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´╗┐Title: The Black Experience in America
Author: Coombs, Norman, 1932-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Published electronically by its author, Norman Coombs, and Project

(C 1993) by Norman Coombs

This text is claimed under copyright to protect its integrity, and
therefore you are required to pass it on intact, but you may make changes
to your own copy.  This text may be shared in whole or in part so long as
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We want to know of any mistakes you find, so we can correct them in text
editions to come.  Send corrections to Norman Coombs.  His email
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official connection with the University of Illinois.

This text is based on the original publication:


The Immigrant Heritage of America

By Norman Coombs

Publisher: Twayne, (c 1972)


  Introduction (omitted from electronic version)

PART ONE   From Freedom to Slavery

  1. African Origins
       The Human Cradle
       West African Empires
       The Culture of West Africa

  2. The Human Market
       The Slave Trade
       Caribbean Interlude

  3. Slavery As Capitalism
       The Shape of American Slavery
       North American and South American Slavery
       Slavery and the Formation of Character
       Slave Response

  4. All Men Are Created Equal
       Slavery and the American Revolution
       Slave Insurrections
       Growing Racism

Part Two.  Emancipation without Freedom

  5. A Nation Divided
       Black Moderates and Militants
       White Liberals
       Growth of Extremism

  6. From Slavery to Segregation
       Blue, Gray, and Black
       Reconstruction and Its Failure
       The New Racism

  7. Racism and Democracy
       Fighting Jim Crow
       Making the World Safe for Democracy
       Urban Riots
       The Klan Revival

Part Three. The Search For Equality

  8. The Crisis of Leadership
       The Debate Over Means and Ends
       Booker T. Washington: The Trumpet of Conciliation
       W. E. B. DuBois: The Trumpet of Confrontation
       Marcus Garvey: The Trumpet of Pride
       A. Philip Randolph: The Trumpet of Mobilization

  9. The New Negro
       Immigration and Migration
       Harlem: "The Promised Land"
       The Negro Renaissance
       Black Nationalism

 10. Fighting Racism at Home and Abroad
       Hard Times Again
       The Second World War
       The U.S. and the U.N.

 11. Civil Rights and Civil Disobedience
       Schools and Courts
       The Civil Rights Movement

 12. The Black Revolt
       Civil Disorders
       Black Power


     Notes and References (omitted from electronic version)
     Bibliography (omitted from electronic version)
     Index (omitted from electronic version)


During the last several years, the study of American history has turned a
new direction.  Previously, it emphasized how the various immigrant
groups in America shed their divergent heritages and amalgamated into a
new nationality. More recently, scholars and laymen alike have become
more sensitive to the ways in which these newcomers have kept aspects
from their past alive, and there is a new awareness of the degree to
which ethnicity continues as a force within America.

Most of the original settlers were British, Protestant, and white. Many
of the later arrivals differed from them, in one or more ways. History
books usually depicted these new waves of immigrants as assimilating
almost fully into American society.  However, recent writings have put
more stress on the ethnic diversities which remain and on the rich
variety of contributions which were made to the American scene by each
new nationality.

This volume depicts the immigrants from Africa as one among the many
elements which created present-day America. On the one hand, they differ
from the other minorities because they came involuntarily, suffered the
cruelties of slavery, and were of another color. All of this made their
experience unique. On the other hand, they shared much in common with the
other minorities, many of whom also felt like aliens in their new land.

Throughout most of American history, political power has been held
tightly by the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant majority.  Historical
presentations which stressed the political component, thereby tended to
leave the later immigrants in the background.  However, because these
newcomers did not assimilate fully into the mainstream of America, they
maintained some of their ethnic identity and made fresh and unique
contributions to American life.  A socio-cultural approach to history,
through highlighting society and culture rather than politics, brings
these minorities into proper focus.

This study of Afro-Americans seeks to describe the character and culture
which they produced for themselves in America. It also points to the many
important contributions which they have made to American cultural life.
The spotlight is on what they felt and thought, on the attitudes they
developed, and on their increasingly vocal protests against the unfair
treatment which they believed was directed at them.

Besides taking a socio-cultural approach to the subject, this book is
deliberately interpretive rather than being merely a narrative of events.
It is reasonably brief in the hope that it will appeal to interested
laymen. At the same time, it contains a number of footnotes so that
either scholars or laymen, wanting to check their thoughts against the
interpretation presented here, can readily use this book as a guide to
further reading. (Note the footnotes are not in this electronic version.)

If at times the treatment of the white majority seems harsh, it is
because, in my opinion, it is still necessary for Americans to take a
long, cold look at the chilling facts which have too often been ignored.
Yet, times and people do change. Race relations in America are not today
what they were a century ago. The progress of history may not be the wide
highway moving steadily and smoothly upward as many have believed, but
the racial picture in America has altered and will continue to do
so--sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Nevertheless, it
is only by knowing ourselves that we can intelligently face our crises. I
hope that this volume will assist the reader as he struggles with this
difficult task.

Norman Coombs
  September, 1971


I would like to express my deep appreciation to the National Endowment
for the Arts and Humanities and to the Rochester Institute of Technology
for providing me with much of the time which made this research possible.
I am also indebted to Professors Benjamin Quarles and Merle Curti for
kindly reading and commenting on the manuscript. My thanks are also
extended to my father, Earl Coombs, for his invaluable assistance in
helping with the hours of painstaking research demanded by such a
project. Miss Dorothy Ruhl provided the detailed, careful labor necessary
to help prepare the manuscript for the printer, and Mrs. Doris Kist
performed the demanding task of proofreading it.  I also want to thank
Cecyle S. Neidle, the editor of the Immigrant Heritage of America series,
for her helpful supervision and advice.  Finally, I owe a deep debt of
gratitude to my wife, Jean, for typing the manuscript, for a host of
other miscellaneous tasks and, above all, for her forbearance and

N. C.

PART ONE   From Freedom to Slavery


African Origins

The Human Cradle

THREE and a half centuries of immigration have injected ever-fresh doses
of energy and tension into the American bloodstream. As diverse peoples
learned to live together, they became a dynamo generating both creativity
and conflict. One of the most diverse elements in American life was
introduced when Africans were forcibly brought to the American colonies.
The American experiment had begun and consisted mainly of white men with
a European heritage. The African was of a different color, had a
different language, a different religion, and had an entirely different
world view. But perhaps the most striking contrast was that, while the
European came voluntarily in search of greater individual opportunity,
the African came in chains. Because the European was the master and
thereby the superior in the relationship, he assumed that his heritage
was also superior.  However, he was mistaken, because the African had a
rich heritage of importance both to himself and to mankind. When people
interact intimately over a long period of time, the influences are
reciprocal. This is true even when their relationship is that of master
and slave.

To trace the importance of the African heritage one must go back millions
of years. Evidence is accumulating to the effect that Africa is the
cradle of mankind. Professor Louis Leakey argues that Africa was
important in the development of mankind in three ways. First, some thirty
or forty million years ago, the basic stock which eventually gave rise to
both man and the ape came into existence in the vicinity of the Nile
Valley. Second, some twelve or fourteen million years ago, the main
branch which was to lead to the development of man broke away from the
branch leading to the ape. Third, about two million years ago, in the
vicinity of East Africa, true man broke away from his now extinct manlike
cousins.  The present species of man-Homo Sapiens--developed through a
complex process of natural selection from a large number of different
manlike creatures-hominids.

One of the most numerous of the early hominids was Australopithecus
Africanus who originated in Africa. Although he also did some hunting, he
lived mainly by collecting and eating vegetables. One of the things that
identified him as a man was his utilization of primitive tools. He had a
pointed stone which may have been used to sharpen sticks, and these
sticks were probably used for digging roots to augment his food supply.
Leakey believes that Homo Habilis, who lived in East Africa about two
million years ago, was the immediate ancestor of man and the most
advanced of all the hominids. Although the hominids spread far outside of
Africa, it is clear that they originate  there and that it was in Africa
that true man first emerged. As Darwin predicted a century ago, Africa
has been found to be the father of mankind.

For many thousands of years, Homo Sapiens and the other hominids lived
side by side in Africa as elsewhere. By ten thousand years ago, however,
all the hominids had disappeared.  Scholars believe that this was the
result of the gradual absorption of all the other hominids by the more
biologically advanced Homo Sapiens. This process may explain the
appearance of variations within Homo Sapiens. At various times and
places, as Homo Sapiens absorbed other hominid strains, differences
within Homo Sapiens developed. In any case it is clear that the various
types of man came into existence very early. In Africa, this process led
to the development of three main types: the brownish-yellow Bushmen in
the south, the darker Negroes throughout most of the continent and the
Caucasoid Mediterranean types in the north.

Most of the concepts, held even by scholars about the nature and origin
of races, are being proven inaccurate. Anthropological literature used to
suggest that skin color in some groups was a possible indication of
Mongoloid influences or that the thin, straight lips common in another
group could be envisioned as a Caucasoid feature. However, it has become
increasingly obvious that an analysis based on specific single traits
such as these is always a poor indication of either racial origin or of
racial contact.  In fact, they could just as likely be the result of
spontaneous and local variations within a given population grouping. In
contrast, recent anthropological research is putting less emphasis on
bone measurement and shape and, instead, is turning increasingly to
technical analysis particularly through the examination of blood types.

Making and using tools are what differentiate man from animals. The
earliest tools which have survived the wear of time were made of stone.
As man's techniques of handling stone improved, so did his tools. The
hand axe, a large oval of chipped flint varying in size and weight, came
into common usage about half a million years ago, and it has been found
in much of Europe, Asia, and Africa. This too seems to have had an
African origin.  While scholars are not certain about its use, it was
probably used for killing animals and for chopping meat.

The first achievement which radically altered man's condition was the
invention of tools. The second achievement was his learning of primitive
agriculture which transformed the hunter into the farmer. The
domestication of animals and the planting and cultivating of crops had
begun in the Near East, but the practice shortly spread to the Nile
Valley in Northeast Africa. At the same time, farming communities sprang
up throughout the Sahara which, at that time, was going through one of
its wet phases. This made it well-suited to early agriculture.  Farming
permitted men to live together in communities and to pursue a more
sedentary way of life. Actually, some Africans had already adopted a
sedentary community life before the arrival of farming. Making hooks from
bones led to the development of a few fishing communities near
present-day Kenya.

As the communities along the Nile grew in size and number, society began
to develop a complex urban civilization. By 3,200 B.C.  the communities
along the Nile had become politically united under the first of a line of
great pharaohs. These early Egyptians undoubtedly were comprised of a
racial mixture. The ancient Greeks viewed the Egyptians as being dark in
complexion, and it has been estimated that the Egyptian population at the
beginning was at least one-third Negro.  Herodotus says that it was
impossible to tell whether the influence of the Egyptians on the
Ethiopians was stronger than that of the Ethiopians on the Egyptians.

What Herodotus and the Greeks referred to as Ethiopia was, in fact, the
kingdom of Kush. It was located up the Nile from Egypt.  As the Egyptian
empire grew in strength and wealth, it strove to expand its power over
its neighbors. Egypt sent several military expeditions south along the
Nile to try to conquer the black people of Kush. They failed and the
Kushites, in turn, endeavored to extend their power over Egypt.  In 751
B.C., Kush invaded Egypt and, shortly thereafter, conquered it.  This
occupation of Egypt lasted for over a hundred years, until both the
Kushites and the Egyptians were defeated by an invading army from Assyria
in 666 B.C. At that point, the Kushites returned to the safety of their

The Kushites and the Egyptians had been defeated by a superior
technology. While they were fighting with weapons made of copper and
bronze, the Assyrians fought with iron. Methods of smelting and working
iron had been developed centuries before by the Hittites who lived in
Asia Minor. The use of iron spread across the Near East, becoming the
basis for the Assyrian power. After their defeat in 666 B.C., the
Kushites and the Egyptians rapidly adopted the new iron technology. The
coming of the Iron Age to Africa meant the production of better weapons
and tools. Better weapons provided safety from hostile foes and
protection from ferocious beasts. Better axes meant that man could live
in densely forested regions where he had not been able to live before.
Better farm implements meant that more food could be grown with less
work, this again encouraged the development of denser population centers.

By 300 B.C., Kush had become an important iron-producing center. Its
capital, Meroe located on the upper Nile, developed into a thriving
commercial and industrial city. Archeological diggings have unearthed the
remains of streets, houses, sprawling palaces, and huge piles of slag
left from its iron industry. When scholars are able to decipher the
Kushitic writings much more will be known about the culture and way of
life of this early black empire.  In the first century A.D. a Kushite
official, whom the Bible refers to as the Ethiopian eunuch, was converted
to Christianity by the apostle Philip while returning from a visit to
Jerusalem. Shortly, Christianity spread throughout the entire kingdom.
When Kush was defeated by the Axumites, founders of modern Ethiopia,
several smaller Nubian, Christian kingdoms survived. Not until the
sixteenth century, after almost a thousand years of pressure, did Islam
gain supremacy in western Sudan. Ethiopia, shortly after defeating Kush,
also became Christianized, and survived as a African only  Christian
island in a Moslem sea. In fact, Ethiopia has remained an independent,
self-governing state until the present, with the brief exception of the
Italian occupation between 1936 and 1941.

The development of man and civilization in Africa was not limited merely
to the area in the Northeast. There is much evidence of cultural contact
between people in all parts of the continent. When the Sahara began to
dry out about 2000 B.C., the population was pushed out from there in all
directions, thereby forcing the spread of both people and cultures. Even
then, the Sahara did not become a block to communication as has been
thought. There is clear evidence that trade routes continued to be used
even after the Sahara became a desert. Scholars also have found that,
shortly after the Iron Age reached North Africa, iron tools began to
appear throughout the entire continent, and, within few centuries, iron
production was being carried on at a number of different locations. At
about the same time, sailors from the far East brought the yam and the
banana to the shores of Africa.  These fruits spread rapidly from the
east coast across most of the continent, becoming basic staples in the
African diet. New tools and new crops rapidly expanded the food supply
and thereby provided a better way of life.

West African Empires

Although West Africa had been inhabited since the earliest times, about
two thousand years ago several events occurred which injected new vigor
into the area. The first event had been the drying of the Sahara, which
had driven new immigrants into West Africa and, from the admixture of
these new people with the previous inhabitants, a new vitality developed.
Then, the introduction of the yam and the banana, as previously noted,
significantly increased the food supply. Finally, the developments of
iron tools and of iron work further increased the food supply and also
provided better weapons. This permitted increased military power and
political expansion. These were the necessary ingredients that led to the
building of three large and powerful empires: Ghana, Mali and Songhay.
Commerce was another factor which contributed to their development.
Governmental control of a thriving trade in both gold and salt provided
the wealth and power necessary for establishing these large empires.

Unfortunately, our knowledge about West Africa's early history is
severely limited by the lack of written records from that period.  In
recent years, archaeologists have been unearthing increasing amounts of
material which contribute to our knowledge of early Africa. West Africans
tended to build their cities from nondurable materials such as wood, mud,
and grass. The area does have a rich oral tradition, including special
groups of trained men dedicated to its development and maintenance. As
oral history is always open to modification and embellishment, with no
means available for checking the original version, this material must be
used cautiously. Nevertheless, when employed in conjunction with other
sources, it does provide a rich source of information.

The earliest written records were provided by the Arabs who developed
close contact with West Africa by 800 A.D. After that, West Africans
began using Arabic themselves to record their own history. In the middle
of the fifteenth century, Europeans began regular contact with West
Africa, and they left a wide variety of written sources. While most of
these early Europeans were not men of learning, many of their records are
still valuable to the student of history.

Ghana was already a powerful empire, with a highly complex political and
social organization, when the Arabs reached it about 800 A.D. An Arabic
map of 830 A.D. has Ghana marked on it, and other contemporary Arabic
sources refer to Ghana as the land of gold. From this time on, a thriving
trade developed between Ghana and the world of Islam, including the
beginnings of a slave trade.  However, this early slave trade was a
two-way affair. Al-Bakri, a contemporary Arab writer, was impressed with
the display of power and affluence of the Ghanaian king.  According to
him, the king had an army of two hundred thousand warriors which included
about forty thousand men with bows and arrows. (Modern scholars know that
the real power of the Ghanaian army was due not to its large numbers as
much as to its iron-pointed spears.) Al-Bakri also described an official
audience at the royal palace in which the king, the Ghana, was surrounded
by lavish trappings of gold and silver and was attended by many pages,
servants, large numbers of faithful officials, provincial rulers, and
mayors of cities. On such occasions, the king heard the grievances of his
people and passed judgment on them. Al-Bakri also describes lavish royal
banquets which included a great deal of ceremonial ritual.

The power of the king, and therefore of the empire, was based on his
ability to maintain law and order in his kingdom. This provided the
development of a flourishing commerce, and it was by taxing all imports
and exports that the king was able to finance his government. The key
item in this financial structure was the regulation of the vast gold
resources of West Africa, and it was by controlling its availability that
the king was also able to manipulate its value. However, after the
eleventh century, the Ghanaian empire was continually exposed to
harassment from a long series of Arabic holy wars. Over a long period of
time, the power of the king was reduced until the empire of Ghana finally
collapsed. From its ashes emerged the basis for the creation of a new and
even larger empire: the empire of Mali.

Mali, like Ghana, was built on gold. While Ghana had been under attack by
the Arabs from outside, various peoples from within struck for their own
freedom. The Mandinka people, who had been the middlemen in the gold
trade and who had received protection from the king of Ghana, achieved
their independence in 1230 A.D.  They went on to use their position in
the gold trade to build an empire of their own. The peak of their
influence and power was achieved in the early fourteenth century under
Mansa Kankan Musa who ruled Mali for a quarter of a century. He extended
its boundaries beyond those of Ghana to include such important trading
cities as Timbuktu and Gao, encompassing an area larger than that
controlled by the European monarchs of that day. This empire also was
based on its ability to provide stable government and a flourishing
economy. An Arab traveler, Ibn Batuta, shortly after Musa's death, found
complete safety of travel throughout the entire empire of Mali.

Mansa Musa and, for that matter, the entire ruling class of Mali had
converted to Islam. This intensified the contacts between West Africa and
the Islamic world. Although several of these kings made pilgrimages to
Mecca, the most spectacular was the one by Mansa Musa in 1324. On his way
there, he made a prolonged visit to Cairo. While there, both his
generosity in giving lavish gifts of gold to its citizens and his
extravagant spending poured so much gold into the Cairo market that it
caused a general inflation. It was estimated by the Arabs that his
caravan included some sixty thousand people and some five hundred
personal slaves. Mansa Musa took a number of Arabic scholars and skilled
artisans  back to West Africa with him. These scholars enhanced the
university of Timbuktu which was already widely known as a center of
Islamic studies. Now, besides exchanging material goods, West Africa and
the Arabs became involved in a steady exchange of scholars and learning.

The success of Mali in bringing law and order to a large portion of West
Africa was responsible for its decline. Having experienced the advantages
of political organization, many localities sought self-government. In
fact, Mansa Musa had overextended the empire.  A skilled ruler like
himself could manipulate it, but those who followed were not adequate to
the challenge. Movements for self-government gradually eroded central
authority until by 1500 Mali had lost its importance as an empire.
Although the period of its power and prosperity was respectable by most
world empire standards, it was short-lived compared to the history of the
previous empire of Ghana.  Again, a new empire was to emerge from the
ruins of the previous one.

The Songhay empire was based on the strength of the important trading
city of Gao. This city won its independence from Mali as early as 1375,
and, within a century, it had developed into an empire.  Songhay carried
on a vigorous trade with the outside world and particularly with the
Arabic countries. The ruling class, in particular, continued to follow
the religion of Islam, but it is generally believed that the masses of
the population remained faithful to the more traditional West African
religions based on fetishism and ancestor worship.  Two of the more
powerful rulers were Suni Ali, who began his 28-year reign in 1464, and
Askia Mohammed, who began his 36-year reign in 1493. Askia Mohammed was
also known as Askia the Great. The security of Songhay was undermined
when Arabs from Morocco invaded and captured the key trading city of
Timbuktu in 1591. Thus ended the last of the three great empires of West

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that those parts of West Africa
which remained outside of these three empires fulfilled the usual
European image of primitive savagery. On the contrary, a number of other
small yet powerful states existed throughout the entire period. If this
had not been so, the Europeans, as they arrived in the fifteenth century,
could have pillaged West Africa at will. Instead, the Europeans were only
able to establish trading stations where local kings permitted it. With
the exception of a few raiding parties which seized Africans and carried
them off as slaves, most slave acquisition was done through hard
bargaining and a highly systematized trading process. The Europeans were
never allowed to penetrate inland, and they found that they always had to
treat the African kings and their agents as business equals. Many of the
early European visitors, in fact, were impressed by the luxury, power,
trading practices, skilled crafts, and the complex social structure which
they found in Africa. Only in some parts of East Africa, where the states
were unusually small, were the Portuguese able to pillage and conquer at
will.  While many Europeans may have thought of Africa as being filled
with ignorant savages, those who reached its shores were impressed
instead with its vigorous civilization.

The Culture of West Africa

An African should not have to find it necessary to make apologies for his
civilization. However, Europeans and Americans have come to believe, at
least in their subconscious minds, that civilization can be equated with
progress in science and technology. Because the Africans lagged far
behind the Europeans in the arts of war and of economic exploitation, the
Europeans believed at the Africans must be uncivilized savages. Africa,
like the rest of the world outside Europe, had not made the break-through
in science, technology, and capitalism which had occurred in Europe.
Nevertheless, they had their own systems of economics, scholarship, art,
and religion as well as a highly complex social and political structure.
There are common elements which run throughout the entire continent of
Africa, but to gain the best insight into the background of the American
slaves, West African culture can be isolated and studied by itself.

The West African economy was a subsistence economy, and therefore people
were basically satisfied with the status quo and saw no point in
accumulating wealth. Also in a subsistence economy, there is little need
for money, and most trade was done through barter. Because there was no
money, there was no wage labor.  Instead, labor was created either
through a system of domestic slavery or through a complex system of
reciprocal duties and obligations. However, West African slavery was more
like the European system of serfdom than it was like modern slavery.

Within this subsistence economy, each tribe or locality tended to
specialize in certain fields of agriculture or manufacture which
necessitated a vigorous and constant trade between all of them.  However,
within the trading centers, money had come into regular use.  It usually
took the form of cowrie shells, iron bars, brass rings, or other standard
items of value. Systems of banking and credit had also been developed,
but even those involved in money, banking, and trade had a noncapitalist
attitude towards wealth.  They enjoyed luxury and the display of
affluence, but they had no concept of investing capital to increase
overall production.

West Africa also carried on a vigorous trade with the outside world.
When the Europeans arrived, they discovered, as had the Arabs before
them, that the West Africans could strike a hard bargain. They had
developed their own systems of weights and measures and insisted on using
them. Europeans who failed to treat the king or his agent fairly, found
that the Africans simply refused to deal with them again. Trade was
always monopolized by the king, and he appointed specific merchants to
deal with foreign businessmen. As previously noted, it was by the control
and taxation of commerce That the king financed his government and
maintained his power.

The strength and weaknesses of the West African economy can be seen by a
cursory glance at a list of its main exports and imports.  West African
exports included gold, ivory, hides, leather goods, cotton, peppercorn,
olive oil, and cola.  While some of these items were only exported for
short distances, others found their way over long distances. West African
gold, for example, was exported as far away as Asia and Northern Europe.
Some English coins of the period were minted with West African gold. West
African imports included silks from Asia, swords, knives, kitchen-ware,
and trinkets from the primitive industrial factories of Europe as well as
horses and other items from Arabia. Two other items of trade became all
important for the future--the exportation of slaves and the importation
of guns and gunpowder.

West African manufacturing demonstrated a considerable amount of skill in
a wide variety of crafts. These included basket-weaving, pottery making,
woodworking and iron-working. Archeological evidence shows that West
Africans were making pottery and terracotta sculpture as much as two
thousand years ago.  Three-dimensional forms seem to have held a
particular interest for West African artists. During the last century,
art critics have  gone beyond considering this art as "primitive" and
have begun to appreciate its aesthetic qualities. In fact, in recent
years, African art has had considerable influence on contemporary artists.

The two forms of African art best known outside Africa are music and the
dance. African music contrasts with European music in its use of a
different scale and in concentrating less on melodic development and more
on the creation of complex and subtle rhythmic patterns. Musicians used
to view African music as simple and undeveloped, but now musicologists
admit that African rhythms are more complex and highly developed than
rhythms in European music. Africans like to sing and to develop songs for
all occasions: religious songs, work songs, and songs for leisure.
African singing is also marked by the frequent use of a leader and a
chorus response technique. African dance, like its music, builds on
highly complex rhythmic patterns. It too is closely related to all parts
of the African's daily life. There are dances for social and for ritual
occasions. The most common use of the dance was as an integral part of
African religious rites.

African religion has usually been defined as fetish worship-the belief
that specific inanimate objects are inhabited by spirits endowed with
magical powers. While this view of African religion is partly true, it
obscures more than it clarifies. The fetish is believed to have some
powers of its own, but, in general, it derived them from its close
association with a dead ancestor. Behind the fetish was the religion of
ancestor worship, and the fetish is better understood as a religious
symbol. Ancestor worship was also part of the African's strong family
ties and his powerful kinship patterns.  Behind the realm of this fetish
and ancestor worship lay another world of distant and powerful deities
who had control over the elemental natural forces of the universe. While
this religion might be described as primitive, it cannot be viewed as
simplistic. It involved a series of complex ideas about fetishes,
ancestors, and deities which required a high degree of intelligence.

The intricacies of theology, law, medicine, and politics made it
necessary to develop a complex system of oral education. Europeans, who
tended to identify knowledge with writing, had long assumed that, because
there was no written language in early Africa, there could be no body of
knowledge. After the arrival of Islam, Arabic provided a written form
within which West African ideas could be set down.

Only recently have scholars become aware of the libraries and the many
publications to be found in West Africa. Two of these books were
responsible for providing historians with detailed information about the
customs and social structure of the area. One was the Tarikh al-Fattiish,
the chronicle of the seeker after knowledge, written by Mahmud Kati in
the early fifteenth century.  The other was the Tarikh al-Sudan, the
chronicle of the Western Sudan, written by Abd al-Rahman as-Sadi about
the beginning of the seventeenth century.

The society of West Africa was stratified in several different ways. It
was divided in terms of differing occupations: farmers, merchants,
priests, scholars, laborers, and a wide variety of craftsmen. The social
ranking assigned to these occupation divisions varied according to the
importance of each occupation.

Society was also divided in terms of clans, families, and villages.  At
the same time, there was a hierarchical division based on the varying
degrees of political power each group exercised within its society.  Some
had the power to become chiefs and rulers. Some had the right to choose
and depose rulers, and others could limit and define the rights of the
rulers. However, almost everywhere there was a clear trend toward
increasing centralized authority and decreasing popular participation.
The centralization of power in West Africa never reached the extremes of
absolute monarchy which occurred in Europe, and there was never the same
need for revolutionary social changes to revive democratic participation
within African society.

In an old Asante ritual, connected with the enthronement of a ruler, the
people pray that their ruler should not be greedy, should not be hard of
hearing, should not act on his own initiative nor perpetuate personal
abuse nor commit violence on his people, While the right to rule was
generally passed on from generation to generation within a single family,
the power did not immediately and automatically fall on the eldest son
within that family.  Instead, another family had the power to select the
next ruler from among a large number of potential candidates within the
ruling family. If the ruler who was selected ruled unwisely and unfairly,
he could also be deposed. Here was a distinct limitation on royal

In a similar way, there were limitations on the centralization of
economic power. While valuable land in Europe had been captured and
controlled by private ownership and was the possession of a powerful
minority, land in West Africa still belonged to the community. A powerful
family had the right to control and supervise the use of the land for the
welfare of the community, and, undoubtedly, this power could be misused.
Such a family assigned land to its users along with certain tenure
safeguards which operated to limit even the power of the family. Those
using the land who did not fulfill their obligations to the community by
utilizing it properly and wisely, could have the land taken away from
them. It might then be given to someone else. Both in economics and in
politics, historical custom and precedent has limited minority power and
has protected the welfare of the community.  Nevertheless, community
power and wealth has come to be divided into two major divisions: the
rich and powerful few and the poor and powerless majority. Though the
elite ruled and the masses served, rights and obligations which limited
the amount of exploitation were always in existence.

One of the signs of the trend toward the increasing centralization of
power within the society of West Africa was the development of a
professional army. The gigantic armies of Ghana had been conscripted from
the common citizenry. As the ruling class in West Africa adopted Islam
and as its desire to increase its power continued to undermine local
tradition and custom, there was more need for a professional army which
would owe its total allegiance to the ruler.

Also, changes in military technology required a skilled and carefully
trained army. Horses were expensive and could only be used efficiently by
men who were expert riders and who knew how use a horse in a combat
situation. Even more, with the arrival the Europeans in the fifteenth
century, West Africa was introduced to guns and gunpowder. These, too,
were expensive required  trained soldiers to make good use of them.
While the new  military technology had increased the ruler's freedom from
popular control, it made him increasingly dependent on and subject to
European interests. The African ruler's desire for guns and the
European's desire for slaves went hand in hand.


The Human Market

The Slave Trade

Neither slavery nor the slave trade came to West Africa with the arrival
of the Portuguese in the middle of the fifteenth century. To the
contrary, both institutions had a very long history. A two-way slave
trade had existed between the West Africans and the Arabs for centuries.
In view of the social structure of both societies, sociologists believe
that the Arabs could make use of more slaves than could the West
Africans.  Therefore, West Africa probably exported more slaves than it

Slaves, besides being common laborers, were often men of considerable
skill and learning, Slavery was not a badge of human inferiority. Thus,
the first slaves procured by the Europeans from Africa were displayed as
curiosities and as proof of affluence. While, especially at the
beginning, some slaves were taken by force, most of the African slaves
acquired by the Europeans were obtained in the course of a peaceful and
regular bargaining process.

When the Portuguese arrived in West Africa, they found a thriving economy
which had already developed its own bustling trading centers.  Before
long, a vigorous trade opened up between the Portuguese and the West
Africans. Slaves were only one of a great variety of exports, and guns
were only one of a large variety of imports. One of the ways in which the
slave trade came to cripple the West African economy was that slaves
became almost the exclusive African export. The more the Africans sought
to fulfill the Europeans' thirst for slaves, the more they needed guns
with which to procure slaves, and to protect themselves from being
captured and sold into slavery. Therefore, the Euro-African trade,
instead of further stimulating the African economy, actually limited
production of many items and drained it of much of its most productive

The rulers, who had voluntarily and unwittingly involved themselves in
this gigantic trade, soon found themselves trapped.  Those who wanted to
eliminate or reduce the trade in slaves and who preferred to develop
other aspects of a trading economy, found themselves helpless. A ruler
who would not provide the Europeans with the slaves they desired was then
bypassed by all the European traders. Besides losing the revenue from
this trade, his own military position was weakened. Any ruler who did not
trade slaves for guns could not have guns. Without guns, he would have
difficulty in protecting himself and his people. Any ruler or people who
could not provide adequate self-defense could be captured and sold into
slavery. Once begun, the Africans found themselves enmeshed in a vicious
system from which there seemed to be no escape.  The only possibility for
escape would have been the development of some kind of African coalition,
but each petty ruler as too concerned with his own power to be able to
contemplate federated activity. European greed fed African greed, and
vice a versa.

In the beginning, African slaves were carried back to Portugal and other
parts of Europe to be used as exotic domestic servants.  In some cases,
they were also used as farm laborers. Parts of Portugal were suffering
from a distinct shortage of farm laborers, and Africans filled the void.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, in some sections of rural
Portugal as much as one third of local population was African in origin.

Even so, European labor needs could not support much of a slave trade for
long. The enclosure system was under way, changing farming techniques,
and it had created a labor surplus.  However, at the same time, emerging
capitalism financed explorations in Africa, Asia, and the western
hemisphere. African sailors were involved in most of these explorations
including Columbus's voyage in 1492. New World gold provided the economic
basis for even more rapid European expansion.  When the New World came to
be viewed by the hungry capitalists as having a potential for
agricultural exploitation, New World labor needs expanded astronomically.
At first these needs were filled by surplus labor from Europe or by
exploiting the local Indian populations. When these labor sources proved
to be inadequate, the exploitation of slave labor from Africa was the
obvious answer.

While the Portuguese were the first to reach the shores of West Africa
and the first to bring African slaves back to Europe, neither they nor
the Spaniards ever dominated the slave trade which followed. In 1493, as
European exploration of the world moved into high gear, the Pope
published a Bull dividing the world yet to be explored into two parts.
His intention was to limit competition and conflict between the rulers of
Spain and Portugal and to prevent undue hostility between his two main

However, this left the other European powers, officially, with no room
for overseas expansion. While these powers refused to acknowledge the
legality of the Bull and soon became involved in exploration and
colonization in spite of it, they also tended to become more involved
than did Portugal or Spain in some of the by-products of colonization,
such as the slave trade. When the Spaniards began to use slaves in their
American colonies, the Dutch, French, and British were only too eager to
provide the transportation. Before long, they too had colonies and slaves
of their own.

The triangular trade between Europe, Africa, and the New World, was one
of the most lucrative aspects of the mercantile economy. Mercantilism
sought to keep each country economically self-sufficient. Within this
framework the role of the colony was to provide the mother country with
raw materials which it could not produce for itself and to be a market
for the consumption of many of the manufactured goods produced within the
mother country.

This triangular trade began in Europe with the purchase of guns,
gunpowder, cheap cotton, and trinkets of all kinds.  These were shipped
to the coast of West Africa and unloaded at a trading station. At key
points along the coast, the European nations had made treaties with the
local rulers allowing them to set up trading stations and slave
factories. At this point, the European traders entered into hard
bargaining sessions with the representatives of the local ruler in which
the manufactured goods from Europe, especially guns, were traded for
African slaves. When the deal was completed, the slaves were loaded on
the ship, and the captain set sail for the New World.

Upon arrival in the West Indies, another bargaining process was begun.
Here the slaves were traded for local agricultural products which were
wanted in Europe. Then the ships were loaded with tobacco, sugar, and
other West Indian produce and returned to Europe for still another sale
and another profit. At every point along the route, large sums of money
were made. A profit of at east one hundred percent was expected. Vast
wealth was obtained through the slave trade, and this money was
reinvested in the developing industrial revolution. Thereby the Africans
unwittingly helped to finance the European industrial revolution which
widened the technological gap between Africa and Europe.

The African slave was sometimes a criminal, but, more often than not, he
was captured in battle. As the slave trade grew and with it the need for
more slaves, the number of these battles increased. Clearly, many battles
were being fought solely for the purpose of acquiring slaves who could
then be sold to the European traders. Sometimes, too, the slave might
have been the political enemy of the ruler or of some other powerful

The slaves were then marched to trading stations along the coast where a
European agent, who resided at the station, inspected them and negotiated
their purchase. The inspection was humiliating and degrading procedure.
Men, women, and children usually appeared stark naked and underwent the
close scrutiny of the agent and sometimes a physician.  After the trauma
of capture and the shame of inspection, the slaves were regimented into
crowded quarters at the trading station or "factory" to wait for the next
shipment to leave. They had to be supervised very closely as many tried
to escape and others tried to commit suicide.

When a ship was ready to sail, the slaves were chained together and
marched down to the shore. There they were bundled into large canoes and
were paddled through the crashing breakers to where the slave ship was
waiting. Slaves have told how they began the voyage in trepidation, being
frightened by the sight of the "white devils" who, they had heard, liked
to eat Africans. Then the long voyage commenced.  Conditions here were
even more crowded than at the "factory." Slaves were generally kept below
deck with no sunshine or fresh air. They were crowded so close  together
that there was never any standing room and often not even sitting room.
Again, they had to be supervised closely as many tried to starve
themselves to death or to jump overboard.  However, the greatest loss of
slave property was due to disease, The ship's captain feared that disease
would whittle away his profits, and, even more, he worried that it would
attack him and his crew. When the passage was completed, and the West
Indies had been safely reached, the slave again had to undergo the same
kind of degrading inspection and sale which had occurred in Africa, but
this time he had to experience the torment in a strange and distant land.

While the economic profits in the slave trade were great, so were the
human losses. Statistics concerning the slave trade are often inaccurate
or missing. However, it is generally agreed that at least fifteen million
Africans, and perhaps many more, became slaves in the New World. About
nine hundred thousand were brought in the sixteenth century, three
million in the seventeenth century, seven million in the eighteenth
century, and another four million in the nineteenth century.

The mortality rate among these new slaves ran very high. It is estimated
that some five percent died in Africa on the way to the coast, another
thirteen percent in transit to the West Indies, and still another thirty
percent during the three-month seasoning period in the West Indies.  This
meant that about fifty percent of those originally captured in Africa
died either in transit or while being prepared for servitude.

Even this statistic, harsh as it is, does not tell the whole story of the
human cost involved in the slave trade. Most slaves were captured in the
course of warfare, and many more Africans were killed in the course of
this combat. The total number of deaths, then, ran much higher than those
killed en route. Many Africans became casualty statistics, directly or
indirectly, because of the slave trade. Beyond this, there was the untold
human sorrow and misery borne by the friends and relatives of those
Africans who were torn away from home and loved ones and were never seen

Statistics concerning profits in the slave trade are also difficult to
obtain. Profits often ran as high as two or three hundred percent, and
were an important part of the European economy. These profits provided
much of the capital which helped to spur on the industrial revolution.
When Queen Elizabeth, in 1562, heard that one of her subjects, John
Hawkins, had become involved in the slave trade, she was very critical
and commented that he would have to pay a very high price for dealing in
human lives. However, when she was confronted with a copy of his profit
ledger, her moral indignation softened, and she quickly became one of the
members of the corporation. Some merchants were hit hard by the risks
accompanying the slave trade and suffered financial disaster.  The
possible profits were so high, however, that other merchants were always
eager to venture into this field and new capital was ever lacking.

The industrial revolution, which was partly financed by the slave trade,
eventually abolished the need for slavery. The humanitarian outcry
against both the slave trade and slavery which occurred at the end of the
eighteenth century and swelled in the early nineteenth century, became a
significant force as the need for slave labor diminished. In the
beginning, as previously noted, the Europeans were not powerful enough to
seize slaves at will or to invade the African kingdoms. But the
industrial revolution had immeasurably widened the power gap between
Europe and Africa. By the time the slave trade ended, and European
adventurers had found new ways to achieve gigantic capital gains, Europe
had achieved a power advantage sufficient to invade Africa at will.

As European interests in colonizing Africa increased, the European
powers, at the middle of the nineteenth century, were also tearing one
another apart in the process of this competitive expansion, In order to
avoid further misfortune, the great powers of Europe met at the
conference of Berlin in 1885.  Without troubling to consult with any
Africans, they drew lines on a map of Africa dividing it among
themselves. It took only a very few years for a map drawing to become a
physical reality.  When the Europeans had finished exploiting Africa
through the slave trade and had greatly weakened its societies, they
invaded Africa in order to exploit its nonhuman material resources.

Caribbean Interlude

Most of the Africans, who were enslaved and brought to the New World,
came to the American colonies after a period of seasoning in the
Caribbean islands. To the Europeans who had settled in America the
Colonies were their new home and they strove to develop a prosperous and
secure society in which to live and raise their families. They hesitated
to bring their slaves directly from Africa as they believed that Africans
were brutal, barbaric savages who would present a real danger to the
safety and security of their new homes. Instead, they preferred to
purchase slaves who had already been tested and broken.

In contrast to this, Europeans who had gone to the Caribbean islands did
not consider the New World as their new home. The island plantations were
to be exploited to provide the wealth with with which their owners could
return to Europe and live like gentlemen. Many of them did not bring
their families to the islands, or, when they did, their stay was a
temporary one. Therefore, they were more willing than were the Americans
to purchase slaves directly from Africa. Moreover, because their sole
interest in the islands was economic profit, they could make a double
profit by selling their seasoned slaves as well as selling their
plantation produce. While the Africans' stay in the Caribbean, obviously,
was not part of their African heritage, it was part of the experience
which they brought with them to the Colonies.  Many of the events which
occurred in the Caribbean islands had important repercussions in the
American Colonies.

A quarter of a century after Columbus had discovered the New World, the
first African slaves were brought to the West Indies to supplement the
inadequate labor supply. The Indians who lived on the islands were few in
number and had had no experience in plantation agriculture. As the
shortage of labor became severe, the plantation owners began to import
criminals and were willing to accept the poor and the drunks who had been
seized from the streets of European ports.

There was also a continual stream of indentured servants, but this influx
was nowhere nearly large enough to fill the growing labor demands. The
advantage of African slaves over indentured servants was that they could
be purchased outright for life.  Moreover, the Africans had no contacts
in the European capitals through which they could bring pressure to bear
against the abuses of the plantation masters. In fact, African slaves
really had no rights which the master was obliged to respect. The supply
of African labor seemed to be endless, and many masters found it cheaper
to overwork a slave and to replace him when he died, rather than take
care of him while he lived. In short, the plantation experience was a
brutalizing one.

In the beginning, the major plantation crop had been tobacco, It could be
grown efficiently on small plantations of twenty or thirty acres.  The
tobacco plant needed constant, careful attention throughout the season,
and this meant that the number of raw, unskilled laborers that was needed
was relatively small.

However, when the new colony of Virginia entered the tobacco field in the
early seventeenth century, it was able to produce larger quantities of
tobacco at a lower price. The Caribbean islands were hit by a severe
economic depression. The Dutch came with a solution. They had previously
conquered parts of northern Brazil from the Portuguese, and there they
had learned the techniques of plantation sugar production.  It could only
be carried on efficiently with plantations of two or three hundred acres,
and it required large numbers of unskilled laborers both to plant and
harvest the crop and to refine the sugar.  The Dutch, then, brought sugar
cane to the West Indies. This gave them a new plantation crop, and it
also gave them a new outlet for the slave trade which, at that point in
history, they had come to dominate.

The development of the sugar cane economy in the West Indies produced a
basic social revolution. The small tobacco farmers did not have the
capital to develop the large sugar plantations.  Some of them went into
other occupations, but most of them returned to Europe. The new labor
needs were filled by a gigantic increase in the importation of African
slaves. The ratio of whites to blacks within the islands changed markedly
within a matter of one or two decades. The white population consisted of
a handful of exceedingly wealthy plantation owners and another handful of
white plantation managers. Many of the slaves soon learned new skills
associated with sugar manufacturing, thus reducing the need for white
labor even further. The rising demand for slaves meant an expansion of
the slave trade, and, as West Indian slaves had a high mortality rate and
a low birthrate, this meant a continually thriving slave trade.

As the ratio between whites and blacks widened, the problem of
controlling the slaves grew more serious. Brute force was the only
answer. The European governments had tried to solve the problem by
requiring the plantation owners to hire a specified number of white
workers. However, many owners found it cheaper to pay the fine than to
comply with this regulation.

In 1667, the British Parliament passed a series of black codes intended
to control the slaves in the Caribbean colonies. Other colonial powers
followed their example. The law stated that a slave could not be away
from the plantation on a Sunday and that he was not permitted to carry
any weapons. It also specified that, if he were to strike a Christian, he
could be whipped. If he did it a second time, he could be branded on the
face.  However, if a master, in the process of punishing a slave,
accidentally beat him to death, this master could not be fined or

Because the Europeans did not view the islands as their home, there was
always a shortage of white women. One of the results of this was the
development of an ever-growing class of mulattoes. More and more of them
were granted their freedom. While these freedmen did not receive equal
treatment with the whites, they were careful to preserve the advantages
they held over the slaves. Many of them served in the militia to help
keep the slaves under control. However, the threat of slave revolts
continued. The greater the possibility of success, the greater the
probability that slaves would take the risk of starting a revolt. All of
the islands in the West Indies had a history of slave rebellion.

Undoubtedly, the most outstanding slave revolt in the western hemisphere
took place in Haiti. During the French revolution, concepts of the rights
of man spread from France to her colonies.  In Haiti, the free mulattoes
petitioned the French revolutionary government for their rights. The
Assembly granted their request.  However, the French aristocrats in Haiti
refused to follow the directives of the Assembly.  At this point, two
free mulattoes, Vincent Oge and Jean Baptiste Chavannes, both of whom had
received an education in Paris, led a mulatto rebellion. The Haitian
aristocrats quickly and brutally suppressed it.

By this time, however, the concepts of the rights of man had spread to
the slave class. In 1791, under the leadership of Toussaint l'Ouverture,
the slaves began a long and bloody revolt of their own.  Slaves flocked
to Toussaint's support by the thousands until he had an army much larger
than any that had fought in the American revolution, This revolt became
entangled with the French revolution and the European wars connected with
it. Besides fighting the French, Toussaint had to face both British and
Spanish armies. None of them was able to suppress the revolt and to
overthrow the republic which had been established in Haiti.

After Napoleon came to power in France, he sent a gigantic expedition
under Leclerc to reestablish French authority in Haiti.  While he claimed
to stand for the principles of the revolution, Napoleon's real interest
in Haiti was to make it into a base from which to rebuild a French empire
in the western hemisphere.  Toussaint lured this French army into the
wilderness where the soldiers, who had no immunity to tropical diseases,
were hit very hard by malaria and yellow fever.

Toussaint was captured by trickery, but his compatriots carried on the
fight for independence. Finally, Napoleon was forced to withdraw from the
struggle. One of the results of his failure to suppress the slave revolt
in Haiti was his abandonment of his New World dreams and his willingness
to sell Louisiana to the United States. Unfortunately, this meant new
areas for the expansion of the plantation economy and slavery. In other
words, the Haitian revolution was responsible for giving new life to the
institution of slavery inside America.

American plantation owners were faced with a dilemma. The Louisiana
Purchase, resulting from the revolution in Haiti, greatly expanded the
possibilities of plantation agriculture.  This meant a greater need for
slave labor. However, they were not sure from which source to purchase
these slaves. They hesitated to bring new slaves directly from Africa.
They were also loath to bring seasoned slaves from the Caribbean.  Events
in Haiti had demonstrated that these Caribbean slaves might not be as
docile as previously had been believed. Certainly, Americans did not want
repetition of the bloody Haitian revolt within their own borders. Greedy
men still bought slaves where they could, but many American slave owners
were deeply disturbed and began to give serious thought to terminating
the importation of African slaves to America.


Slavery as Capitalism

The Shape of American Slavery

The slave system in America was unique in human history.  Sometimes
slaves were treated cruelly; at other times with kindness. They were more
often used as a sign of affluence, a way of displaying one's wealth and
of enjoying luxury, rather than as the means for the systematic
accumulation of wealth. Previously, slavery had existed in hierarchical
societies in which the slave was at the bottom of a social ladder, the
most inferior in a society of unequals. While each society normally
preferred to choose its slaves from alien people, it did not limit its
selection exclusively to the members of any one race. Slave inferiority
did not lead necessarily to racial inferiority. In contrast to this,
slavery in America was set apart by three characteristics: capitalism,
individualism, and racism.

Capitalism increased the degree of dehumanization and depersonalization
implicit in the institution of slavery. While it had been normal in other
forms of slavery for the slave to be legally defined as a thing, a piece
of property, in America he also became a form of capital. Here his life
was regimented to fill the needs of a highly organized productive system
sensitively attuned to the driving forces of competitive free enterprise.
American masters were probably no more cruel and no more sadistic than
others, and, in fact, the spread of humanitarianism in the modern world
may have made the opposite true.  Nevertheless, their capitalistic
mentality firmly fixed their eyes on minimizing expenses and maximizing
profits. Besides being a piece of property, the American slave was
transformed into part of the plantation machine, a part of the
ever-growing investment in the master' mushrooming wealth.

The development of slavery in America resulted from the working of
economic forces and not from climatic or geographic conditions.  When the
first twenty Africans reached Virginia in 1619, the colony was comprised
of small plantations dependent on free white labor. While some historians
believe that these immigrants were held in slavery from the beginning,
most think they were given the status of indentured servants.  English
law contained no such category as slavery, and the institution did not
receive legal justification in the colony until early in the 1660s.
Although the fact of slavery had undoubtedly preceded its legal
definition, there was a period of forty years within which the Africans
had some room for personal freedom and individual opportunity. Rumors of
deplorable working conditions and of indefinite servitude were reaching
England and discouraging the flow of free white labor. To counter this, a
series of acts were passed which legally established the rights of white
labor, but they did nothing to improve the status of the African. In
fact, their passage pushed them relentlessly towards the status of slave.

The price of tobacco declined sharply in the 1660s and drove the small
white farmer to the wall. Only those with enough capital to engage in
large-scale operations could continue to make a profit.  In order to fill
the need for the huge labor supply required large-scale agriculture, the
colonial legislature passed laws giving legal justification to slavery.
At the same time, Charles II granted a royal charter establishing a
company to transport African slaves across the ocean and thereby
increasing the supply of slaves available to the colonial planter.

Until this time, the number of Africans in the colony had been very
small, but thereafter their numbers grew rapidly. The African slaves
provided the large, dependable, and permanent supply of labor which these
plantations required.  The small white planter and the free white laborer
found the road to economic success had become much more difficult. To be
a successful planter meant that he had to begin with substantial capital
investments. Capitalist agriculture substantially altered the social
structure of the colony. On one hand, it created a small class of rich
and powerful white planters. On the other, it victimized the small white
planters, or white laborers, and the ever-growing mass of African slaves.

The second unique factor in American slavery was the growth of
individualism. While this democratic spirit attracted many European
immigrants, it only served to increase the burden of slavery for the
African. Instead of being at the bottom of the social ladder, the slave
in America was an inferior among equals.  A society which represented
itself as recognizing individual worth and providing room for the
development of talent, rigidly organized the entire life of the slave and
gave him little opportunity to develop his skills. In America, a person's
worth became identified with economic achievement. To be a success in
Virginia was to be a prosperous planter, and white individualism could
easily become white oppression leaving no room for black individualism.
The existence of slavery in a society which maintained its belief in
equality was a contradiction which men strove diligently to ignore.

Perhaps this contradiction can be partly understood by seeing the way in
which individual rights had come into being in English society.  Instead
of springing from a belief in abstract human rights, they were an
accumulation of concrete legal and political privileges which had
developed since Magna Charta.  Viewing it in this light, it may have been
easier for the white colonists to insist on their rights while denying
them to the slaves. Nevertheless, the existence of slavery in the midst
of a society believing in individualism increased its dehumanizing

The third characteristic which set American slavery apart was its racial
basis. In America, with only a few early and insignificant exceptions,
all slaves were Africans, and almost all Africans were slaves. This
placed the label of inferiority on black skin and on African culture. In
other societies, it had been possible for a slave who obtained his
freedom to take his place in his society with relative ease. In America,
however, when a slave became free, he was still obviously an African. The
taint of inferiority clung to him.

Not only did white America become convinced of white superiority and
black inferiority, but it strove to impose these racial beliefs on the
Africans themselves. Slave masters gave a great deal of attention to the
education and training of the ideal slave, In general, there were five
steps in molding the character of such a slave: strict discipline, a
sense of his own inferiority, belief in the master's superior power,
acceptance of the master's standards, and, finally, a deep sense of his
own helplessness and dependence. At every point this education was built
on the belief in white superiority and black inferiority.  Besides
teaching the slave to despise his own history and culture, the master
strove to inculcate his own value system into the African's outlook. The
white man's belief in the African's inferiority paralleled African self

Slavery has always been an evil institution, and being a slave has always
been undesirable. However, the slave in America was systematically
exploited for the accumulation of wealth. Being a slave in a democracy,
he was put outside of the bounds of society.  Finally, because his
slavery was racially defined, his plight was incurable.  Although he
might flee from slavery, he could not escape his race.

North American and South American Slavery

Slavery, as it existed in British North America, contained interesting
points of comparison and contrast with the slave system existing in
Portuguese and Spanish South America. Although both institutions were
geared to the needs of capitalistic agriculture, the rights and
privileges of the South American planter were restricted and challenged
at many points by the traditional powers the Crown and the Church. On one
hand, capitalism, unimpeded by other powerful institutions, created a
closed slave system which regimented the totality of the slave's life. On
the other hand, through the clash of competing institutions, the slave as
been left with a little opportunity in which he could develop as a person.

In the seventeenth century, while the British colonies were being
established in North America and their slave system was being created,
the English Crown underwent a series of severe shocks including two
revolutions. Although it eventually emerged secure, the monarchy managed
to survive only by making its peace with the emerging commercial and
industrial forces. These same crises undermined the authority of the
Church as a powerful institution in society. The nonconformist sects were
the stronghold of the merchant class and spread rapidly in the American
colonies.  There, instead of being a check on the commercial spirit, the
Church itself had become dominated by the middle class. Equally important
is the fact that in colonial America the level of religious life was very
low. Most colonists, with the exception of the original founders who had
fled religious persecution, did not come for religious freedom but for
economic advancement. When some Virginians at the end of the seventeenth
century, petitioned the government to build a college for the training of
ministers, they were told to forget about the cure of souls and instead
to cure tobacco.  The result was that the planter class, unchallenged by
any other powerful institutions, was free to shape a slave system to meet
its labor needs. In any conflict which arose between personality rights
and property rights the property rights of the master were always

In contrast, the South American planter would not have such a free hand
in shaping his own affairs. The Renaissance and Reformation had not made
the same impact on Spain and Portugal as they did on the rest of Western
Europe. Consequently, secularization and commercialization had not
progressed as far in eroding the traditional power and prestige of the
Crown and the Church. Although both institutions readily compromised with
capitalist interests and strove to develop a working alliance with them,
neither the Crown nor the Church in Spain and Portugal had ever been
taken over by the commercial interests.

Both Spain and Portugal had had continuous contact with slavery extending
back into ancient times. Roman law as well as the Church fathers had
concerned themselves with it, and these concepts had been incorporated
into Spanish and Portuguese law. Also, slaves continued to exist in both
countries down to modern times. Therefore, when Portugal began importing
slaves from West Africa in the fifteenth century, the institution of
slavery was already in existence. Before long, significant numbers of
African slaves were to be found in both Portugal and Spain. When the
South American planters began importing slaves, slavery already had a
framework and a tradition within which the planter had to operate.

The Spanish Crown devoted a great deal of time and energy to the
supervision of its overseas possessions. Instead of permitting
considerable local autonomy as the British did, the Spanish Council of
the Indies in Madrid assumed a stance of illiberal, paternal,
bureaucratic control. From the point of view of the colonial capitalists,
the cumbersome royal bureaucracy was always involved in troublesome
meddling which impeded their progress. As part of the careful management
of its colonies, the Crown strove to control the operation of the slave
trade.  Similarly, it was concerned with the treatment of the African
slaves within the colonies. The Spanish Crown included the slaves as
persons instead of relegating them solely to the status of property at
the disposal of their owners.

The Church, as a powerful institution, jealously guarded its right to be
the guardian and protector of social morality.  Besides being concerned
with influencing individual behavior, the Church insisted that it was a
social institution with the right to interfere in matters relating to
public morals. In fact, it was through this role that the Church was able
to exercise its worldly powers.  While condemning slavery as an evil and
warning that it endangered those who participated in it, the Church found
it expedient to accept slavery as a labor system. However, it insisted
that the African slaves must be Christianized. Missionaries were sent to
the trading stations on the African coast where the captives were
baptized and catechized. The Church feared that the purity of the faith
might be undermined by the infusion of pagan influences.  Then, when a
slave ship reached the New World, a friar boarded the ship and examined
the slaves to see that the requirements had been met. The Church also
insisted that the slaves become regular communicants, and it liked to
view itself as the champion of their human rights.

The degree to which the individual rights of the slave were either
protected or totally suppressed provides a clearer insight to the
differences between North American and South American slavery.  The laws
outlining the rights of slaves have been traditionally placed into four
categories: term of servitude, marriage and the family, police and
disciplinary powers, and, finally, property and other civil rights.

In both systems the term of servitude was for life, and the child's
status was inherited from its mother. Children of slave mothers were
slaves, and children of free mothers were free regardless of the status
of the father. Inherited lifetime slavery was the norm.

Manumission--granting freedom--was infrequent in British North America.
Occasionally, masters who had fathered slave children would later give
them their freedom. A few other slaves were able to purchase their own
freedom although, strictly speaking, this was a legal impossibility.  The
slave was not able to own property according to the law, and this meant
that the money with which he purchased his freedom had always belonged to
his master.  Obviously, he could only do this with his master's fullest

In South America, however, manumission was much more frequent.  This
practice received highly favorable social sanction, and masters often
celebrated national holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and other special
events by manumitting one or more of their favorite slaves.

The law also defended the right of the slave to purchase his own freedom.
He had the right to own property and could accumulate funds with which he
might eventually achieve his dream.  He also had the right to demand that
his master or the courts set a fixed price for his purchase which he
could then pay over a period of years. Sundays and holidays were for the
slave to use as he saw fit, and, in some cases, he was also guaranteed a
couple of hours every day for his own use.  During this time he could
sell his services and save the proceeds. The law also stated that parents
of ten or more children were to be set free.  Finally, slaves could be
freed by the courts as the result of mistreatment by their masters.

While there was much sentiment in North America supporting marriages
among slaves, and there was much animosity against masters who separated
families through sale, the law was unambiguous on this point.  Slaves
were property, and therefore could not enter into contracts including
contracts of marriage.  Jurists also noted that to prevent the sale of
separate members of a family would lower the sale price, and this was to
tamper with a man's property. Therefore, property rights had to be placed
above marriage rights. In contrast, in South America the Church insisted
that slave unions be brought within the sacrament of marriage. The Church
also strove to limit promiscuous relationships between slaves as well as
between masters and slaves, and it encouraged marriage instead of
informal mating.  Also, the law forbade the separate sale of members of
the family, husband, wife, and children under the age of ten.

The general thrust of the laws outlining police and disciplinary powers
in North America was to entrust complete jurisdiction to the master.  One
judge had laid down the law that the master's power must be absolute in
order to render slave obedience perfect, and, although the courts were
empowered to discipline slaves in certain situations, the masters
generally acted as judges, juries, and dispensers of punishments. In
those rare cases where the law did protect the slave against extreme
mistreatment, its protection was nullified by the universal proscription
against any slave or Black person testifying in court against any white.
The court also had assumed that it was irrational for a man to destroy
his own property, and, therefore, it was impossible for a master to
commit premeditated murder against one of his own slaves.

However, in South America the court exercised much more Jurisdiction over
the slave. Crimes comitted by a slave were prosecuted by the court, and,
if a slave was murdered, this case was prosecuted by the court as if the
victim had been a free man.  The law also made a more concerted attempt
to protect the slave against mistreatment by his master. A certain type
of state lawyer was an official protector of the slaves; he received
regular reports on slave conditions from priests as well as from special
investigative officials who had been appointed by the state for this
purpose.  Mistreatment could lead both to the freedom of the slave and to
the imprisoning of the master. The law had devised an ingenious system
whereby the fine was divided equally between the judge, the informer, and
the state treasury.

Finally, the slave in North America could not own property and had
absolutely no civil rights. The law clearly stated that he could neither
own, inherit, or will property nor engage in buying and selling except at
the pleasure of his master. In contrast, the slave in South America could
own property, could engage in buying and selling, and was guaranteed
Sundays, holidays, and other times which to work for his own advancement.
In short, the law implied that while the master could own a man's labor,
he could not own the man as a person.

It is not easy to make a final comparison between these two slave
systems. South American masters often evaded the law and would be
exceedingly brutal, and North American masters were often much more
lenient than the law required. Conditions moreover, were usually more
severe in South America, and this fact may have worsened the actual
material situation of South American slave.  Nevertheless, in North
America the slave was consistently treated as a "thing." In South America
there was some attempt to treat him as a man. This fact made a profound
difference in the way in which the two systems affected the slave as an
individual, and in the way in which they impinged upon the development of
his personality.

Slavery and the Formation of Character

The study of American slavery, frequently consisting of a heated debate
concerning the institution's merits, has, in recent years, branched into
new directions. Scholars have become engaged in the comparative
examination of differing slave systems such as those of North and South
America. More recently, Stanley M. Elkins has begun an inquiry into the
impact of a slave system in forming the individual character of the
slaves within that system. In his provocative study, Slavery: A Problem
in American Institutional and Intellectual Life, he has made some
interesting comparisons between the American slave system and the German
concentration camps and has endeavored to account for their respective
impacts on character formation through the social-psychological theories
of personality formation.

In Elkins's thinking, the concentration camps were a modern example of a
rigid system controlling mass behavior. Because some of those who
experienced them were social scientists trained in the skills of
observation and analysis, they provide a basis for insights into the way
in which a particular social system can influence mass character.  While
there is also much literature about American slavery written both by
slaves and masters, none of it was written from the viewpoint of modern
social sciences.  However, Elkins postulates that a slave type must have
existed as the result of the attempt to control mass behavior, and he
believes that this type probably bore a marked resemblance to the
literary stereotype of "Sambo." Studying concentration camps and their
impact on personality provides a tool for new insights into the working
of slavery, but, warns Elkins, the comparison can only be used for
limited purposes. Although slavery was not unlike the concentration camp
in many respects, the concentration camp can be viewed as a highly
perverted form of slavery, and both systems were ways of controlling mass

The "Sambo" of American slave literature was portrayed as being docile
but irresponsible, loyal but lazy, humble but chronically given to lying
and stealing. He was a child figure, often demonstrating infantile
silliness and exaggeration, exasperating but lovable and, above all,
utterly dependent on and attached to his master. The master explained
this behavior as the result of the slave's race or of his primitive
African culture.

While assuming that many slaves did approximate the character of "Sambo,"
Elkins absolutely rejects any racial or cultural explanation.  Modern
African studies have not led to any evidence of a "Sambo" type in Africa.
Similarly, the literature of South America does not contain any figure
comparable to him.  Apparently, "Sambo" was not merely the result of
slavery, but he was the result of the unique form of slavery which
developed in North America. Unrestricted in his powers by institutions
such as the crown and the Church, the American slave master had gained
total control of his slave property. In a desire to maximize the profits
of his investment, he strove to develop the perfect slave. Although the
slave might endeavor to conform externally while maintaining his inner
integrity, eventually his performance as an ideal slave must have
affected the shape of his personality. Modern existentialism has argued
that how we behave determines what we are, and it is in this sense that
the controlled behavior in the concentration camp and its impact on
personality formation provide an illuminating parallel to the study of
American slavery.

The experienced gained in the German concentration camps during the
Second World War showed that it was possible to induce widespread
infantile behavior in masses of adults. Childlike action extended
beyond obedience to the guards and showed that a basic character
transformation had occurred. Previous social-psychological theory
stressed the ways in which an individual's personality was shaped
during his earliest childhood years and emphasized the tenacity with
which these early traits resisted attempt at alteration.  Personality
theory was not  adequate to what occurred in the camps.

The concentration camp experience began with what has become labeled as
shock procurement. As terror was one of the many tools of the system,
surprise late-night arrests were the favorite technique. Camp inmates
generally agreed that the train ride to the camp was the point at which
they experienced the first brutal torture. Herded together into cattle
cars, without adequate space, ventilation, or sanitary conditions, they
had to endure the horrible crowding and the harassment of the guards.
When they reached the camp, they had to stand naked in line and undergo a
detailed examination by the camp physician. Then, each was given a tag
and a number. These two events were calculated to strip away one's
identity and to reduce the individual to an item within an impersonal

One's sense of personhood was further undermined by the fact that there
was never any privacy. The individual had lost both his identity and his
power.  Everything was done to him or for him, but nothing was ever done
by him. The guards had the power to dispense food, clothing, shelter,
punishment, and even death Prisoners had to request permission to use the
sanitary facilities, and permission was not always forthcoming. As the
inmates were not sentenced for specified periods of time, they tended to
view camp life as having a limitless future.

In a relatively short time, this experience of total dependence developed
characteristics of infantile behavior in those prisoners who managed to
avoid the extermination chambers. A childish humor and infantile giggling
were common. Boasting and lying were widely practiced. Patterns of hero
worship emerged, and the guards became the heroes. The prisoners came to
accept their values including their German nationalism and anti-Semitism.
Some even altered their uniforms to resemble those of the guards, and
they slavishly followed orders beyond necessity. Attempts at resistance
were very rare, and, when the liberating American forces arrived at the
end of the war, they were surprised that there was not some attempt at
mass revenge.

In comparison, the African who became an American slave underwent an
experience which had some marked similarities to those of the German
concentration camp. He too underwent a kind of shock procurement.
Although millions of men became slaves, the event was unique to each man.
Usually, he had been captured in the course of warfare which, in itself,
was a humiliation. After being chained together and marched to the coast,
his horror must have increased when he realized that he was being sold to
Europeans. It was widely believed by Africans that white men were
cannibals. At the coastal station, he also had to endure the humiliation
of a naked inspection by a physician. This was followed by a lengthy
transoceanic trip which must have exceeded the horrors of the train ride
to the concentration camp. The crowded unsanitary conditions in the slave
ships were at least as bad as those in the cattle cars, and the Africans
also were beaten and harassed to keep them docile.

Moreover, the trip itself was much rougher and longer. After undergoing
another inspection, the African was purchased and had to face lifetime of
bondage in an alien environment. He was stripped of identity, given a new
name, and he was taught to envision himself and his African heritage as
inferior and barbaric. The White master insisted on total obedience and
created a situation of utter dependence. He supplied food, clothing,
shelter, discipline, and he was in a position to control the slave's
friends and mating.  The "Sambo" of literature mirrored reality, this
life of dependency created infantile characteristics in many of the
slaves and taught them to reject their past while adopting the values of
their masters. The American slave system, besides exploiting the Africans
labor, possessed and violated his person.

Three schools of mass behavior have been suggested as explanations:
Freudian psychology, the interpersonal theories of Henry Stack Sullivan,
and role psychology. Freudian psychology has put total emphases on early
childhood experiences and is the least suited for this purpose. It could
be argued that the shock procurement and the total detachment from
previous life which it achieved both in the concentration camps and in
American slavery emptied the super-ego or conscience of its contents.
Then, the creation of total dependence which followed could have resulted
in infantile regression. This would account for the childlike behavior of
both "Sambo" and the camp inmates. The slave master the camp guard, each
in his own way, became a father figure, and the respective victims
internalized the value system of this symbolic father.

The interpersonal school of psychology states that the determining factor
in influencing personality development can be found in the estimation and
expectation of "significant others." Those responsible for the physical
and emotional security of an individual are his "significant others." For
a child these are his parents. As he matures, the number of "significant
others" in one's experience increases. This permits one to make decisions
of one's own and to develop some individuality.

However, the child has already internalized the estimations and
expectations of his parents, and this tends to shape his personality for
rest of his life. Still, acquiring new "significant others" as adult can
be important in reshaping the adult personality. Both the American slaves
and the camp prisoners were thrust into situations in which they had a
new single "significant other." This was a situation similar to that of
childhood, and it could have had the same impact in shaping personality.
All previous "significant others" had been made insignificant, and, in
each case, the estimations and expectations of this new "significant
other" became internalized into the personality of the victims.

Role psychology holds the most promise for explaining the impact of a
social situation in determining the development of individual
personality. In role psychology the individual and society can be
compared to the actor and the theater. Society provides the individual
with a number of roles, and the individual's behavior is his performance,
the way in which he plays them.

Normally, each individual plays a number of roles simultaneously.  While
some are pervasive and extensive in scope, others are limited and
transitory, The role of man or woman is extensive, but that of customer
or student is transitory. Society also endows some roles with
considerable clarity, while leaving others open to individual
interpretation, The roles people play and the way in which they play them
determine personality. Within American slavery as well as within the
German concentration camps, the number of roles available were severely
limited, and both the slave master and the camp guard defined them very
clearly. Both demanded a precise and careful performance.  There were
those whose performance was faultless in playing their roles. While the
concentration camp guard guaranteed its performance through terror and
torture, the slave master usually used more subtle means. Besides
punishment for missed cues, masters displayed considerable fondness for
slaves who played their part well. By restricting role availability and
by carefully defining the performance, society could create a group
personality type, and, through changing roles, society could change

Although the innovative use of personality types has further illuminated
the nature of the American slave system, it has tended to blur the
individual experiences and contributions of millions of Africans into a
vague amorphous abstraction. The technique has provided important
insights into the plight of the slave as the victim of a dehumanizing
system, but it tends to obscure the active participation of Africans in
American life.  Further, it is a crude generalization which, in fact,
included many types within it. While most slaves were plantation field
hands, there were many  whose lives followed different lines and for whom
slavery was a very different experience. Some slaves departed sharply
enough from the "Sambo" image to become leaders in insurrections. These
men were usually urban slaves possessing unusual talents, and thereby
escaping much of the emasculation which the typical slave had to endure.

Emphasizing the slave as the victim of the slave system further reduces
him to a passive object by insisting that the slave was effectively
detached from his African heritage. Many scholars, including Elkins,
believe that the attempt to discover Africanisms in America by
researchers such as Melville J.  Herskovits has led to trivial and
insignificant results. This belief is reinforced by the example of the
German concentration camps. There, people from wide variety of social and
educational backgrounds reacted in highly similar ways. Apparently the
individual had been detached from his prior life, and his reactions to
the camp were shaped in standardized manner.  Similarly, it is argued,
the slave was stripped of his heritage, so that none of his African
background could influence his life in America. His personality and
behavior were shaped exclusively by the unique form of American slavery.

However, if we apply the experiences gained in the Chinese
prisoner-of-war camps during the Korean War, some doubts on this point
can be raised. While Americans from a wide variety of social and
educational backgrounds behaved with a marked similarity to each other,
thereby appearing to prove that their previous experiences were
irrelevant to their reactions to the camp, there was, to the contrary, a
significant difference between the behavior the American and Turkish
prisoners who had both been fighting the Korean War. The morale of the
American prisoners was easily broken, and each one strove to look out for
himself even at expense of his comrade's life. In contrast, the Turks
maintained military discipline and group solidarity. This evidence would
seem indicate that, while individual differences were insignificant,
cultural differences did influence adjustment to the camp situation.

There are also grounds to believe that different value systems influenced
the way in which contrasting cultures adjusted to slavery.  While the
African made the adjustment successfully, the American Indian, when he
was enslaved, did not.  The African's agricultural labor had contained
many similarities to the work required on the plantation, but the Indian,
accustomed to a migratory hunting existence, was totally unprepared for
plantation slavery.  He found nothing in it to sustain his values or his
will to live, and he was unable to make the adjustment.

If the African's agricultural background helped his adaptation to
American slavery, then we must assume that his detachment from his
heritage was not complete. Perhaps, besides influencing his life as a
slave, his African background may have found its way into other aspects
of American society. However, it would seem that because the African came
to believe in his own inferiority, there must have been very little
conscious attempt to keep his culture alive. Certainly, the recent Black
Power movement, which intended to revive pride in race and in the past,
bears eloquent testimony to the degree to which any conscious link with
the African past had been suppressed. Nevertheless, mental and emotional
habit can continue without any conscious intention, and habits of this
kind are important for the formation of personality, Moreover, it is
possible that the image of "Sambo" as an exasperating child may tell as
much about the mentality of the white master who perpetuated the picture
as it does about the slave whom it depicted. Perhaps the picture of the
childlike slave is also a reverse image of the sober, patronizing white
master whose life was rooted in austerity. To such a man spontaneity and
exuberance might well have seemed infantile.

The life of a slave did not give him much opportunity to create artifacts
which could later be catalogued as evidence of African influence.
However, he did create a unique music. While Negro spirituals were not
imported directly from Africa, they were more than an attempt to copy the
master's music. They represent highly complex fusion of African and
European music, of African and European religion, and of African and
European emotion.  Blues and jazz, which emerged at a later date,
represent a similar creative tension. They clearly evolve from the
experience of the African in America and include in them elements which
can be traced directly to Africa. Jazz is now viewed throughout the world
as American music. It demonstrates the fact that the African immigrant
was not totally detached from his heritage and that he has made
significant contributions to American culture.  While American slavery
did violate the person of the slave, some Africans, in the face of it
all, managed to maintain some sense of individuality and manhood.

Slave Response

Undoubtedly, the slave's most common response to his condition was one of
submission. There was no hope of his returning to Africa, and there was
no realistic expectation that the situation would be significantly
altered. The hopelessness of his plight created a deep sense of apathy.
However, even this acceptance of his master's values may have reflected
African influences. It was common for a defeated tribe in West Africa to
adopt the gods of its victors within the framework of its own religion.
This attitude would have facilitated the African's adjustment to slavery
in an alien culture.

The majority of slaves worked in the fields on large plantations.  The
majority of them were herded into large work gangs, supervised by
overseers, and carefully directed in the accomplishment of whatever task
was necessary for that day.  Others were regularly assigned to a specific
task without constant supervision and were held responsible for its
completion. In this way it was possible for them to develop some sense of
initiative. House slave were usually better off than field hands, but,
because they lived in such proximity to their masters, they were much
quicker to adopt the master's values and tended to be more obsequious.

Another significant group of slaves, both on the plantation and in the
city, developed their talents and became skilled craftsmen: barbers,
blacksmiths, carpenters, and a wide variety of other trades. Masters who
could not fully utilize the skills of such a craftsman rented their
property to their neighbors. In some cases, master permitted the slave to
be responsible for hiring himself out and allowed him to keep some of the
profits.  The variety of experiences permitted within slavery allowed
significant variations in the types of slaves who emerged.

Even apparently submissive slaves developed techniques of passive
resistance. The laziness, stealing, lying, and faked illnesses, which
were usually attributed to the slave's childlike behavior, may have been
deliberate ways of opposing the system. Masters complained that many of
their slaves were chronic shirkers. When slaves dragged their feet while
working, it was seen as evidence of their inferiority. When white union
workers behave similarly, it is labeled a slowdown.

Other slaves appear to have indulged in deliberate mischief, trampling
down crops, breaking tools, and abusing livestock.  A southern physician,
Dr. Cartwright, concluded that this behavior was symptomatic of a mental
disease peculiar to Africans. He labeled the disease Dysaethesia
Aethiopica and insisted that masters were wrong in thinking that it was
merely rascality.  He also concluded that the slave's chronic tendency to
run away was in reality the symptom of yet another African disease,
Drapetomania, which he believed would eventually be medically cured.

Finally, some slaves engaged in active resistance. Most of the slave
insurrections in America were very small, and most were unsuccessful.
The three best known insurrections were those led by Gabriel Prosser,
Denmark Vesey, and Nat Turner. These revolts will be treated more fully
in the next chapter.

The masters consistently refused to see examples of passive or active
resistance as signs of manhood. Lying and stealing were never interpreted
as passive resistance, but were always attributed to an inferior savage
heritage, as was slave violence.  Prosser, Vesey, and Turner, instead of
being numbered among the world's heroes fighting for the freedom of their
people, were usually represented as something closer to savages,
criminals, or psychopaths. Modern historical scholarship has been
influenced by the interpretation of slave behavior, which stressed the
impact of the system on the slave, rather than his response to it.
Consequently, it has failed to give proper recognition to African
contributions to American life.

Chapter 4

All Men Are Created Equal

Slavery and the American Revolution

"How is it," asked Samuel Johnson, "that we hear the loudest yelps for
liberty among the drivers of negroes?"  The British author was only one
of many Europeans who thought it strange that a nation run by slave
owners should be so noisily demanding its own freedom.  This same bitter
inconsistency was embodied in the death of Crispus Attucks.  A mulatto
slave who had run away from his Massachusetts master in 1750, he spent
the next twenty years working as a seaman and living in constant fear of
capture and punishment.  In 1770, he, with four others, was killed in the
Boston Massacre.  Ironically, the first man to die in the Colonial fight
for freedom was both an Afro-American and a runaway slave. His death
became symbolic of what was to be an underlying question in the years to
come: "What place would there be for the African in America once the
colonies gained freedom from the old world?"

The Quakers were the first group in America to attack slavery.  In his
book Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes, John Woolman
contended that no one had the right to own another human being.  In 1758
the Philadelphia yearly meeting said that slavery was inconsistent with
Christianity, and in 1775 Quakers played a dominant role in the formation
of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, the first
antislavery society in America.

As the colonists began to agitate for their own freedom, many of them
became increasingly aware of the contradiction involved in slaveholders
fighting for their own freedom.  "To contend for liberty," John Jay
wrote, "and to deny that blessing to others involves an inconsistency not
to be excused."  James Otis maintained that the same arguments which were
used to defend the rights of the colonists against Britain could be used
with at least equal force against the colonists by their slaves.  "It is
a clear truth," he said, "that those who every day barter away other
men's liberty will soon care little for their own."

In the same vein, Abigail Adams wrote her husband: "It always appeared a
most iniquitous scheme to me to fight ourselves for what we are daily
robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as
we have."  Perhaps the most radical statement was made by the Reverend
Isaac Skillman in 1773.  Again, comparing the struggle of the colonists
with that of the slaves, he said that it was in conformity with natural
law that a slave could rebel against his master.

In 1774 the Continental Congress did agree to a temporary termination of
the importation of Africans into the colonies, but, in reality, this was
a tactical blow against the British slave trade and not an attack against
slavery itself.  In an early draft of the Declaration of Independence,
the British king was attacked for his in involvement in the slave trade,
and he was charged with going against human nature by violating the
sacred rights of life and liberty.  However, this section was deleted.
Apparently, Southern delegates feared that this condemnation of the
monarch reflected on them as well.

Although neither slavery nor the slave trade was mentioned in the
Declaration, it did maintain that all men were created equal and endowed
with the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  This
seeming ambivalence concerning the future of slavery on the part of the
Continental Congress left Samuel Johnson's ironic question about American
hypocrisy unanswered.  From a logical point of view, the Declaration of
Independence either affirmed the freedom of the African immigrant, or it
denied his humanity.  Because each state continued almost as a separate
sovereign entity, the Declaration of Independence became a philosophical
abstraction, and the status of the African in America was determined
independently by each.

Lord Dunmore, the British governor of Virginia, put teeth into Johnson's
bitter question.  In 1775 he offered to grant freedom to any slave who
ran away from his master and joined the British army.  Earlier that year,
in spite of the fact that both slaves and free men had served at
Lexington and Concord, the colonists had shown an increasing reluctance
to have any blacks serving in their Army.  The Council of War, under
Washington's leadership, had unanimously rejected the enlistment of
slaves and, by a large majority, it had opposed their recruitment
altogether.  However, the eager response of many slaves to Lord Dunmore's
invitation gradually compelled the colonists to reconsider their stand.
Although many colonists felt that the use of slaves was inconsistent with
the principles for which the Army was fighting, all the colonies, with
the exception of Georgia and South Carolina, eventually recruited slaves
as well as freedmen.  In most cases, slaves were granted their freedom at
the end of their military service.  During the war some five thousand
blacks served in the Continental Army with the vast majority coming from
the North.

In contrast to later practice, during the Revolution the armed services
were largely integrated with only a few segregated units.  While the vast
majority of Afro-American troops fighting in the Revolutionary War will
always remain anonymous, there were several who achieved distinction and
made their mark in history.  Both Prince Whipple and Oliver Cromwell
crossed the Delaware with Washington on Christmas Day in 1776.  Lemuel
Haynes, later a pastor of a white church, served at the Battle of
Ticonderoga.  According to many reports, Peter Salem killed the British
major, John Pitcairn, at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Gradually, the colonies were split into two sections by differing
attitudes towards slavery.  In 1780 the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a
law providing for the gradual abolition of slavery.  The Preamble to the
legislation argued that, considering that America had gone to war for its
own freedom, it should share that blessing with those who were being
subjected to a similar state of bondage in its midst.  Three years later
the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided that slavery was contrary to that
state's constitution and that it violated the natural rights of man.
Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York all passed laws
providing for gradual emancipation.  Although the liberal philosophy of
the revolution did lead these states to end slavery, most Northern
citizens were not genuinely convinced that natural law had conferred full
equality on their Afro-American neighbors.  Racial discrimination
remained widespread.

At the same time, the Southern states which were dependent on slavery for
their economic prosperity showed little interest in applying the
doctrines of the Declaration of Independence to either the slaves or the
free blacks in their midst.  If anything, the passage of stiffer black
codes increased the rights of the masters while diminishing those of
slaves and freedmen.  Some Southern states had qualms about the
advisability of continuing the slave trade, but this did not mean that
they had doubts about the value of slavery.  Rather, the number of slave
insurrections which swept through South America, highlighted by the
bloody revolt in Haiti, led them to fear possible uprisings at home.
They had always been cautious about bringing unbroken slaves directly
from Africa, and now they were also afraid to import unruly slaves from
South America.

In 1783 Maryland passed a law prohibiting the importation of slaves, and
in 1786 North Carolina drastically increased the duty on the importation
of slaves, thereby severely reducing the flow.  The Federal Government
finally took action to terminate the slave trade in 1807, but a vigorous,
illegal trade continued until the Civil War.  The first sectional
conflict over slavery had taken place at the Constitutional Convention.
Those Northerners who had hoped to see slavery abolished by this new
constitution were quick to realize that such a document would never be
approved by the South.  Most of the antislavery forces concluded that it
was necessary to put the Union above abolition.

While the Constitution did not specifically mention slavery, it did
legally recognize the institution in three places.  First, there was a
heated debate over the means of calculating representation to the House.
Southern spokesmen wanted as many delegates as possible and preferred
that slaves be counted.  Northerners, wanting to restrict Southern
representation, insisted that slaves not be counted.  Some of them
pointed out that it was an insult to whites to be put on an equal footing
with slaves.  The compromise which was framed in Article I, Section 2,
was that a slave should be counted as three-fifths of a man.

Second, the antislavery elements tried to make their stand at the
convention by attacking the slave trade.  However, while many Southern
states were opposed to the trade, the issue became entangled in power
politics.  South Carolina, which had few slaves, believed that the
termination of the slave trade would force up the price of slaves and
place her at a severe disadvantage in comparison with Virginia which
already had a large slave supply.  It argued that Virginia would be
artificially enriched to the disadvantage of the other Southern states.
The states of the North and middle South were again forced to compromise,
and, in Article II, Section 9, they agreed that the trade would be
permitted to continue for another twenty years.

The third capitulation occurred in Article IV, Section 2, which as the
Fugitive Slave Provision.  It stated that a slave who ran away and
reached a free state, did not thereby obtain his freedom.  Instead, that
state was required, at the master's request, to seize and return him.

In fact, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were afraid that
the revolutionary ideology of freedom and equality had unwisely and
unintentionally unleashed a social revolution.  Southern planters
envisioned the end of slavery on which their wealth was based.  Northern
capitalists were opposed to the liberal and democratic land laws which
the people were demanding.  The economic leaders in both sections of the
country believed that there was a need to protect property rights against
these new revolutionary human rights.  While the Northern states strove
to stabilize society in order to build a flourishing commerce, the
Southern states tightened their control over their slaves fearing that
insurrections from South America or ideas about freedom and equality from
the American Revolution itself might inspire a serious slave rebellion.

Slave Insurrections

From the time that the first African was captured until the completion of
Emancipation, slaves struck out against the institution in one way or
another.  Herbert Aptheker has recorded over hundred insurrections.
Although most slave revolts in America were small and ineffective, there
were three in particular which chilled Southern hearts.  These were led
by Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, and Nat Turner and occurred within the
short span between 1800 and 1831.  Toussaint l'Ouverture in Haiti had
previously demonstrated that slaves could be victorious over large
European armies, and the American colonists had taught by their example
in the American Revolution that violence in the service of freedom was
justifiable.  The gradual abolition of slavery which was occurring in the
Northern states gave hope that the institution in America might be
terminated altogether.  However, the slaves saw little reason to believe
that their Southern masters would follow the example of the Northerners
in abolishing slavery.  Many of the slaves came to accept that if the
institution was to be destroyed, it would have to be done by the slaves

In August, 1800, Gabriel Prosser led a slave attack on Richmond,
Virginia.  During several months of careful planning and organizing, the
insurrectionists had gathered clubs, swords, and other crude weapons.
The intention was to divide into three columns: one to attack the
penitentiary which was being used as an arsenal, another to capture the
powder house, and a third to attack the city itself.  If the citizens
would not surrender, the rebels planned to kill all of the whites with
the exception of Quakers, Methodists, and Frenchman.  Apparently, Prosser
and his followers shared a deep distrust of most white men. When they had
gathered a large supply of guns and powder, and taken over the state's
treasury, the rebels calculated, they would be able to hold out for
several weeks.  What they hoped for was that slaves from the surrounding
territory would join them and, eventually, that the uprising would reach
such proportions as to compel the whites to come to terms with them.

Unfortunately for the plotters, on the day of the insurrection a severe
storm struck Virginia, wiping out roads and bridges.  This forced a delay
of several days.  In the meantime, two slaves betrayed the plot, and the
government took swift action.  Thirty-five of the participants, including
Prosser, were executed.  As the leaders refused to divulge any details of
their plans, the exact number involved in the plot remains unknown.
However, rumor had it that somewhere between two thousand and fifty
thousand slaves were connected with the conspiracy.  During the trials,
one of the rebels said that he had done nothing more than what Washington
had done, that he had ventured his life for his countrymen, and that he
was a willing sacrifice.

In Charleston, South Carolina, a young slave named Denmark Vesey won
$1,500 in a lottery with which he purchased his freedom.  During the
following years he worked as a carpenter.  In his concern over the plight
of his slave brethren, he formed a plan for an insurrection which would
bring them their freedom.  He and other freedmen collected two hundred
pike heads and bayonets as well as three hundred daggers to use in the
revolt, but, before the plans could be put into motion in 1882, a slave
informed on them.  This time it was rumored that there had been some nine
thousand involved in the plot.  Over a hundred arrests were made,
including four whites who had encouraged the project, and several of the
leaders, including Vesey, were executed.

The bloodiest insurrection of all, in which some sixty whites were
murdered, occurred in Southampton County, Virginia, in August, 1831.  Nat
Turner, its leader, besides being a skilled carpenter, was a literate,
mystical preacher.  He had discovered particular relevance in the
prophets of the Old Testament.  Besides identifying with the slave
experience of the Israelites, Turner and other slaves felt that the
social righteousness which the prophets preached related directly to
their situation.  The picture of the Lord exercising vengeance against
the oppressors gave them hope and inspiration.  While the Bible did
appear to tell the slave to be faithful and obedient to his master, it
also condemned the wicked and provided examples that could be interpreted
to prove God's willingness to use human instruments in order to bring
justice against oppressors.  Turner's growing hatred of slavery and his
increasing concern for the plight of his brothers, led him to believe he
was one of God's chosen instruments.

As his conviction deepened, the solar eclipse early in 1831 appeared to
him to be a sign that the day of vengeance was at hand.  In the following
months he collected a small band of followers, and in August they went
into action.  Unlike Prosser and Vesey, he began with only a very small
band which lessened his chance of betrayal.  As they moved from farm to
farm, slaughtering the white inhabitants, they were joined by many of the
slaves who were freed in the process.  However, word of the massacre
spread.  At one farm, they were met by armed resistance.  Slaves as well
as masters fought fiercely to stop the attack.  Some of Turner's men were
killed and wounded, and the planned drive towards Jerusalem was thrown
off stride.  This enabled the militia to arrive and break up the attack.
In due time Turner and several of his followers were captured and

White men in both the South and the North saw little similarity between
these insurrections and the American Revolution.  The Turner massacre was
universally depicted as the work of savages and brutes, not of men.
Vigilance was tightened, and new laws controlling the slaves were passed
throughout the South.  Both the violence of the slaves and the verbal
abuse of the abolitionists only served to strengthen the South in its
defense of the peculiar institution.  Slaves who revolted were depicted
as beasts who could not be freed because they would endanger society.
Submissive slaves were pictured as children in need of paternal
protection from the evils of a complex, modern world.  They were never
seen as men whose rights and liberties had been proclaimed in the
Declaration of Independence.

Growing Racism

As Afro-American freedmen sought to claim their rights as men and
citizens, they were confronted with constant resistance from whites who
were unwilling to accept them.  Actually, pressure from the mass of
Northern white workers had contributed to abolition of slavery in those
states.  In the Northern states slavery was forced to compete with free
white labor in a way which was not true of the plantation economy of the
South.  White workers continually complained that slavery was keeping
their wages down and unemployment up, and in 1737 the governor of New
York had asked the Legislature to investigate the charges that slave
competition contributed to unemployment.  While this attack had helped to
undermine slavery, it had also exacerbated tension between black and
white labor.  The continual flow of runaways from the South brought an
increasing supply of cheap black labor to compete with white workers, and
the friction between the two races continued.  While many of the
runaways, like Frederick Douglass, had worked as skilled craftsmen in the
South, they found economic discrimination in the North limiting them to
menial labor.

After 1830, when the tide of European immigration began to swell, the
competition for jobs grew even sharper, and blacks found that even menial
jobs were being taken over by the new European immigrants.  Jobs such as
stevedores, coachmen, barbers, and servants, which had traditionally been
left to blacks, were now being invaded by the Irish.  Whereas in 1830 the
vast majority of New York City servants were Afro-American, after 1850
most of them were Irish.  This economic competition contributed
considerably to the hostility, fear, and discrimination which confronted
the Northern freedmen.

In 1816 the American Colonization Society was founded.  It was considered
the ideal solution to the American racial dilemma.  Claiming to be
interested in the welfare of the African in its midst, the Society
advocated colonizing in Africa or wherever else it was expedient.  It
comforted slave owners by announcing that it was not concerned with
either emancipation or amelioration.  Both were outside its jurisdiction.
It did imply that slaves might eventually be purchased for colonization.
Most of its propaganda tried to demonstrate that the freedman lived in a
wretched state of poverty, immorality, and ignorance and that he would be
better off in Africa.

The movement received widespread support from almost all sectors of the
white community including presidents Madison and Jackson.  Several state
legislatures supported the idea, and Congress voted $100,000 to finance
the plan which eventually led to the establishment of the Republic of

However, the Afro-American community was not very enthusiastic about the
project.  In 1817 three thousand blacks crowded into the Bethel Church in
Philadelphia and, led by Richard Allen, vehemently criticized
colonization.  They charged that the Society's propaganda only served to
increase racial discrimination since it stressed the poverty and
ignorance of the freedman and claimed he was doomed to continue in his
filth and degradation because of his natural inferiority.  It also argued
that whites would only take advantage of the Afro-American, and that the
separation of the two races was the only solution.  The participants at
the Bethel meeting contended that this propaganda tended to justify
racial discrimination.

The claim was also made that the removal of freedmen from America would
only serve to make the slave system more secure, and they pledged
themselves never to abandon their slave brothers.  Besides, while they
were African by heritage, they had been born in America, and it was now
their home.  Most of the fifteen thousand who did return to Africa were
slaves who had been freed for this purpose, and the project was
acknowledged to be a failure.  The Society's own propaganda contributed
to the alienation of many freedmen.  One of its own leaders admitted that
lacks could read and hear and, when they were spoken of as a nuisance to
be banished, they reacted negatively like men.

Widespread racial prejudice, besides creating racial discrimination,
resulted in oppressive legislation.  In 1810 Congress excluded
Afro-Americans from carrying the mail.  In 1820 it authorized the
District of Columbia to elect white city officials, and it consistently
admitted new states to the Union whose constitutions severely limited the
rights of freedmen.  The office of the Attorney General usually took the
position that the Constitution did not grant citizenship to Negroes, and
Congress itself had limited naturalization to white aliens in 1790.  This
point of view was later justified by the Dred Scott decision.  With only
a few exceptions, the Secretary of State refused to grant passports to
those wishing to travel abroad, although it did provide a letter of
identification stating that the carrier was a resident of the United
States.  Finally, Massachusetts granted its own passports to its colored
citizens, complaining that they had been virtually denationalized.

Also, many states in the Northwest passed laws prohibiting or limiting
the migration of Afro-Americans into their territory.  An Illinois law
said that anyone who entered the state illegally could be whipped and
sold at auction.  Many states denied blacks the ballot, prohibited their
serving on a jury and legally segregated transportation, restaurants,
hotels, theaters, churches, and even cemeteries.  Most Northern states
did not allow them to testify in court against whites.  This meant that,
if a white man beat a black, the black had no legal protection unless
another white was willing to testify on his behalf.

On several occasions white hostility erupted into violence.  Black
workmen were harassed, abolitionists beaten, and entire communities
terrorized.  One of the worst of these events occurred in Cincinnati in
1829.  With the rapid growth of "Little Africa," that city's black
ghetto, the local citizens decided to enforce the state's
anti-integration legislation.  Some twenty years before, the state had
passed a law requiring blacks entering the state to provide proof of
their freedom and to post a bond as guarantee of their good behavior.
When the inhabitants of "Little Africa" obtained an extension of the
30-day time limit within which they were to comply with the law, the
citizens of Cincinnati were outraged, and they took matters into their
own hands.  White mobs ransacked the area, indiscriminately and
mercilessly beating women and children, looting stores and burning
houses.  It was estimated that half of the two thousand inhabitants of
the area left the city.  Many of them emigrated to Canada, and the local
paper, which had helped to inflame the mob, lamented that the respectable
black citizens had left and only derelicts remained.

At the very point in American history when democracy was sinking its
roots deeper into the national soil, the status of the Afro-American was
being clearly defined as an inferior one.  The Jacksonian Era brought the
common man into new prominence, but the same privileges were not extended
to the blacks.  In the South, society was strengthening the institution
of slavery against any possible recurrences of slave insurrections.  The
activities of the slaves, especially those of Negro preachers, were being
watched even more closely than before.  In the North, both state and
federal laws denied blacks many of the rights of citizenship.

PART TWO  Emancipation Without Freedom

Chapter 5

A Nation Divided

Black Moderates And Black Militants

On the eve of the Revolution there was justification for assuming that
slavery in the Northern states was withering away.  By 1800 most of the
Northern states had either done away with slavery or had made provision
for its gradual abolition. Although this might not change the status of
an adult slave, he knew his children, when they reached maturity, would
be free. This meant that the important issue in the North was that of
identity.  What would be the place of Negroes who were not fully accepted
as Americans?  While Northern states were willing to grant freedom to the
Afro-Americans, they continued to view them as inferiors.  Many observers
remarked that race prejudice actually increased with the abolition of
slavery.  Northern freedmen concluded, like their slave brothers in the
South, that they would have to work out their own salvation. This left
them to wrestle with such questions as: "Am I an American?" "Am I an
African?" "Am I inferior?" "How can I establish my manhood and gain

In the years immediately preceding the Revolution, there were slaves who
had wrestled with some of these questions: Jupiter Hammon and Phillis
Wheatley. They tried to establish their claim to manhood through literary
ability.  Both were poets and wrote romantic poetry in the spirit of the
day. In 1761 Jupiter Hammon, a Long Island slave, published his poem: "An
Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries". Twelve
years later Phillis Wheatley published a slim volume of poetry which was
written in a style much like that of Alexander Pope.  Born in Africa in
1753, she had been brought to America as a child and had served in the
Wheatley home in Boston. When she displayed some literary ability, her
master granted freedom to her and, to some extent, became her patron. Her
volume of poetry was published while she was visiting England and is
generally considered superior to the poetry of Jupiter Hammon. Although
on one occasion Hammon did suggest that slavery was evil, he instructed
slaves to bear it with patience. Neither he nor Phillis Wheatley made any
direct challenge to race prejudice.  Instead, they strove to gain
acceptance as talented individuals who might help others of their race to
improve their situation.  Unfortunately, white society regarded them only
as unusual individual exceptions and continued to maintain its racial

Gustavus Vassa was born in Africa in 1745 and was brought to America as a
slave. Eventually, after serving several masters, he became the property
of a Philadelphia merchant who let him buy his own freedom.  After
working for some time as a sailor, he settled in England, where he felt
he would encounter less racial discrimination. There he became an active
worker in the British anti-slavery movement. In 1789 he published his
autobiography, "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Oloudah Equiano,
or Gustavus Vassa", in which he bitterly attacked Christians for
participating in the slave trade.

In 1792, Benjamin Banneker, a freedman from Maryland, wrote to Thomas
Jefferson complaining that it was time to eradicate false racial
stereotypes. While expressing doubts regarding the merits of slavery in
his "Notes on Virginia", Jefferson had expressed his belief in the
inferiority of the African. Banneker had educated himself, especially in
mathematics and astronomy, and in 1789 he was one of those who helped to
survey the District of Columbia.  Later, he predicted a solar eclipse. In
1791 he had begun the publication of a series of almanacs, and the next
year he sent one of these to Jefferson in an attempt to challenge his
racial views.  Jefferson was so impressed with the work that he sent it
to the French Academy of Science. However, he seemed to view Banneker as
an exception rather than fresh evidence undermining white stereotypes.

In Massachusetts Paul Cuffe was rapidly becoming a black capitalist.
After having worked as a sailor, he managed to buy a business of his own.
Over the years, he came to own considerable property in Boston, and
eventually he had an entire fleet of ships sailing along the Atlantic
coast, visiting the Caribbean and crossing the ocean to Africa. During
the Revolution, he and his brother, both of whom owned property and paid
taxes, raised the question of political rights.  Claiming "no taxation
without representation", they both refused to pay their taxes because
they were denied the ballot. Their protest led Massachusetts to permit
blacks to vote on the same basis as whites.  Nevertheless, over the years
Cuffe developed reservations about the future of the African in America.
In 1815, at his own expense, he transported thirty-eight blacks back to
Africa. This was one of the first attempts at African colonization.
Apparently the costs and other problems surrounding the project were so
great that he never pursued it further.

As it became increasingly apparent that the end of slavery would not mean
the end of discrimination, cooperative action by Afro-Americans seemed to
be the only basis from which to gain acceptance, and in 1775 the African
Lodge No. 459, the first Afro-American Masonic lodge in America, was
founded. Prince Hall, its founder, was born in Barbados and came to
America with the idea of identifying himself with Afro-Americans. He
became a minister in the Methodist Church, where he dedicated himself to
their advancement. However, he concluded that only through working
together through black cooperation, could any progress be made.  After
being refused recognition by the American masons, his lodge was
legitimized by a branch of the British Masons connected with army
stationed in Boston. Before long African lodges as well as other
fraternal organizations sprang up all across the country.  Denied access
to white society, blacks found it necessary to form various kinds of
organizations for their own welfare.

Even within the church which supposedly stressed brotherhood, separate
African organizations were emerging. During the revolution, George Liele
founded a black Baptist church in Savannah, Georgia. Although similar
churches sprang up throughout the South, the independent church movement
progressed more rapidly in the Northern states. In 1786 Richard Allen,
who had previously purchased his freedom from his Delaware master, began
similar meetings among his own people in Philadelphia. He wanted to found
a separate black church, but he was opposed by Blacks and whites alike.
However, when the officials of St.  George's Methodist Church proposed
segregating the congregation, events came to a head. Richard Allen,
Absalom Jones, and others went to the gallery as directed, but the ushers
even objected to their sitting in the front seats of the gallery. When
they were pulled from their knees during prayer, Allen and his friends
left the church, never to return.  They immediately formed the Free
African Society and began collecting funds to build a church.  This
resulted in the founding of St. Thomas' African Protestant Episcopal
Church headed by Absalom Jones. In spite of the behavior of the
Methodists, Allen believed that Methodism was better suited to his
people's style of worship and gradually he collected a community of
followers. In 1794 the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was
opened in Philadelphia.  In 1816 several A.M.E. congregations met
together to form a national organization with Allen as its bishop.
Similar events in New York City led to the establishment of the African
Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Early in 1807 a black Baptist Church was
founded in Philadelphia, and later in that same year congregations were
established in Boston and New York.  The New York congregation developed
into the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

The African church became the most important organization within the
Afro-American community. Besides providing spiritual strength and
comfort, it became a community institution, a center for social,
political, and economic life. The minister became the most important
leader of his people. However, the full potential for organizing protest
was overlooked. For the most part, the church taught an other-worldly
religion which strove to provide strength with which to endure the
sorrows of this life, but it did not try too actively to change the
situation. Richard Allen, for example, counseled patience and caution,
advising his people to wait for God to work in His own way. In the
meantime, the Christian was to practice obedience to God and to his
master.  Most of the clergy stuck to religious matters and avoided
political questions.  However, there were those who took an active part
in politics, and they became leaders in the abolition movement and in the
Negro Convention movement. They included men like Samuel Ringgold Ward
and Henry Highland Garnet.

Another manifestation of group solidarity occurred in the Negro
Convention Movement which began in 1830 and continued until the Civil
War. These meetings brought together leaders from Afro-American
communities throughout the North. They debated important problems,
developed common policies, and spoke out with a united voice. They
consistently urged the abolition of slavery in the Southern states, and
they condemned the legal and social discrimination which was rampant
throughout the North. At the 1843 convention in Buffalo, N.Y., Henry
Highland Garnet tried to persuade the movement to declare violence an
acceptable tool in the destruction of slavery. However, by a vote of 19
to 15, the movement continued to oppose violence and to limit its power
to an appeal based on moral persuasion.

Besides the Convention Movement, there were two other means of achieving
broad leadership. This was still an age of oratory.  Frederick Douglass,
William Wells Brown, Sojourner Truth, and many others traveled from town
to town and state to state giving lectures to both black and white
audiences. Also, they exploited the press to reach even larger numbers.
Some of the more famous autobiographies written at this time were those
of Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Austin Steward, and Josiah
Henson, all of whom recorded the horrors of slavery as well as the
humiliations of racial discrimination.

One of the most vehement attacks against slavery and discrimination was
"Walker's Appeal in Four Articles Together with a Preamble to the Colored
Citizens of the World But in Particular and Very Particularly to those of
the United States of America".  Although his  father had been a slave,
David Walker himself was born free in North Carolina. His hatred of
slavery drove him to Boston, where he became a clothing merchant, but he
was unable to forget his brethren who were still in bondage. The result
was that in 1829, he published a pamphlet which was both a vehement
attack against the institution of slavery and an open invitation for the
slaves to rise up in arms.

First, he pointed out that all races of the earth were called men and
assumed to be free with the sole exception of the Africans.  He denied
that his people wished to be white, insisting rather that they preferred
to be just as their creator had made them.  Urging his brothers not to
show fear because God was on their side, Walker contended that any man
who was not willing to fight for his freedom deserved to remain in
slavery and to be butchered by his captors.  Insisting that death was
preferable to slavery, he insisted that, if an uprising occurred, the
slaves would have to be willing to kill or be killed. Moreover, he urged
that it was no worse to kill a man in self-defense than it was to take a
drink of water when thirsty. Rather, a man who would not defend himself
was worse than an infidel, and not deserving of pity.

In addressing the American people, Walker foresaw that if they would
treat Africans as men, they could all live together in harmony. Georgia
offered $10,000 for Walker if taken alive and $1,000 for him dead. A year
later Walker died under somewhat mysterious circumstances, and some
claimed that he had been murdered. His pamphlet circulated widely
throughout the North and the South, and many believed that it helped to
encourage slave insurrections.

"Freedoms Journal", which had been founded in 1827 by Samuel E.  Cornish
and John B. Russwurm, was the first in a long series of Afro-American
newspapers. Russwurm had been the first of his race to receive a college
degree in America. In their first editorial, they proclaimed what was
becoming a growing conviction. They said that others had spoken for the
black man for too long. It was time that he spoke for himself. They also
attacked slavery and racial prejudice.  They strove to make the paper a
medium for communication and debate within the Afro-American community.
They also intended to use the paper to clarify misconceptions about
Africa. Like many of their contemporaries, Cornish and Russwurm believed
that even those who were friendly to their race were unconsciously
steeped in prejudice.  Therefore, it was doubly necessary for
Afro-Americans to speak out for themselves, to expose the prejudices of
bigots and liberals. However, by 1829 Russwurm had become increasingly
bitter about the future of his race in America and came to believe that
returning to Africa was the only way to escape prejudice. He believed
that the colony which had been established in Liberia was in need of
educated leadership, and he went there to become its superintendent of
education. Cornish remained behind and continued to work as a minister
and as a newspaper editor.

The "North Star", later known as Frederick Douglass's paper, was the best
known of the black journals. Its editor, Frederick Douglass, was born a
slave in Maryland in 1817. His mother was a slave named Harriet Bailey,
and the identity of his white father remains unknown. He was raised by
his maternal grandmother on a distant farm and almost never saw his
mother. Like many slaves, he was denied a father, almost denied a mother,
and largely denied any meaningful identity. After working for several
years as a slave both on the plantation and in the city, he determined to
run away. Although an earlier attempt had failed, he now made his way
north to New Bedford, Massachusetts. There he was shocked to discover
that, while some whites gave him protection and help, race prejudice was
still rampant. A skilled craftsman, he was unable to find work. When an
employer was willing to accept him, his fellow workers threatened to walk
off the job. For the next three years, he worked as servant, coachman,
and common laborer earning about a dollar a day.

Then, he met William Lloyd Garrison, the famous white abolitionist, who
was impressed with his slave experiences and his ability to describe
them. At one meeting, after Douglass had spoken, Garrison asked the
audience whether this was a beast or a man. Douglass soon became a
regular lecturer in the abolitionist movement. As he traveled throughout
the North, he was continually harassed by racial discrimination in
trains, coaches, boats, restaurants hotels, and other public places. In
contrast, when he went to England to raise funds for the movement, he was
struck by the fact that he could go any place, including places
frequented by the aristocracy, and be accepted as a man. He said that
wherever he went in England he could always identify an American because
his race prejudice clung to him like clothing.  While in England,
abolitionists raised funds which allowed him to purchase his freedom.

When he returned to America, Douglass settled in Rochester, New York,
where he began publication of "The North Star". Rochester was a thriving
city on the Erie Canal, and, because it also had a port on Lake Ontario,
it became an important terminal on the Underground Railroad. While many
runaways settled in Rochester, others boarded steamers for Canada where
they would be beyond the reach of the law.  Douglass came to play an
important role on the Underground Railroad, in the life of Rochester and,
through "The North Star", among Northern freedmen. Garrison felt
double-crossed when his most important cohort in the Afro-American
community struck out on his own. Douglass, in agreement with the position
previously taken by Cornish and Russwurm, believed that blacks must
assume leadership in their own cause.

Before long, "The North Star" was recognized as the voice of the black
man in America. Douglass spoke out on all issues through its pages, and
he continued to tour the country lecturing before audiences of both
colors and discussing matters of policy with other abolitionists. He did
not believe in merely exercising patience and obedience. Rather, he
believed it was necessary to prick the white man's conscience with moral
persuasion. His tactics combined nonviolence with self-assertion.
Although the Constitution had indirectly recognized slavery, Douglass
believed that its spirit, as well as that of the American Revolution,
implied the eventual destruction of that institution. Therefore,
political action was a legitimate and necessary tool with which to attack
slavery and racial discrimination. From his knowledge of the South, he
was convinced that slavery could not be overthrown without violence.
However, he insisted that the black man was in no position to take the
leadership in the use of physical force. At the same time, he was
increasingly aware of the depth of racial prejudice of Northern whites,
and he knew that there was a long struggle ahead to gain political,
social, and economic freedom.

White Liberals

In 1832 William Lloyd Garrison and eleven other whites founded the New
England Anti-Slavery Society which, besides working for the abolition of
slavery, fought for the rights of freedmen. Garrison soon became the
fiery and controversial leader of the abolitionist movement and the
editor of "The Liberator". The movement included men like Wendell
Phillips, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, Theodore Dwight Weld, Gerrit Smith,
James Birney, and many others. They condemned the American Colonization
Society for sharing the unchristian prejudices of the slaveholders.
Although the Northern states had abolished slavery, most whites believed
that it was not their business to interfere with the domestic affairs of
the Southern states. They also held that freedmen in the North must be
kept in their place, and they viewed the abolitionists as a dangerous and
radical minority.

The abolition movement itself was weakened by internal fragmentation.
Garrison was jealous of anyone who competed with him for leadership.  His
brand of abolitionism attacked the Constitution as a vicious document
giving sanction to slavery. He advocated that the Northern states
separate from the South as a means of removing federal protection from
slavery. Because the government was based on an unholy document, he
concluded that any kind of political action automatically enmeshed one in
this evil system. He was vehemently against the use of violence to
overthrow slavery and insisted that moral persuasion was the only
legitimate tool in the cause. Anyone who did not support his doctrines
faithfully was viewed as an enemy. This meant that he did not cooperate
with abolitionists who condoned the use of violence or with those who
were willing to accept the Constitution and engage in political action.

Ironically, the abolitionist movement was also divided by racial
prejudice. While opposing slavery, some refused to believe in political
equality. Others were willing to grant political equality, but resisted
the idea of social mixing.   The Philadelphia anti-slavery society spent
many meetings debating whether it should extend membership to blacks,
and, by a majority of two, it finally voted to drop its color bar.

Black abolitionists became increasingly irritated by the racial attitudes
of their white colleagues. Many of the whites were influential
businessmen, and they were attacked for their own hiring practices. It
was claimed that, when they hired blacks at all, they hired them only in
menial positions. Martin R. Delany, abolitionist, journalist, and
physician, complained that the blacks had taken a back seat in the
movement for too long. He also bitterly attacked whites for thinking that
they knew best what was good for the African. He concluded that both
friend and foe shared the same prejudices.

The Underground Railroad was another project which involved large numbers
of whites. Besides providing financial backing for it, they worked as
conductors and station masters. They helped runaways to safety, and they
sheltered escapees. These men wanted to do more than speak out on the
issue of slavery; they wanted to take action.  Helping runaway slaves was
against the law, and these men had such strong convictions that, while
they did not think of themselves as criminals, they were willing to
deliberately break the law. They participated in a kind of civil
disobedience. However, the bravest workers on the underground railroad
were black. If they were caught, especially in the South, they would have
to pay the ultimate price for their heroism. The best known of all the
black conductors was a brave runaway slave woman named Harriet Tubman.
She ventured deep into the South on several occasions to lead large
numbers of slaves to freedom, and she became a national legend. Several
states put a price on her head. During the Civil War she served as a
Union spy behind confederate lines.

Gradually the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad won the
support of ever-increasing numbers of white Northerners. At the same
time, the South became increasingly bitter.  Abolitionist literature was
banned throughout the South, and most of the abolitionist leaders,
because they had circulated literature in violation of this ban, had a
price put on their heads. The Underground Railroad was more than a
symbolic attack on the institution of slavery.  While there is no way of
telling how many slaves traveled to freedom with its help, certainly the
value of human property lost to the South was very high. A slave was
worth about $1,000, and thousands of slaves escaped. The financial loss
was very real. When Southern masters came north to recapture runaway
slaves, Northern consciences were outraged.

Finally, as the new states from the West were being permitted to join the
Union, the question as to whether slavery should be legalized in them
became important. Even Northern white bigots opposed the extension of
slavery into these states. From their point of view, slavery was unfair
competition with free labor, and they wanted the new states for the
purpose of expansion. As the middle of the century approached, dark
clouds of crisis could be seen on the horizon.

Growth of Extremism

During the 1850s American racial attitudes grew more extreme.  While
slavery continued to flourish throughout the South, discrimination was
rampant throughout the North. Instead of gradually withering away as some
had expected, the peculiar institution had been thriving and spreading
into the Southwest ever since Eli Whitney's discovery of the cotton gin
in 1793 had given new life to the growing of cotton. Slavery was booming
in Alabama and spreading into Louisiana, Mississippi, and even Texas. At
the same time, the North, after experiencing a full decade without
slavery, was still steeped in discrimination and prejudice. After several
years of freedom, Northern blacks still were not gaining economic
advancement, political rights, or social acceptance. As the numbers of
European immigrants had increased, job discrimination grew. The Northern
states were, at the same time, abolishing the political rights of
Afro-Americans. The hopes which had accompanied the end of slavery in
those states were fading into despair. The relentless struggle for
advancement apparently had failed, and increasing numbers became
convinced that more radical action was necessary.

At the same time White supremacy advocates were uneasy because their
views had not been universally accepted, and they were adopting a
stronger defense. The Southern justification of slavery was based on four
main arguments. First, it was claimed that slavery was indispensable to
its economy and that every society, whether slave or free, needed those
who must do its menial labor. Although many Northerners might not agree
that the need for labor was a justification for slavery, many would
concur  with second argument, which was that the Negro was destined for a
position of inferiority. Here the racial prejudices of North and the
South overlapped. The third argument was that Christianity had sanctioned
slavery throughout all of history as a means for conversion. This
contention had more justification than the religious colonists would care
to admit.  Finally, the South argued that white civilization had
developed a unique high culture precisely because slavery removed the
burden from the white citizens. Again, while Northerners might not
totally agree with this point, many of them did believe in the
superiority of white civilization. Although these points convinced few
outsiders of the necessity for the existence of slavery, they did
underline the widespread belief in black inferiority and white
superiority. From this point of view, the necessity for defending the
glories of white civilization against the corruption of racial
degeneration justified more and more radical action.

Besides mounting this vigorous vocal defense of slavery, the South
stiffened its resistance to the circulation of anti-slavery propaganda.
State laws were passed banning the publication and circulation of
abolitionist materials, and mobs broke into post offices, confiscated
literature from the U.S. mail, and publicly burned it. The Compromise of
1850, at the urging of the South, included the Fugitive Slave Act which
vastly increased the powers of the slave owner to pursue runaway slaves
throughout the North. The law also required that Northern officials
cooperate in this process. Afro-Americans who had been living in Northern
communities for years and who were accepted as respected citizens were
now threatened with recapture by their previous masters.  Many of these
leaders were forced to flee. Freedmen who lacked adequate identification
were also endangered by legal kidnapping and enslavement.

Throughout the North both blacks and whites, with the aid of the Federal
Government, were alienated by this new long arm of the peculiar
institution which reached deep into their communities.  In fact many
felt, like Frederick Douglass, that this law made the Federal Government
an agent of slavery, and they believed that it forced local governments
to become its co-conspirators.  Several Northern states passed new civil
rights laws in an attempt to protect their citizens.  Frequently local
vigilance comittees tried to prevent the arrest of blacks in their midst.
On other occasions mobs tried and sometimes succeeded in freeing those
already arrested, In Boston, for example, a federal marshal was killed in
a clash with one such mob. The Fugitive Slave Act was a powerful blow at
the Afro-American communities in the North. It has been estimated that
between 1850 and 1860 some twenty thousand fled to Canada. In the face of
this reversal moderation became meaningless.

The involvement of the Federal Government in supporting slavery led to a
growing alienation within the Afro-American community.  Increasingly,
militant leaders reevaluated their position on colonization. Henry
Highland Garnet and Martin R. Delany, both workers in the abolition
movement, reversed their positions and became proponents of emigration.
While Garnet favored emigration to Liberia, Delany became an advocate of
moving to Central and South America. He said that the United States had
violated its own principles of republicanism and equality and that it was
keeping Negroes in economic and political bondage. He concluded that
Negroes were left with a choice between continued degradation in America
or emigration. By 1852 he had come to prefer the latter choice.

In 1854 a colonization convention was held in Cleveland for those who
were interested in emigration within the boundaries of the western
hemisphere. The convention noted that the Afro-American community was
developing a growing sense of racial consciousness and pride. Although
blacks were in the minority in Europe and America, it pointed out that
most of the world's population was colored. Integration into the
mainstream of American life, besides appearing to be impossible, seemed
to demand the denial of selfhood for the black man. Therefore, black
separatism grew in popularity and became a platform from which to
maintain a sense of identity and individual worth.

However, many militants like Frederick Douglass did not approve of black
nationalism and colonization. They claimed that they were  still
Americans and did not constitute a separate nation.  Leaders who were not
black nationalists, however, could still be militant. Although Douglass
did not actively support John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, the reason
for his decision was that he doubted its effectiveness and not because he
opposed its violent technique. In fact, Douglass applauded the attack. He
said that Brown had attacked slavery "with the weapons precisely adapted
to bring it to the death," and he contended that, since slavery existed
by "brute force," then it was legitimate to turn its own weapons against
it. Previously the  Reverend Moses Dixon had established two fraternal
organizations to train blacks for military action. Although nothing
substantial came from them, the idea of developing guerrilla forces as
the only remaining tool against slavery was gaining support.

Another militant, H. Ford Douglass, concluded that the government had
become so tyrannical that it was possible for him to engage in military
action against it without his becoming a traitor to his country. He said,
"I can hate this government without becoming disloyal because it has
stricken down my manhood, and treated me as a salable commodity. I can
join a foreign enemy and fight against it, without being a traitor,
because it treats me as an ALIEN and a STRANGER, and I am free to avow
that should such a contingency arise I should not hesitate to take any
advantage in order to procure such indemnity for the future."

Robert Purvis, a Philadelphian, also agreed that revolution might be the
only tool left with which to secure redress for grievances. He contended
that to support the government and the constitution on which it was based
was to endorse a despotic state, and he went on to express his abhorrence
for the system which destroyed him and his people.  Purvis said that he
could welcome the overthrow of this government and he could hope that it
would be replaced by a better one.

The alienation of the Afro-American from his government was dramatically
underscored and justified in 1857 by the Dred Scott Decision which was
handed down by the Supreme Court. A slave who had resided with his master
in a territory where slavery was forbidden by act of Congress had claimed
his freedom. After returning to slave territory, he sued his master on
the grounds that residence in a non-slave territory had made him free.
The court said that the Missouri Compromise which had established
slave-free territories was unconstitutional, and it went on to state that
blacks were not citizens of the United States and therefore could not
bring a suit in court. In one single decision the court had lashed out at
the Afro-American with two blows.  Besides justifying slavery, it had
openly supported the spread of the peculiar institution into the West.
Then, it castrated the freedmen by denying any political rights to them.
They were left with four alternatives: slavery, a freedom rooted in
poverty and prejudice, emigration abroad, or revolution.

Suddenly, the terms of the equation were dramatically altered by an
obscure white man named John Brown. After beginning his public career in
New England as a participant in the abolitionist struggle, Brown became
absolutely outraged by the apparent success that the South was having in
spreading slavery into the new territories. He became one of the most
active leaders in Kansas and rallied support to prevent that state from
falling into the hands of proslavery factions. The slavery debates in
Kansas exploded into open combat. Brown's outrage became a fiery
conviction that God had chosen him to be one of the leaders in the
righteous struggle against slavery. He also came to believe that, if God
had justified violence in defending righteousness in the Old Testament,
it could be used in other places and on a wider scale to topple the
peculiar institution.

Brown spent several weeks in Rochester, New York, at the home of
Frederick Douglass, planning what amounted to a guerrilla campaign
against the South. Despite Brown's urging, Douglass refused to join in
what he believed to be a futile and desperate gesture. However, he wished
Brown the best of luck. The plan was to establish a center of operation
in the Virginia hills. Brown did not expect to defeat the South by force
of arms. Instead, he believed that he could establish a mountain refuge
which would attract ever-increasing numbers of slaves.  His hope was that
the drain on the slave system, coupled with the masters' fear of attack,
would so strain the peculiar institution that, bit by bit, the South
would be forced to negotiate some kind of settlement.

However, Brown had to obtain arms and ammunition, and, to keep the
operation going he and his men needed food and other supplies. The result
was the raid on the government arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The
attacking party included five blacks: Lewis Sheridan Leary, Dangerfield
Newly, John Anthony Copeland, Osborn Perry Anderson, and Shields Green.
Two of them were killed in the attack, two more were later executed, and
one escaped. The attack failed, and Brown and several others were
executed. Before his execution Brown said that, while they might dispose
of him quite easily, the Negro question itself could not be easily
dismissed. His prediction proved correct, Brown's execution made him a
martyr and at the end led to the victory for which he had yearned.


From Slavery to Segregation

Blue, Gray, and Black

John Brown's raid convinced the South that Northern harassment of slavery
would continue and that the tactics would become even more desperate. At
the same time, the election of Abraham Lincoln was interpreted by the
South as a swing of the political pendulum in favor of the abolitionists.
This was not true. Both Lincoln and the Republican Party had decided that
the Anti-slave issue was not a broad enough platform on which to win an
election. While Lincoln had made it clear that he himself opposed
slavery, he also insisted that his political position, as well as that of
the party, was to oppose the extension of slavery rather than to abolish

Although he emphasized different beliefs in varying localities, he still
maintained that, while he opposed the enslavement of human beings, he did
not view Africans as equals. He was convinced that there was a wide
social gap between whites and blacks, and he indicated that he had grave
doubts about extending equal political rights to Afro-Americans. Besides
opposing slavery, he believed that racial differences pointed to the
necessity for the separation of the two races, and he favored a policy of
emigration. However, he had no interest in forcing either abolition or
emigration on anyone.  His political goals were to increase national
unity, to suppress the extension of slavery, to encourage voluntary
emancipation, and to stimulate volitional emigration. He was far from the
abolitionist which the South believed him to be. At the same time,
abolitionists were as unhappy with his election as were slaveholders. His
election was clearly an attempt to strike a compromise, but the South was
in no mood to negotiate. It was not willing to permit the restriction of
slavery to the states in which   the system already existed, and the
Southern states seceded.

Once the Civil War began, Lincoln's primary goal was to maintain
or reestablish the union of all the states. His strategy was to negotiate
from a platform which provided the largest numbers of supporters. With
these priorities in the foreground, the government took considerable time
to clarify its position on emancipation as well as its stand regarding
the use of freedmen in the Union forces. Lincoln suspected that he would
not get the kind of solid and enthusiastic support from the Northern
states which he needed if he did not work towards eventual emancipation.
At the same time, if he took too strong a position in favor of
emancipation he feared that the border states would abandon the Union and
side with the South. Similarly, the refusal to use blacks in the Union
forces might seriously weaken the military cause. Yet, their use might
alienate the border states, and it might be so repugnant to the South as
to hinder future negotiations.

Early in the war the North was faced with the problem of what to do with
the slaves who fled from the South into the Union lines for safety. In
the absence of any uniform policy, individual officers made their own
decisions. According to the Fugitive Slave Act, Northern officials should
have helped in capturing and returning them. When General Butler learned
that the South was using slaves to erect military defenses, he declared
that such slaves were contraband of war and therefore did not have to be
returned.  Congress stated that it was not the duty of an officer to
return freed slaves. However, on at least one occasion, Lincoln gave
instructions to permit masters to cross the Potomac into Union lines to
look for their runaway slaves.

In August, 1861, a uniform policy was initiated with the passing of the
Confiscation Act. It stated that property used in aiding the insurrection
could be captured. When such property consisted of slaves, it stated that
those slaves were to be forever free. Thereafter, slaves flocked into
Union lines in an ever-swelling flood. Besides fighting the war, the
Union army found itself bogged down caring for thousands of escaped
slaves, a task for which it was unprepared. In some cases confiscated
plantations were leased to Northern whites, and escaped slaves were hired
out to work them.  In December of 1862 General Saxton declared that
abandoned land could be used for the benefit of the ex-slave. Each family
was given two acres of land for every worker in the family, and the
government provided some tools with which to work it. However, most of
the land was sold to Northern capitalists who became absentee landlords
with little or no interest in maintaining the quality of the land or in
caring for the ex-slave who did the actual labor. These ex-slaves were
herded into large camps with very poor facilities. The mortality rate ran
as high as 25 percent within a two-year period.

Gradually, a very large number of philanthropic relief associations, many
of which were related to the churches, sprang up to help the ex-slave by
providing food, clothing, and education. Thousands of school teachers,
both black and white, flocked into the South to help prepare the ex-slave
for his new life.

In the beginning, Lincoln had been very reticent in permitting the use of
slaves or freedmen in the army.  As early as 1861 General Sherman had
authorized the employment of fugitive slaves in "services for which they
were suited." Late in 1862 Lincoln permitted the enlistment of some
freedmen, and, in 1863, their enlistment became widespread. By the end of
the war more than 186,000 of them had joined the Union forces.  For the
first time in American history, however, they were forced to serve in
segregated units and were usually commanded by white officers.  One of
the ironies of the conflict was that the war which terminated slavery was
also responsible for initiating segregation within the armed Forces. In a
way this fact became symbolic of the role which racial discrimination and
segregation eventually came to play in American society. Besides fighting
in segregated units, the Negro soldiers, for about a year, received half
pay. The 54th Massachusetts regiment served for an entire year without
any pay rather than to accept discriminatory wages.  In South Carolina a
group of soldiers stacked their arms in front of their captain's tent in
protest against the prejudicial pay scale. Sgt. William Walker, one of
the instigators of the demonstration, was court-martialed and shot for
this action.  Finally, in 1864 all soldiers received equal pay.

The South was outraged by the use of "colored troops." It refused to
recognize them and treat them as enemy soldiers, and, whenever any were
captured, it preferred to treat them as runaway slaves under the black
codes. This meant that they received much harsher treatment than they
would have if they had been treated as prisoners of war. Also, the South
preferred to kill them instead of permitting their surrender. As a result
more than 38,000 of them were killed during the war.

Many Northerners were also upset by the use of "colored troops." They did
not like to have the Civil War considered a war to abolish slavery.  Many
of them feared that this would only increase competition. As a result,
when white longshoremen struck in New York and blacks were brought in to
take their place, a riot ensued.  Many of the white strikers found
themselves drafted into the Army, and they did not appreciate fighting to
secure the freedom of men who took away their jobs.  Even during the war
racial emotions continued to run high in the North.

In 1862 General Hunter proclaimed the freedom of all slaves in the
military sector: Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. When Lincoln heard
of it, he immediately reversed the decree. He preferred gradual,
compensated emancipation followed by voluntary emancipation. He persuaded
Congress to pass a bill promising Federal aid to any state which set
forth a policy of gradual compensated emancipation.  Abolitionists said
that masters should not be paid for freeing their slaves because slaves
were never legitimate property. Congress also established a fund to aid
voluntary emigration to either Africa or Latin America. However, few
slaves were interested even in compensated emancipation, and the plan
received almost no support. Lincoln finally concluded  that emancipation
had become a military necessity. In September 1862 he issued a
preliminary decree promising to free all slaves in rebel territory. On
January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
However, slavery continued to be legal in a areas which were not in
rebellion. Final abolition of the institution came with the passage of
the Thirteenth Amendment after the end of hostilities.

By the end of the war the South became so desperate that the use of
slaves in the Army was sanctioned, and they were promised freedom at the
end of the conflict.  As the end of the war, some questions had been
solved and new ones had been created. Lincoln's belief in the fact that
the Union was indissoluble had been vindicated, and it was also evident
that national unity could not go hand in hand with sectional slavery.
But three new questions were now emerging. How should sectional strife be
healed? What should be the status of the ex-slave?  Who should determine
that status?

Reconstruction and Its Failure

At the close of the war more attention was given to the reconstruction of
Southern institutions than to the elevation of the ex-slave. While a
handful of the Radical Republicans, such as Sumner and Stevens, were
aware that slavery had not prepared the ex-slave for participation in a
free competitive society, most liberals assumed that the termination of
slavery meant the end of their problems. They believed that blacks could
immediately enter into community life on an equal footing with other
citizens, Any suggestion that the ex-slave needed help to get started
drew considerable resentment and hostility from liberals and
conservatives alike. With the abolition of the peculiar institution, the
anti-slavery societies considered their work finished. Frederick
Douglass, however, complained that the slaves were sent out into the
world empty-handed.  In fact, both the war and emancipation had
intensified racial hostility. The ex-slave had not yet been granted his
civil rights. At the same time, he was no longer covered by property
rights. Therefore he was even more vulnerable to physical intimidation
than before.

As the war drew to an end, Lincoln initiated a program aimed at the rapid
reconstruction of the South and the healing of sectional bitterness. With
only the exclusion of a few Confederate officials, he offered immediate
pardon to all who would swear allegiance to the Federal Government. As
soon as ten percent of the citizens of any state who had voted in 1860
had taken this oath, a state could then hold local elections and resume
home rule. Since almost no blacks had voted in the Southern states in
1860, his plan did nothing to encourage extending the franchise to them.
However, he did believe that educated blacks could and should be given
the right to vote, but this extension of the franchise was apparently to
be determined by each state at some future time.

After Lincoln's assassination, Andrew Johnson further accelerated the
pace of reconciliation. Granting personal pardons by the thousands, he
initiated a plan for restoration which was even more lenient. Southern
states resumed home rule, and, in the Federal election of 1866, they
elected scores of Confederate officials to Congress. At the same time
other Confederate officials were elected to other local posts throughout
the South.  One of the most urgent tasks taken up by these new home-rule
governments was the determination and definition of the status of the
ex-slave. State after state passed black codes which bore an amazing
resemblance to those of slavery days. Blacks were not allowed to testify
in court against whites. If they quit their jobs, they could be
imprisoned for breach of contract. Anyone found without a job could be
arrested and fined $50. Those who could not pay the fine were hired out
to anyone in the community who would pay the fine. This created a new
system of forced labor. At the same time, blacks could be fined for
insulting gestures, breaking the curfew, and for possessing firearms.
This created the kind of supervision of personal life which was similar
to that of slavery. Although the Thirteenth Amendment had made slavery
unconstitutional, the South was trying to recreate the peculiar
institution in law while not admitting it in name.

Radical Republicans in Congress were outraged both at the unrepentant
obstinacy of the South and at the leniency of Johnson's plan for
restoration. After refusing to seat many of the Southern delegates to
Congress the Radical Republicans went on to pass civil rights legislation
which was aimed at protecting the ex-slave from the black codes.
President Johnson, however vetoed these bills as well as the Fourteenth
Amendment. An enraged Congress passed the civil rights legislation over
his veto and came within one vote of impeaching the President.  Although
impeachment failed, Johnson lost his leadership in the government, and
Congress, within two years after the end of the war, began Reconstruction
all over again. The first large-scale Congressional hearings in American
history were held to investigate the conditions in the South. The
investigation documented widespread poverty, physical brutality, and
intimidation as well as legal discrimination. The comittee made a
detailed examination of the race riots which had occurred in Memphis and
New Orleans in which scores of blacks had been killed. It concluded that
the New Orleans riot was in fact a police massacre in which dozens of
blacks were murdered in cold blood.

Congress removed home rule from the Southern states and divided the area
into five military districts. Even those Southerners who had already
received federal pardons were now required to swear a stricter oath in
order to regain their right to vote. State conventions met to draft new
constitutions. These conventions were dominated by a coalition of three
groups: new black voters, whites who had come from the North either to
make personal fortunes or to help educate the ex-slave, and Southern
whites who had never supported the Confederacy.  The oath of allegiance
required a citizen to swear that he was now and always had been loyal to
the Federal Government. This excluded all the Confederate officials.
These new Southern reconstruction governments operated under the
protection of the Army and with the encouragement of the Federal
Government. They strove to reconstruct the South economically,
politically, and socially.

They established a system of public education, built many new hospitals,
founded institutions for the mentally and physically handicapped, and
attempted to reform the penal system.  During Reconstruction blacks
played a significant political role throughout the South. Besides voting
in large numbers, they were elected to local, state, and federal offices.
Between 1869 and 1901, two became U. S.  Senators and twenty were members
of the House of Representatives.  Senators Revels and Bruce were elected
from Mississippi. P. B. S.  Pinchback was elected to the Senate from
Louisiana, but he was not permitted to take his seat.  He did serve as
Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, and, for three days, was Acting

White conservatives in the South were outraged, and they were determined
to have absolutely nothing to do with a government which permitted Negro
participation.  They spread the myth that Reconstruction governments were
in the grip of intolerably stupid and corrupt black men. Although Negroes
were elected to state governments in significant numbers, the fact was
that at no time were they in control. Moreover, when the critics
themselves came to power, they did nothing to undo the work of the
Reconstruction governments. This fact cast doubts on the sincerity of
their criticism. The one thing which the white conservatives did when
they regained power was to disenfranchise the blacks. This indicated that
their real complaint in regard to Reconstruction was the participation of
Negroes in government.  With the Federal Government protecting the civil
and political rights of the ex-slave, the South was unable to use the law
to keep him in his place. The passionate belief in white superiority and
a desperate fear of black retaliation caused many whites to resort to
physical intimidation to achieve their purposes. The Ku Klux Klan was the
most notorious of a large number of similar organizations which spread
throughout the South. Negroes and white sympathizers were beaten and
lynched. Some had their property burned, and others lost their jobs if
they showed too much independence.

In 1869 Congress took action against the Klan and other white supremacy
organizations, The Klan was officially disbanded, but, in fact, it only
went underground. Most of these organizations were spontaneous local
developments, and this made it difficult for either federal or state
governments to find and destroy them.  Often their tactics were
successful in shaping election results.  Their propaganda was also useful
in influencing public opinion.  They insisted that they were only
protecting women, children, and civic morality.  The federal military
forces stationed in the South were too small to be effective against such
widespread guerrilla activities, and many of the soldiers, though they
had fought against slavery, were still in sympathy with white supremacy.

Although Reconstruction did protect some of the political and civil
rights of the Afro-American community, it achieved almost nothing in
improving the social and economic situation. The concept of social and
economic rights was almost nonexistent a century ago. Political rights,
however, without economic security could be a mere abstraction.
Meaningful freedom had to be more than the freedom to starve. This meant
that the ex-slave needed land, tools, and training to provide him with an
economic base that would make his freedom real. The ex-slave had limited
education, limited experience, a servile slave attitude, and he was in
need of social and economic training to compensate for the years of
slavery. Without this he could not enter a competitive society as an
equal. Emancipation was not enough.

Most slaves had been engaged in plantation agriculture and were destined
to continue in some kind of farm work. Sumner and Stevens led the fight
in Congress to provide each of them with forty acres and a mule, and this
would have provided the basis for their developing into an independent
class of farmers.  However, they were doomed to remain a subservient mass
of peasants. The prewar slave plantation was replaced by sharecropping,
tenant farming, and the convict lease system. In some cases the ex-slave
was provided with land, tools, and seed by plantation owner who, in turn,
was to get a share of the crop at the end of the season. His share was
always so large that the cropper remained permanently in his debt.
Similarly, tenant farmers paid rent for their land and were extended
loans by the store keeper for their provisions. Interest rates ran so
high that they too remained in permanent bondage. Finally, some
plantation owners leased convicts from the state and worked them in chain
gangs which most closely resembled the prewar slave system.  In every
case, the result was that black farm laborers remained members of a
permanent peasant class.

The other hope for the advancement of the ex-slave was through the
development of industrial skills. At this time the American labor
movement was emerging and was striving to protect and elevate the status
of industrial workers. If the ex-slave had been integrated into this
movement, it would have helped many of them to achieve economic security.
At the same time, it would have strengthened the labor movement itself.
However, white workers usually saw blacks as job competitors rather than
as part of a mass labor alliance. In 1866 the National Labor Union
decided to organize black workers within its ranks, but by 1869 it was
urging colored delegates to its convention to form their own separate
organization. This resulted in the creation of the National Negro Labor
Convention. This split between black and white workers tended to push
blacks into political action while whites put all their efforts into
economic advancement.

The Knights of Labor was formed in 1869, and it did seriously try to
organize blacks and whites. In the North it operated mixed locals, and in
the South it had separate black and white organizations. It employed both
black and white organizers. In 1886 its total membership was estimated at
700,000  of which 60,000 were black. The following year its total
membership had shrunk to 500,000, but its black membership had increased
to 90,000. The early labor movement which strove to organize the mass of
industrial workers was soon replaced by skilled trade unions which aimed
at the organization of a labor elite.

Although the American Federation of Labor did not profess racial
discrimination as a deliberate national policy, many of its individual
trade unions did, and, because of its federated structure, the A. F. of
L. had no power over local discriminatory practices. Whites in skilled
trades used unions to maintain an exclusive control in those trades, and
they deliberately strove to relegate blacks to the lower ranks of
industrial labor. Barred from the road to advancement, black labor became
a permanent industrial proletariat.

The Freedmen's Bureau was the one federal attempt to raise the social and
economic standing of the ex-slave. Along with the American Missionary
Association, the Freedmen's Bureau did significant work in education.
Hundreds of teachers staffed scores of schools and brought some degree of
literacy and job skills to thousands of pupils. However, beyond the field
of education, the bureau did little except to provide temporary help.
Begun as a war measure, when the Radical Republicans came into control,
they put it on a more permanent footing. Even liberals, however, were not
prepared to support a long-term social experiment, and, after some half
dozen years, the Bureau was terminated. This left the Afro-American
community without the economic base necessary for competing in American
society on an equal basis.

The one achievement of Reconstruction had been to guarantee minimum of
political and civil rights to the ex-slave, but white supremacy advocates
were adamant in their intention to destroy this advance.  Where terror
and intimidation were not successful, relentless economic pressure by
landowners, merchants, and industrialists brought most of the ex-slaves
into line. Year by year they exerted less influence at the voting booths.
Although the country was aware of this, Northern liberals were growing
weary of the unending fight to protect the freedman.  Furthermore, masses
of Northern whites sympathized with Southern race prejudice. While they
did approve of ending slavery, they were not willing to extend social and
political equality. The North had begun to put a higher priority on peace
than on justice. Industrialists were expanding their businesses rapidly,
and they wanted the South to be pacified, so that it would be a safe area
for investment and expansion. If this meant returning power to white
conservatives, they were willing to pay the price.  The presidential
election of 1876 degenerated into chaos and confusion. Samuel J. Tilden,
the Democratic candidate, and Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican,
disputed its results.  Democrats and Republicans both claimed twenty
electoral votes from Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida. The
first returns had shown that Tilden was the victor, but Republicans,
especially Army veterans, warned that they would not accept such a
result. The Republicans represented themselves as the party of the Union,
and they claimed that the Democrats were the party of secession. The
debate grew so heated that it appeared war could erupt again. Pessimists
warned that it would be the last free election in American history. After
months of bickering, a compromise was reached. The South was willing to
support Republican Hayes if, when in power, he would remove the troops
and restore home rule. The votes were counted again in the four states in
question, and all twenty were awarded to Hayes allowing him to win by one
electoral vote.

Hayes began on an ambivalent note. On one hand he said that the country
must have honest and equal government, This would appear to be a
concession to the South which complained vehemently about the supposed
corruption of black Reconstruction. On the other hand, he admitted that
the rights of blacks must be protected by the Federal Government. In
practice, however, by returning the South to home rule, he abandoned the
ex-slave. He said that the ex-slave's interest would be best protected by
being left in the hands of honest and influential Southern whites. Hayes
had expressed an awareness of the brutality and intimidation which still
continued in the South, but he had apparently concluded that federal
intervention only aggravated the problem. In his opinion Southern
gentlemen were not thieves and cut-throats; they too were educated,
civilized, and Christians. The fact that they were not aware of the
brutality in their midst and that some of them undoubtedly participated
in it, bewildered him. He was willing to proceed on the assumption that,
if the Southern whites were left alone, they would, as they asserted,
treat the ex-slave honestly and fairly. Hayes seemed unaware that men
could be educated, civilized, and claim to be Christians while at the
same time behaving as bigots and racists.  To satisfy the industrialists
in the North and the white conservatives in the South, Hayes buried the
last remains of Reconstruction. However, he made a one-sided compromise.
While he comitted himself to immediate action, the South was only bound
by vague promises to be fulfilled at some indefinite date. At the end of
his term white supremacy in the South was more firmly rooted than it had
been when he took office.

The New Racism

For several years the fate of the Southern Negro hung in the balance.
With home rule restored, the South, so it seemed, had achieved its goals.
Bourbon whites, the remnant of the plantation aristocracy, dominated the
Southern Democratic party and through it controlled state and local
governments. There was a growing discontent among small farmers who
wanted the state governments to alter the tax burden and interest rates
in their favor. Largely spearheaded by the Populist movement, Negro and
white farmers came to see that their interests were identical.  The
Southern Farmers' Alliance grew rapidly, and it encouraged the formation
of the colored farmers' organizations with which it was closely allied.
In Georgia, Tom Watson led the attempt to form a coalition between Negro
and white farmers against the interests of the conservative white
aristocracy. Hopes for a genuinely popular government and for a society
free from racial tension reached a high level.

Unfortunately, some Negroes continued to back the Democratic party.
House servants had always felt close to the gentry, and many of them
remembered that poor white farmers had always been particularly
prejudiced against them. In turn, conservatives deliberately encouraged
racial hatred in order to drive a wedge between poor whites and Negroes
within the rising Populist movement. It became evident to both Democrats
and populists that the Negro vote had become the deciding vote in many
states. White farmers and white aristocrats both felt uneasy over this
state of affairs.

The result was widespread agreement to systematically and legally
eliminate Negroes from politics altogether. State constitutions were
either amended or rewritten. Literacy tests and poll taxes became
standard devices for limiting Negro voting. The "understanding test"
required a citizen to interpret a portion of the state constitution to
the satisfaction of the registrar. The severity of the test varied
invariably with the color of the applicant. The "grandfather clause"
prohibited those whose ancestors had not voted from exercising the
franchise. Because slaves had not voted, their descendants were
disqualified.  Although the Fifteenth Amendment had been designed to
guarantee the vote to the ex-slave, the South now evaded it. Although
both major parties complained about this disenfranchisement and condemned
it as being unconstitutional, neither party took any action.  The Supreme
Court also played an important part in restricting the freedom of
freedmen. In 1883 it declared the 1875 Civil Rights Act to be
unconstitutional. This act had made it illegal for individuals to
discriminate in public accommodations.  Although it had never been
enforced, the court's decision nevertheless, came as a setback, because
it was the signal to the South that through Jim Crow legislation Negroes
could be kept in "their place." Under slavery there had been considerable
social contact between the races. Segregation as a social system was
begun in the North prior to the Civil War, but, during the last two
decades of the nineteenth century, Southern states made it a legal
requirement. Its relentless growth is carefully outlined by C.  Vann
Woodward in his book The Strange Career of Jim Crow.  Finally the South
developed two societies with two sets of institutions: separate railroad
cars, separate waiting rooms, separate wash rooms, separate drinking
fountains, separate hospitals, separate schools, separate restaurants,
separate cemeteries and, although there was only one judicial system,
separate Bibles for taking oaths.

In 1896 the Supreme Court gave its blessing to the Jim Crow system.
Plessy, a Louisiana mulatto, insisted on riding in the white car on the
train. He was arrested and found guilty of violating the state statute.
He appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, but it upheld his conviction by
claiming that "separate but equal" facilities were not a violation of his
rights. Because the court did not define what it meant by equal and did
not insist on enforcing that equality in concrete terms, its decision
was, in fact, a blatant justification for separate and inferior
facilities for Negroes.

Segregation was accompanied by a new wave of race hatred. White Americans
came to believe that all Negroes were alike and therefore could be
treated as a group. An identical stereotype of the Negro fixed itself on
the white mind throughout the entire country. If the Northerner hated
this stereotype somewhat  less than did the Southerner, it was only
because the number of Negroes in the North was considerably smaller. At
the end of the century only two percent of the total number of
Afro-Americans was to be found in the North. The great northern migration
had not yet begun.

Both the Northern press and the genteel literary magazines contained the
same vulgar image of the Negro which was to be found in openly racist
communities in the South. Whether he appeared in news articles,
editorials, cartoons, or works of fiction, he was universally portrayed
as superstitious, stupid, lazy, happy-go-lucky, a liar, a thief, and a
drunkard. He loved fun, clothes, and trinkets as well as chickens,
watermelons, and sweet potatoes. Usually he was depicted as having been a
faithful and loving slave before Emancipation, but, unfortunately, he was
unable to adjust to his new freedom  News stories and editorials referred
to Negroes in slanderous terms without any apparent sense of
embarrassment. Phrases like "barbarian," "Negro ruffian," "African
Annie," "colored cannibal," "coon," and "darkie" were standard epithets.
Whenever blacks were depicted in cartoons or photographs, the stereotype
presented them as having thick lips, flat noses, big ears, big feet, and
kinky woolly hair. News items concerning those involved in criminal
activities almost always identified them by color.  This contributed to
the development of the stereotype of the criminal Negro.

Throughout its history, America had been predominantly an Anglo-Saxon and
Protestant country. The Afro-American stood out in sharp distinction to
this picture both because of his color and his African heritage. By the
end of the nineteenth century America was being flooded with immigrants
from Southern and Eastern Europe. They too were much darker than the
dominant strains of Northern Europe, and many were Catholics. There was a
growing feeling that these new immigrants, like the Negroes, were
inherently alien and intrinsically unassimilable.  Liberals in the
progressive movement, who were concerned about protecting the integrity
and morality of American society, were in the fore-front of those who
feared the new hordes of "swarthy" immigrants.

One of those who feared that the large influx of South and East Europeans
would undermine the quality of American life was Madison Grant. In his
book The Passing of the Great Race, he warned that Nordic excellence
would be swamped by the faster-spawning Catholic immigrants.  Originally
these racial stereotypes had some cultural and historical basis, but they
were gaining a new strength and authority from the sociological and
biological sciences centering in the concepts of Social Darwinisn.

Darwinism and related theories in anthropology and sociology helped to
give an aura of respectability to racism in both Europe and America.  The
same kind of pseudo-scientific thinking which was developed in Europe to
justify anti-Semitism was used in America to reinforce prejudices against
Negroes as well as against Jews and South Europeans.  In the first half
of the nineteenth century the American anthropologist Samuel George
Morton argued that each race had its own unique characteristics.  Racial
character, he believed, was the result of inheritance rather than of
environment. Because these characteristics found specific environments
congenial, each race had gravitated to its preordained geographic habitat.

Darwin's theory of evolution offered another explanation for the
existence of differing species in the animal kingdom, and anthropologists
concluded that it would also provide an explanation for racial
differences in mankind. Early anthropologists and sociologists were
preoccupied with dividing humanity into differing races and trying to
catalog and explain these differences. Phrenology was another
pseudo-science which attempted to construct a system according to which
intellectual and moral characteristics would be correlated with the size
and shape of the human head. On this basis many tried to divide mankind
into physical types and to assign to each its own intellectual and moral
qualities.  Another one who believed that human races could be
scientifically measured and that their superiority and inferiority could
thus be established was Joseph A. de Gobineau, a French anthropologist.
Herbert Spencer took Darwin's concept of the survival of the fittest and
used it as a scientific justification for the competitive spirit, It
became the basis of the explanation why some individuals moved up the
social ladder while others remained behind.  Racial thinkers applied the
concept of human competitiveness to racial conflict instead of to
individual competition. In its usual form the Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic
race was depicted as superior, and the Semitic and Negroid races as
inferior. Human history was explained as the history of race conflict,
and racial hostility was justified because, through this conflict, the
superior types would survive and human civilization would be elevated.
The concept of human equality was reduced to a meaningless abstraction,
Scholars like William Graham Sumner insisted that the founding fathers
only intended human equality to refer to their own kind of people.

To Thomas Nelson Page, in the North American Review, it appeared that the
African race had not progressed in human history. It had failed to
progress in America, not because it had been enslaved, but because it did
not have the faculty to raise itself above that status. He continued to
argue that its inability to advance in the scale of civilization was
demonstrated by the level of social and political life to be found in
Liberia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil. In the same journal,
Theodore Roosevelt announced that the African was a member of "a
perfectly stupid race" which was kept down by a lack of natural
development.  Another one whose views became influential was Josiah
Strong. A prominent clergyman at the turn of the century, he was of the
opinion that the pressure of population expansion would eventually push
the whites, who had superior energy and talent, into Mexico, South and
Central America, the islands of the seas, and eventually into Africa
itself. This expansion would lead to racial conflict which would
culminate in the survival of the fittest through the victory of the white
over the colored races of the world.  Strong's belief that white racial
superiority would naturally lead to racial imperialism and world
domination by the white race was shared by many contemporary Americans. A
few of those who shared his ideas were Senator Albert Beveridge, Senator
Cabot Lodge, John Hay, Admiral Alfred T. Mahan, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Racism opened the door to American imperialism.

The new racism could not depend on the existence of slavery in order to
reinforce white superiority. Instead, it drew on racial stereotypes and
flimsy scientific opinion. The conquest of Africa by Europe and the
American acquisition of lands in the Caribbean and Pacific which were
inhabited by darker peoples, were taken as clear evidence of racial
inequality even in the land which had been founded on the belief in the
equality of all men.

Second-class citizenship for blacks had become a fact which was accepted
by Presidents, Congress, the Supreme Court, the business community, and
by labor unions. Segregation was universal. In the North it was rooted in
social custom, but in the South it had been made a matter of law.
Separate facilities were inferior facilities.  The basic political and
civil rights of the Afro-American were severely limited in almost every

Perhaps the clearest and cruelest index of the lowest state to which the
black had been relegated was the large number of lynchings which occurred
at the end of the century, In the 1890s lynchings of both blacks and
whites were common. In that decade one black was lynched almost every two
days. It became universally accepted that the American principles of
justice, liberty, and equality did not have to be applied equally to
whites and blacks.


Racism and Democracy

Fighting Jim Crow

RAYFORD W. LOGAN, in his book The Betrayal of the Negro described the
turn of the century as the low point in Afro-American history. After
Emancipation, he contended, the hopes of the Negroes were betrayed.
Again they were pushed down into second-class status. It appeared that
democracy was for whites only. Actually, the increasing growth of racism
and of segregation as well, led inevitably to the development of
opposition groups bent on destroying this discrimination. Segregation
promoted the creation of Negro institutions which then became the center
for this counterattack.

The most prominent of these Afro-American institutions was the Negro
church. Like the white church, it was fragmented into many separate
denominations. There was the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Colored Methodist Episcopal
Church, the National Baptists, and a host of denominational organizations.

However, integrated congregations within the mainly white church groups
were almost nonexistent. Those blacks who did belong to such white
denominations usually attended all-black congregations within the larger
institutional structure. Negro colleges also sprang up throughout the
South as well as an occasional one in the North. These included such
well-known schools as Howard, Hampton, Tuskegee, and Fisk. The churches
and colleges became training grounds for a growing middle-class and for
future community leaders. Each in its own way provided a debating center
in which racial problems closing in from all sides were considered.

As Negroes were frequently denied employment by whites, they began to
develop businesses of their own. Because their capital was almost always
small, their task was made more difficult. White-owned banks hesitated to
lend money to Negroes, forcing them into developing banks of their own.
By 1900 blacks had founded four banks which appealed mainly to a Negro
clientele. They had a combined capital of more than $90,000.  White-owned
insurance companies often refused to sell insurance policies to Negroes.
Standardized mortality charts showed that Negroes died at an earlier age
than whites. When insurance companies did accept them as clients, they
were charged higher rates than were whites. During the nineteenth
century, various Negro secret societies attempted to develop insurance
programs for their members. In 1898 the National Benefit Insurance
Company was opened in Washington.  Owned by blacks, it deliberately
sought out Negro patronage. In the same year, the Mutual Benefit
Insurance Company was opened in North Carolina along similar lines.

White undertakers and beauticians were reluctant to cater to Negro
customers. Aside from their personal tastes,  they feared that it would
alienate their white patrons. A similar situation held true for dentists
and doctors. This forced the Afro-American community to develop its own
professionals. By 1900, Negroes had invested half a million dollars in
undertaking establishments.  That same year, the Afro-American community
had produced 1,700 physicians, 212 dentists, 728 lawyers, 310
journalists, an several thousand college, secondary, and elementary
school teachers.

Other Negro professionals, finding themselves excluded from existing
official affiliations formed their own professional fraternity in 1904.
Two years later, the first Greek letter society for Negroes was
established to help its members in coping with the effects of social
discrimination on largely white college campuses. In 1915, Carter G.
Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and
History and began publication of the Journal of Negro History.

In 1905, W. E. B. DuBois, John Hope, Monroe Trotter, Kelly Miller, and
other outspoken young Negro intellectuals met in Niagara Falls, Ontario,
and founded the "Niagara Movement." Unlike the other black institutions
mentioned above, the "Niagara Movement" was primarily political in its
objectives. On the one hand, it strove to seize the leadership of the
Afro-American community, taking it away from the more conciliatory
emphasis of  Booker T. Washington.  On the other hand, they wanted a
platform from which to condemn, loudly and clearly, the white prejudice
they found all about them.

The organization deliberately tried to resurrect the spirit of the angry
abolitionists immediately preceding the Civil War. The meeting places of
their three conventions were chosen for their symbolic value.  Niagara
Falls was the terminal on the underground railway, the point at which
runaways had reached freedom.  Harpers Ferry had been the site of John
Brown's violent assault on slavery, and Oberlin, Ohio, had been well
known as a center of abolitionist activity.

The growth of racism at the turn of the century, besides encouraging the
development of Negro institutions, revived the interests of some whites
in fighting for racial justice. Whites were particularly upset by
racially motivated acts of violence.  Lynchings reached a high point in
American history at this time.  Between 1900 and 1910, there were 846
lynchings, in which 92 victims were white and 754 Negro.  Northern whites
were especially perturbed as racial violence began to move into the
North. Previously they had viewed it as a Southern white man's problem.
When a vicious race riot occurred in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908, this
illusion was shattered. William English Walling, the journalist, was
shocked and wrote an impassioned article, "Race War in the North," which
was published in The Independent.

Walling's article, which was based on his visit to Springfield, brought
several collaborators to his side. In it, he contended that Southern
racists were bringing the race war into the North and that the only
alternative was to revive the spirit of abolitionism and to fight for
racial equality. The following year a group of concerned individuals,
black and white, met in New York City and their meeting resulted in the
formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People.  Those attending this meeting, besides Walling, included Oswald
Garrison Villard, the grandson of William Lloyd Garrison.  Jane Addams,
the founder of Hull House in Chicago, John Dewey, the philosopher,
William Dean Howells, the editor of Harper's magazine, Mary White
Ovington, a New York social worker, and Dr. Henry Moskowitz. The Negro
delegation consisted of W. E. B.  DuBois and most of the other members of
the Niagara Movement. At this meeting it was decided that the achievement
of racial equality must be the major target of their attack. In order to
achieve this goal it was decided that their immediate priorities should
include the enfranchisement of Negroes and the enforcement of the
Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The members also insisted that it
was time to launch a concerted attack against lynching and other kinds of
mob violence.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was
officially established in 1910 with Moorefield Storey as its president.
W. E. B. DuBois was the only black on its board and served as its
director of publicity and research. Most blacks and whites at the time
believed that the N.A.A.C.P. was irresponsible for including so many of
the members of the Niagara Movement in its membership. Monroe Trotter and
a few others, however, held that an interracial organization such as the
N.A.A.C.P. could not be trusted to take a strong enough stand on
important issues, and they refused to cooperate with it. The N.A.A.C.P.
began publication of its own Journal, Crisis, which was a basic part of
its informational program. Crisis was edited by W. E. B. DuBois.

The most important work of the Association was done by its legal
department. Its lawyers attacked the legal devices used by some states to
disenfranchise Negroes. In 1915, the Supreme Court declared, in Guinn v.
United States, that the "grandfather clause" in the constitutions of both
Maryland and Oklahoma was null and void because it contradicted the
Fifteenth Amendment.  Two years later, in Buchanan v. Warley, the court
said that Louisville's ordinance requiring Negroes to live in specified
sections of the city was unconstitutional. In 1923, the N.A.A.C.P. came
to the defense of a Negro who, it believed, had not received a fair
trial. In Moore v. Dempsey, the Supreme Court granted the defendant a new
trial because the court which had convicted him of murder had exempted
Negroes from serving on its Jury.

Branches of the N.A.A.C.P. spread all across the country. By 1921 there
were more than 400 separate chapters, and the Association was still
growing. Its membership, whether white or black, tended to be
middle-class and educated. In this respect it bore a marked similarity to
the National Urban League which came into existence at about the same

The National Urban League grew out of a concern for the employment
problems of Negroes in New York City. George Edmund Haynes, a Negro
graduate student at Columbia University, was researching the economic
conditions of New York City Negroes. He was invited to present his
findings to a Joint meeting of two city organizations which were probing
the same problem. The Comittee for Improving Industrial Conditions of
Negroes in New York as well as the National League for the Protection of
Colored Women had been formed early in the century and were eager to base
their efforts on scientific study rather than on mere sentimentality.
Haynes's research was later published as The Negro at Work in New York

This meeting resulted in the establishing of the Urban League which has
been concerned primarily with finding employment for Negroes and aiding
them in acquiring improved job skills. Haynes and Eugene Kinckle Jones
were its executive directors. One of its sponsors was Booker T.
Washington, who was more sympathetic with its orientation than he had
been with either the Niagara Movement or the N.A.A.C.P., both of which
were more political and aggressive. The philanthropist Julius Rosenwald
gave the League substantial financial aid. The Urban League soon spread
into other major cities and gained increasing importance as ever-growing
numbers of Negroes migrated into Northern urban areas and needed
assistance in making the adjustment. Negro churches and colleges, along
with interracial organizations, began to establish the foundation for the
long hard struggle for racial equality which lay ahead.

Making the World Safe for Democracy

While Negroes and some whites were engaged in trying to put American
ideals into practice within the country, others were reaching out to
spread American democracy to more "underprivileged" peoples. American
society had always contained a missionary dynamic. The Puritan Fathers
came to America to escape religious oppression and to establish what they
believed would be the Kingdom of God. While it appeared that all they
wanted was space in which to be left alone, their conviction that they
were building God's Kingdom implied a belief that their new society would
prosper and spread. If it were really the Kingdom of God, it could not be
expected to remain an insignificant settlement on a distant and
unimportant continent. For the next two hundred years, this missionary
dynamic was absorbed in spreading across the North American continent.
While the Americans did not see their expansion into the West as being
imperialistic, American Indians saw it otherwise.

With the disappearance of the Western frontier, missionary-minded
Americans felt compelled to carry the benefits of their civilization to
backward areas of the world. At the same time, European imperialism was
gaining new vitality. Businessmen were looking for new markets and for
new sources of raw materials. Patriots, in their turn, believed that they
were being called upon to assume the "white man's burden" and to civilize
and democratize the world. Both drives seemed to coincide. The Berlin
Conference in 1885 divided those parts of Africa not yet annexed among
the major European nations. The point of the conference was to plan
national exploits in such a way as to reduce conflicts.  In the course of
a very few years, the rest of Africa was colonized by these nations.
Africans, of course, were given no voice in the matter.  China, though it
was not colonized, was also divided into spheres of economic influence.
The United States was quick to join in this scramble. Its influence,
however, was limited largely to Asia and Latin America.

This new imperialist expansion was not interpreted by its proponents as
being exploitative. Instead, they depicted it as bringing the blessing of
civilization to the "underprivileged." The concept of the "white man's
burden" was particularly common in Britain and America. The prevailing
idea was that the white race, especially the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic
branches of it, had been especially blessed by God so that it could
achieve industrialization and democratization. It further taught that it
was their obligation to carry the benefits to less fortunate peoples.

This new imperialism hid its domination behind paternalism, but it still
presented the imperialists as superiors and the colonials as inferiors.
Moreover, because in most cases the imperialists were white and the
colonials colored, it meant that this imperialist drive also carried
racial connotations. The American version of the "white man's burden" was
most blatantly presented by Josiah Strong in his book Our Country.
According to Strong, the superior Anglo-Saxon race in America would
multiply rapidly, become powerful and prosperous, and then would spread
the blessings of industrialization and democracy south into Mexico and
into the Caribbean Islands. At the same time, American commercial
interests were searching for new markets and were making increasing
investments in these very areas. The merchants were looking for new
markets to exploit, but the idealist rhetoric talked only in terms of
benevolent paternalism.

These trends came to a head in the Spanish-American War.  Conflicts had
been increasing in Cuba between the Spanish authorities in control and
the local citizens. Americans became interested in several abortive
uprisings which occurred on the island. The brutal way in which the
Spanish had suppressed them incensed the Americans. The violence in Cuba
also endangered American life and property--the result of increasing
American investments. The public favored intervention, proposing that
their Caribbean neighbors should also share in the benefits of democracy.
They viewed the Spaniards as an antidemocratic element from the Old World
blocking the road to progress in the western hemisphere.

The battleship Maine was sent to the Havana harbor ostensibly on a
courtesy visit. Its real object was to protect American interests. It was
mysteriously blown up, and many of its crew were killed. The cause of the
explosion is still unknown.  American chauvinists chose to believe that
the ship had been deliberately destroyed, and they demanded retaliation.
Before long, American troops were sent to "liberate" the Cubans from
Spanish oppression.

Although the number of Negro troops who participated in the
Spanish-American War was small, they fought heroically and contributed
significantly to the American victory. The Negro participants served in
segregated units. These included the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th
and 25th Infantry units. In the battle of San Juan Hill, the Negro
cavalry opened the way for the Rough Riders' famous charge which was led
by Theodore Roosevelt.  Later in the day, the 24th Infantry came up from
the rear to support the action.

At the end of the war, Spain gave the United States sovereignty over
Puerto Rico and, for the payment of a sum of money, the U.S.  also gained
the Philippines. Spain gave up her sovereignty over Cuba, but its future
status was not made clear. American public opinion had become so wed to
the cause of democracy in Cuba that the American government felt it could
not take direct control of the island. It was deemed necessary to
establish a Cuban Republic, but it was obvious that America would
exercise considerable influence over it. Early in the century the Platt
Amendment was passed by the U. S. Congress, and Cuba was required to
include it within her own constitution. This gave the United States
authority to intervene in Cuban affairs in order to maintain law and
order. The U. S. also obtained Guantanamo Bay as a naval base in Cuba.

In 1916 American marines landed in Santo Domingo to restore law and order
there in the wake of a series of local uprisings.  Again, Americans
wanted to protect their business interests in the island. The American
presence, however, only contributed to the total collapse of civil
government, and the marines were not withdrawn until 1924.  American
commercial influence continued and grew even after the soldiers left.
Similarly, America intervened in the internal affairs of Haiti. It began
with the assumption of financial control of the Haitian government to
help it achieve stability and, at the same time, to secure American
investments. In an attempt to maintain law and order, American
intervention spread to include taking control of the country's police
force. In 1917, the U. S. established military rule in Haiti and this was
not appreciated by the local citizens.  The marines were compelled to
shoot some two thousand Haitians in the process of restoring peace. The
troops were not finally withdrawn from Haiti until 1934.

In spreading the benefits of her civilization into the Caribbean, America
acquired a colored empire which only served to complicate her own racial
situation. Blacks, however, played an important role in the acquisition
of this territory. American ministers to Haiti were usually Negroes, and
Negro soldiers played a significant part in the Spanish-American War. In
their attempts to demonstrate their loyalty and patriotism, American
Negroes unwittingly helped to bring more colored peoples under the sway
of American racism.

America's real involvement in world politics occurred with her entrance
into the First World War. The British and French had sought to give the
war an ideological flavor in order both to stir up the patriotism of
their own citizens and also to draw in support from other nations,
especially the United States. The war was portrayed as a conflict between
democracy and authoritarianism. When America joined the conflict,
President Wilson emphasized even further this posture of idealism.
Americans viewed the war as the last war--the war which would make the
world "safe for democracy."

The Afro-American community remained oblivious to the hostilities in
Europe and was late in becoming aware of the imminence of war. Negroes
were preoccupied with the racial harassments confronting them at home and
seldom looked beyond the country's borders. Once America became involved
in the fighting, however, they were eager to demonstrate that they were
patriotic and loyal citizens. Even W. E. B. DuBois, who was as hostile
and angry as any, came to support the war effort. In an article which he
wrote in Crisis, he called for his brothers to close ranks with the rest
of American society and to present a solid front against the enemy. This
patriotic solidarity came in spite of the fact that segregation was
creeping into the Federal Government itself.  President Taft, who had
tried to broaden the base of the Republican Party in the South, had made
some feeble beginnings at instituting segregation in federal facilities
in Washington.  In 1913, Wilson the first Southern Democratic president
since the Civil War, vastly expanded the process. The N.A.A.C.P.
expressed shock at Jim Crowism becoming an official part of the
government in the nation's capital. At the same time, the Civil Service
required job applicants to file their photographs with their
applications.  The N.A.A.C.P. charged that this was part of the spread of
discriminatory practices in Washington, but the Civil Service denied it.

When America declared war against Germany in April, 1917, only a few
Negroes were members of the standing army. However, many immediately
rushed to enlist, but only a few were accepted.  Local enlistment
officers were dubious about the ability and the loyalty of Negroes.
Apparently their previous service record had been forgotten, When
Congress passed the Selective Service Act in May, it was made to apply to
all citizens alike. During the course of the war, some 367,000 Negroes
were called into military service. This was 31 percent of those who had
registered.  Meanwhile, only 26 percent of the white registrants were
called.  Once the Selective Service Act went into effect, discrimination
had the reverse effect from what it had produced before, Instead of
keeping Negroes out of the Army, some Selective Service Boards
discriminated against them in terms of the exemptions which were
permitted. Throughout the war, the Navy only accepted Negroes in menial
jobs, and the Marine Corps barred them altogether.

Training the Negro troops presented another problem. No community
welcomed an influx of hundreds or thousands of young Negro men.  The
South, especially, was outraged when large numbers of "cocky" Negroes
from the North descended upon some sleepy, peaceful town. Segregation and
discrimination within the military itself caused further irritations and
triggered violence at more than one camp. The 92nd, an all-Negro outfit,
was trained at seven separate locations, and it was the only American
unit never to come together before reaching the front. The 93rd, another
all-Negro unit, was never consolidated. When it reached France, it served
with various units of the French Army. It had been sent overseas hastily,
and its troops received most of their training in Europe. Its men had
largely been recruited from New York State, and they were sent to
Spartanburg, South Carolina, for their training. The local citizens
deliberately picked a fight with the men in order to "put them in their
place." A riot was narrowly averted.  When they were shipped back north
for training, they found themselves sharing a camp with white troops from
the South. Another incident almost occurred, and they were immediately
sent overseas for training.

Besides serving in segregated units, most of the Negro troops were
assigned to menial tasks. One third of the American stevedore force in
Europe was Negro. Nevertheless, many of them did become involved in the
fighting and distinguished themselves heroically. Besides receiving
American awards, they were generously honored by the French. The 369th
was the first American unit to reach the Rhine, and the French praised it

Many of the Negro soldiers were surprised by the hospitality which they
received in France. Several stayed behind, after the war, to study in
European universities. In spite of the fact that many whites warned the
French of dangers involved with associating with Negroes, especially
white women with Negro men, the French were happy to have them share in
the defense. Many invited them into their homes. In the meantime, rumors
spread in America that Negro troops were taking unwise liberties with
French women. It was also said that the crime of rape was widespread.
Americans worried about what would happen when these men returned home.
The rumors were so insistent that, finally, the government sent Dr.
Moton, the president of Tuskegee Institute, to Europe to investigate the
situation. He found that the rumors were totally unwarranted.

When the victors met at Versailles to write the treaty which ended the
war, black people around the world, including Afro-Americans, hoped that
they would take up the problem of the African peoples as well. The only
consideration which was given to Africa, however, was the disposal of the
German colonies.  These were distributed among the victors. This did
nothing to give Africa back to the Africans; it only changed the identity
of the European masters. W. E. B. DuBois, who was looking for a way to
spotlight the problem of the African peoples, called a Pan-African
Congress to meet in Paris simultaneously with the meeting in Versailles.
Fifty-seven delegates came, of which most were from Africa and America.
While they had no authority and could do little of significance, the
Congress did dramatize to the world the plight of the subject peoples of

Urban Riots

In spite of the fact that Negroes were fighting overseas to defend their
country, racial tensions continued at home. In the years immediately
preceding the war, racially motivated lynchings and riots, which had been
largely confined to the South, began to spread into the North and Midwest.

In Statesboro, Georgia, two blacks, who had been accused and convicted of
murder, were seized from the courtroom by an angry mob. After beating and
burning them, the mob went on to loot and burn Negro-owned homes in the
community. In 1906, a white mob raged out of control for several days in
Atlanta, Georgia. In the same year, the 25th Infantry in Brownsville,
Texas, became involved in a riot with the white citizens of that town,
and Roosevelt dismissed the whole battalion without honor. In 1904, a
riot occurred in Springfield, Ohio, much farther north than anyone would
have expected. A Negro, who had been charged with killing a white police
officer, was seized from jail by an angry mob. After hanging him from a
telephone pole, the mob riddled his body with bullets, Then, they went on
to destroy large sections of the Negro part of town.

In 1808 Springfield, Illinois, was the scene of the famous riot which
helped to motivate the founding of the N.A.A.C.P. There, a white woman
claimed to have been raped by a Negro. Although she admitted that she
had, in fact, been assaulted by a white man, the angry mob was only
further enraged. It ran out of control for several days, and the state's
militia was called in to restore order. Besides looting and burning, the
mob boldly and deliberately lynched two of the city's responsible Negro
citizens. The leaders of the mob, as usual, went unpunished.

Although DuBois had urged the Negroes to close ranks with white America
during the war, white racists did not reciprocate.  An even worse race
riot occurred in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917. The white community
was afraid that a mass influx of Negroes from the South was about to
occur. On one hand, Illinois Democrats played on racial prejudice to
further their political interests. They accused Republicans of intending
to colonize large numbers of Negroes from the South in order to enlarge
the Republican vote.

On the other hand, labor unions feared that Negroes would be imported as
strike breakers. During an attempt to organize a union at the Aluminum
Ore Company which led to a strike in April 1917 this atmosphere increased
racial tensions. In 1913, the company had hired no Negro workers at all.
By 1916, there were two hundred Afro-American employees. Within three
months at the end of 1916 and the beginning of 1917, the company fired
some two hundred whites while, at the same time, hiring approximately the
same number of Negroes. The city had been totally segregated, and the
white citizens intended to keep it that way. The school system had been
segregated in spite of a state law of 1874 which forbade segregation in
education. Jim Crow was also standard in theaters, restaurants, and
hotels in opposition to the 1885 law that had outlawed segregation in
public accommodations. Local citizens were afraid that the rumored influx
of Negroes would drastically alter the situation. Later investigation
showed that the size of the migration had been vastly exaggerated.

Tension surrounding the racial and labor conflict in East St. Louis
exploded into a minor riot in May. A Negro had accidentally wounded a
white man during a liquor-store holdup but the story that was circulated
was that an innocent young white girl had been shot and killed. The white
community, especially the striking workers, became an enraged mob which
roamed the streets beating any Negroes it could find.  The mob also
burned Negro-owned stores and homes. The next day the National Guard
arrived and, with the help of the police, searched the Negro community
for weapons. In spite of the fact that the mob had been white, it was the
Negroes who were disarmed and arrested. East St.  Louis became filled
with rumors that the Negroes were preparing for revenge.

Late in the evening of July 1, a Ford sedan raced through the Negro
section of East St. Louis shooting at doors and windows as it passed.
The police heard that Negroes were on a shooting rampage, and they sent a
car to investigate. They came in another Ford sedan, and most of the
officers were wearing civilian dress.  In the meantime, the Negro
citizens had prepared for the return of the first car. As the police
entered the poorly lit street, they were met by a barrage of bullets.
Almost all the officers were either killed or wounded. The white
community was outraged at what it believed to be an unprovoked attack,
and it wanted revenge.

Although the Guard was called again, the riot lasted for several days.
At one point, the white mob set a row of shacks on fire and waited in
ambush until its residents were forced to flee the flames. Then, they
took great delight in coldly and deliberately shooting them down as they
fled. It was reported that some of those who were shot were thrown back
into the burning buildings, and others were thrown into the river.  Two
children, between one and two years old, were found shot through the
head. At times, the mob would not let ambulances take away the wounded
and dying. For the most part, the Guard and the police stood by.
According to some reports, they occasionally participated themselves.

According to official reports thirty-nine Negroes and two whites had been
killed, but the police contended that, because so many bodies had been
burned, thrown in the river, or buried in mass graves, the figure was
really much larger. They estimated the number of dead at a hundred, and
the grand jury accepted their calculation. It was also estimated that as
many as 750 had been wounded. The Guard held an investigation of the
riot, and it exonerated the behavior of its soldiers. However, a
Congressional investigation later accused the Guard's colonel of
cowardice, and it said that the Guard had exhibited extreme inefficiency.
The Washington Evening Mail carried a cartoon which depicted Wilson
standing before a group of Negroes reading an official document
proclaiming that the world should be made safe for democracy.  The
caption over the cartoon read "Why not make America safe?"

When the Negro soldiers returned home from Europe, they brought new
experiences and changed attitudes with them. As soldiers, they had been
taught to stand up and fight like men. In Europe, they had been treated
more like men than ever before.  The attitude of submissiveness which had
been stamped on the Afro-American community by its slave mentality and
which had been reinforced by the philosophy of Booker T. Washington was
undermined by this new sense of manhood. When a wave of two dozen riots
swept America in the summer of 1919, Negroes fought back as they had not
done in East St. Louis. Riots occurred in places as diverse as Longview,
Texas, Washington, D.C., Omaha, Nebraska, and Chicago, Illinois.

The worst riot of that bloody summer occurred in Chicago. It began when a
young Negro boy, swimming in Lake Michigan, crossed into a section of the
water which had been traditionally reserved for whites. White youths
began throwing stones at him, and he drowned. A later investigation
showed that he had not been hit by any of these rocks.  Nevertheless,
this incident triggered the tense racial situation in Chicago into an
explosion.  Fighting broke out all over the city.  Whites pulled Negroes
from streetcars and beat them openly. The fighting raged for thirteen
days. At least thirty-eight people were killed.  Fifteen of these were
white, and twenty-three were Negro.  Also, some five hundred people were
injured of which the majority were Negro. Many houses were burned, and it
was estimated that one thousand families were left homeless.

The Klan Revival

While the nation went to war to make the world safe for democracy, many
at home believed that it was still necessary to make America safe first.
These people fell into two groups. There were those within the
Afro-American community who felt that a country which systematically
disenfranchised a large minority group and which also tolerated
widespread discrimination, segregation, and violence against that
minority was not a secure democratic state. At the same time, those who
were responsible for much of this harassment and terror believed that
violence was necessary precisely in order to protect democracy. They
believed that true democracy sprang from the virtue of a white,
Anglo-Saxon, Protestant civilization, and they wanted to protect it
against alien subversion.

One of the main "protectors" of white American civilization was the Ku
Klux Klan. The original Klan had thrived in the deep South immediately
after the Civil War. In 1915, it underwent a revival.  Inspired by the
migration of Afro-Americans from the South into the North and West as
well as by the gigantic immigration of South and East Europeans, the
Klan, beginning in Georgia, rapidly spread beyond the South into a
national movement. Confidently believing in the superiority of its own
democratic way of life, America had thrown open its doors to the hungry
and oppressed of Europe. American society took pride in being the world's
great melting pot. However, many old-stock Americans did not view their
society as being a cultural amalgam, and they expected that the new
European immigrants, as well as the Afro-Americans, would want to be
assimilated into their society as it already existed.  When they promised
the newcomers freedom and equality, many of these Americans were offering
these benefits expecting that the immigrants would adjust and conform.
They did not believe that the values and life style of foreigners were
equal to their own, and therefore they did not want to grant the
outsiders the freedom to "pollute" American society with alien cultures.
When it became evident that American Negroes as well as many of these new
immigrants were not able to be absorbed into white, Anglo-Saxon,
Protestant America as easily as had been expected, many ardent patriots
became panic-stricken over the future of the American way of life. This
sense of terror drove them to take extreme action in its defense.

The invisible empire of the Ku Klux Klan was the most militant and best
organized of several defenders of this kind of American patriotism. It
built its power on a series of appeals which had deep roots throughout
American life. During the 1920s, anti-Semitism was widespread, and many
respectable hotels and clubs were closed to Jews. Discrimination against
foreign-born Americans was prevalent. Many patriotic and artistic
societies were exclusively for native-born Americans.  Discrimination
against Afro-Americans was a national phenomenon, but in the South it was
an orthodox social and political creed.

The revival of the Klan in 1915 was closely associated with the release
of the famous motion picture,  The Birth of a Nation. D. W.  Griffith
based his movie on material taken from two novels by Thomas Dixon: The
Leopard's Spots and The Klansman. At first Birth of a Nation was censored
in some cities in the North and West for being inflammatory because of
its racial attitudes.  This angered many who claimed that it was, in
fact, a truthful account of the Klan. Concerned by the official
opposition to the movie, Dixon contacted an old college friend who was
then occupying the White House. President Woodrow Wilson consented to a
special White House showing of the picture. After the White House
showing, opposition throughout the North and West disintegrated, and the
movie went on to become a gigantic success. It grossed eighteen million
dollars. While much of this success was undoubtedly due to its appeal to
common underlying racial prejudice in the American character, it must
also be admitted that much of the popularity was due to the fact that it
was the first full-length successful movie and that it had much
entertainment value.

Colonel William J. Simmons chose the opening of the movie in Atlanta,
Georgia, as the time to launch his Klan revival. His father had been a
member of the original Klan. When the revival began in 1915, the Klan was
primarily a fraternal, Caucasian-supremacy organization without the
violence normally associated with it. But when Simmons later decided to
develop it into a larger organization, he found it necessary to adopt
more aggressive tactics.

At one meeting, Simmons dramatically portrayed the dynamic, hostile note
that helped the organization to spread and appeal to the fears and the
hatreds of people throughout the country.  In the middle of a speech, he
first drew a gun from one pocket and laid it on the table before him.
Then, he pulled a second gun from another pocket and placed it beside the
first one. Opening his jacket, he unfastened a cartridge belt and draped
it ostentatiously across the table. Finally, he reached into still
another pocket, pulled out a knife and plunged it into the wood between
the two guns. With this flamboyant gesture, he issued a challenge to all
"niggers," Catholics, Jews, and all others.  He warned them that his
organization and its supporters were ready to meet them and would protect
themselves and the American way of life from any kind of corruption.
While the Klan is normally thought of as being an anti-Negro institution,
the other major themes on which it built in the 1920s were opposition to
Catholicism, dope, bootlegging, gambling, roadhouses and loose sexual

For the Klan, the end justified the means. Defending the values of
American society was to them so important as to condone the use of
violence and murder. By 1921, Klan membership had soared to 100,000 but
its real growth had only just begun, As it came under public attack, its
popularity increased. Newspapers and Congressmen charged that the Klan
had violated the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Thirteenth Amendments to
the Constitution. The House Rules Comittee held hearings on the Klan.
However, the comittee chairman found that he lost the next election.
Newspapers attacked the Klan in lurid headlines which, although they
helped to sell copy, only succeeded in making the Klan more attractive to
potential members. By 1923 Klan membership was estimated between two and
three million.

When it was at its zenith, the Klan used violence, intimidation, and
parades to make its presence known in the community. Its members were
prominent on police forces, sheriff departments, and various other local
branches of government. In the early 1920s, Klan support was responsible
for electing a handful of senators and several Congressmen.  Finally, in
1924, an attempt was made to capture both political parties on the
national level.  Failing to get its nominee chosen as Vice President on
the Republican ticket, the Klan swung its full attention to the
Democratic convention in Madison Square Garden in New York.  Anti-Klan
forces at the convention were also strong. The convention leadership made
the attempt to keep the issue in the background, but a minority report on
the platform resulted in forcing the convention to condemn the Klan by
name. The convention was split in two. As a result, it took the party
nine days and one hundred and twenty-three ballots before it was
successful in choosing its national candidates. In the following year,
the Klan again tried to make its presence felt on the national scene. It
held a march of its members in Washington. Forty thousand robed and
hooded Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in a display of strength
while thousands more cheered and watched.

The violence which, for a short time, had helped the Klan to grow, would
eventually contribute to its decline. It appealed to public animosity
against Catholics, Jews, and Negroes, but its own vitriolic crusade swung
segments of that same public opinion in favor of its victims. The Klan
revival was particularly disheartening to Negroes, who had assumed that
the Klan was dead. While slavery was gone, brutality and intimidation
remained. Half a century after the demise of the original Klan, it had
risen again and, this time, had become a nationwide phenomenon. Jim Crow
was the law in the South, and racism had become rampant in the North.
Slavery had been abolished, but Negroes were aware that they still were
not free.

PART THREE  The Search For Equality


The Crisis of Leadership

The Debate over Means and Ends

In the nineteenth century the problem that faced the Afro-American
community was how to destroy the institution of slavery.  In the
twentieth century the question was how to achieve equality. Frederick
Douglass had been in the vanguard of the fight to overthrow the peculiar
institution.  Later, he was among the first to realize that Emancipation
had not solved all the problems. It was his belief that the forces of
racism and indifference were responsible for relegating the ex-slave to a
second-class status. When the Federal Government terminated
Reconstruction without providing his people with the tools for competing
in American society, Douglass's disappointment was severe.

At the turn of the century the focus of the problems facing
Afro-Americans had changed. Slavery had been abolished, but not race
prejudice. The elimination of this scourge became the basis for a new
drive. Douglass, who for a half century had been looked upon as the
spokesman for his people, was too old to tackle the task of ending
segregation and prejudice based on race. When he died early in 1895, the
Afro-American community was left without leadership capable of uniting
the diverse elements within the movement. The pressing need was for black
men and women to escape physical violence and to find acceptance with
dignity, and it couldn't wait.

However, within this community there were many who were capable of
leadership. What was lacking were the instruments of leadership. Money,
power, and the press, for the most part, were in the hands of whites who
had concluded that the ex-slave would have to solve his own problems.
What this meant was that the Whites wanted to be left in peace. Dozens of
Afro-Americans, however, were not content to accept the degrading
position which had been assigned to them. Utilizing the limited resources
within their own community, new leadership evolved and began to debate
the issues of the day. Before Emancipation the problems had seemed
simple. All attention was focused on the abolition of slavery, and the
only point of controversy centered on the means by which it should be
achieved. But segregation and discrimination were not so easily defined
and attacked. The debates which ensued widened to include disagreement
over both means and ends. A vocal minority, discouraged by the
emasculating effects of discrimination, believed that they should
withdraw from white society altogether. Some of them wanted to return to
Africa and to assist its inhabitants in their liberation from European
imperialism. They planned to create an independent African nation.
Others, while not wanting to leave America, still wanted to withdraw from
white society into a world of their own choosing and making.

The majority, however, insisted that the African immigrant, like those
from Europe, had the right to all the privileges of being American.  Some
of them wanted to join the white society, accept its Euro-American
cultural values, forget their past, and assimilate into the mainstream of
American life. Still others, while wanting to find their place within the
American nation, insisted that the country must be transformed into a
genuinely pluralistic society. While they wanted to be integrated into
the nation, they did not want to join the white society. Instead of
assimilating into Anglo-Saxon culture, they wanted American civilization
to become multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and highly fluid.

The means which were proposed to achieve these differing ends were highly
diverse. Some argued that the ex-slave must first demonstrate his
readiness to be accepted within white society.  Others claimed that they
need only demand the rights which were legally theirs. In order to do
this they planned to make aggressive use of the press and the courts.
Mass organization to achieve economic and political pressure was also
recommended as another technique.

There were scores of leaders representing dozens of differing positions.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the spectrum was limited
almost exclusively to the advocacy of nonviolent techniques.  Four of
these leaders will be discussed below. Their ideas present a broad
overview of the concepts to be found within the Afro-American community.
Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, and A.  Philip
Randolph represented a wide variety of approaches, their ideas forming
the total spectrum of the thrust for remaking the black role in white

Booker T. Washington: The Trumpet of Conciliation

Within a few months of Douglass's death, a new leader was thrust upon the
Afro-American community. Unlike Douglass, who believed in self-assertion,
Booker T. Washington developed a leadership style based on the model of
the old plantation house servant. He used humility, politeness, flattery,
and restraint as a wedge with which he hoped to split the wall of racial
discrimination. His conciliatory approach won the enthusiastic support of
the solid South as well as that of influential Northern politicians and
industrialists, Their backing gained him a national reputation and
provided him with easy access to the press. Members of his own community
were filled with pride to see one of their own treated with such respect
by wealthy and influential leaders of white America. When Theodore
Roosevelt entertained Washington for dinner at the White House, the
Afro-American community was overjoyed. However, some whites believed that
it had been a dangerous breach of etiquette. Nevertheless, there were
those within the Afro-American community who were not enthusiastic about
their new leader. They believed that conciliation was the road to
surrender and not the way to victory.

Booker T. Washington was born into slavery on April 5, 1856. His mother
had been a slave in Franklin County, Virginia. The identity of his white
father remains unknown. After Emancipation the family moved to West
Virginia where it struggled to achieve a livelihood. Young Booker
attended a school for the children of ex-slaves while, at the same time,
holding down a full-time job in the mines. As a courteous, cooperative,
hard-working young man he secured a job cleaning and doing other tasks
around the house of one of the mine owners. This occupation was less
strenuous than working in the mines, and it left him more energy to
pursue his studies, In 1872, with nothing to help him besides his
determination, he traveled and worked his way hundreds of miles to
Hampton Institute. Undaunted by lack of tuition, he insisted that he
could do some useful work to cover his expenses. When he was directed to
clean the adjoining room as a kind of entrance test, his response was to
apply himself to the task. When the teacher's  white handkerchief could
not discover any dirt in the room, she was so impressed with his work and
with his genial personality that she admitted him to the institute and
found a janitorial job to ease his financial situation.

Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute had been started after the
Civil War by General Samuel Armstrong to train ex-slaves to lead their
people in pursuit of land and homes. Armstrong strongly believed that
they should not be given what they could earn for themselves.  Therefore,
the institute strove to teach the student manners, cleanliness, morality,
and practical skills with which to make a living, He believed that hard
work for its own sake developed moral virtue, and he tried to instill
this respect for labor into his students.

After graduating, Washington became an instructor at Hampton Institute.
Then in 1881, he was invited to Tuskegee, Alabama, to found a similar
school there. Louis Adams, a skilled freedman, had made a political deal
which led to the establishment of the Tuskegee Institute. In return for
his delivery of the Negro vote, the state legislature provided minimal
funds for educating ex-slaves. The roof of the building which they were
using leaked and the students often had to study with umbrellas over
their heads.

In effect, the institute became a kind of commune. The students grew
their own food on the adjoining land, and they erected their own
buildings. They sold their excess produce to the citizens of Tuskegee.
They also developed skills in carpentry, brick-making, and a score of
other trades and sold their products to the community. Gradually, as the
white citizens realized that the school was not developing aggressive
blacks and that the students were providing a contribution to the
community, they came to accept it and to help it to develop by
contributing funds and supplies. They found that Tuskegee students were
hard-working, courteous, and humble instead of being self-assertive and
articulate. They realized that their fears of educating the ex-slave had
been unfounded.

In an attempt to lure more business and industry into the South,
political leaders scheduled a trade exposition for Atlanta, Georgia, in
1895. A delegation was sent to the nation's capital to request financial
aid from a Congressional comittee. Booker T. Washington was included in
the delegation as a token that there was backing from all portions of the
community for the project. Speaking to the comittee, Washington said
that: "the Negro should not be deprived by unfair means of the franchise,
political agitation alone would not save him, and that to back the ballot
he must have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence, and
character, and that no race without these elements could permanently

The delegation admitted that his oratory had significantly helped their
cause. They were impressed with his racial views, particularly when he
stated that character development was more important than political
agitation. This was a position which they could whole-heartily endorse.

The Cotton States Exposition which was held in Atlanta in 1895 strove to
project an image of the South as a peaceful and prosperous region.  It
tried to represent the South as a desirable location for future financial
investment. Part of the peaceful image which it tried to create was a
picture of racial harmony.  The Exposition had a pavilion which was built
by ex-slaves and which displayed their products, and it was decided to
invite a Negro to speak at the Exposition. The choice fell on Booker T.
Washington. His famous speech, which later became known as "The Atlanta
Compromise", lay heavily on his mind for many weeks before its delivery.
He wanted to cement racial relations as well as to advance the status of
his people. He was afraid of saying something which might undermine the

Washington's speech was built around two graphic images. In the first, he
told the story of a ship at sea which was out of fresh water. It signaled
a passing vessel that it needed fresh water.  The other ship told them to
let down their bucket. Finally, after much consternation, the crew
complied. Instead of finding salt water as they had expected, the bucket
was pulled up filled with fresh water from the mouth of the Amazon.
Washington used this image to suggest that the racial situation could be
improved if both races would begin from where they were. The second
picture which he used was that of the hand. He pointed out that while the
hand was one, the fingers were separate. Similarly, he suggested that
national unity and social segregation could go together.

Washington built on the image of the ship's needing fresh water to
persuade Negroes to start where they were in building their future. He

"To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign
land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly
relations with the southern white man, who is their next-door neighbor, I
would say: 'Cast down your bucket where you are, cast it down in making
friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are
surrounded. Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in
domestic service, and in the professions. And in this connection it is
well to bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called to
bear, when it comes to business, pure and simple, it is in the South that
the Negro is given a man's chance in the commercial world, and in nothing
is this Exposition more eloquent than in emphasizing this chance. Our
greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may
overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of
our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion
as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor and put brains and skill
into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we
learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the
ornamental gewgaws of life and the useful.  No race can prosper till it
learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a
poem.  It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top. Nor
should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities."

Washington then turned to the whites in the audience and urged them to
start where they were in building national prosperity and racial unity.
He said:

"To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign
birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were
I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, 'Cast down your
bucket where you are.' Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes
whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days
when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast
down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labor
wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads
and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and
helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of
the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and
encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of
head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus
land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your
factories.  While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the
past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient,
faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen....
so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a
devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if
need be, in defence of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial,
civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the
interests of both races one."

He summed up his plea for racial cooperation with the second pictorial
image. He told the audience that "In all things that are purely social we
can be as separate as the fingers, yet as one as the hand in all things
essential to mutual progress." This proposal brought forth thunderous
applause. He went on to say that the wisest in his race were aware that
fighting for social equality was folly. The ex-slave, he believed, must
first struggle and prepare himself for the assumption of his rights,
which were privileges to be earned. While he did believe that his people
would receive their full rights at some future date, he insisted that
"The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth
infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an
opera-house."  Economic opportunity was far more important than either
social equality or political rights. He closed the speech by praising the
Exposition for the effect it would have in bringing fresh material
prosperity to the South, and added:

"... yet far above and beyond material benefits will be that higher good,
that, let us pray God, will come, in a blotting out of sectional
differences and racial animosities and suspicions, in a determination to
administer absolute justice, in a willing obedience among all classes to
the mandates of law.  This, coupled with our material prosperity, will
bring into our beloved South a new heaven and a new earth."

When he finished, the audience applauded wildly. Governor Bullock rushed
across the platform and shook his hand. The next day he was greeted and
praised enthusiastically on the Atlanta streets.  President Cleveland,
after having read the speech, wrote Washington and thanked him for what
he had said. The following year Harvard University granted him an
honorary Master's degree.  The press both North and South quoted all or
parts of the speech, and most of the newspapers carried appreciative
editorials. The Charleston News and Courier, for example said "His skin
is colored, but his head is sound, and his heart is in the right place."
Money poured in to finance the Tuskegee Institute.  Overnight Washington
was skyrocketed to national fame.

However, there were those who did not appreciate their new leader's call
to conciliation. In view of the growing virulence of racism and the
spread of Jim Crow legislation, they believed that his refusal to demand
their rights was, in fact, a form of emasculation.

John Hope was one of those who had heard the Atlanta speech and did not
want to accept the compromise. He was a professor at Roger Williams
University in Nashville, Tennessee, and later was to become president of
Atlanta University. The following year, after carefully considering
Washington's speech, he made an address of his own to his colleagues in
Nashville. He bitterly attacked the compromise and said that he believed
it to be cowardly for a black man to admit that his people were not
striving for equality. If money, education, and honesty would not bring
the black man as much respect as they would to another American citizen,
they were a curse and not a blessing.

This was obviously an attack on Washington's statement that the right to
earn a dollar was worth more than anything else. He said that if he did
not have the right to spend a dollar in the opera house and to do those
things that other free men do, he was not free. Hope was not content with
demanding equality in vague terms. He insisted that what he wanted was
social equality.  Instead of urging conciliation, he advocated that the
Afro-Americans should be restless and dissatisfied.  When their
discontent broke through the wall of discrimination, then there would be
no need to plead for Justice. Then they would be men. A decade later,
those who opposed Washington's leadership decided that they needed to
organize and coordinate their activities.

John Hope, W. E. B. DuBois, Monroe Trotter, and several others wanted to
speak out more vigorously against racial discrimination, segregation, and
lynching. To do this, they created the Niagara Movement to challenge the
political domination of Washington's Tuskegee machine. Because he was the
recognized advisor to politicians and philanthropists, this was a
difficult task. Hope's criticism resulted in the diminution of financial
support to Atlanta University where Hope was president.

W. E. B. DuBois, who was a professor at Atlanta University at that time,
charged that:

"Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for
the present, three things,--First, political power; second, insistence on
civil rights; Third, higher education of Negro youth,--and concentrate
their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and
the conciliation of the South.... As a result of this tender of the
palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have
occurred: 1. The disenfranchisement of the Negro. 2. The legal creation
of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro.  3. The steady
withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro.
These movements are not, to be sure, direct results of Mr. Washington's
teachings; but his propaganda has, without a shadow of a doubt, helped
their speedier accomplishment. The question then comes: Is it possible,
and probable, that nine millions of men can make effective progress in
economic lines if they are deprived of political rights, made a servile
caste, and allowed only the most meager chance for developing their
exceptional men? If history and reason give any distinct answer to these
questions, it is an emphatic No."

He believed that beginning at the bottom with a humble trade was the best
way to stay at the bottom, respect should be worth more than material
advancement. He believed that Washington's policy had replaced manliness
with a shallow materialism. Monroe Trotter edited the Boston Guardian
which was one of the most militant papers published in the Afro-American
community. Trotter used it as a platform from which to attack
Washington's leadership. On one occasion when Washington was speaking in
Boston, Trotter was among those arrested for creating a disturbance
during the lecture. When the Niagara Movement was dissolved in 1909 and
most of its leaders joined with liberal whites in founding the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Trotter refused to
follow them.  Besides distrusting the conciliatory policies of
Washington, he could not put his trust in an integrated movement.

In the years immediately preceding his death in 1915, Washington hinted
at a growing disillusionment with the way in which his compromise had
worked. In 1912 he wrote an article for Century magazine entitled "Is the
Negro Having a Fair Chance?" In it he criticized the fact that more money
was appropriated for the education of whites than of blacks. He also
criticized the convict lease system which had developed in the South. His
dissatisfaction with segregation became clear when he pointed out that
although Jim Crow facilities might be separate they were never equal.
Another article which he had written was published after his death in the
New Republic. In it he described the terrible effects of segregation. He
said that it meant inferior sidewalks, inferior street-lighting, inferior
sewage facilities, and inferior police protection. Such lacks made for
difficult neighborhoods in which to raise families in decency.

If Washington's program was a sellout, as many believed, it is becoming
increasingly clear that he did not intend his compromise as an end in
itself. He believed that it could be the means to a much broader future.
When he spoke before the Congressional comittee early in 1895, he
expressed his opposition to disenfranchisement on a racial basis.  His
apparent acceptance of it at Atlanta was only a tactical maneuver.  In an
article which he wrote in 1898, he said that he believed that the time
would come when his people would be given all of their rights in the
South. He said that they would receive the privileges due to any citizen
on the basis of ability, character, and material possessions.  He was, in
effect, approving disenfranchisement of the poor and ignorant in both
races. When Negroes did receive what was due them as citizens, he said,
it would come from Southern whites as the result of the natural evolution
of mutual trust and acceptance. Artificial external pressure, he
insisted, would not help.

The Atlanta Compromise was to be the means to an end and not an end in
itself. If the ex-slave would start at the bottom, develop manners and
friendliness, Washington believed that he could make his labor
indispensable to white society. Acceptance of segregation was, at that
time, a necessary part of good behavior. If the whites, in turn, opened
the doors of economic opportunity to the ex-slave instead of importing
more European immigrants, Washington said that the nation would have an
English-speaking non-striking labor force. Gradually, individual
Afro-Americans would gain trust, acceptance, and respect. The class line
based on color would be replaced by one based on intelligence and

Washington seemed to be unaware that a race which began at the bottom
could stay at the bottom. In an age of rapid urbanization and
industrialization a strategy which emphasized craft and agriculture was
drastically out of step with the economic realities. Moreover the nation
did not accept its part of the compromise. The flood of immigration
continued unabated for another two decades. When Afro-Americans were
given opportunities in industry, it became clear that there were black
jobs and white jobs. The former were always poorly paid.

There were two bases for Washington's belief that the Negro should start
at the bottom and work his way up. The nineteenth-century economic creed
had taught that hard work unlocked the door which led from rags to
riches. This teaching was also reinforced by Washington's own experience.
Born in slavery and poverty, he rose from obscurity to fame and influence
through honesty and industry. However, Washington seemed unaware that the
most which his policy could ever achieve was a token acceptance which
would leave the Negro masses behind.

W. E. B. DuBois:  The Trumpet of Confrontation

In contrast to Washington's policy of conciliation and compromise, W.  E.
B. DuBois believed that it was necessary to act like men in order to be
accepted as men, Speaking the truth as he saw it, loudly, clearly, and
fearlessly, was to him the minimum criterion for manliness. This led to a
contrasting style of leadership. Where Washington had been polite and
ingratiating, DuBois was self-assertive and, frequently, aggressive.
Where Washington had tried to win the trust of white bigots, DuBois
insisted on confronting them with the truth as he saw it. Where
Washington had counseled peace, DuBois clamored for action.

The contrasting leadership styles of Washington and DuBois were rooted in
their differing life experiences. DuBois was born in February, 1868, in
Great Barrington, Massachusetts. His grandfather had procured his own
freedom through participating in the American Revolution. DuBois received
his elementary and secondary education in an integrated setting which
prevented his becoming conscious of the color bar.  However, receiving an
integrated college education was not so simple.  Instead he headed South
to Fisk University to further his education, There, the daily insults of
discrimination and segregation came to him as a shock. He had not been
trained to accept them, and these daily harassments filled him with anger
and hostility. He returned north to pursue his graduate education at
Harvard University, and he also spent some time at the University of
Berlin exploring the new field of sociology.

DuBois's first-class education as well as his own scholarly bent led him
to put considerable faith in reason and learning as the tools with which
to rebuild the world. He came to believe that bigotry and discrimination
were rooted in ignorance and that scholarship could destroy them by
exposing them to the light of truth. He strove to demonstrate that the
Afro-American was not innately inferior and that his inferior status
sprang from his unequal and unfair treatment in America.

While at Harvard, he wrote "The Suppression of the African Slave Trade"
which was of such high quality that it became the first volume in an
important historical series published by Harvard. Soon afterwards, while
teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, he conducted extensive
sociological research which resulted in "The Philadelphia Negro". This
pioneering sociological work was valuable for the understanding of the
Negro in Philadelphia and throughout the North, At that time sociology
was a new field, and there was not a single institution of higher
learning in the United States or the world which had adopted it as the
tool for studying the problems of minority groups. Atlanta University
invited DuBois to come there and teach and to conduct sociological
studies. There he began a research department which was devoted to
studying the problems of the Afro-American community and which resulted
in the production of a dozen works.

Besides his interest in scholarly research, DuBois developed a theory of
racial leadership. For a people to advance, he believed, they needed
leaders. If they failed to develop such people of their own, they would
be guided by others. DuBois was doubtful whether his people should
entrust themselves to white leaders. He agreed with Washington that the
masses would have to make their living with their hands, and he also
believed that it was important for them to develop skills which would
help them.  While wanting to assist the masses, however, he argued that
the important priority, at the beginning, must be given to training a
leadership elite which he called "the talented tenth." "The Negro race,
like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem
of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the
Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race
that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the
Worst, in their own and other races."  This influential aristocracy would
include scholars who would unearth the facts about the race and its
problems. It would provide leaders who would examine those facts, make
key decisions, and lead the race forward. This elite would also include
professionals and businessmen who would set an example of good
citizenship for the whole community.

Moreover, the achievements of "the talented tenth" would provide living
evidence that the racial stereotypes held by white bigots were untrue.
This would lead gradually to the acceptance of "the talented tenth"
within the majority community, and they would provide the wedge which
would break open the walls of prejudice and discrimination forever.

His work at Atlanta University was only one of the ways by which he
strove to build "the talented tenth." In 1905 DuBois and several others
had founded the Niagara Movement to provide a common platform from which
to speak. They also intended it to become the framework within which they
could exchange their ideas. In it "the talented tenth" tried to oppose
the policies of conciliation and submission which were being propounded
by Booker T. Washington. However, in 1906 Atlanta was rocked by a race
riot which shook DuBois's faith in reason and scholarship as a panacea.
In the very city in which he lived and where his influence should have
been strongest, white bigotry exploded, and mobs roamed the streets for
days beating Afro-American citizens and burning their homes. DuBois began
to wonder whether scholarly discovery of the truth was enough.

Following another race riot in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908 and the
founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People, DuBois left his post at Atlanta to become the director of
publicity and research for the N.A.A.C.P. While continuing his interest
in scholarly research, his new job involved him in  the aggressive
exposure and condemnation of discrimination. He became editor of "Crisis"
which he developed into a journal of protest. Instead of a scholar
dispassionately unearthing and publishing his findings, DuBois's new
position made him a passionate journalist and engaged him in a righteous

However, some blacks questioned the wisdom of entrusting their future to
a biracial organization like the N.A.A.C.P. When it was formed, Monroe
Trotter refused to join it, claiming that its white membership would
blunt its efficiency and militancy.  The fact that for many years DuBois
was the only black on its executive board led many to wonder whether it
had genuine biracial participation in its decision making.

Later, Ralph J. Bunche, professor of political science, U. N.  diplomat,
and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, attacked the N.A.A.C.P.  on the same
grounds. He argued that its dependence on white middle-class leaders, to
provide financial backing, the sympathy of a large segment of the public,
and on favorable court decisions prevented it from achieving significant
results. He claimed that whenever a controversial crisis arose, it would
be prohibited from taking a truly militant position. Even if its white
leadership was capable of making such a radical decision, it was always
forced to consider the effect of an action on its white, middle-class,
liberal financial backers.

Bunche also criticized the N.A.A.C.P. for relying on the courts and the
Constitution for support. He claimed that the Constitution was a brief,
general document which always required interpretation to relate it to
specific, contemporary issues.  This interpretation, he maintained, was
always shared by public opinion. While the courts' understanding of the
Constitution might not always conform precisely to the majority opinion,
the influential, vocal, and dominant segment of the public inevitably
influenced the courts' thinking on important subjects. While in
individual cases it might even contradict this force, in the long run the
Constitution could never be more than what the vocal majority wanted it
to be. Bunche believed that the N.A.A.C.P.  thinking was always sensitive
to the feelings of the white middle class, and therefore could never
afford to alienate that group.  At the same time, he believed that racism
was so ingrained in the white mentality that it would have to receive a
series of hard jolts if significant changes were to occur.

In the final analysis, he said, the N.A.A.C.P. would have to bargain and
conciliate. Like Booker T. Washington, he felt that it could not afford
to be as militant as was necessary. At about the same time DuBois,
himself, became disillusioned with the gradual conciliatory approach of
the N.A.A.C.P. While he still wanted to work for a integrated society, he
had lost faith in the effectiveness of a biracial organization to achieve
significant change. In an article which he wrote in Crisis before
resigning from the N.A.A.C.P., he suggested that black separatism or
black unity could provide a more solid front with which to attack
discrimination and segregation than cooperation with white society. His
goal, he insisted, was still to make ten million of his people free. He
wanted to help them break the bondage of economic oppression, to shake
off the chains of ignorance, to gain their full political rights, and to
become exempt from the insults of discrimination and segregation.

This kind of freedom, he maintained, was not inconsistent with
self-organization for self-advancement. He wanted to see the
Afro-American community develop control over its own churches, schools,
social clubs, and businesses. This was not, DuBois insisted, a surrender
to segregation. He believed that a community which controlled its own
basic institutions was in a better position to make its own decisions and
work for its own advancement. This solidarity and cooperation was
necessary to achieve significant change resulting in an integrated
society.  Indirectly, he admitted that this was a shift away from his
concept of "the talented tenth." The assumption that an educated and
cultured elite would be accepted within white society had proved to be
erroneous. To the contrary, he noted, whites often feared educated blacks
as much or more than uneducated ones. "The talented tenth" had not even
gained token acceptance. Therefore DuBois shifted to a concept of a group
solidarity instead of an elite leadership. This concept of group
cooperation must not be confused with that of Washington. DuBois's type
of solidarity was to be the platform from which to assert one's manhood
even if it meant personal deprivation:

"Surely then, in this period of frustration and disappointment, we must
turn from negation to affirmation, from the ever-lasting 'No' to the
ever-lasting 'Yes.' Instead of sitting, sapped of all initiative and
independence; instead of drowning our originality in imitation of
mediocre white folks; instead of being afraid of ourselves and
cultivating the art of skulking to escape the Color Line; we have got to
renounce a program that always involves humiliating self-stultifying
scrambling to crawl somewhere where we are not wanted; where we crouch
panting like a whipped dog. We have got to stop this and learn that on
such a program they cannot build manhood. No, by God, stand erect in a
mud-puddle and tell the white world to go to hell, rather than lick boots
in a parlor."

Both Walter White and James Weldon Johnson took on the task of countering
DuBois's position. Johnson argued that DuBois ended where Washington
began. He noted that the conflict between integration into a biracial
society and withdrawal into black separatism had existed throughout
American history. There had always been a minority who wanted to build a
separate community, but he said that what was favored by the majority was
to gain entrance into American society. Yet the daily insults which were
felt even by the most avid integrationists led them to curse white
society and, at times, to consider retreat into isolationism. According
to his point of view, Johnson pointed out, isolationism had to be based
on economics and although one could talk about black capitalism and could
even develop some prospering businesses, the economic realities favored
mass production and economic interdependence. Separate black institutions
were always contingent institutions which were subservient to the country
as a whole.  Therefore they could never really be free or independent.
The separate society would always be subject to external control by the
larger economic and political institutions on which it relied. Johnson
also noted that integrationists like himself had been charged with
failing to see the intensity of the institutional racism which existed
all about them. He denied this and claimed that racism and discrimination
were patently obvious. To the contrary, he suggested that the real danger
was in overemphasizing their importance and becoming paranoid.

After the Second World War, DuBois Joined the N.A.A.C.P. staff for
another short period. However, his disillusionment with society had
deepened, and he was ready to consider even more radical solutions than
before. He had become increasingly convinced that racism was a world
problem and not merely an American problem. The series of Pan-African
Congresses which he had helped to organize forced him to see a connection
between American racism and European imperialism in Africa.  At the same
time, communism was representing itself as the foe of both racism and
imperialism, and for many of the oppressed peoples throughout the world
the communist claim had become attractive.  To the N.A.A.C.P. it seemed
that DuBois's new "pink" ideas and associations were not good for its
image, and it asked him to resign. The government charged DuBois with
failing to register the "Peace Information Center", where he was
employed, as an agent for a foreign principal. Although acquitted, the
harassment deepened his cynicism and hostility. Finally, he became a
communist, and he moved to Ghana in 1960. He died there in 1963.  As a
young scholar, DuBois had begun by believing that reason and research
would dispel ignorance and prejudice. Obviously, prejudice was not so
easily eradicated by reason alone. "The talented tenth," which was to
lead the Afro-American community into the mainstream of American life,
had not been successful.  White bigots were especially antagonized by
educated blacks. When DuBois had advocated black solidarity, it had
failed to take root because the intellectuals had become alienated from
the masses.  The black bourgeoisie had been hindered by their color from
assimilating into white society, and their newly acquired education,
values, and middle-class style of life prevented them from returning to
their people. Finally, DuBois's work with the N.A.A.C.P., while it
achieved some significant results, failed to bring about the kind of
structural social change he desired.  Despairing of bring about racial
advancement in America, DuBois decided to work for it in Africa.

Marcus Garvey: The Trumpet of Pride

Marcus Garvey's personality differed markedly from that of both Booker T.
Washington and W. E. B. DuBois. Washington's image was one of humility
and courageousness bordering, many believed, on obsequiousness. DuBois
projected the picture of a self-confident, hostile, and reserved
individual. In contrast, Garvey was easy-going and flamboyant. The
personalities of both Washington and DuBois minimized the fact that they
were black. On one hand, Washington appeared to be a man who knew his
place and who did not intrude as an individual or a Negro into any
situation. On the other hand, DuBois had shaken off the habits of both
the "house nigger" and the "field nigger" in order to adopt the
characteristics of a cold intellectual which was more in keeping with the
Anglo-Saxon character. Garvey, however, flaunted his blackness wherever
he went. Black pride and black identity were the cornerstones of his
philosophy, and they vibrated through everything he said and did. He was
not ashamed of the personality characteristics of the lower classes, and
he readily identified with them. It was the black middle class, which had
adopted the life style of the mainstream of white society, that earned
his scorn.

Marcus Garvey was born in St. Anne's Bay, Jamaica, in August, 1887. His
parents were of unmixed African descent. His ancestors had belonged to
the Maroons, a group of slaves who had escaped and established their own
community in the Jamaican hills. They fought so well and had been so
thoroughly organized that the British found it necessary to grant them
their independence  in 1739. Garvey was very proud of this heritage and
of his unmixed ancestry. Jamaican society was structured hierarchically
along color lines. The whites were at the top, mulattoes in the middle,
and blacks at the bottom. The mulattoes enjoyed displaying and projecting
their superiority over the blacks. In turn, Garvey was scornful of the
mulattoes, and he distrusted all people with light skin throughout his

As a young man, Garvey began making his living as a printer's helper in a
large Kingston printing firm and worked his way up to foreman. His
leadership ability became evident when, during a walkout, the workers
chose him to lead the strike. He had been the only foreman to join the
workers, and the company later black-listed him for it. The union failed
to come to his aid, and thereafter he distrusted labor organizations as a
source of help for his people.

He then traveled extensively around Central and South America, staying
briefly in several large cities and supporting himself by his trade.
Wherever he went, he found blacks being persecuted and mistreated. In
1912 he crossed the Atlantic and spent some time in London. There he met
large numbers of Africans and became interested in their plight as well.
While he was there, he was influenced by a Negro Egyptian author named
Duse Mohammed Ali.  His ideas further intensified Garvey's interest in
Africa. At the same time, Garvey read Booker T.  Washington's "Up From
Slavery" and was impressed with his philosophy of self-help and moral

By this time, Garvey had become aware that black people were persecuted
all around the world in the West Indies, in Central America, in South
America, in the United States, and even in Africa, their homeland. When
he returned to Jamaica, he determined to establish an organization to
work for the improvement of the conditions of black people the world
over. The result was the founding, in 1914, of the "Universal Negro
Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities League".
In 1916, Garvey came to the United States to solicit the support of
Afro-Americans. He had hoped to get the backing of Booker T.  Washington
with whom he had already corresponded, but, unfortunately, Washington
died the previous year.

In the United States Garvey found the Afro-American community ready to
support his program of encouraging aggressive racial pride.  The hopes
which had accompanied the end of slavery, half a century earlier, had
turned to ashes. Then, thousands moved from the rural South to the urban
North to escape the growth of segregation and to find economic
advancement. In the "promised land," they were continually confronted by
socially sanctioned segregation, constant racial insults, and relentless
job discrimination.

In 1919 white race hatred exploded in race riots all across the country.
In that year, there were also some seventy lynchings, mostly black, and
some of them were soldiers who had Just returned from defending their
country. Urban whites resented the influx of rural blacks from the South
who were pouring into their cities, and they tried to confine the
newcomers to dilapidated, older neighborhoods. To do this, they were
quite willing to resort to violence, and, between 1917 and 1921 Chicago
was struck with a rash of house bombings as whites tried to hold the
line.  During these years, there was one racially motivated bombing every
twenty days.

In the midst of such conditions, white America did not seem very
beautiful, and black pride, black identity, and black solidarity had an
appeal which was novel. Chapters of the Universal Negro Improvement
Association sprang up all across the country.  Although there has been
considerable debate about the number of members in the U.N.I.A., it was
clearly the largest mass organization in Afro-American history. Its
membership has been estimated between two and four million. In any case,
its sympathizers and well-wishers were ubiquitous. The "respectable"
N.A.A.C.P. never reached such grass-roots support, and even with its
white liberal financing, its capital was much smaller than that which
Garvey was able to tap from the lower-class blacks alone.

Garvey advocated a philosophy of race redemption. He said that blacks
needed a nation of their own where they could demonstrate their abilities
and develop their talents. He believed that every people should have its
own country. The white man had Europe, and the black man should have
Africa.  Race redemption did not mean that all blacks must return to
Africa. However, when there was a prosperous, independent African nation,
blacks throughout the world would be treated with respect. He noted that
Englishmen and Frenchmen were not lynched, but that blacks, in contrast,
were treated like lepers. Garvey did plan to encourage those blacks who
had particularly useful skills or who desired to return to Africa to do
so, in order to become the back-bone of this new prosperous black nation.

Garvey was harshly critical of the leadership in the Afro-American
community. With the exception of Booker T. Washington, they had all
advocated social equality, intermarriage, and fraternization. Garvey said
that these only led to increased racial friction, He argued that racial
purity for both whites and blacks was superior to racial integration,
Blacks should also be proud of their race and their ancestry. Africa was
not a dark and degenerate continent; instead it was a place of which to
be proud.

To demonstrate this, Garvey adopted African clothes and hair style long
before they became popular. The black bourgeoisie was shocked and ashamed
by his blatant display. Whites were totally incapable of understanding
why anyone would try to glorify blackness and the African heritage. To
them, he seemed merely a clown. However, to the black masses who had no
hope of achieving middle-class respectability, his pride in blackness
came as a release. Instead of a life buried in shame, he offered them
pride and dignity. Instead of being considered "nobodies," he gave them a
sense of identity. In place of weakness, he offered solidarity and
strength. These ideas spread through the ghettoes of large American urban
centers like a fever. In 1920 the Universal Negro Improvement Association
held its annual convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
There were 25,000 delegates in attendance. Garvey told them that he
planned to organize the four hundred million blacks of the world into one
powerful unit and to plant the banner of freedom in Africa. In response,
the convention elected him as the Provisional President of Africa.

Garvey's black separatism led, naturally enough, to black capitalism.
Businesses connected with the U.N.I.A. sprang up all across the country.
They were usually small enterprises: grocery stores, laundries, and
restaurants. Larger businesses included a printing house and a steamship
line. The New York World, which was begun in 1918, was the only black
daily in existence at that time.  After its demise, Garvey began The
Black Man, which was published monthly. Although most of these businesses
only served to sink Negro roots deeper in American society, the purpose
of the Black Star Steamship Line was, eventually, to provide a means of
transportation for those who desired to return to Africa. The black
middle class felt that Garvey was hurting its image.  White politicians
were nervous about the existence of such a large and potentially powerful
organization, especially when it was led by a man like Garvey whom they
could not understand. When the steamship line ran into financial trouble,
many were convinced that Garvey had been defrauding the ignorant masses.

After a power struggle within the U.N.I.A., Eason, who had led the fight,
was murdered in New Orleans. Two Garveyites were accused of the crime,
and opposition to the movement grew even stronger. Finally, with the
urging of middle-class Negroes, the government brought Garvey to trial
for using the mails to defraud. He insisted on being his own lawyer, and
he took great pleasure in harassing the witnesses and haranguing the
jury. When he realized that this was undermining his own case, he began
taking advice from a white lawyer. Nevertheless, he was fined $1,000 and
given a sentence of up to five years in prison. In 1925, he was sent to
the Atlanta Penitentiary. At that point, many of his opponents had second
thoughts about his case and asked the government to reopen it.  President
Coolidge commuted the sentence, but as soon as he was released Garvey was
again arrested and was deported as an undesirable alien.

As the movement had been largely dependent on Garvey's magnetic
personality, the organization began to dissolve as soon as he left the
country. Garvey tried to establish a worldwide movement with its base in
Jamaica, but a power fight for control with the New York leadership
developed. The outbreak of the Second World War further diminished the
influence of his organization. Garvey died in London in June, 1940.

Both James Weldon Johnson and W. E. B. DuBois claimed that emigration of
blacks from America to Africa was merely a form of escapism.  (Ironically
DuBois's disillusionment drove him to Africa some thirty years later. )
Johnson argued that a small independent African nation would have to be
dependent on Europe and America for capital. Therefore Garvey's program
could not achieve the kind of freedom and equality which it claimed.
Johnson maintained that it would still be subject to oppression from
white imperialism. As such, the nation would only be an underdeveloped
area dependent on external financing and continually subjected to
economic exploitation. In foreign affairs it would always be small and
weak, and it would have to depend on some stronger ally for its defense.
It would only become a pawn for the great powers, all of which were white
Europeans or Americans. Johnson claimed that a separate African nation
would not provide the kind of power base which Garvey promised.

Although Garvey had, overnight, created the largest mass organization in
Afro-American history, it crumbled almost as quickly as it had been
built. The movement had been overly dependent on his personality.
However, Garvey cannot be dismissed so easily. Although his movement
disintegrated rapidly, the interest in black identity and black pride
which he had sparked, lingered on. Lacking a structure within which to
operate, it was not very obvious to the external observer.  Nevertheless,
his ideas have clearly provided the spawning ground from which more
recent organizations have developed.

A. Philip Randolph: The Trumpet of Mobilization

The leadership style of A. Philip Randolph differed from that of
Washington, DuBois, and Garvey. His interest in providing jobs and skills
for the working class was akin to that of Washington.  His aggressive
outspoken manner was more like that of DuBois.  While lacking the
flamboyant style of Garvey, he was able to work among the ranks of the
working class and gain their acceptance. He, too, has demonstrated
considerable ability in mass organization. Like DuBois, he wanted to use
black solidarity as a wedge with which to break through discrimination
into a biracial society and not as an end in itself.

Asa Philip Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida, in 1889.  He was
raised in a strict religious home. His father was a local minister but he
also had to hold down another full-time job in order to support his
family. Early in the century, Randolph moved north and attended City
College in New York.  During the First World War, Randolph, with Chandler
Owen, edited The Messenger and made it into an outspoken vehicle for
their own opinions. In its pages, they espoused a radical, American brand
of democratic socialism. They supported the International Workers of the
World, which many viewed as being alien and communistic, and they
questioned the advisability of Negroes supporting the war effort. They
were charged with undermining the national defense, and they spent some
time in Jail. Both advocated a working-class solidarity of blacks and
whites which would resist exploitation by capitalism. In their view,
every nonunion man, black or white, was a potential scab and a potential
threat to every union man, black or white. While the white and black dogs
were fighting over the bone, they pointed out, the yellow capitalist dog
ran off with it. The Messenger encouraged blacks to join unions, and it
tried hard to persuade the unions to eliminate discrimination. The view
they propagated was that unions could not afford to be based on the color
line; instead they should be based on a class line.

Randolph and Owen attacked Samuel Gompers and the A. F. of L. for failing
to be truly biracial.  Randolph criticized DuBois and the N.A.A.C.P. for
their lack of concern with the real day-to-day problems of the masses. He
charged that the N.A.A.C.P. was led by people who were neither blacks nor
workers, and that they were incapable, therefore, of articulating the
needs of the masses. He argued that an organization for the welfare of
the Irish would never be led by Jews.  Therefore, he suggested that an
organization for the welfare of Blacks should not be led by whites. He
was especially critical of the gradualist, peaceful policy which DuBois
appeared to support during the early years of the N.A.A.C.P. He
questioned DuBois's professed stand against violence and revolution.

Randolph said: "Doubtless DuBois is the only alleged leader of an
oppressed group of people in the world today who condemns revolution." To
Randolph, violence and revolution were not anti-American, but were
justified by the Declaration of Independence.

During the twenties, Randolph tried several schemes to increase black and
white cooperation in unions. Along with Chandler Owen, he founded the
National Association for the Promotion of Unionism among Negroes.  The
most successful of Randolph's efforts came in 1925 when he established
the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The Brotherhood appeared to
demonstrate the futility of his basic thesis. Randolph, who believed in
biracial unionism, had established, in the Brotherhood, an organization
which, by the nature of the occupation, was to be an exclusively black
union. He found himself being pushed relentlessly away from biracial
unionism into supporting racial organizations for racial advancements.

In 1936, he played a key role in forming the National Negro Congress.  It
was a broad alliance of all kinds of groups to advance the welfare of the
race. Although it did not receive the backing of the N.A.A.C.P., the
Urban League, an even more conservative organization, became a
cornerstone in the Congress.  The Urban League has always been primarily
interested in securing employment for the Negro working class. During the
thirties, the communists adopted a united-front policy, and they tried to
infiltrate the N.N.C. Some of the left-wing unions which did support the
N.N.C., were largely white.

Randolph's talent for mass mobilization was demonstrated most clearly in
his efforts to organize two gigantic marches on Washington in order to
dramatize Afro-American needs and to pressure the government into action.
As American industry began to gear up for war production at the beginning
of the Second World War, it needed to find new sources of labor. The
Afro-American community was eager to support the war effort, particularly
because it meant fighting Hitler's racism.  But they were also eager to
find jobs. However, defense industries in America continued to display
their own brand of racial discrimination. Many of them said quite openly
that, while they were willing to hire blacks, they would only give them
menial positions regardless of their skill and training. It became clear
that racism had to be fought at home and abroad.

Many tried to get the government to take action, but it seemed more
concerned with protecting its political image and with avoiding
alienating the party's financial backers.  In January, 1941, Randolph
suggested a mass march on Washington to demand government action against
discrimination both in government services and in defense industry. The
idea took root, and a mass march was being organized for July. On June
25, 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 which forbade
further discrimination either in government services or defense
industries, on the grounds of race, creed, or nationality.  While some
discrimination still continued, the order and the Fair Employment
Practices Commission, which resulted from it, played an important role in
opening large numbers of new jobs to the Afro-American community. The
planned march, which will be discussed more fully in a later chapter, was
then called off. Although the march was canceled, Randolph hoped to keep
the March on Washington Movement alive. He wanted to create a permanent
mobilized community. This, too, failed to materialize, but, if it had not
been for the war, his efforts might have been more successful. In
September, 1942, Randolph called a meeting of the March on Washington
Movement before which he outlined his program. He told the conference
that slavery had not ended because it was evil, but because it was
violently overthrown, Similarly, he said that if they wanted to obtain
their rights, they would have to be willing to fight, go to jail, and die
for them. Rights would not be granted; they must be taken if need be. His
plan was to organize a permanent mass movement on a nationwide basis and
to conduct protests, marches, and boycotts. This was an adaptation of
some of Gandhi's techniques to the Afro-American problem.

The March on Washington Movement was to be an all-Negro movement. Yet,
Randolph did not intend it to be anti-white. He pointed to the fact that
every organization must have its own purposes, that Catholic groups
concentrated on their interests in the same way as labor groups strove to
gain their objectives. Any oppressed people must assume the major
responsibility for furthering their goals. They might accept help and
cooperation from outside, but they must, in the final analysis, rely on
self-organization and self-help. One of the by-products of this, Randolph
believed, would be the development of self-reliance within the
Afro-American community and the destruction of the slave mentality.
Although individual blacks within the community could join other
organizations, and while the movement itself might cooperate with other
organizations, the March on Washington Movement itself was to be
exclusively for blacks. It was a racial movement for racial advancement.

Randolph went on to envision an organization with a challenging action
program. Millions of supporters would be divided into a network of small
block units. Each would be headed by a block captain. This would
facilitate instant, mass mobilization. At a moment's notice, a chain of
command could be activated, and millions of marchers would be in the
streets. Randolph also envisioned repeated, gigantic marches aimed at
Washington and state capitals. He could also see smaller, regular marches
on the city halls and other establishments in dozens of cities across the
country. To him it was desirable for blacks to picket the White House, if
need be, until the nation came to see that blacks were willing to
sacrifice everything to be counted as men.  Randolph also wanted to
encourage the mobilization of registration and voting.

Besides being reminiscent of the Gandhi nonviolent campaign in India,
Randolph's March on Washington Movement, although it never materialized,
foreshadowed the civil rights movement of the late fifties and sixties.
This later civil rights movement, however, was directed by several
separate organizations which, at times, were involved in power fights
with one another. It lacked the central organization and national,
instant mobilization which Randolph had in mind. It also included a
substantial number of white supporters and leaders which Randolph had
excluded from his program. He had predicted that this kind of white
participation would back down in times of crisis and thereby emasculate
the movement. This is precisely what the Black Power advocates of the
late sixties claimed had happened to the civil rights movement, and they
gave the same reasons for its collapse.

In 1947, Randolph cooperated with Grant Reynolds in organizing the League
for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation; its aim
was to encourage draft resisters objecting to serving in a segregated
army. Randolph was also one of a delegation which told President Truman
that America could not afford to fight colored people in Asia with the
army as it then existed. Truman, then, took the first real steps in
ending military segregation. In 1963, Randolph and Bayard Rustin did
organize a massive march on Washington. Most of the publicity, however,
went to Martin Luther King, Jr., its main speaker.  This march
contributed significantly to the passage of civil rights legislation.
However, most of Randolph's efforts continued to be in the realm of union
organization. In 1957, he was made a vice president in the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
and a member of its executive council. Two years later, he was censured
for charging organized labor with racism.

Although Randolph was not able to achieve his dream of mass mobilization,
he did display considerable organizational ability.  In part, his ideas
have been put into effect by subsequent groups, and his philosophy was
similar to that which became popular in the 1960s. The whole civil rights
movement bore a marked resemblance to his philosophy, and undoubtedly it
drew considerable motivation from it.  The idea of an all-black mass
organization, with a vast network of local action groups participating in
it, is still alive. He had envisioned a grass-roots black power movement
a quarter of a century before it became popular. Although dozens of such
groups have sprung up across the country, they still lack the kind of
mass mobilization and national coordination which he had planned. His was
to have been a militant, all-black movement without its becoming
anti-white. It was to teach self-reliance to the Afro-American community.
Local control and power were to be used to achieve freedom and civil
rights within a genuinely biracial society.

Chapter 9

The New Negro

Immigration and Migration

During the nineteenth century, the American racial dilemma had appeared
to be a regional problem. The Northern states had abolished slavery early
in the century, and the abolitionists self-righteously condemned Southern
slaveholders while remaining unaware of their own racism.  However, the
twentieth century showed that racism was really a national issue.
Thousands of Afro-Americans moved from the rural South into the urban
North, creating a more even distribution of that population throughout
the country. At the same time, there was a fresh wave of voluntary
immigration into America by peoples with an African heritage.  Most of
these newcomers also moved into Northern cities. As thousands of blacks
spread into the North and West, the inhabitants there developed
sympathies with Southern racists.  Actually, this population shift only
unearthed attitudes which had been there all the time. This gigantic
migration of peoples was symptomatic of the change in the heart of the
black community. It signaled a new dynamism and a new aggressiveness.

The voluntary black immigration which occurred during the twentieth
century was a new and unusual phenomenon. Almost all blacks who had
previously come to America had been brought in chains. Those who came
voluntarily during this century came in spite of their knowledge that
racism would confront them. Their awareness of American racism, however,
was an abstraction and was only partially understood by them.
Nevertheless, they saw America as the land of prosperity and opportunity
at a time when, for many of them, social and economic conditions in their
homeland did not seem promising. While only a few came from Africa
itself, except as students staying for a limited period, there was a
swelling flow from the West Indies and the entire Caribbean area.

At the beginning of the 1920s, the United States imposed a new quota
system on new immigrants and this drastically slowed the influx of people
from South and East  Europe. In spite of the racist and ethnic overtones
of this legislation, it failed to build significant barriers to movement
by blacks within the western hemisphere. During the 1920s large numbers
of blacks came to the United States from other parts of the Americas. By
1930 eighty-six percent of the foreign-born Negroes living in the United
States were born in some other country in this hemisphere.  By far the
largest number of  these, seventy-three percent, came from the West
Indies and most of them were from the British West Indies.

By 1940, there were some eighty-four thousand foreign-born Negroes living
in  the country. As large as this total might appear, still less than one
percent of the twelve million Negroes were recorded in the 1940 census.
Most of these new immigrants went to live in large cities in the
Northeast, with by far the majority being concentrated in New York City
itself. At the point when the influx was at its highest, in 1930,
seventeen percent of the Negroes in New York City were foreign born.

An unusually high percentage of these newcomers had held white-collar
occupations--mostly young professionals with little hope of advancement
in the static economy of the Islands. Although they were aware of the
American racial situation, they were still unprepared to cope with it.
Most of them were accustomed to being part of the majority in their
homeland. They had experienced discrimination before, but it had not been
as uncompromising as what they found on arrival in America. Society, as
they knew it, was divided into whites, mulattoes, and blacks instead of
into black and white.  Many mulattoes were not psychologically ready for
the experience of being lumped in with the Blacks. Moreover, the racism
they knew had been modified by an economic class system which left some
of the poor whites with less status than that of professional blacks.
Coming to America, for them, meant a loss of status although it might
also mean an increase in affluence.

James Weldon Johnson described the West Indian immigrants as being almost
totally different from the Southern rural Negroes who had moved into New
York City. He said that the West Indians displayed a high intelligence,
many having an English common-school education, and he noted that there
was almost no illiteracy among them. He also said that they were
sober-minded and had a genius for business enterprise. It has been
estimated that one-third of the city's Negro professionals, physicians,
dentists, and lawyers, were foreign born.

The West Indians had an ethos which stressed saving, education, and hard
work. The same self-confidence and initiative which enabled substantial
numbers of them to move into professional employment made others into
political radicals. Unaccustomed to the intensity of racial hostility and
harassment which they found in America, they reacted with anger. They had
not been trained since birth in attitudes of submission and
nonresistance. This was the phenomenon which created Marcus Garvey and
the United Negro Improvement Association. The West Indian community had
been gradually merging with the larger Afro-American society. It never
established a separate place of residence, and the second generation
became mixed with the larger Afro-American community.  After the Second
World War, there was a fresh wave of emigration from the West Indies to
America, but the 1952 Immigration Act drastically reduced the West Indian
quota, thereby 'deflecting this stream of emigrants to Britain.

In contrast, the Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Caribbean did
establish separate communities. After the United States acquired Puerto
Rico, a sizeable number of Puerto Ricans moved to the mainland. This flow
began as a trickle at the beginning of the century, and it has grown
rapidly since. Most of the Puerto Ricans settled in urban centers in the
Northeast, and they established a large, Spanish-speaking community in
New York City.  The migration of Cubans into America, while not as large,
has been important in both Miami and New York. The largest number of
Cubans came during the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1910, the Puerto Rican community in New York City numbered only five
hundred, but by 1920 it had grown to seven thousand.  In 1940, the number
of New York residents who had been born in Puerto Rico reached seventy
thousand, and in 1950, it jumped to one hundred eighty seven thousand.
The 1960 census showed that the Puerto Rican community of New York City,
including those born in Puerto Rico as well as those born in America of
Puerto Rican parentage, had reached 613,000.

The Spaniards in Latin America had intermarried with both the Indians and
Africans to a far higher degree than had the Anglo-Saxons in North
America. For this reason, it is much more difficult to identify the
racial background of individual Puerto Ricans. Certainly, there was a
significant African influence on the entire population of the island.  In
1860, it was estimated that almost 50 percent of the island's residents
were Negro. In 1900, the percentage had dropped to 40 percent, and, by
1950, it had dropped to 20 percent. The change in these statistics was
due to assimilation through intermarriage. Those who migrated to the
continent did not include many with dominant negroid characteristics. The
1960 New York City census listed only 4 percent of its Puerto Ricans as
being Negro. Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan, in their study of this
community, believed that the Puerto Rican racial attitudes may alter the
racial views of the entire city and thereby have some effect on the
nation.  Puerto Ricans are not as race conscious as are most Americans.
Most of them are not clearly either black or white. Intermarriage between
color groups is common.  The Puerto Rican community in New York City is
more conscious of being a separate, Spanish-speaking community than it is
of being either a black or white one.

The other major Caribbean element in the American Spanish-speaking
community comes from Cuba. In 1960, the Cuban community in the United
States, including those born in Cuba as well as those born in America of
Cuban parentage, totaled 124,416. Only 6.5 percent of this community is
nonwhite, while 25 percent of the population in Cuba is nonwhite.  The
Cuban community in the United States has almost 46 percent of its number
living in the Northeast, and it has another 43 percent living in Florida.
Almost the entire community is divided between the cities of Miami and
New York.

This immigration of foreign-born blacks into the cities of the North
and West was concurrent with a sizeable movement of American blacks
from the rural South into these same cities.  Actually, this internal
migration was not new. As soon as the Northern states had begun to
abolish slavery, runaways from the slave states in the South began to
trickle into the North. As the underground Railway developed, this
trickle swelled into a sizeable flow.

Immediately after the Civil War, the flow reversed directions
for a short time. Many who had run away during the war returned home to
be with friends and family. Thousands of others, born in the North,
hurried south to help educate and rehabilitate their brothers. However,
this flow was short-lived. As the South moved from slavery into
segregation, hope slid into disillusionment and cynicism. In 1878-79
there was a wave of migration from the south into the West. "Pap"
Singleton, an ex-slave from Tennessee, had come to the conclusion that
the ex-slaveholder and the ex-slave could not live together in harmony,
and he believed that the best solution was to develop a separate society.
As a result, he formed the Tennessee Real Estate and Homestead
Association, but there was not enough land available in Tennessee for the
program. Finally, he decided that Kansas was the ideal location in which
to build a separate Negro society. Various transportation companies saw
this scheme as a way for them to make money, and they encouraged this
westward migration.  Although the original migrants to Kansas were
welcomed, opposition grew as their numbers increased.  Before his death
in 1892, Singleton became disillusioned with the possibilities of
developing a separate society anywhere in the United States, and he came
to favor a return to Africa.  He believed that this was the only place
where his people could escape racial discrimination.  Nevertheless,
Singleton took pride in his work, and he claimed, probably with some
exaggeration, to have been responsible for transporting some 82,000
Afro-Americans from the South into  Kansas.

Another ex-slave, Henry Adams, called a New Orleans Colored Convention in
1879 to examine the condition of the ex-slave throughout the South.  A
comittee was formed for this purpose. It found the situation discouraging
and recommended migration into other regions. Another convention held in
Nashville reached similar conclusions, and it requested funds from
Congress to assist in the process. Funds were not forthcoming. When
Congress did investigate this vast migration, Southerners assured the
comittee that their Negroes were really very happy, and they claimed that
"the migration was a myth."

In spite of this earlier migration, the 1900 census showed that 89.7
percent of the Afro-American community still resided in the South.
One-third of the Southern population was nonwhite. The real exodus still
lay ahead.

The migrants were moved both by forces within the South which pushed them
out and by those within the  North which pulled them in. On one hand,
continuing violence and segregation drove many to leave their homes. When
the boll weevil spread across the Southern states like a plague, it wiped
out many poor farmers, and it drove them to seek other means of
livelihood elsewhere. On the other hand, the war had interrupted the flow
of immigrants from Europe into the Northern industrial centers, and at
the same time it created the need for even more unskilled labor in the
factories.  After the war, the restrictive immigration laws which were
passed kept the flow of European immigration low, and Northern industry
continued to draw labor from the Southern rural pockets of poverty.

Between 1910 and 1920, some 330,000 Afro-Americans moved from the South
into the North and West. By 1940, the number of those who had left the
South since 1910 had soared to 1,750,000.  Between 1940 and 1950, there
were another 1,597,000, and between 1950 and 1960, there were 1,457,000
more who left the South. The percentage of the Afro-American community
living still in the South had dropped from 89.7 percent in 1900 to 59
percent and for the first time, more than half of them lived outside of
the Deep South.

Another indication of the northward migration which had occured was that
a Northern state, New York, had acquired an Afro-American community which
was larger than that of any of the Southern states.  Much of this
migration was also a move from the country to the city. In the South, 58
percent of the Afro-Americans lived in cities. In the West, there are 93
percent who live in the cities, and in the North, there are 96 percent.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the Afro-American community
had been transformed from a rural and regional group into a national one.

Harlem: "The Promised Land"

Alain Locke edited a volume of critical essays and literature entitled
The New Negro. In it, Locke heralded a spiritual awakening within the
Afro-American community. It was manifested by a creative outburst of art,
music and  literature as well as by a new mood of self-confidence and
self-consciousness within that community. The center of this explosion
was located in Harlem. Famous personalities such as Claude McKay,
Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, James Weldon Johnson, Duke Ellington, and
Louis Armstrong either moved to Harlem or visited it frequently in order
to participate in the vigorous cultural exchange which took place there.
The artists of the "Negro Renaissance", as important as they might be
themselves, were merely symbolic of the new life which was electrifying
the Afro-American community.  This new life was also evident in the large
urban centers of the North and particularly in Harlem.

Locke pointed out the significance of the great northward migration when
he said that the Negro "in the very process of being transplanted," was
also being "transformed." This migration was usually explained either in
economic terms--jobs pulling Negroes northward--or in social
terms--discrimination pushing them out. In both cases, the Afro-American
was represented as the passive victim of external socioeconomic forces.
Locke insisted that, to the contrary, it was more accurate to understand
this migration as a result of a decision made by the Negro himself.  For
the first time in history, thousands upon thousands of individual
Afro-Americans had made a basic choice concerning their own existence.
They refused to remain victims of an impersonal and oppressive system,
and, as the result, they deliberately pulled up their roots, left their
friends and neighbors and moved north to what they hoped would be "the
promised land."

From this decision emerged the new Negro. If he was less polite and more
aggressive than before, he was also more self-reliant and less dependent
on pity and charity. This change, however, did not occur suddenly. The
passive, well-behaved Negro, content to stay in his place, had largely
been a myth. In part, he, had been the product of a guilt-ridden white
stereotype which found this myth comforting. The Negro himself had also
contributed to this fiction by his custom of social mimicry, his habit of
appearing to fill the role which whites expected of him. By the end of
slavery, however, a spirit of individuality had been growing within the
Negro consciousness. The opportunity for industrial employment in the
North which had resulted from war and from the slowdown in European
immigration along with the increase of racism and segregation in the
South combined to open the way for the development of the growing spirit
of determination.

The new Negro was doing more than asserting his own individuality; the
entire Afro-American community was developing a new sense of solidarity.
The racist attitudes of mainstream America, both North and South, made
it almost impossible for a Negro to conceive of himself purely in
individualistic terms. Any Negro who thought of himself as an exceptional
or unique individual was brought sharply back to reality by this racism
which relentlessly and mercilessly depicted him as nothing more than a

In spite of the individualism which was preached as a basic part
of the American creed, the Afro-American community was forced to develop
a strong sense of group cooperation. In the face of growing racism and
segregation, the idealism of the new Negro was still based on the
American ideal of democracy, and his goal was still to share fully, some
day, in American life and institutions.  The Afro-American's heightened
sense of racial consciousness was not an end in itself. This racial
self-consciousness gave him strength to withstand the daily injustices
which confronted  him, and it provided him with faith in himself and hope
in the future.  Locke believed that the new Negro was taking the racism
which had been forced upon him by white society and was turning it to
positive uses, transforming obstacles to his progress into "dams of
social energy and power."

The factor which prevented this new, energetic Afro-American from
becoming alienated from America was that its goals were identical with
the expressed ideals of the country. The racial discrimination and
injustice from which Afro-Americans suffered, though deeply entrenched in
national institutions, were themselves a contradiction to the American
democratic philosophy. The Afro-American, besides having justice on his
side, was comforted knowing that his goals were sanctioned and hallowed
by the nation's ideals. As Locke put it, "We cannot be undone without
America's undoing".

Thousands of Negro migrants poured north into Chicago. The factories in
Detroit attracted thousands more, and Harlem became the center of "the
promised land." James Johnson described the Harlem of the 1920s as the
"culture capitol of the Negro world." Its magnetism attracted Negroes
from all across America, from the West Indies and even some from Africa
itself. Harlem contained more Negroes per square  mile than any other
place on earth. It drew a bewildering and energizing diversity of
peoples.  Students, peasants, artists, businessmen, professional men,
poets, musicians, and workers; all came to Harlem. It combined both the
exploiters and the outcasts. Langston Hughes, in describing his first
entrance into Harlem from the 135th Street subway exit, said that he felt
vitality and hope throbbing in the air. In Black Manhattan, James Weldon
Johnson said that Harlem was not a slum or a fringe. Rather, he insisted
that it was one of the "most beautiful and healthful sections of the

According to Johnson, the stranger traveling through Harlem would be
totally surprised by its appearance. Crossing 125th Street on his way up
Seventh Avenue, Johnson said, the visitor would not expect to find
himself in the midst of an Afro-American community.  The character of the
houses did not change. For the next twenty-five blocks the streets,
stores, and buildings looked no different from those he had already
passed. With the exception of their color, the appearance of the people
on the streets was the same too. Moreover, Johnson insisted that Harlem
was an integral part of metropolitan New York and was not just a quarter
within the city in the sense that was true of the communities inhabited
by recent European immigrants. Its citizens were not aliens.  They spoke
American; they thought American.

Harlem Negroes, claimed Johnson, were woven into the fabric of the
metropolitan economy. Unlike the Negroes in other Northern cities, they
did not work in "gang labor"; rather, they had individual employment here
and there scattered throughout the city. He believed that this
integration into the society as a whole made a difference in the kind of
race relations which existed there, and he said that it explained why New
York had not had a major race riot in the "bloody summer" of 1919. He
contended that Harlem was a laboratory for the race problem.  Many had
argued that when Negroes moved north, the race problem would follow them.
Johnson pointed out that 175,000 Negroes had recently moved into Harlem
without any substantial racial friction and with no unusual increase in
the crime rate.  Unfortunately, Johnson's views were not to be fulfilled.
Before long, crime rates rose in Harlem, and race riots occurred there as
well as in other parts of New York City.

Johnson was aware that there had been considerable racial tension at
earlier dates as Negroes first moved into Harlem. The community had been,
in turn, Dutch, Irish, Jewish, and Italian.  Originally Negroes, living
in New York, worked for wealthy Whites and lived in the shadows of the
large mansions surrounding Washington Square. Several of the streets in
Greenwich Village had been almost entirely inhabited by Negroes. About
1890, the community shifted its focus northward into the 20's and low
30's just west of Sixth Avenue. At the turn of the century, it moved
again into the vicinity of 53rd Street. By this time, the city's
Afro-American community was developing a small middle class of its own,
and it contained its own fashionable clubs and night life.  Visiting
Negro entertainers from across the country usually performed at and
resided in the Marshall Hotel. The "Memphis Students", probably the first
professional jazz band to tour the country, played at the Marshall.
Shortly after 1900, Negroes began to move to Harlem.

Harlem had been overbuilt with large apartments which the owners were
unable to fill. The Lenox Avenue subway had not yet been built, and there
was inadequate transportation into the area. As a result, most tenants
preferred to live elsewhere. Philip A.  Payton, a Negro real estate
agent, told several of the owners, located on the east side of the
district, that he could guarantee to provide them with regular tenants if
they were willing to accept Negroes. Some of the landlords on East 134th
Street accepted his offer, and he filled their buildings with Negro

At first, whites did not notice. However, when Negroes spread west of
Lenox Avenue, white resistance stiffened. The local residents formed a
corporation to purchase the buildings inhabited by Negroes and to evict
them. In turn, the Negroes responded by forming the Afro-American Realty
Company, and they too bought out apartment buildings, evicted the white
tenants, and rented the apartments to Negroes. White residents then put
pressure on lending institutions not to provide mortgages to prospective
Negro buyers. When one was  able to buy a piece of property, regardless
of how prosperous or orderly he might appear, local whites viewed it as
an invasion, panicked, and moved out in droves. This left the banks,
still unwilling to sell to Negroes, holding a large number of deserted
properties.  Eventually, they were compelled to sell these properties at
deflated prices. During and immediately after the First World War,
Negroes poured into Harlem, obtained high-paying jobs, and purchased
their own real estate. Johnson believed that Harlem Negroes owned at
least sixty million dollars worth of property, and this, he believed,
would prevent the neighborhood from "degenerating into a slum."

However, the great migration from the rural South had only just begun.
As thousands upon thousands more poured into Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee,
Newark, Boston, Harlem, and other Northern centers, housing became
increasingly scarce. Harlem, like the other Negro communities of the
North, became more and more crowded.  At the same time, jobs became
harder to obtain. Poor "country cousins" streamed into "the promised
land" to share in the "milk and honey," but, unfortunately, there was not
enough to go around. As the Negro population of Harlem grew, white
resistance and discrimination also increased. Although Johnson had been
impressed with the wealth contained in Harlem, it was infinitesimal
compared to the great sums of money held by whites downtown.

Langston Hughes, who had also been impressed by the vitality of Harlem,
came to realize that Negro Harlem was, in fact, dependent on downtown
financing. As Harlem grew, downtown financiers became increasingly aware
that money could be made there. In the 1930s, in contrast to Johnson's
optimistic vision, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and others pointed out that
almost all the stores on 125th Street, the major shopping district, were
owned by whites and that they employed whites almost exclusively. Harlem
soon became a center for both crime and exploitation.

However, in the 1920s Harlem throbbed with vitality and hope.  Besides
attracting Afro-Americans from every walk of life, it became the focal
point for young intellectuals whose creativity resulted in the Negro

The Negro Renaissance

In 1922, James Welden Johnson edited a volume of American Negro poetry,
and in the same year Claude McKay, who had come to Harlem from Jamaica,
published his first significant volume of poetry, "Harlem Shadows".
These twin events, however, were only the beginning of a vast outpouring
of cultural activity, and Harlem became, as Johnson called it, the
"culture capital" for this movement. Artists poured into Harlem from
across the country.  Night clubs rocked with music and dance.  Publishers
were besieged by poets and novelists, and, surprising  to the young
writers, publishers were eager to see Negro authors.  Besides the new
creative urge, thousands of Negroes and whites were hungry to consume the
fruits of this new renaissance. This artistic renaissance did not come
out of a vacuum. Negroes had been publishing poetry for over a century
and a half, since the time of Phillis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon. Paul
Laurence Dunbar was the first Negro poet to gain nationwide recognition,
at the beginning of the twentieth century.  While, on one hand, he
captured and depicted the spirit of the Negro folk, on the other hand, he
did it in such a way as to perpetuate black stereotypes and white
prejudices. Actually, this aided his popularity, and he later came to
regret it.

Negroes had also been dancing and creating music in America for over
three gundred years. Vaudeville and minstrelsy were their first
commercial products. Ironically, the first professional entertainers to
perform in minstrel shows were whites who were imitating plantation slave
productions. In the beginning, whites performed in blackface, and, only
later, did Negroes themselves perform commercially. The spirituals were a
religious manifestation of the Afro-American heritage. They appear to
have been on the verge of disappearing when the "Fisk University
Singers", late in the nineteenth century, took steps to preserve them. A
choral group from Fisk was touring the country in order to raise money
for the school. They received only polite appreciation. When, on one
occasion, they decided to offer one of their spirituals as an encore, the
audience was enthusiastic.  Since then, spirituals have become a standard
part of American religious and concert music.

In short, even before the Negro Renaissance of the 1920s the
Afro-American community had made a basic contribution to American
culture, providing America with a peasant folk tradition of the greatest
importance. The social mobility in the American scene had permitted each
wave of European immigrants to move up the social ladder before it had
time to develop into an American peasant class. However, this mobility
was not extended to the Afro-American. Therefore, it was from the
Afro-American peasant class that an indigenous American folk culture was
to emerge.  When minstrelsy and jazz spread around the world, they were
seen as American productions. They were, at the same time, Afro-American

The Afro-American folk culture must be seen as the product of the
African's experience in America rather than as an importation into
America of foreign, African elements. Although the content of the
Afro-American folk culture grew out of the American scene, its style and
flavor did have African roots. It was based on the artistic sense which
the slave brought with him--a highly developed sense of rhythm which was
passed from generation to generation, and an understanding of art which
conceived of it as an integral part of the whole of life rather than as a
beautiful object set apart from mundane experience.  Song and dance, for
example, were involved in the African's daily experience of work, play,
love, and worship. In sculpture, painting and pottery, the African used
his art to decorate the objects of  his daily life rather than to make
art objects for their own sake. The African could not have imagined going
to an art gallery or to a musical concert. Art was produced by artisans
rather than by artists.  This meant that slave artisans in America could
continue to produce decorative work, and slave laborers in the field
could continue to sing. Art and life could still be combined, though in a
restricted manner.

However, while the African brought his feeling for art with him, the
content of his art was actually changed as the result of his American
slave experience. The dominant African arts were sculpture,
metal-working, and weaving. In America, the Afro-American created song,
dance, music, and, later, poetry.  The skills displayed in African art
were technical, rigid, control disciplined. They were characteristically
sober, restrained and heavily conventionalized.

In contrast, the Afro-American cultural spirit became emotional,
exuberant, and sentimental. This is to say the Afro-American
characteristics which have been generally thought of as being African and
primitive--his naivety, his exuberance and his spontaneity--are, in
reality, his response to his American experience and not a part of his
African heritage. They are to be understood as the African's emotional
reaction to his American ordeal of slavery. Out of this environmental
along with its suffering and deprivation, has evolved an Afro-American

LeRoi Jones, the contemporary poet, playwright, and jazz critic, points
out in "Blues People" that the earliest Negro contributions to formal art
did not reflect this genuine Afro-American culture.  It was only with the
emergence of the "New Negro" and the Negro Renaissance that this folk
culture entered the mainstream of the art world. Previously, those
Negroes who had gained enough education to participate in literary
creation generally strove to join the American middle class, and tried to
disavow all connections with their lower class background.  In doing
this, they were only following the same route as that pursued by other
ethnic minorities in America. They were ashamed of slavery as well as of
everything African.

The folk culture, nevertheless, flourished within the music produced by
the Afro-American community. The spirituals and work songs were the
product of the slave. After Emancipation, work songs were replaced by the
blues. Work songs had been  adapted to the mass labor techniques of
slavery, whereas the blues, which is a solo form, was the creation of a
lone individual working as a sharecropper on his own tenant farm. It
continued to express the earthy folk culture, and it, too, was woven into
daily life. It expressed the daily tribulations, weariness, fears, and
loves of the Afro-American after Emancipation. At the beginning of the
twentieth century, blues along with ragtime, became popular, although not
always respectable. They could be heard most often in saloons and
brothels--nevertheless, they were beginning to move out of the
Afro-American subculture and into the white society.  W. C. Handy, while
by no means the father of the blues, became its best-known commercial
creator. He is still remembered for the "Memphis Blues" and the "St.
Louis Blues."

In New Orleans, the folk tradition and formal music came together for the
first time. There, the Latin tradition had permitted the Creoles to
participate in education and culture. They had developed a rich musical
tradition, and many of them had received training in French
conservatories. However, they preferred the sophisticated European music
to the more earthy sounds of their blacker brothers.  With the growth of
Jim Crow legislation, the Creoles lost their special position in society,
and they found themselves forcibly grouped with the blacks, whom they had
previously shunned. Out of this fusion of technical musicianship and folk
creativity emerged a new, vigorous music which became known as jazz.

Jelly Roll Morton was one musician who had begun by studying classical
guitar but preferred the music of the street. He became a famous jazz
pianist and singer. Over the years, he played his way from night spots in
New Orleans to those in St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, and scores of
smaller cities. The musical quality of jazz, instead of adopting the pure
tones of classical music, was boisterous and rasping. Instruments were
made to imitate the human voice, and they deliberately used a "dirty"
sound.  Both the trumpet playing and singing of Louis Armstrong
illustrate this jazz sound particularly well.  When Armstrong appeared in
Chicago with King Oliver as the band's second trumpeter, he was
immediately recognized as a jazz trumpet virtuoso, and his playing sent
an electric shock through the jazz world.

The most famous jazz musician and composer to appear in New York City
during and after the Negro Renaissance was Duke Ellington. His well-known
theme song "Take the A Train" made reference to the subway line which
went to Harlem. By the time jazz had reached Harlem the Negro Renaissance
was in full swing. This renaissance, unlike previous art produced by
Negroes, consciously built on the Afro-American folk tradition.

Langston Hughes, the most prolific writer of the renaissance, wrote a
kind of manifesto for the movement. He said that he was proud to be a
black artist. Further, he said that he was not writing to win the
approval of white audiences. At the same time he claimed that he and the
other young Negro artists were not attempting to gain the approval of
black audiences. They were writing to express their inner souls, and they
were not ashamed that those souls were black. If what they wrote pleased
either whites or blacks, Hughes said, they were happy. It did not matter
to them if it did not.

In "Minstrel Man", Hughes expressed the inner emotions of the
stereotyped, well-behaved Negro which white America thought it knew so

  Because my mouth
  Is wide with laughter
  And my throat
  Is deep with song,
  You did not think
  I suffer after
  I've held my pain
  So long.

  Because my mouth
  Is wide with laughter
  You do not hear
  My inner cry:
  Because my feet
  Are gay with dancing,
  You do not know
  I die.

Claude McKay expresses an inner anger rather than a secret pain felt by a
contained and somewhat more sophisticated Negro responding to segregation:

  Your door is shut against my tightened face,
  And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
  But I possess the courage and the grace
  To bear my anger proudly and unbent.

In still more defiant tones, McKay expresses the aggressive response
which many Negroes made during the race riots of 1919:

  If we must die, let it not be like hogs
  Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
  While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
  Making their mock at our accursed lot.

  If we must die, O let us nobly die,
  So that our precious blood may not be shed
  In vain...

Nevertheless, Langston Hughes made it clear that his bitter hostility was
aimed at injustice and inhumanity and not at American ideals when he

  O, yes,
  I say it plain,
  America never was America to me,
  And yet I swear this oath--
  America will be
  An ever-living seed,
  Its dream
  Lies deep in the heart of me.

Besides articulating the Negro's emotional reaction to prejudice and
discrimination, the Negro Renaissance depicted other aspects of the
Afro-American culture. The flavor of its religious life was captured best
by James Weldon Johnson in his volume "God's Trombones: Negro Sermons in
Verse", which he published in 1927. Instead of resorting to the standard
technique of using stereotyped dialect to capture the flavor, Johnson
used powerful, poetic imagery to express its essence.  In "The Creation"
Johnson depicted a Negro minister preaching on the opening verses of

  And God stepped out on space,
  And he looked around and said:
  I'm lonely--
  I'll make me a world.

  And far as the eye of God could see
  Darkness covered everything,
  Blacker than a hundred midnights
  Down in a cypress swamp.

  Then God smiled,
  And the light broke,
  And the darkness rolled up on one side,
  And the light stood shining on the other,
  And God said: That's good!

The Negro Renaissance, besides losing its shame over its folk culture,
developed a fresh interest in its African heritage. One of the many
expressions of this was made by Countee Cullen:

  What is Africa to me:
  Copper sun or scarlet sea,
  Jungle star or jungle track,
  Strong bronzed men, or regal black
  Women from whose loins I sprang
  When the birds of Eden sang?

The Renaissance also included an outcropping of Negro novelists.  There
had been Negro novelists before, and the best known of them were Charles
W. Chestnut and, to some extent, Paul Laurence Dunbar.  Chestnut's novels
included "The Conjure Woman" and "The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories
of the Color Line", whereas Dunbar, who wrote mainly poetry, was best
known for his novel "The Sport of the Gods".  Chestnut's writing, though
moving away from the plantation romanticism which had glorified slavery,
developed a more realistic flavor, and it emphasized intergroup relations
based on the color line rather than developing the interior lives of its
characters. Negro fiction came into its own in 1923 with Jean Toomer's
publication "Cane", and, in 1924, with Jessie Redman Fauset's "There is
Confusion". These works dealt with Negroes as people and not merely as
objects to be manipulated for racial propaganda. Langston Hughes, in
1930, published "Not Without Laughter", a novel to gain wide renown.

To catalog all the authors of the Negro Renaissance would become tedious.
However, all the poets and novelists listed within these pages are
generally accepted as having gained a place among America's significant
writers. They were more than products of an Afro-American subculture;
their work became part of the mainstream of American literature. These
authors, along with other Negro artists, gained the respect of American
art and literary critics. With them, the Afro-American folk culture made
its way into the formal art of the nation.

The Negro Renaissance of the 1920s, however, was more than a literary
movement. There was, as had been noted earlier, a vast outpouring of
musical creativity. Besides the jazz composers and performers, many made
their mark in classical concert music. The best known composer from the
Afro-American community was William Grant Still. Many operatic and
concert singers have been Negroes, and they include such well-known names
as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, and William Warfield.

The most famous of the Afro-American painters was Henry O.  Tanner, who
had made his reputation before the Negro Renaissance.  Tanner's paintings
had been widely acclaimed at the Paris Exposition in 1900, the
Pan-American Exposition in 1901, and the St. Louis Exposition in 1904.
Tanner avoided Negro subjects and concentrated on biblical themes. In the
field of sculpture, Meta Warrick Fuller was the first Negro to gain
attention. Augusta Savage became well-known for her head of Dr. DuBois,
and Richmond Barthe gained recognition for the bust of Booker T.

In retrospect, the Renaissance of the twenties can be seen as the
beginning of a continuing, self-conscious cultural movement within the
Afro-American community. During the 1930s, however, the outpouring
diminished. The Depression affected the entire American scene,
businessmen, workmen, and artists, and its impact on the Negro
Renaissance was particularly severe. One of the New Deal measures which
alleviated the situation considerably was the Federal Writers Project.
Sterling Brown, literary critic and Howard University professor, headed
the Negro section. Two of the better known authors who were helped by the
Project were Arna Bontemps and Richard Wright.

Wright's novel "Native Son" was widely acclaimed. In it, he depicted the
inner anger and hatred felt by many young Negro men as dominating
characteristics of the hero's personality; eventually, his life was
destroyed. The first Negro to win a Pulitzer Prize was Gwendolyn Brooks,
who won it for her poetry.  Later, Ralph Ellison was awarded a Pulitzer
Prize for his novel "Invisible Man".

Since the Second World War, innumerable Negroes have made significant
contributions to American culture through the mass media: radio,
television, and movies. Large numbers have also joined the ranks
of professional athletes in every field from tennis to football.
Nevertheless, complaints persist that prejudice continues in these areas.
While they are often included as performers, rarely do Negroes achieve
significant decision-making authority in their field. In the 1968
Olympics, several black athletes, especially Carlos and Smith, claimed
that instead of being accepted on an equal basis, they were being

The decade of the 1960s has been marked by a militant spirit throughout
the Afro-American community; this spirit was reminiscent of the new Negro
of the 1920s although it appears to be more cynical and disillusioned.
LeRoi Jones and James Baldwin are only the best known of dozens of
contemporary black writers.  Their bitterness, undoubtedly, springs
partly from the dashed hopes of the new Negro.  Unfortunately, at the
very time that the Afro-American community was stepping forward with new
confidence, the nation was tottering on the brink of economic disaster.
The year 1929 brought a harsh end to the optimism of the 1920s.

Black Nationalism

Although Langston Hughes had been confident that the American dream could
be made to include his people, thousands upon thousands of other
Afro-Americans, especially among the lower classes, were extremely
dubious. In 1916, Marcus Garvey came to Harlem, and before long his
Universal Negro Improvement Association had opened chapters in urban
centers all across the nation. As mentioned previously, Garvey did not
believe that blacks could be taken into American society. Hundreds of
thousands, who apparently agreed with him, followed his banner.  Whatever
was the actual number of members of the U.N.I.A., the movement gained
more grass-roots support than had any other organization in Afro-American
history. While the nation was willing to tolerate the Afro-American folk
spirit, the people, themselves, did not believe that they would be

Although Garvey's movement was by far the largest black nationalist
organization in America, it was not the only one. In Chicago, Grover
Cleveland Redding was preaching a Back-to-Africa philosophy of his own.
He organized the Abyssinian Movement and urged Negroes living on the
south side of Chicago to return to Ethiopia. On Sunday, June 20, 1920,
Redding led a parade through the Chicago streets. He sat astride a white
horse and wore what he claimed was the costume of an Abyssinian prince.
At the corner, of East 25th Street and Prairie Avenue he stopped the
procession, poured a flammable liquid on an American flag, and burned it.
A Negro policeman, who attempted to break up the demonstration, was shot
by one of Redding's followers. In the course of the melee, a white
storekeeper and a white soldier were killed. Redding and another Negro
were later executed for their part in the affair.

In 1925 Noble Drew Ali came to Chicago and established the Moorish
American Science Temple. Actually, he had previously attempted to
organize other temples in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. He
claimed that American Negroes were of Moorish descent and, instead of
being really black, were olive-hued. His movement had a banner which
carried a Moorish star and crescent on a field of red. He also claimed
that American Negroes, being Moors, had an Islamic heritage rather than a
Christian one, and he endeavored to spread his particular version of that
faith throughout the Afro-American community. By 1927 Ali had established
branches in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Lansing, and
elsewhere. He wrote his own version of the Koran which combined passages
from the Moslem Koran,  the Christian Bible, and some of the writings of
Marcus Garvey.

Ali gave his followers a new sense of identity. Most of them wore a fez
which set them apart from the typical urban black. Many were also
bearded, and each one carried a membership card. Having a different
religion from that of the typical ghetto black contributed further to
their special sense of identity. Ali's teaching also made them feel that
they had a special and unique heritage of which they could be proud. His
emphasis on separatism instead of on integration struck a harmonious note
with their disillusionment. Instead of leaving them in despair, it
permitted them to face white America boldly.

In 1929 a power struggle broke out between Noble Drew Ali and Claude
Green, one of his organizers. When Green was found murdered, the
Chicago police charged Ali with the crime. While Ali was out on bond, he
too died under mysterious circumstances.  While some claimed that he had
been beaten by the police, others said that he had been "mugged" by
Green's followers. Before he was released on bail Ali wrote a letter from
prison to his followers encouraging them to have faith in him and in
their future. His letter bore distinctly messianic overtones. After
assuring them that he had redeemed them, he concluded by extending to
them his peace and by commanding them to love one another. His movement
splintered after his death into innumerable competing  factions.

In Detroit, sometime before 1930, a dark-skinned man appeared
selling silk and raincoats. He said that he was W. D. Fard and that he
had come from the Holy City of Mecca in order to save the American Negro.
People generally described him as being unusually light-skinned for a
Negro with perhaps an Oriental cast. Fard also taught that the American
Negro was Islamic in origin and that he should return to his ancestral
faith. Sometime in 1933 or 1934 he disappeared as mysteriously as he had
come.  While many believed that Fard and his movement must have been
connected with Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish American Science Temple,
the Black Muslims have always denied it.

Fard founded, in Detroit, Muslim Temple Number One, and he acquired a
handful of devout followers. He insisted that the Muslims should refrain
from eating pork, should pray facing the East, and should practice a
daily washing ritual. Muslim members were reminded that their last names
had been imposed upon them by the white man whom Fard equated with the
Devil. It is the practice among Muslims to drop their Christian name and,
until their true names will be revealed to them, to substitute the letter
X for their last name symbolizing the unknown.  Fard insisted that the
first man had been a black man and that whites were a corruption of
humanity. The days of the White Devil, he said, were numbered. Blacks
should deliberately withdraw from white society in order not to be caught
in its final destruction.

The Muslim's life was rigidly disciplined. There were temple services
almost every evening. Individual behavior and dress were carefully
dictated. Besides forbidding the eating of pork, devout Muslims were not
allowed to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco.  Relationships between men and
women were extremely puritanical.  Each temple had special groups to
prepare young men and women for manhood and womanhood. The Fruit of Islam
was the young men's group, and it was a semi-military defense corps aimed
at developing a sense of manhood and the ability for self-defense.  The
common belief that the Fruit of Islam was preparing for racial aggression
has never been substantiated. The Muslim Girls' Training Classes taught
cooking, sewing, housekeeping, and etiquette.

After Fard's disappearance, the leadership passed on to Elijah Muhammed,
formerly Elijah Poole, whom Fard had been grooming as his successor.
Elijah Muhammed moved to Chicago and began Temple Number Two and
established his headquarters there. The "Black Muslims", as well as other
small, semi-religious, separatist groups, continued to exist unnoticed by
the general public. When Malcolm Little, better known as Malcolm X, was
converted to the "Nation of Islam", he gave the movement the
organizational skill and the eloquence which it previously lacked.  This
brought it into national prominence.

Black Nationalism and the Negro Renaissance shared a strong sense of
racial consciousness and racial pride. However, while the writers who
expressed the spirit of the new Negro still believed in their future in
America, the black nationalists enunciated a mood of alienation and
despair. The Depression, which eroded the hopes of many Americans, hit
the Negro unusually hard. It served to increase the level of bitterness
in the Afro-American community as a whole.


Fighting Racism at Home and Abroad

Hard Times Again

THE new Negro of the 1920s who had struck out for "the Promised Land"
found, in the 1930s, that his old enemies of hunger, cold, and prejudice
were lurking outside the door of his newly chosen home. Hope slid into
despair and cynicism. The dynamic, self-confident Harlem which Johnson
had described in 1925 as the Culture Capital of the Negro World became
choked with disillusionment and frustration, and, in 1935, it was the
scene of looting, burning, and violence.

While the Depression which swept America in 1929 was a national disaster,
it did not hit all segments of society equally, In America, poverty and
starvation are also discriminatory. To quote the old adage again, "The
Negro is the last to be hired and the first to be fired." The Depression
also proved that Harlem, like other Afro-American communities, was not as
economically self-sufficient as Johnson had imagined.  Although such
communities had many Negro-owned businesses thriving on a Negro trade,
these businesses were still dependent on the economy at large. Therefore,
they were not at all free from the racial discrimination in the nation.
Their clientele was largely employed in white-owned businesses. Many
Negroes were laid off, and Negro-owned businesses immediately felt the

Although Negro businesses had grown significantly during the 1920s, most
were small establishments and, in the age of mass production and mass
marketing, always had to struggle hard in order to compete. In 1929, the
Colored Merchants Association was established in New York City, and it
attempted to buy goods for independent stores on a cooperative wholesale
basis. This aided them in competing with chain stores. The Association
also urged blacks to patronize stores owned by Afro-Americans.
Nevertheless, the Association only survived for two years. The
Afro-American community felt the Depression sooner and harder than did
the rest of the country.

By 1932, the government believed that 38 percent of the Afro-American
community was incapable of self-support and in need of government relief.
At the same time, it considered that only 17 percent of the white
community fell into this category. In October of 1933, between 25 percent
and 40 percent of the blacks in many of the large cities, to which they
had moved to find a brighter future, were on relief. This percentage was
three or four times higher than that of the whites in the same cities. As
affluent whites felt the economic pinch, one of the first items to be
trimmed from their shrinking budgets was the maid or the gardener. In
1935 the number of unemployed Negro domestics was at least one and a half
million. In that same year, the government estimated that 65 percent of
the Negro employables in Atlanta were on public assistance while, in
Norfolk, 80 percent of the Afro-American community was on relief.

As Negro unemployment statistics skyrocketed in the early thirties,
The-Jobs-for-Negroes Movement strove to alleviate the crisis. It was
begun by the Urban League in St. Louis. A boycott was organized against
white-owned chain stores which catered to Negroes, but refused to employ
them.  The movement spread throughout the Midwest and had some success in
"persuading" white-owned stores in the heart of the ghettoes to hire
Negro employees. When the idea reached Harlem, it resulted in the
establishment of the Greater New York Coordinating Comittee. One of its
founders and organizers was the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and the
Comittee received considerable support from his church, the Abyssinian
Baptist Church.

It was Powell's claim that the Comittee was shunned by most "respectable"
Negroes but that its supporters included an unusually wide variety of
radicals. The group referred to its members as antebellum Negroes by
which, Powell said, they meant before Civil War II.  Some of them, he
claimed, favored repatriation to Africa; others were for black
capitalism; still another group, including Powell himself, wanted the
Negro to achieve full dignity within the American system. In spite of the
variety of their objectives, all of them believed that the Afro-American
must first achieve economic security before any of these specific goals
could be attained.

It was on this primary tactical necessity that they were able to
coordinate their activities. They picketed white-owned stores on 125th
Street. They carried signs advocating, "Don't buy where you can't work,"
and Powell maintained that they were able almost to stop trade totally at
any target they chose to picket. He claimed to be able to call a meeting
with only forty-eight hours notice and have 10,000 persons in attendance.
The 125th Street stores soon negotiated and began employing Negro
employees. Next, the Comittee hit the city's utility companies. They
urged Negroes not to use electricity on specified days. They harassed the
telephone company by urging Negroes to demand that the operator place
their calls instead of their dialing the number and utilizing the
automatic exchanges. Both companies changed their employment patterns in
response. The Comittee also boycotted the bus company until it began
employing Negroes as drivers as well as on other levels of the company's

By 1935 Harlem had become a pressure cooker which was heated to the
boiling point by economic and racial frustrations. When a young Negro
stole a knife from a 125th Street store, it became the incident which
triggered a social explosion. Although he had escaped from the pursuing
officer a rumor spread around the community that he had been beaten to
death. A mob soon gathered and began to protest everything from the
discrimination practices of merchants to slum landlords and police
tactics. Window-breaking, looting, and burning soon followed. Before
peace was restored, three Negroes had been killed, some two hundred
stores smashed, and it was estimated that approximately $2,000,000 worth
of damage had been done.  Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia appointed a study
commission which was headed by the noted black sociologist E.  Franklin
Frazier.  The commission concluded that the causes of the riot were
rooted in resentment against racial discrimination and poverty.  The
"promised land" of the large northern cities had not lived up to

The Depression, however, brought its own kind of hope. Franklin Delano
Roosevelt, who had been elected in 1932, promised the country a "New
Deal." It was to be a new deal for the workers, the unemployed and, it
seemed, for the Negro too. In response, black voters switched to the
Democratic party in droves. While Franklin D. Roosevelt was not the first
president to appoint Negroes to government positions, his appointments
were different in two major respects. First, there were more of them.
Second, instead of being political payoffs, the appointees were selected
for their expert knowledge, and their intellectual skills became part of
the government's decision-making processes.

This group, which became informally known as the "Black Cabinet,"
included such prominent Afro-American leaders as Robert L. Vann of The
Pittsburgh Courier, William H. Hastie of the Harvard Law School, Eugene
Kinckle Jones of the Urban League, Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune of the
National Council of Negro Women, Robert C. Weaver, and Ralph Bunche, who
later became the first Negro to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  The
number of Afro-Americans hired by the Federal Government mushroomed

Between 1933 and 1946 the number rose from 50,000 to almost 200,000.
Most, however, were employed in the lower, unskilled and semi-skilled,
brackets. It was also during this period that the civil service
terminated its policy of requiring applicants to state their race and to
include photographs.  Individual personnel officers, nevertheless, could
and did continue to discriminate.

In spite of the attempt of the Roosevelt Administration to elevate the
status of the Afro-American, the New Deal itself became enmeshed in
racial discrimination in three ways: through discriminatory practice
within government bureaus, through exclusion carried on by unions, and
also as an indirect by-product of the success of the New Deal programs.
In a government bureaucracy, power and authority are distributed
throughout the administrative hierarchy. Officials at varying levels were
still influenced by their personal prejudices, and they continued to use
their positions in a discriminatory manner. Regardless of the intentions
at the top, prejudice continued to exist in varying degrees throughout
the lower levels of the structure.

In 1935 the Wagner Act protected the rights of labor unions, but because
most unions practiced racial discrimination, it served indirectly to
undercut the status of the Negro worker for a short time.  Actually, with
the heightened competition for jobs, unions tended to intensify their
discrimination. The American Federation of Labor largely consisted of
trade or skilled workers.  Its member unions regularly practiced racial
exclusion and kept blacks out of the trades.  To the contrary, the United
Mine Workers Union which had been organized on an industry-wide basis
rather than a craft basis had encouraged the participation of Negroes
within the union since at least 1890. In 1935, several union leaders, led
by John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers, decided that the union
movement must break away from its craft orientation and begin to organize
the new mass production industries on an industry-wide basis.

While the A. F. of L. dragged its feet, the dissidents withdrew and
formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations.  Immediately they began
to organize the steel workers, the meat packers and the automobile
workers. These were all industries which employed significant numbers of
Afro-Americans, and the CIO followed an aggressive, nondiscriminatory
policy. In the beginning, black workers were suspicious, but they soon
joined the new unions in large numbers.  In the long run, both black and
white labor benefited from the Wagner Act.

Finally, the New Deal failed to extend its program to include either
agricultural or domestic workers. These were areas in which
Afro-Americans were employed in unusually high proportions, and this
meant that a large portion of the Afro-American community was not covered
by this legislation. For example, both the Social Security and the
Minimum Wage laws excluded both agricultural and domestic workers.
Nevertheless, it was estimated that in 1939 some one million Negroes owed
their livelihood to the Works Progress Administration. If it had not been
for the W.P.A., the National Youth Administration, the Civilian
Conservation Corps, and other similar organizations, Afro-Americans would
have suffered even more during the Depression.

Some relief was brought to farmers through the Agricultural Adjustment
Administration.  However, white landlords usually kept the checks which
had been intended for the sharecroppers.  This resulted in the formation
of The Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, an interracial organization.
Despite the landlords' attempts to use racism to destroy it, the Union
showed that white and black farmers could cooperate on the basis of their
common economic plight. This alliance of poor whites and poor blacks was
reminiscent of the earlier Populist Movement.

Although the New Deal did much to help the Negro, it tended to further
undercut his self-confidence and independence.  Alain Locke has argued
that the significant fact about the northward migration by blacks had
been that the Afro-Americans had made a decision for themselves. The fact
of having made a decision and of taking action on it, Locke maintains,
was the event which created the aggressive self-confident New Negro. In
helping him to survive the Depression, the New Deal turned him again into
a passive recipient. The large number of Afro-Americans who were
receiving government aid in one way or another were aware of their
dependency. Afro-American communities, which had been regarded as "The
Promised Land," slid into poverty and dejection.

The Second World War

As ominous war clouds began to gather over Europe in the late 1930s, most
Americans were preoccupied with domestic problems resulting from the
Depression. Those who took notice of the ascendancy of Mussolini and
Hitler were apt to be impressed with their successes in combatting the
effects of the Depression in Italy and Germany. The Afro-American
community, however, was more concerned with the imperialistic and racist
elements in the teachings of Fascism and National Socialism.  Usually,
American Negroes were prevented from looking beyond their own problems by
the immediacy of racial prejudice which they faced daily, but this time
they were among the first to warn of impending danger.

Racist thought in Germany did not begin with the rise of Adolf Hitler.
European anti-Semitism can be traced back into the past for centuries.
Although it originally had its roots in a religious feeling, racism
became secularized and, by the middle of the nineteenth century, took on
political overtones and tried to assume a scientific foundation.

Aggressive nationalism began to bloom at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, and went on to spread across Europe. The political unification
of Germany, instead of being the glorious culmination of this
nationalistic drama, only signaled the end of one act and the beginning
of another. Even the German defeat in the First World War did not
persuade ardent nationalists to be content with the victories they had
already achieved. Instead, they probed the heart of the nation to find an
explanation for their defeat. These nationalists contended that the
defeat had been due to pollution of racial purity by the presence of a
large, alien element--the Jews. If it had not been for this impurity, it
was argued, Germany would certainly have been victorious, and it would
have demonstrated its global superiority. Aggressive nationalism became
virulent racism.

Adolf Hitler exploited this need for a political scapegoat and turned it
into a national, anti-Semitic campaign. The racial stereotypes and
accompanying feelings were already widespread.  Nineteenth century
popular German literature was full of such trite symbols. The Jew was
always portrayed as a villainous merchant, shifty-eyed, large-nosed,
unscrupulous, and wealthy.  In contrast, the German was invariably
portrayed as a solid, blond-haired peasant, hard-working, loyal, and

The drama in such literature sprang from the tension between the wealthy
Jewish merchants and the hard-working but poor German peasants.  Here
could be found the same kind of exploitation which Hitler used to explain
the German defeat in the war.  These popular stereotypes were then joined
to the teachings of Houston Stewart Chamberlain which had built on
elements from biology, anthropology, sociology, and phrenology. In his
book Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, Chamberlain had developed
them into a philosophy of world history which centered on the concepts of
racial conflict. Human progress and racial purity were equated. He
predicted an eventual struggle to the death between the Jewish and the
Teutonic races. The Germans, he believed, would emerge victorious.
Through the survival of the fittest and the destruction of the weak,
mankind would reach a higher stage of evolution. Although Nazi racist
thought was concerned almost exclusively with the conflict between the
Germans and the Jews, it was clear that the Negro race was, if anything,
consigned to an even lower level of importance than the Jews. In the
survival of the fittest, Negroes were also destined for extermination in
the name of human progress.

Afro-American suspicions about the nature of Mussolini's imperialism
proved to be justified when Italy invaded Ethiopia.  Mussolini's dream of
reviving Roman glory included rebuilding a powerful empire. However,
underdeveloped countries which were not already dominated by European
nations and which could easily be colonized, were few in number. When
Italy invaded Ethiopia, Afro-Americans saw it as another white nation
subjugating another black nation. At the very time when Africans and
Afro-Americans were looking forward to the liberation of Africa from
European domination, Italy was extending imperialism even further and
conquering the last remaining independent supposedly black nation in
Africa. Afro-Americans were outraged. They looked to the League of
Nations hoping that it would take decisive action against the Italian
aggression. Their hopes were in vain.

The war that began in 1939 came to be expressed in terms which were even
more ideological than had been true of the First World War. The Allies
depicted themselves as being the champions of freedom and humanity while
they portrayed their enemies as tyrants and barbarians.  Afro-Americans
were painfully aware of some of the imperfections in this simple
dichotomy. While aghast at the racist teachings propagated by Germany,
they could not forget the racism which confronted them daily within the
United States.

They were also aware of the imperialism which was practiced by both the
British and the French who dominated and exploited Africa almost at will.
Nevertheless, Hitler's form of brazen racism did give a note of validity
to this ideological formulation. Afro-Americans viewed the war both with
more enthusiasm and with more pessimism than they had felt at the
outbreak of the First World War. On the one hand, they could eagerly
support a war to defeat Hitler's racist doctrines. On the other hand,
they did not believe that any display of patriotism on their part would
significantly diminish racism at home. During the First World War they
had thought that a demonstration of patriotism would help to knock down
the walls of antagonism. Instead, they found that manliness on the part
of Afro-Americans, even in the name of patriotism, was a threat to those
whites who believed that Negroes should be kept in their place.
Afro-Americans were prepared not to be disillusioned in that way again.
For them, the war would still be a double struggle-fighting racism at
home as well as abroad.

The Second World War began to affect Americans long before the country
was actually drawn into the fighting. Although the American nation stood
on the sidelines for the first two years, America became a major source
of money, supplies, and encouragement for Britain and France.  Providing
materiel for the Allies gave new life to the sagging American economy.
There were still some five million unemployed in the nation, and
something more seemed to be needed. Unfortunately for the Afro-American,
most of the new jobs were not open to them. Aside from the fact that he
was the first to be fired and the last to be hired, many of the new
defense industries made it clear that they would hire no Negroes at all
or, at most, would restrict their employment to janitorial positions
regardless of the training or education of the applicant.

Hostility was expressed quite openly by some leaders in the West Coast
aircraft industry. As better jobs became available, they were quickly
filled by white workers eager to improve their economic status. This left
some of the more undesirable jobs to go begging, and, as the result, the
war boom benefits began to trickle down to the Afro-American community.
Afro-Americans, however, were not content with the crumbs from the
industrial table. Complaints began to flood into Washington.  Several
government officials made pronouncements condemning discrimination in
defense industries, but they were not heard.  It became clear that
nothing would change without strong government action, and it was also
evident that this would not occur unless the entire Afro-American
community could exert united, political pressure.

Early in 1941, A. Philip Randolph put forth the idea of a gigantic March
on Washington, and he expressed the belief that a hundred thousand
Afro-Americans could be organized to participate in such an undertaking.
The immediate response from most of the leaders of both black and white
America was one of skepticism. Most of them felt that there was too much
apathy in the Afro-American community for such a grandiose scheme to be
taken seriously.  Nevertheless, interest on the grass-roots level
gradually grew and Randolph's idea was transformed into a project
involving scores of organizers all across the country, all of whom were
working diligently to enlist potential marchers. In the meantime,
Randolph began to formulate the complex plans for organizing the actual
march. By late spring, skepticism had turned to worry.  Many government
leaders and finally President Roosevelt himself tried to talk Randolph
into canceling the march.  They suggested that such an aggressive protest
would do more to hurt the Afro-American than help him.

Randolph remained unyielding. Others tried to suggest that the protest
would be bad for the American image and therefore was unpatriotic. When
they suggested that it would create a bad impression in Rome and Berlin,
Afro-Americans retorted that white racism had already created such an
image. Finally, Roosevelt contacted Randolph and offered to issue an
executive order barring discrimination in defense industries and promised
to put "teeth" in the order, provided Randolph call off the march. When
Randolph became convinced that Roosevelt's intentions were sincere, he

Roosevelt fulfilled his promise by issuing Executive Order 8802, which
condemned discrimination on the grounds of race, color, or creed. Then,
he established the Fair Employment Practices Commission and assigned to
it the responsibility for enforcing the order. Many Afro-Americans felt
that Executive Order 8802 was the most important government document
concerning the Negro to be issued since the Emancipation Proclamation.
Their immediate joy was somewhat dampened when they found that
discrimination still continued in some quarters. Nevertheless, the
F.E.P.C. did condemn discrimination when it found it, and, as the result,
many new jobs began to open up for Negroes.

Once America was drawn into the fighting, Afro-Americans hurried to the
enlistment centers to volunteer their services in the war against
Hitler's philosophy. However, it soon became clear that America intended
to fight racism with a segregated army. The fact that Negroes were
confined to the more menial positions in the armed forces was what
irritated Afro-Americans the most. The Negro army units were obviously
going to be led by white officers. The Marine Corps was still not
accepting any Negroes in its ranks at all. Complaints again began to pour
into Washington.

Afro-Americans generally admitted that the Selective Service Act per se
was not discriminatory and that it was applied impartially in most
places. One of the reasons for this impartiality, undoubtedly, was the
fact that both local and national Selective Service Boards included
Afro-American representation. In the course of the war, about one million
Afro-Americans saw service on behalf of their country. Their ratio within
the armed forces was almost the same as that within the nation. This had
been the stated goal of the Department of War.

Gradually, the armed forces modified their discriminatory policies in
response to the flood of complaints. The Air Force began to train Negro
pilots although they still received segregated training and served in
segregated squadrons. The Marine Corps accepted Negro recruits for the
first time in its history. They, too, served in segregated units. The
Navy, which had restricted Negroes to menial positions, gradually began
to accept them in almost all noncommissioned positions. Eventually, it
even began to commission some Negro officers. The Army, too, introduced
an extensive program to prepare Negro officers. It trained most of them
in integrated facilities, but they continued to lead segregated units.
As the war grew to a close, the Army announced that it intended to
experiment with integration.  However, when the experiment took place,
the integration proved not to be quite what had been expected. Instead of
putting individuals from both races together in the same unit, the Army
took segregated black and white platoons and merged them into an
integrated fighting force although the platoons themselves remained

This integrated unit did fight well in the field and made a significant
contribution to the defeat of Germany in 1945. Negro units, as well as
individual Negro soldiers, made outstanding contributions to the war
effort both in Europe and in the Pacific, and they received numerous
commendations and citations.  Skeptics noted, however, that not a single
Negro soldier had received the Congressional Medal of Honor in either the
First or Second World Wars, and they suggested that the nation's highest
award was being reserved for whites.

Although most of the hostilities were focused on the enemy, racial
tensions still ran very high within America. Southern whites were
displeased with the self-confidence and manliness brought out in Negroes
by military experience, and they were unhappy with the dignity which a
military uniform conferred upon them.

At the same time, Negro soldiers in the South were angry over the
harassment and segregation with which they were confronted. In
particular, they were irritated by the fact that German prisoners of war
were permitted to eat with white American soldiers in the same dining car
on a railroad train traveling through the South, while Negro soldiers
could not.  Racial riots occurred at Fort Bragg, Camp Robinson, Camp
Davis, Camp Lee, Fort Dix, and a notorious one at an American base in
Australia. The policy of the War Department was to gloss over these
events. Casualties which resulted from riots at bases in the United
States were officially listed as accidental deaths.  Those which resulted
from riots overseas were officially reported as being killed in action.
On several occasions, Negro soldiers refused to do work which they
believed had been assigned to them purely because of their race. For this
they were charged with mutiny.

There was also one serious civilian race riot during the war; it occurred
on June 20, 1943, in Detroit. A fist fight between a white man and a
Negro sparked the resentment which had been mounting in that city.
Thousands of Afro-Americans had been moving again from the South into the
North to fill vacant jobs in war industry, and this was resented by local
white residents.  Before the Detroit riot ended, twenty-five Negroes and
nine whites had been killed. President Roosevelt had to send in federal
troops to quell the disturbance.  Another factor which irritated
Afro-Americans was that the Red Cross blood banks separated Negro and
white blood. This was particularly humiliating in that it had been a
Negro doctor, Charles Drew, who had done the basic research that made the
banks possible.

In spite of this, Afro-Americans were eager to demonstrate their
patriotism and to support the war effort. Besides the hundreds of
thousands who were involved directly in the military, millions more
supported the war effort in countless other ways. Besides growing their
own vegetables, saving tin cans and newspapers, they were avid
contributors to the War Bond issues. Others volunteered to serve as block
wardens in case of enemy air raids.  Negro newspapers had their own
journalists at the front, and the Afro-American community eagerly kept up
with the war news. They took special pride in stories of heroism about
Negro soldiers.  When Hitler and his racist philosophy went down in
defeat, they felt that they had achieved a personal victory and that at
the same time they had made a contribution to America and the world.

Thus, as the war came to a close and Afro-Americans looked forward to the
postwar years with both apprehension and determination, they feared that,
with the foreign antagonism eradicated, racist feeling at home might
increase. At the same time, they were possessed by a new drive to make
American democracy into a reality. The ideological character of the war
had reminded them of America's expressed ideals of brotherhood and
equality. Their participation in the war convinced them that they were
worthy of full citizenship. Many had broken the bonds of tradition which
had held them in fear and apathy. Some had left their communities to
fight in the Army, and some had moved into large urban centers to work in
defense industries. Although the war against racism abroad had ended,
they were intent to see that the struggle for racial freedom and equality
at home would continue.

The U.S. and the U.N.

The San Francisco Conference which founded the United Nations
organization was looked upon by peoples around the world as the sunrise
of a new day of peace and brotherhood. While hope ran high in most
quarters, some of these same peoples were suspicious about its lofty
ideological character. Humanitarian ideologies had made their appearance
before, but there had always been a gap between theory and practice.
Colored peoples and other minorities around the world observed the San
Francisco Conference with hope mixed with caution.  They wanted to see
whether it was mere ideological rhetoric which would salve the
consciences of the exploiters and dull the senses of the exploited, or
whether, perhaps, its aims might spring from genuine conviction and
become established in a framework which would be fully implemented.

The U.N. was to be more sweeping in its goals and programs than the
League had been, and it was hoped that it would have more power to carry
out its decisions. Its very initials signified that the peoples of the
world were to be one people bound together in brotherhood, freedom, and
equality. This should have meant the end of imperialistic exploitation as
well as the end of minority persecution. The Afro-American community
wondered if the U.N. would apply these principles to them. Many skeptics
suggested that the U. S. initiative in founding the U.N. was only part of
a plan to create a world image which would help America in her new role
as a world leader.

Several Afro-Americans were accredited as official observers at the San
Francisco Conference. Their number included Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr.
Mordecai W. Johnson of Howard University, W. E. B. DuBois and Walter
White, both of the N.A.A.C.P. Ralph Bunche was an official member of the
American staff. There were also a large number of Negro journalists, and
the conference was widely covered in the Negro press.  Once the U.N. was
organized and in operation, several other Afro-Americans worked for it in
a number of ways. While some held diplomatic posts, others used their
specific scientific and scholarly skills to help various branches of the
U.N. They were particularly interested in the departments concerned with
the treatment of colonial nations and with the various scientific
organizations involved in helping underdeveloped countries.

The United Nations Charter defended universal human rights more clearly
than any previous political document in world history.  The Charter
proclaimed human rights and freedom for all without respect to "race,
sex, language or religion." Minority groups were particularly interested
in the work of UNESCO which, among other things, studied the nature of
prejudice and racism and tried to develop programs to eradicate these
evils. The U.N. also formed a Human Rights Commission, and Afro-Americans
expected that whatever action the U.N. took to support human rights
throughout the world would also have an impact on their situation.

The first test came in 1946 when India charged South Africa with
practicing racial discrimination against Indian nationals and their
descendants who were living within South Africa. Minority groups
throughout the world eagerly waited to see what, if anything, the U.N.
would do. When a resolution was passed by a two-thirds majority, charging
South Africa with the violation of human rights, and requiring it to
report back on what steps had been taken to alter the situation,
religious and national minorities were overjoyed. However, the enthusiasm
of Afro-Americans was dampened by the fact that both the United States
and Britain had voted against the resolution. While posing as the leaders
of democracy and humanitarianism, they seemed more concerned with
protecting their sovereign rights as nations against similar future
charges which might impinge on their sovereignty, than they were with
protecting the human rights of oppressed peoples.

The attitude which the U. S. Government took towards human rights sheds
considerable light on the internal conflict concerning race within
America itself. The U. S. led the fight at the U.N. for the approval of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet the American government
has been reluctant to support the inclusion of specific economic and
social rights in a draft treaty.  The U.N. had endeavored to write a
draft treaty which its member nations would sign and which would be
binding on them. If the U. S. Senate had ratified such a document, its
terms presumably would then be binding on the entire nation. At that
time, senators from the Southern states were still staunchly defending
legal segregation and disfranchisement of Afro-Americans. The government
found itself supporting human rights ideologically while backing down on
them in practice.

As the Cold War deepened, the U. S. became increasingly sensitive about
its world image. While fighting for world leadership, Russia and America
each claimed that its way of life was based on the principles of
brotherhood and humanitarianism. Each, in turn, tried to prove to the
rest of the world that its ideology was genuinely humane and democratic,
while its opponent's ideology was, in reality, oppressive and
dehumanizing. The communist bloc attacked the West for being purveyors of
imperialism and racism.  This forced the American government to face up
to the discriminatory policies within the nation and, especially, to
reexamine the legal discrimination existing within the Southern states.
It was particularly embarrassing to the American ambassador to the United
Nations to have to be berated by the Russian delegate concerning some
unpleasant racial events which had happened somewhere in the South. The
Federal Government had always followed a policy of "hands off," at least
since the days of Hayes and the end of Reconstruction. Party politicians
always opposed taking a strong federal stand against an established state
policy within the South for fear of what would happen to that party
within the South. Party unity had almost always been put above civil
rights or justice.

However, these same party politicians could not ignore world opinion.
Even from a narrow political point of view, a party could not permit the
nation's world image to become tarnished, lest the electorate become
dissatisfied. World leadership brought with it the need to be concerned
with world opinion. Racism was no longer a local or state question. In
fact, as W. E. B. DuBois had predicted, it had become the leading
question of the twentieth century. At the end of the Second World War,
Walter White, then executive director of the N.A.A.C.P., toured Europe
and drew conclusions concerning the effect of the war and the course of
the future. In his book Rising Wind, White demonstrated a relationship
between the oppressed peoples of the world, racism, and imperialism.
Though a relative moderate, White warned of a future worldwide racial

As the war was drawing to an end in the Pacific theater, the Japanese
cautioned Asiatics about American racial oppression.  What they called
attention to was that the British dominated colored peoples in Africa and
Asia and that the Americans persecuted their racial minority at home.
White believed that this propaganda was taking root in the hearts of many
Asiatics.  He also believed that most of Asia would slide into the
Russian camp, thereby preparing the way for a third world conflict.  He
contended that Britain and America had a choice between ending their
policies of racial superiority and preparing for the next war.

In 1948 A. Philip Randolph began to advocate civil disobedience on the
part of Afro-Americans, rather than ever again allowing themselves to be
part of a segregated army. He recommended that they refuse to serve in
future wars, and the idea received widespread attention. In a Senate
comittee inquiry, Senator Wayne Morse from Oregon suggested to him that
such civil disobedience in wartime could well be viewed as treason and
not merely as civil disobedience. Clearly, Randolph's suggestion had hit
a sensitive nerve. A nation which had been skeptical about permitting
Afro-Americans in its armed forces was now becoming extremely uneasy at
the thought that Afro-Americans might not want to serve.  In the same
year President Truman appointed a commission to study race relations in
the military. Its report, Freedom to Serve, recommended that the Armed
Forces open up all jobs regardless of race, color, or creed. As a result,
the military began to move slowly in the direction of integration.
However, when the communists invaded South Korea, the issue quickly came
to a head. Unless integration was achieved, America would have to fight
communists and colored Asiatics with a segregated army and would have to
do it in the name of the United Nations.

In 1950 General Matthew Ridgway began to accelerate integration
in the forces under his command. He did this partly as a matter
of philosophy and partly from necessity. The Army needed the fullest and
most efficient use of the few troops available in order to stem the flow
of a much larger communist force into South Korea. This integration
proceeded very well, and when he was put in charge of all forces in the
Far East, he asked the Defense Department for permission to integrate all
of the forces in  the area. Within three months, the extent of
integration in the Armed Forces jumped from nine percent to thirty
percent.  While Afro-Americans were pleased, they were also convinced
that it had been done more from the pressure of world opinion than from a
genuine humanitarian conscience.

During this period, the Federal Government took a more active role in
several other ways in regard to improving race relations.  How much of
this action sprang from internal motivation and how much resulted from
the pressure of world opinion is a matter of conjecture. In any case, the
Truman Administration deliberately created an atmosphere favorable to
changing race relations within America. In 1946 Truman appointed a
comittee on civil rights which, after intensive study, published its
report, To Secure These Rights.

The report set forth that the Federal Government had the duty to act in
order to safeguard civil rights when local or state governments either
could not or did not take such action. The comittee recommended enlarging
the size and powers of the civil rights section of the Justice Department
and also recommended that the F.B.I. increase its civil rights activity.
The threat of federal intervention in state racial policies led to a
revolt by several Southern Senators within the Democratic Party. In 1948
they formed the Dixiecrat Party and refused to support many of the
policies and candidates of the Democratic Party.  Truman also appointed a
comittee to study higher education in America, and its report recommended
an end to discrimination in colleges and universities. In 1948 Truman
issued an executive order aimed at achieving fair employment within
government service. He also continued the practice of attacking
discrimination within industries working under government contracts. In
1948 the Supreme Court declared that restrictive covenants in housing
were unconstitutional. Many state and local governments across the
country also took action against discrimination in the fields of housing
and employment.

Thus the principles underlying the United Nations and the Declaration of
Human Rights had the effect of stirring democratic and humanitarian
ideals in many parts of white America.  Sensitivity to world opinion had
made all branches of the Federal Government more willing to act on racial
matters.  Although most Americans would have insisted that these
activities sprang from a genuine concern for racial justice,
Afro-Americans were convinced that it had been the pressure of world
opinion which had turned these humanitarian convictions into action.


Civil Rights and Civil Disobedience

Schools and Courts

THE democratic idealism which had been fostered by the Second World War
and the Cold War made many American citizens increasingly uncomfortable
about the legal support given to racism in the Southern states. A wide
variety of organizations--labor unions, religious and fraternal societies
as well as groups specifically concerned with attacking racism--became
increasingly active in trying to put democratic ideals into practice.
America's competition with communism in gaining world leadership, made
many Americans feel that it was necessary to prove, once and for all, the
superiority of the American way of life. However, there was a growing
concerted effort to destroy legal segregation because it was a serious
blemish on this democratic image.

Believing strongly in the democratic process as these groups did, this
attack was mounted within the framework of the legal system. The
N.A.A.C.P. came to be the cutting edge of the campaign. In particular,
the Legal Defense Fund of the N.A.A.C.P.  and the small group of
intelligent, dedicated Negro lawyers whom it financed, spearheaded the
attack. It was clear that the legal system itself supported the position
of Southern racists. Most Afro-Americans in the South could not vote, and
Southern senators were in a position to sabotage any attempt to change
the system through the legislative process. They were chosen through a
white electorate, and Afro-Americans in the South could do little about
that. Even if a favorable majority in Congress stemming from the North
and West could be established, the one-party system in the South meant
that Southern Senators were continually reelected and, therefore, had
Congressional seniority. Consequently, they controlled most of the
comittees and were thereby in virtual control of the legislative process

Although the courts had usually interpreted the Constitution so as to
support segregation, much of that document's language supported
democratic and equalitarian principles. If the courts could be persuaded
to understand the Constitution differently, legal segregation might well
be found to be unconstitutional. The judicial system to some degree
reacts to popular pressure and events, and it too was influenced by the
need to justify American democracy to the rest of the world.

The N.A.A.C.P. had already mounted a broad, concerted attack against
legal segregation before the Second World War. When Walter White defeated
W. E. B. DuBois in a struggle for leadership, he confirmed the
Association's emphasis on striving for an integrated society.  The number
of white and middle-class black supporters of the N.A.A.C.P.  grew, and
its treasury prospered. The Association chose to concentrate its efforts
on a gradual, relentless attack against segregation through the courts.
Believing that education was an all-important factor in society, it
decided that school desegregation should become the major target.

Thurgood Marshall was the master strategist in the school desegregation
campaign. He decided that the attack should be a slow, indirect one.
Most Southern school systems, although they had developed two separate
institutions, had not established separate graduate and professional
facilities for Negroes.  Marshall decided to attack the school question
on the graduate, professional, and law-school level. First, Southerners
did not seem as frightened about racial mixing on the graduate school
level, and second, the cost of developing separate graduate and
professional schools for a handful of Negro students, it was reasoned,
would be prohibitive.

In 1938, in Gaines v. Canada, the Supreme Court declared that Missouri's
failure to admit a Negro, Lloyd Gaines, to the state law school, when the
state did not have a comparable "separate but equal" institution for
Negroes, constituted a violation of the "equal-protection" clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment.  Missouri wanted to solve the problem by paying the
student's tuition in an integrated Northern law school, but the Court
refused to accept that as a solution. It argued that the state had
already created a privilege for whites which it was denying to Negroes.
This, in itself, was a Constitutional violation.

A decade passed without any further action. In 1948, the Supreme Court
attacked Oklahoma for its failure to permit a Negro to enroll in its
state law school. The Oklahoma Board of Regents, then, decided to admit
Negroes to any course of study not provided for by the state college for
Negroes. This was a considerable step forward.

In 1950, in Sweatt v. Painter, the Supreme Court condemned an attempt by
the state of Texas to establish a special law school overnight in which
it could enroll a Negro applicant. The Court said that this fly-by-night
institution was not equal, and it insisted that an equal institution must
include equal faculty, equal library, and equal prestige. It argued that
part of an equal degree was the prestige conferred on the graduate by the
status of that institution. To be equal, the Court reasoned, the separate
school must carry an equal degree of professional status. It also
decided, in McLaurin v. Oklahama Regents, that it was unconstitutional
for a university to segregate a Negro student within its premises.
Oklahoma had roped off part of its university's classrooms, library, and
dining room as a means of accommodating a graduate student in the School
of Education. The Court argued that this handicapped a student in his
pursuit of learning and that part of a graduate education included the
ability to engage in open discussion with other students.

These decisions, in essence, meant that the South was compelled to
integrate graduate and professional schools. In themselves, they did not
constitute an attack on segregated education. They merely represented an
attempt by the courts to guarantee that separate education was, in fact,
equal education. Southern states, recognizing the trend of events, began
crash programs to build and upgrade their Negro school systems. At this
point, the N.A.A.C.P. was not certain whether to push on for total
desegregation or whether temporarily to settle for quality education.
However, the stubbornness of some Southern school boards in refusing to
upgrade Negro schools forced the N.A.A.C.P.  lawyers into their decision
to make an outright attack on legal segregation.

In 1950 N.A.A.C.P. lawyers initiated a series of suits around the country
attacking the quality of education in primary and secondary schools.
Three of these suits--Topeka, Kansas, Clarendon County, South Carolina,
and Prince Edward County, Virginia--became involved in the 1954 Supreme
Court desegregation decision.  The N.A.A.C.P. charged that these schools,
besides being inferior, were a violation of the "equal-protection" clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment.  All of the suits, as had been expected,
were defeated in the local courts.  However, they were appealed.

Though the Supreme Court had allowed the decision made in Plessy v.
Ferguson in 1896 to stand, the Court was moving closer to a reexamination
of the "separate but equal" clause.  That decision had argued that
separate facilities, if they were equal, did not violate a citizen's
right to equal protection under the law. It had become the cornerstone on
which a whole dual society had been built. The Court had made no attempt,
however, to guarantee that these separate institutions would be equal,
and clearly they were not. At mid-century, the Court began by challenging
this dual system at points of blatant and obvious inequity. By 1950 in
Sweatt v. Painter, the Court was attacking subtle inequalities such as
that of institutional prestige. The next step was for the Court to ask
whether in fact separate institutions could ever be equal. In other
words, the question was whether segregation, in itself, constituted
inequality and was an infringement on a citizen's rights.

On May 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education of the City of Topeka,
the Supreme Court declared that school segregation was unconstitutional
and that the "separate but equal" doctrine, which the Court itself had
maintained for half a century, was also unconstitutional. Although the
decision referred directly only to school segregation, in striking down
the "separate but equal" doctrine, the Supreme Court implied that all
legal segregation was unconstitutional. It contended that to separate
children from other children of similar age and qualifications purely on
the grounds of race generated feelings of inferiority in those children.
It argued that the segregation of white and colored children in schools
had a detrimental effect on the colored children. Further, the Court
insisted that the damaging impact of segregation was greater when it had
the sanction of law. It pointed out that segregation was usually
interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the colored child.  This
resulted in a crippling psychological effect on his ability to learn by
undermining his self-confidence and motivation. Therefore, segregation
with the sanction of law deprived the child of equal education, and the
Court concluded that it was a violation of the "equal-protection" clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Southern whites were outraged, and they dubbed May 17 as "Black Monday."
Ninety Southern Congressmen issued the "Southern Manifesto" condemning
the Court decision as a usurpation of state powers. They said that the
Court, instead of interpreting the law, was trying to legislate.
Southern states resurrected the old doctrine of interposition which they
had used against the Federal Government preceding the Civil War. Several
state legislatures passed resolutions stating that the Federal Government
did not have the power to prohibit segregation. Other Southerners
resorted to a whole battery of tactics.  The Ku Klux Klan was revived
along with a host of new groups such as the National Association for the
Advancement of White People. The White Citizens' councils spearheaded the
resistance movement.  Various forms of violence and intimidation became
common. Bombings, beatings, and murders increased sharply all across the
South. Outspoken proponents of desegregation were harassed in other ways
as well. They lost their jobs, their banks called in their mortgages, and
creditors of all kinds came to collect their debts.

In 1955 the Supreme Court declared that its desegregation decision should
be carried out "with all deliberate speed." Southern school districts,
however, became experts in tactics of avoiding or delaying compliance. It
began to appear that each school board would have to be compelled to
admit each individual Negro student. Even then, some officials said that
they would never comply. They persisted in arguing that the Court had
overstepped its constitutional functions. Again, the constitutional
question of federal vs. state authority had come to a head just as it had
a century earlier.

In 1957, the governor of Arkansas openly opposed a court decision
ordering the integration of the Central High School in Little Rock.  When
federal marshals were sent to carry out the order, Little Rock citizens
were in no mood to stand idly by and watch. Both the citizens and the
local officials were united in opposing federal authority.  Everyone
watched to see what President Eisenhower would do in the face of this
challenge. On the one hand, Eisenhower and the Republicans had condemned
the increasing centralization of power in the federal government. On the
other hand, Eisenhower had been a general who had been accustomed to
having his subordinates carry out his orders.  Eisenhower, the general,
moved with decisiveness and sent troops into Little Rock to enforce the
law. Although Eisenhower himself had said that men's hearts could not be
changed by legislation, he diligently fulfilled his functions as the head
of the Executive Branch of the government. Surprisingly enough, it was
also under his administration that Congress passed the first Civil Rights
Act since 1875. Although the bill was rather weak, it was an admission
that the Federal government had an obligation to guarantee civil rights
to individual citizens and to act on their behalf when state and local
governments did not. This was a reversal of the traditional "hands off"

It cannot be stated with certainty that these events were merely
calculated responses to the changing world situation, but the Cold War
and the emergence of an independent Africa were nevertheless realities
which could not be overlooked.  Ghana had gained its status as an
independent nation. It had also sought and gained admission to the United
Nations in 1957, and in that same year, opened an embassy in Washington.
African diplomats, traveling through the United States, were outraged
whenever they were confronted by humiliations which were the consequence
of segregation. Communist leaders, at the same time, took great pleasure
in pointing out to these Africans the mistreatments of Afro-Americans
within the United States. Although many Southern whites continued to
insist that their freedom to maintain a separate society apart from that
of the blacks was an essential part of democracy as they understood it,
most Americans found legal segregation to be embarrassing in the face of
America's claim to the democratic leadership of the world. Afro-Americans
exploited the situation in order to involve the Federal Government in
their desegregation campaign.

The Civil Rights Movement

On December 1, 1955, an obscure black woman, Mrs. Rosa Parks, was riding
home on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As the bus gradually filled up with
passengers, a white man demanded that she give him her seat and that she
stand near the rear of the bus. Mrs. Parks, who did not have the
reputation of being a troublemaker or a revolutionary, said that she was
tired and that her feet were tired. The white man protested to the bus
driver. When the driver also demanded that she move, she refused. Then,
the driver summoned a policeman, and Mrs. Parks was arrested.

None of this was unusual. Daily, all across the South, black women
surrendered their seats to demanding whites. Although most of them did it
without complaint, the arrest of an obstructionist was entirely within
the framework of local laws and in itself was not a noteworthy event.
However, the arrest of Mrs. Parks touched off a chain reaction within
Montgomery's Afro-American community. If she had been a troublemaker, the
community might have thought that she had only received what she
deserved.  On the contrary, its citizens viewed her as an innocent,
hardworking woman who had been mistreated. Her humiliation became their

Spontaneous protest meetings occurred all across Montgomery, and the idea
of retaliating against the entire system by conducting a bus boycott took
hold. Almost immediately, the call for a black boycott of Montgomery
buses spread throughout the community, and car pools were quickly
organized to help people in getting to and from their employment. Whites
refused to believe that the black community could either organize or
sustain such a campaign.  Nevertheless, Montgomery buses were running
half empty and all white.

The man chosen to lead the Montgomery bus boycott was a young Baptist
minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. He and ninety others were indicted
under the provisions of an anti-union law which made it illegal to
conspire to obstruct the operation of a business. King and several others
were found guilty, but they appealed their case. As the boycott dragged
on month after month, Montgomery gained national prominence through the
mass media, and King quickly gained a national reputation. When the bus
company was finally compelled to capitulate and to drop its policy of
segregated seating, King had become a national hero.  Mass resistance,
including some forms of civil disobedience, became popular as the best
way to achieve racial change.

King had already given considerable thought to the question of how best
to achieve social change, and, more important, to do it within the
framework of moral law. His experiences with direct action techniques in
Montgomery helped him to confirm and to further elaborate his thinking.
His philosophy had been influenced by the writings of Henry Thoreau and
Mahatma Gandhi with the result that he developed an ideology of
nonviolent resistance. Like Gandhi, King wanted to make clear that
nonviolence was not the same as nonresistance. Both maintained that if it
should come to a choice between submission and violence, violence was to
be preferred. Both stressed that nonviolent resistance was not to be an
excuse for cowardice. To the contrary, nonviolent resistance was the way
of the strong. It meant the willingness to accept suffering but not the
intention to inflict it.

King believed in nonviolent resistance both as a tactic and as a
philosophy--both as means and end:

"... the nonviolent approach does something to the hearts and souls of
those comitted to it. It gives them new self-respect.  It calls up
resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had.
Finally, it so stirs the conscience of the opponent that reconciliation
becomes a reality."

On the philosophical level, King said that nonviolent resistance was the
key to building a new world. Throughout history, man had met violence
with violence and hate with hate. He believed that only nonviolence and
love could break this eternal cycle of revenge and retaliation. It was
his hope that the Negro, through utilizing the philosophy of nonviolent
resistance, could help to bring about the birth of a new day. To King,
nonviolent resistance implied that the resister must love his enemy:
"When we allow the spark of revenge in our souls to flame up in hate
toward our enemies, Jesus teaches, 'Love your enemies, bless them that
curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which
despitefully use you, and persecute you.'"

To him, love, in the most basic and Christian sense, did not require that
the resister had to feel a surge of spontaneous sentiment, but it did
mean that he had made a deep and sincere commitment to the other person's
best interest. From this point of view, helping to free a racist from the
shackles of his own prejudice was construed to be in his best interest
and, therefore, a loving act. The Biblical injunction "Love your neighbor
as yourself" meant being as concerned for his well-being as for your own.
King believed that, if injustice could be attacked and overcome through a
policy of nonviolent resistance, it would then lead to the creation of
the "beloved community." This philosophy would become the means of
reconciliation and, to put it in religious terms, would be redemptive.

King made it clear that nonviolent resistance was concerned with morality
and justice and not merely with obtaining specific goals. When laws,
themselves, were unjust, nonviolent resistance could engage in civil
disobedience as a means of challenging those laws. Civil disobedience was
not to be understood merely as law-breaking. Instead, King said that it
was based in a belief in law and also in a belief in the necessity to
obey the law.  However, when a particular law was grossly unjust, that
unjust law itself endangered society's respect for law in general. If the
unjust law could not be changed through normal legal channels, deliberate
breaking of that specific law might be justified. Because the person
engaging in civil disobedience did believe in the value of law, he would
break the unjust law openly, and he would willingly accept the
consequences for breaking it. He would participate in law-breaking and
accept its penalty as a means of drawing the attention of the community
to the immorality of that specific law.

Largely inspired by the successful Montgomery bus boycott, mass protests
and other direct action techniques began to spread rapidly throughout the
South and even into the North. King was concerned that those using the
technique should fully understand its meaning and value.  Otherwise, he
feared that it might be used carelessly and thereby distort its moral and
redemptive quality. Therefore, King and a number of his supporters formed
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as an organization to spread
these ideas and to provide help to any community which became involved in
massive, nonviolent resistance protests.

On February 1, 1960, four Negro students from the Agricultural and
Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina, entered a Woolworth's
variety store and purchased several items. Then, they sat down at its
lunch counter, which served whites only. When they were refused service,
they took out their textbooks and began to do their homework.  This
protest immediately made local news. The next day, they were joined by a
large number of fellow students.

In a matter of weeks, student sit-ins were occurring at segregated lunch
counters all across the South. College and high school students by the
thousands joined the Civil Rights Movement. These students felt the need
to form their own organization to mobilize and facilitate the spontaneous
demonstrations which were springing up everywhere. This resulted in the
formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Comittee. The S.C.L.C.
and S.N.C.C. came to be the leading organizations in the Southern states.
C.O.R.E.--Congress of Racial Equality--carried on the militant side of
the struggle in Northern urban centers, and it involved many Northern
liberals in crusades to help the movement in the South.

The N.A.A.C.P. tended to be uncomfortable with the new direct action
techniques and preferred more traditional lobbying and legal tactics.  It
did get involved on a massive scale in giving legal aid to the thousands
of demonstrators who were arrested for various legal infractions such as
marching without a parade permit, disturbing the peace, and for
trespassing. To some extent, the N.A.A.C.P. resented the fact that it had
to carry the financial burden for the legal actions resulting from these
mass protests, while the other organizations received all the publicity
and most of the financial aid inspired by that publicity.

By the time the 1960 Presidential election approached, both political
parties had become aware that the racial issue could not be ignored. In
several Northern states, Afro-Americans held the balance of power in
close elections. Also, by that year, over a million Afro-Americans had
become eligible to vote in the Southern states. John F. Kennedy, the
Democratic candidate, easily out-maneuvered his Republican opponent,
Richard M. Nixon, in the search for Afro-American votes. Kennedy had
projected an image of aggressive idealism which captured the imagination
of white liberals and of Afro-Americans.

The move which guaranteed the support of most Afro-Americans for Kennedy
came in October, a mere three weeks before the election.  Martin Luther
King, Jr., and several other Negroes had been arrested in Atlanta,
Georgia, for staging a sit-in at a department store restaurant. While the
others were released, King was sentenced to four months at hard labor.
Kennedy immediately telephoned his sympathy to Mrs. King. Meanwhile, his
brother and campaign manager, Robert Kennedy, telephoned the judge who
had sentenced him and pleaded for his release.  The next day, King was
freed. The news was carefully and systematically spread throughout the
entire Afro-American community. When Kennedy defeated Nixon in November,
Afro-Americans believed that their vote had been the deciding factor in
the close victory.

Two months after Kennedy took office, C.O.R.E., under the leadership of
James Farmer, began an intensive campaign, involving "freedom rides."
Scores ind scores of whites and blacks were recruited from Northern
cities and sent throughout the South to test the state of desegregation
of travel facilities as well as of waiting rooms and restaurants. As the
campaign reached a climax, Attorney General Robert Kennedy became annoyed
with its intensity. Apparently, he had hoped that the direct actionists
would wait for the new Administration to take the lead in Civil Rights.
Instead, they chose to try to make the new Administration live up to the
image which it had projected. Kennedy requested a cooling-off period, but
the freedom riders would not listen. But when the freedom riders were
attacked in Montgomery, Alabama, without receiving adequate local police
protection, Kennedy sent six hundred federal marshals to escort them on
the rest of their pilgrimage.

The year 1963 was a target date for the Civil Rights Movement.  It was
the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Movement adopted
the motto, "free in '63." In the spring, the S.C.L.C.  spearheaded a
massive campaign in Birmingham for desegregation and fair employment.
Marches occurred almost daily.  The marchers maintained their nonviolent
tactics in the face of many arrests and much intimidation. In May, when
the police resorted to the use of dogs and high-pressure water hoses, the
nation and the world were shocked, Sympathy demonstrations occurred in
dozens of cities all across the country, and expressions of indignation
resounded from all around the world.  In June, the head of Mississippi's
N.A.A.C.P., Medgar Evers, was shot in the back outside his home and
killed. Scores of sympathy demonstrations again reverberated throughout
the country.  Violence in the South was on the increase.

Although President Kennedy had intended to use his executive authority as
his main weapon in securing civil rights, the mounting pressure on both
sides of the conflict forced him to take more drastic action, and he
submitted a Civil Rights Bill to Congress. Opponents of the Bill were
particularly perturbed by the section which sought to guarantee the end
of discrimination in all kinds of public accommodations--stores,
restaurants, hotels, motels, etc. They claimed that this was an invasion
of the owners' property rights. It soon became clear that the Bill would
be entangled in a gigantic Congressional debate for months.  Civil Rights
supporters looked for new techniques which would bring added pressure on
Congress. Again, the idea of a March on Washington was proposed, and this
time it was carried through.  The demonstration on August 28, 1963, was
larger than any previous one in the history of the capital. At least a
quarter of a million blacks and whites, from all over America,
representing a wide spectrum of religious, labor, and civil rights
organizations, flooded into Washington.

The occasion was peaceful and orderly. The marchers exuded an aura of
interracial love and brotherhood. The emotional impact on the
participants was almost that of a religious pilgrimage. President
Kennedy, instead of trying to block the march as demanded by many
Congressional leaders, aided it by providing security forces, and he also
met Personally with a delegation of its leaders. The high point of the
demonstration was Martin Luther King's famous speech:

"Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy. Now is the time
to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit
path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the
quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is
the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

"Now, I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the
difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream
deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this
nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold
these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of
former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit
down together at the table of brotherhood.

"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state
sweltering with the people's injustice, sweltering with the heat of
oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and Justice. I
have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the
content of their character.

"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South
with--with this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of
despair a stone of hope."

In November, Congressional debate on the Civil Rights Bill was still
continuing, but the President had now made the passage of the Civil
Rights Bill one of the most urgent goals of his Administration. But on
the 22nd of November, John F. Kennedy was gunned down in the Presidential
limousine in Dallas, Texas. The nation and the world were struck dumb
with disbelief.  Even those who had disliked his politics were horrified
at the assassination of a President in a democratic state. His supporters
felt that they had lost a friend as well as a leader. In fact many
regarded Kennedy as a savior.

The sense of shock caused despair and gloom. The fact that his successor,
Lyndon B. Johnson, was a Southerner led most civil rights supporters to
feel that there would be a reversal of federal policies on the racial
question. However, Johnson immediately tried to reassure the nation that
his intention was to carry on with the unfinished business of the Kennedy
era. By the time the Bill passed in the spring of 1964, civil rights
supporters felt that Johnson was as dependable an ally as Kennedy had
been. Instead of the vehement opposition to the public accommodations
provision of the Bill which had been expected, compliance was fairly
wide-spread and came with relatively little opposition.

It soon became clear, however, that the passage of the Civil Rights Act
was not the victory which would end the racial conflict. In fact,
violence on both sides escalated. A Washington, D. C., Negro educator,
Lemuel Penn, was gunned down by snipers as he drove through Georgia on
his way home from a training session for reserve officers. Two Klansmen
were charged, but they were acquitted. In Philadelphia, Mississippi,
three civil rights workers--two white and one black--disappeared. The
youths were later found brutally murdered. In spite of national protests,
local justice was not forthcoming.

At the same time, forewarnings of anger and violence had begun to rumble
in many Afro-American communities across the land. In spite of the
legislative victories, most ghetto Negroes found that their daily lives
had not changed. In fact, the economic gap between blacks and whites had
tended to increase as whites received the benefits of prosperity in
larger portions than did the blacks. Also, many ghetto residents, whose
lives were surrounded with crime and violence, were further angered when
they watched the evening news showing their Southern brothers kicked and
clubbed by sheriffs. These ghetto residents had not been schooled in the
tactics of nonviolent resistance. In the summer of 1964, race riots
occurred in Harlem and Rochester, N.Y., as well as in several cities in
New Jersey.

In the spring of 1965, Selma, Alabama, was the scene of a concentrated
voter registration drive. The campaign was once again spearheaded by
Martin Luther King and the S.C.L.C. During the demonstrations, a Black
civil rights worker and a Northern Unitarian clergyman were both killed.
Finally, a gigantic march was planned between Selma and the state capitol
at Montgomery.  State officials sought to prohibit the march. The U. S.
District Judge at Montgomery, however, ordered officials to permit the
march and to provide protection for the marchers. President Johnson
federalized the Alabama National Guard and used it to guarantee the
maintenance of law and order. When the procession reached the state
capitol building, the demonstrators were addressed by two Afro-American
Nobel Peace Prize winners. Ralph Bunche, who had received the award for
mediating the Middle Eastern crisis, lamented the fact that he had to
address an audience while standing under a Confederate flag. Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., who had just received the award himself for his work in
nonviolent resistance, told the marchers to take heart because they were
on the road to victory:

"We are on the move now. The burning of our churches will not deter us.
We are on the move now. The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us.
We are on the move now. The beating and killing of our clergymen and
young people will not divert us. We are on the move now. The arrest and
release of known murderers will not discourage us, We are on the move now.

"Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies
can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom.

"Let us therefore continue our triumph and march to the realization of
the American dream. Let us march on segregated housing, until every
ghetto of social and economic depression dissolves and Negroes and whites
live side by side in decent, safe and sanitary housing.

"Let us march on segregated schools until every vestige of a segregated
and inferior education becomes a thing of the past and Negroes and whites
study side by side in the socially healing context of the classroom.

"Let us march on poverty, until no American parent has to skip a meal so
that their children may march on poverty, until no starved man walks the
streets of our cities and towns in search of jobs that do not exist.

"Let us march on ballot boxes, march on ballot boxes until race baiters
disappear from the political arena. Let us march on ballot boxes until
the Wallaces of our nation tremble away in silence.

"Let us march on ballot boxes, until we send to our city councils, state
legislatures, and the United States Congress men who will not fear to do
justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. Let us march on
ballot boxes until all over Alabama God's children will be able to walk
the earth in decency and honor.

"For all of us today the battle is in our hands. The road ahead is not
altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways to lead us easily
and inevitably to quick solutions. We must keep going."

Later that evening, a white woman from Detroit was shot and killed on the
highway between Montgomery and Selma as she was ferrying marchers back

President Johnson sent a new voting rights bill to Congress which gave
sweeping powers to the Attorney General's office allowing it to send
federal registrars into localities to register voters when local
officials were either unable or unwilling to do so. In the course of a
television appearance in which Johnson announced this legislation and in
which he expressed his own indignation at the events in Selma and
Montgomery, he acknowledged the impact of demonstrations in pushing both
the country and the Congress into taking positive action to remedy
injustices. He implied that, while he did not always approve of the
methods used, the demonstrators had done a positive service for justice
and for the country. He promised to see the fight through to the end, and
he said that it was the obligation of all good men to see that the battle
was fought in the courts and through the legislative process rather than
forcing it into the streets. He ended his speech by quoting the lead line
from the popular civil rights hymn, "We Shall Overcome."

By 1965, the Federal Government had enacted legislation guaranteeing
almost all the citizenship rights of America to Negroes and had also
provided mechanisms with which to enforce this legislation.
Nevertheless, the passage of a bill in Washington did not immediately
secure the same right in Selma, Montgomery, or in Philadelphia,
Mississippi. Each right, so it seemed, had to be fought for and won over
and over again in almost each locality. Although discrimination continued
and even seemed to intensify at times, it no longer carried with it the
force of law. The Civil Rights Movement had, no matter what its critics
said of it, accomplished one sweeping victory--the destruction of legal
segregation in the United States.


The Black Revolt

Civil Disorders

The smoldering tensions and frustrations which lay just below the surface
in the Afro-American community exploded into a racial holocaust on August
11, 1965, in Watts--a black ghetto just outside of Los Angeles. When the
smoke finally subsided several days later, more than thirty people were
dead, hundreds had been injured, and almost four thousand had been
arrested. Property damage ran into the millions.

The nation was shocked. The mass communications media tended to
exaggerate the amount of damage done and also conjured up visions, in the
mind of white America, of organized black gangs deliberately and
systematically attacking white people. Many felt that it had been the
worst racial outbreak in American history. In fact, it was not. The 1943
riot in Detroit and the 1919 riot in Chicago had both been more violent.
The 1917 race riots in East St. Louis, Illinois, had outdone the Watts
outburst in terms of the amount of personal injury. The violence in most
previous riots had been inflicted by whites against blacks, and perhaps
this was why white America did not remember them very clearly. The
violence in Watts, though not directed against white persons as many
believed, was still accomplished by blacks and aimed against white-owned
property. White Americans were confused because they felt they had given
"them" so much. Whites could not understand why blacks were not thankful
instead of being angry.

In spite of the rumors that the riot was the result of conspiratorial
planning, the activities of the rioters and of the law enforcement units
displayed a crazy, unreal quality as the riot unfolded. It began with a
rather routine arrest for drunken driving. Marquette Frye, a young black,
was stopped by a white motorcycle officer and asked to take a standard
sobriety test. In the course of arresting Frye, along with his brother
and mother who were both objecting to the police action, the officers
resorted to more force than many of the bystanders thought was necessary.
The spectators became transformed into a hostile mob. As the police cars
departed, youths began to pelt the vehicles with rocks and bottles. They
continued to harass other traffic passing through the area. For a time,
the police stayed outside the area, hoping that it would cool down. Then,
believing that it was time to restore order, a line of police charged
down the street clearing the mob. The police clubbed and beat anyone who
did not get out of the way.  The guilty usually ran the fastest, and the
innocent and the physically disabled received most of the punishment.
Instead of clearing the mob, the police charge only served to further
anger the bystanders.

The rage of the black ghetto had been accumulating against all the
symbols of oppression. The police, of course, were the most obvious and
visible manifestation of this power, and in a riot they were one of the
most convenient targets for the rioters. Newsmen and firemen also became
victims of rock and bottle throwing. White-owned stores throughout the
ghettoes formed another target for this anger. Before long, rioters were
breaking into stores and carrying off everything from beer to television
sets and clothing. Breaking and looting was shortly followed by burning.
The center of the action was soon nicknamed "Charcoal Alley."

After a couple of days when the riot continued to grow, Los Angeles
officials began to consider calling in the National Guard. Police Chief
Parker did not know that it was necessary for him to contact the
Governor's office and ask the Governor to call out the Guard.
Unfortunately, Governor Brown was in Greece. The Lieutenant Governor was
afraid to make such an important decision on his own initiative.
Finally, Los Angeles officials phoned Governor Brown in Athens, and he
gave his authority for calling out the Guard.

By the time the Guard arrived, all of Watts was covered with billowing
clouds of smoke. The looting and burning were no longer confined to
roving gangs of youths. Angry adults, who had previously only urged them
on, had become intoxicated by the mood of destruction. People of all
ages, many of whom had had no previous police record, began to join. The
pressure chamber had blown its valve and was now letting off steam. Watts
abandoned itself to an emotional orgy.

The National Guard had not been adequately trained to handle civil
disorders. It also came with a point of view which was unsuited to a
civilian outburst. They had been trained to work against an enemy, and
had a tendency to interpret every action in this way and to view all the
residents of Watts as enemies. When two drunks in a car refused to stop
at a Guard roadblock and ran into a line of soldiers, the Guard
interpreted it as a deliberate and malicious suicide attack. The Guard
was convinced that they were being personally threatened, and the
officers issued live ammunition to all the men.

By the end of the riot, the Guard had fired thousands of rounds of
ammunition. The press portrayed Watts as an armed camp with scores of
black snipers systematically trying to pick off the police and the Guard.
In retrospect, both the police and the Guard came to believe that most of
the snipers had really been the police and the Guardsmen unknowingly
shooting at each other. When all of the evidence was examined in the calm
light of day, very little of it pointed to the existence of snipers.
Gradually, the Guard gained confidence in itself and in the situation.
The more that it acted in calm and deliberation, the more quickly peace
was restored to the area. Finally, eleven days after the Frye arrest the
last members of the Guard withdrew, and the next day the police returned
to normal duty.

In the light of the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, whites were
bewildered by the anger which exploded from the black ghetto.  They
thought of their concessions to blacks as gifts from a generous heart.
Blacks, to the contrary, viewed these concessions as the tardy surrender
of rights which should have been theirs all along. Moreover, the effects
of the civil rights victories had been largely limited to the Deep South
and almost entirely to changes in legal status. The day-to-day realities
of education, housing, employment, and social degradation had hardly been
touched. Finally, life in an urban ghetto, though lacking the humiliation
of legal segregation, had brought another harsh reality into
Afro-American life. Survival for the individual as well as for the family
came under fresh stress in urban slum situations. This had also been true
for immigrant groups from Europe. Urban slum conditions created
tremendous economic, social, and psychological strains. Ghetto life added
a new dimension of social disorganization to an already oppressed
community. The anonymity of life in large urban centers tended to remove
many of the social constraints to individual behavior. Crime and
delinquency increased.  Actually, America had been deluded by the Civil
Rights Movement into thinking that genuine changes were taking place for
most Afro-Americans. Watts became a living proclamation that this was not

Early in 1967, violence began to reverberate throughout the ghettoes all
across the nation. The earliest disturbances occurred at three Southern
universities. Then, violence exploded in Tampa, Florida, in June. The
following day, June 12, Cincinnati, Ohio, experienced a racial outburst.
On June 17, violence began in Atlanta, Georgia.

The worst riots of that long hot summer occurred in Newark, New Jersey,
and in Detroit, Michigan, during the month of July. Racial hostilities in
Newark had been boiling for several months. In spite of the black
majority in Newark, a predominantly white political machine still ran
City Hall. Blacks were only given token recognition. The event which
actually triggered the riot was, again, a relatively meaningless arrest.
Bystanders assumed, probably mistakenly, that the black taxi driver who
was being arrested, was also being beaten by the arresting officer. Bit
by bit, again in a crazy pattern, the fires of frustration flared
throughout the city. At almost the same time, ghetto violence began to
rock several other northern New Jersey communities: Elizabeth, Englewood,
Plainfield, and New Brunswick.

Looting and burning began to occur in Newark on a wide-scale basis.
Before long, the Guard was called in, and the shooting increased. The
chief of staff of the New Jersey National Guard testified that there had
been too much shooting at the snipers. His opinion was that the Guard
considered the situation as a military action. Newark's director of
police offered the opinion that the Guard may have been shooting at the
police with the police shooting back at the Guard. "I really don't
believe," he said, "there was as much sniping as we thought."

By the time the shooting had ended, twenty-three people had been killed.
Of these, one was a white detective, one was a white fireman, and
twenty-one were Negroes. Of the twenty-one Negroes killed, six were
women, two were children, and one was an elderly man seventy-three years
old. The Kerner Report also stated, as did the New Jersey report on the
riot, that there had been considerable evidence that the police and the
Guard had been deliberately shooting into stores containing "soul
brother" signs. Instead of merely quelling a riot or attacking rioters,
some of them were apparently exploiting the situation to vent their own
racial hatreds.

The violence in Detroit exploded on July 22. Again, it unfolded in an
irrational, nightmarish fashion. The police had been making some rather
routine raids on five illegal after-hours drinking spots. At the last
target, they were overwhelmed to find eighty-two "in-mates." They needed
over an hour in which to arrest and remove all of them.  This created
considerable local disturbance and attracted an ever-growing crowd of

In Detroit, the black community had been upset for some time by what it
believed had been a selective enforcement of certain laws aimed at them.
Apparently, many of the observers believed that these raids were intended
to harass the black community. Small-scale looting and violence began.
After sputtering and flaring for a few hours, the riot began to grow and
spread rapidly. By that night, the National Guard was activated.

By Monday morning, the Mayor and the Governor had asked for federal help.
The Governor had the impression that, in order to secure it, he would
have to declare a state of insurrection. He was further led to believe
that such an action would mean that insurance companies would not pay for
any damage. For this reason, he refused to act. All day, burning and
looting continued and grew. Shooting became increasingly widespread, and
the number of deaths began to soar rapidly. Finally, before midnight on
Monday, President Johnson sent in federal troops on his own initiative.

When the federal troops arrived, they found the city full of fear. The
Army believed that its first task was one of maintaining its own order
and discipline. Second, it strove to establish a rapport between the
troops and the citizens as a basis on which to build an atmosphere of
calm, trust, and order. The soldiers provided coffee and sandwiches to
the beleaguered residents, and an atmosphere of trust gradually developed.

It became clear that the mutual fear between the police and the citizens
had only intensified the catastrophe. Lessons which had been learned two
years earlier in Watts by the police and the Guard had not been applied
in Detroit. Law enforcement officials again overreacted and used
high-powered military weapons in a crowded civilian situation.  This
overreaction presented as much danger to innocent, law-abiding citizens
as did the violence of the rioters. There had also been a tendency to
treat the residents, en masse, as enemies and thereby to weld them into a
hostile community. The federal troops demonstrated that a calm,
deliberate, and open display of force was much more effective in
restoring order than shooting at any frightening or suspicious target.

By the time order was restored to Detroit, forty-three people had been
killed. Thirty-three were black, and ten were white. One Guardsman and
one fireman were among the casualties. Some of the other white victims
had been killed while they were engaged in looting. Damages were
originally estimated at five hundred million dollars, but later estimates
reduced the damage drastically.

Again, as in Newark, there was evidence of police brutality during the
riot. The police were charged with brutality and murder in an incident
which occurred at the Algiers Motel. After hearing that there had been a
sniper in the building, the police riddled it with bullets. Then, they
entered and searched it. In the course of questioning its inhabitants,
three youths were shot and killed.

In turn, the police and the Guard accused the rioters of widespread
sniping. Twenty-seven rioters were charged with sniping, but twenty-two
of these charges were dropped at the preliminary hearings for lack of
evidence. Later, one pleaded guilty to possessing an unregistered gun,
and he received a suspended sentence.

President Johnson appointed a commission, headed by Governor Otto Kerner
of Illinois to investigate the causes of the riots. In particular, he
wished to ascertain whether any subversive or conspiratorial elements
were involved. Although many did not like the report, particularly
because of the blame it laid on the white community, it clearly proved
that there had been no subversive or conspiratorial elements in these
riots. The report warned that America was splitting into two nations: one
black and one white. It believed that racism and hatred were growing
deeper and that communication between the two communities was breaking
down. The Commission made several recommendations for change in
government, business, and society at large. These changes, however, would
be very expensive.  Government at all levels largely ignored the report.
Liberals applauded it.  Blacks felt that it was merely another report;
they wanted action.  Conservatives claimed that it was a prejudiced and
unfair study.

In April of 1968, another rash of riots swept through the Afro-American
community. This time there was a clear and obvious cause. Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., who was visiting Memphis in support of a garbage
workers' strike, was leaning over his motel's second-floor balcony
railing talking to a colleague below when suddenly he was struck by a
sniper's bullet and killed. Shock and outrage swept across the nation.
Many Afro-Americans felt that they had been robbed of a friend as well as
of their only hope for a better future.

Robert Kennedy took to the campaign trail for the 1968 Presidential
election in order to bring justice to the poor, both black and white, and
in order to reunite America behind a new sense of purpose and idealism.
In June, after a rally in Los Angeles, he too was shot and killed. The
nation was filled with horror and disbelief. Robert Kennedy had gained
the trust of Afro-Americans more than almost any other white man of his
generation. Violence seemed to reign supreme, and idealists, both black
and white, were paralyzed by a feeling of futility.

Black Power

Even before the assassination of Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights
Movement was disintegrating. Many believed that it was being killed by
the riots. In fact, the Civil Rights Movement had already come under
sharp attack both from within and from without. The urban riots of the
sixties, instead of being the cause of its demise, were symptoms of the
disease in the urban, Afro-American communities--a disease for which the
Civil Rights Movement had not been able to effect a cure. In retrospect,
it appears that there had always been voices from within the
Afro-American community which had maintained that the Civil Rights
Movement was not the panacea that many believed it to be. To the
contrary, militant blacks maintained that the Civil Rights Movement
itself was one of the primary causes of the urban riots. Stokeley
Carmichael pointed out:

"Each time the people ... saw Martin Luther King get slapped, they became
angry; when they saw four little black girls bombed to death, they were
angrier; and when nothing happened, they were steaming. We had nothing to
offer that they could see, except to go out and be beaten again. We
helped to build their frustration."

As early as 1957, Robert F. Williams, then the N.A.A.C.P. leader in
Monroe, North Carolina, concluded that nonviolence could not be looked
upon as a cure-all for all the problems of the Afro-American community.
In his opinion the right for an Afro-American to sit in the front of the
bus in Montgomery was not so spectacular a victory:

"The Montgomery bus boycott was a victory--but it was limited. It did not
raise the Negro standard of living; it did not mean better education for
Negro children, it did not mean economic advances."

Williams compared the Montgomery boycott to an incident in Monroe:

"It's just like our own experience in Monroe when we integrated the
library. I just called the chairman of the board in my county. I told him
that I represented the NAACP, that we wanted to integrate the library,
and that our own library had burned down. And he said, 'Well, I don't see
any reason why you can't use the same library that our people use. It
won't make any difference. And after all, I don't read anyway.'"

Williams claimed that a racist social system existed because the violence
at the heart of that system went unchallenged. Violence was an integral
part of the racial system, and it had not been introduced into the system
by Afro-Americans.

"It is precisely this unchallenged violence that allows a racist social
system to perpetuate itself. When people say that they are opposed to
Negroes 'resorting to violence' what they really mean is that they are
opposed to Negroes defending themselves and challenging the exclusive
monopoly of violence practiced by white racists. We have shown in Monroe
that with violence working both ways constituted law will be more
inclined to keep the peace."

Williams urged Monroe Negroes to carry guns and other weapons and to
defend themselves when attacked. He defended his position by invoking the
teachings of Henry Thoreau who had also been used as an authority by the
pacifists. Although Thoreau usually supported pacifism, according to
Williams, Thoreau also believed that there were occasions which justified
violence. Thoreau, who had defended John Brown's attack on Harpers Ferry,
had made the statement that guns, for once, had been used for a righteous
cause and were being held in righteous hands. In integrating his theory
in regard to self-defense with the teachings of Thoreau, Williams was
obviously attacking the philosophy of nonviolent resistance taught by
Martin Luther King who also drew on Thoreau.

Even during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, in the background
there was a constant, irritating opposition. While the movement grew, the
Black Muslims also grew. Not only did they challenge the tactics of
nonviolent resistance, they disagreed totally with its goals. While
Elijah Muhammed constantly opposed aggression, he did preach the need for
self-defense. To him it was not necessary for a man to turn the other
cheek when he was hit. He also ridiculed the Civil Rights goal of
integration. Instead of losing themselves in white America, Muslims
believed in finding their own identity and in maintaining a separate
society. They claimed that blacks should not be ashamed of either their
color or their heritage. They taught that the black man had had a history
of which to be proud. The sense of self-acceptance and pride which they
taught came as good news to ghetto residents who realized that they could
never be assimilated into white, middle-class America.

With the conversion of Malcolm Little, better known as Malcolm X, the
Muslims gained a dynamic speaker who did much to popularize and spread
their teaching. Although the peculiar doctrines and puritanical practices
of the Muslims prevented many from joining the movement, the number of
its sympathizers grew rapidly. Malcolm X was able to appeal to ghetto
residents in a way that Martin Luther King could not.

King, obviously, had had all the advantages of a middle-class home.
Malcolm, however, had started at the bottom, and ghetto residents could
readily identify with him. King had gone to college and had even earned a
doctorate. Malcolm gained his reputation "hustling" on the streets of
Boston and New York and also from teaching himself while serving a
sentence in prison.

In 1964 Malcolm X was forced to break with Elijah Muhammed.  Apparently,
Elijah Muhammed had become threatened by Malcolm's charismatic appeal,
and he feared he might lose his leadership in the movement. After a
pilgrimage to Mecca as well as visits to several newly independent
African nations, Malcolm returned to America ready to start a movement of
his own. Although he believed more strongly than ever in Islam, he came
to feel that several of the teachings of the Black Muslims were
erroneous. One reason was that in Mecca he had worshipped with people
from all races. As a result, he no longer felt that the white man, per
se, was the "devil":

"In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people.
I never will be guilty of that again--as I know now that some white
people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly
toward a black man. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment
of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments
against blacks."

Malcolm intended to continue teaching Islam in America, and he insisted
that a religious faith was a help to any political movement.
Nevertheless, he also intended to form a secular organization which could
appeal to a wide variety of persons, and form the center of a new black
militancy. Before any of these activities could get under way he was
killed. Malcolm X was gunned down by four blacks, probably associated
with the Black Muslims, while addressing a meeting in New York City early
in 1965.

To Malcolm X the Civil Rights Movement was in need of a new
interpretation. The degree of segregation existing in schools and in the
rest of society, he contended, had actually increased in the decade since
the Supreme Court decision in 1954. It seemed to him to be particularly
true in the case of the de facto segregation practiced in the North. The
spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, he pointed out, had been one of
asking and pleading for rights which should have belonged to
Afro-Americans by birth:

"I said that the American black man needed to recognize that he had a
strong, airtight case to take the United States before the United Nations
on a formal accusation of 'denial of human rights'--and that if Angola
and South Africa were precedent cases, then there would be no easy way
that the U.S. could escape being censured, right on its own home ground."

Malcolm was also critical of the Civil Rights Movement, contending that
its interracial makeup and its emphasis on integration undercut the real
goals of the black masses. "Not long ago," he said, "the black man in
America was fed a dose of another form of the weakening, lulling and
deluding effects of so-called 'integration.' It was that 'Farce on
Washington,' I call it."  Malcolm held that the famous March on
Washington in 1963 had begun as a very angry, grass-roots movement among
poor black people. He said that whites took it over and turned a genuine
protest into a sentimental, interracial picnic.

Finally, Malcolm made it clear that he, too, was willing to resort to
violence although he did not favor initiating it. He held that, when the
rights of blacks were violated, they should be willing to die in the
struggle to secure them:

"If white America doesn't think the Afro-American, especially the
upcoming generation, is capable of adopting the guerrilla tactics now
being used by oppressed people elsewhere on this earth, she is making a
drastic mistake. She is underestimating the force that can do her the
most harm.

"A real honest effort to remove the just grievances of the 22 million
Afro-Americans must be made immediately or in a short time it will be too

The slogan "Black Power" exploded from a public address system in
Greenwood, Mississippi, in the summer of 1966, and as it reverberated
across America Stokeley Carmichael's motto spontaneously took on the
dimensions of a movement. James Meredith, who had become famous for
initiating federally backed integration of the University of Mississippi,
was making a one-man freedom march across the South. He sought to
demonstrate that blacks could walk through the South without fear. When
he was shot, civil rights leaders from across the land felt compelled to
continue his demonstration.

Martin Luther King representing S.C.L.C., Floyd McKissick from C.O.R.E.,
Stokeley Carmichael of S.N.C.C. and several others discussed the meaning
and direction of the movement as they marched along the road by day and
as they sat together in motels at night. Their discussion became a heated
debate about both the tactics and the goals of their struggle. McKissick
and Carmichael questioned the worth of nonviolence as a tactic and the
value of integration as a goal. When the marchers reached Greenwood,
Mississippi, a S.N.C.C. stronghold, Carmichael seized the microphone, and
instead of using the traditional civil rights slogan of "Freedom Now" he
began chanting "Black Power!"

Many whites assumed that the phrase meant black violence, and they
assumed further that black violence meant black aggression. They conjured
up pictures of bloody retaliation. Others saw it as a rejection of white
allies, and they insisted that the freedom struggle could not be won
without white help. To Carmichael, the Civil Rights Movement as it
existed was "pleading and begging." It also had been wrong, he said, in
assuming it was possible to build a working coalition between a group
which was strong and economically secure--middle-class white
liberals--and one which was insecure--poor blacks. In his opinion, "there
is in fact no group at present with whom to form a coalition in which
blacks will not be absorbed and betrayed." Two such differing groups had
different sets of self-interest in spite of their similar sentiments.
Carmichael contended that a genuine coalition had to be built between
groups with similar self interests.  Further, he argued that each group
must have its own independent base of power from which to negotiate the
terms of a working alliance. Black power, he said, was an attempt to
build the strength on which future coalitions could be established.

Carmichael also attacked the concept of integration. If blacks wanted
good housing or good education, integration meant leaving a black
neighborhood and finding these things in white institutions. "This
reinforces, among both black and white," he argued, "the idea that
'white' is automatically better and 'black' is by definition inferior.
This is why integration is a subterfuge for the maintenance or white
supremacy."  If blacks could gain control of their own neighborhoods,
each community, black and white, could define its own goals and be
responsible for achieving its own standards. When both societies had
built the kind of communities they wanted, meaningful integration between
equal, though different, communities could occur, Carmichael contended.
Integration, instead of being a one-way street, would be reciprocal.

Carmichael believed the existing political structure must be changed in
order to overcome racism:

"'Political modernization' includes many things, but we mean by it three
major concepts: (1) questioning old values and institutions of the
society; (2) searching for new and different forms of political structure
to solve political and economic problems; and (3) broadening the base of
political participation to include more people in the decision-making

Black power meant two things: the end of shame and humiliation, and black
community control. Blacks should be proud of being black, and they should
be proud of their African past. Instead of using skin lighteners and hair
straighteners, black power advocates began adopting a style of dress with
an African flavor. To Carmichael there was still one other aspect to the
black power philosophy. It should accentuate human values and human
dignity. The prevailing system, besides being racist, put a primary
emphasis on property rather than on humanity.  Carmichael wanted the
black-controlled community to act for the benefit of all blacks and not
merely for the advantage of a handful of exploiting black capitalists.

What he advocated was the development of black cooperatives, not the
building of black capitalism. He referred to this new political system as
"political modernization." Its key was community, cooperative control of
all the important things in people's lives. In addition to building a
more participatory kind of democratic government, and developing
cooperative enterprises, it meant that people renting houses or
apartments must have rights and protection. He encouraged consumers and
apartment dwellers to develop organizations which could fight for their
special interests. He also wanted the community to gain local control of
its police force.

The black power ideology spread across the nation rapidly, providing the
movement with fresh impetus and a philosophical framework. Many had lost
faith in the effectiveness of marches, demonstrations, appeals to white
consciences and other direct action techniques. Black Americans were also
growing weary and frustrated over the amount of violence which was being
heaped upon nonviolent resisters. In Bogalusa, Louisiana, blacks were
intimidated daily by the local Ku Klux Klan. Law enforcement officials
never provided help either in terms of protection or in prosecuting
wrongdoers. In fact, the law enforcement officials themselves were
increasingly suspected of belonging to the Klan.  Bogalusa blacks came to
feel that arming themselves for self-defense was their only solution. In
1966 a number of them armed themselves, and founded the Deacons for
Defense and Justice. Also in 1966, young blacks in Oakland, California,
became extremely angry at what they believed to be police harassment.
This resulted in their forming the Black Panther Party.

Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, both of whom had been raised under ghetto
conditions, felt that there was a need for an organization which could
communicate with poor blacks instead of merely appealing to the black
bourgeoisie. The symbol of the black panther had been used by an
independent, black political party which S.N.C.C. had helped to found in
Lowndes County, Alabama.

The black panther had special appeal as a symbol because, though it
rarely or never attacked another animal, it would defend itself
ferociously whenever it was challenged. In Oakland, the Black Panthers
began by keeping the police under surveillance as a means of limiting
their alleged brutality. Panther members carried registered guns and
displayed them openly as the law permitted. Whenever the police stopped
to question someone, the following Panther car also stopped.  Then, the
Panthers would stand nearby displaying their weapons, and someone who had
some legal training, would inform the individual being questioned by the
police what his legal rights were. The police were extremely angry at
this harassment and looked for ways to retaliate.  The best-known Panther
recruit was Eldridge Cleaver who, like Malcolm X, had educated himself
while in prison. Cleaver wrote several articles for Ramparts magazine,
and became well known for his book Soul on Ice.  His vivid writing helped
the Panthers in spreading their ideas widely.  Gradually, chapters of the
Black Panther party were established in ghettoes all across America.

Besides demanding legal rights for blacks, the Black Panthers developed a
ten-point program demanding decent jobs and decent housing. Also, arguing
that most black prisoners had been convicted in courts by people
conspicuous for their racial prejudice, they advocated that all black
inmates of American jails should immediately be released and granted
amnesty. Because blacks were not properly represented in the country and
were not treated fairly as citizens, the Panthers contended that they
should be exempted from all military service. Blacks fighting in the
Vietnam war, they pointed out, were represented in numbers above their
national proportion and were being used to fight a racist war against
colored people in Asia. Carmichael had previously made this same point
and had popularized the motto, "Hell No! We Won't Go!"

Although the Black Panthers believed in black power, they were willing to
cooperate with some extremist whites, and they wanted the entire
political system restructured to remove power from the rich and put it in
the hands of the masses of citizens. They expressed this teaching with
the slogans, "All power to the people" and "Black power to the black
people." Eldridge Cleaver had also concluded that some young whites could
be trusted to support the black cause. He had been impressed with the
commitment of some of the white college students, especially those
connected with Students for a Democratic Society. He recognized that
there were some modern John Browns who could be depended on to help the
cause. In the 1968 election, the Panthers joined with militant white
groups which were seeking both racial justice and an end to the war in
Vietnam and formed the Peace and Freedom Party. Although he was not old
enough to meet the constitutional requirements, Eldridge Cleaver was
nominated as the party's presidential candidate. In spite of the fact
that the Peace and Freedom Party received only a handful of votes, it was
a means of communicating its message to the American people.

In spite of President Nixon's appeal to the American people to "lower
their voices" of protest so that they might better be heard, many
believed that he only wanted quiet in order not to be disturbed. With
Nixon's election, black and white radicals felt that the white and
conservative backlash had taken over the "Establishment" and that
official repression was bound to follow. Vice President Agnew's
anti-liberal attacks were taken by many as an expression of Nixon's
feelings which he preferred not to express himself.

The Black Panthers and the police became involved in a number of
confrontations or "shoot-outs" which the former believed to be the result
of a nationally organized, official repression. The police, at the same
time, accused the Panthers of deliberately trying to kill "pigs," the
Panthers' name for the police, and the Panthers accused the police of
deliberately creating situations which would allow them to kill the
Panther leadership. Before long, most of the Panther leaders were either
under arrest, had been killed, or had fled into exile to avoid being

As civil disorders diminished in the ghettoes, college campuses were
increasingly rocked by student riots. In part, it was because students
asked for changes in the university structure. Black students demanded
that courses in black studies be initiated and that colleges aggressively
recruit new black students even if their grades were below admission
standards. Some urban schools, like Columbia University, were accused by
black and white students of diminishing the housing of ghetto residents
to make the university's expansion possible. Other campus riots were
aimed against the war in Vietnam. In May of 1970, when President Nixon
sent American troops into Cambodia supposedly in the process of
de-escalating the war in Vietnam, protests spread all across the country,
and several campuses exploded with riots.

At Kent State University in Ohio, the National Guard shot and killed four
white student protesters. At Jackson State in Mississippi, the police
killed two black students. Campus riots escalated, and dozens of colleges
and universities were compelled to close their doors for the remainder of
the academic year. While some Americans felt that these killings were a
result of government repression of the freedom of speech, others believed
that more action of this kind was necessary to curb what they viewed as
extremist protest. Blacks again noticed that it had been the death of
four white students which brought forth the widespread indignation. They
believed that killings of blacks by police and Guardsmen were usually
taken for granted or ignored. Even liberals, they believed, were only
really stirred by repressive measures aimed against whites.

When the Nixon Administration still refused to change its policies in
response to these violent confrontations, radicals turned increasingly to
the use of terrorist violence. Bombings had been on the increase for a
couple of years, and during the summer of 1970, they became even more
frequent. But the walls of the Establishment still did not come tumbling
down. Members of the Panthers, S.N.C.C., and the Weathermen--the
left-wing of the Students for a Democratic Society--were generally
thought to be responsible for much of this terrorism. Instead of rallying
fresh supporters to the cause of the radical left, their terrorism only
served to alienate other moderates and radicals. Although the violence of
this left fringe increased, their numbers appeared to decrease, and
because of this the terrorist fringe began to reevaluate its tactics and
the whole situation.

In February of 1971, when the Army of South Vietnam crossed into Laos
with heavy American air support, campuses across the country remained
quiet. At the same time, when Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers was
brought to trial for allegedly participating in the murder of an
ex-Panther, only a handful of spectators attended the opening of his
trial. A year before when another Panther had gone on trial for his
alleged involvement in the same crime, New Haven, Connecticut,
experienced a series of demonstrations which culminated in a mass protest
meeting of some fifteen thousand people.

By early 1971, terrorism, violent confrontation, and peaceful protests
had withered considerably. Pessimism, cynicism, and despair were
widespread, and many advocates of change had become paralyzed by
futility, but neither black nor white protesters had surrendered to the
status quo. Both groups were rethinking their attitudes. Instead of using
massive campaigns with mass media coverage, the Movement had switched its
emphasis to the routine, day-by-day organization of support. In 1966 the
Black Power Movement had contained more rhetoric than power. In 1971 it
was still alive, but blacks were working in practical ways, limiting
themselves to workable objectives. The Afro-American community was
quietly building community organizations to create the economic and
political foundations necessary for the future.  Mass protests and
radical slogans, even when they received worldwide attention, had not had
enough muscle to change power relationships.  Afro-Americans, then,
turned to the more grueling and inglorious job of trying to put their
theories into practice.


What insights can the study of history bring to the understanding and
solution of the American racial situation? How can the knowledge of
yesterday's events help us to face tomorrow's decisions? The fact is,
whether we know it or not, that the past is always with us and clings
tightly to us like a cloak. We have the choice of either recognizing it
and dealing constructively with it or of ignoring it and remaining in
bondage to it.

The heritage of the American slave system is still part of our lives.
Racial attitudes of white superiority and black inferiority became an
integral part of the American cultural climate, and it is still part of
the air we all breathe. All Americans, black and white, inhale and
assimilate more racism than we care to admit. Denying that we are still
infected by prejudice, however, does not help us to deal creatively with
it. The drive to create a black identity which can be worn with pride and
the emergence of independent African nations already have made a
significant impact in altering American racial stereotypes.

History is one of the disciplines concerned with understanding how social
processes operate. On this point, the study of Afro-American history
raises a particular question about the means of social change.  There
have been those who sought to achieve it through appeals to conscience
and idealism, others have turned to the use of physical force, and there
have also been those who worked for it through mobilizing economic and
political power.

The black experience in the United States leaves one either disillusioned
or cynical concerning the value of conscience and idealism in erasing
American racism. These factors, however, have not been totally
irrelevant. The American democratic creed has prevented the nation from
building a permanent legal caste system based on color.  As a legal
structure, Jim Crow lasted less than a century and was limited to the
Deep South. Idealism has made it impossible for America to rest
comfortably while pursuing its racist policies.

Violence is a tempting technique for the frustrated and angry. In fact,
it often has accompanied rapid social change, but it is usually a
by-product of shifting power relationships in society rather than the
cause of change itself. Trusting in violence is a form of revolutionary
romanticism, a seductive shortcut to other more basic kinds of social
power. The history of the Black Panthers would seem to be an example of
this point. Their appeal to violence attracted angry youths who were
eager for quick results. Although the party gained a lot of publicity,
and, in some quarters, received a lot of applause, its desire for rapid
success kept it from building a solid, mass base.  Apparently its leaders
believed that violence made this kind of mobilization unnecessary. Its
publicity and quick successes were superficial and failed to achieve
basic social transformation. On Wednesday, May 19, 1971, Huey Newton, the
Black Panther Minister of Defense, declared that the Panthers had been
wrong in confronting the police: "All we got was a war and a lot of
bloodshed." He said that they had been mistaken in disregarding the
church and in thinking that they could change things without the people's
changing them:

"We'll be criticized by the revolutionary cultists for trying to effect
change by stages, but to do all we want to do, we just have to go through
all the stages of development. We cannot jump from A to Z as some

Throughout history almost all social transformations have been the result
of shifts in basic power relationships. The attempt to build political
and economic power on a nationwide basis within the black community is a
relatively new phenomenon. Reconstruction had attempted to do it earlier,
but it was destroyed before it could be tested.  Almost all other black
economic and political involvement has been dependent on sizable white
support. This was true both of the policies of Booker T. Washington and
of the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, this meant a reliance on white
power and on white conscience. The new spirit of black pride and
self-reliance along with the new voting rights has already created
pockets of black political strength in many Northern cities and in parts
of the rural South. It is also being reflected in the Congress with the
election of more blacks and with their creation of the Black Caucus,
presently consisting of thirteen black congressmen. After submitting a
list of their demands to President Nixon, their spokesman, Representative
William Clay, D-Mo., said:

"We are going to set the tone for the black liberation struggle in this
country.... Black people in this country have no permanent friends, no
permanent enemies, only permanent interests.... I think we've reached the
point in black America where we've completely given up on the mass
demonstrations, sit-ins and boycotts. We've come to the basic conclusion
that America has no conscience. Anybody who still appeals to what they
think is a conscience is either stupid or frustrated. The only possible
avenue for the achievement of equal rights for all in this country is
through the exertion of political power. We have actual power, and even
greater potential power, more than we've ever had in history."

As Representative Clay maintains, striving for racial change through an
appeal to conscience has been found woefully inadequate. The resort to
physical force has not been followed very often and, when it has, it has
been used sporadically. To succeed, it obviously requires its own kind of
mass power base to bring about lasting results. The creation of genuine
black political power which was preached in 1966 is only being achieved
now. It has already gained significant local results. In the Black
Caucus, it promises broader national influence.  Trusting to white
consciences has been proven naive. Looking to terrorism for quick results
has only led to publicity and bloodshed.  Building genuine political
power, however, is producing results now and promises to create more
social transformation in the immediate future.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Black Experience in America" ***

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