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African Americans entered the 20th Century
understandably concerned about their collective future and fate.
The tide of segregationist legislation that began in the 19th
Century carried over into the first decade of the new century.
Anti-black violence in the form of lynchings and race riots actually
peaked in number and intensity in the second decade of the 20th
Century. Noted political conservative Booker T. Washington emerged
in the first decade of the 20th Century as the most powerful figure
in African America and certainly the most influential black person
in the nation.
Yet even in the first years of the century
developments emerged that would challenge this pessimistic view
of the future. A small, dedicated minority of African American
leaders vowed to continue to fight for full civil rights. Joined
by an almost equally small minority of whites they formed the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
which would emerge as the largest and most civil rights organization
in the nation. Others formed the National Urban League just
before the great migration to Northern cities began in earnest
during the World War I years. Indeed one could argue that that
migration rapidly undermined the powerful forces that had stymied
African American economic and political aspirations since the
end of Reconstruction. As the various vignettes will show, at
the moment when racial oppression seemed greatest, change were
already underway that would challenge its ability to control
The first vignette, George H. White’s
Farewell Address to Congress makes that point when the North
Carolina Congressman details the political manipulation and
intimidation that made his the lone black voice in the U.S.
Congress at the beginning of the 20th Century but who confidently
and correctly predicted that 20th Century African Americans
would arise “phoenix like” and return representatives
to the Halls of Congress. Black Soldiers on the Filipino Insurrection
profiles the recognition by some black military personnel of
the irony of their fighting a war of conquest predicated on
assumptions of racial superiority that were often turned against
them. Ida Wells on Booker T. Washington signals the growing
opposition to the dominant man and philosophy in black America
while The Boston “Riot” As Described by William
Monroe Trotter provides one account of the incident which generated
the first organized challenge of Washington’s leadership.
The vignette The Niagara Movement describes that challenge.
W.E.B. DuBois and the Talented Tenth argues for responsible,
committed race leadership among the best and brightest African
Americans. In W.E.B. DuBois Writes a Schoolgirl, 1905, we see
a poignant attempt to encourage a young girl on the verge of
succumbing to despair and failure because of racial discrimination.
Brownsville, 1906 is the announcement of the discharge of an
entire regiment of soldiers because of the unlawful actions
of a few. Early Housing Discrimination: A 1911 St. Louis Restrictive
Covenant describes an evolving practice that would arguably
have the most pronounced affect on black economic fortunes through
The Springfield Riot profiles the episode which proved the catalyst
for the founding of the NAACP. The organization is itself profiled
in The NAACP Challenges the Segregation of Federal Employees
and 1920: The NAACP Faces the Future. The CRISIS: The First
Editorial highlights the official publication of the organization
which became the first “national” African American
periodical. The magazine simultaneously rivaled and enhanced
its parent organization because of its inspired editing by W.E.B.
DuBois and its biting cartoons. Two of those cartoons, American
Logic and Woman to the Rescue appear in this chapter. The vignette,
The National Urban League describes the other civil rights organization
founded during this period, one devoted the assisting African
Americans in their adjustment to urban life.
Three other vignettes capture other events
of the period. In William Monroe Trotter Confronts President
Wilson we see the clash between two men with very different
views of the racial dilemma. The vignette The Houston Mutiny
and Race Riot: One Soldier’s Last Words captures the last
hours of one of thirteen troopers executed in the aftermath
of this incident. The final vignette, Lynching in America: Black
and White Women Respond details the increasingly successful
efforts of women’s organizations to end one of the most
horrific types of racial violence of the period.
GEORGE H. WHITE’S FAREWELL ADDRESS TO CONGRESS
In January 1901, at the beginning of a new
century, George H. White was ending his term as a Congressman
from North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. Realizing
that he was bringing to a close a thirty two year period when
nearly forty Southern African Americans sat in Congress, White
used the occasion of his farewell address to remind that body
and the nation of the reason for his defeat and the elimination
of black representation in the nation’s capital. He also
predicted that African Americans would return to Congress. His
prediction became a reality when in 1928, Oscar DePriest was
elected to represent a Chicago congressional district. Part
of White’s address appears below. To read this speech
in its entirety, please visit TheBlackPast at www.blackpast.org.
I want to enter a plea for the colored man, the colored woman,
the colored boy, and the colored girl of this country. I would
not thus digress from the question at issue and detain the House
in a discussion of the interests of this particular people at
this time but for the constant and the persistent efforts of
certain gentlemen upon this floor to mold and rivet public sentiment
against us as a people and to lose no opportunity to hold up
the unfortunate few who commit crimes and depredations and lead
lives of infamy and shame, as other races do, as fair specimens
of representatives of the entire colored race...
In the catalogue of members of Congress in
this House perhaps none have been more persistent in their determination
to bring the black man into disrepute and…show that he
was unworthy of the right of citizenship than my colleague from
North Carolina, Mr. Kitchin. During the first session of this
Congress…he labored long and hard to show that the white
race was at all times and under all circumstances superior to
the Negro by inheritance if not otherwise, and…that an
illiterate Negro was unfit to participate in making the laws
of a sovereign state and the administration and execution of
them; but an illiterate white man living by his side, with no
more or perhaps not as much property, with no more exalted character,
no higher thoughts of civilization, no more knowledge of the
handicraft of government, had by birth, because he was white,
inherited some peculiar qualification...
In the town where this young gentleman was
born, at the general election last August for…state and
county officers, Scotland Neck had a registered white vote of
395, most of whom…were Democrats, and a registered colored
vote of 534, virtually…all of whom were Republicans, and
so voted. When the count was announced, however, there were
831 Democrats to 75 Republicans; but in the town of Halifax,
same county, the result was much more pronounced. In that town
the registered Republican vote was 345, and the total registered
vote of the township was 539, but when the count was announced
it stood 990 Democrats to 41 Republicans, or 492 more Democratic
votes counted than were registered votes in the township. Comment
here is unnecessary…
It would be unfair, however, for me to leave
the inference upon the minds of those who hear me that all of
the white people of the State of North Carolina hold views with
Mr. Kitchin and think as he does. Thank God there are many noble
exceptions to the example he sets, that, too, in the Democratic
party; men who have never been afraid that one uneducated, poor,
depressed Negro could put to flight and chase into degradation
two educated, wealthy, thrifty white men. There never has been,
nor ever will be, any Negro domination in that state, and no
one knows it any better than the Democratic party. It is a convenient
howl, however, often resorted to in order to consummate a diabolical
purpose by scaring the weak and gullible whites into support
of measures and men suitable to the demagogue…
I trust I will be pardoned for making a passing
reference to one more gentleman -- Mr. Wilson of South Carolina
-- who, in the early part of this month, made a speech, some
parts of which did great credit to him… But his purpose
was incomplete until he dragged in the Reconstruction days and
held up to scorn and ridicule the few ignorant, gullible…Negroes
who served in the state legislature of South Carolina over thirty
years ago…These few ignorant men who chanced at that time
to hold office are given as a reason why the black man should
not be permitted to participate in the affairs of the government
which he is forced to pay taxes to support…
If the gentleman to whom I have referred will pardon me, I would
like to advance the statement that…what the Negro was
thirty-two years ago, is not a proper standard by which the
Negro living on the threshold of the twentieth century should
be measured. Since that time we have reduced the illiteracy
of the race at least 45 percent. We have written and published
nearly 500 books. We have nearly 800 newspapers, three of which
are dailies. We have now in practice over 2,000 lawyers, and
a corresponding number of doctors. We have accumulated over
$12,000,000 worth of school property and about $40,000,000 worth
of church property. We have about 140,000 farms and homes, valued
in the neighborhood of $750,000,000, and personal property valued
about $170,000,000. We have raised about $11,000,000 for educational
purposes, and the property per-capita for every colored man,
woman and child in the United States is estimated at $75. We
are operating successfully several banks, commercial enterprises
among our people in the South land, including one silk mill
and one cotton factory. We have 32,000 teachers in the schools
of the country; we have built, with the aid of our friends,
about 20,000 churches, and support 7 colleges, 17 academies,
50 high schools, 5 law schools, 5 medical schools and 25 theological
seminaries. We have over 600,000 acres of land in the South
alone. The cotton produced, mainly by black labor, has increased
from 4,669,770 bales in 1860 to 11,235,000 in 1899. All this
was done under the most adverse circumstances.
We have done it in the face of lynching, burning at the stake,
with the humiliation of "Jim Crow" laws, the disfranchisement
of our male citizens, slander and degradation of our women,
with the factories closed against us, no Negro permitted to
be conductor on the railway cars…no Negro permitted to
run as engineer on a locomotive, most of the mines closed against
us. Labor unions--carpenters, painters, brick masons, machinists,
hackmen and those supplying nearly every conceivable avocation
for livelihood--have banded themselves together to better their
condition, but, with few exceptions, the black face has been
left out. The Negroes are seldom employed in our mercantile
stores… With all these odds against us, we are forging
our way ahead, slowly, perhaps, but surely… You may use
our labor for two and a half centuries and then taunt us for
our poverty, but let me remind you we will not always remain
poor! You may withhold even the knowledge of how to read God's
word and…then taunt us for our ignorance, but we would
remind you that there is plenty of room at the top, and we are
Mr. Chairman, before concluding my remarks I want to submit
a brief recipe for the solution of the so-called "American
Negro problem." He asks no special favors, but simply demands
that he be given the same chance for existence, for earning
a livelihood, for raising himself in the scales of manhood and
womanhood, that are accorded to kindred nationalities. Treat
him as a man…open the doors of industry to him…
Help him to overcome his weaknesses, punish the crime-committing
class by the courts of the land, measure the standard of the
race by its best material, cease to mold prejudicial and unjust
public sentiment against him, and…he will learn to support…and
join in with that political party, that institution, whether
secular or religious, in every community where he lives, which
is destined to do the greatest good for the greatest number.
Obliterate race hatred, party prejudice, and help us to achieve
nobler ends, greater results and become satisfactory citizens
to our brother in white.
This, Mr. Chairman, is perhaps the Negroes'
temporary farewell to the American Congress; but…phoenix-like
he will rise up some day and come again…
Source: Congressional Record, 56th Cong., 2d session, vol. 34,
pt. 2 (Washington
D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901), pp. 1635, 1636, 1638.
BLACK SOLDIERS ON THE FILIPINO INSURRECTION, 1901
The letters below are two of many which appeared
in the Indianapolis Freeman, arguably the chief critic of the
Spanish American War (1898) and the subsequent campaign against
Emilio Aguinaldo and the Filipino insurrectionists (1899-1901).
The first letter is from William Simms who identifies himself
as a soldier in Bong-a-bong, Philippines Isles. The second letter
is from Pvt. William R. Fulbright, 25th Infantry and is dated
June 10, 1901.
Simms: I was struck by a question a little
boy asked me, which ran about this way—“Why does
the American Negro come from America to fight us when we are
much friend to him and have not done anything to him? He is
all the same as me, and me all the same as you. Why don’t
you fight those people in America that burn the Negroes, that
made a beast of you, that took the child from its mother’s
side and sold it?”
Fulbright: This struggle on the islands has
been naught but a gigantic scheme of robbery and oppression.
Many soldiers who came here in poverty to battle for the “stars
and stripes” have gone home with gold, diamonds, and other
valuables while the natives here who were once good livers [sic],
are hardly able to keep the wolf from the door. Graves have
been entered and searches have been made for riches; churches
and cathedrals have been entered and jewelry stolen. The commissary
scandal is being thoroughly investigated…. The way some
of our officers have conducted themselves is enough to cause
the worst insurrecto to shudder with fear when he knows the
American flag is to wave over his people and that they are to
look to the American government for protection. The natives
say we have good men for soldiers but drunkards for officers—my
lips are closed. The natives equivocally denounce the attitude
of our government and claim that its administration is unjust
and humiliating…. If we are to unfurl our flag on these
islands let us make these natives joint heirs in our citizenship….
The eyes of the civilized world are upon us and now is the time
Source: Indianapolis Freeman, May 11, 1901,
p. 4; August 3, 1901, p. 1
IDA B. WELLS ON BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
The following is Ida B. Wells trenchant critique
of Booker T. Washington's views on industrial education.
Industrial education for the Negro is Booker
T. Washington's hobby. He believes that for the masses of the
Negro race an elementary education of the brain and a continuation
of the education of the hand is not only the best kind, but
he knows it is the most popular with the white South. He knows
also that the Negro is the butt of ridicule with the average
white American, and that the aforesaid American enjoys nothing
so much as a joke which portrays the Negro as illiterate and
improvident; a petty thief or a happy-go-lucky inferior. Booker
T. Washington... knows....that the representatives which stand
as the type for any race, are chosen not from the worst but
from the best specimens of the race; the achievements of the
few rather than the poverty, vice and ignorance of the many,
are the standards of any given race's ability....
That one of the most noted of their own race
should join with the enemies to their highest progress in condemning
the education they had received, has been to...[college educated
Negroes] a bitter pill. And so for a long while they keenly,
though silently, resented the gibes against the college-bred
youth which punctuate Mr. Washington's speeches. He proceeds
to draw a moral there from for his entire race. The result is
that the world which listens to him and which largely supports
his educational institution, has almost unanimously decided
that college education is a mistake for the Negro. They hail
with acclaim the man who has made popular the unspoken thought
of that part of the North which believes in the inherent inferiority
of the Negro, and the always outspoken southern view to the
No human agency can tell how many black diamonds lie buried
in the black belt of the South, and the opportunities for discovering
them become rarer every day as the schools for thorough training
become more cramped and no more are being established. The presidents
of Atlanta University and other such schools remained in the
North the year round, using their personal influence to secure
funds to keep these institutions running. Many are like the
late Collis P. Huntington, who had given large amounts to Livingston
College, Salisbury, North Carolina. Several years before his
death he told the president of that institution that as he believed
Booker T. Washington was educating Negroes in the only sensible
way, henceforth his money for that purpose would go to Tuskegee.
All the schools in the South have suffered as consequence of
this general attitude, and many of the oldest and best which
have regarded themselves as fixtures now find it a struggle
to maintain existence. Tuskegee is the only endowed institution
for the Negro in the South....
Does this mean that the Negro objects to industrial education?
By no means. It simply means that he knows by sad experience
that industrial education will not stand him in place of political,
civil and intellectual liberty, and he objects to being deprived
of fundamental rights of American citizenship to the end that
one school for industrial training shall flourish. To him it
seems like selling a race's birthright for a mess of pottage.
Source: Ida Wells Barnett, "Booker T.
Washington and His Critics," The World Today, April 1904,
W.E.B. DuBOIS AND THE TALENTED TENTH
In response to the rising influence of Booker
T. Washington's educational philosophy on black institutions
and black though, W.E.B. Dubois launched a call for the creation
of a college educated elite, a "talented tenth." His
argument, reprinted below, appeared, ironically, in a book edited
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..... If we
make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers
but not necessarily men....
From the very first it has been the educated and intelligent
of the Negro people that have led and elevated the mass....
…Who are to-day
guiding the work of the Negro people? The "exceptions"
of course. And yet so sure as this Talented Tenth is pointed
out, the blind worshippers of the Average cry out in alarm:
"These are exceptions, look here at death, disease and
crime-these are the happy rule." Of course they are the
rule, because a silly nation made them the rule: Because for
three long centuries this people lynched Negroes who dared to
be brave, raped black women who dared to be virtuous, crushed
dark-hued youth who dared to be ambitious, and encouraged and
made to flourish servility and lewdness and apathy.....
Can the masses of the Negro people be in any
possible way more quickly raised than by the effort and example
of this aristocracy of talent and character? Never; it is, ever
was and ever will be from the top downward that culture filters.
The Talented Tenth rises and pulls all that are worth the saving
up to their vantage ground. This is the history of human progress;...
How then shall the leaders of a struggling people be trained
and the hands of the risen few strengthened? There can be but
one answer: The best and most capable of their youth must be
schooled in the colleges and universities of the land.... All
men cannot go to college but some men must.... Out from the
normal schools [created after the Civil War] went teachers,
and around the normal teachers clustered other teachers to teach
the public schools; the college trained in Greek and Latin and
mathematics, 2,000 men; and these men trained full 50,000 others
in morals and manners, and they in turn taught thrift and the
alphabet to nine millions of men, who today hold $300,000,000
These figures illustrate vividly the function
of the college-bred Negro. He is, as he ought to be, the group
leader, the man who sets the ideals of the community where he
lives, directs its thoughts and heads its social movements....
Can such culture training of group leaders
be neglected? Can we afford to ignore it?... You have no choice;
either you must help furnish this race from within its own ranks
with thoughtful men of trained leadership, or you must suffer
the evil consequences of a headless misguided rabble.
Source: W.E.B. DuBois, "The Talented
Tenth," in Booker T. Washington and others, The Negro Problem:
A Series of Articles by Representative Negroes of To-Day, (New
York: J. Pott & Co., 1903), pp. 33, 34, 43-44, 45-47, 54,
Source: Crisis, 6 (June 1913):p. 80.
The cartoon “American Logic” serves as a reminder
of the impact of the double standard imposed on black people
by racial bias.
THE BOSTON "RIOT" AS DESCRIBED BY WILLIAM MONROE TROTTER
In the account below William Monroe Trotter
describes Booker T. Washington’s failed attempt to speak
at the Columbus Avenue A.M.E. Zion Church in Boston in August,
1903. Trotter, then the chief critic of Washington’s policies,
was arrested in a confrontation that would soon be known as
the “Boston Riot” the event which helped generate
the national campaign among African Americans to limit the political
influence of the "Wizard of Tuskegee." As the account
attests, Trotter was an active participant in the events, not
a neutral observer
The Republican rally, which took place Thursday
evening at Zion A. M. E. church, Columbus Avenue, under the
auspices of Booker Washington’s so-called Business league
was a much a disjointed and draw-out affair. A decided opposition
to Mr. Washington being brought to speak in Boston at the present
time was manifested in the first. This, of course, was due to
the fact that Washington is considered by the more thoughtful
of the race to be the chief cause of the low ebb at which the
Negros [sic] fortune find themselves at this time. It was known
that Mr. Washington’s effort on this occasion was for
political effect, that is to carry out his agreement with the
national administration to get the Colored people in line with
his doctrine of not insisting on their political rights. The
truth is this was simply a scheme concocted by Mr. Washington
himself to make it appear he had the endorsement of the Colored
people of this vicinity. This is shown by the fact that half
the names in the circular were put there unknown by the men
The meeting, however, began with a solo by
Mr. John F. Ransom, followed by prayer by Rev. I. J. Montague,
Mr. W. H. Lewis was then introduced as the presiding officer.
Mr. Lewis made a floundering speech of a few moments with an
effort to be a little witty and then got out of the whole affair
by calling on Mr. T. Thomas Fortune of New York. Mr. Fortune
is a Roosevelt office holder as is Lewis, and both of them have
jobs through the kindness of Booker Washington.
It was an infelicitous reference eulogistic of Washington, which
was made in introducing Fortune that caused the first hissing,
and it was the same hissing which Lewis declared he would have
the maker arrested for if repeated. This brought in a shower
of hisses and much to the surprise of all, police were called
in to remove the hisser who proved to be Mr. Granville Martin
of this city. Mr. Martin demanded of the officers whether they
had a warrant for his arrest, and finding they had none he protested
against being removed and reasserted…his right to hiss.
He was then taken out by main force and with difficulty as friends
came to his rescue and finally wrested him from the officers
and he marched down the aisle to his seat a free man amid applause.
next brought out Mr. Henry Burleigh, the noted New York singer
and his selection was the only thing of art among the performers
Mr. Effervest Brown was next called on to
make a hole in the line of opposition and started out with his
usual ‘saddest experience of all his life’ as a
feeler… The hissing which followed Brown was so severe
that the leaders tried to snatch a bar from ‘My Country
‘Tis of Thee.’ This too was hissed and the chagrined
chairman, Lewis, grew hoarse in platitudes about patriotism
and the rights of free speech.
A collection, the chief object of the meeting,
was here lifted, but the feeble response, as the people were
not in a humor to give cheerfully under such circumstances.
The collection over, Chairman Lewis summoned
all his muses and drew himself to his full height to tell the
audience why they should hear the Tuskegee prophet quietly and
prayed and hoped that peace would reign during the ordeal. Tuskegee
came out with one of his choice mule stories, which was too
much for Mr. Martin who at once arose to ask a few questions,
which he desired Booker to answer in explanation of his past
utterances. Mr. Martin was denied the privilege to ask the question
by Chairman Lewis, who at once began to halloo for the police.
A squad of five police surrounded Mr. Martin and forcibly dragged
him out, but he had shouted several of the questions at Washington
in the meantime. This brutal outrage of free speech brought
out so much confusion between the hissers who sat near the door
and the Washingtonites that Sage Booker was forced to sit and
receive the consolation of his wife. After the lapse of a quarter
of an hour Bre’r Booker again attempted to stem the tide
of popular indignation but was forced into subsiding by the
questions of Messrs. Moses Newsome and W. M. Trotter, and the
hissing of the antis. Another effort was made to restore harmony
through the power of song, but of no avail… Meanwhile
threats of personal violence, with occasional illustrations,
were being visited upon Mr. Trotter, whom some of the trustees
were trying to force from the building, but he held his ground
and maintained his rights.
Here Chairman Lewis again rose and swore by
all the power vested in him, the greatest district attorney
Massachusetts ever had, that he would prosecute the askers of
questions to the full extent of the law, and he slipped out
meanwhile to the front door and sent for officers to arrest
Mr. Trotter. As it happened these officers arrived just in time
to see several church deacons striking at Mr. Trotter and trying
in vain to move him, but nevertheless as is usually the police’s
way, they took the man who was not fighting. At this high-handed
brutality the audience became frenzied and the greatest excitement
prevailed. At this time half the audience adjourned to the sidewalk
and cheered Editor Trotter. Booker Washington, propped up by
the police force nearly half as large as the remaining audience
proceeded to reel off his usual rot about Negroes going south
to the farms. Of course, the men arrested were at once bailed
by Mrs. Virginia Trotter, who was willing to bail out a wagon
load if necessary of any other victims to Negro tyranny. The
gentlemen arrested were soon back at the church, but unfortunately
did not arrive in time to witness the departure of the sage…
Surrounded by a struggling mass of angry people
of his own race, in the confusion of fainting women and fighting
men, unable to address his audience or to persuade them into
a state of sanity, Booker T. Washington met his first really
hostile demonstration in Boston last evening at the Zion A.
M. E. church…
Source: “Booker Washington Speaks Under
a Cordon of Police,” Boston Guardian, August 1, 1903,
pp. 1, 8.
THE NIAGARA MOVEMENT
The Niagara Movement's first general meeting
was convened on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to dramatize
its protest against American inequities. Its first address to
the nation in July, 1905, is printed below.
We believe that (Negro) American citizens
should protest emphatically and continually against the curtailment
of their political rights. We believe in manhood suffrage: we
believe that no man is so good, intelligent or wealthy as to
be entrusted wholly with the welfare of his neighbor.
We believe also in protest against the curtailment of our civil
rights. All American citizens have the right to equal treatment
in places of public entertainment according to their behavior
We especially complain against the denial
of equal opportunities to us in economic life; in the rural
districts of the south this amounts to peonage and virtual slavery;
all over the south it tends to crush labor and small business
enterprises: and everywhere American prejudice, helped often
by iniquitous laws, is making it more difficult for Negro-Americans
to earn a decent living.
Common school education should be free to all American children
and compulsory. High school training should be adequately provided
for all, and college training should be the monopoly of no class
or race in any section of our common country. We believe that
in defense of its own institutions, the United States should
aid common school education, particularly in the south, and
we especially recommend concerted agitation to this end. We
urge an increase in public high school facilities in the south,
were the Negro- Americans are almost wholly without such provisions.
We favor well-equipped trade and technical schools for the training
of artisans, and the need of adequate and liberal endowment
for a few institutions of higher education. We refuse to allow
the impression to remain that the Negro-American assents to
inferiority, is submissive under oppression and apologetic before
insults. Through helplessness we may submit, but the voice of
protest of ten million Americans must never cease to assail
the ears of their fellows, so long as America is unjust. We
regret that this nation has never seen fit adequately to reward
the black soldiers who in its five wars, have defended their
country with their blood, and yet have been systematically denied
the promotions which their abilities deserve. And we regard
as unjust, the exclusion of black boys from the military and
navy training schools.
And while we are demanding, and ought to demand,
and will continue to demand the rights enumerated above, God
forbid that we should ever forget to urge corresponding duties
upon our people.
The duty to vote.
The duty to respect the rights of others.
The duty to work.
The duty to obey the laws.
The duty to be clean and orderly.
The duty to send our children to school.
The duty to respect ourselves, even as we respect others.
Source: Cleveland Gazette, July 22, 1905,
W.E. B. DuBOIS WRITES A SCHOOLGIRL
William Edward Burghardt DuBois was unquestionably
the most determined, persistent and eloquent critic of racial
injustice in the 20th Century U.S. Yet in 1905 he wrote to an
African American school girl who had begun to neglect her studies
because she believed education provided no benefit for African
Americans in a racist society. His letter to her appears below.
I wonder if you will let a stranger say a
word to you about yourself? I have heard that you are a young
woman of some ability but that you are neg¬lecting your
school work because you have become hopeless of trying to do
anything in the world. I am very sorry for this. How any human
being whose wonderful fortune it is to live in the 20th century
should under ordi¬narily fair advantages despair of life
is almost unbelievable. And if in addition to this that person
is, as I am, of Negro lineage with all the hopes and yearnings
of hundreds of millions of human souls dependent in some degree
on her striving, then her bitterness amounts to crime.
There are in the U.S. today tens of thousands of colored girls
who would be happy beyond measure to have the chance of educating
themselves that you are neglecting. If you train yourself as
you easily can, there are wonder¬ful chances of usefulness
before you: you can join the ranks of 15,000 Negro women teachers,
of hundreds of nurses and physicians, of the grow¬ing number
of clerks and stenographers, and above all of the host of home¬makers.
Ignorance is a cure for nothing. Get the very best training
possible & the doors of opportunity will fly open before
you as they are flying before thousands of your fellows. On
the other hand every time a colored person neglects an opportunity,
it makes it more difficult for others of the race to get such
an opportunity. Do you want to cut off the chances of the boys
and girls of tomorrow?
Source: W.E.B. DuBois Papers, University of
Massachusetts, Amherst Archives.
On the night of August 13, 1906, approximately
fifteen unidentified men gathered across the street from Fort
Brown, on the edge of Brownsville, Texas and began firing into
buildings along the alley and adjacent 13th Street. Before the
shooting stopped ten minutes later, Frank Natus, a bartender
was dead and the wounded included M. Ygnacio Dominguez, a police
lieutenant, and Paulino S. Preciado, editor of the local Spanish-language
newspaper El Porvenir. The Brownsville Raid, as the incident
was soon called, was seen by many as a retaliation for the harsh
treatment African American soldiers of the 25th Infantry had
suffered at the hands of townspeople. Soldiers from Fort Brown
were assumed to be the culprits. When civilian and military
authorities were unable to determine those responsible, President
Theodore Roosevelt discharged 167 men in the regiment arguing
that his action would teach blacks that they should not “band
together to shelter their own criminals.” The brief article
below that announced the discharge belies the firestorm of protest
that would follow.
Washington, November 6—By order of President
Roosevelt, acting upon a report made to him by Brig Gen. A.
Garlington, Inspector General of the Army, every man of companies
B. C. and D of the Twenty Fifth Infantry, the Afro American
regiment, will be discharged without honor from the army and
forever debarred from reenlisting in the army or the navy, as
well as from employment by the Government in any civil capacity.
The action is one of the most drastic ever
taken by the President and is sure to cause a sensation throughout
the service. The refusal of members of the battalion to give
Gen. Garlington or to their immediate superiors the names of
the men implicated in the shooting of citizens at Brownsville,
Texas, near Fort Brown, on August 13, led the Inspector General
to recom¬mend the discharge of all the men and the President
concurred . . . .
This action of President Roosevelt is sure
to arouse the bitterest surprise and anger everywhere among
Afro Americans. They believe that the Afro-American soldiers
were heroic in refusing to betray their comrades to an unfair
trial and certain death, and that they are merely another sacrifice
offered by the President upon the altar of Southern race prejudice.
It is said the soldiers have entered into a compact never to
divulge the evidence.
Source: New York Age, November 8, 1906, p.
THE SPRINGFIELD RIOT
Southern-born William English Walling, cofounder
of the Inter-collegiate Socialist Society, visited Springfield,
Illinois in August 1908 to observe the race riot in the hometown
of Abraham Lincoln. He described the conflict in the September
3, 1908 issue of the Independent. He also called for a meeting
of black and white leaders to address the growing problem of
racial segregation and discrimination highlighted by the riot.
His call led to the founding of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
On the morning after the first riot I was
in Chicago and took the night train for Springfield, where I
have often visited and almost and am almost at home. On arriving
in the town I found that the rioting had been continued throughout
the night, and was even feared for the coming evening, in spite
of the presence of nearly the whole militia of the State. Although
we visited the Mayor, military headquarters, the leading newspaper,
and some prominent citizens, my wife and I gave most of our
attention to the hospital, the negro quarters and the jail.
We at once discovered, to our amazement, that
Springfield had no shame. She stood for the action of the mob.
She hoped the rest of the negroes might flee. She threatened
that the movement to drive them out would continue. I do not
speak of the leading citizens, but of the masses of the people,
of workingmen in the shops, the storekeepers in the stores,
the drivers, the men on the street, the wounded in the hospitals
and even the notorious “Joan of Arc” of the mob,
Kate Howard, who had just been released from arrest on $4,000
bail. [She has since committed suicide.—Editor.] The Illinois
State Journal of Springfield expressed the prevailing feeling
even on its editorial page:
“While all good citizens deplore the
consequences of this outburst of the mob spirit, many even of
these consider the outburst was inevitable, at some time, from
existing conditions, needing only an overt act, such as that
of Thursday night, to bring it from latent existence into active
operation…It was not the fact of the whites’ hatred
toward the negroes, but of the negroes’ own misconduct,
general inferiority or unfitness for free institutions that
were at fault.”
On Sunday, August 16th, the day after the second lynching, a
leading white minister recommended the Southern disfranchisement
scheme as a remedy for negro (!) lawlessness, while all four
ministers who were quoted in the press proposed swift “justice”
for the negroes, rather than recommending true Christianity,
democracy and brotherhood to the whites.
Besides suggestions in high places of the negro’s brutality,
criminality and unfitness for the ballot we heard in lower ranks
all the opinions that pervade the South—that the negro
does not need much education, that his present education even
has been a mistake, that whites cannot live in the same community
with negroes except where the latter have been taught their
inferiority, that lynching is the only way to teach them, etc.
In fact, this went so far that we were led to suspect the existence
of a Southern element in the town, and this is indeed the case.
Many of the older citizens are from Kentucky or the southern
part of Illinois. Moreover, many of the street railway employees
are from the South. It was a street railway man’s wife
that was assaulted the night before the riots, and they were
street railway employees, among others, that led the mob to
It was, in fact, only three days after the
first disturbance when they fully realized that the lenient
public opinion of Springfield was not the public opinion of
Illinois or the North, that the rioters began to tremble. Still
this did not prevent them later from insulting the militia,
repeatedly firing at their outposts and almost openly organizing
a political and business boycott to drive the remaining negroes
out. Negro employers continue to receive threatening letters
and are dismissing employees every day, while the sores, even
the groceries, so fear to sell the negroes goods that the State
has been compelled to intervene and purchase $10,000 worth in
The menace is that if this thing continues
it will offer automatic rewards to riotous elements and negro
haters in Springfield, make the reign of terror permanent there,
and offer every temptation to similar white elements in other
towns to imitate Springfield’s example.
Either the spirit of the abolitionists, of Lincoln and of Lovejoy
must be revived and we must come to treat the negro on a plane
of absolute political and social equality, or Vardaman and Tillman
will soon have transferred the race war to the North.
Already Vardaman boasts “that such sad
experiences as Springfield is undergoing will doubtless cause
the people of the North to look with more toleration upon the
methods employed by the Southern people.”
The day these methods become general in the
North every hope of political democracy will be dead, other
weaker races and classes will be persecuted in the North as
in the South, public education will undergo an eclipse, and
American civilization will await either a rapid degeneration
or another profounder and more revolutionary civil war, which
shall obliterate not only the remains of slavery but all the
other obstacles to a free democratic evolution that have grown
up in its wake.
Yet who realizes the seriousness of the situation,
and what large and powerful body of citizens is ready to come
to their aid?
Source: William English Walling, the Independent,
vol. 65, September 3, 1908, p. 530-534.
THE CRISIS: THE FIRST EDITORIAL, 1910
The newly founded NAACP established The Crisis
magazine to explain the organization's position on various issues
and gather information from across the nation on the black plight.
However, W.E.B. DuBois transformed the organ into the first
national political, cultural, and literary journal for black
America, and as such it became the most widely read black publication.
The first editorial is reprinted below.
The object of this publication is to set
forth those facts and arguments which show the danger of race
prejudice, particularly as manifested today toward colored people.
It takes its name from the fact that the editors* believe that
this is a critical time in the history of the advance¬ment
of men. Catholicity and tolerance, reason and forbearance can
today make the world-old dream of human brotherhood approach
realization while bigotry and prejudice, emphasized race consciousness
and force can repeat the awful history of the contact of nations
and groups in the past. We strive for this higher and broader
vision of Peace and Good Will.
The policy of The Crisis will be simple and
It will first and foremost be a newspaper: it will record important
happenings and movements in the world which bear on the great
problem of inter-racial relations, and especially those which
affect the Negro-American.
Secondly, it will be a review of opinion and
literature, recording briefly books, articles, and important
expressions of opinion in the white and colored press on the
Thirdly, it will publish a few short articles.
Finally, its editorial page will stand for
the rights of men, irre¬spec¬tive of color or race,
for the highest ideals of American democracy, and for reasonable
but earnest and persistent attempt to gain these rights and
realize these ideals. The magazine will be the organ of no clique
or party and will avoid personal rancor of all sorts. In the
absence of proof to the contrary it will assume honesty of purpose
on the part of all men, North and South, white and black.
*Associated with Dr. DuBois on the editorial
board were: O. G. Villard, J. M. Barber, Charles E. Russell,
Kelly Miller, William S. Braithwaite and Mary D. MacLean.
Source: The Crisis (N.Y.), November, 1 1910,
EARLY HOUSING DISCRIMINATION: A 1911 ST. LOUIS RESTRICTIVE COVENANT.
The vignette below is part of the 1911 restrictive
covenant for a St. Louis neighborhood. In 1948 the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled in Shelley v. Kraemer that such covenants were legally
unenforceable by state action.
This contract of restrictions made and entered
into by the undersigned, the owners of the property fronting
on Labadie Avenue…between Cora Avenue on the west and
Taylor Avenue on the East, Witnesseth: That for and in consideration
of one dollar and other valuable considerations paid by the
undersigned persons hereby contract and agree with the other
and for the benefit of all to place…a restriction, which
is to run with the title of said property…which should
not be removed except by the consent of all of the property
owners…the said property is hereby restricted to the use
and occupancy for the term of Fifty (50) years from this date…that
no part of said property or any portion thereof shall be occupied
by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby
to restrict the use of said property for said period of time
against the occupancy as owners or tenants of any portion of
said property for resident or other purposes by people of the
Negro or Mongolian Race. It is further contracted and agreed
that upon a violation of this restriction either one or all
of the parties to this agreement shall be permitted and authorized
to bring suit or suits at law or in equity to enforce this restriction
as to the use and occupancy of said property in any Court or
Courts and to forfeit the title to any lot or portions or lot
that may be used in violation of this restriction…
Source: Shelley v. Kraemer, 335 U.S. 1 (1948).
THE NAACP CHALLENGES THE SEGREGATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
In 1913, within months of the inauguration
of Woodrow Wilson as President, the new administration segregated
most of the African American employees of the Federal Government
for the first time. Moorfield Storey, W.E.B. DuBois and Oswald
Garrison Villard on behalf of the NAACP protested that segregation
in a letter to President Wilson which was published in the New
York Times. The letter appears below.
New York, Aug. l5, 1913.
To Woodrow Wilson, President of the United
The National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People, through its Board of Directors, respectfully
protests against the policy of your Administration in segregating
the colored employees in the departments at Washington. It realizes¬
that this new and radical departure has been recommended, and
is now being defended, on the ground that by giving certain
bureaus or sections wholly to col¬ored employees they are
thereby rendered safer in possession of their offices and are
less likely to be ousted or discriminated against. We believe
this reasoning to be fallacious. It is based on a failure to
appreciate¬ the deeper significance of the new policy: to
understand how far reaching the effects of such a drawing of
caste lines by the Federal Government may be, and how humiliating
it is to the men thus stigmatized.
Never before has the Federal Government discriminated against
its civilian employees on the ground of color. Every such act
heretofore has been that of an individual State. The very presence
of the Capitol and of the Federal flag has drawn colored people
to the District of Columbia in the belief that living there
under the shadow of the National Government itself they were
safe from the persecution and discrimination which follow them
elsewhere because of there dark skins. To¬day they learn
that, though their ancestors have fought in every war in behalf
of the United States, in the fiftieth year after Gettysburg
and emancipation, this Government, founded on the theory of
com¬plete equality and freedom for all citizens has established
two classes among its civilian employees. It has set the colored
apart as if mere contact with them were contamination. The efficiency
of their labor, the principles of scientific management are
disregarded, the possibilities of promotion if not now will
soon be severely limited. To them is held out only the prospect
of mere subordinate routine service without the stimulus of
advancement to high office by merit, a right deemed inviolable
for all white natives as for the children of the foreign born,
of Italians, French, and Russians, Jews, and Christians who
are now entering the G¬overnment service. For to such limitation
this segregation will inevitably lead.
Who took the trouble to ascertain what our
colored clerks thought about this order, to which their consent
was never asked? Behind screens and closed doors they now sit
apart as though leprous. Men and women alike have the badge
of inferiority placed upon them by Government decree. How long
will it be before the hateful epithets of “nigger”
and “Jim Crow” are openly applied to these sections?
Let any one experienced in Washington affairs, or any trained
newspaper correspondent answer. The colored people themselves
will tell you how soon sensitive and high-minded members of
their race will refuse to enter the Government service which
thus decrees what is to them the most hateful kind of discrimination.
Indeed, there is a widespread belief among them that this is
the very purpose of these unwarrantable orders. And wherever
there are men who rob the negroes of their votes, who exploit
and degrade and insult and lynch those whom they call their
inferiors, there this mistaken action of the Federal Government
will be cited as the warrant for new racia1 outrages that cry
out to high heaven for redress. Who shall say where discrimination,
once begun, shall cease? Who can deny that every act of discrimination,
once begun, shall cease? Who can deny that every act of discrimination
the world over breeds fresh injustice?
For the lowly of all classes you have lifted
up your voice and not in vain. Shall ten millions of our citizens
say that their civic liberties and rights are not safe in your
hand? To ask the question is to answer it. They desire a “New
Freedom,” too, Mr. President, yet they include in that
term nothing else than the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution
under which they believe they should be protected from persecution
based upon a physical quality with which Divine Providence has
endowed them. They ask therefore that you, born of a great section
which prides itself upon its chivalry toward the humble and
the weak, prevent a gross injustice which is an injustice none
the less because it was actuated in some quarters by a genuine
desire to aid those now discriminated against.
Yours for Justice.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT
OF COLORED PEOPLE.
Source: “Appeal to Wilson For Negro
Clerks,” New York Times, (August 18, 1913), p. 6.
THE NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE
The National League on Urban Conditions Among
Negroes, soon to be known as the National Urban League, was
founded in New York City in 1910. Although it was created to
provide social services primarily for the African American populations
in Southern cities, by the end of its first decade the organization
would spend much of its time, resources and energy in helping
the 500,000 Southern migrants to Northern cities adjust to their
new urban homes. The anonymously authored article below which
describes those services in New York City in 1914 anticipates
the League’s work in other Northern cities for much of
the 20th Century.
When, during the spring of 1910, Mrs. William
H. Baldwin, Jr., called representatives of the many social welfare
organizations work¬ing among Negroes to a conference at
her New York City home, to consider means of preventing duplication
of effort and overlapping of work, of promoting cooperation
among the agencies and of establishing new organizations to
improve neglected conditions, a new era was reached in the handling
of the city problem as it af¬fected the Negroes.
From this meeting resulted the National League
on Urban Con¬ditions Among Negroes, whose work of uplift
is now being felt in ten cities, viz.: New York, Philadelphia,
Pa., Norfolk, Va., Richmond, Va., Nashville, Tenn., Louisville,
Ky., St. Louis, Mo., Savannah, Ga., Augusta, Ga., and Atlanta,
Ga., whose budget has increased from $2,000 to $18,000 per year
and whose staff of paid employees has increased from one full
time and three part time employees to six¬teen salaried
persons in New York City, three in Nashville and two in Norfolk.
* * *
The problem of the city Negro is but the accentuated
counter¬part of the problem of all urban inhabitants. Segregation
and the consequence congestion, the evils of bad housing conditions
with their inevitable accompaniment of dangerous sanitation
and loose morals, the lack of facilities for wholesome recreation
and the ill regulated picture shows and dance halls combine
to make conditions which demand instant relief. Add to this
a population constantly augmented by Negroes from small towns
or rural districts of the South, and the problem of the league
is before you.
* * *
The league has sought to establish agencies
for uplift where needed. If no committee could be found ready
to take over and con¬duct the particular undertaking, the
league has handled the move¬ment through its local office
The Sojourner Truth house committee, with
Mrs. George W. Seligman as chairman, has undertaken the task
of establishing a home for delinquent colored girls under 16
years of age, because of the failure of the State and private
institutions to care adequately for these unfortunates. The
league made an investigation of this need and formed a temporary
committee from which developed the present organization.
The league also inaugurated the movement for
the training of colored nursery maids. A committee, of which
Mr. Franck W. Barber is chairman, has worked out the details
for courses of study in hospital training in care of infants,
kindergarten training, child study and household arts.
During the summer of 1911 the league conducted,
in Harlem, a playground for boys, for the purpose of demonstrating
the need of recreational facilities for the children of Harlem.
As a result of this movement, and a continuous agitation for
more adequate play facilities, the city has practically committed
itself to the operation of a model playground on any plot of
ground in the Harlem district, the use of which is donated to
the City Parks Department.
The travelers' aid work, in charge of Miss
Eva G. Burleigh, has consisted principally in the meeting of
the coastwise steamers meeting the competition of city life,
and who are frequently sent to New York to be exploited by unreliable
employment agents or ques¬tionable men. The league supports
two travelers' aid workers in Norfolk, Va., which is the gateway
to the North for hundreds of women and girls from Virginia and
The preventive or protective work of the league
consists of the visiting in the homes of school children who
have become incorrigi¬bles or truants, for the purpose of
removing the causes of these irregularities. This work is in
charge of Mrs. Hallie B. Craigwell and Mr. Leslie L. Pollard.
Probation work with adults from the court of general sessions
is done by Mr. Chas. C. Allison, Jr. In connection with this
work with delinquents the Big Brother and Big Sister movements
are conducted. The league seeks to furnish to each boy or girl
passing through the courts the helpful influence and guidance
of a man or woman of high moral character.
The league conducts a housing bureau for the
purpose of im¬proving the moral and physical conditions
among the tenement houses in Negro districts. It seeks principally
to prevent the indis¬criminate mixing of the good and bad
by furnishing to the public a list of houses certified to be
tenanted by respectable people. It also seeks to get prompt
action of agents and owners or the city departments whenever
there is need for correcting certain housing abuses…
SOURCE: The Crisis, September 8, 1914, p.
WILLIAM MONROE TROTTER CONFRONTS PRESIDENT WILSON
On November 12, 1914, William Monroe Trotter,
editor of the Boston Guardian, led an interracial delegation
to the White House to protest the Wilson Administration’s
segregation of African American federal employees. Although
Trotter had supported Wilson’s election, two years later
he angrily confronted the President. One account of that confrontation
Washington, D.C., Nov. 20—Thursday
afternoon of last week President Wilson became indignant when
William Monroe Trotter, editor of the Boston Guardian, as chairman
of a committee of protest from the National Independence Equal
Rights League against the segregation of Afro-American employees
in the government departments in Washington, plainly told the
nation’s chief executive about it.
The committee met the president by appointment,
after waiting a year for a personal interview with him. Mr.
Trotter was the spokesman, and in the fervor of his plea for
equal rights for his people he forgot the servile manner and
speech once characteristic of the Afro-American and he talked
to the president as man to man, addressing the head of the government
as any American citizen should, especially when discussing a
serious matter. But the president did not like Mr. Trotter’s
attitude and told the committee that if it called on him again
it would have to get a new chairman. The president added he
had not been addressed in such a manner since he entered the
The delegation charged that Secretary McAdoo
and Comptroller Williams in the treasury and Postmaster General
Burleson had enforced segregation rules in their offices. The
president replied that he had investigated the question and
had been assured there had been no discrimination in the comforts
and surroundings given to the Afro-American workers. He added
he had been informed by officials that the segregation had been
started to avoid friction between the races and not with the
object of injuring the Afro-American employees.
The president said he was deeply interested in the race and
greatly admired its progress. He declared the thing to be sought
by the Afro-American people was complete independence of white
people, and that he felt the white race was willing to do everything
possible to assist them.
Mr. Trotter and other members at once took
issue with the president, declaring the Afro-American people
did not seek charity or assistance, but that they took the position
that they had equal rights with whites and that those rights
should be respected. They denied there had been any friction
between the two races before segregation was begun.
The president listened to what they had to
say, and then told the delegation that Mr. Trotter was losing
control of his temper, and that he (the president) would not
discuss the matter further with him.
The president said he thought his colleagues
in the government departments were not trying to put the employees
at a disadvantage, but simply to make arrangements which would
prevent friction. He added that the question involved was not
a question of intrinsic qualities, because all had human souls
and were equal in that respect, but that for the present it
was a question of economic policy whether the Afro-American
race could do the same things that the white race could do with
equal efficiency. He said he thought the Afro-American people
were proving that they could, and that everyone wished to help
them and that their conditions of labor would be bettered. The
entire matter, however, should be treated with a recognition
of its difficulties. The president said he was anxious to do
what was just, and asked for more memoranda from the committee
as to instances of segregation about which they complained.
Mr. Trotter said in his address that his committee did not come
“as wards looking for charity, but as full-fledged American
citizens, vouchsafed equality of citizenship by the federal
“Two years ago,” said Mr. Trotter,
“You were thought to be a second Abraham Lincoln.”
The president tried to interrupt, asking that personalities
be left out of the discussion. Mr. Trotter continued to speak
and the president finally told him that if the organization
he represented wished to approach him again it must choose another
The spokesman continued to argue that he was
merely trying to show how the Afro-American people felt, and
asserted that he and others were now being branded as traitors
to the race because they advised the people “to support
The mention of votes caused the president
to say politics must be left out, because it was a form of blackmail.
He said he would resent it as quickly from one set of men as
from another, and that his auditors could vote as they pleased,
it mattered little to him.
Source: Chicago Defender, November 21, 1914,
Source: Crisis, “Woman to the Rescue,”
12 (May 1916): 43.
THE HOUSTON MUTINY AND RACE RIOT: ONE SOLDIER’S LAST WORDS
Private First Class T.C. Hawkins was one of
thirteen African American soldiers court-martialed and sentenced
to die because of his participation in the Houston Mutiny and
Race Riot. On the morning of his execution, Private Hawkins
wrote his last letter to his parents in Fayetteville,[CHECK]
North Carolina. That letter appears below.
Fort Sam Houston, Tex.
Dec. 11, 1917
Dear Mother &. Father,
When this letter reaches you I will be beyond
the veil of sorrow. I will be in heaven with the angels. Mother
don’t worry over your son because it is heavens gain.
Look not upon my body as one that must fill a watery grave but
one that is asleep in Jesus.
I fear not death. Did not Jesus ask death
“Where art thy sting?” Don’t regret my seat
in heaven by mourning over me. I now can imagine seeing my dear
Grandmother and Grandfather and the dear girl Miss Bessie Henderson
that I once loved in this world standing at the river of Jordan
beckoning to me to come, and O! Mother should they be sensitive
of my coming don’t you think that they are anxious for
tomorrow morning to come when I will come unto them. I am sentenced
to be hanged for the trouble that happened in Houston Texas
altho I am not guilty of the crime that I am accused of but
Mother, it is God’s will that I go now and in this way
and Mother I am going to look for you and the family [and] if
possible, I will meet you at the river. Come unto me all ye
that are heavy laden, I will give the rest. Bless his holy name.
This is the happiest day I met with since Jesus spoke peace
to my soul in Brookstone church from my promise to God. I have
strayed away but I am with him now. Send Mr. Harris a copy of
this letter. I am your son,
Fort Sam Houston
P.S. Show this to Rev. Shaw. Rev. Shaw, I
am with Jesus and I will look for you in that great morning.
1920: THE NAACP FACES THE FUTURE
The excerpt below describes the goal of the
NAACP as it assessed its first ten years. Although the organization
had some success in arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court
and had expanded its membership to nearly 100,000, it still
faced considerable obstacles to black civil rights.
First and foremost among the objectives for
1920 must be the continued strengthening of the Association's
organization and resources. Its general program must be adapted
to specific ends. Its chief aims have many times been stated:
- A vote for every Negro man and woman on
the same terms as for white men and women.
- An equal chance to acquire the kind of
an education that will enable the Negro everywhere wisely
to use this vote.
- A fair trial in the courts for all crimes
of which he is accused, by judges in whose election he has
participated without discrimination because of race.
- A right to sit upon the jury which passes
judgment upon him.
- Defense against lynching and burning at
the hands of mobs.
- Equal service on railroad and other public
carriers. This to mean sleeping car service, dining car service,
Pullman service, at the same cost and upon the same terms
as other passengers.
- Equal right to the use of public parks,
libraries and other community services for which he is taxed.
- An equal chance for a livelihood in public
and private employment.
- The abolition of color-hyphenation and
the substitution of "straight Americanism."
The Association seeks to overcome race prejudice
but its objective may better be described as a fight against
caste. Those who seek to separate the Negro from the rest of
Americans are intent upon establishing a caste system in America
and making of all black men an inferior caste. As America could
not exist "half slave and half free" so it cannot
exist with an upper caste of whites and a lower caste of Negroes.
Let no one be deceived by those who would contend that they
strive only to maintain "the purity of the white race"
and that they wish to separate the races but to do no injustice
to the black man. The appeal is to history which affords no
example of any group or element of the population of any nation
which was separated from the rest and at the same time treated
with justice and consideration. Ask the Jew who was compelled
to live in the proscribed Ghetto whether being held separate
he was afforded the common rights of citizenship and the "equal
protection of the laws?" To raise the question is to find
the answer "leaping to the eyes," as the French say.
Nor should anyone be led astray by the tiresome
talk about "social equality." Social equality is a
private question which may well be left to individual decision.
But, the prejudices of individuals cannot be accepted as the
controlling policy of a state. The National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People is concerned primarily with
public equality. America is a nation-not a private club. The
privileges no less than the duties of citizenship belong of
right to no separate class of the people but to all the people,
and to them as individuals. The constitution and the laws are
for the protection of the minority and of the unpopular, no
less than for the favorites of fortune, or they are of no meaning
as American instruments of government.
Such a program as has been outlined is worthy of the support
of all Americans. The forces which seek to deny, and do deny,
to the Negro his citizenship birthright, are powerful and entrenched.
They hold the public offices. They administer the law. They
say who may, and who may not, vote, in large measure. They control
and edit, in many sections, the influential organs of public
opinion. They dominate. To dislodge them by legal and constitutional
means, as the N.A.A.C.P. proposes to endeavor to dislodge them,
requires a strong organization and ample funds. These two things
attained, victory is but a question of time, since justice will
not forever be denied.
The lines along which the Association can
best work are fairly clear. Its fight is of the brain and the
soul and to the brain and the soul of America. It seeks to reach
the conscience of America. America is a large and busy nation.
It has many things to think of besides the Negro's welfare.
In Congress and state legislatures and before the bar of public
opinion, the Association must energetically and adequately defend
the Negro's right to fair and equal treatment. To command the
interest and hold the attention of the American people for justice
to the Negro requires money to print and circulate literature
which states the facts of the situation. And the appeal must
be on the basis of the facts. It is easy to talk in general
terms and abstractly. The presentation of concrete data necessitates
Lynching must be stopped. Many Americans do
not believe that such horrible things happen as do happen when
Negroes are lynched and burned at the stake. Lynching can be
stopped when we can reach the heart and conscience of the American
people. Again, money is needed.
Legal work must be done. Defenseless Negroes are every day denied
the "equal protection of the laws" because there is
not money enough in the Association's treasury to defend them,
either as individuals or as a race.
Legislation must be watched. Good laws must
be promoted wherever that be possible and bad laws opposed and
defeated, wherever possible. Once more money is essential.
The public must be kept informed. This means that our regular
press service under the supervision of a trained newspaper man
must be maintained and strengthened. Every opportunity must
be sought out to place before the magazine and periodical reading
public, constructive articles on every phase of Negro citizenship....
That colored people are contributing their fair share to the
well-being of America must be made known.... That law-abiding
colored people are denied the commonest citizenship rights,
must be brought home to all Americans who love fair play. Once
again, money is needed.
The facts must be gathered and assembled.
This requires effort. Facts are not gotten out of one's imagination.
Their gathering and interpretation is skilled work. Research
workers of a practical experience are needed. Field investigations,
in which domain the Association has already made some notable
contributions, are essential to good work. More money.
The country must be thoroughly organized. The Association's
more than 300 branches are a good beginning. An increased field
staff is essential to the upbuilding of this important branch
development. A very large percentage of the branch members are
colored people. Colored people have less means, and less experience
in public organization, than white people. But, they are developing
rapidly habits of efficiency in organization. Money, again is
But, not money alone is needed. Men and women are vital to success.
Public opinion is the main force upon which the Association
relies for a victory of justice. Particularly do we seek the
active support of all white Americans who realize that a democracy
cannot draw the color line in public relations without lasting
injury to its best ideals.
Source: Tenth Annual Report for the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for the Year,
1919 (New York: NAACP, 1920), pp. 87-91.
LYNCHING IN AMERICA: BLACK AND WHITE WOMEN RESPOND
In 1921 a group of black and white women organized
themselves into the Anti Lynching Crusaders, which according
to their literature was a campaign dedicated to bringing one
million women together to stop lynching in the United States.
Here are excerpts from their publication which focus on lynched
Since 1889 eighty three women, 66 colored
and 17 white, are known to have been lynched. Let us consider
a few facts:
Laura Nelson: At Okemah, Oklahoma, in 1911,
Laura Nelson a colored woman accused of murdering a deputy sheriff
who had discovered stolen goods in her house, was lynched together
with her son, a boy about fifteen. The woman and her son were
taken from the jail, dragged about six miles to the Canadian
River and hanged from a bridge. The woman was raped by members
of the mob.
Marie Scott: In 1914, Marie Scott of Wagoner
County, Oklahoma, a seventeen year old Negro girl, was lynched
by a mob of white men because her brother killed one of the
two white men who had assaulted her....The mob came to kill
her brother but as he had escaped, lynched the girl instead.
Luther Holbert, a Doddsville, Mississippi
Negro and his wife were burned at the stake in 1918 for the
murder of a white planter... The planter was killed in a quarrel
when he ordered Holbert to leave his plantation. [After the
murder] Holbert and his wife fled the plantation but were brought
back and burned in the presence of a thousand people. There
is nothing to indicate Holbert's wife had any part in the crime.
In 1918, Dr. E. L. Johnston, a white planter,
was killed and a colored boy was suspected of the deed. He was
suspected because two colored girls, sisters, were working for
Dr. Johnston and both were pregnant by the doctor. The boy was
engaged to the older girl. A mob took the two girls, the boy
and the boy's fifteen year old brother to a bridge and hanged
Mary Turner: In May, 1918, a white plantation
owner in Brooks County, Georgia got into a quarrel with one
of his colored tenants and the tenant killed him. A mob sought
to avenge his death but could not find the suspected man. They
therefore lynched another colored man named Hayes Turner. His
wife, Mary Turner, threatened to have members of the mob arrested.
The mob therefore started after her. She fled home and was found
there the next morning. She was in the eighth month of pregnancy
but the mob of several hundred took her to a small stream, tied
her ankles together and hung her on a tree head downwards. Gasoline
was thrown on her clothes and she was set on fire. One of the
members of the mob took a knife and split her abdomen open so
that the unborn child fell from her womb to the ground and the
child's head was crushed under the heel of another member of
the mob; Mary Turner's body was finally riddled with bullets.
Source: "The Anti Lynching Crusaders
Pamphlet" (n.d.), pp. 3 4, in Samuel DeBow Papers, Manuscripts
and Archives, University of Washington, Seattle.