele and colored labor. Trade unionism has long displeased them because .it substitutes labor solidarity for racial solidarity and protects the Negro worker against the exploitation to which. the Negro employer would like to subject him. '








The Negro upper class at one time even demonstrated its hostility to purely Negro unions. An example of this was its merciless fight against A. Philip Randolph's efforts to organize the sleeping car porters. The working class leader had to confront, around 1925, a united front of the press and churches of his race. Here again, the pretext used was that by organizing against the wishes of the magnate Pullman, the Negroes risked losing a monopoly of the job which he had granted them. But the real reason was monetary: the Negro jeurnalists and pastors had been bought. . During the great organizing campaign of the CIO in 1936-37, . the Negro upper class displayed an attitude which the Negro journalist George S, Schuyler described as "shameful." In practically every one of the dozens of cities he visited during this period, he wrote, Negroes belonging to the liberal professions and to the business world opposed the organization of Negro workers. It was only in very exceptional cases that the "educated" classes cooperated with the unions and that men of the cloth opened their churches to workers' meetings. . The Negro press was hostile to labor for a long time, or indifferent to its problems. In 1948 I Was able to note that some Southern newspapers still maintain this attitude. Papers like the Atlanta Daily World and the Delta Leader of Greenville, Miss .• were still publishing articles clearly hostile to the labor movement. This animus is explained both by the control exercised over these newspapers by suppliers of capital funds and by the fear that Negro press employees might join unions. The NAACP itself was cool to unionism for a considerable period. Cayton and Mitchell declare that it did practically nothing in the 1930's to encourage Negro workers to become unionized and to give them positive support. The presidents of local branches in Chicago. Indianapolis, Detroit and many other places were violently opposed to the CIO around 1937. Even in 1950, the Rochester branch complained that the NAACP, by fighting against the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Law, was depriving itself of the support of "sincere friends. " The Urban League, art organization whose objective js to protect Negroes against discrimination in employment. has not. according to the same authors. dared to support the unions in other than a purely platonic fashion, Here again the reason is obvious: the organization exists only thanks to the subsidies of certain employers.



But various factors have tended to change the attitude of the Negro community toward the labor movement. In the first place, the economic development: industrialization of the South and West, the mass exodus of Neeroes from the country

to the cities and from the South to recently industrialized regions, have speeded up the proletarianization of the Negro. The very mechanism which barred the Negro's entry to the skilled trades opened up for him, as an unskilled labor force, access to }->ranches of production which are the vital centers of American economy. that is, the basic industries: coal, steel, automobile, rubber, etc. .And it was precisely in these sectors that the CIO succeeded in rooting itself. The Negro was thus practically overnight brought to play an important role in the most progressive and dynamic union organization. He rose abruptly from the most disinherited and backward layers of the rural population to the vanguard of the American working class. As Franck Louis Schoell writes, "the Negro, this omnipresent and perpetual rural figure. has been projected in these last few years from the patriarchal middle ages into the midst of the industrial 20th century." Industrial unionism has proved its superiority in practice over the old craft unionism. Not only has it welded workers of all skills into a bloc; it has at the same time melted together workers of all races in its furnace. Whereas the various medicines of the interracial philanthropists had all proved vain. industrial unionism showed that it was to a considerable extent capable of resolving the racial question, at least inside its own organization, and that the support it gave on the outside to movements for' emancipation of the race was weighty. . The Negro community, which had at first shown hostility and mistrust to the CIo..ended by discovering that the new organization Was the most effective "shield" that the Negroes had ever had at their disposal, and that unions .. according to Randolph's expression. are the "main bulwark of democracy." Willard S. Townsend estimates that the "aggressive" unionism of the CIO today "becomes the major force for the extension of the [civil] rights and progress for the Negro race." Moreover, the old AFL, as we have seen, spurred by the CIO's competition, also had to proceed to organize the unskilled and, consequently, the Negroes. In the South especially it tackled the recruiting of Negro workers, using colored organizers. And its conservatism often let it penetrate more easily into certain business areas than the rival organization. In September 1954, the Pittsburgh Courier estimated the number of Negroes in organized labor at almost 1,500,000 (450,000 in the CIO. 750,000 in the AFL and 300,000 in the United Mine Workers and other independent unions) . Shortly before, in June 1954. a publication of the President's Committee on Contract Negotiations said, "In 1953, more than 2,000,000 Negroes were members of u.nions, cOl1_lpared w~th 700,000 in 1938. Negroes hold top office ill 23 national unions. The Southern Reeional Council estimates that of 1,750,000 trade unionists








in the South, about 700,000 are Negroes." All authoritative spokesmen of the race confirm the complete change which has taken place in the attitudes of the Negro community and its elite toward labor as a whole. The authors of Black Metropolis write that, "formerly skeptical of 'the white man's union: both the Negro workers and the Negro community became pro-CIO. Even conservative Negro leaders, who professed shock at the . 'radicalism' and deplored the 'violence' of the new unions, praised them for their stand on race relations." Henry Lee Moon notes that Negro liberal professions and business circles now are favorable to the entry of Negroes into the 'unions. and even find an advantage in it because of the. rise it has brought in the purchasing power of these workers. The Negro press, he adds. has become more receptive to news about workers and more sympathetic in its editorials to labor's cause. Northrup and Weaver, two specialists on the problems of Negro labor. strike the same note. Northrup leans heavily on a public opinion poll carried out by the Pittsburgh Courier in July 1943, according to which Over 96 percent of Negroes were favorable to trade unionism. (But he is compelled to add that the Negro community has not yet supported labor to a degree approximating .such a percentage.) A Negro educator who is very moderate and does not conceal ,his pro-capitalist sympathies. Frederick D. Patterson, president of Tuskegee Institute, concedes that the Negro has become "a permanent ally of labor." The veteran educator, Mary McLeod Bethune, considers that "The voice of organized labor has become one of the most powerful in the land and unless we have a part in that voice our people will not be heard." The NAACP, on its side, bas taken a very clear position favoring 'labor and has called CIO presidents Philip Murray and Walter Reuther to sit in its leading committee, participating at the same time in the struggle of the unions against the Taft-Hartley Law. While this evolution was taking place, a new fact of prime importance emerged. Out of working class unionism emerged a new, body of Negro leaders who found themselves simultaneously called to leading positions in labor and promoted to the rank of leaders in the Negro community, where they tend today to supplant the petty-bourgeois leadership. Having acquired the confidence of both, they constitute a living link between the race and the workers movement. They defend simultaneously the general interests of wage workers and the specific interests of the colored minority. The best known among them are A. Philip Randolph, president of the Sleeping Car Porters, who, after having actively helped in the founding 'of the CIO, believed it wiser to remain in the AFJ ..' in" order to , continue the struggle against race prejudice there, and Willard S.

Townsend, leading figure in the union of Negro station p,0rters, the Red Caps, and a member of the CIO national executive board. But at all levels of trade unionism, in the shop as stewards as well as in local unions, unknown Negro workers are today serving their .apprenticeship as union officers. I me,t a number of ~hem In the South and I admired their class consciousness and their race consciou;ness. their maturity, their dynamic quality, It is i!lcontest~b~e to me that a new generation of Negro cadres IS develop~ng: realistic and modern, formed in the tough school of trade umorusm, a~d that the effects of this germination will soon be fully felt both In labor and in the Negro community. Howe and Widick note that while in the past ministers were the leaders of the Negro community, this role is incr~asingly be~g.taken over by colored trade unionists. .The Negro nuddle, ?lass IS 10 t~e process of losing to the CIO the Intellectual and pohhcal. leadership of the Negro communrty, unchallenged for so long a tIm~. Earl Conrad observes that the influence of Negro leaders on their fellow Negroes is largely conditioned today by the Importance of their connection with organized labor: "~hey are followed. by Negroes to the extent that they have the confidence and following of lab?r. He who leads Negroes toward integration with white labor carnes weight in the Negro community." A living example of this evoluti?n was presented, to ~.~ by E. D. Nixon of Montgomery, Ala., a vrgorous colored union ~llitant who was the leading spirit in his city both of the local umon of Sleeping Car Porters and the local branch of the. t:TAACP,. What a difference from other branches of the Association, which are controlled by dentists. pastors and undertakers! Nixon has bot.h feet on the ground. He is linked to the masses. He spea~s their language. He has organized the w.0r~ of race ?efense with. the precision and method of a trade umo.rust. M~n like E. D. NIXon (to name only him) incarnate the alliance which bas at last been consummated between the race and labor. How is this alliance translated onto the political level? We find here both progressive aspects and inconsistencies. But so. l?~g as the alliance is based' on supporting one. of .the two, caplta~lst parties and the administration in power, It will rem am fragile. superficial, locked in a blind alley. .. In the first place, the drawing together of Negroes and labor is still timid and incomplete, The Negroes-s-even when they have repudiated al~ nation,alist a~d separatist notions, even ~hen t~ey are fighters for integration-e-still manifest tendencies which might be c~cterized as "isolationist." .. ' While the working class raovement (including the AFL) has











finally repudiated the old "non-partisan" concept of Samuel Gompers, the NAACP still. persists today in this outdated tactic. It refuses 10 endorse a party or a candidate. It strives solely to have its civil rights program inserted in the electoral platforms of the various parties. This "neutrality" springs from its concern not to ruffle the quite heterogeneous political opinions of its members and to preserve its unity. But this is, in. fact. a cowardly position. since it is tantamount to refusing to choose between the political friends and foes of the Negro race. Moreover, it somewhat isolates the NAACP from labor which, for its part. is now engaged in political activity. On his side. A. Philip Randolph was led to take an attitude in 1940 which may appear surprising to those who know his ties to labor and his conviction that only unity of the exploited whites and Negroes can resolve the race question. He advocated the formation of a "non-partisan" Negro political bloc, free of all political commitments. The Negroes, according to him, can be strong only if they are united. And they can be united only if they do not tie themselves to any political formation. A debatable idea. since it overlooks the lack of homogeneity in the Negro community, divided by class antagonisms, and because it runs the risk of delaying the fusion of workers of the two races. * Nevertheless, despite these "isolationist" tendencies, Negroes have increasingly taken the road of united political action with whites. The first manifestation of this collaboration goes back to 1930. when the NAACP joined the AFL in protest against the nomination by President Hoover of a certain Judge John J. Parker to the Supreme Court. This individual had demonstrated his hostility both to labor and to Negroes, and the bloc established against him finally prevented his appointment. The New Deal gave impetus to bringing the working class movement and the Negro community closer together. Up to then, Negro leaders had remained traditionally faithful to the Republican Party, while labor was, in its majority. Democratic. The era of reforms inaugurated by President Roosevelt finally brought them together in the same camp. Despite the anti-Negro attitude of the Southern Democrats, the influx of Negroes into Roosevelt's party in 1936 was a step toward political unification of the race and organized labor.
·Randolph's attitude in 1940 is perhaps to be explained by his fear of being challenged for leadership of the Negro struggle by the CIO, in which the Stalinists then had strong influence, At this time, let us remember, Randolph had just resigned from the National Negro Congress, over which the Stalinists and the pro-Stalinist wing of the CIO had won control. But Randolph was also undoubtedly inspired by the legitimate concern to preserve, alongside the alliance with labor and independently 0.£ it, the special defense organizations of the race. But he was unable to clarify his idea adequately.

A new advance was registered when the CIO differentiated itself from the Democratic Party by creating its own political machine. the Political Action Committee (PAC). The re-election of Roosevelt in 1944 was in large part assured by this .new organization. whose program was both pro-labor and pro-Negro. In the course of the campaign, labor groups and Negro groups closely coordinated their activity on a local scale for the first time. In the Detroit city elections the same year, Negroes joined the auto union in fighting against a reactionary mayor. and a Negro clergyman running for city councilman was among those endorsed by the CIO. In the South, recent advances achieved by labor permitted it to intervene with some effectiveness in the political arena on behalf of the Negroes. Jointly with local branches of the NAACP it began a struggle aJmost everywhere against poll taxes and other voting restrictions. The CIO has, for example. carefully encouraged. its colored members to pay their tax. and be registered on the election books, and when they were unable to do so, the union on occasions advanced them the amount. In Richmond. Va., in 1947. the various labor organizations united with the Negro community in joint nomination of two candidates for the lower state house: one representing the working class movement, the other the Negro community. Only the first won, which momentarily shook the coalition. But the successful labor candidate, faithful to his promises, fought racial segregation when in office. And the Negro candidate was also later elected, m June 1948, to the Richmond city council, with the support of the unions. In Winston-Salem, N.C., in the spring of 1947, the alliance of labor and the Negroes similarly brought about the election of a Negro pastor to the city council.




But if. in the beginning. the drawing together of Negroes and white workers within the framework of the Democratic Party was a progressive step, today this affiliation constitutes a heavy handicap for the coalition . . Despite the "non-partisan" position of the NAACP, despite the sympathies which certain Negroes showed for the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace. the immense majority of Negroes contributed in November 1948 to the re-election. of Harry Truman. The President's civil rights program drew them like honey draws flies. In the South, on the local level, the Negroes generally voted for candidates of the Democratic Party. despite the odious racial attitude of this party. They did this because the Democratic Party is practically the only party existing in this region. and many Negroes identify the struggle for recognition of their political rights with that of



certainly expressed their feelings When he condemned the . . .. Party for becoming the party of Big Business and the Democratic Party for being ruled by the "Solid South" and Ku Klux Klan terrorism. Before long. he wrote, his .fel1ow Negroes "will that there is no fundamentaldilIerence between Democrats and Republicans. either with respect to Negroes or labor." The preliminary signs of a political regrouping are apparent 10 more than one observer. Gunnar Myrdal doubts that the Demo; cratic Party can long maintain its fictitious unity, and foresees that the reactionaries ·of the South will sooner or later. separate from the "liberals" of the North. In 1947, the former liberal governor of Ellis Arnall. publicly expressed the hope of such a split. The walkout in 1948. although limited. seems to have been a first step in this direction. It was provoked. as we saw, ~Y the pressure of the Negro masses, who compelled the Democratic Party to include the civil rights program in its election platform. It is probable that in the near future the Negroes will be the decisive force which will hasten the realignment of political forces and will ~ v.u.}!' .... labor to break the unnatural ties which still bind it to Southern ....
~.H:;u... 'Hl. '

gaming admission to a party where the Bourbons openly declare them undesirable. Voting in Democratic primaries permits colored men to intervene in the election of all local officials-governors, judges. sheriffs. etc., and consequently compels candidates to solicit their., votes, LPut the support they gave President Truman and the Democratic Party proved disastrous for the Negroes. The civil rights program, as we have seen, was blocked in Congress by a coalition of Southern Democrats and Republicans, and President Truman did not seriously try to fight them .. On the other hand, the Negro petty-bourgeoisie gained various advantages from the combination. The administration repaid them for. their support by granting them a certain number of posts of distinction and good salary, by overwhelming them with consideration, by inviting them to social. receptions. which consoled them for the humiliations of segregation. Labor found itself in a similar situation. The workers won nothing by the re-election of Truman. The Taft-Hartley Law Was not repealed. The social program called the Fair Deal was consigned to oblivion. On the other hand. the bureaucratic leaders of the unions were admitted to r]k up crumbs from the governmental feaS!] .As a matter of fact, the alliance between. the working ~lass movement and the Negroes today assumes the form of an alliance between the labor and the NAACP bureaucracies, two machines which are equally lacking in democracy. An interlocking has taken place between the machines at various levels in the hierarchy. In proportion as the CIO bureaucracy becomes more conservative, the NAACP bureaucracy more readily joins hands with it. At the top, as we have seen, the president of the CIO serves as a member of the NAACP executive board. In Detroit, the VA W bureaucracy maintains close relations with the outstanding local Negro" figures. This alliance is in large part platonic. It manifests itself by annual declarations of solidarity and the presence of delegates of one movement at the conventions of the other. It has no other program or cement than support of the DemocraticParty l Nevertheless. the Negroes are beginning to Wlderstand and lose patience. We have already seen how the inadequacy of the Democratic Party electoral platform in 1944 keenly disappointed them and how they openly showed their irritation. They are today expressing themselves no less clearly. In March 1950, ODeof the largest Negro weeklies, the Chicago Defender. a Democratic paper, stressed the . distance between the promises and the deeds of the Democratic Ptirty. "The wishes of the people." it wrote, "have been ignored and forgotten for the benefit of a small group of selfish men concerned only in maintaining their own little selfish political interests." Negroes are increasingly disgusted with the cynicism. and dishonesty of the two traditionel capitalist parties. A. Philip

It is not unreasonable to think that at the end of this evolution the Negroes will actively contribute to the beginning, so long postponed,of a vast rallying of aU the o.ppre~sed. set up as an independent political force. On several occasions m the past Randolph urged the Negroes to assist in the formation of a national Farmer-Labor Party. with the aim of supplanting the two big parties ruled by capitalist interest. Such a r.allying would undoubtedly give an enormous impulse toward drawing the two races together, not only on the labor level, but in a11 social life. Ana since. on the other hand. it would encounter fierce resistance from the coalition of Northern and Southern business interests, it would have to engage in a struggle which might bring about a tremendous forward leap, not only of the Negro race, but for all of American democracy. The program of such a labor-Negro alliance, in my .opinion. will be socialist or there will be none. I believe I have incontrovertibly established the link existing between race prejudice and .the present economic system. It see~ obvious t? that ptejudic:e cannot be uprooted and segregation fully eliminated unless this system undergoes a.ra?ical t~a~fo~ation... Despite the exod.us. to the North and despite industrialization, the bastion of race prejudice remains the "Solid South." It appears irremovable there. Liberal reformism appears to me no more capable of solving the problem '" the Deep South than it was to resolve the peasant question in.certain






backward countries of Europe like Russia, Spain or Italy. The Negro question too is, in a large measure, a peasant question, and its solution seems to me to imply a fundamental reorganization of the agricultural Structure in the United States. I cannot see how this can be brought about on other than socialist foundations. As far back as 1930. at the end of a' -penetrating analysis of the Negro problem for the French reader, Magdeleine paz wrote: "To force from the white a federal law protecting his slaves against lynching. to force the repeal of Jim Crow laws, the elimination of laws prohibiting' racial intermarriage, the suppression of peonage and disappearance of the unrestrained system which transforms them into pariahs; to force equality in civil and political rights, economic equality, and the establishment of their status as human beings-will this require anything less than a revolution?" After Harry T. Moore's home was blown up On Christmas 1951 the Harlem paper, New York Age, wrote: "The blast exploded all hopes that the fight for equality in politics, education. the courts and other Spheres of life in the South could be won with little or no bloodshed." Thus the Negro question appears essentially as a proletarian question. tied Ufl with the destiny of the whole working class movement, and it will be resolved only to the extent that the working class will fulfil its historical mission of gravedigger of capitalism and founder of a new society. The hour of their "second ernancipation" will sound for the Negroes only when labor will have settled its accounts with capital. Nevertheless it would be, in my opinion, a pernicious error if, starting from these premises, we submerged the Negro question in the social question and subordinated it completely to the latter, The pioneers of American socialism were greatly mistaken when they claimed, with Eugene V. Debs, that "there is no Negro question outside of the labor question-the working class struggle." "We have nothing special to offer the Negro," asserted the great Gene. "and We cannet make' separate appeals to all the races . _. When the working class have triumphed ... the race problem will forever disappear." The error is both rheoreticaland practical In theory, it testifies to an inaccurate comprehension of the relations existing between the "foundation" and the "superstructure." We must not, as I have already suggested in Chapter I, wait for the "foundation," that is. the economic system, to be destroyed before attacking the "superstructure," that is; the manifestations of race prejudice. In practice, the Debs conception threatens to drive the Negroes into passivity. They might draw from it the conclusion that all they had to db was keep their arms crossed until labor had completed its historic task in their behalf, .a conclusion, which would only .be a "proletarian" transposition of the- bourgeois - conception that the

Negroes are too "backward" to be able to carry out aptian of their own. Besides, an abstract position like that of Debs would run the risk of turning many Negroes away from socialism, because. it would offer them no immediate answer to their racial problems. Partisans of Debs' conception could, no doubt, invoke the fact that in recent times the Negroes have flowed in great masses into the workers movement, and consequently have tended te become undistinguishahle from the proletariat. But if we look at things more closely, we note that this proletarianization and trade unionization of the Negro. far from diminishing and weakening the independent Negro movement for racial freedom, have, on the contrary, stimulated it It is since the Negroes became integrated in the working class movement that the protest of the entire Negro community against Jim Crow has taken OP its greatest strength. It even appears-i-I pointed . this out regarding Randolph-that there is a conscious desire on the part or Negroes to consolidate, and not to "dismantle," their racial organizations, in the same measure that labor increases in power. They feel that they win secure a hearing within the labor movement only to the extent that the race is strongly organized as such, The struggle . of the Negro racial minority cannot be identified purely and simply with the working Class struggle for socialism. It has a distinct existence, it has its historical origins, its special traits, its forms of evolution and methods of action, its own vitality and validity. It must be closely combined with the socialist-minded working class struggle, but not entirely confounded with it. The pioneers of American socialism committed an error (all other things being equal) similar to that of the European socialists who have a tendency to underestimate the progressive value of the national liberation movements in the colonial countries and see only their retrogressive aspects. It is quite obvious that certain tendencies toward Negro "nationalism" and "chauvinism," which T have described, present dangers. They threaten to make Negroes suspicious of all whites, including those who are sincerely fighting against race prejudice. and to widen the gap which has, for too long a time, separated colored men from their natural ally, the working class movement, . But these tendencies also have progressive aspects which it would be wrong to neglect, They express the passionate will of the Negroes to win equality of rights, and also their skepticism regarding reformist and liberal solutions, and regarding capitalist democracy, In this sense; they have a radical content. They should not be deprecated and fought but utilized and directed into correct channels, Those who have studied the problems posed by the presence of Negro 'workers in the trade' unions are in agreement in concluding that in addition to being treated ona footing of absolute equality







with their white brothers. they should find within the unions means of struggle dedicated to their own special needs, The Negro proletarian is a proletarian like the others. but a proletarian of a particular kind, having special difficulties and a heavier burden to bear than do the others-economic discrimination in the plant. social discrimination outside of it. For a long time, moreover, be has had the tendency to consider himself more as a Negro, that is, a victim of racial oppression, than as a worker, subject simply to class oppression. Most Negro authors who favor the integration of Negroes into trade unions desire the creation. inside the Iabor movement, of a liaison organization among colored workers. They think that only such an instrument would allow the Negro workers to coordinate their action and secure a bearing when specifically racial problems arise. This Is also the opinion of Gunnar Myrdal, The National Negro Congress might have been able. had it survived. to fulfil this function. The Urban League also might have assumed this role, were it not financially dependent upon employers. But here we find ourselves obviously confronted by a vacuum, I personally was struck during my travels by the lack of liaison .among Negro trade union officials. Their isolation threatens to delay the rise of the new generation of colored labor leaders. * To grant the movement for racial emancipation a distinct and autonomous place inside the framework of the socialist-minded working class movement will in no way slow up the struggle for the eventual abolition 'of wage labor. Quite the contrary. The very position in which the Negroes are placed in American society puts them in. the vanguard of popular revolt and makes them exercise the role of a powerful. stimulant upon the other progressive social forces. W. J. Cash admits that the Negro is "obviously the worst exploited. and oppressed of Americans." Henry Lee Moon notes that the frightful system of segregation and racial discrimination bas created a fertile field for the seeds of revolution, "A pariah in the land of his nativity." he writes, "the Negro appears to have little or nothing to lose by a fundamental change in our social order." Oliver C. Cox notes that Negroes are "more decidedly potentially communists than whites." And Magdeleine Paz, like TocqueviUe. thinks that "the Negro population is the bearer of flames. the volcanic element. on the soil of 'calm and prosperous' America .. " There is no Negro who is not convinced by his own daily experiences that -Richard Wright suggests to me that if the Negroes have not yet created an organization of racial liaison in the unions (except in Harlem), it is not due to negligence or a failure to understand its need, but because such initiative might be looked at askance by white unionists. Wright tells me that even in. the Communist Party the Negroes at one time had to flabt to secure th.riaht to set up a purely Negro cOmmittee.

social system of the United States is defective. White workers. have not yet reached this conclusion. or are far less clear about it. The Negro. in this sense. is the educator of the white. Each time he collides with American capitalist democracy in his struggle for equal rights. he assists the white man in discovering its real face. While the white still believes in. the legend of a "state above classes," or a "government of the people, by the people and for the people," the Negro, on his side. is aware of the real nature of governmental power: how could he place his confidence in states which subject him to legal segregation, or in a federal government which. despite its promises, does not always guarantee his civil rights and does not protect him against job discrimination? The Negro has preceded the whites in becoming skeptical about the two traditional capitalist parties which have equally betrayed him; he has preceded the whites in becoming skeptical regarding wars "for democracy" because he has spilled his blood in them without securing treatment in accordance with the democratic credo.

in their majority.


For a long time it was to be feared that the Negro revolt might take the form of a bloody race war. But today it appears almost certain that America win be spared the tragedy recently enacted in the theater of India and Palestine. The cause of the Negroes bas today become identified in a definitive way with that of labor. The convergence of the two great movements guarantees that if there is an explosion it will not be fratricidal. In 1.930, Magdeleine paz wrote that "the day when the two movements will be solidly enough united into one. the white colossus will have cause to tremble." At that time she estimated. correctly, that the day was "still far away," Since then. the world, and the United States with it, has advanced with giant steps. The day is drawing near. The capitalist colossus may well tremble.











Has the American Negro
an African Background?
The few remarks that Itbought necessary to make on the ethnic and cultural features of the Negroes did not meet with the approval af all my American readers. One correspondent, after reading these remarks in the French edition of roy book, wrote to inform me of his disagreement. "The Negro," he said, "is a constituent part of American society. He has no culture but Anglo-Saxon culture. There are no ethnic barriers standing in his way. All that keeps him from making a full contribution. to that culture. is the Jim Crow barrier and its inevitable attendants, poverty, enforced ignorance and submissiveness." . In addition to his criticism of my "theory," this correspondent believes that, independently of whether this theory is scientifically true or false, it is harmful to the. cause of Negro emancipation. "This theory," he wrote, "could be used by white supremacists to prove their contention that the Negro is really innately inferior and cannot assimilate an advanced culture such as 'tbe Anglo-Saxon, even when he doesn't possess acultute of his own (advanced or primitive) that stands in conflict. This theory could be used. to prove. that the Negro is really out of place here; that he belongs to Africa. That is also" I fear, how the Negroes Will take your remarks about ethnic awkwardness. It seems to slam the door of equality in their face. It makes them permanent aliens in the country, with no land of their own." I cannot agree with. my correspondent on either of the two points he raises. I do not believe that my "theory" is wrong. Nor do I believeindeed quite the opposite--.!bat. to state this theory lWght be harmful to my Negro friends or play into the hands of Jim Crow. In the first place, I hold the position, along with Louis Adamic, that the descendants of. the pioneer immigrants to the United States imposedand are still trying to impose-eon the American nation a too rigid AngloSaxon "uniform. " in which the later immigrants who formed to day's America feel ill at ease: and which fits them badly. . "The White-Protestant-Anglosaxon" myth, says Adamic in his book A. N ation of J'.{ ations, "prevailajn Aniericanthinking . .. We have absorbed [It] inschool, In church,.!o POhtlCS and business ... ' [It] is not restricted to thefascist demagogues; It appears in xnany people." And recalling. that "over one-thud of our population [I~ made up ofl first-, second- and third-generation non-Angie-Saxon Americans, he contends that "the pattern of the United States is not essentially Ang{oSaxon, although her language is English" and that actually "it is a blend of cultures from many lands," (Emphasis supplied.) When my correspondent writes that the Negro "has no culture but AngloSaxon culture," I have the impression that his vision is distorted by two myths: . first, the myth, which Adarnic attacks, that. American Cl;l,ltur~ 1S essentially Anglo-Saxon; second, the myth. t_hat.. the Negro. h~s no ~ncan heritage" and, unlike the other ethnic rmnorities In the U.S., is a man WithQUt a past." . . Following in the steps of two great Negro hlstonans,. Carter G. Woodson (The A.frican Background Outlined) and W. E. B. DuBOl! (Black Foik Their

and Now), the. white anthropologist, Melville J. Herskovits, has devoted an entire book to refutation of the second myth. In his Myth of the Negro Past, Herskovits writes that the Negroes in America have an ethnic origin which presents "a far greater degree of unity than is ordinarily conceived . .. The major portion [of the slaves] Was drawn from certain fairly restricted areas lying in the coastal belt of West Africa and the Congo." He insists upon the "underlying unity" of culture in the slaving region. This culture had a high social level which made it "comparable. in many respects to Europe of tile middle ages," and .8 "high development of the arts." . Moreover, the Afdcan tradition had "a mechanism for survival in [the] constant reeruitIl).ent [of slaves] from the. Old Warld" during the 19th century until the outbreak of. the Civil War, And Herskovits analyzes in. great detail (though sometimes, to he sure, he exaggerates them) the survivals of the African heritage in the music, dance, religious practices' and. family organization of the American Negroes. (I can only refer. the reader to his. inventory . ~f these surviyal~-! In my remarks on the subject, my reason for emphasizing the. peculiarities of the way iii which the Negroes appropriated the English language was not at ali in order to reproach them for their speech but, on the contrary, because, along with Adamic, I find in it "a delightful rhythmic turn." He~sko.yit~, who studied the problem much more thoroughly, thmks that the linguistic "deviations" are in dose accord with "the underlying patterns of West Afrrcan languages." He advances the hypothesis that "the peculiarly . 'musical' q~ity of Negro-English as spoken in the United States" represents "a nonfunctioning survival of this characteristic of African languages." And he observes in this connection that "this same 'musical' quality is prominent in Negro-English and Negro-French" spoken outside America. But my correspondent does not seem to be of the Same mind. Hebelieves that "the difficulties which Negroes may have expressing themselves through the English language stem exclusively. f~om lack of educational f~ci1ities, and where they can escape enforced near-Illiteracy, they use the English language with as much ease as any other Anglo-Saxon." There is, no doubt, a great deal of truth in this argument, but. I don't believe it to be wholly accurate. First of all, a stereotyped "Anglo-Saxon" language is not spoken in the United States. Every ethnic minority an~ every social layer adapts and deforms, in its own wayand according to 1tS own needs, the. aristocratic language that was fashioned centuries ago by the English gentry, ~'potted by .the pioneers and then imposed on the Iater immigrants aa their sole vehicle for. communication, Next,. the charming exoticism that the American Negroes Introduced rnto the Enghsh language of the South is not something to be deplored=eand I personally would. be very sad should the day come when all Negroes in the. United States. spoke English as it is taught at Harvard. Pinally, segregation and the resul~nt "near-illiteracy" are not the sole, cause of the tranformation of the English language by the Negroes. As Herskovits has demonstrated, this phenomenon has deep African origins. . . In my opinion, the anthropological explanation is as necessary for understanding the Afro-Americans as the materialist exp!anation. One ~nnot,.be isolated fr:om the other. Segregation certainly contributed to the perpetua,t.lOn of certain ethnic traits which the American Negroes inherited from Africa, but it did not create them. .. .. . On the bri~ins Negro music, Herskovits makes these correct observations: "It was first assumed that, In essence, the songs of the. Negroes represented a welling forth of the a.nguishexp.erie~ced under slavery. In time .• however, opinion .grey.' that, since this music differed from ot~er forms of musical expression, Africa was to be looked to for an explanation of rts








essential characteristics; this point of view was most clearly and vigorously expressed in a volume by the musicologist and music critic, H. E. Krehbiel [Afro-American Folksongs]." Similarly, as Herskovits stresses, "The prominent place held by religion' in the life of the Negro in tbe United States, and the special forms assumed by Negro versions of Christian dogma and ritual, are customarily explained as compensatory devices to meet the social and economic frustration experienced by Negroes during slavery and after emancipation." But, in Herskovits' opinion, "Such explanations have [only a] partial validity" and "cannot be regarded as telling the entire causal tale . " In the very foundations of Negro religion, the African past plays full part." (Emphasis supplied.) Not to understand this is, in my opinion, to run the risk of seriously misunderstanding the psychology of the American Negro. Moreover, lIerskovits does not dispute at all the fact that there has been a profound interpenetration between the African heritage of the Negro and American culture as a whole. "This group," he writes, "like all other folk who have maintained a group identity in this country, have retained something of their cultural heritage, while at the same time accommodating themselves . . . to the customs of the country as a whole." And conversely, as the authors of the foreword to his book point out, the Negroes have made "distinctive cultural contributions .... to American life." Herskovits could have added that the powerful folk-culture of the Negroes, after having inundated the original Anglo-Saxon culture 'of the South, went on to fuse with the whole national culture until today those aspects of the national culture which are considered to be "typically" American are largely the result of Negro influence. But Herskovits' conclusions, I know, are not shared by all American intellectuals. E. F. Frazier, for example, in The Negro Family in the United States. deliberately rejects the thesis that any elements of African culture are to be found in the United States. "Probably never before in history," he writes, "has a people been so nearly completely stripped of its social heritage as the Negroes who were brought to America . .. Of the habits and customs as well as the hopes and fears that characterized the life of their forebearers in. Africa, nothing remains." Herskovits explains that ~or these stubborn supporters of the t~e~.ry of "a complete break wtth Africa," "Mrica IS a badge of shame; rt ]5 the reminder of a savage past not sufficiently remote." There are a certain number of Negroes who, like my correspondent, mistakenly imagine that the struggle against Jim Crow requires that they disavow Africa. But on the contrary, there is reason to fear that an excessive drive toward integral assimilation of the "Anglo-Saxon" patterns could make the Negro intellectuals less ardent in the struggle to emancipate the race. Herskovits maintains, moreover, that it is "the acceptance of this mytho!ogy"-according to which the Negroes do not have a past-that has operated "as a justification for prejudice," because it "validates the concept of Negro inferiority." And he thinks that it is necessary to endow the Negro "with the confidence in his own position in this country and in the world" by making available to him "a foundation of scientific fact concerning ... the survivals of Airicanisms in the New World." (Emphasis supplied.) Finally,this point of view is gradually being more and more accepted in the Negro community. The writer Richard Wright, who had previously been skeptiCl\l, came to espouse it vigorously during his recent trip to the Gold Coast. And this development of thought IS to be seen not only among the Negroes in the United States. It was by awakening his compatriots to a conscrousness of and a pride in their African heritage, that the ethnologist Price-Mars opened the new era of the Haitian renaissance.

. . a faroily of writers. ~nd . erin was born m 1904, ill . School of PolitlC~ . D~lllel o.u Holding a diploma from ,the 30' since then, his ar~ists m Pans. sued a literary care~r untIl ~910' history. and Scl~n~, he pur have been joum3lli~ro, SOCl~O~' 1930 to 1938, main tnterests · 1- ged to. the Socialist Partyd secretary of a 't' He b eon"k serve as ·h pol llCS.. h 1936 sitdown stnes . f Paris. He nas and durm.g t e cil in one of. the suburb~ 0 colonialism., ' A g trade umon c~~~eral organizau.ons oppos:n Policy, he visited belonged tthe Center for Studies o~~ a fellowship from O roembeSr A f r two years (1947-49).. - two books on faSCism the U .... 0 t He has wntten the French govemmen.


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