The Immigrant Heritage of America

By Norman Coombs

Publisher: Twayne, (c 1972)


Introduction (ommitted 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 (ommitted from electronic version)
Bibliography (ommitted from electronic version)
Index (ommitted 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 inAmerica 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

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

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 encouragement.

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 Bush-
men 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

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 millon 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

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

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

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
thedrying 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

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 MansaKankan 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

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 Africa.

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 manpower.

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

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 person.

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 again.

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

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 hate.

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 protected.

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 cooperation.

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 committed 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. 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

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 behavior

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 system.

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

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 personality.

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

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

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

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

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

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 executed.

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 Liberia.

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 views.

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

"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

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

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
committees 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 claimeed 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

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

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 it.

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

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

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

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

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

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 committee 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

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 Governor.

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
committed 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"

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

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 state.

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

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

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 time.

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
Committee 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 City.

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 AngloSaxon 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

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

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 Africa.

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

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 behavior.

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 Committee held hearings on the
Klan. However, the committee 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

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

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

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 committee. 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 committee, 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 succeed."

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 cause.

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 said:

"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

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
committee 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 morality.

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 life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 commmon-
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 highier 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

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 in1892, 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 committee 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 committee 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 stil 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

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 particularlyin Harlem.

Locke pointed out the significance of the great northward
migration when he said that the Negro "in the very process of
beingtransplanted," 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 firsttime 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
oppresseve 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 "nigger."

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

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 city."

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, wbo 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 Renaissance.

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 bundred 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. Tbe 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 creations.

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 cotinue 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 culture.

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 NegroRenaissance 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

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 creativitiy 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
vituoso, and his playing sent an electric shock through the jazz

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 well:

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 wrote:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath-
America will bel
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 Genesis:

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 Siill. 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 accepted.

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

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

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

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 pinch.

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 Committee. One of its founders and organizers
was the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell,Jr., and the Committee received
considerable support from his church, the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

It was Powell's claim that the Committee 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 Committee
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 Committee also boycotted the bus company until it began
employing Negroes as drivers as well as on other levels of the
company's staff.

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

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 exploited.

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

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 complied.

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 segregated.

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

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

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

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 any-
thing, 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 conflict.

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

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 committee 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 committee 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
committee 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 committee 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 committees
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

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

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

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" position.

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 own.

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 committed 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
Committee. 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

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

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 demonstraters 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

"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

"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

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 home.

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

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 onlookers.

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

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

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

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

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

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 late."

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

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 process."

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 arrested.

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

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 thought."

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.,

"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



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