CHAPTER 7

 

 

 

CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND LEADERSHIP

 

 

Institutions often planned organized and controlled,

by those, with other agendas than those, who seek

freedom here told

Captains, bought and sold, comfort, status, prestige is in vogue.

†††

 

 

 


†††† Little Rock Air Force Base was a much different place than the small college campus of Lane College. Ralph and Catherine had attended Lane for about three semesters. They left school for various reasons but at the center of their decision were financial resources. The year was 1958. Ralph took a job at the local Black YMCA. The Henry Branch YMCA had a swimming program for boys 7-15 years old and Ralph taught swimming to these young men. Meanwhile Catherine took a job in New York as a live in house keeper. Catherine later returned to Chattanooga and took a job as a nurse's aide at Carver Memorial Hospital (Carver Memorial Hospital was an all Black hospital that was located on west 9th Street). She had thought about nursing as a career and from this experience she determined that nursing was a good career choice.

†††

Ralph and Catherine first met at Lane College in 1957. They began to date and actually had their first date back in Chattanooga. The first date took place at the Liberty Theater on east 9th Street on Christmas day December 25, 1957. After leaving school and working briefly at various jobs Ralph and Catherine became engaged on May 22, 1960. As a way of announcing their engagement Ralph and Catherine visited Catherineís aunt Ida Sanderfur and they also visited Calvin and Betty Murray.

††††

Ralph and Catherine were married August 20, 1960, at Phillips Temple C.M.E. Church. Ralph had joined the Air force and was on leave. Catherine was working at Carver Hospital and had plans to return to Lane College. In 1960 the world was a changing place. Gary Powers the U2 pilot was shot down over the Soviet Union and the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia was intensified. Meanwhile, the Republican White House was praising their stand on civil rights.


†††

Women in 1960 were wearing pointed toed shoes and balloon dresses. The men who called themselves stylish were sporting the Continental look. New inventions came on the scene. Record players now had more sound because something called high fidelity came into existence. Self-defrosting refrigerators were now available and sewing machines now could cut buttonholes. Catherine decided to stay in Chattanooga when Ralph returned to duty as an Airman.


††††

By November 1960 John F. Kennedy was elected president and the United States was no doubt entering a new era. This new era would note this great upheaval over the human and God given rights of Black citizens. Catherine was lonely and had visited Little Rock to see Ralph in October. She decided that she would like Little Rock but she lost her job while she was away. Ralph continued to write letters and she enjoyed every letter she received.


†††††

In June when Ralph returned to his duty station in Little Rock, he thought of his lovely young wife back in Chattanooga. The following letter reveals his deepest sentiments:


 

††††††††

†††††††††

 


†† Dear Catherine,

†††††††††

Today is one of those days when I miss you very much; there is no one here but myself. Everyone else has gone to town and I am alone with all the wonderful memories of you. The fellows have all gone to town looking for girlfriends and female companionship. With me this can never be. My love for you is so great until there can never be anyone else or a day of sin, for to me you are the loveliest, sweetest, and most tender young lady that the world has to offer. It seems that the coming of August is becoming almost unbearable, truly being with you is the only time that I can live, the rest of the time I am completely in a trance thinking of the next hour of our meeting, this my love is all that keeps me going.

††††††††

It is very difficult for me to put in writing the way I feel whenever I come near you. So perhaps I will simply say that my heart pounds and skips beats as though someone was using it as a piano. If it was possible for humans to fly whenever they were happy then I would be with the highest birds of the skies, and my feet would never touch the ground again.

†††††††††

Catherine all these words come entirely from my heart and I am saying all this to state simply that I love you very deeply. I hope that August comes as quickly as a sound night of sleep.

 

†††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††"Love Always"

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Ralph1

†††††

Ralph had been injured in a car accident in September. Catherine was worried but during her visit she noted that he was doing well. Ralph was released from the doctor's care in November.He resumed playing basketball for the post team and they continued to correspond.Catherine would soon be joining Ralph but meanwhile they wrote letters of love and loneliness.

 

††††† Dearest Catherine,

 

††††††††† I received your letter as usual I was very happy to hear from you, I am doing quite well now, except being broke. However, I could not ask for a better feeling than in knowing that I have but two more weeks of loneliness left for the year.

†††††††††

I am now playing basketball and the team has climbed to second place that will give us a berth for the tournament. I have also been picked to play with the L.R.A.F.B. all-star team and the base team.Now that I am writing I may answer some letters I have been getting. By the way Marianne answered my letter while I was in the hospital. I have also received a letter from Roy and Leon, also one from mother. I will definitely be looking for you on the morning of the 17th o.k.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† With All My Love,

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Ralph2


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

†††† Back in Chattanooga Catherine counted the days. Soon after the first of the year she planned to join Ralph in Little Rock and set up housekeeping. Meanwhile back in Little Rock Ralph also counted the days and anxiously awaited the month out. This letter also written in December speaks of his anticipation.

 

††††† Dearest Love,

 

††††††††† Your last letter is the one that I have longed for since the day we were married. Darling I can think of nothing else in this world that I would much rather have than for you to be with me. This truly will bring an enormous light into my life. So once again I am looking forward to being with you, and this time there will be no definite deadline.

††††††††

I hope you are not too angry at the delay in this letter. This is the last week we will be apart for a while at least I will promise it will not happen again. Here's hoping that this week will past as quickly as possible without any complications.

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† With All My Love,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Ralph3

 

†††††††††

††††† When John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy entered the White House in January 1961 Catherine had joined Ralph in Little Rock. Catherine looked forward to being a wife and a mother. While Ralph settled in as an Airman, Catherine attended nursing school. At first Ralph and Catherine roomed in at least two different homes. The most pleasant home was with a minister and his wife. Rev. Torrence was a country preacher and a very pleasant man. Ralph developed a love for country churches that would last for the rest of his life.†† They began to raise a family and their first son was born. In 1961 on December 20 their first child Stephen Raoul Cothran was born in Little Rock, Arkansas.

††††

The heat in Arkansas was something you had to get accustomed to. It got hot in Chattanooga but not as hot as Little Rock. Most days in the summer were well over 100 degrees. Milk would spoil and this was a problem because the baby needed milk. It was so hot that you had to put cornstarch on the children to protect them from the heat. Since they could not afford an air conditioner they would place a block of ice in front of a fan and try to get some relief. During those days Ralph vowed to get an air conditioner as soon as he was able.

††††

By now Ralph had moved his family to a more permanent home. Hemlock Courts was a public housing project in North Little Rock. Ralph and Catherine settled into a two-bedroom unit.Stephen was born in December and Cyzanne the second child was born May 9, 1963. Catherine continued her nursing training and took care of her children.


††††

Ralph and Catherine made lasting friendships during this period. Ralph being an Airman had found great friendships with: Wilbert "Lip" Adams, Tommy Pierce, Timothy Rains and David Eugene Gayles. Meanwhile Catherine recalls that she developed some lasting relationships at her workplace and at nursing school.When Catherine attended Little Rock Vocational School, it was segregated. (The school is now known as Pulaski Technical School). Ms. Osmond, Ms. Hinson, Joyce Downs and Ms. Houston were some teachers that taught her.These instructors made a lasting impression on her life. Catherine also remembers two good friends at The University Arkansas Medical Center. Betty Jones and Norris Cross became close friends when Catherine worked at the Medical Center while completing her nursing training.

††††

Ralph had to come back to Chattanooga to take care of some family business during the summer of 1962. Again he missed his family very much. The following letter is very interesting because Ralph writes about so many things including politics.

†††††††††

†††† Dear Catherine,

†††††††††

I arrived here Wednesday morning about 3:30 in the morning safely. Everybody here is fine, all healthy and working. I have not seen Baby Brother's wife. Grace Lee has a little boy about three weeks old. Vincent is running all over the place. Barbara and Vanessa have not changed a bit. Carl Allen is a little more settle and serious minded and does not act as silly as he use to. Gerald is as studious as always. By the way all those classes that he said he was going to take were for the whole three years, and not for one as we Thought. They have a white man that comes over and teaches the Russian Class. He teaches at all the high schools and Carl Allen says that Howard is one of the outstanding schools.

†††††††††

By the way before I forget Grace and Buddy have an apartment of their own. Honey you should see your church it is the most beautiful church I have seen in a long time. I have not seen the inside yet but from the outside it is terrific. Gerald says that it is air-conditioned and has all the qualities of a school such as the new Orchard Knob and I believe him too.

†††††††††

Honey do you know a Mrs. Phoebe Collier? She is Dr. Collier's wife, well she is running for state Legislature in fact she is the only Negro running for this particular slot so all the Negroes are getting ready to try to put her in office and if the white folk split their vote among the other white candidates she will get it to. Also Frank Clement is running for governor again, Ellington canít run and get a load of this will you, mayor Oligiati of Chattanooga is running for governor also. The campaign is a little more refined here than in Arkansas.

†††††††††

Carl Allen is going to come back with me and stay a while at least until school starts. Vanessa just walked in and said Hi to you. Everybody wants to see Stephen. I guess we will get Mom or somebody to come and get him for a couple of weeks before he gets too old. Barbara just walked in and said hello to you she said she has been promoted to the 5th grade.

††††

Mom, Gerald, Carl, Barbara and myself were up until 3:30 in the morning can you think of me talking until that hour in the morning? Your Daddy is fine and doing well. However, my Daddy is not doing so well. He cannot work now, he is suffering from rheumatism. This is all the paper I have so I have to close.


 

†††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Love Always,

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Your loving husband4

††††† Catherine has three sisters and three brothers plus a half brother that lived with the family for a brief period. Ollie who was Catherine's father's child was born before he and her mother were married, stayed with the family for about seven years. Ollie was at least 18 when he came from Alabama to live with the family.Carl who was the fourth child with a younger brother and two younger sisters under him was Ralph's favorite. Catherine recalls that Ralph saw some potential in Carl and wanted them to be involved in developing this potential. Ralph also considered Carl his little brother. Ralph had no brother and had only an older sister.

††††

Catherine had encouraged Carl to attend college when he was still quite young. Carl graduated from Howard High School in 1963. Ralph and Catherine urged Carl to come and live with them in Little Rock and attend one of the local colleges. Carl took them up on their offer and enrolled in Shorter Junior College in North Little Rock during the fall of 1963.

††††

Ralph worked at the base market as the produce manager. When Catherine shopped on the base, she always got the best produce available. Her neighbors would always wonder how she managed to always get such fresh produce. This was one of the few perks of being a serviceman's wife. Any time a family member is in the Armed Services there is always the potential for them to be assigned to an undesirable duty station. Catherine dreaded these thoughts especially a duty station for example in Greenland or some other God forsaken place.

††††

Catherine really loved Little Rock; she had adapted well to her nursing training and loved her training. She later found out that the standards were higher for nursing in Arkansas and could have had a more solid career in nursing had they remained in Little Rock. Ralph thought otherwise, after completing his tour of duty, he was set on returning to Chattanooga. Catherine felt it should be his decision so she left it up to him. So in 1964 they left Carl to make it on his own and returned to Chattanooga. Carl got a job at the Marion Hotel, the largest convention hotel in the state. He also found a rooming house with a vacancy a few blocks from the campus.†† He had one good semester under his belt and he had gotten adjusted to college life. So Ralph, Catherine, Stephen and Cyzanne headed back to Chattanooga.

††††

Like thousands of other Black people they looked through the window of the Black experience. They saw, and they began to think and form opinions. The south and America in particular, is a vast area of Black people cast in the mold of subservience. As Black people became conditioned to accept a second-class role, this idea also became a part of Black leadership and organizations.


††††

How can Black people receive salvation, freedom, justice and equality with leaders that beg for the left overís from a table of plenty? How can a human being who acts like a dog get up and lead anybody anywhere? Unfortunately the selected leadership of Black America had been an exclusive realm of misdirection.For all practical purposes they were sent (by those who benefit from Black exploitation) on a precise and manipulated journey to continue the initial priority of Black economic exploitation.

††

Thus unselected Black leadership that was independent was under attack. Frequently this leadership was defeated and attacked by bourgeois elements of the Black intelligentsia. How can Black people come to realize the reality of planned exploitation? This question is answered when we see that Black leadership and organizations are controlled by people outside our communities who have a profit motive agenda.

†††

How does one become exposed to knowledge? Black colleges and universities have been controlled by the same exploitative interests since their inception. The independent Black scholars in these institutions are just as rare as independent Black scholars in predominately white universities. Material motivations and a calculated scheme of brainwashing have caused many of the greatest scholars in the Black community to share the exploitative sentiments of the former slave master. So the independent Black scholar in the circumstances of North America must be as elusive and durable as a great running back.

††††

Many people outside the Black community resent any effort by Blacks to be independent. Although these groups may even be composed of liberals from various church groups they still react adversely when Blacks attempt to control their own destiny. The interest in Black independence, I would argue, is deeply imbedded in the civil rights movement.I do not agree with writers like Charles E. Silberman who thought the civil rights movement had been dominated by whites up to the 60's. For all practical purposes the civil rights movement is still dominated, controlled by white people. The simple way this control is sponsored is by money. Civil rights organizations rely on white financial support. In the process most of the civil rights leadership is more interested in getting paid than the rights of their brother and sisters.

†††

Ralph Bunche in 1942 prepared a statement on Black organizations and leadership for Gunnar Myrdal. In this statement Bunche is critical of the white influence in the NAACP.

††† "The interracial makeup of the NAACP is an undoubted source of organizational weakness. There can be no doubt that the Negro leaders in the organization have always kept a watchful eye on the reactions of their prominent and influential white sponsors." 5

††††

Ralph Bunche's statement makes it clear that Black people have not all been duped by the white influences in Black civil rights organizations. Why has the influence of white sponsors continued to dominate the major civil rights organizations? What was the impact of the documented statements on white involvement in Black organizations?

††††

For example members of the Atlanta Project who were members of SNCC released a clear and precise statement on the need for Black people to control their own organizations. They began their statement and/or discussion by saying the answers to the following questions leads us to believe that the form of white participation, as practiced in the past, is now obsolete:


†††† "The inability of whites to relate to the cultural aspects of Black society; attitudes that whites, consciously or unconsciously, bring to Black communities about themselves (western superiority) and about Black people (paternalism); inability to shatter white-sponsored community myths of Black inferiority and self-negation, inability to combat the views of the Black community that white organizers, being "white," control Black organizers as puppets; insensitivity of both Black and white workers towards the hostility of the Black community on the issue of interracial "relationships" (sex); the unwillingness ofwhites to deal with the roots of racism that lie within the white community; whites though individually "liberal" are symbols of oppression to the Black community--due to the collective power that whites have over Black lives."6

††††

The students go on to say that because of these reasons they have had to view America through the eyes of victims. Thus they advocated for a change in the role of white people that will promote self-sufficiency of Black people. Also the students make an effort to note that this position is not derived from racism or hatred of white people.

††††

They assert further that Blacks have never been allowed to organize because of the ongoing white interference. Thus stereotypes have been established that Blacks can't organize themselves and whites have come to believe that they have to watch Blacks. Meanwhile Blacks feel threatened by the power white people have.

††† "It must be offered that white people who want change in this country must go where that problem (of racism) is most manifest. The problem is not in the Black community. The white people should go into white communities where the whites have created power for the express purpose of denying Blacks human dignity and self-determination.

†† "If we are to proceed towards true liberation, we must cut ourselves off from white people... we must form our own institutions, credit unions, co-ops, political parties, write our own histories. One interesting example is the SNCC "Freedom Primer." Blacks cannot relate to that book psychologically because white people wrote it and therefore it presents a white point of view."7

††††

The students, disgust with white liberals is further noted when it comes to the question of organizing. In this instance the students note that no matter how liberal whites are, they should not be involved in organizing Blacks. The students reached this position because white people cannot dispel the myths of western superiority.

Therefore the studentís note that Blacks should staff SNCC, Black controlled and Black financed. The position paper by the students concludes with documenting that the white liberal establishment has used Black people. For example they assert that these same liberals have a great fear of Black Nationalism and a gross misunderstanding of the basic aspects of Nationalism.

††††

Part of this misunderstanding is the link between racism and Black supremacy in Black Nationalism and Black self-sufficiency. In a final statement the students, give an excellent brief assessment of integration.

†††† "If one looks at "integration" as progress then one is really perpetuating the myth of white supremacy. It is saying that Blacks have nothing to contribute, and should be willing to assimilate into the mainstream of the great white civilization, i.e., the west."8

†††

It is for sure that the students of the Atlanta movement made the correct analysis of white liberals in Black organizations. So how did SNCC just like the traditional civil rights organizations become controlled by white power brokers?


†††† Robert Allen gives us some answers to this question. Allen argues that two events occurred during the summer of 1966 that had a great impact on the Black liberation movement. First was the Meredith march against fear across the state of Mississippi when William "Papa" Ricks, originally from Bushtown in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Stokley Carmichael coined the phrase "Black Power."

††† The second event was when "McGeorge Bundy, president of the multimillion dollar Ford Foundation addressed the annual banquet of the National Urban League in Philadelphia. Bundy told the Urban League that the Ford Foundation had decided to help in the task of achieving "full domestic equality for all American Negroes.

†††† "What the Urban League delegates and the American public did not know was that the gigantic Ford Foundation, which already had fashioned for itself a vanguard role in the neo-colonial penetration of the Third World, was on the eve of attempting a similar penetration of the Black militant movement."9

††††

Simply what this meant was that the Ford Foundation would now start doling out large sums of money to the major civil rights organizations. When one concern financially supports another concern, a degree of control also comes along. Thus, you can see a calculated direction of traditional civil rights organizations. Here the integrationists felt that full civil rights and/or integrating with white people will solve all of their problems.

††††

For example the NAACP has never pushed for Black economic development of the Black community. Ironically Booker T. Washington talked about Black economic development but he placed his idea in a subservient context. Washington's position as an accommodationist and Uncle Tom during a time of a nationwide attack on Black people is appalling. The nationwide attack principally on the Black male poses a serious contradiction in the philosophy of Booker T. Washington if for some reason you think he was a Black leader and not a Negro leading us for white people.

†††

In the wake of the wholesale murder of Black people the NAACP was formed. The Black Holocaust had been a reality since the landing of the first slave ship. For all practical purposes it continues even as I write. The following statement notes the reality of the ongoing Black Holocaust in North America.

†††† "In the decade preceding the Springfield riots of 1908--the event that precipitated formation of the NAACP -- an average of two Negroes a week had been lynched, and terror had become a principle means of forcing southern Negroes back into their servile place."10

††††

The opposition to inhumanity against other human beings has always stirred the souls of men and caused debate. In North America, the question of how to continue to use the ex-slaves was an everyday reality. Eventually national organizations were formed to help control the natural urge for freedom. Unfortunately in the midst of alleged movements for equality the initial interest in economic exploitation continued. It is for sure that the Black masses of America need not be slaves to suffer economic exploitation. A brief history of the NAACP gives greater clarity to our discussion on Black organizations and leadership.

††††

Lomax notes that the history of the NAACP "begins in the north when men had some basic freedoms. At the turn of the century another sort of migration came to the north, Negro workers in search of work and hundreds of Negro intellectuals in search of a platform to work for the betterment of the race."11


††††

W.E.B. DuBois became the most significant Black person involved in the formation of the NAACP. DuBois was clearly on a different page than the selected Black leader of the time who was in the person of Booker T. Washington. It is for sure that the ongoing Black Holocaust and the Uncle Tom antics of Booker T. Washington were great incentives for DuBois and his colleagues to organize Black people.

††††

DuBois and his friends first met in Niagara Falls, Canada in June 1905. This meeting resulted in the formation of an organization called The Niagara Movement. The following year they adopted a platform at Harpers Ferry. For about two years the Niagara Movement met and gained a small amount of support from Blacks and a few whites that were described as militants. To a large degree, the Booker T. Washington thinking Blacks at this time felt DuBois was a radical. This attitude was also reflected in the white community because undoubtedly they manipulated their selected leaders and Uncle Toms to criticize DuBois and the Niagara Movement.

††††

So while the Niagara Movement floundered, the Black Holocaust continued. Even in these dire circumstances the covert actions of white power brokers defeated legitimate and independent Black organizing. Springfield, Illinois first gained notoriety in 1904 with a bloody race riot. By 1908 a bloody and brutal race riot in Springfield allegedly shocked many white people who were described as liberals.

††††

I imagine these liberals were not angry that Blacks only wanted to be treated as human beings. Thus Black equality should be equated with equal to whites and/or a challenge to race superiority. In any case white and Jewish northern liberals like Arthur B. Spingarn, John Dewey, Jane Adams and William Dean Howells publicized plans to establish an organization. This organization was called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

†††

So white people and Jews initially were the founders of the NAACP. The Niagara Movement was of very little impact. In this drama a precedent was clearly set. Black organizations could not exist without white support, leadership, membership etc. Thus the white influence in the NAACP gave it credibility and secured its formation. The progressive white liberals who formed the NAACP were well aware of DuBois and the group of intellectuals who had formed the Niagara Movement. The white liberals also knew that an organization formed to help with equal rights for Blacks needed Black members and a semblance of Black leadership. Thus, they contacted DuBois. In so doing DuBois and his cadre of followers were invited to join with the white liberals. Monroe Trotter, although a hard line integrationist, refused to join claiming, he did not trust white people, even white liberals and Jews. By 1910 the Niagara Movement was non-existent and DuBois joined the white liberal sponsors and the NAACP was formed with DuBois as the only Black in the leadership ranks.

††††

The year 1910 was only 45 years since the end of the Civil War and slavery in the south. Thus, any idea of equality and constitutional rights for Blacks were frowned upon by most whites. This is why white people were so fond of a selected Black leader like Booker T. Washington accepting a servant and slave like role for Black people. This inferior status of a slave and the superior status of master was the most comfortable and accepted position of the white man of this day.

††††

So when the white and Black radicals of the NAACP presented their program white America was shocked. Their program or goals were:

1. Abolition of enforced segregation.


2. Equal education advantage for colored and white.

3. Enfranchisement for the Negro.

4. Enforcement of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the U.S. constitution.

 

The group of philanthropist that awarded money to Black institutions were appalled. These white benefactors were accustomed to giving money to people like Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute. In this case the white man was assured he was giving to a cause that supported a leader that honored the white man as his slave master.

††††

Now you had Blacks talking about equal rights. Surely Blacks did not think they were equal to the white man, so how could they expect equal rights. The slave mentality thinking whites also got their Black lackeys to speak out against the NAACP and their efforts to speak for Black equality. Meanwhile, the NAACP began to solidify an organizational thrust to equality through the courts.

†††† "The NAACP received three important court victories the first 15 years of its life:

1. 1915 Supreme Court ruled against the grandfather clause that kept Negroes from voting in several states.

2. 1917 Court struck down a municipal ordinance requiring Negroes to live in a certain section of town.

3. 1923 courts over turned a murder conviction against a Negro because among other things Blacks had been excluded from the jury that convicted him."12

††††

Meanwhile, with the additional thrust of mass migration of Blacks to the north, the NAACP grew in membership. Blacks had a history as the labor force in America. With the end of slavery and the Industrial Revolution countless white people were also in the ranks of laborers. These white laborers had formed labor unions but they did not accept Blacks. The NAACP had not included equality in labor unions as part of their agenda for Black equality.

†††

With the total exclusion from the established white unions Black laborers began in 1920 to organize their own locals. In five years the Black labor union movement was firmly established when A. Philip Randolph organized the Pullman Porters and Maids, but not without white support. By 1937 Randolph had gained bargaining power and the support of the NAACP and the Urban League.

†††

So A. Philip Randolph's "Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters," Walter Whites' NAACP and Lester Granger's Urban League were the three prominent civil rights organizations. The NAACP continued to grow and was the dominant Black organization up to the 1950's. This growth was a direct result of the successful legal campaign to dismantle segregation throughout the south. From 1910 to 1939 the NAACP was one organization. In 1939 the NAACP was one organization and the Legal Defense and Education Fund originally headed by Thurgood Marshall became a separate organization.

††††

Thurgood Marshall spearheaded great legal victories for the NAACP. The highlight of the Marshall era was the Supreme Court victory over segregated schools in 1954. Some students of the Black experience claim the question of dignity and respect remained unanswered. Also, the victories of the NAACP only affected a small amount of the Black population. One reason the NAACP began to be criticized was their focus on school desegregation. Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense team won the case against school desegregation. Although the battle to desegregate the public schools in America is a never-ending struggle, the struggle continues. Even during the present time few school districts are truly freely integrated.


††

Roy Wilkins took over the helm of the NAACP after the tenure of Walter White. Wilkins believed that the end of segregated schools would win the day for the Black community. While speaking at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, Wilkins said, "Everything is tied to the school desegregation fight. The principle task before any community; Wilkins added, is the abolition of the segregated school. The inadequate and unequal education our children are receiving under this system is literally placing them in leg irons to run the race of life."13

††††

School desegregation as the focal point of the NAACP'S civil rights policy is absurd. Realistically the NAACP failed to attract mass support throughout the Black community. Criticism reached a new height in the aftermath of the sit-in and freedom ride demonstrations. The old tactics were questioned and direct mass action was seen as a tool for advancing the cause of civil rights.

The NAACP never believed in direct mass action although the national office claimed to have supported this as a tactic. The defeat of direct action is just one example of the undemocratic character of the NAACP. Critics note that the elected delegates to the NAACP Convention should be allowed the right to make basic organizational policy on the floor of the convention. Also the delegates should have the right to nominate or elect the people who will lead the organization. The reality is that the executive secretary and the national president are appointed by the board.

††††

Therefore, many critics within the ranks of the NAACP want more freedom. This freedom would allow them some control over the leadership and the ability to get directly involved in mass action. A good example of the NAACP failing to respond to the interest of the Black community can be noted with a review of the convention of 1959. The constitution of the NAACP does not allow delegates to fix policy. Thus delegates can introduce resolutions but the governing board of 48 members only have authority to act on the resolutions. During this convention many critical delegates planned to attack this undemocratic structure of the NAACP's constitution.

†††

A more radical cause resulted, in the name of Robert Williams. Williams was the president of a local branch in Monroe, North Carolina.Williams released a statement at a press conference urging southern Blacks to take up arms to protect their persons and property. The national leadership dismissed Williams. Also the support for Williams at the convention was defeated and so was the cause for mass action. Unfortunately the class structure of the NAACP that reflects white liberals, Jews and bourgeois Blacks in the leadership has never represented the true interest of Black America. This conservative posture has stifled the organization and one has to seriously question a Black organization established and dominated by white people and Jews.


††††

The impact of the NAACP is further illustrated with an examination of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. As noted earlier this separate entity under the NAACP umbrella came into existence in 1939. Thurgood Marshall as the director of the new organization would soon reexamine the strategy taken by the NAACP regarding school desegregation.

††††

Before 1940 the NAACP sought to deal with the principle "separate but equal." In other words, in reference to public schools, they petitioned the courts to provide equality within the school districts. In this instance they hoped that the southern segregationists would voluntarily integrate the schools.

†††† "In 1945 Marshall, Walter White, W. H. Hastie and others met in New York and decided that it was time for a frontal attack on segregation. This decision was one of the most important in the history of race relations. This was a fundamental turning point in the Negro protest movement, for the shift from attacks on the inequality of separate facilities to open demands for integrated facilities involved a shift not only in strategy but in orientation."14

††††

The shift by the NAACP was motivated by several decisions by the Supreme Court that noted a move from the fictional phrase of "separate but equal." The segregationists in the south also were prepared for any suit that challenged the "separate but equal" clause. Marshall further concluded that a suit that advocated integration received immediate action by the white south.

††††

So from a legal point of view the confusion of desegregation, integration and equal access becomes ingrained in the philosophical thrust of the movement. Unknowingly Marshall and his staff clearly established the philosophy of integration as they pursued the doctrine of integration of public schools. To give this point more clarity we will move to the realm of questions. What do Blacks want? They want quality education. How do they receive quality education? They can receive quality education from schools that are adequately equipped with the proper staff and materials. Fact one, white America in the south refused to adequately equip the schools assigned to Black citizens. Fact two, Black civil rights activists (NAACP) petitioned the court to allow them to attend white schools that were adequately equipped.

†††

Meanwhile this legitimate action got lost on the road to freedom and got bogged down in a spite game, the rules of which were: So (despite my initial and legitimate interest in quality education now I am only motivated by making you angry by badgering the courts to force my Black child in your suburban school). Marshall began his challenge of segregation with an attack on the segregated law school at the University of Texas. The Supreme Court ruled on the validity of segregation and to the delight of Marshall and his team of lawyers the court accepted the notion that equality involved more than physical facilities.

†††

Well, what did this mean, equality is more than physical facilities? Does this mean that equality also means the equality of human beings? The expert testimony Marshall used from sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists concluded that it was impossible for Blacks to receive an equal education in segregated schools. This most likely also meant that no matter what you did to provide this school with adequate supplies, teachers, and physical facilities etc. the school would be discriminatory because it excluded whites. Thus, Black children took on inferiority complexes in segregated environments. Thus, they only would find relief to this dilemma in an integrated school.


†††

Meanwhile the United States foreign policy was suffering because of the undemocratic aspects of Jim Crow and segregation. By December 1952 secretary of State Dean Acaheson submitted a statement to the Supreme Court.

††† "The continuation of racial discrimination in the U.S. remains a source of constant embarrassment to this government in the day-to-day conduct of its foreign relations; and it jeopardizes the effective maintenance of our moral leadership of the free and democratic nations of the world."15

†††

Finally, what does the court decision of 1954 really mean? "Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other tangible factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of educational opportunities?"

†††† "We believe it does we cannot turn the clock back to 1868 when the 14th amendment was adopted, or even to 1896, when Plessey v. Ferguson was written . . . We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. "16

††††

Again what is the court saying? Does this decision also mean that Blacks are inferior and they can only gain a sense of equality by being with those whom they vision as superior beings? The Urban League was formed in 1912 two years after the NAACP. Like the NAACP the Urban League was also established by white people and receives economic support from white power brokers. The Urban League is clearly a bastion of white capitalism. Here the Urban League has become a job center with national corporations and local business concerns a part of the organizational structure.

†††

Lomax notes that the League became a job center for two kinds of Black people:

"1. The Negro masses, at least those who knew about the League, went in search of menial jobs and factory work.

2. Breakthrough Negroes, those who were being let into certain job classifications for the first time, found that the League was their best ally."17

††††

The Urban League is a mere illusion regarding the challenge to discrimination. The token and selected Black leadership are conservative Blacks who draw distinct class lines. The Urban League clearly represents the "Big Lie" because it represents the interests of corporate America under the guise of civil rights.I won't use the devil here to keep down the confusion. But, I will advocate for the poor Black man, woman and child somewhere in the woodshed or lost in the woods. How could Whitney Young the most widely known director of the Urban League be so knowledgeable about the Black experience and be associated with the Urban League. Whitney Young most likely is a classic example of a Black intellectual that has sold his mind, completely too white racism and the continued economic exploitation of the Black community.

†††

On the other hand the following statements by Young may not be construed as knowledge. "The Negro masses are certified as an underdeveloped people, and that they are given special, accelerated treatment in order for them to assume full responsibilities in American society. This is going to make a lot of Negroes mad for they will assume Young is saying they are inferior." 18


††††

Furthermore Young argues that the background of the Black masses is inferior. Does this also mean that the person is inferior? I see a difference in inferior housing and the ethnic inferiority of a people. One of the most disturbing things Young wrote is an essay on Black Power and Integration. In this instance Young seems to understand Black Power but the confusion of the Black integrationists creeps in.

†††† "Black Power is less a cry of violence than a cry of desperation. What it says is: I am somebody. I want to be acknowledged as a human being. I have roots. I have pride I have made a contribution. I want to participate in the affairs of my destiny and my children's destiny. I want to mobilize my strength and resources to reward my friends and punish my enemies as all other groups have done."19

†††

The evident confusion over integration is noted in the following statements by Young. The statements are even more absurd because they represent the thinking in part of Blacks that says "We have to have white people involved in everything we do."

†††† "When I took over the Urban League (seven years ago) only 1% of our staff was white and I had to go through this special effort to attract, to recruit, and to give special training to the whites because they didn't really meet our standards. We did these things because we were anxious to integrate and take advantage of the many skills these people could bring. Now 30 percent of our staff is white."20

††††

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was quite different from the NAACP and the token job opportunities embraced by the Urban League. Also SCLC was a contemporary civil rights organization that grew out of the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955. The initial organized effort was called the Montgomery Improvement Association. This organization was eventually named the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King became the executive Director. Thus, King and SCLC became prominent players in the civil rights movement. King also became a significant intellectual and philosopher who dictated the definitive qualities of the driving force behind his social protest movement. This driving force was undoubtedly nonviolence.

††

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference came into existence with the coming together of the clergy. Throughout various southern cities clergymen joined with civil rights as a goal through a national organization. Soon after the inception of SCLC lines were drawn. Local chapters wanted to get all the glory for any civil rights victory. King and his aides were able to deal with the "who gets the credit" problem and continued their campaigns of direct action. These campaigns consisted of "Voter registration, nonviolent action, student liaison and citizenship training.21

††††

Direct action and mass protest were effective and so did the NAACP champion legalism. The mood of the masses questioned Black leadership and Black organization. The organizations held up for review by the masses were the traditional civil rights groups. This also included SNCC, which by now had been co-opted by white power brokers. Lomax argues that the decline in Black leadership organizations is reflected in three factors:

"1. Negro leadership organizations, dominated, as they most are, by middle-class Negroes and white liberals, lost touch with the mood of the Negro masses. The result was a concentrated attack on segregation that reflected "class" rather than "mass" concerns.


2. Even after it became apparent that legalisms and "class" concerns could not accomplish the swift change demanded by both the temper of our times and the mood of the Negro people, these organizations persisted in their basic philosophical approach to the problem of segregation; more, they interpreted any desire to debate the question as an attack upon the organizations and the individuals who head them.

3. These organizations failed to make room for the younger educated Negroes who were coming to power in the Negro communities."22

††††

So when these factors are taken into consideration we see a breakdown in communication. This communication problem is between the local and national offices of civil rights groups. Thus, many social scientists argue that the traditional groups have failed. As Black people questioned the efforts of King, Roy Wilkins and nonviolent direct action, there were some available alternatives. The alternatives to the traditional civil rights groups were an exercise in independence.Unfortunately most Blacks felt helpless without white involvement in civil rights organizations. Thus, white liberals were as involved as civil rights activists that they were certain that they had every right to lead Blacks.

††††

The critical nature of Black leadership organizations is further illustrated in the competitive nature of the organizations. So, while the traditional civil rights organizations compete to impress white people, they also overlap. It is for sure that selected leadership and manipulated Black organizations are conditioned to compete with their counterparts, as a tactic of disunity.

†††

So as traditional Black civil rights organizations and leaders directed a social movement of integration they qualified a new phenomenon called "Black Power." Roy Wilkins is a typical example of the selected and programmed Black leadership.Wilkins argues that "Black Power" means anti white power. He further draws a parallel between white supremacy and "Black Power." The following statements give additional clarity as to how Wilkins and the NAACP conceived "Black Power."

†††† "In the Black, white relationship, it has to mean that every other ethnic power is the rival and the antagonist of "Black Power." It has to mean "going it alone." It has to mean separatism. Ideologically "Black Power" up with Black and down with white. It is a reverse Mississippi, a reverse Hitler, and a reverse KKK. It can only mean in the end Black death."23


 

 


Endnotes

 

Chapter7

 

 

1.†††† Letter from RHC, to his wife, June 20, 1960.

 

2.†††† Letter from RHC, to his wife, December 2, 1960.,

 

3.†††† Letter from RHC, to his wife, December 11, 1960.

 

4.†††† Letter from RHC, to his wife July 1962.

 

5.†††† Joanne Grant, editors, Black Protest, History, Documents, And Analyses 1619 To Present, Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1968, p. 439. Originally printed in Crisis In Black & White by Charles E. Silberman, Random House Inc., 1964.

 

6.†††† Ibid., pp. 452-53. "A Position Paper on Race" by members of the Atlanta Project. Excerpts from a discussion paper by members of the Atlanta Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, presented to SNCC in 1966.

 

7.†††† Ibid., p. 453-54.

 

8.†††† Ibid., p. 456.

 

9.†††† Robert L. Allen, Black Awakening In Capitalist America, Doubleday & Co., Inc., New York, 1970, pp. 21-23.

 

10. Charles E. Silberman, Crisis In Black and White, Vintage Books A Division of Random House, New York, 1964, p. 131.

 

11.†††† Louis E. Lomax, The Negro Revolt, Harper & Row, New York, 1971, pp. 116-117.

 

12.†††† Ibid., p. 118.

 

13.†††† Ibid., pp. 123-124.

 

14.††† Lerone Bennett, Confrontation Black & White, Johnson Publishing Co., Inc., Chicago, 1965, p. 219.

 


15.††† Ibid., p. 220.

 

16.††† Ibid., p. 221.

 

17.††† Lomax, op. cit., p. 233.

 

18.††† Ibid., p. 228.

 

19.††† Arthur C. Littleton & Mary W. Burger, editors, Black View Points, New American Library, New York, 1971, p. 236. Originally taken from Whitney M. Young Jr., Urban League Executive, "Crisis--Challenge--Change," Parks and Recreation, IV, April1969, pp. 42-43.

 

20.†† Ibid., p. 265. Also see Whitney M. Young, Jr., Needed Now A Special Effort, To Be Equal, McGraw- Hill Book Co., 1964. Excerpts from this book were published in Black View Points and it depicts Young's domestic "Marshall Plan." This plan espoused by the Urban League seeks to reverse economic and social deterioration of urban families and communities and to develop the tools and understanding that will prevent such deterioration in the future.

 

21.††† Lomax, op. cit., p. 105. Also see Martin Luther King, "Showdown For Nonviolence," Look Magazine XXXII, April 16, 1968, pp. 23-35. In this article King reviews the question of riots as opposed to nonviolence. In essence King notes that less violence occurred over the course of the years during nonviolent demonstrations than in ten days of northern riots.

 

22.††† Ibid., pp. 89-90.

 

23.††† Arthur C. Littleton & Mary W. Burger, op. cit., pp. 295-296. Excerpts from Roy Wilkins, "Steady As She Goes," Keynote address NAACP fifty-seventh Annual Convention, 1969. Also see Jesse Jackson, "Black Power and White Churches,Ē Church in Metropolis, No. 16, Spring 1968, pp. 7-9. In this article Jackson adds clarity to the idea of Black separation and education. He also makes a creative apologist's statement on Uncle Toms. Also see Floyd B. McKissick, Three-Fifths Of A Man, Macmillan Company, 1969. Excerpts printed in Littleton & Burger, Black View Points, McKissick helps us further define relevant issues that concern our over-all interest. In this case McKissick notes the relationship of capitalism to the Black struggle. He also documents the different attitude of whites when Blacks are killed and when white people are killed.

 

 

 

 


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