Monday, November 20, 2017

One Year Later

Earle Hyman, Grandpa Huxtable on 'The Cosby Show,' Dies at 91

Part of the life of W.E.B. Du Bois.

In May of 1909, Du Bois attended the National Negro Conference in NYC. The meeting led to the creation of the National Negro Committee. It was chaired by Oswald Villard and was dedicated to the campaigning for civil rights, equal voting rights, and equal educational opportunities. The next spring in 1910, at the second Negro Conference, the attendees formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the NAACP.  DuBois suggested to use the word “colored” instead of black, because he wanted to include people of color worldwide. Dozens of civil rights supporters (who were black people and white people including Mary Ovington, Charles Edward Russell, William English Walling, and its first President Moorfield Storey) were involved in the NAACP. NAACP leaders offered Du Bois the position of Director of Publicity and Research. He accepted the job during the summer of 1910. He moved to New York City after resigning from Atlanta University. His main duty was to edit the NAACP’s monthly magazine in which he named “The Crisis.” The first issue of The Crisis appeared in November 1910. Du Bois said that his aim was to set out, "those facts and arguments which show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested today toward colored people.” The journal was phenomenally successful, and its circulation would reach 100,000 in 1920. Typical articles in the early editions included one that inveighed against the dishonesty and parochialism of some black churches, and one that discussed the Afrocentric origins of Egyptian civilization. Du Bois wrote a famous editorial in 1911 where he called for a nationwide push to push for the federal government to outlaw lynching.  Du Bois, employing the sarcasm he frequently used, commented on a lynching in Pennsylvania: "The point is he was black. Blackness must be punished. Blackness is the crime of crimes ... It is therefore necessary, as every white scoundrel in the nation knows, to let slip no opportunity of punishing this crime of crimes. Of course if possible, the pretext should be great and overwhelming – some awful stunning crime, made even more horrible by the reporters' imagination. Failing this, mere murder, arson, barn burning or impudence may do." The Crisis carried editorials by Du Bois that supported the ideals of unionized labor but excoriated the racism demonstrated by its leaders, who systematically excluded black people from membership. Du Bois also supported the principles of the Socialist Party (he was briefly a member of the party from 1910 to 1912), but he denounced the racism demonstrated by some socialist leaders. Frustrated by Republican President Taft's failure to address widespread lynching, Du Bois endorsed Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential race, in exchange for Wilson's promise to support black causes. As we know, Wilson was totally against black liberation and was a stone cold racist.

WEB DuBois wrote in support of women’s rights. He found it difficult to endorse the women right to vote movement because leaders of the suffragism movement in his view refused to support his fight against racial injustice. He is incorrect, because even if many suffrage leaders were racists against black people (which is very true), the overall cause of giving women the right to vote must be advanced. You can support women’s voting rights and abhor the racism among some suffrage leaders at the same time. He wrote about interracial marriage back in 1913 too. From the years 1915 to 1916, some leaders of the NAACP were disturbed by the financial losses of the Crisis. They were worried about the views of Du Bois. They wanted to oust Du Bois from his editorial position. Du Bois and his supporters prevailed and he continued in his role as editor.  In a 1919 column titled "The True Brownies", he announced the creation of The Brownies' Book, the first magazine published for African-American children and youth, which he founded with Augustus Granville Dill and Jessie Redmon Fauset. He worked hard during the 1910’s. In 1911, he attended the first Universal Races Congress in London. He published his first novel called, “The Quest of the Silver Fleece.” 2 years later, Du Bois wrote, produced, and directed a pageant for the stage called, The Star of Ethiopia. In 1915, Du Bois published, “The Negro.” This was a general history of Black Africans and the first of its kind in English. The book refuted the lie of African inferiority and would come to serve as a basis of much of the Afrocentric historiography of the 20th century. The Negro predicted unity and solidarity for colored people around the world and it influenced many who advanced the Pan-African movement. In 1915, The Atlantic Monthly carried an essay by Du Bois, "The African Roots of the War", which consolidated Du Bois's ideas on capitalism and race. In it, he argued that the scramble for Africa was at the root of World War I. He also anticipated later Communist doctrine, by suggesting that wealthy capitalists had pacified white workers by giving them just enough wealth to prevent them from revolting, and by threatening them with competition by the lower-cost labor of people of color workers.
DuBois fought against racism too while he was in the NAACP. When the Birth of a Nation film premiered in 1915, DuBois and the NAACP led the fight to ban the movie, because of its racist portrayal of black people as brutish and lustful. The fight wasn’t successful, but the publicity drew new supporters to the NAACP. DuBois included photographs of the lynching of Jesse Washington in the June 1916 issue of The Crisis. Racism wasn’t just found in the private sector. It was found from the White House too. Under President Wilson, the plight of African Americans in government suffered. Many federal agencies adopted whites only employment practices.

The Army excluded black people from officer ranks, and the immigration service prohibited the immigration of persons of African ancestry. Du Bois wrote an editorial in 1914 deploring the dismissal of blacks from federal posts, and he supported William Monroe Trotter when Trotter confronted Wilson about Wilson's failure to fulfill his campaign promise of justice for black human beings. The Crisis continued to fight lynching. In 1915, the Crisis published an article with a year by year tabulation of 2,732 lynchings from 1884 to 1914. The April 1916 edition covered the group lynching of six African Americans in Lee County, Georgia. Later in 1916, the "Waco Horror" article covered the lynching of Jesse Washington, a mentally impaired 17-year-old African American. The article broke new ground by utilizing undercover reporting to expose the conduct of local whites in Waco, Texas. The early 20th century was the era of the Great Migration of black Americans from the Southern United States to the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West. Du Bois wrote an editorial supporting the Great Migration. He believed that it would help black people escape Southern racism, find economic opportunities, and assimilate into American society. By the 1910’s, the evil American eugenics movement was in its infancy. Many leading eugenicists were openly racist and they believed in the lie that black people were “inferior.” Du Bois opposed racism and the lie of black inferiority. Yet, he believed in one of the principles of the eugenics deception that different persons have different inborn characteristics that make them more or less suited for specific kinds of employment, and that by encouraging the most talented members of all races to procreate would better the "stocks" of humanity. I’m opposed to that lie, because all people are born equal and people have the right to be great irrespective of their income level or social status in life. The United States prepared to go into World War I in 1917. Du Bois’s colleague in the NAACP, Joel Elias Spingarn, established a camp to train African Americans to serve as officers in the U.S. military. The camp was controversial, because some whites felt that black people were not qualified to be officers (which is ludicrous). The white racists believed that African Americans should not participate in what they considered “a white man’s war.” Du Bois supported Spingram’s training camp, but he was disappointed when the Army forcibly retired one of its few black officers, Charles Young, on a pretense of ill health.

The Army agreed to create 1,000 officer positions for black people. Yet, they insisted that only 250 come from enlisted men, conditioned to taking orders from whites, rather than from independent-minded black people that came from the camp. Over 700,000 black people enlisted on the first day of the draft. They were subject to discriminatory conditions, which prompted vocal protests from Du Bois. After the East St. Louis riots occurred in the summer of 1917, Du Bois traveled to St. Louis to report on the riots. Between 40 and 250 African Americans were massacred by whites, primarily due to resentment caused by St. Louis industry hiring blacks to replace striking white workers. Du Bois's reporting resulted in an article "The Massacre of East St. Louis", published in the September issue of The Crisis, which contained photographs and interviews detailing the violence. Du Bois also organized the Silent Parade. This was a march of about 9,000 African Americans down New York City's Fifth Avenue, the first parade of its kind in New York City, and the second instance of blacks publicly demonstrating for civil rights. The Houston riot of 1917 disturbed Du Bois and was a major setback to efforts to permit African Americans to become military officers. The riot started after Houston police officers arrested and beat 2 black soldiers. In response, over 100 black soldiers took to the streets of Houston and killed 16 whites. Black people in Houston back then experienced Jim Crow and other forms of oppression. A military court martial was held, and 19 of the soldiers were hung, and 67 others were imprisoned. In spite of the Houston riot, Du Bois and others successfully pressed the Army to accept the officers trained at Spingarn's camp, resulting in over 600 black officers joining the Army in October 1917.

Federal officials were concerned about the progressive views shown by NAACP leaders. They wanted to frighten the NAACP by threatening them with investigations. Du Bois was not intimidated. In 1918, Du Bois predicted that World War I would lead to an overthrow of the European colonial system and to the liberation of the colored people worldwide in China, in India, and especially in America. NAACP chairman Joel Spingam was enthusiastic about the war. He persuaded Du Bois to consider an officer’s commission in the Army contingent on Du Bois writing an editorial repudiating his anti-war stance.  Du Bois accepted this bargain and wrote the pro-war "Close Ranks" editorial in June 1918 and soon thereafter he received a commission in the Army. Many black leaders, who wanted to leverage the war to gain civil rights for African Americans, criticized Du Bois for his sudden reversal. Southern officers in Du Bois's unit objected to his presence, and his commission was withdrawn. When WWI ended, Du Bois traveled to Europe in 1919. He attended the first Pan-African Congress. He also interviewed African American soldiers for a planned book on their experiences in World War I. He was trailed by U.S. agents who were searching for evidence of treasonous activities. Du Bois discovered that the vast majority of black American soldiers were relegated to menial labor as stevedores and laborers. Some unites were armed, and one in particular, the 92nd Division (the Buffalo soldiers), engaged in combat. Du Bois found out about the widespread racism in the Army. He concluded that the Army command discouraged black Americans from joining the Army, which promoted bigotry and disrespected the accomplishments of black soldiers. After returning from Europe, Du Bois was more determined to fight for equal rights for African Americans. Many black soldiers returned overseas and felt a new sense of power and worth. They were part of a new movement and attitude called the New Negro. They wanted justice.

In the editorial "Returning Soldiers" he wrote: "But, by the God of Heaven, we are cowards and jackasses if, now that the war is over, we do not marshal every ounce of our brain and brawn to fight a sterner, longer, more unbending battle against the forces of hell in our own land." Many black people moved to northern cities for work. Some northern white workers didn’t like the competition. The labor strife was one of the causes of the Red Summer of 1919. This was about horrific race riots against black people in America. This caused over 300 African Americans to be killed in over 30 cities.  Du Bois documented the atrocities in the pages of the Crisis. This culminated in the December publication of a gruesome photograph of a lynching that occurred during the Omaha, Nebraska race riot. The most egregious episode during the Red Summer was a vicious attack on blacks in Elaine, Arkansas, in which nearly 200 blacks were murdered. Racists accused black people of starting the riot, which was a lie. So, DuBois refuted those lies by publishing a letter in the New York World, claiming that the only crime the black sharecroppers had committed was daring to challenge their white landlords by hiring an attorney to investigate contractual irregularities. Over 60 of the surviving blacks were arrested and tried for conspiracy, in the case known as Moore v. Dempsey. Du Bois rallied black people across America to raise funds for the legal defense, which, six years later, resulted in a Supreme Court victory authored by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Although the victory had little immediate impact on justice for African Americans in the South, it marked the first time the Federal government used the 14th amendment guarantee of due process to prevent states from shielding mob violence.

By Timothy