Browsing "Aftermath: Racial Conundrums"

New Masters from New England

The Northern abolitionists and the African slave met for the first time at Beaufort, South Carolina, and the former came face to face with what Jefferson Davis earlier pondered regarding what to do with the emancipated slave. The planters warned their hands “that the Yankees would treat them as slaves and sell them to Cuba,” a prediction that nearly became true.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

New Masters from New England

“The revolution began with considerable destruction of property. The Negroes on many plantations . . . broke the cotton gins [and] in other cases they began looting their master’s houses and furniture, and activity which the federal soldiers took up enthusiastically . . .

The [Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase’s] correspondence during the months following the fall of Port Royal showed him that the government would gain the support of an ever-increasing segment of the public through sterner war measures: “Wagons, cattle, Horses, Provisions, Negroes not excepted, in short everything useful to our army ought to be appropriated . . . advised one correspondent, who sharply criticized the government for looking “more to a peace through compromise, than to a . . . . victory of arms.”

Certainly [President Lincoln’s] cautious treatment of the issue in his message to Congress offered little encouragement. He threw the problem of defining the new status of the Negroes at Port Royal and others in their situation into the lap of Congress, and then asked that provisions be made to colonize the liberated Negroes “in a climate congenial to them.” Small wonder it was that Chase turned his first attention to contraband cotton rather than to contraband Negroes.

The rapid change in their status was not working to the advantage of many Sea Island Negroes . . . as the [Northern] army had made free use of plantation food stores, leaving many in the slave communities with little to eat. Commodore DuPont reported than numbers of the nearly ten thousand Negroes on the islands were by late winter “almost starving and some naked or nearly so . . .

Having no place to turn, they flocked to the neighborhood of the army camps [where] they were as often treated badly as offered employment and help. The New York Tribune’s correspondent reported that one enterprising and unscrupulous [Northern] officer was caught in the act of assembling a cargo of Negroes for transportation and sale in Cuba, thus giving one example of to bolster the late slave-masters’ prediction.

Something had to be done. If the land should lie fallow and the Negroes idle for long past the middle of February, there would be no cotton in 1862, and the Negroes would have to be supported by the government or charity, thus giving the opponents of emancipation a very good argument.

[Some saw in the Northern oversight of continued cotton production] arrangements the outlines of a typical graft opportunity, to achieve its classic form in the “company store” of a later day . . . and it was “of the utmost importance” that [the Negroes] should be kept busy “at the work which they have been accustomed to do . . . “

[One Northern agent] reported that the Sea Island Negroes knew all the steps involved in the cotton culture and that the great majority of them were ready to work, “with proper inducements.” They needed the help and protection of white men, however, in [his] opinion, and a good system of management. The Negroes were no longer slaves . . . Although they were “as yet in large numbers unprepared for the full privileges of citizens . . . “

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction, The Port Royal Experiment, Willie Lee Rose, Vintage Books, 1964, excerpts, pp. 16; 18-25; 29)

 

Kindness Toward the Colored People of the South

Walter Clark rose from a sixteen year-old North Carolina soldier in Lee’s army who saw the fields of Second Manassas to Bentonville, where he ended the war as a major, to Chief Justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court. His kind feelings toward those he found less fortunate than him were typical of the South’s leadership, and a high example for others to follow.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Kindness Toward the Colored People of the South:

“Born in a slave-owning home, Clark was taught always to treat the Negroes kindly and to care for them rather than abuse them, as unfortunately some masters did. This attitude he consistently maintained through life. When, in the army, Neverson, the Negro boy who faithfully attended him as a bodyguard, went with him to the line of battle, he would sent the boy back with their horse so that he would be personally out of danger; together they shared their scanty meals, and together they endured war’s hardships as true companions.

As late as 1919, Dr. James E. Shepard, a prominent North Carolina educator and president of the North Carolina College for Negroes at Durham, wrote Clark a letter of appreciation for the services he had rendered the Negroes and for his consistent justice in dealing with them. In reply Clark wrote:

“I have been the employer of colored labor ever since I became of age. I know them well and I have never received anything but kindness at their hands. I have the kindest feeling for the race and have seen the difficulties which surround their efforts to rise to better things. In my judgment, the best remedy for the situation the colored people find themselves is . . . extending the education as far as possible to all your people, impress upon them sobriety, self-control under what at times may be aggravating circumstances, the acquirement of property by industry and thrift, and the attainment, by their personal conduct, of the respect of white people.

Avoid giving this a setback by the intemperate utterances, especially by the young people of your race who are impatient at what they deem continued injustice. Most often this matter is due to the language used by office-seekers, who appeal to and excite race prejudice for their personal ends. I am sure that the vast majority of the white people of North Carolina wish to do equal and exact justice to the colored race, and their number is increasing with the proofs which the colored people are giving that they are better educated and are attaining a higher standard of morality and right living.”

(Walter Clark, Fighting Judge, Aubrey Lee Brooks, UNC Press, 1944, pp. 175-176)

Aristocrats of Color in the NAACP

Early NAACP organizer WEB DuBois was descended from African, Dutch and French ancestry, and an early example of affirmative action as Northern white liberals had paid for his education. Considering himself well-born and disdaining work, he said “I cordially despised the poor Irish and South Germans who slaved in the mills, and annexed the rich and well-to-do as my natural companions.” Booker T. Washington is remembered for encouraging black people to gain respect through work hard and earning it; DuBois counseled racial agitation and confrontation to demand respect from others.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Aristocrats of Color in the NAACP:

“The role of aristocrats of color in the affairs of the NAACP was sufficient to allow some critics, especially some identified with Washington . . . to characterize it as a self-serving, elitist organization. The Bookerite “Atlanta Independent” continually heaped ridicule on WEB DuBois and the NAACP, which it characterized as Dubois’s “exclusive bunch.”

Hubert H. Harrison, a Virgin Islander prominent in Harlem in the 1920’s, was credited with slurring the NAACP as the “National Association for the Advancement of Certain People”; but the idea was present much earlier in criticisms made by other blacks.

Calvin Chase’s “Washington Bee” was for a time a bitter critic of the NAACP and its District branch. “Any attempt,” the Bee warned the local branch in 1914, “to establish a Negro aristocracy to the disadvantage and embarrassment of the common people will be promptly exposed and condemned.” Later the newspaper cited the NAACP as proof of its oft-repeated charge that there was “as much color prejudice among certain classes of colored people” as there was “among certain classes of whites.”

According to the Bee, Negroes who flocked to organizations like the NAACP, whether because of “color prejudice” or “caste of color,” did so primarily because of a desire to remove barriers to their own personal advancement and comfort. Only when personally affected was the upper-“caste” black likely to lodge protests and leads crusades. At least some aristocrats of color viewed admission to the NAACP as by “invitation only,” in much the same way that one gained entry into the Booklovers [clubs].

[The] black leadership of the NAACP tended to be more representative of socially prominent “old families” who viewed themselves as heirs to the Abolitionist tradition and who opposed Washington’s accommodationist approach. [Pan-African Movement] Marcus Garvey, a native of Jamaica and popular leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association . . . characterized DuBois as a ‘white man Negro” who associated only with whites and “upper ten Negroes” while ignoring the black masses.

DuBois, he thundered, worshipped a “bastard aristocracy” . . . and asked, “where did he get his aristocracy from?” and then proceeded to explain that DuBois “just got it into his head that he should be an aristocrat and ever since that time has been keeping his beard as an aristocrat.” Thunderous applause greeted Garvey’s reference to DuBois as a Negro leader who tried to “be everything else but a Negro.”

(Aristocrats of Color, The Black Elite, Willard C. Gatewood, Indiana University Press, 1993, pp. 317-321)

America's Reward for Racial Progress

As Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson was sensitive to international criticism of American racial issues, often fomented by the Soviets and accentuated in the US by progressives like Henry Wallace, Eleanor Roosevelt and the NAACP. Fully aware that Congress would not support a leftist social agenda, the Supreme Court was pressured to deliver a decision Acheson could peddle internationally.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

America’s Reward for Racial Progress

“From the end of World War II to the inauguration of Richard M. Nixon, American governmental policy moved steadily from advocacy of desegregation to support of race blending in schools and neighborhoods. It moved from the principle of equality of rights to that of preferential treatment for Negroes.

The original school desegregation decision said nothing more than that children should not be deprived of the right to attend any given public school by reason of their race. By 1970, this had been expanded to authorize compelling local authorities to transport children to schools outside their residential neighborhoods in order to achieve a racial mix corresponding to that of the population.

Similarly, the original court decisions upholding equal access to governmental jobs, regardless of race, were transformed into their direct opposite, preferential hiring of Negroes in public jobs and consequently deliberate violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The reasoning behind some of these strange developments was foreshadowed by an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in the school desegregation case by President Truman’s attorney general. “Racial discrimination,” that officer declared, “furnishes grist for the communist propaganda mills, and it raises doubts even among friendly nations as to the intensity of our devotion to the democratic faith.”

Attorney General McGranery then incorporated what he called an “authoritative statement” from Secretary of State Dean Acheson which stated in part: “the hostile reaction among normally friendly peoples, many of whom are particularly sensitive in regard to the status of non-European races, is growing in alarming proportions.

In such countries, the view is expressed more and more vocally that the United States is hypocritical in claiming to be the champion of democracy while permitting the practice of racial discrimination here in this country.”One of the present authors commented on this essay by Mr. Acheson ten years ago in the following terms:

“If the Court of 1952 was prepared to weigh political factors in making a Constitutional interpretation, Acheson’s memorandum was subject to criticism because of its oversimplification and calculated omissions. It was true that Southern treatment of the Negro was resented abroad. The Supreme Court knew this. What it did not know and was in no position to judge was the total effect of a desegregation decision in terms of the world position and prestige of the United States.

Would it split or unite the country? Would it convince the world that the United States was the champion of racial equality? Or would it focus international attention for years to come on race struggle and race hatred in the United States, placing these ugly aspects of American life under a global spotlight? These were questions which an American Secretary of State should have attempted to answer provided he thought it was proper for him to inject himself into the case at all.”

These misgivings have, it would seem, been amply justified by the course of events. The United States has undertaken a historically unparalleled effort to raise the Negro by governmental action to the political, cultural, social and economic level attained by the white man. In the pursuit of this objective, it has spent billions of dollars.

It has promoted men to positions for which they are not qualified solely because they are black. It has persuaded universities to admit students who do not qualify educationally or mentally exclusively because of their color. It has filled some of the highest positions in the executive and judicial branches of government on the basis of race and without regard to merit.

The reward the United States has reaped is to be denounced across the world as a racist State and as a recrudescence of Hitlerism. By contrast, the Japanese, who continue to oppress one and a half million Etas, have been silent about their misconduct and it has passed unnoticed.

The Indians, who have abolished caste more in name than in fact, remain immune from world criticism even though their untouchables are still largely pariahs. The masochistic traditions of liberal Protestantism, reformed Judaism and modern Catholicism to the contrary, those who publicly display their sores are tagged with the leper’s bell.”

(American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro, Nathaniel Weyl & William Marina 1971, Arlington House, excerpts, pp.386-388)

 

Political, Not Social Rights

Republican President Grant stated in his second inaugural address on 4 March 1873: “Social equality is not a subject to be legislated upon, nor shall I ask that anything be done to advance the social status of the colored man, except to give him a fair chance to develop what there is good in him, give him access to the schools, and when he travels let him feel assured that his conduct will regulate the treatment and fare he will receive.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Political, Not Social Rights

“Mr. Justice [Henry Billings] BROWN . . . delivered the opinion of the [United States Supreme] Court.  This case [Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896] turns upon the constitutionality of an act of the general assembly of the State of Louisiana, passed in 1890, providing for separate railway carriages for the white and colored races. Acts 1890, No. 111, p. 152.”

“We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.

The argument necessarily assumes that if, as has been more than once the case, and is not unlikely to be so again, the colored race should become the dominant power in the State legislature, and should enact a law in precisely similar terms, it would thereby relegate the white race to an inferior position. We imagine that the white race, at least, would not acquiesce in this assumption.

The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the Negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition. If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits, and a voluntary consent of individuals.

As was said by the Court of Appeals of New York in People v. Gallagher, 93 NY 438, 448: “This end can neither be accomplished nor promoted by laws which conflict with the general sentiment of the community upon whom they are designed to operate. When the government, has secured to each of its citizens equal rights before the law, and equal opportunities for improvement and progress, it has accomplished the end for which it was organized, and performed all of the functions respecting social advantages with which it is endowed.”

Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts, or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences, and the attempt to do so can only result in accentuating the difficulties of the present situation.  If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically.  If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.”

(Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US, 537, 18 May 1896)

 

 

Achieving Proper Chromatography in Public Schools

One of the results of 1865 was the establishment of a protected class of citizens of the now-consolidated United States; prior to 1865 the States were the locus of who and what a citizen of their sovereign domains were, and what qualifications had to be met in order to vote.  The ongoing reconstruction of the South after WWII saw the central government assume control of education to enforce equalities other than political for its protected class, and the predictable chaos has resulted.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Achieving Proper Chromatography in Public Schools:

“No one has yet constructively and pragmatically defined what “integration” in the schools requires. Enough survey work has been done to show that Negro parents, like white parents, are more interested in the quality of education than in the chromatic proportions of the classroom. Yet in every city so much emotion is spent weighing the numbers, the percentages, the admixture of black and white, that Negro leaders have convinced far too many of their own people that Negroes sitting together in one classroom retard each other’s education.

In cities like Washington DC, where 80% of children in public schools are Negro, or areas like Manhattan, where 69% are Negro and Puerto Rican, “integration” could be achieved only by the most mechanical and arbitrary importation of white children from distant areas.

So in the name of “integration” some Negro leaders, notable in Los Angeles and New York, are demanding that white children be transported into Negro slums to achieve proper chromatography. Few Negro leaders in New York dare denounce the idea publicly for fear they will be blasted by others of their race for being against “integration.” Meanwhile white parents can be tormented by a magnificently emotional appeal: “Integration means your kids will be forced on buses and shipped to Harlem with all those illegitimate and backward kids.”

The kind of confusion set up by the word “integration” as applied to education is best reflected in a conversation with a bitter young Negro student leader in Chicago who began by listing as his No. 1 demand of American society ”separate but superior education for Negroes – if we could get it.”

Then, after increasingly emotional talk for an hour, he took up the matter of cross-busing white children into Negro districts and said: “The white kids got to pay for what their parents did to us. Even at the age of 6, they got to pay – because they’re going to pay one way or the other. Besides, it will be good for them.”

(Power Structure, Integration, Militancy, Freedom Now!, Theodore H. White, Life Magazine, November 29, 1963, pp. 78-80)

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