Part I. The Mysteries Of Our Past
The Seeds Of Protest
Fleeting times gone, that show records
by the scribes of struggle, confusion and suffering,
Hence we grow with this knowledge to understand
the present and future.
On the third of May 1938 when Ralph Henry Cothran was born, the world was on the eve of another world war. Holly Street where Ralph was born is on the eastside. Black people in Chattanooga call this area of Chattanooga "Bushtown." Bushtown is north of the Highland Park community that is on the southern side of east Third Street. Located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, right over the Third street viaduct, Bushtown was a world away from Europe and the rise of Nazi Germany.
Bessie Hilda Neal Cothran and Charles (Charlie) Henry Cothran were hard working and Ralph was the second child. His sister, Hilda had been born a few years earlier. Charlie would soon join the army to fight for world peace. In March 1938 Hitler's Nazi troops occupied Austria and by September Hitler was preparing to occupy Czechoslovakia.
In as much as Hitler made his greatest impact as a conqueror of Europe he also established a particular philosophy. As we address the issues of the day that would affect Ralph later in life, we cannot leave out the father of white supremacy. It for sure, that even in the 1990's, many groups, hold the philosophy of Hitler in high esteem. Many of those that share Hitler's beliefs are organized and threaten the security and safety of institutions and individuals in this country. The agenda for these white supremacy groups now includes persons, places and institutions on their hate list and not merely just nonwhites. Soon young Ralph would grasp the essence of these concerns as they would eventually affect the Black American experience.
Ralph was still a baby and was not aware that soon his father would be thrust into the madness of war. Charlie Cothran served with high distinction and was awarded the bronze star for heroism. Charlie was a big man, strong, and at least six foot five inches tall. Ralph would grow to the stature of his father and inherit his courage and strength.
The world as a changing place was one thing but so were the changing conditions in America. In view of the Black experience significant changes had taken place. Most importantly how did Blacks get to this point?
One must set the table to review aspects of the life of Ralph Henry Cothran. Ralph eventually confronts the serious questions of his day as a law enforcement officer.
The birth of Ralph H. Cothran in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the United States of America was a result of the most dramatic and impacting episode in human history placed on a race of people. In Jamestown, Virginia, August 1619, twenty Blacks of Spanish surnames were sold, and exchanged for food and supplies.
"The twenty Black seeds of Jamestown were farmed out to various officials of the colony and they were farmed out as servants and not as slaves. In court and church records, the first Black Americans were listed as servants. This is a point of immense significance in the history of America. The first Black immigrants were not slaves; nor were the first White immigrants free." 1
Thus North America is not the original home of the people who were the ancestors of the people called Black Americans in. These original people came from Africa. Nor is North America the original home of the people who had already began to settle along the eastern shores of the area called North America. These people were Europeans, who came to settle and claim land inhabited by the Native Americans that became known as American Indians.
These circumstances were a distant mystery of the past on May 3, 1938. It would be sometime before Ralph would realize that the historical development of Black people in North America would be necessary to unravel the social problems of his day.
To set the stage for this biographical reflective work I feel that there are particular circumstances and events that must be discussed. First a description of slavery is very important. At this point I feel obligated to make a particular observation. There are those that seek to discount the knowledge of history in an assessment of present and future problems that plague people throughout the world.
Evidently those that subscribe to this view are the cadre of human beings that have an ongoing duel with ignorance. The human being that does not think and develop his mind remains ignorant and flirts with stupidity occasionally. Some thinkers argue that these people are dumb, stupid and blind. Despite the ignorance of those that seek to discount the validity of history and knowledge, there are at least some human beings that seek to think and develop their mind.
With that point made I now will continue the discussion on particular historical points of interests as the introduction to this biographical work. As I previously mentioned, a description of slavery is very important. The first significant presence of Blacks in America was as slaves. This system of bondage has had a devastating effect on Black people. Thus, the legacy of slavery is a root cause of many contemporary problems with which Black Americans are confronted.
Thus, I argue that often present day problems in the Black community depict a clear historical development during the days of slavery. Therefore, a clear and intelligent understanding of slavery will benefit our understanding of present and future problems and concerns.
Secondly, Black leadership is very important. What type of leaders did Black people have during and after slavery? What was the philosophy of these leaders? There are always varied leadership styles and postures in the various histories of people. The Black experience in North America is no exception.
The third and last topic of discussion in this introductory section will look at significant periods after slavery. Reconstruction will be a topic noted along with organizations for Blacks. This discussion will end at the time in which Ralph Cothran was born.
"The slave system made the Negro grovel before his master. It destroyed his personality and initiative and his family life. So completely dependent was the slave upon his master that in return for even small favors, he gave support to the very system of slavery that was destroying him."2
It is documented that the psychological effects of slavery have had a great impact on Black people overtime. This premeditated system of mental control has seen no rivals. But there has been some comparative analysis made between slavery and Jews being held in Nazi concentration camps. Charles Silberman in his book "Crisis In Black and White" quotes Stanley M. Elkins who did a probing study of slavery, entitled "Slavery: A Problem In American Institutional And Intellectual Life."
Elkins in a probing study of slavery has "pointed out the parallels between the way the Nazi concentration camps changed the personalities of the prisoners who survived and the way in which slavery in the American south altered the personalities of Negroes brought from Africa and shaped the character of Negroes born here." 3 Concerning personality changes Elkins gives us further information on these changes with a more detailed description.
"The most striking aspect of the concentration camp inmates behavior, Elkins writes after surveying the extensive literature on the subject "was its childlike quality." Many inmates ---among them mature independent, highly educated adults--were transformed into fawning, servile, dependent children. Infantile behavior took a variety of forms: The inmate's sexual impotence caused a disappearance of sexuality in their talk; instead, excretory functions occupied them endlessly. They lost many customary inhibitions as to soiling their beds and their persons. Their humor was shot with silliness and they giggled like children when one of them would expel wind. Dishonesty was endemic; prisoners became chronic pathological liars; like adolescents, they would fight each other bitterly one moment and become close friends in the next; "dishonesty, mendacity, egotistic actions, . . . thefts were commonplace." 4
The crude and cruel results of concentration life without a doubt have also had an effect on the Jewish people over time. Concentration camp inmates were transformed into servile children in months and years. "The American Negro has been subject to a system designed to destroy ambition, prevent independence, and erode intelligence for the past three and a half centuries." 5 Professor Kenneth Stampp makes the following comment on slavery “there were plenty of opportunists among the Negroes who played the role assigned to them, acted the clown, and curried the favor of their masters to win the maximum rewards within the system." 6
The docile role practiced by many slaves eventually had a direct affect on slave uprisings and rebellions. "From 1619-1865 slaves staged over 30 separate insurrections against their masters. Nat Turner on August 22, 1831, led the most significant of these uprisings." 7
Although there is evidence to support the lack of unity and various other problems in many slave rebellions, I would argue that all slave rebellions were significant. Professor Stampp makes the following assessment of slave rebellions. Professor Stampp also cites a view by Professor Aptheker.
"The two best organized---those led by Versey and Gabriel--were suppressed quite easily, and the most dramatic, the Nat Turner rebellion, was little more than aimless butchery. The remaining "revolts," even under Professor Aptheker's sympathetic description, are clearly insignificant--little more than outbreaks of local vandalism. More to the point, the rebellions were suppressed easily, in part because they involved only a handful of slaves and in good measure because fellow slaves almost invariable informed on the rebels." 8
So slavery did cause a rebellious attitude among many slaves. Usually man will rise to confront oppression and inhumane treatment, but all revolts are not successful in the sense that they accomplish what they set out to do. In the Black experience all the rebellions and uprisings against oppression have had definite significance. The most dramatic revolt is one that causes change or a change in the political, economic and social arenas to include those oppressed.
What was this system of slavery? What was so different about American slavery from slavery throughout the history of man? What was unique about the American slave system that still has many Black people confused during contemporary times? Yes, even 130 years after slavery we can still detect the root causes of many of our problems to be a result of the most dehumanizing episode in the annals of humanity.
Silberman in "Crisis In Black White" quotes Tocqueville as a means to determine the realities of American slavery and race/color and the stigma of slavery. "There is a natural prejudice that prompts men to despise whoever has been their inferior after he has become their equal." 9
The statement by Tocqueville stands with sound reasoning and logic. The natural tendency of man is to form class lines and distinctions. Freedom, civil rights and laws do not, and cannot change attitudes and rid man of certain prejudices about other people.
Propelled by the stigma of color, slavery in the U.S. and colonial outposts throughout the Western Hemisphere was totally unlike slavery that had existed anywhere else in the world. Silberman notes that Tocqueville saw the distinctions between the slave system in the west and ancient slavery. "The only means by which the ancients maintained slavery were fetters and death; the Americans of the south have discovered more intellectual securities for the duration of their power. They have employed their despotism and their violence against the human mind." The ancients, Tocqueville pointed out, took care to prevent the slave from breaking his chains. The southerners, by contrast, have adapted "measures to deprive him even of his desire for freedom." 10
The question can be asked, what happened to transform the heroic African into the submissive slave? "For one thing, the process of enslavement subjected the African to a series of traumas that tended to sever him from his culture and institutions and destroy his sense of identity." 11
"The Romans (as did most other ancients) saw slavery as a normal condition of man ---the result of accident and misfortune, rather than of human nature. In this view, slavery affected only the body of the slave--- that is, only his labor: his mind and soul remained free. Spiritually, the slave was his master's equal; intellectually, he could be his superior." 12
"When Negro slavery began in Spain and Portugal in about the mid-fifteenth century, --a century and a half before it was introduced into North America---the slaves found not just a tradition of slavery but an incredibly elaborate body of law and custom designed to protect the slave's status as a human being." 13
Professor Frank Tannenbaum says "for all practical purposes slavery in South America became a contractual arrangement that could be wiped out by a fixed purchase price"---a contract, moreover, in which a master owned a man's labor, not the man himself." 14
Sambo and other myths about Blacks became prevalent in the U.S. and served to entrench the deep psychological results of slavery." Sambo never took roots in South America. But he flourished in the U.S., however. For on this continent, slavery developed in such a way as to convince the whites that Negroes were inherently inferior and incapable of freedom." 15
Silberman notes two reasons for the crude form of slavery that developed in America. "Slavery took its peculiar and brutal form in the U.S. (and all other English colonies) precisely because there was no precedent either in tradition or in common law." 16
Slave laws were evidence of the cold stark brutality of slavery. Especially dehumanizing was slave law that governed marriage and the status of children, but the forced breeding of slaves was even worst.
"Slave law not only refused to recognize marriage, it reversed the common-law tradition that children derive their status from their father, maintaining that "the father of a slave is unknown to our law." To have held otherwise would have raised the embarrassing question of what to do with the children born of a white father and a slave mother; the old common law would have created a large class of free
Europeans had sexual relationships with slave women for a variety of reasons. The men to women ratio in the settlements had a direct affect on these illicit relationships. "The shortage of slave women, moreover---with the interferences imposed upon the slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries---led to the ultimate perversion; the breeding of slaves like cattle." 18
For one group of human beings to breed another group of human beings like lower animals takes a certain attitude. Therefore the Europeans who enslaved Blacks conditioned themselves to accept the inferior status of Blacks as lower animals.
"Having erected the system of slavery on the assumption of Negro inferiority, and having produced the behavior that seemed to justify the assumption, it was inevitable that America would refuse to admit free Negroes to full membership in their society. Slavery became associated with race and race with inferiority; the two: concepts merged. And so Black meant inferior: inferior meant Black." 19
So as this decadent system flourished voices of leadership arose to meet this challenge. Leadership has always, been important in the history of Black people in North America. So when we talk about early Black leadership we can begin to grab a handle on the historical development of Black leadership and its particular philosophy.
Black leadership arose to combat the conditions of slavery. "As a result of the slave trade, white Europeans became a single group opposed to the rest of the world, and a new and terrifying idea was invented: the idea of subordination and superordination based on skin color." 20
Racism as a thought pattern came into existence to justify the slave system. In so doing Europeans justified their actions by convincing themselves that Blacks were an inferior race of sub-humans. "Slavery, contrary to the general impression, did not spring from racism; racism sprang from slavery. The concept of race was a direct outgrowth of the slave trade. And it was deliberately invented by an exploiting group that needed a theology to maintain and defend privileges on naked force." 21
Early significant Black leadership in North America was shown by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. Prince Hall, Charles L. Redmond, Charles Sumner, George T. Downing, the latter two even though not well known, also had an impact on Black leadership.
Also one cannot discount the leadership projected by those that led slave revolts and rebellions. All attempts of rebellion against the criminal slave system were acts of independence. For reasons based on their ethnic orientation European scholars in recounting the period of slave rebellions try to evaluate the merits and impact of slave rebellions by using purely the scientific method of analysis. From the Black perspective any revolt against the white man in this instance was positive. Because, the system of slavery, as noted by these same European scholars, was designed to destroy the Black man's will and desire to revolt. I would argue that the system was designed to turn Black people into docile, submissive Uncle Toms with the genes of Booker T. Washington, guaranteeing the white man a race destined to serve him. Meanwhile this system produced many Blacks that were content and happy to serve the white man and felt licking his boots was an honor and privilege. Snitchers and traitors were bred like cockroaches. In fact Black traitors that informed the white slave masters caused many slave revolts to be hampered and disrupted. One has to realize that this country was born by revolt against oppression and tyranny.
By 1776 with the colonial revolution on the horizon calculated and organized Black leadership began to unfold. "In 1776, American patriots held some five hundred thousand human beings, some of them whites in servitude. And yet they chose to make a revolution in support of human equality. By this incredible act, the patriots sowed the seeds of continuous conflict." 22 This conflict still rages as Blacks still fight for full citizenship and the right to live as human beings. "Negroes, as a group, did not exist before the revolution. The development of a national Negro group with a common viewpoint and a consciousness of common fate was a product of a syndrome that recurs repeatedly in the history of the American Negro---the sudden dilation of the Negro mood under the impact of a war for freedom and the sudden contraction of the mood in the wake of post-war reaction became a reality." 23
The Negro freedom movement began to evolve during the period the patriots revolted against their colonial rulers. "The Negro church, from which came the current freedom movement, the first Negro newspaper, the first Negro mass meeting, the first Negro convention: all date from the pioneer period between 1780-1830." 24
"Richard Allen was the first national Negro leader, a pioneer Negro abolitionist, and the organizer and president of the first Negro convention held in the western world." 25 "Daniel Coker, Richard Allen's great rival, and John B. Russwrum, the first Negro college graduate, were among the first converts to the colonization cause." 26
The colonization movement however stirred opposing viewpoints. "Out of the ferment of the defensive anti-colonization movement came the first militant abolitionists and the first Negro newspaper, Freedom's Journal, which was published for the first time on March 16, 1827, by Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwrum. In its first issue, the paper struck a note of militant protest: we wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. " 27
"Another sign of internal stirring was the Negro convention movement that began in 1830, three years before the founding of the American anti-slavery society. After 1830, northern Negroes met in convention and hammered out pleas and admonitions to their white brothers." 28
Frederick Douglass became the leading black abolitionists of his day. Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and soon after began a career as an activist for freedom and human rights for Black people. The prominence and impact of the Douglass personality is a gauge to judge and compare Black leadership styles overtime.
There are some social thinkers that accept the notion that during slavery and Jim Crow Blacks had to take a submissive attitude. Those that share this view evidently have discarded the militant posture of the rebellious personas of Nat Turner, Denmark Versey, and Gabriel Prosser, and all other Black men that rose to bear arms in defiance of slavery. Also, these particular social thinkers have not placed the time of Frederick Douglass' activism adequately. To get to the point, Douglass came before Booker T. Washington who accepted the submissive role of Blacks while Douglass spoke for pride and did not concede to white supremacy.
As we briefly critique the leadership styles and impact of Douglass, Washington, DuBois and Garvey it is of note that we began with the hallmark of Washington's argument. This argument resides in the direction of Black people to manual arts and not intellectual goals.
Douglass also spoke of the need for Blacks to develop manual and mechanical skills, but he did not speak of these vocations in the context of the Booker T. Washington philosophy. In a letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe, March 8, 1853, Douglass asserts that "poverty, ignorance and degradation are the combined evils; or in other words, these constitute the social disease of the free colored people of the U.S." 29
Douglass continues in the letter to Stowe to describe just how white America can help Blacks eliminate the social disease of poverty, ignorance and degradation. Thus, removing Blacks from this three-fold malady would put them on equal standing with whites.
"First, not by establishing for our use high schools and colleges. Such institutions are, in my judgment, beyond our immediate occasions and are not adapted to our present most pressing wants. High schools and colleges are excellent institutions, and will in due season be greatly subservient to our progress; but they are the result, as well as they are the demand, of a point of progress which we, as a people, have not yet attained. Accustomed as we have been to the rougher and harder modes of living and of gaining a livelihood, we cannot and we ought not to hope that in a single leap from our low condition, we can reach that of ministers, lawyers, doctors, editors, merchants etc. These will doubtless be attained by us; but this will only be when we have patiently and laboriously, and I may add successfully, mastered and passed through the intermediate gradations of agriculture and the mechanic Arts." 30
On the surface it seems as if Douglass is preaching the industrial education views of Booker T. Washington. Douglass however is simply making logical statements in assessing the conditions of a people whose majority is still enslaved. At this point refining basic necessities was most important and basic education would lay the foundation for intellectual pursuits in the future. Also, nowhere in Douglass' dialogue do you see any acceptance of the Uncle Tom syndrome and the alleged inferior role of Black people.
There are two good examples in the writings of Booker T. Washington that reveal his inferiority complexes. The prominent and most well known is "The Atlanta Exposition Address" in 1895. In this address we see the classic reasoning for second -class citizenship and the broken spirit of Booker T. Washington as a Negro with a slave mentality. Let us now digest the accommodations thought of Washington.
"We will enter into a new era of industrial progress. Ignorant and inexperienced, it is not strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top instead of at the bottom, that a seat in Congress or the state legislature was more sought than real estate or industrial skill; that the political convention of stump speaking had more attractions than starting a diary farm or truck garden." 31
In this instance Washington is most likely referring to the emancipation of Blacks as slaves and the constitutional rights of citizenship and the right to vote and hold elective office. These gains came soon after emancipation and ushered in the Reconstruction era.
Washington uses the terminology "we began at the top and not at the bottom." In this instance Washington implies that Blacks are destined to be on the bottom and that this is the rightful place for Blacks. He does not consider the need for Blacks to enter all ranks of society and not the acceptance of farming etc. as the only means for Black survival. During the time of Booker T. Washington the Reconstruction era was over and Jim Crow was on the move and Blacks were being lynched and murdered throughout America. So during the period when Black people were lynched as if it was legal and lawful, Washington spoke and tried to influence Black people to accept a role of serving white people as their permanent domestic servants/slaves.
The south, the land of slavery was not the only region guilty of the wholesale carnival spectacle of lynching. For the record Black people were lynched all over the United States. Washington continues in his Atlanta address and further reveals the subordinate position he takes concerning Black people.
"To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the southern white man, who is their next door neighbor, I would say: cast down your bucket where you are--cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded. Cast it down in agriculture, in mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the professions." 32
Although Washington was an educator he felt Black people would prosper more by working with their hands. Sure there is dignity in any honest profession but an entire group seeking dignity from agriculture in a vastly changing world is a people accepting slavery and the plantation mentality.
The following passage clearly reveals why white people loved Washington and loudly applauded his speech throughout America and the world.
"No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we will stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defence of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races' one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress." 33
This should be enough to assess the subordinate slave position that Washington took, but, one more excerpt from his address is even more revealing. No doubt Washington's philosophy would encourage and condition Blacks to fetch the lynch rope and relish and accept the whip as rightful punishment for Blacks. It is for sure that Washington's views are sickening but, the greatest crime is the system of racism created by white people that produced this demeaning and insulting attitude by Blacks like Booker T. Washington. "The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than artificial forcing." 34
The previous quotation from Washington's Atlanta address speaks for itself. The more you read about Washington the more confused you get because he was a man of blind vision. To bring into focus what I believe to be blind vision, we will draw upon additional written information by Washington. The writing is titled "Industrial Education For The Negro" and was printed in the book "The Negro Problem" in 1903.
"It has been necessary for the Negro to learn the difference between being worked and working--to learn that being worked meant degradation, while working means civilization: that all forms of labor are honorable, and all forms of idleness disgraceful. It has been necessary for him to learn that all races that have gotten on their feet have done so largely by laying an economic foundation, and, by beginning in a proper cultivation and ownership of the soil." 35
It is true that Black people need an economic foundation; this was true during the days of Washington and is still true in the present world. We still do not have an economic foundation because of the confusion of leadership like that of Booker T .Washington. It is illogical to think that a people who accepts a slave mentality will ever have economic parity with the dominant group in America or have any other semblance of parity with white America.
Washington continues with his blind vision as he further illustrates the need for Blacks to work in an exclusive service capacity. "Our knowledge must be harnessed to the things or real life. I would encourage the Negro to secure all the mental strength, all the mental culture--whether gleaned from science, mathematics, history language or literature that his circumstances will allow, but I believe most earnestly that for years to come the education of the people of my race would be so directed that the greatest proportion of the mental strength of the masses will be brought to bear upon the everyday practical things of life." 36
As Washington continues his plea for Blacks to work in industrial education we see clear evidence of his confusion. In an oppressive society, with this oppression based on economic exploitation and justified by racism, how can one enter the commercial arena? Also Washington unconsciously exposes his inferiority complex as he often uses the word shiftless in describing a major problem among Black workers. How could a Black man at the turn of the century, who recently had been a slave, be shiftless? Unfortunately Washington was such a clone Uncle Tom that he had also picked up the white man's terminology. Most likely white plantation owners etc. began calling Black slaves shiftless when they were creative in keeping the white man from working him to death on slave plantations.
Let's allow Washington to continue to get more details of his vision. "I would not confine the race to industrial life, not even to agriculture, for example, although I believe that by far the greater part of the Negro race is best off in the country districts and must and should continue to live there." 37
"I plead for industrial education and development for the Negro not because I want to cramp him, but because I want to free him. I want to see him enter the all powerful business and commercial world. Many seem to think that industrial education is meant to make the Negro work as he worked in the days of slavery. This is far from my conception of industrial education. If this training is worth anything to the Negro, it consists in teaching him how not to work, but how to make the forces of nature--air, steam, water, horsepower and electricity work for him. If it has any value it is in lifting labor up out of toil and drudgery into the place of dignified and the beautiful. The Negro in the south works and works hard; but too often his ignorance and lack of skill causes him to do his work in the most costly and shiftless manner, and this keeps him near the bottom of the ladder in the economic world." 38
I would argue that Booker T. Washington was the supreme architect of Black Uncle Tom thinking. Surely there were Uncle Toms among Black people before Washington arrived on the scene but no one among the Black race in America sought to develop Uncle Tomism into a science like Booker T. Washington. The cornerstone of Black inferiority solidly implanted by Washington is the only sanctioned leadership philosophy accepted, promoted and supported by white America even today.
Those that take an independent stance are destroyed and are not noted by white America as leaders for Black people. For example the traditional civil rights organizations and their leaders are considered the top Black leaders by white America. These organizations carry the torch of Booker T. Washington as they play a confidence game on Black people and are financed by white corporations and the federal government.
To further illustrate that Black leadership before Washington was independent we will return to Frederick Douglass. In an article titled "The Present And Future of the Colored Race in America" Douglass advocates the full equality for Black people.
"Save the Negro and you save the nation, destroy the Negro and you destroy the nation, and to save both you must have but one great law of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all Americans without respect to color." 39
"There are at least four answers, other than mine, floating about in the public mind, to the question, what shall be done with the Negro?
1. It is said that the white race can, if they will, reduce the whole colored population to slavery.
2. The next and best defined solution of our difficulties about the Negro is colonization, which proposes to send the Negro back to Africa.
3. It may be said as another mode of escaping the claims of absolute justice, the white people may emancipate the slaves in form yet retain them as slaves in fact just as General Banks is now doing in Louisiana.
4. The white people of the country may trump up some cause of war against the colored people, and wage that terrible war of races and exterminate the Black race entirely." 40
Douglass is already on record for his utility of the idea of agitation for Blacks to achieve equal rights. In the following quotation in this instance Douglass notes that equality for Blacks will not only save Blacks but also America.
"There is but one way of disposing of the colored race, and that is to do them right and justice. It is not only to break the chains of their bondage and accord to them personal liberty, but it is to admit them to the full and complete enjoyment of civil and political equality." 41
The first thing to consider in the comparative critique of Douglass and Washington is the time in which they lived. Douglass was born in 1818, escaped from slavery in 1838 and soon after became an abolitionist, writer, spokesperson and activist for the equality of Black people in North America. Douglass died in 1895 and was a strong symbol of Black pride and uncompromising resistance to oppression.
On the other hand Washington was born a slave in 1856. He was educated at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. In 1881 he was chosen to head the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, which was modeled after Hampton Institute. At Tuskegee, Washington attempted to carry out his vision of Blacks developing practical skills for survival. He died at Tuskegee on November 14, 1915.
In view of the times in which they lived even though they overlap--Douglass defeats the theory that agitation was not realistic during slavery or early Jim Crow. Douglass endured his experiences as a slave but was never psychologically broken to the point where he would hand his master the whip and lynch rope. While Washington was broken in spirit and fit the mold of the happy, brow bending, Negro, Douglass was just the opposite. Form my analysis of Washington's writings I would argue that he accepted slavery as if it was a privilege.
There are those that might say well at least Washington didn't marry a white woman. It is true that in later years Douglass took as his second wife a white woman. Most likely from this experience Douglass gained even more insight into the attitudes and motivations of white America.
So as Douglass faded from the scene Washington was steam rolling ahead as the leading spokesperson for Black America. Washington would soon meet his most serious challenge as the leading spokesperson for Black people. W.E.B. DuBois became involved in the cause of Black equality because of the insulting conciliatory tactics of Booker T. Washington.
DuBois was born in1868 in Massachusetts, and received a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895. He became one of the founders of the NAACP and as a teacher, scholar and writer he was an activist for Black equality until 1963 when he died at the age of 95. DuBois had a significant impact as the editor of the Crisis, a magazine published by the NAACP. As a writer for the Crisis, Du'Bois reveals his philosophy toward Black equality, in an article titled "The immediate Program of the American Negro."
"The American Negro demands political equality, industrial equality and social equality; and he is never going to rest satisfied with anything else." 42
DuBois sounds a lot like Frederick Douglass but there is no comparison to Booker T. Washington. To get a full view of the thinking of DuBois I will note detailed excerpts from this article and offer another article up for review.
"In social intercourse every effort is being made today from the president of the United States and the so-called Church of Christ down to saloons and boot-blacks to segregate, strangle and spiritually starve Negroes to give them the least possible chance to know and share civilization.
The practical steps to this are clear. First we must fight obstructions; by continual and increasing effort we must first make American courts either build up a body of decisions that will protect the plain legal rights of American citizens to oppress a few. We must secondly seek in the legislature and the congress remedial legislation; in national and in public school education, the removal of all legal discriminations based simply on race and color, and those marriage laws passed to make the seduction of Black girls easy and without legal penalty.
Third the human contact of human beings must be increased. Fourth only the publication of the truth repeatedly and incisively and uncompromisingly can secure that change in public opinion that will correct these awful lies. The Crisis, our record of the darker races, must have a circulation not of 35,000 chiefly among the colored folk but of a least 250,000 among all men who believe in men. A voice that thunders fact and is more anxious to be true than in pleasing." 43
DuBois in his explicit style clearly reveals what he views as the major obstructions to the cause of Black equality. He continues to articulate his program for Blacks as he lists what calls the concerns of constructive effort.
"Let us now turn to constructive effort. This may be summed up under (1) Economic cooperation (2) A revival of art and literature (3) Political Action (4) Education and (5) Organization.
Under economic cooperation we must strive to spread the idea among colored people that the accumulation of wealth is for social rather than individual ends. In art and literature we should try to lose the tremendous emotional wealth of the Negro and the dramatic strength of his problems through writing etc. In political action we should organize the votes of Negroes in such congressional districts as have any number of Negro voters. In education we must seek to give colored children free public school training. We must watch with grave suspicion the attempt of those who, under the guise of vocational training, would fasten ignorance and menial service on the Negro for another generation. Our children must not, in large numbers, be forced into the servant class; for menial service is still in the main, little more than an antiquated survival of impossible conditions." 44
All of the previous points made by DuBois are very important for Black progress, but the position DuBois takes on, education is more significant. Mainly because Booker T. Washington had confused the need for Blacks to educate themselves with his servant mentality. Clearly DuBois and Washington stood on opposite poles and the friction between them heightened as Washington resented any threat to his assigned leadership role as the major spokesperson or leader for Black people in North America.
DuBois concludes with another important point. Unfortunately though the NAACP eventually also succumbed to white sponsorship and domination.
"I thank God that most of the money that supports the NAACP comes from Black hands; a still larger proportion must so come, and we must not only support but control this and similar organizations and hold them unwaveringly to our objects, our aims and our ideals." 45
Booker T. Washington set the precedent for manipulated and controlled Black leadership, which is often described as Uncle Tomism. In so doing, Washington also set the precedent for payoffs, and the white sponsorship of Black organizations, institutions, etc. Undoubtedly the white power structure has groomed what white people call, good Black leaders by donating money to their causes, organizations and institutions. It is only human nature to control what you buy. So white America controlled Tuskegee because they gave Washington the money to operate the school.
As the debate between Washington and DuBois came to a close with the death of Washington in 1915, there was soon another significant figure on the scene. Here we can draw certain parallels between Douglass, Washington, DuBois and Marcus Garvey. These parallels I would argue reflect the specific precedents that each established regarding a major philosophical posture.
In the case of Douglass he set the standard for Black leadership to be uncompromising in the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality for Black people. Washington discarded this philosophy and adopted an accommodationist and subordinate role. Thus he set the precedents for Black leadership to be brow benders, who relish the manipulation and control by white people.
DuBois related to Douglass in his interest in arguing for the cause of Black equality. Specifically DuBois set the precedent for the logical approach to defining segregation. This definitive statement by DuBois logically also gives a definitive description to integration. This statement by DuBois was made in the Crisis in 1934, but by 1954 the question of what is segregation and what is integration loomed over America like a dense and endless thunder cloud.
Before we get back to DuBois and his article we must conclude our discussion of the significant precedents set by our leaders with Marcus Garvey. Garvey adopted the style of Douglass as he was militant. He did not get along to well with DuBois because he was more militant and to the left. In this instance Garvey set the precedent for Black Power that would prove to be a moving and dynamic concept of race pride by the 60's.
Now before we discuss Garvey, let’s return to DuBois and his article "Segregation," The Crisis, 1934. "The opposition to racial segregation is not, and should not be any distaste or unwillingness of colored people to work with each other, to cooperate with each other, to live with each other. The opposition to segregation is an opposition to discrimination. The experience in the United States has been that usually when there is racial segregation there is also racial discrimination.
But the two things do not necessarily go together, and there should never be an opposition to segregation pure and simple unless that segregation does involve discrimination. Not only is there no objection to colored people living beside colored people if the surroundings involve no discrimination, if streets are well lighted, if there is water, sewage and police protection, and if anybody of any color who wishes can live in that neighborhood." 46
There is no difference in the degree of race pride held by DuBois and Garvey. Because DuBois clearly reveals that Blacks should be opposed to segregation only when it discriminates. As DuBois continues, he makes specific arguments regarding the school and education.
"The same way in schools, there is no objection to schools attended by colored pupils and taught by colored teachers. On the contrary, colored pupils can by our contention be as fine human beings as any other sort of children, and we certainly know that there are no teachers better than trained colored teachers. But if the existence of such a school is made a reason and cause for giving it worse housing, poorer facilities, poorer equipment and poorer teachers, then we do object, and the objection is not against the color of the pupils' or teachers' skins, but against discrimination." 47
DuBois concludes his statement with a statement that gives us a clear understanding of what Black people should mean when they talk about segregation-integration.
"Americans stand ready to take the most distinct advantage of voluntary segregation and cooperation among colored people. Just as soon as they get a group of Black folk segregated, they use it as a point of attack and discrimination.
Our counter attack should be, therefore, against this discrimination; against the refusal of the south to spend the same amount of money on the Black child as on the white child for its education; against the inability of Black groups to use public capital; against the monopoly of credit by white groups. But never in the world should our fight be against association with ourselves because by that very token we give up the whole argument that we are worth associating with." 48
Marcus Mosiah Garvey is the last significant Black leader we will discuss. Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887. He moved to New York as a young man and launched his "Back to Africa movement." Garvey was the first Black leader in history to capture the support of the masses. His thoughts concerning race pride and the right for Blacks to bear arms to protect themselves set him apart from the other Black leaders of his day. It is also important to note that his contribution to Black Power is more significant than the impact of his philosophy on separatism.
Garvey unlike Douglass, Washington and DuBois wrote only one book. His writings were collected by his wife Amy-Jacques-Garvey. This work is titled "The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey." Within this manuscript we find the thinking of Marcus Garvey.
We will begin with an article by Garvey titled "An Appeal to the Conscience of the Black Race to See Itself." "The evil of internal division is wrecking our existence as a people, and if we do not seriously and quickly move in the direction of a readjustment it simply means that our doom becomes imminently conclusive.
Industrial and commercial progress--Is such a progress that the Negro must attach to himself if he is to rise above the prejudice of the world. The Universal Negro Improvement Association teaches our race self-help and self-reliance, not only in one essential way, but in all those things that contribute to human happiness and well-being. The Negro needs a nation and a country of his own, where he can best show evidence of his own ability in the art of human progress." 49
Unity, self help and self-reliance are clearly some important elements for Black progress but Garvey goes further. Here most importantly we see that Garvey clearly felt that Blacks needed a nation or country of their own.
He proceeds and discusses the need for Blacks to organize and remove themselves from an environment of prejudice. Garvey uses the term universal prejudice, here we gain from the Caribbean origins of Garvey as he sees the plight of Black people in a global context.
"It is unfortunate that we should so drift apart, as a race, as not to see that we are but perpetuating our own sorrow and disgrace in failing to appreciate the first great requisite of peoples-organization.
No Negro, let him be American, European, West Indian or African, shall be truly respected until the race as a whole has emancipated itself, through self-achievement and progress, from universal prejudice." 50 I am obligated at this point to bring into focus Garvey's position on divisions, and groups within the Black race.
In view of the confusion of Black people even in 1995 concerning what name they should be called and their ignorance to the distinct Black racial group born in North America, one can gain from the logic of Garvey. Here Garvey clearly sees the different racial stock among Black People in the Diaspora. In so doing he notes the geographical situation of each group. Thus Black Americans must distinguish themselves from Africans who become African- American when they gain American citizenship.
The African is a distinct group, so is the Black man in Europe and the West Indies. But no culture and personality is more distinct than the Black American among the Black race. The ethnicity of Black people encompasses African, Native American and western cultures into a unique blend. This factor along with the United States being a high stage of technological advancement help make for the Black American distinction. Garvey continues his discussion and gives more knowledge and information.
"The Negro will have to build his own government, industry, art, science, literature and culture, before the world will stop to consider him. Until then, we are wards of a superior race and civilization, and the outcasts of a standard social system.
But the world of white and other men, deep down in their hearts, have much more respect for those of us who work for our racial salvation under the banner of The Universal Negro Improvement Association, than they could ever have in an eternity for a group of helpless apes and beggars who make a monopoly of undermining their own race and belittling themselves in the eyes of self-respecting people, by being 'good boys" rather than able men." 51
Garvey as a dynamic spokesman for Black people also documents his opinions and philosophy on questions like propaganda, slavery, education, miscegenation, prejudice, government, poverty, power, race assimilation and the list goes on. But one of the most important testimonies by Garvey is his opinion on traitors.
"In the fight to reach the top the oppressed has always been encumbered by the traitors of their own race, made up of those of little faith and those who are generally susceptible to bribery for the selling out of the rights of their own people.
As Negroes, we are not entirely free of such an encumbrance. To be outspoken, I believe we are more encumbered in this way than any other race in the world, because of the lack of training and preparation for fitting us for our place in the world between nations and races. The traitor of other races is generally confined to the mediocre or irresponsible individual, but, unfortunately, the traitors among the Negro race are generally to be found among the men highest placed in education and society, the fellows who call themselves leaders.
For us to examine ourselves thoroughly as a people we will find that we have more traitors than leaders, because nearly everyone who essays to lead the race at this time does so by first establishing himself as the pet of some philanthropist of another race, to whom he will go and debase his race in the worst form, humiliate his own manhood, and thereby win the sympathy of the great benefactors, who will dictate to him what he should do in the leadership of the Negro race. It is generally "you must go out and teach your people to be meek and humble; tell them to be good servants, loyal and obedient to their masters. If you will teach them such a doctrine you can always depend on me to give you $1,000 a year or $5,000 a year for the support of yourself, your newspaper or other institution you represent. I will always recommend you to my friends as a good fellow who is all right." With this advice and prospect of patronage the average Negro leader goes out to lead the unfortunate mass. These leaders tell us how good Mr. so and so is, how many good friends we have in the opposite race, and that if we leave everything to them all will work out well.
This is the kind of leadership we have had for the last fifty years. It is nothing else but treachery and treason of the worst kind. The man who will compromise the attitude of his country is a traitor, and even so the man who will compromise the rights of his race can be classified in no other way than that of a traitor also. Not until we settle down as four hundred million people and let the men who have placed themselves in the lead of us realize that we are disgusted and dissatisfied, and that we shall have a leadership of our own and stick by it when we get it, will we be able to lift ourselves from this mire of degradation to the heights of prosperity, human liberty and human appreciation." 52
Garvey evidently had people like Booker T. Washington in mind when he developed his position on traitors in the Black community. Garvey does not say what should be done to traitors. In most countries crimes of treason are punishable by death, but Black Americans do not have a country.
Our third major area of concern in this introductory chapter is a look at historical periods in Black American history. The study of history for any people is best served by a review of the historical development of significant events etc. In this instance a chronological look at events, places, persons and themes will be explored. Prince Hall was one of the organizers that drafted a petition presented to the senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay in 1787. In this year Prince Hall founded the Negro Masonic Order.
This petition is an early document that reveals that Blacks wanted equal education for their children. The petition noted that since they pay taxes they have the right to enjoy privileges of free men. Their children, they pointed out, do not receive the benefit of the free schools. "We therefore pray your honors that you would in your wisdom make some provision . . . for the education of our dear children. And in duty bound shall ever pray." 53
Equal transportation was also a concern for Blacks that lived in the Free states before the end of slavery. It is of interest to note that even before the end of slavery Blacks who held pseudo citizenship rights in the Free states were actively seeking equality. Charles Lennox Redmond delivered a speech against segregated transportation before a committee of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1842. Redmond was an active leader of the American Anti-slavery Society. The following are excerpts from his speech to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. "Our right to citizenship in this state has been acknowledged and secured by the allowance of the elective franchise and consequent taxation; and I know of no good reason, if admitted in this instance, why it should be denied in any other.
Concerning the wrongs inflicted and injuries received on railroads by persons of color, I need not say they do not lend with the termination of thought, but, in effect, tend to discourage, disparage and depress this class of citizens. All hope of regard for upright conduct is cut off. Vice in them becomes a virtue. No distinction is made by the community in which we live. The most vicious is treated as well as the most respectable, both in public and private.
But it is said, we all look alike. If this is true, it is not true that we all behave alike. There is a marked difference; and we claim recognition of this difference." 54
The major significance of the early documents by Prince Hall, Lenox Redmond and others is in the context of understanding why Blacks felt discriminated against. Thus we see precedent setting statements regarding major issues we will explore throughout this work. For example the question of quality education and the segregationist and integrationist philosophy will be set in better focus by an understanding of the positions set in place by some of our early leaders.
The pre Civil War thinking on education is further revealed to us by Charles Sumner. Sumner argued his case before the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in Sarah C. Roberts v. City of Boston Dec. 4, 1849. This case laid the basis for the separate but equal doctrine of Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896. Sumner's argument is reflected in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Both of these important cases will be discussed later. I have chosen to continue to quote long passages verbatim so the reader can grasp a better understanding of what the original writing said. Here is what Charles Sumner had to say about quality/equal education for Blacks.
"Can any discrimination because of race or color be made among children entitled to the benefit of our common schools under the constitution and laws of Massachusetts? This is the question that the court is now to hear, to consider, and to decide.
On, stating the question with more detail, and with more particular application to the facts of the present case, are the committee having superintendence of the common schools of Boston intrusted with power under the constitution and laws of Massachusetts, to exclude colored children from the schools, and compel them to find education at separate schools, set apart for colored children only, at distances from their homes less convenient than schools open to white children?" 55
Sumner continues and makes three points in arguing his case:
"1. The separate school for colored children is not one of the schools established by the law relating to public schools. It has no legal existence therefore cannot be a legal equivalent.
2. The separate school is not equivalent. It is the occasion of inconvenience to colored children, which would not arise if they had access to the nearest common school. The matter, taught in the two schools may be precisely the same, but a school exclusively devoted to one class must differ essentially in spirit and character from that common school known to the law, where all classes meet together in equality. It is a mockery to call it an equivalent.
3. Admitting that it is an equivalent, still the colored children cannot be compelled to take it. Their rights are not found in equality before the law; nor can they be called to renounce one jot of this. They have an equal right with white children to the common schools. A separate school, though well endowed, would not secure to them that precise equality that they would enjoy in the common schools. The Jews in Rome are confined to a particular district called the Ghetto, and in Frankfurt to a district know as the Jewish Quarter. It is possible that their accommodations are as good as they can occupy, if left free to choose throughout Rome and Frankfurt; but this compulsory segregation from the mass of citizens is of itself an inequality that we condemn. It is a vestige of ancient intolerance directed against a despised people. It is of the same character with the separate schools in Boston. Thus much for the doctrine of "Equivalent" as a substitute for equality." 56
As Blacks petitioned for civil and equal rights the United States, the white majority continued to maintain the non human status of Black people, especially those still held in slavery. The Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1856 distinctly declares the non-citizen status of Black people. We begin with the question put before the court.
"Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the constitution of the U.S., and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by the instrument to the citizen?
We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "Citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privilege which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the U.S.
Upon these considerations, it is the opinion of the court that the act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning property of this kind in the territory of the U.S. north of the line therein mentioned, is not warranted by the Constitution, and is therefore void; and that neither Dred Scott himself, nor any of his family, were made free by being carried into this territory; even if they had been carried there by the owner, with the intention of becoming a permanent resident." 57
In a few years after the Dred Scott decision the United States was cast into the dark days of Civil War. When the war ended in 1865, the question of slavery had been put to rest as an institution in name. But, the question of what to do with Black people remained like a yoke around the neck of the white man. Blacks were still worked like slaves throughout the south as sharecropping and tenant farming became institutionalized as a post slavery form of peonage and exploitation.
Three amendments to the Constitution allowed Blacks a semblance of citizenship although short-lived. This experience of citizenship by Black people provoked white people. Blacks were considered a burden but when it came to labor power, just like in the days of slavery, the white man used the Black hands that continued to pick cotton on southern plantations.
The 13th amendment was established Dec. 18, 1868. It stated "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the U.S., or any place subject to their jurisdiction." 58
The Civil War Amendments were enacted to protect the rights of the newly freed slaves. Especially the right to vote and against infringement by the states. A few years later came the 14th Amendment, July 28, 1868, it stated the following:
"All persons born or naturalized in the U.S., and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the U.S. and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the U.S.; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." 59
Black people gaining the right to vote most likely angered white people more than any of the Civil War Amendments. The 15th Amendment was declared in force March 30, 1870. The Amendment stipulated that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." 60
Even with the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments Black people still had to petition and protest for equal rights as citizens. George Downing, Chairman, National Civil Rights Convention presented a petition to Congress in 1873. The petition stated---"We regret the necessity which compels us to again come before you and say "we are aggrieved." We are authorized to say to those in authority, to Congress, to the people whom it represents, that there are nearly five millions of American citizens who are shamefully outraged; who are thus treated without cause. The recognition's made within a few years respecting in part our rights, make us more sensitive as to the denial of the rest." 61
Downing continues and refers to those Civil Rights that Congress has the authority to take action on. "We shall take it for granted that action will be had by Congress, protecting us from invidious distinctions in the enjoyment of common carriers, hotels and other public places of convenience and refreshment, in public places of amusement, and in enjoying other Civil Rights; but there are indications that there may be some objection made to federal action against discrimination as to race and color in the management of public instruction, and in impaneling juries, the objectors alleging that it is unconstitutional for Congress to legislate to affect these cases." 62
So as the Black community in America searched for equal rights as human beings through the halls of Congress and the courts other significant factors occurred. White hate groups like the Klu Klux Klan had emerged in the south after the Civil War to deny Blacks the constitutional gains made through Civil Rights legislation.
Also, in 1877 a political, economic and social decision was made by the two dominant political parties in the United States. Abolitionist Wendell Phillips is quoted as saying "the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slave but ignored the Negro." For a time after the Civil War, it appeared that the Federal Government might insist on a thorough reformation of southern society to guarantee the freed men equality. But, in 1877, as a part of a deal to elect Rutherford B. Hayes President, the Republicans agreed to the withdrawal of federal troops, the dissolution of the Freedmen's Bureau, and a general acquiescence in the white south's demand that the Negro be restored to his proper place. " 63
Lerone Bennett calls the Hayes-Tilden decision the climax of the revolution that failed. "The essence of the bargain of 1877 was a defacto suspension of Constitutional safeguards that protected the rights of Negro citizens in the south. The south called off the filibuster, and Hayes was elected. On April 10, 1877, federal troops were withdrawn from Columbia, South Carolina, and the white majority took over the state government. Eighty years and five months would pass before federal troops would enter the south again to uphold the dignity and majesty of the U.S. constitution." 64
C. Vann Woodward in his very important work on Jim Crow also places the decision of 1877 in perspective. "The phase that began in 1877 was inaugurated by the withdrawal of federal troops from the south, the abandonment of the Negro as a ward of the nation, the giving up of the attempt to guarantee the freedman his civil and political equality, and the acquiescence of the rest of the country in the south's demand that the whole problem be left to the disposition of the dominant southern white people. " 65
The decision of 1877 became a dramatic result of Black pseudo-enfranchisement in the south. With the close of the Civil War, while the predicament of Blacks in the north remained unchanged, Blacks in the south witnessed a short-lived political freedom.
In the south Blacks could vote and hold elective office at the local, state and national levels during Reconstruction. The white southern plantation owners and those filled with hate and racism toward Black people were repulsed at former slaves having rights as citizens. Their response to Black enfranchisement came in various measures. For example, organized white hate groups emerged. And eventually the white south and the white north came together and agreed to limit Blacks to 2nd class citizenship.
The emergence of Jim Crow was another phenomenon that was a part of the white back-lash to Black Civil Rights. Before we discuss Jim Crow, we will review a very important Supreme Court decision. Black people in the north had petitioned Congress about segregated transportation even before the start of the Civil War. The following is an excerpt from another document that questions segregated transportation.
"There has been universal discrimination here in Alabama, and, indeed, all over the south, in the treatment of the colored people as to cars they are permitted to ride in. We simply ask for equal accommodation and protection with the white people in riding on the railroads." 66
The Supreme Court case of Plessey v. Ferguson of 1896 legalized segregated transportation throughout America. The dissent on the court came from Justice Harlan, he argued that the arbitrary separation of citizens based on race presents a badge of servitude, inconsistent with the equality before the law established by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the constitution.
"The case 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.
The first section of the statute states that all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this state shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white, and colored races, by providing two or more passenger coaches for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger coaches by a partition so as to secure separate accommodations: Provided, that this section shall not be construed to apply to street railroads. No person or persons shall be admitted to occupy seats in coaches, other than the ones assigned to them, on account of the race they belong to.
So far, then as a conflict with the 14th Amendment is concerned, the case reduces itself to the question of whether the statute of Louisiana is a reasonable regulation, and with respect to this there must necessarily be a large discretion by the legislature.
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 is so it is not the act--but Blacks choose to place this on themselves. Also the question of the proportion of colored blood necessary to constitute a colored person is left to the states." 67
No doubt the Plessey v. Ferguson decision solidly implanted Jim Crow as the law of the land. Not only in transportation but in every conveyance Blacks were segregated. The Jim Crow laws became public symbols and on-going reminders of the inferior position of Black people.
"The origin of the term "Jim Crow" applied to Negroes is lost in obscurity. Thomas D. Rice wrote a song and dance called "Jim Crow" in 1832, and the term had become an adjective by 1883. The first example of "Jim Crow law" listed by the Dictionary of American English is dated 1904." 68
But whatever its origin Jim Crow became the contemporary laws of apartheid and segregation. Segregation codes that became Jim Crow laws were comparable to the Black codes of the slave regime. Therefore segregation logically was based on the old pro-slavery argument and had its origin in the slave period.
Tennessee was the only state that had a Jim Crow railroad law before 1881. Soon after the civil rights decision of 1883 all southern states enacted Jim Crow legislation. By 1899 most southern states required Jim Crow waiting rooms.
Just like slavery the system of Jim Crow was a means to exploit the economic power of Black people. Jim Crow laws kept Blacks in their place while share-cropping as a neo-slave system came into existence. Most Blacks were confined to Black Belt plantations by crop liens and vagrancy laws. The share-cropping system was an organized system that held Blacks as workers for plantation owners who supplied tools and gave them credit for food and clothing. The share-cropper and the planter were supposed to divide/split the proceeds from the crop. But the books were kept by the planter who also sold the crop on the market.
Most, if not all, newly freed slaves that were now neo-slaves on share-cropping plantations could neither read nor write. What little reading and writing the planters could do was enough to cheat and swindle the Black share-croppers and each year they slipped deeper into debt.
Strangely though segregation did not grow up contemporaneously with slavery. "One of the strangest things about the career of Jim Crow was that the system was born in the north and reached an advanced age before moving south in force." 69 Although there was no slavery in the north that part of the country was steeped in prejudice toward Black people. Here Black people in the north just like Blacks in the south were reminded that American society held white people superior and Blacks as inferior.
As the system of segregation preceded the system of Jim Crow the major political parties were convinced that Black people were incapable of entering into the mainstream of white society. So one way to confine Blacks to their place was through segregation. Alexis de Tocqueville was amazed at the depth of racial bias he encountered in the north. "The prejudice of race, he wrote, appears to be stronger in the states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude has never been known." 70
There has always been a different racial climate in the south and north. The oppression was different in the two regions but the north was ranked right up with the south concerning racism. The period soon after Reconstruction saw Blacks operating all types of businesses. Often Blacks had to sell to each other because they were not allowed to patronize certain white establishments. Also there were many service jobs that Blacks had traditionally held. Many of these jobs resulted in Black owned businesses in white communities or downtown and often with an exclusive white clientele. During the twenty-year period 1880-1900 the Black business community included barbers, boot and shoe makers, butchers, restaurant owners and caterers flourished. Jim Crow put a serious dent in Black business of this type. In any event Black Businesses were regulated to the Black areas of town as white land owners refused to rent to Blacks wanting to conduct business in the white downtown areas. It is for sure that the white man's power to license had a serious affect on Black business.
"Since white men controlled the power to license, it was relatively easy to push Negroes out of coveted grades. In this way, the Negro lost his monopoly over barbering and catering." 71
Legally and through any other means Blacks were kept out of the mainstream white community. Bennett looks at the exclusion of Black people in a unique way. "From birth to death, they were enclosed in a system of maximum insecurity. They awoke to the world under a sentence that could be extended any time by the white man. The ultimate sanction was lynching which reached staggering heights in the 1890's when a Negro was lynched somewhere every day or two. As the years wore on, lynching became more barbarous and those that wanted to hang people by the neck until dead became more sadistic. Negroes were burned at the stake, mutilated, hacked to pieces, and roasted over slow fires." 72
During the 80's and 90's lynching’s reached the highest level ever recorded. Brutality, violence and racial conflict were widespread. The southern white man strongly believed in intimidation of the Black man to keep him in place. Lynching became the most important element in this system of southern intimidation that of course knew no regional boundaries because Blacks were lynched throughout America and not only in the south. This racist system sought to penalize the Black man for standing in defense of his home, himself or his family. Built into this system were rewards for the passive and ignorant Black man, while death was sought for the aggressive and independent Black man.
Henry Grady in the 1880's became the architect of the "New South." "The Negro, Grady said bluntly, must be led to know and through sympathy to confess that his interests and the interests of the south are identical." 73
Booker T. Washington with his blind vision came to accept the notions of Grady. Here Washington just like Grady identified the interests of Black people with the interests of the oppressors of Black people. "Washington, like Grady, spoke often and eloquently of "humble" Negroes, the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has ever seen." 74 Thus southern Negro leaders like Booker T. Washington conferred with southern white leaders like Henry Grady and said if there was a problem it must be worked out with the Negro and his "best friend," the southern white man.
During Washington's Atlanta Compromise speech in 1895 he totally accepted the program outlined by Grady. In this case Washington advised Black people to accept the domination of white people, and to be grateful by showing a spirit of meekness. But, there were some Blacks in leadership that clearly saw that Booker T. Washington did not speak for the true interests of Black people.
"To the people of Great Britain and Europe the undersigned Negro-Americans have heard, with great regret, the recent attempt to assure England and Europe that their condition in America is satisfactory. They sincerely wish that such were the case, but it becomes their plain duty to say that if Mr. Booker T. Washington, or any other person, is giving the impression abroad that the Negro problem in America is in process of satisfactory solution, he is giving an impression which is not true." 75
Washington set the standards for accommodating an Uncle Tom style Black leadership. Meanwhile, Blacks were being lynched daily throughout America and Jim Crow prevailed. The southern conservative thinkers believed that all societies had a particular class structure of superiors and inferiors. These same conservative thinkers did not relate the inferior status of Blacks to discrimination. Regardless how, and if, discrimination resulted from the label of Black inferiority--Blacks were discriminated against as a rule of society.
The evidence of class was a significant variable in various causes. Blacks realize that there are two basic classes among the whites, the "well-raised gentlemen" and "poor white trash." Both groups treated Blacks harshly and since poor white people had to inter-act with Blacks more, they in turn felt more threatened and responded even more harshly toward Blacks.
Black people would become scapegoats again. Used as the scapegoat during Reconstruction, Blacks now became the scapegoat in the reunion of the solid south. White supremacy was the distinct formula used to control Black people and the first step toward implementation of the formula was disfranchisement. Ingrained in the thinking of disfranchisement was the commitment of white unity north, south, east or west in support of keeping the Black man in subordination.
C. Vann Woodward in his powerful research "The Strange Career of Jim Crow" says Mississippi was the pioneer in inventing means to disenfranchise Black people. In this case Blacks were prevented from voting by the grandfather clause and the poll tax. The white primary also locked Blacks out of the political process in the south."The effectiveness of disfranchisement is suggested by a comparison of the number of registered Negro voters in Louisiana in 1896, when there were 130,334 and in 1904, when there were 1,342. Between the two dates the literacy, property, and poll-tax qualifications were adopted. In 1896 Negro registrants were a majority in twenty-six parishes--by 1900 in none." 76
As the Black man floated in this sea of degradation white intellectuals discussed his state of affairs. They concluded that the Black man and woman were sub-human and that they were incapable of self-government, did not need to vote and could only be taught basic skills. Booker T. Washington again stepped in to second the motion for the white man. In 1912 Washington said "we are trying to instill into the Negro mind that if education does not make the Negro humble, simple, and of service to the community, then it will not be encouraged." 76
Meanwhile Jim Crow laws became entrenched in southern society. Most Jim Crow laws by 1900 had only represented passengers aboard trains. These first laws applied to separation within the cars. In Montgomery in 1906 a city ordinance was passed to require a completely separate Jim Crow street car. The law eventually affected 1st class and 2nd class coaches. The growth of Jim Crow produced a multitude of signs that noted the separation of the races ("whites only," "colored only") all over the south. Many of these signs were a result of city ordinances but many came to appeal to southern custom, which became accepted as law.
Unlike Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois stood up against Jim Crow and the laws of bigotry. The "Niagara Movement was the forerunner to the NAACP and DuBois was said to have written "The Niagara Movement --Declaration of Principles" which took a firm stand against inequality. 78
After the Great Depression and Great War, Blacks were still appealing for rights as citizens. The call of the National Negro Congress in 1935 makes a significant statement about Black equality in the following excerpts.
"For Negroes the six terrible years of depression have meant an intolerable double exploitation both as Negroes and as workers. The Negro farm population in the south is fast becoming landless. In the last 15 years Negroes not only have not gained land but have lost more than four million acres of farm land. What will the Negro Congress do? The National Negro Congress will be no new organization, nor does it seek to usurp the work of existing organizations. The Congress seeks unity of action among existing organizations."1. The right of Negroes to jobs at decent wages and for the right to join trade unions.
2. Relief and security for every needy Negro family.
3. Aid to the Negro farm population.
4. A fight against lynching, mob violence and police brutality.
5. The right of Negro youth to equal opportunity in education.
6. Complete equality for Negro women.
7. To oppose war and fascism--independence of Ethiopia." 79
These historical factors would come to dominate the existence of Ralph Henry Cothran. As a Black man, like so many other Black men he would learn how to deal with a racist society. Ralph was able to cope with racism and have a positive impact on humanity. His story lies ahead with its unique circumstances.
Footnotes Chapter 1 Part One
1. Lerone Bennett, "Confrontation Black & White, Johnson Publishing Co. Inc., Chicago 1965.
2. Gerald Leinward, Editor, The Negro In the City, Washington Square Press, 1968, New York, p. 32.79.
3. Charles E. Silberman, Crisis In Black and White, Vintage Books a Division of5. Ibid., pp. 76-77. Random House, New York, 1964, p. 75. The primary work Silberman consults concerning the parallels between Nazi concentration inmates and Black slaves is Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery A Problem In American Institutional and Intellectual Life, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1968. Also see Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery In The Ante-Bellum South, Vintage Books, New York, 1956.
4 . Ibid., pp. 75-76.
5. Ibid. pp.76-77.
6. Ibid., p. 79.
7. Leinward, op. cit., p. 32.
8. Silberman, op. cit., pp. 79-80.
9. Ibid., p. 78.
10. Ibid., pp. 78-79.
11. Ibid., p. 82.
12. Ibid., pp. 85-86.
13. Ibid., p. 86.
14. Ibid., p. 86.
15. Ibid., p. 87.
16. Ibid., p. 87.
17. Ibid., p. 89.
18. Ibid., p. 90.
19. Ibid., pp. 91-92. Along with the works by Elkins and Stampp there are some other good sources that give a description of slavery. See Frederick Douglass, Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1963. The Douglass autobiography becomes most likely the most reliable book written about slavery by a former slave. Also see Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery, Bantam Pathfinder Editions, New York, 1900. Washington's book is important because he was born into slavery in 1859 and does recall certain circumstances that occurred before slavery ended in 1865. The clear distinction between this work and the autobiography by Douglass is that Douglass was born into slavery in 1817 or 1818. He escaped from slavery as early as 1837. But in a clear contrast to Washington, Douglass, despite slavery did not accept an inferiority complex like Washington. Since both spoke out for leadership in the Black community their delivery exposed their interests and motivations. While Douglass was independent, strong and had the character of the field Negro, Washington was dependent, meek, and had the character of a confused sycophant. Black Abolitionists by Benjamin Quarles, Oxford Univ. Press London, 1969 also gives specific information about slavery. Especially important is Quarles historical sketch of Black protest. Earl Conrad, The Invention of The Negro, Paul S., Eriksson, Inc., New York, 1966 is also an important work to review. Quarles gives a vivid account of how various circumstances caused the Black man to accept slavery and degradation and sub-consciously accept himself as a new and inferior race.
20. Lerone Bennett, op. cit., p. 25.
21. Ibid., p. 25.
22. Ibid., p. 47.
23. Ibid., p. 51.
24. Ibid., p. 52.
25. Ibid., p. 54.
26. Ibid., p. 56.
27. Ibid., p. 57.
28. Ibid., p. 57.
29. Arthur C. Littleton & Mary Burger Editors, Black View Points, New American Library, New York, 1971, p. 25. Originally a "Letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe," March 8, 1853, published in From Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, DeWolfe & Fiske Co., 1892.
30. Ibid., pp. 25-26.
31. Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery, Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1901, p. 154.
32. Ibid., pp. 154-155.
33. Ibid., pp. 155-156.
34. Ibid., p. 157.
35. Littleton & Burger, Editors op. cit., p. 32. Originally an article wrote by Washington that appeared in The Negro Problem, James Potts & Co., 1903.
36. Ibid., p. 32.
37. Ibid., pp. 32-33.
38. Ibid., p. 33.
39. Ibid., p. 42. Originally printed in The Douglass Monthly, V. 1863, pp. 833-36.
4. Ibid., pp. 42-43.
41. Ibid., p. 43.
42. Ibid., p. 54. Originally an article printed in "The Crisis," "The Immediate program of The American Negro," IX April 1915, pp. 310-12. Also see other writings by DuBois, The World and Africa, 1946, Souls of Black Folk, 1903, and "Black Reconstruction, 1935.
43. Ibid., pp. 55-57.
44. Ibid., p. 57-58.
45. Ibid., p. 58.
46. Ibid., p. 59. Originally an article written by DuBois printed in the Crisis XLI, January 1934, p. 20, titled "Segregation."
47. Ibid., p. 59.
48. Ibid., p. 60.
49. Ibid., pp. 62-63. Originally taken from The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Frank & co., LTD., London, 1967. There are also several other works on Garvey. Edmond David Cronon, Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Madison: The University of Wisconsin press, 1955), the most important works on Garvey are found in a scholarly review of Garvey by, Adolph Edwards, P.T.O., Marcus Garvey, 1887-1940 (London: New Beacon Publication, 1967, and Amy Jacques-Garvey, Garvey and Garveyism (Kingston: A. Jacques Garvey, 1963, a helpful account by his wife.
50. Ibid., p. 66.
51. Ibid., pp. 64-66.
52. Ibid., Amy Jacques-Garvey, editor, Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Atheneum, New York, 1970, pp. 29-30.
53. Joanne Grant, Editor, Black Protest-History Documents, and Analyses 1619 To Present, Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1968, pp. 59-60. Also see Herbert Aptheker, ed., A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, The Citadel Press, Inc., New York, 1951, pp. 19-20.
54. Ibid. p. 93. Originally a speech titled "Speech Against Segregated Transportation," by Charles Lenox Redmond. Reprinted in "The Liberator," Feb. 25, 1842.
55. Ibid., pp. 96-97. Taken from the works of Charles Sumner "The Sarah Roberts Case Against Segregated Education" (Excerpts from "Equality before the law: unconstitutionality of separate colored schools in Massachusetts"), argued before the Supreme Court of Mass. Dec. 4, 1849.
56. Ibid., pp. 98-99.
57. Benjamin Munn Ziegler, Desegregation and The Supreme Court," D.C. Heath & Co., 1958, pp. 37-42.
58. Ibid., p. 42. Also see Edward S. Corwin, and Jack W. Peltason, Understanding The Constitution, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1964, p. 147.
59. Ibid., p. 42. Also see Corwin & Peltason, op. cit., pp. 148-156.
60. Corwin & Peltason, op. cit., p. 159.
61. Joanne Grant, op. cit., p.159.
62. Ibid., p. 159.
63. Silberman, op. cit. pp. 6,7.
64. Bennett, op. cit., p. 86.
65. C. Vann Woodward, op, cit., p. 6.
66. Joanne Grant, op. cit., p. 165. Also see "A Negro attorney Testifies Against Segregated Travel, 1883." Senate report on Labor and Capital, testimony, Vol. IV, p. 382 1883). Statement of J. A. Scott of Birmingham, Ala. In Walter L. Fleming, Documentary History of Reconstruction (New York: McGraw Hill Book Co. 1966) II, pp. 446-47. First published by Arthur H. Clark, Cleveland, 1906-07
67. Benjamin Munn Ziegler, op. cit., pp. 49-56. Also see Joanne Grant, Editor History, Documents, and Analyses 1619 To Present, Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1968, pp. 170-173.
68. C. Vann Woodward, op. cit., p. 7.
69. Ibid., p. 17.
70. Ibid. p. 20.
71 Lerone Bennett, op. cit., p. 96.
72. Ibid., p. 97. Also see Ginzburg's, 100 Years of Lynchings.
73. Ibid., p. 104.
74. Ibid., p. 104.
75. Joanne Grant op. cit. p. 203. "National Negro Committee Criticizes Booker T. Washington" 1910. See A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, Herbert Aptheker, ed. (New York: The Citadel Press, 1951, pp. 884-886. A printed brochure, Race Relations in the United States, 1910 in DuBois MSS.
76. C. Vann Woodward, op. cit., p. 85.
77. Ibid., p. 95.
78. Joanne Grant, op cit., pp. 207-209. "The Niagara Movement Declaration of Principles" (1905 statement probably drafted by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, the founder of the Niagara movement.
79. Ibid. pp. 242-43. "National Negro Congress The Call" (From the original call to congress held in 1935. The congress adopted resolutions urging unionization of Negro women workers, desegregation of public accommodations and schools, protection of migrant workers, and anti-lynch legislation. They also approved resolutions against war and fascism).