| Chap. 1 | Chap.
2 | Chap. 3 | Chap.
4 | Chap. 5 | Chap.
6 | Chap. 7 | Chap.
The World War II years and the following
decade provided the first significant employment advances and
civil rights victories since the Reconstruction period. Consequently,
the massive edifice of segregation and racial discrimination was
beginning to show major fissures.
The first fissure occurred in 1941 when civil rights and labor
leader A. Philip Randolph pressured the Franklin Roose¬velt
Administration to issue Executive Order 8802 which outlawed racial
discrimination by private firms receiving defense contracts. His
argument is advanced in the vignette A. Philp Randolph Calls for
A March On Washington, 1941. The second vignette is a cartoon
by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) titled The Old Run Around
which satirizes job discrimination by the defense industries.
Executive Order 8802 is the next vignette. The vignette Dr. Charles
Drew and "Segregated Blood" profiles the physician who
developed blood plasma and thus saved thousands of lives in World
War II while Can Negro Really Fly Airplanes profiles an episode
where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is flown by a black pilot to
challenge another prevailing stereotype. The thousands of African
American women who moved to the West Coast during World War II
are profiled in Black Women Migrate to the East Bay and Lyn Childs
Confronts a Racist Act while Walter White on the Detroit Race
Riot of 1943 examines the tensions prompted by the migration of
black women and men to the nation’s leading war production
center. The Liberation of the Death Camps is a poignant reminder
of black soldier’s participation in World War II.
Anticipation of change in the post war period,
including the linking of black domestic struggles with anti-colonial
campaigns in Asia, Africa and Latin America began even while
the fighting still raged in Europe and the Pacific are reflected
in African America and International Affairs: A Rising Wind.
Ebony, Vol. 1, No. 1, looks at the establishment of what would
become the nation’s most popular African American periodical.
A Conservative’s Outlook, 1946 is a critique of the strategies
of the leading civil rights organizations of the time while
Civil Rights & Organized Labor in the South: Moranda Smith
Speaks attempts to link civil rights and union organizing. “Live
Anywhere!” High Court Rules and President Truman and Civil
Rights show the growing role of the federal government in undermining
racial discrimination while Army Integration in the Korean War
illustrates the effect of its actions. In Agricultural Mechanization
and Black Labor we see the primary motivation for the continuing
migration of African Americans from the rural South to the cities
of the North and West. The international influence of political
activist Paul Robeson is displayed in Paul Robeson Sings on
The tables, Black Student Enrollment in Colleges, 1941-1942
and Black Faculty in White Institutions, 1947 palpably illustrate
the small number of African Americans who had access to higher
education during this period. The final vignette Sports and
Race: The Jackie Robinson Saga describes the end of segregated
A PHILIP RANDLOPH CALLS FOR A MARCH ON WASHINGTON
In an article published in the Black Worker
in May 1941, civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph calls on
African Americans to march to the U.S. capital to demonstrate
for the end of employment discrimination in defense employment.
Part of that call is reprinted below.
We call upon you to fight for jobs in National
Defense. We call upon you to struggle for the integration of
Negroes in the armed forces, such as the Air Corps, Navy, Army,
and Marine Corps of the Nation. We call upon you to demonstrate
for the abolition of Jim Crowism in all Government departments
and defense employment. This is an hour of crisis. It is a crisis
of democracy. It is a crisis of minority groups. It is a crisis
of Negro Americans. What is this crisis?
To American Negroes, it is the denial of
jobs in Government defense projects. It is racial discrimination
in Government departments. It is widespread Jim Crowism in the
armed forces of the Nation. While billions of the taxpayers'
money are being spent for war weapons, Negro workers are finally
being turned away from the gates of factories, mines and mills--being
flatly told, "NOTHING DOING." Some employers refuse
to give Negroes jobs when they are without "union cards,"
and some unions refuse to Negro workers union cards when they
are "without jobs…"
With faith and confidence of the Negro people
in their own power for self-liberation, Negroes can break down
the barriers of discrimination against employment in National
Defense. Negroes can kill the deadly serpent of race hatred
in the Army, Navy, Air and Marine Corps, and smash through and
blast the Government, business and labor union red tape to win
the right to equal opportunity in vocational training and re
training in defense employment.
Most important and vital of all, Negroes,
by the mobilization and coordination of their mass power, can
cause PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT TO ISSUE AN EXECUTIVE ORDER ABOLISHING
DISCRIMINATIONS IN ALL GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS, ARMY, NAVY, AIR
CORPS AND NATIONAL DEFENSE JOBS.
Of course. the task is not easy. In very
truth, it is big, tremendous and difficult. It will cost money.
It will require sacrifice. It will tax the Negroes' courage,
determination and will to struggle. But we can, must and will
The Negroes' stake in national defense is big. It consists of
jobs, thousands of jobs. It may represent millions, yes, hundreds
of millions of dollars in wages. It consists of new industrial
opportunities and hope. This is worth fighting for. But to win
our stakes, it will require an "all out," bold and
total effort and demonstration of colossal proportions. Negroes
can build a mammoth machine of mass action with a terrific and
tremendous driving and striking power that can shatter and crush
the evil fortress of race prejudice and hate, if they will only
resolve to do so and never stop, until victory comes…
In this period of power politics, nothing
counts but pressure, more pressure, and still more pressure,
through the tactic and strategy of broad, organized, aggressive
mass action behind the vital and important issues of the Negro.
To this end, we propose that ten thousand Negroes MARCH ON WASHINGTON
FOR JOBS IN NATIONAL DEFENSE AND EQUAL INTEGRATION IN THE FIGHTING
FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES. An "all out" thundering
march on Washington, ending in a monster and huge demonstration
at Lincoln's Monument will shake up white America. It will shake
up official Washington. It will give encouragement to our white
friends to fight all the harder by our side, with us, for our
righteous cause. It will gain respect for the Negro people.
It will create a new sense of self-respect among Negroes.
But what of national unity? We believe in
national unity which recognizes equal opportunity of black and
white citizens to jobs in national defense and the armed forces,
and in all other institutions and endeavors in America. We condemn
all dictatorships, Fascist, Nazi and Communist. We are loyal,
patriotic Americans all. But if American democracy will not
defend its defenders; if American democracy will not protect
its protectors; if American democracy will not give jobs to
its toilers because of race or color; if American democracy
will not insure equality of opportunity, freedom and justice
to its citizens, black and white, it is a hollow mockery and
belies the principles for which it is supposed to stand.
To the hard, difficult and trying problem
of securing equal participation in national defense, we summon
all Negro Americans to march on Washington. We summon Negro
Americans to form committees in various cities to recruit and
register marchers and raise funds through the sale of buttons
and other legitimate means for the expenses of marchers to Washington
by buses, train, private automobiles, trucks, and on foot.
We [also] summon Negro Americans to stage
marchers on their City Halls and Councils in their respective
cities and urge them to memorialize the President to issue an
executive order to abolish discrimination in the Government
and national defense. However, we sternly counsel against violence
and ill-considered and intemperate action and the abuse of power.
Mass power, like physical power, when misdirected is more harmful
that helpful. We summon you to mass action that is orderly and
lawful, but aggressive and militant, for justice, equality and
Today, we call upon President Roosevelt,
a great humanitarian and idealist, to...free American Negro
citizens of the stigma, humiliation and insult of discrimination
and Jim-Crowism in Government departments and national defense.
The Federal Government cannot with clear conscience call upon
private industry and labor unions to abolish discrimination
based on race and color as long as it practices discrimination
itself against Negro Americans.
NEGROES' COMMITTEE TO MARCH ON WASHINGTON
FOR EQUAL PARTICIPATION IN NATIONAL DEFENSE.
Source: A. Philip Randolph, "Call to
Negro America 'To March on Washington for Jobs and Equal Participation
in National Defense,' July 1, 1941," Black Worker 14 (May
Source: The Dr. Seuss Collection, Mandeville Special Collections
Library, UC. San Diego
EXECUTIVE ORDER 8802
Following a dramatic meeting with civil rights
activist A. Philip Randolph on June 25, 1941, President Franklin
Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 which appears below.
Whereas it is the policy of the United States
to encourage full participation in the national defense program
by all citizens of the United States, regardless of race, creed,
color, or national origin, in the firm belief that the democratic
way of life within the Nation can be defended successfully only
with the help and support of all groups within its borders:
Whereas there is evidence that available
and needed workers have been barred from employment in industries
engaged in defense production solely because of considerations
of race, creed, color, or national origin, to the detriment
of workers' morale and of national unity:
Now, Therefore, by virtue of the authority
vested in me by the Constitution and the statutes, and as a
prerequisite to the successful conduct of our national defense
production effort, I do hereby reaffirm the policy of the United
States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment
of workers in defense industries or government because of race,
creed, color, or national origin, and I do hereby declare that
it is the duty of employers and of labor organizations, in furtherance
of said policy and of this order, to provide for the full and
equitable participation of all workers in defense industries,
without discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national
And it is hereby ordered as follows:
1. All departments and agencies of the Government
of the United States concerned with vocational and training
programs for defense production shall take special measures
appropriate to assure that such programs are administered without
discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin;
2. All contracting agencies of the Government
of the United States shall include in all defense contracts
hereafter negotiated by them a provision obligating the contractor
not to discriminate against any worker because of race, creed,
color, or national origin;
3. There is established in the Office of
Production Management a Committee on Fair Employment Practice,
which shall consist of a chairman and four other members to
be appointed by the President. The chairman and members of the
Committee shall serve as such without compensation but shall
be entitled to actual and necessary transportation, subsistence
and other expenses incidental to performance of their duties.
The Committee shall receive and investigate complaints of discrimination
in violation of the provisions of this order and shall take
appropriate steps to redress grievances which it finds to be
valid. The Committee shall also recommend to the several departments
and agencies of the Government of the United States and to the
President all measures which may be deemed by it necessary or
proper to effectuate the provisions of this order.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
THE WHITE HOUSE,
June 25, 1941
Source: Code of Federal Regulations, Title
3, The President, 1938-1943 Compilation
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968), p.
DR. CHARLES DREW AND "SEGREGATED" BLOOD
Many African Americans have long recalled
and recounted the story of Dr. Charles R. Drew, the brilliant
Howard University surgeon who during World War II developed
blood plasma which saved millions of lives, but who in 1950
died tragically, and by implication, unnecessarily, because
he was refused admittance to a segregated North Carolina hospital
after a traffic accident. Historian Spencie Love investigated
the story of Drew's death and discovered that he was unsuccessfully
treated by white doctors in an otherwise segregated hospital
following his accident. She posits that the account of Drew's
death was interwoven with the stories of many other less famous
African Americans who died or suffered from segregated medical
care. Love traces in detail the story of Malthus Reeves Avery,
a black North Carolina college student, who did in fact die
after being refused admittance to the Duke University Hospital
in another traffic accident just months after Drew's death.
The Red Cross's s segregated blood policy in World War II, and
the protests it generated by Drew and others, laid the foundation
for the Drew legend. The excerpted portion of her 1992 article
which appears below describes the life of Drew and his brief
campaign against the Red Cross's segregation of blood.
Charles Richard Drew was born on June 3,
1904, at 1806 E Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. He was the
eldest of five children born to Richard Thomas Drew and Nora
Rosella Burwell Drew.... The years of Drew's childhood were
terrible....for American blacks as a group. But Drew and many
of his peers managed to live in a protected, hopeful environment,
thanks to their families, their churches, and excellent black
schools. The Washington of this period was describes as having
"the most distinguished and brilliant assembly of Negroes
in the world."
Drew graduated from Dunbar [High School]
in 1922. He attended Amherst College on an athletic scholarship
along with several Dunbar friends. Except for intermittent periods
of work, Drew spent the next 18 years completing an extremely
formal education.... After Amherst came four years of McGill
University Medical School in Montreal, Canada and two years
of internship. Drew was then chosen for a Rockefeller fellowship
at Columbia University Medical School from 1938 to 1940. There
he trained under Dr. Allen Whipple, one of the top surgeons
in the country. He also undertook the research on blood preservation
that earned him a doctor of science degree, the first ever earned
by an African American.
In 1939 Drew married Lenore Robbins, a strikingly
beautiful, coolly intelligent home economics professor he had
met at Spelman College while on a trip south. In characteristic
Drew fashion, he fell in love with her within hours of their
meeting and a few days later, on his trip back north, woke Lenore
in the middle of the night and proposed.
After receiving his degree in 1940, Drew
returned briefly to Howard University, resumed his teaching
career, and started a family life. He and Lenore already had
one daughter. (Two more daughters and finally a son followed
But within a few months, history intervened
and took Drew away again. Because of his expertise in blood
banking, Drew was called back to New York from Washington to
serve as medical director of the Blood for Britain project,
a hastily organized effort to send liquid blood plasma to British
solders wounded in France. During the fall of 1940, Drew completed
this job so successfully that he was chose to serve as medical
director of the first American Red Cross blood bank the following
winter. This New York City pilot program became the model for
Red Cross blood collection programs all over the country once
American entered the war in December 1941....
Drew returned to Howard University Medical
School in the summer of 1941 as chief of the Department of Surgery
and chief surgeon of Freedmen's Hospital. He stayed on that
job until his death, spending most of his time training young
black doctors to be top-notch surgeons. Drew always felt himself
to be a pioneer. He instilled in his students the sense that
they too were pioneers, part of a team that would help break
down the wall of prejudice and create a tradition of black excellence
and humanitarian values....
Some months after Drew left the Red Cross,
the organization began a national program of blood collection.
Initially, at the instigation of the Armed Forces, the Red Cross
collected blood only from white Americans. All African Americans
were turned away as donors.
With black soldiers being drafted, this policy
caused an uproar. The NAACP, the National Medical Association,
and many humanitarian groups protested the policy. After a few
months, it was changed: black volunteers could give blood but
theirs was stored separately and labeled accordingly.... Charles
Drew, as an expert on blood, managed to place himself at the
symbolic epicenter of racial fear in American. As a scientist,
he knew what nonsense these policies of exclusion and segregation
were. From his perspective there was only one kind of blood,
human blood, and it made no sense to segregate it.
He spoke out against these discriminatory
policies, saying to reporters in 1942: "As you know, there
is no scientific basis for the separation of the bloods of different
races except on the basis of the individual types or groups."
Drew's style was firm and authoritative but also gentle and
Newspaper stories and magazine articles followed
his statement. Wasn't it ironic, they said, that the pioneer
of blood plasma would have his blood refused or segregated if
he wished to donate it.... Drew was rightly perceived by the
black community as having performed sacrificial humanitarian
work and yet having been mistreated. He had in a sense discovered
the blood bank. Yet at first his own blood would not have been
accepted at it. The irony was powerful.
Source: Spencie Love, "'Noted Physician
Fatally Injured,' Charles Drew and the legend That Will Not
Die," Washington History: Magazine of the Historical Society
of Washington, D.C. 4:2 (Fall/Winter 1992-93): 8-11.
"CAN NEGROES REALLY FLY AIRPLANES"
This was the question posed facetiously by
Eleanor Roosevelt in April, 1941. The answer to her question
appears in the vignette below, taken from an account of the
black World War II era Tuskegee Airmen, described by Omar Blair,
a Denver resident who became a member of the elite group.
Omar Blair likes to tell the story about
Eleanor Roosevelt and the Tuskegee Airmen. He particularly likes
the part in which the peripatetic outspoken wife of the president
stood on a grass strip in April 1941 near Tuskegee Institute
in Alabama and asked an outrageous question: "Can Negroes
really fly airplanes?"
Months earlier four black schools--Tuskegee,
Hampton Institute, Virginia State, and Howard University--had
been named as the schools to offer the Civilian Pilot Training
Program to black college students. With the increased threat
of U.S. entrance into World War II, the War Department was being
pressured to use black officers and pilots in the newly established
Army Air Corps. The choice for this training was between Tuskegee
and Hampton institutes. Eleanor Roosevelt had been chosen to
evaluate their qualifications, to meet with Charles ("Chief")
Anderson, the project director of the program, and to ask, as
it turned out, the right question. As Anderson told it, he answered:
"Certainly we can fly. Would you like to take an airplane
ride?" When the Secret Service realized where she was going
this time, they first forbade it, and when that did not work,
they called her husband. FDR replied with the wisdom of long
experience: "If she wants to, there is nothing we can do
to stop her."
Thirty minutes later, Eleanor Roosevelt climbed
down from the back seat of Anderson's Piper J-3 Cub, posed for
photographers, and with a broad grin reassured everyone that,
yes, Negroes could fly. Her return to Washington was followed
by the birth of the Tuskegee Airmen, a victory in the history
of participation of blacks in the military--except for one glaring
failure: this unit, like all others, would be segregated and
commanded by white officers. Blair, a former Tuskegee Airman
and an imposing figure who led Denver's Board of Education during
the 1970s, said with some delight: "But this failure is
where the Establishment made its mistake--they put us on our
Why was this considered a victory? Because
for the first time there was a real crack in the armor of white
supremacy within the military--only a crack, but destined to
Source: Joan Reese, "Two Enemies to Fight:
Blacks Battle for Equality in Two World Wars," Colorado
Heritage 1 (1990), p. 2.
BLACK WOMEN MIGRATE TO THE EAST BAY
In the following passage Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo
describes the experiences of black women in the World War II
era migration to Northern California.
Migrant women...perceived California as a place of relative
freedom for black people, a refuge from the harshest manifestations
of Jim Crow. And since most migrant women were at a point in
their lives where the limits imposed by the white world were
particularly painful, California became a symbol of liberation...
Filled with such images and expectations, migrant women began
their journey in shabby "Colored" waiting rooms of
train stations throughout the South. There, they encountered
discrimination and indifference from white ticket agents who
charged unfair rates, refused to give information regarding
arrival and departure times, or ignored black customers until
all white travelers had been waited on. From there they boarded
Jim Crow cars located at the end of trains, and crowded with
servicemen, baggage, and other migrants. Many women believed
that this would be their final encounter with Jim Crow, of at
least a final brush with this particular type of humiliation.
They expected the West to offer them the opportunity to be "somebody,"
a place where they would be treated like human beings.
The journey, then, was perceived as a passage
to a better place. Indeed, migrants who traveled by rail, referred
to their carriers as "Liberty Trains." As these trains
left the station, however, migrant women were forced to observe
segregated seating and dining arrangements. This changes after
the train crossed the Mason-Dixon line, the boundary dividing
the "zone of racial separation" from that part of
the country with an informal...system of segregation.... Ruth
Gracon left Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1940 to join her husband
in Oakland... Alone with a new baby, Ruth boarded a Jim Crow
car. "I remember crossing the Mason-Dixon line and being
able to sit in a coach instead of the Jim Crow car. I think
it was Kansas City. The Pullman porter was really nice--said
that I could sit anyplace now..." Theresa Waller left Houston
in October, 1943 to join her husband who had found work on the
San Francisco waterfront. Theresa "rode out of Texas on
the Jim Crow car...packed with military people." In El
Paso, Theresa changed trains, and a soldier who rose to give
her his seat said, "you can relax now, because we're at
the Mason-Dixon lie, and the Great White Father has to look
up to you now."
The journey, while exciting, was also emotionally
and physically exhausting. Many migrant women had never left
the towns and cities where they were raised. And California,
despite its golden image, raised fears as well as hopes... The
East Bay grew significantly during the war years, taking on
characteristics of a boom town. Richmond, in particular, looked
wild and unkempt, with government housing projects, trailer
parks, cafes, bars, and clubs springing up on swampy vacant
lots north and west of the city. New arrivals, unable to find
housing, were sleeping in cars. And everywhere, at all hours,
people in work clothes...were going back and forth from the
defense plants. Ruth Cherry arrived in Oakland while her husband
was at work. At the station....she called a cab to take her
to the room her husband had rented. He came home in work clothes,
and she started crying when she saw him. "I had never seen
him in coveralls and dirty. He was a barber by trade, and always
Migrant women, who expected a land of sunshine
and orange groves, were immediately disenchanted with the weather.
By most...accounts, the years between 1940-1945 were unusually
cold, foggy, and rainy. Willa Henry, who drove out with relatives,
sent her only winter coat by train with her other belongings.
"The night we got there my uncle took us out to eat at
Slim Jenkins [an Oakland nightclub] and I thought I would freeze
to death coming out of that warm climate.... Lovie McIntosh
remembers the rain and mud... "I can remember the hills
above Richmond looking so dismal. It was raining a lot then.
We were upstairs in the project and the wind would blow and
blow, and I would cry and cry..." Opal Smith…remembers
the fog rolling in after sunset on her first evening in Oakland.
She and her small children huddled in their tiny apartment,
frightened by the strange sound of foghorns.”
Source: Gretchen J. Lemke-Santangelo, Abiding
Courage: African American Migrant Women and the East Bay Community
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), pp.
LYN CHILDS CONFRONTS A RACIST ACT
In the following vignette, black San Francisco
shipyard worker Lyn Childs, describes how she came to the defense
of a Filipino employee on the ship she was repairing. Her account
also discusses the reaction from her supervisor.
I was working down in the hold of the ship
and there were about six Filipino men...and this big white guy
went over and started to kick this poor Filipino and none of
the Black men that was working down there in the hold with him
said one word to this guy. And I sat there and was getting madder
and madder by the minute. I sprang to my feet, turned on my
torch, and I had a flame about six to seven feet out in front
of me, and I walked up to him and I said (you want me to say
the real language?) I said to him,
"You so-in-so. If you go lift
one more foot, I'll cut your guts out." That was my exact
words. I was so mad with him.
Then he started to tell me that he had been
trained in boot camp that nay national group who was dark skinned
was beneath all White People. So he started to cry. I felt sorry
for him, because he was crying, really crying. He was frightened,
and I was frightened. I didn't know what I was doing, so in
the end I turned my torch off and I sat down on the steps with
About that time the intercom on board the
ship started to announce,
"Lyn Childs, report to Colonel
So I said, "I guess this is it."
So I went up to Colonel Hickman's office, and behind me came
all these men, and there lined up behind me, and I said,
"Where are you guys going?"
They said, "We're going with you."
When we got to the office [Colonel Hickman]
said, "I just wanted to see Lyn Childs," and they
said, "You'll see all of us, because we were all down there.
We all did not have the guts enough to do what she did, [but]
we're with her."
Colonel Hickman said, "Come into this
He had one of the guards take me into the
office real fast and closed the door real fast and kept them
out, and he said,
"What kind of communist activity
are you carrying on down there?"
I said, "A communist! What is that?"
He said, "You know what I am talking
about. You're a communist."
I said, "A communist! Forget you! The
kind of treatment that man was putting on the Filipinos, and
to come to their rescue. Then I am the biggest communist you
ever seen in your life. That is great. I am a communist."
He said, "Don't say that so loud."
I said, "Well, you asked me was I a
communist. You're saying I am. I'm saying I'm a...
"Shh! Shh! Shh! Hush! Don't say
that so loud." Then he said, "I think you ought to
get back to work."
"Well, you called me Why did you
"Never mind what I called you
for," he said, "Go back to work."
Source: Paul R. Spickard, "Work and Hope:
African American Women in Southern California During World War
II," Journal of the West 32:3 (July 1993):74-75.
WALTER WHITE ON THE DETROIT RIOT OF 1943
Writing for an NAACP publication, Walter White,
Executive Director of the organization provides one view of
the reason for the racial violence in the city in the middle
of World War II.
In 1916 there were 8,000 Negroes in Detroit's
population of 536,650. In 1925 the number of Negroes in Detroit
had been multiplied by ten to a total of 85,000. In 1940, the
total had jumped to 149,119. In June 1943, between 190,000 and
200,000 lived in the Motor City…The overwhelming majority
-between 40,000 and 50,000- of the approximately 50,000 Negroes
who went to Detroit in this three year period moved there during
the fifteen months prior to the race riot of June 1943. According
to Governor Harry S. Kelly, of Michigan, a total of 345,000
persons moved into Detroit during the same fifteen month period.
There was comparatively little out-migration as industry called
for more and more workers in one of the tightest labor markets
in the United States. The War Manpower Commission failed almost
completely to enforce its edict that no in migration be permitted
into any industrial area until all available local labor was
utilized. Thus a huge reservoir of Negro labor existed in Detroit,
crowded into highly congested slum areas. But they did have
housing of a sort and this labor was already in Detroit...
Politically minded public officials have winked
at the activities of agencies like the Klan, the Black Legion,
the National Workers League, the followers of Father Coughlin
and other similar groups. During the 30s especially where there
was keen competition for jobs because of the depression, Southern
whites sought and secured jobs on the police force of Detroit
and in the courts. There was a period of years when cold-blooded
killings of Negroes by policemen were a constant source of bitterness
among Negroes. Eventually protest by such organizations as the
Detroit branch of the NAACP and other Negro and inter-racial
groups led to a diminution and…a practical cessation of
such killings. But a residue of distrust of the police remained.
When the riot of June 1943 broke forth, this suspicion of police
by Negroes was more than justified...
The willful inefficiency of the Detroit police
in its handling of the riot is one of the most disgraceful episodes
in American history. When the riot broke out on Sunday night,
June 20, following a dispute between a white and Negro motorist
on the Belle Isle Bridge, an efficient police force armed with
night sticks and fire hoses could have broken up the rioting...and
broken the back of the insurrection, had the police been determined
to do so. Instead, the police did little or nothing...
The anti-Negro motivation of the Detroit police
department is further illustrated by these facts and figures.
It has already been pointed out that the Negro population of
Detroit at the time of the riot was 200,000 or less, out of
a total population of more than 2,000,000. The inevitable riot
was the product of anti-Negro forces which had been allowed
to operate without check or hindrance by the police over a period
of many years. But 29 of 35 persons who died during the riot
were Negroes. An overwhelming majority of the more than 600
injured were Negroes. Of the 1,832 persons arrested for rioting,
more than 85 percent were Negroes. And this in the face of the
indisputable fact that the aggressors over a period of years
were not Negroes but whites.
Source: Walter White, "What Caused the
Detroit Riots?," in What Caused the Detroit Riots? (New
York: NAACP, 1943).
THE LIBERATION OF THE DEATH CAMPS
In the passages below death camp survivors
Samuel Pisar and Moshe Sandberg describe their initial encounters
with black U.S. Army troops in April 1945.
Pisar: I suddenly became aware of a hum,
like a swarm of bees, growing in volume. A machine gun opened
fire alongside our barn and, when it stopped, there was that
hum again, only louder, unearthly metallic.
I peeped through a crack in the wooden slats. Straight ahead,
on the other side of the field, a huge tank was coming toward
the barn. It stopped, and the humming ceased. From somewhere
to one side, machine guns crackled and the sounds of mortar
explosions carried across the field. The tank's long cannon
lifted its round head, as though peering at me, then turned
slowly aside and let loose a tremendous belch. The firing stopped.
The tank resumed its advance, lumbering cautiously toward me.
I looked for the hateful swastika, but there wasn't one. On
the tank's sides, instead, I made out an unfamiliar emblem.
It was a five pointed white star. In an instant, the realization
flooded me; I was looking at the insignia of the United States
My skull seemed to burst. With a wild roar, I broke through
the thatched roof, leaped to the ground, and ran toward the
tank. The German machine guns opened up again. The tank fired
twice. Then all was quiet. I was still running. I was in front
of the tank, waving my arms. The hatch opened. A big black man
climbed out, swearing unintelligibly at me. Recalling the only
English I knew, those words my mother had sighed while dreaming
of our deliverance, I fell at the black man's feet, threw my
arms around his legs and yelled at the top of my lungs: `God
With an unmistakable gesture, the American
motioned me to get up and lifted me in through the hatch. In
a few minutes, all of us were free.
* * *
Sandberg: A group of SS soldiers pointed
towards the village and said that the tanks parked there were
American. I don't think that any of us believed them. It seemed
a joke at our expense. Somebody asked if we could get out of
the train and in a voice very different from the usual, a soldier
replied, `Of course.' Some of us got out, without any particular
joy, unable to understand the meaning of that fateful moment.
Some ran to the grass and began devouring it as if it was the
most natural of foods. The Germans stood silent, only looking
towards the tanks.
We were free, but we did not know it, did
not believe it, could not believe it. We had waited for this
such long days and nights that now when the dream had come true
it seemed still a dream. We wanted to go to a house to beg something,
but just then an American tank approached from which the soldiers
motioned us to come nearer. Only then did we understand that
it was not a dream. We were free! We were really free! We broke
into weeping. We kissed the tank. A Negro soldier give us a
tin of meat, bread and chocolate, and pointed to us the way
to the village center. We sat down on the ground and ate up
all the food together-bread, chocolate and meat. The Negro watched
us, tears in his eyes.
Sources: Samuel Pisar, Of Blood and Hope (Boston,
1979), pp. 92-93; Moshe Sandberg, My Longest Year in the Hungarian
Labour Service and in the Nazi Camps (Jerusalem, 1968), pp.
AFRICAN AMERICA AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: A RISING WIND
In a 1945 book titled A Rising Wind Walter
White, executive secretary of the NAACP became the latest of
a long list of African Americans scholars and activists who
established a nexus between domestic civil rights issues and
international developments. White was inspired to write the
book after a tour of Europe during the final months of World
War II. Taking the title from a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt
affirming the rise of global anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist
movements, White argued that the struggles of peoples in Asia
and Africa to gain independence paralled the campaign of African
Americans for full citizenship in the United States. He added
that attempts to restrict black freedom would resonate negatively
around the world, and particularly among the emerging nations.
Excerpts from the book appear below.
World War II has given to the Negro a sense of kinship with
other colored—and also oppressed—peoples of the
world. Where he has not thought through or informed himself
on the racial angles of colonial policy and master race theories,
he senses that the struggle of the Negro in the United States
is part and parcel of the struggle against imperialism and exploitation
in India, China, Burma, Africa, the Philippines, Malaya, the
West Indies, and South America. The Negro soldier is convinced
that as time proceeds that identification of interests will
spread even among some brown and yellow peoples who today refuse
to see the connection between their exploitation by white nations
and discrimination against the Negro in the United States….
Any person of normal intelligence could have
foreseen this. With considerable effectiveness, the Japanese
by radio and other means have industriously spread in the Pacific
stories of lynchings, of segregation and discrimination against
the Negro in the American Army, and of race riots in Detroit,
Philadelphia, and other American cities. To each of these recitals
has been appended the statement that such treatment of a colored
minority in the United States is certain to be that given to
brown and yellow peoples in the Pacific if the Allies, instead
of the Japanese, win the war. No one can accurately estimate
at this time the effectiveness of such propaganda. But it is
certain that it has had wide circulation and has been believed
by many. Particularly damaging has been the circulation of reports
of clashes between white and Negro soldiers in the European
and other theaters of operation.
Indissolubly tied in with the carrying overseas
of prejudice against the Negro is the racial and imperialist
question in the Pacific of Great Britain's and our intentions
toward India and China. Publication of Ambassador William Phillips'
blunt warning to President Roosevelt in May 1944 that India
is a problem of the United States as well as of England despite
British opposition to American intervention is of the highest
significance. It reaffirmed warnings to the Western world by
Wendell Willkie, Sumner Welles, Pearl Buck, and Henry Wallace,
among others, that grave peril which might bring disaster to
the entire world was involved in continued refusal to recognize
the just claims for justice and equality by the colored people,
particularly in the Orient. These people are not as powerless
as some naive Americans believe them to be. In the first place
they have the strength of numbers, unified by resentment against
the condescension and exploitation by white nations which Pearl
Buck calls "the suppression of human rights to a degree
which has not been matched in its ruthlessness outside of fascist
owned Europe," which can and possibly will grow into open
revolt. The trend of such awakening and revolution is clearly
to be seen in the demand which was made by China at the Dumbarton
Oaks Conference of August 1944 that the Allied nations unequivocally
declare themselves for complete racial equality. It is to be
seen in Ambassador Phillips' warning that though there are four
million Indians under arms they are wholly a mercenary army
whose allegiance to the Allies will last only as long as they
are paid; and in his further revelation that all of these as
well as African troops must be used to police other Indians
instead of fighting Japan.
Permit me to cite a few solemn warnings of
the inevitability of world¬wide racial conflict unless the
white nations of the earth do an about face on the issue of
race. "Moreover, during the years between 1920 and 1940
a period in the history of the Asiatic and Pacific peoples was
in any event drawing to its close," says Sumner Welles,
former Undersecretary of State, in his epochal book, The Time
The startling development of Japan as a world
power, and the slower but nevertheless steady emergence of China
as a full member of the family of nations, together with the
growth of popular institutions among many other peoples of Asia,
notably India, all combined to erase very swiftly indeed the
fetish of white supremacy cultivated by the big colonial powers
during the nineteenth century. The thesis of white supremacy
could only exist so long as the white race actually proved to
be supreme. The nature of the defeats suffered by the Western
nations in 1942 dealt the final blow to any concept of white
supremacy which still remained.
The distinguished former Undersecretary might
well have gone on to point out that had not the Russians and
Chinese performed miracles of military offense and defense in
World War II, or had not the black Governor General of French
Equatorial Africa, Félix Eboué, retained faith
in the democratic process when white Frenchmen lost theirs,
the so-¬called Anglo Saxon nations and peoples would surely
have lost this war. And Mr. Welles could have reminded his readers
that brown and yellow peoples in Asia and the Pacific and black
peoples in Africa and the West Indies and the United States
are not ignorant of the truth that the war was won by men and
women—white, yellow, black, and brown. Resumption of white
arrogance and domination in the face of such facts may be disastrous
to the peace of the world...
Will the United States after the war perpetuate
its racial discrimina¬tion policies and beliefs at home
and abroad as it did during the war? Will it continue to follow
blindly the dangerous and vicious philosophy voiced in Kipling's
poem, The White Man's Burden? Will decent and intelligent America
continue to permit itself to be led by the nose by demagogues
and professional race hate mongers to have its thinking and
action determined on this global and explosive issue by the
lowest common denominator of public opinion?
Or will the United States, having found that
prejudice is an expensive luxury, slough off the mistakes of
the past and chart a new course both at home and in its relations
with the rest of the world?
What will America's answer be? If already planned race riots
and lynchings of returning Negro soldiers "to teach them
their place" are consummated, if Negro war workers are
first fired, if India remains enslaved, if Eboué's people
go back to disease and poverty to provide luxury and ease for
Parisian boulevardiers, World will be in the making before the
last gun is fired in World War II...
What to do?
The United States, Great Britain, France,
and other Allied nations must choose without delay one of two
courses to revolutionize their racial concepts and practices,
to abolish imperialism and t full equality to all of its people,
or else prepare for World War III. Another Versailles Treaty
providing for "mandates," "protectorates,"
and other devices for white domination will make such a war
inevitable. One of the chief deterrents will be Russia. Distrustful
of Anglo American control of Europe, many and perhaps all of
the Balkan states may through choice or necessity ally themselves
with Russia. If Anglo Saxon practices in China and India are
not drastically and immediately revised, it is probable and
perhaps certain that the people of India, China, Burma, Malaya,
and other parts of the Pacific may also move into the Russian
orbit as the lesser of two dangers.
As for the United States, the storm signals
are unmistakable. She can choose between a policy of appeasement
of bigots which course she gives every indication now of following
and thus court disaster. Or she can live up to her ideals and
thereby both save herself and help to avert an early and more
disastrous resumption of war.
A wind is rising—a wind of determination
by the have nots of the world to share the benefits of freedom
and prosperity which the haves of the earth have tried to keep
exclusively for themselves. That wind blows all over the world.
Whether that wind develops into a hurricane is a decision which
we must make now and in the days when we form the peace.
Source: Walter White, A Rising Wind (Garden
City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran
and Company, Inc., 1945), pp. 144, 147-155. )
EBONY, VOLUME 1, NUMBER 1
In November, 1945, John H. Johnson launched
Ebony after establishing Negro Digest three years earlier with
a $500 loan from his mother. The first issue of Ebony sold 50,000
copies making it immediately the largest circulated black-owned
magazine in the nation. Sixty years later it retained that distinction
but with a circulation of 1.6 million. Ebony which quickly became
the centerpiece of Johnson’s publishing empire, was far
more. However, than a successful publication. It came to represent
in its pages the aspirations of millions of black Americans,
their dreams and desires for something more than the racially
segregated world that existed when Ebony first reached newsstands
and coffee tables across the nation. What appears below is the
opening statement of Johnson in the first issue of the magazine.
WE’RE OFF! Like a thoroughbred stallion,
we’ve been straining at the starting gate for months now
waiting for the gun from the almighty, omnipotent, super-duper
War Production Board. We’ve brain-trusted and blueprinted,
rehearsed and dummied over and over again anxiously keeping
a weather eye pealed on Washington for the “go”
signal. And sure enough when the V-J whistle did blow, we were
caught with our pants down.
Here’s your paper and scram, the WPB boys suddenly said.
And there we were with tons of slick, shiny stock, a sheaf of
dummies but no magazine. But this story having a happy ending
as do all good tales, we can confide that we pulled a reconversion
act out of an ancient hat with slick style that would put magician
Houdini to shame. And here we are.
As you can gather, we’re rather jolly
folks, we EBONY editors. We like to look at the zesty side of
life. Sure, you can get all hot and bothered about the race
question (and don’t think we don’t) but not enough
is said about all the swell things we Negroes can do and will
accomplish, EBONY will try to mirror the happier side of Negro
life—the positive, everyday achievements from Harlem to
Hollywood. But when we talk about race as the No. 1 problem
of America, we’ll talk turkey….
Source: Ebony 1:1 (November 1945) p. 1.
A CONSERVATIVE’S OUTLOOK, 1946
Spencer Logan, a former non-commissioned officer
in the United States Army, wrote A Negro’s Faith in America
which was published by Macmillan in 1946. Logan took issue with
civil rights leaders and organizations and argued against political
agitation and instead counseled African Americans to become
better educated while waiting reminding his readers that white
America was, however gradually, nonetheless moving toward societal
integration. Logan and newspaper columnist George Schulyer are
reminders of the links between black conservatives in the era
of Booker T. Washington and the African American neo-conservatives
who emerged in the 1970s.
Have the Negro people developed a man or group of men who can
lead them and speak for them in the postwar era which lies just
The mere development of creative talent, no
matter how great, does not, it seems to me, necessarily fit
an individual for leadership. Many of the Negroes who are prominent
because of their creative talents or their success as interpretive
artists are not in the real sense leaders of the Negro people.
These men and women, including some of the
most eminent and distinguished members of the Negro race, are
obviously moved by the artist's desire to give of himself to
humanity. But I wonder if it is not also from a sense of social
frustration which even with their gifts they cannot shake off
that some of them have attempted a leadership for which they
are not emotionally fitted. Between these individuals and the
Negro masses which they represent, there is a spiritual gulf.
These gifted men and women are not of the people. Their policy
of stressing social equality rather than the building of a strong
Negro society is indicative of their desire to get away from
being Negroes. Any kind of leadership that arises from such
frustration is not of the Negro people as I know them ....
The ideal of democracy demanded by many Negro
leaders is in harmony with the theory of democracy for all;
but it ignores reality. The reality of the situation is that
many Negro and white people are not ready to assume the responsibility
of citizenship in a progressive modern state. One of the first
needs of the mass Negro is a better understanding of the present
day crisis in American life and a recognition of his own respon¬sibility
in relation to it.
The extent to which Negro leadership has drifted
from a program in harmony with the needs of the Negro in this
crisis is indicated by certain aspects of the Negro press. Negro
editors, aware of the inconsistency between the ideal of democracy
as advocated by the Negro leaders and the discrimination and
injustice endured by the average Negro, have at¬tempted
to emphasize the discrepancy by resorting to a type of headline
which stresses the basic defects of Negro white relationship:
"White Policeman Shoots Negro Boy" "White Man
Slays Negro Sweet¬heart"—"Negro Youth Denied
Entrance to White College."
These editors will say that, by political
agitation, social and economic equality can be gained. Yet the
feeling lingers in the hearts of many responsible Negroes that
the problem presented has bread and butter roots, and that agitation
yields at best only a few jobs ....
Dr. George Washington Carver was a leader
of quite a different sort. He avoided the many pitfalls of the
Negro publicists. He developed his talent to the utmost, then
gave freely of his wizardry to all people. He earned the gratitude
and respect of white people. Dr. Carver set the highest possible
standard for good race relationship, for he, as a Negro, achieved
and practiced a concept of democracy which was in harmony with
its greatest social and spiritual possibilities. Dr. Carver
often said that he gave so freely of his talent because it was
given to him by God. He subordinated his racial instincts to
the good of democracy, and he believed that by dedicating his
energies to the well being of all mankind he would best serve
his race. Dr. Carver more than any other Negro has set an example
for Negro leadership of the future.
There are many Negro organizations which are
dedicated to the task of obtaining social equality and a fuller
share in democracy for the Negro by means of political pressure
and court decisions. Such groups operate on the theory that
the ideals upon which a government is founded can be enforced
through the legal code of that country by test cases which establish
definite precedents. They fight segregation by proving that
it is legally wrong. They would wipe out lynchings by fining
the county involved, or by making prison sentences mandatory
for anyone involved in them. They would loosen the economic
noose about the neck of the Negro by the passage of more laws
designed to make job discrimination illegal.
Negro leaders ruled by this thought pattern
are in my opinion guilty, along with their white counterparts,
of the gravest injustice to their cause if they attempt to gain
by force of law alone the advantages of social equality from
people who are not spiritually or morally prepared to grant
it. They should realize that those who live by political agitation
are by this very fact often handicapped as leaders; for a man
who fights for the legal recognition of a principle may in the
process lose sight of the human values involved ....
If the people of America are to get along
with one another, regardless of racial and religious differences,
they must become more aware of the need of making their democratic
principles a part of their everyday lives. No citizen should
be allowed to fail in the realization of his own responsibility
for the welfare of the whole, with stress upon mutual respect
among all. America has learned the technique of selling the
public almost anything. We have been taught lessons of health
and cleanliness, have been influenced to spend or save money,
and have been united for the purpose of waging war against a
common enemy. Why cannot similar educational techniques be used
against those attitudes on the part of many of our citizens
which may well prove to be as destructive as any foreign foe
could have been?
Source: Spencer Logan, A Negro’s Faith
in America (New York: Macmillan Co., 1946), pp. 12, 15, 16,
18 19, 60.
CIVIL RIGHST & ORGANIZED LABOR IN THE SOUTH: MORANDA SMITH
After World War II organized labor began to
penetrate into some industrialized areas of the South where
it inevitably confronted the issue of race. Unions such as the
Food and Tobacco Workers affiliated with The Congress of Industrial
Organizations, promoted racial integration and helped develop
a group of African American labor activists who either led or
supported parallel efforts for civil rights. Moranda Smith (1915
1950) of Winston-Salem, North Carolina was one of these leaders.
The passage below, from her address at the CIO’s national
convention in Boston in 1947, combines the issues of civil rights
and labor organizing.
I work for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
in Winston Salem, North Carolina. I want to say a few words
on this resolution for the reason that I come from the South
and I live in the South. I live where men are lynched, and the
people that lynch them are still free.
The Taft Hartley Bill to Local 22 in Winston Salem is an old,
old story. The Taft Hartley Bill was put before the workers
in Winston Salem about four years ago when the CIO came to Winston
Salem to organize the unorganized workers in the R. J. Reynolds
Tobacco plant. We were faced at that time with a lot of court
actions. They tried to put fear into the hearts of the workingmen
in Winston Salem.
One of the things in the Constitution of
the United States is a guarantee to a human being, regardless
of his race, creed or color, of freedom from fear. I say the
Taft Hartley Bill is nothing new to us. When men are lynched,
and when men try to strike and walk the picket line, the only
weapons that the workers in America, especially in the South,
have to protect themselves is action. When they are put in jail,
they must protect themselves. If that is the protection of democracy
in the United States of America I say it is not enough.
I want to emphasize a few of the things that
you have in this resolution. Too long have the Negro people
of the South and other workers in America heard a lot of words
read to them. It is time for action, and I am now wondering
if the CIO is going to stop and do some of the things by action.
You talk about political action and you talk about politics.
How can there be any action when the Negroes in the South are
not allowed to vote? Too long have the workers in the South
stopped and looked to Congress for protection. We no longer
look to the government in Washington for protection. It has
failed. Today we are looking for an organization that says they
are organized to fight for the freedom of all men regardless
of race, creed or color, and that is the CIO.
I will tell you this and perhaps it will
interest you. To the Negro workers in Winston Salem it means
a great deal. They told us, "You cannot vote for this and
you cannot vote for that. " But last May in the city of
Winston Salem the Negro and white workers, based on a program
of unity, were able to put in their city government two labor
men. I am proud to say one of those was a Negro. The other was
a white labor leader. (Applause.) Yes. We are faced today with
this word that they call "democracy." I want to say
to this convention let us stop playing around. Each and every
one of you here today represents thousands and thousands of
the rank and file workers in the plants who today are looking
for you to come back to them and give them something to look
forward to: not words, but action.
We want to stop lynching in the South. We
want people to walk the picket lines free and unafraid and know
that they are working for their freedom and their liberty. When
you speak about this protection of democracy, it is more than
just words. If you have got to go back to your home town and
call a meeting of the rank and file workers and say, "This
is what we adopted in the convention, now we want to put it
into action," if you don't know how to put it into action,
ask the rank and file workers. Ask the people who are suffering,
and together you will come out with a good program where civil
rights will be something to be proud of. When you say "protection
of democracy" in your last convention, along with it you
can say we have done this or that. The people that lynch Negroes
in the South, the people that burn crosses in the South, the
people who put men in jail because they wanted 10 or 20 cents
an hour wage increase will learn that the workers can walk as
free men, because we have done something in action.
One thing more. I have looked over this delegation, and I wonder
if you cherish the word "democracy. " I say to you
it means something to be free. It means a great deal. I do not
think you have ever read or have ever heard of a Negro man or
a Negro woman that has ever been a traitor to the United States
of America ....
They can lynch us. They can beat us. They
can do anything they want to, but the Negroes of America who
have always been true to the American flag, will always march
forward. We are just asking your help. We are not asking for
charity. We do not want charity. We belong to America.
Our forefathers fought and bled and died for
this country and we are proud to be a part of it just as you
are. When the civil liberties of Negroes in the South are interfered
with [and] you do nothing about it, I say to you, you are untrue
to the traditions of America. You have got to get up and do
something in action, as I have said before and not by mere words.
So we are looking forward to your help and we call on you, because
we have called on you before and you have given us aid. We will
call on you again, and we ask you not to fail us.
Source: Final Proceedings of the 9th Constitutional
Convention of the CIO,
October 15, 1947. (Pamphlet).
“LIVE ANYWHERE!” HIGH COURT RULES
In 1945 the Shelleys, an African American
family, purchased a home in St. Louis unaware of the racially
restrictive covenant on the property since 1911. Neighbors sued
to prevent them from occupying the home and triggering a series
of court cases that ended with the 1948 U.S. Supreme Court decision
in Shelley v. Kraemer which ruled restrictive covenants unenforceable
by state action. The Pittsburgh Courier article below titled,
“’Live Anywhere!’ High Court Rules,”
described the decision and its impact.
An American citizen can live anywhere in
the U. S….if he has the money to buy or build a home.
This was the ruling of the United States Supreme Court Monday
when it outlawed restrictive covenants in cases arising in Detroit,
St. Louis and Washington, D. C. The vote was unanimous in every
Reversed were rulings of the Supreme Court of Michigan, upholding
the legality of covenants restricting Orsel McGhee and his family
from living in a so-called “white” residential area
in Detroit, and a similar ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court
against J. D. Shelley and his family in St. Louis. All were
barred because they were Negroes.
Adding totality to the finality of its decisions
the Nation’s highest tribunal also reversed the U. S.
Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in two
cases in Washington, D. C., involving James M. Hurd and family
and Robert H. Rowe and family.
Taken behind closed doors several months
ago, the Supreme Court justices had studied the dynamite-laden
issue secretly, and when the decision was announced three of
the justices did not vote. They were justices Reed, Jackson
and Rutledge, who had excused themselves from hearing the case
when it was argued, because each was in some manner involved
in circumstances which had a bearing on the cases.
Voting unanimously were Chief Justice Vinson,
who delivered the Court’s opinion; Justices Frankfurter,
Burton, Black, Murphy and Douglas.
The far-reaching decision means that a mortal
blow has been struck at racial restrictions in homes, artificially
created ghettoes, public utilities and public services, restaurants,
neighborhood theaters and countless and countless other jim-crow
manifestations made possible because of the heretofore enforced
segregation in home ownership.
The decision of the Court was that individual
property owners could voluntarily enter into covenants, but
that Court enforcement of such covenants contravened the Fourteenth
Amendment. The Supreme Court further ruled that court action
constituted State action, and will not henceforth be permitted
in these covenant cases.
Yet to be considered by the Supreme Court
is a case from Ohio.
In giving the Court ruling Chief Justice
“Upon full consideration we have
concluded that in these cases the State has acted to deny petitioners
the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth
Amendment…the judgment of the Supreme Court of Missouri
and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Michigan must be reversed.”
Their decision in the cases in Washington,
D. C., was patterned after the Michigan and Missouri reversals.
The ruling of the Supreme Court—which
may upset the pattern of residential life in almost every State
in the Union—supported a 1917 ruling by the U. S. Supreme
Court in which it voided racial restrictive covenant ordinances
enacted by the city of Louisville, Ky., and other municipalities.
Source: Lem Graves, Jr., “‘Live
Anywhere!’ High Court Rules,” The Pittsburgh Courier,
May 8, 1948, pp. 1, 5.
PRESIDENT TRUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS
In a single week in July, 1948 President Harry
S. Truman issued Executive Order 9980 which prohibited segregation
and discrimination in federal employment, and Executive Order
9981 ending the 173 year-old official policy of segregation
of blacks in the Armed Services which evolved soon after the
Revolutionary War. Sections of the two orders are printed below.
Executive Order 9980: WHEREAS the principles
on which our Government is based require a policy of fair employment
throughout the Federal establishment without discrimination
because of race, color, religion, or national origin; and
WHEREAS it is desirable and in the public interest that all
steps be taken necessary to insure that this long established
policy shall be more effectively carried out:
NOW THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority
vested in me as President of the United States, by the Constitution
and the laws of the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:
1. All personnel actions taken by Federal
appointing officers shall be based solely on merit and fitness;
and such officers are authorized and directed to take appropriate
steps to insure that in all such actions there shall be no discrimination
because of race, color, religion, or national origin.
2. The head of each department in the executive
branch of the Government shall be personally responsible for
an effective program to insure that fair employment policies
are fully observed in all personnel actions within his department.
3. The head of each department shall designate
an official thereof as Fair Employment Officer. Such Officer
shall be given full operating responsi¬bility, under the
immediate supervision of the department head, for carrying out
the fair employment policy herein stated. Notice of the appointment
of such Officer shall be given to all officers and employees
of the depart¬ment.....
* * *
Executive Order 9981: WHEREAS is essential
that there be maintained in the armed services of the United
States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of
treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's
NOW THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority
vested in me as President of the United States, by the Constitution
and the statutes of the United States, as Commander in Chief
of the armed services, it is hereby ordered as follows:
It is hereby declared to be the policy of
the President that there shall be equality of treatment and
opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard
to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall
be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard
to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without
impairing efficiency or morale....
Source: Federal Register, 13:146 (July 28,
1948), pp. 4312, 4313.
ARMY INTEGRATION IN THE KOREAN WAR
Although racial integration of the Armed Services
began with President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981
in 1948, practically speaking the Army began to integrate during
the Korean War. The accounts that follow provide a glimpse of
that integration. The first is by Beverly Scott, a black officer
while the second is by Harry Summers, a white enlisted soldier.
Beverly Scott: The 24th Regiment was the only
all-black regiment in the division, and as a black officer in
an all-black regiment commanded by whites I was always super
sensitive about standing my ground. Being a man. Being honest
with my soldiers....
Most of the white officers were good. Taken in the context of
the times, they were probably better than the average white
guy in civilian life. But there was still that patronizing expectation
of failure. White officers came to the 24th Regiment knowing
or suspecting or having been told that this was an inferior
[In September 1951, members of the regiment
were integrated into other units.] I was transferred to the
14th [Regiment] and right away I experienced some problems.
People in the 14'h didn't want anybody from the 24th. I was
a technically qualified communications officer, which the 14th
said they needed very badly, but when I got there, suddenly
they didn’t need any commo officers.
Then their executive officer said, “We
got a rifle platoon for you. Think you can handle a rifle platoon?”
What the hell do you mean, can I handle a
rifle platoon? I was also trained as an infantry officer. He
knew that. I was a first lieutenant, been in the army six years…If
I had been coming in as a white first lieutenant the question
never would have been asked.
Harry Summers: When they first started talk¬ing
about integration, white soldiers were aghast. They would say,
How can you integrate the army? How do you know when you go
to the mess hall that you won't get a plate or a knife or a
spoon that was used by a Negro? Or when you go to the supply
room and draw sheets, you might get a sheet that a Negro had
I remember a night when our rifle company was scheduled to get
some replacements. I was in a three-man foxhole with one other
guy, and they dropped this new replace¬ment off at our foxhole.
The other guy I was in the foxhole with was under a poncho,
making coffee. It was bitterly cold. And pitch dark. He got
the coffee made, and he gave me a drink, and he took a drink,
and then he offered some to this new replacement, who we literally
couldn't see, it was that dark. And the guy said, "No,
I don't want any."
"What the hell are you talking
about, you don't want any? You got to be freezing to death.
Here, take a drink of coffee."
"Well," he said, "you can't tell it now, but
I'm black. And tomorrow morning when you find out I was drinking
out of the same cup you were using, you ain't gonna be too happy."
Me and this other guy kind of looked at each other. "You
silly son of a bitch," we told him, "here, take the
Source: Rudy Tomedi, No Bugle, No Drums: An
Oral History of the Korean War (New York: John Wiley & Sons,
AGRICULTURAL MECHANIZATION AND BLACK LABOR
The following article from the Chicago Defender
suggests the relationship between agricultural mechanization
in the South and the continuing rural to urban migration of
MEMPHIS – The mechanical cotton picker
is putting cotton pickers out of jobs but they are finding new
jobs making the mechanical picker. Julius J. Thomas, industrial
relations secretary of the National Urban League, disclosed
last Friday as he outlined plans for a book he is writing.
In the book, which will be published by Funk and Wagnalls, Thomas
will analyze administrative procedure in setting up fair employment
practice conditions. His theory is that where top management
takes a firm position, fair employment practices can be achieved
in any work situation.
Fresh from a tour of manufacturing plants,
which will take him eventually through more than 130 leading
industries, Thomas cited International Harvester corporation
as an excellent example of the Memphis Tenn. Plan of the as
an excellent example of the achievement of fair employment practices.
That plant, he asserted, employs some 2,600
workers, with 26 per cent of the production workers and 18 per
cent of the entire force being colored. He added that the contract
between the corporation and the union representing the employees
provides that promotion and job security are in no way to be
affected by an employee’s race.
The fact that this was being done in the
South, Thomas said, proves that if management lays down such
a policy at the top level it will be carried out down to the
He said colored workers in the Harvester
plant are employed at all levels and receive the same wages
as white workers performing the same tasks.
He accounted for the policy of International
Harvester by saying that when Cyrus McCormick invented his first
harvesting machine in Virginia, he was aided by a colored man
and he determined then that he would always give colored workers
fair employment opportunities. Each succeeding head of the corporation,
Thomas said, has followed that pattern set by the founder of
Source: The Chicago Defender, October 2, 1948,
PAUL ROBESON SINGS ON THE BORDER
By the late 1940s Paul Robeson had emerged
as one of the most controversial figures on the American political
scene. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers University and the
first black All-American football player, accomplished actor
and concert singer, Robeson had an acclaimed career in the theater
and motion pictures. Like many of his politically-conscious
contemporaries, Robeson chose to identify with the Communist
Party in the 1930s. By the 1940s when other public figures renounced
such allegiances Robeson nevertheless reaffirmed his support,
making him a major target of the 1950s Red Scare.
In 1950 the United States State Department
revoked Paul Robeson’s passport to prevent him from traveling
and speaking abroad. In response Canadian and U.S. labor activists
organized a series of four border concerts between 1952 and
1955 where Robeson sang to thousands of Canadians and Americans
at the Peace Arch near Blaine, Washington which marks the border
between the nations. In one concert Robeson stood on the back
of a truck one foot from the border and performed before 40,000
Canadians in attendance on the other side. These remarkable
concerts are described below.
It seems so simple that all people should
live in full human dignity and in friendship. But somewhere
the enemy has always been around who tries to push back the
great mass of the people in everyland—we know that.
Before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and Martin Luther
King Jr., shared his dream with those gathered to march at the
nation’s capitol, actor-singer-activist Paul Robeson’s
deep voice rippled over the thousands at the U.S.-Canadian border
near Blaine for his second Peace Arch concert, Aug. 16, 1953.
And I want you to know that I’ll continue
this year fighting for peace, however difficult it may be. And
I want everyone in the range of my voice to hear, official or
otherwise, that there is no force on Earth that will make me
go backward one one-thousandth part of one little inch.
That speech, given in response to government
censorship of Robeson, might have faded into historical oblivion
if not for the efforts of a handful of people.
One of them, Detroit African-American Museum
founder Charles Wright, was determined to keep Robeson’s
legacy of speaking for the concerns of African-Americans an
world laborers alive in the mid-1970s.
“Since I’d seen him in
‘Othello’ in 1944, I was naturally attuned to look
up Robeson everywhere I went,” says Wright, 79.
Some time after he learned of the Whatcom
County concerts, Wright came to the Pacific Northwest looking
for people who had witnessed them. That’s how he learned
of Harvey Murphy of the United Mine, Mill and Smelters Workers’
Union, which would have sponsored a 1952 Robeson concert in
Vancouver if the government had allowed the singer to go to
Canada. Wright visited Murphy at his Toronto home in 1974.
There Murphy gave Wright a tape of the first
two of Robeson’s four annual Peace Arch concerts. The
tape had been gathering dust in his closet.
This year, which would have been Robeson’s
hundredth birthday, the recordings have been released commercially
for the first time by Illinois-based Folk Era Records. Robeson
will also be recognized posthumously Wednesday at the Grammy
A number of historians, including Wright
in his book “Robeson: Labor’s Forgotten Champion,”
have documented the events leading up to the four concerts.
Robeson visited Russia in the 1930s and openly
praised his treatment there and the country’s policies.
The entertainer’s political speeches, which continued
in following decades, didn’t sit well with government
officials, which were increasingly agitated by Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s
communist witch hunts.
Robeson was blacklisted. Eventually, his
annual income fell from a reported $100,000 annually to a paltry
$6,000. Despite the damage to his career and threats of violence,
he continued to speak out.
In 1950 Robeson’s passport was revoked
to keep him from speaking abroad. In early 1952, the Mine, Mill
and Smelters Workers’ Union invited him to address its
annual meeting, to take place in Vancouver, B.C. Because U.S.
citizens weren’t required to have passports to enter Canada,
Robeson proceeded as planned.
However, he was stopped at the border, on
the basis of World War I legislation that allowed the United
States to restrict its citizens’ travel during times of
Many Canadians resented the U.S. restriction
of who they could hear speak, recalls Ray Stevenson, who was
a union member at the time.
“It was a question of the right
of Canadian people to hear Paul Robeson, who was an internationally
known world figure,” says Stevenson, 79, who lives in
After union workers discovered the restriction,
they decided to gather at a Vancouver auditorium to protest.
Robeson was to call union leaders from Seattle but to everyone’s
surprise, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers had rigged the telephone so everyone could hear him
speak, Stevenson says.
“All of a sudden Paul’s
voice is booming over the loudspeakers to this assembled throng,”
Robeson spoke for 17 minutes and sang “Joe
Hill” before plans for a protest concert were announced.
“The lack of a dissenting vote,
Murphy announced—to a roar of laughter—meant that
the representatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and
the FBI who were present were in support of the resolution,”
writes Martin Duberman in his biography of Robeson.
“So instead of a couple of hundred
people listening to Paul Robeson there were literally thousands
and thousands who came to listen to Paul Robeson,” says
Al King of Vancouver, B.C.
King, also a former union member, attended
the first of the Peace Arch Concerts. He recalls a festive atmosphere
with about 40,000 on the Canadian side of the border and 10,000
on the U.S. side.
“It turned into a real picnic,”
says King, 83. “We clogged up the bloody border for hours.”
Robeson stood on the back of a truck parked
one foot away from the border singing spirituals like “No
More Auction Block” and “Old Man River.”
At one point, King got to shake the former
college football All-American’s hand.
“I was absolutely amazed,”
King recalls. “I’m over 6-feet, but I had to look
up to see him…He was an immense man.”
Stevenson attended the last two concerts,
held in 1954 and 1955.
“It was a very moving experience—one
of the great moving experiences of my life,” Stevenson
Attendance had declined to about 15,000 to
20,000 by Stevenson’s recollection, but the audience remained
enthusiastic. However, not everyone had come to support Robeson,
he says, remembering a handful of attendees suspected of being
with the FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“We sort of felt, and I think
justifiably, that they were something of a hostile force in
this sea of pro-Robeson (activity),” Stevenson says.
Robeson was finally allowed to enter Canada
in 1956, though Canadian officials were reluctant to allow him
to perform at first. Their stance softened, however, with the
threat of additional concerts along the border, Stevenson says.
Robeson’s passport was restored in
“If Paul had been allowed to
just go naturally amongst the people the impact would not have
been nearly as widespread and well-known as when we had to struggle
to hear him,” Stevenson says.
Years later, Wright says he is happy to see
Robeson get more recognition for his efforts.
“This tape will be lost to the
public unless something happens to publicize it. …So when
he gave it to me I promised to try and keep it alive,”
Wright says. “One of our goals is to make sure that the
young people know about Paul Robeson, because he was the greatest
role model we’ve ever had.”
Robeson died in 1976 after having a stroke
Source: Ernest A. Jasmin, “Barred at
the Border,” The Bellingham Herald, February 24, 1998,
pp. C1, C3.
STUDENT ENROLLMENT IN COLLEGES, 1941-1942
Black Institutions with the Largest Black Student Enrollment
Degrees to Black Students, 1942
Tennessee A&I State College
Prairie View (Tex.) State College
Virginia State College
Alabama State Teachers College
North Carolina A&T College
Hampton Institute (Va.)
Florida A&M State College
Wiley College (Texas)
South Carolina State College
Lincoln Univ. (Missouri)
Fayetteville (NC) State College
Philander Smith College (Ark.)
Langston University (Okla)
Morgan State College (Md.)
Lane College (Tenn.)
(Ala.) State A&M Institute
Virginia Union University
Winston-Salem (NC) State College
White Institutions with the Largest Black Student Enrollment
Degrees to Black Students, 1942
Wayne University (Mich.)
Ohio State University
City College of New York
Columbia Teachers College (N.Y.)
University of Kansas
University of Illinois
Western Reserve Univ (Ohio)
Oberlin College (Ohio)
Kansas State University
Northwestern University (Ill.)
University of Nebraska
University of Denver
Loyola University (Chicago)
University of Arizona
Pacific Union College (Ca.)
Drew University (N.J.)
"The American Negro in College, 1941-1942," Crisis,
49:8 (August 1942), pp. 252, 266.
BLACK FACULTY IN WHITE INSTITUTIONS, 1947
In 1947 Ebony Magazine surveyed the nation's
leading institutions to determine the number of black faculty.
There were, according to the survey, 63 instructors at 25 predominately
white institutions. A total of 78 blacks had taught at 43 Northern
white colleges since the turn of the century, the oldest was
Chicago-born Dr. William Augustus Hinton, 63 of Harvard University
Medical School. Dr. Hinton had been on the faculty since 1915.
Listed below are the numbers of African American faculty at
the major institutions in the United States.
College of New York
of Social Work (New York)
College (New York)
Ebony Magazine, September, 1947.
SPORTS AND RACE: THE JACKIE ROBINSON SAGA
Sports historian Jules Tygiel recounts the
summer of 1947 when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers
and finally broke the racial barrier in major league baseball.
The Brooklyn baseball club acquired its unusual nickname in
the early 20th Century. Electrified streetcars in New York's
largest borough were so dangerous, joked the residents, that
one had to become a skilled "trolley dodger" to survive.
Brooklynites appended the name to the local baseball team and
later shortened it to "Dodgers." When Jackie Robinson
arrived in Brooklyn in 1947, gasoline-powered buses were replacing
the electric trolleys... These two developments--the appearance
of a black baseball player and the invasion of the internal
combustion engine--symbolized the forces transforming Brooklyn.
Wartime migrations had sprinkled the borough's predominately
white, middle-class population with blacks from the South and
Latins from Puerto Rico...and rapid construction of highways
facilitated the exodus of the expanding white middle class to
the suburbs, and points farther west. The Robinsons journeyed
from California to New York; many people traveled in the other
For Jackie Robinson, relative tranquility characterized the
initial week of the 1947 season. In the first two contests,
facing the Boston Braves, the rookie first baseman eked out
one bunt single.... On April 18 the Dodgers crossed the East
River to play the New York Giants. Over 37,000 people flocked
to the Polo Grounds to witness Robinson's first appearance outside
of Brooklyn. Robinson responded with his first major league
home run.... The next three weeks thrust Robinson, his family,
his teammates, and baseball into a period of unrelenting crises
and tension. The Dodger's first opponents on the homestand were
the Philadelphia Phillies managed by Alabaman Ben Chapman....
From the moment the two clubs took to the field the Phillies,
led by Chapman, unleashed a torrent of insults at the black
athlete. Chapman mention everything from thick lips to the supposedly
extra-thick Negro scull... and the repulsive sores and diseases
he said Robinson's teammates would become infected with if they
touched the towels or combs he used.
“I have to admit that this day
of all the unpleasant days of my life brought me nearer to cracking
up than I have ever been," Robinson wrote in 1972. "For
one wild...minute I thought, 'to Hell with Mr. Rickey's noble
experiment'" The ordeal tempted Robinson to "stride
over to that Phillies dugout, grab one of those white sons of
bitches and smash his teeth with my despised black fist."
The daily flood of mail included not only congratulatory messages
but threats of violence. In early May, the Dodgers turned several
of these notes over to the police.... In the aftermath of the
threats...Rickey requested that Robinson allow the Dodgers to
open and answer all correspondence. The Dodgers released details
of the threatening letters to the press on May 9....
A more ominous development overshadowed these
incidents. New York Herald Tribune sports editor Stanley Woodward
unveiled an alleged plot by National League players, led by
the St. Louis Cardinals, to strike against Robinson during the
first Dodger-Cardinal game. National League President Ford Frick
and Cardinal owner Sam Breadon averted the walkout with the
If you do this you will be suspended from
the league.... I do not care if half the league strikes. Those
who do it will encounter quick retribution. They will be suspended,
and I don't care if it wrecks the National League for five years.
This is the United States of America, and one citizen has as
much right to play as another.
A seasoned athlete, even in his rookie year, Robinson seemed
to thrive on challenges and flourished before large audiences....
The bigger the occasion the more he rose to it. Robinson's drive
not only inspired his own dramatic performances but intimidated
and demoralized enemy players. Robinson "stirred up the
Dodgers and Dodger fans in anticipation of victory and he stirred
up the resentment of fans and players on other teams. To some
degree because he was black, but most of all because he beat
'em." "This guy didn't just come to play," asserts
Leo Durocher, "he came to beat ya. He came to stuff the
goddamn bat right up your ass."
"He brought a new dimension into
baseball," said Al Campanis. "He brought base stealing
back to the days of the twenties. He revolutionized major league
baseball by injecting an element of ‘tricky baseball,’
so common in the Negro Leagues....” Tom Meany told the
tale of a Dodger Giant game in 1947 when Robinson doubled with
one out in a tie game and then tagged up on a routine fly ball
to center field. A Giant executive sitting next to Meany angrily
denounced Robinson as a "showboat." "That's bush
stuff," exclaimed the baseball man. "With two out
he's just as valuable on second as he is on third. What's he
going to do now--steal home I suppose?" On the next pitch,
Robinson did just that, putting the Dodgers in the lead...
To black America, Jackie Robinson appeared
as a savior, a Moses leading his people out of the wilderness....
"In the Depression," according to Ernest J. Gaines,
it was tough on everybody, but twice as hard on the colored,
and He sent us Joe Louis...and after the war, He sent us Jackie."
Thousands of blacks thronged to ball parks wherever he appeared.
For games in Cincinnati, a "Jackie Robinson special"
train ran from Norfolk, Virginia, stopping en route to pick
up black fans.... Robinson himself wrote that while the sight
of so many blacks pleased him, their indiscriminate cheering
sometimes proved embarrassing. "The colored fans applauded
Jackie every time he wiggled his ears," complained one
black sportswriter after a game in Cincinnati.... Black Americans
affixed their loyalty not only to Robinson, but to the Brooklyn
Dodgers as well. For many years, blacks throughout the nation
would be Dodger fans, in honor of the team that had broken the
Robinson's popularity was not confined to
blacks; white fans also stormed baseball arenas to view this
new sensation. In Brooklyn white fans rallied behind Robinson,
"350%," recalls Joe Bostic.... Wendell Smith reported,
"He seldom gets a chance to eat a peaceful meal on the
train.... He is the target of well-wishers, autograph hounds
and indiscreet politicians who would bask in his glory to win
prestige for themselves. They call him on the telephone at all
hours of the morning or night." At time the fans could
get personal.... A twenty-year-old winner of the Miss Akron
beauty contest professed her love for Robinson and invited him
to visit her. "I know that you are a married man and that
you have a son," she admitted, "but you don't have
to be an angel." Robinson advised the woman, "When
I married Mrs. Robinson, I exchanged vows to love, honor, and
cherish her for the rest of my life. 'Honor' means just that
to me and any sneaking, skulking escapade would destroy the
very thing that enables me to hold my head up high."
Robinson's early season difficulties brought
numerous letters denouncing the Philadelphia players and the
accused St. Louis strikers. "I happen to be a white southerner,"
wrote a man from Richmond on May 19, "but I just want you
to know that not all us southerners are SOB's" A letter
from Corpus Christi, Texas, dated May 11 advised him to "Stay
in there and fight, Jackie. For there will be others to follow
you in the Big Leagues if your are successful." A midshipman
at Annapolis wrote of Robinson's tormentors, "personally,
I'd like to paste them on the jaw. I think it's a shame that
we have such people existing in our country."
Correspondents repeatedly reminded the black
pioneer of his responsibilities to his race and to the United
States. Harold MacDowell of Newark informed Robinson that "there
are thousands of American youngsters of your complexion and
my different complexion who are going to learn their first lesson
in sociology from your experience... Remember you are on a stage
all the time. Your mistakes will be attributed to all Negroes."
Robinson's correspondence reflected the changes
in racial attitudes that he inspired. His dynamic presence instilled
a sense of pride in black Americans and led many whites to reassess
their own feelings. The affection for Robinson grow so widespread
that at the year's end voters in an annual public opinion poll
named him the second most popular man in America. Only Bing
Crosby registered more votes.
Jules Tygiel, Jackie Robinson Breaks Baseball's
Color Line (New York, 1983), pp. 181-200.