A Black Perspective of American History

A Black Perspective of American History
By Leon Dixon, Gerald Hynes, and Carolyn Gaines Nelson

Part 01: Prior to the American Revolution

Part One: Prior to the American Revolution
Historical analysis of Pre-Columbian America reveals that the Western Hemisphere was not populated with "savages." Instead, thriving civilizations existed; the Incas and Aztecs of the southern half, and the mound cities which took generations, stretching over hundreds of years to build, in the northern half. The inhabitants had highly developed cultures. There was art, sculpture, astronomy, commerce, and trade all present.
In addition to this, according to historian J. A. Rogers: "Negroes lived in America thousands of years before Columbus. When Columbus came to the New World, Negroes had been crossing from Africa to South America, a distance of 1066 miles." As a matter of fact, the inhabitants told Columbus of Negro peoples who had come from the south and southeast.
In 1415, Portuguese acquired their first African territory by capturing Ceuta (now an enclave of Morocco) in a battle in which Prince Henry, the Navigator, won distinction. Prince Henry learned much of Africa from the Moors and was motivated towards exploration. He thought it expedient to have an African Christian power to balance the Moorish power, but his captains were more interested in trade than Christian allies. To trade, Prince Henry had no objection; he also believed in cheap slave labor. Pope Martin V, upon receiving the first slave gifts from Africa, in 1441, by Henry's captains, assured Henry of Papal support for the slave trade. Herein lies the genesis of the "African slave trade." It should be noted that the holy men of those times saw the slaves in the highest sense free, reasoning (however perverted) that removed from paganism and heathenism that they now enjoyed the LIBERTY of Christianity.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic and reached a continent unknown to him and his part of the world. Columbus was highly impressed with what he saw there, and harbored visions of the possibilities of wealth obtained from the gold and spices he had heard of. The record also shows, according to author/editor Bradford Chambers, "that on his second voyage Columbus sought to colonize Hispaniola with the aid of slave labor"; and also set quotas for each Indian to mine a certain amount of gold dust. Revolts were frequently attempted, but were ruthlessly crushed. Also, on Columbus' second voyage, in 1494, seventeen ships were brought to carry back the riches he expected to find. Disappointed in this respect, he sent back some 500 Indians to be sold as slaves on the European market. But Queen Isabella, espousing the new morality dawning in Europe, stifled his plans. Debates ensued as to the pros and cons of the slave trade of the New World Indians to Europe. "Ultimately, the humanitarian view won out, and the famous Laws of the Indies of 1542 established that the Indians were free persons and not to be taken as slaves," writes Chambers.
Columbus misread the situation of the times. For the settlers in the New World needed laborers to work the fields, plantations, mines, etc. Hence, the market for slave labor was the New World and not Europe.
Attempts to enslave the Indian were abandoned as they knew the countryside and could escape to the hills with their brethren. Attempts were made to enslave poor whites (as indentured servants) but governmental protection and appeals to the king made things difficult; also, because they were white they could escape and lose themselves among other white people.
Since 1502 Black slaves from Spain were shipped to Hispaniola (descendants of the Africans sold into Spanish slavery by the Portuguese). At one point Governor Nicolas de Ovando requested the Queen to restrict the importation of the Negroes, as they often escaped and encouraged the Indians towards rebellion against the Spaniards. However, a few years later he decided that the need for labor was greater than the fear of the threat of rebellion. Also, Bishop Bartolome de Las Casas, in a zealous move to protect the Indians from the Spaniards treatment, proposed to the king in 1517 to allow the planters to have a dozen Black slaves each. Though he regretted this action later on, it opened the floodgate for the African slave trade to the Americas.
There was a yearly average of less than 2000 African slaves imported to the Americas in the sixteenth century. In 1619, we find the first record of slavery in the English colonies, as "twenty niggers" were exchanged for "Victuelle" in Jamestown, Virginia. With 200 Blacks out of a population of around 75,000, in the Virginia Colony, we find the first stature referring to the Negro in 1630. (A white man was publicly whipped for "defiling his body in lying with a Negro.")
The African slave trade grew to about 55,000 annually during the eighteenth century. About one third of all slaves imported to the Americas went to Brazil, one half to the Caribbean Islands and mainland, no more than a twentieth to the United States, and some 200,000 to Mexico. This is explained in part by the natural growth increase of North American slaves as opposed to the excessive death rates of the South American slaves that gave rise to a demand to import more slaves.
For nearly 400 years, European and American slave traders imported over forty million Africans. Millions more died during their capture; aboard ships, on the plantations, or in the African countrysides or shores.
Most of the captives were from the coastal regions of West Africa, who were highly cultured and from all stations of life; but Professor Torday asserts that they were largely from the peasantry, which was in many respects superior to the serfs in large areas of Europe. The "tribal wars" often referred to, from which the Euro-American pirates acquired their merchandise, were mere sham fights (the Africans proclaimed a great battle when around six men were killed) and often instigated by the whites themselves. This evidently gave rise to the apparent "gun-slave cycle." Wherein one African state would acquire guns to capture another tribe and sell the captives for more guns. Sooner or later the neighboring tribes would acquire guns. Hence, guns became a necessity for survival. (It should be noted, however, that many chiefs abhorred slaving.)
Again, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to enslave Africans. Due to the large demands for Blacks as domestics, stevedores and agricultural laborers, they were importing about one thousand Africans annually, within ten years. As the Black intermingled freely among the Portuguese, a resulting Negroid characteristic evolved, which is prevalent to this day. (Many descendents of African and Portuguese ancestry made explorations to the New World. They were with Pizarro in Peru, Cortez in Mexico, Menedez in Florida, Balboa throughout the Pacific Islands, and also with Columbus to the Americas.)
European countries fought for the principle of managing the trade. First Portugal, then Holland, and finally France and England. (Although slavery has been practiced throughout the history of man, only the Euro-American whites did so solely on the basis of color.)
Intricate arrangements were set up for the processing of Africans to be enslaved. Forts and factories were built along the African coast; each had a dungeon or "Negro House" where slaves were confined until shipment.
Surgeons examined the Africans carefully. Those who were diseased, old or crippled were set aside. Healthy slaves were branded (care was taken not to burn the women too hard). They were chained and rowed to the ships; packed like rows of boxes on shelves (more individual room could be found in a coffin, it was impossible for slaves to turn or shift with ease).
In some ships, slaves were put in areas that were only eighteen inches high. Slaves could not turn and could barely breathe. Many slaves would kill their chain-mate in hope to get more air to breathe. It was not unusual to find both dead and living men chained together. The dead were thrown overboard. It was not uncommon for sharks to pick up a ship off the coast of Africa and follow it all the way to the Americas.
The slaves who survived the grueling trip were put ashore in slave markets in American ports. Slaves were sold in taverns, stores and whorehouses. According to C. R. James (Black Jacobins, p. 3), "Having become the property of his owner, he was branded on both sides of the breast with a hot iron. His duties were explained by an interpreter and a priest instructed him in the first principles of Christianity."
Recall that as the colonies prospered the supply of white indentured bondsmen became insufficient. Their desire for freedom coupled with the ease of losing themselves among other townsfolk created quite a problem among the colonies. The high visibility of the Black bondsmen created a preference for the darker skinned servants. In addition to this, their lack of knowledge of the terrain and contacts in the countryside stifled their attempts to escape (as compared to the Indians). Thus, the African became more and more the most desirable candidate for "bondsmanship" (slavery).
Laws began to appear which embraced this growing desire. In 1660, Virginia and Maryland started things off by prohibiting marriage between Black men and white women. Eventually, Black bondsmen were made lifetime servants. Children of Black women obtained the status, free or slave, of the mother. Between 1667 and 1689 laws were passed which stripped the African of all his rights as a person. Thusly, race became the basis for slavery in America.
During the first half of the seventeenth century the Dutch West India Company, located in the Dutch colony of Nieuw Amsterdam, held a monopoly of the African slave trade. When the Portuguese challenged the Dutch for control of Brazil, the Indians and slaves revolted also. The brilliance and bravery of the military leader of the Blacks, Henrique Dias, helped the Portuguese hand the Dutch such a devastating defeat, that they became too weak to fend off the British in the Americas. (Unfortunately, for the Blacks and Indians, Brazil reintroduced slavery.) The English then captured Nieuw Amsterdam and changed its name to New York.
In 1672, when the English Royal African Company was chartered, the slave trade really began to prosper. The British government encouraged the importation of slaves. American built, manned, and financed vessels were licensed by the Royal African Company to carry out the slave trade. Consequently, the slave trade was a major factor in the development of the great shopping industry in New England and the fully established plantation systems in Virginia, Maryland, and Carolina, by 1770.
As the number of slaves increased, the slave owners began to develop nervous fears of insurrection. For they had heard of such instances in the West Indies where whole white families were "wiped out." While they upheld the institution of slavery, they felt that they could control the slaves on hand as they had raised them from infancy for servility, but they were growing apprehensive of introducing "wild ones." Hence, they became critical of the slave trade.
• Bennnett, Lerone — Before the Mayflower
• Bohannan, Paul & Curtin, Phillip — Africa and Africans
• Chambers, Bradford — Chronicles of Black Protest
• DeGraf Johnson, J. C. — African Glory
• Goldstein, Robert — The Negro Revolution
• Rogers, J. A. — 100 Amazing Facts
o Worlds Great Men of Color, Volume II

• New York Times Encyclopedic Almanac
• The Negro Almanac

Author's Note: All quotations are from Bennett, Goldstein, and Rogers

Part 02: American Revolution Through 1800

A Black Perspective of American History

By Leon Dixon, Gerald Hynes, and Carolyn Gaines Nelson

Part Two: American Revolution Through 1800

Between 1771 and 1776, the New England Colonies passed several anti-slave trade measures. Though the Royal African Company had been dissolved in 1750, the slave trade was an important part of the English economy; "the wealth and growth of such great ports as Bristol and Liverpool depended on it; its profits were financing the mills and factories and inventions which were producing the Industrial Revolution in England." The British government was determined to see the slave trade continue. Hence, the English Parliament struck down the anti-slave trade measures passed by the colonies.

In addition to this, the French who in the territory west of the English colonies (the Louisiana Territory) began expansionists designs eastward. This caused conflicts between the French and the English colonies. The colonies expected the English crown to defend its frontiers. The Crown said that to do so would require extra troops, which the colonies should pay for, or else defend the frontiers on their own. In 1754, the "French erected Fort Duquesne, on the site of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania" which caused quite a stir among the English colonials. Later this same year, George Washington fought against the French in the Ohio Territory. This skirmish was to be the first of the French and Indian Wars, "which spread (in 1756) to Europe and became known as the Seven Year War."

In the meantime the Crown had been obliged to send in English troops to the aid of the colonials. And in order to pay for additional expense of this they began to levy taxes against the colonies (i.e. Sugar Act, 1767; Tea Tax in 1770). The colonies felt that they should not have to pay this added expense (i.e. taxes). Moreover, since they had no representation in parliament to advocate in their behalf, they began to cry out against "taxation without representation." (The colonials' reaction to the Stamp Act was the organizing of the Sons of Liberty; to the Tea Tax, it was the Boston Tea Party.)

These considerations, and others, coagulated to produce discontentment among the colonials. Retaliatory skirmishes began to break out. In 1770, several colonists, led by ex-slave Crispus Attucks, baited some English soldiers in Boston, Massachusetts. The soldiers fired into the crowd killing first Attucks then others. Making Attucks the first to die for the budding American Revolution in what came to be known as the "Boston Massacre." The Boston Tea Party was held in 1773.

The following chronicled events are taken from the New York Times Encyclopedia Almanac:

1774—First continental Congress met in Philadelphia with representatives from all colonies except Georgia.

1775—Patrick Henry made his "Liberty or Death" speech before Virginia Assembly.

—Parliament passed New England Restraining Act, forbidding colonies to trade with any nation except Britain and British West Indies.

—Minutemen fought British at Lexington and Concord, signaling start of American Revolution's military phase.

—Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and appointed Washington chief of Continental forces.

—British defeated Americans at Bunker Hill and attacked Boston; city under siege until March, 1776.

1776—Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" published, calling for American independence.

—Declaration of Independence adopted by Congress.

—Washington, leading troops across Delaware River, made surprise attack on British at Trenton, New Jersey.

The American Revolution was well on the way. But what of the Blacks during all of this:

The Blacks played an important part in the Stamp Act riots;
They served at Lexington and Concord among the Minute Men;
They were at Bunker Hill at Boston, and Breed Hill, and other famous battle grounds.
Blacks proved themselves as brave fighters, but this was not enough for some white people. General Washington and others were opposed to Black soldiers. Thus, on November 12, 1775, an order was sent forbidding all Blacks, slaves or free, from participating in the war. ("Many people in the New England states and an overwhelming majority in the southern states who feared that arming the slaves might lead to insurrection or, at the very least, that the dignity of serving in the Continental Army might give Negroes the idea that the bold words of the Declaration of Independence applied to them too.")

Though Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, when he penned the Declaration of Independence, he was forced to delete the following indictment (referred to as "The Deleted Clause") against King George III:

"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people (Africans) who never offended him; captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither."

George Washington, who also owned slaves (and had all his children by his slave women), wrote in 1786 "…I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see some plan adopted for the abolition of it." Both Ben Franklin and John Adams came out against it. In 1775, a year before he wrote his famous pamphlet "Common Sense," Thomas Paine wrote an article entitled "An Height of Outrage Against Humanity" in which he denounced slavery.

"But these men and others who stirred the fires of revolution… in order to win their struggle for independence…had to have the support of more conservative elements of the colonies. Thus, from the very beginning of the history of the United States as an independent nation, the rights, hopes, and dreams of Negroes were sacrificed on the alter of 'unity' and expediency."

Lord Dunmore, British Governor of Virginia, sized up the situation and issued a proclamation, in November 1775, that all Negroes enlisting in the British forces would be freed. Though he was forced to flee Virginia by advancing American troops and failed to realize any results from his proclamation, other British commanders adopted the policy and did.

Tens of thousands of slaves deserted to the British lines. They were used as cooks, laborers, and spies; about one thousand served under arms. North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia were forced to set out fugitive slave patrols to check the flow of deserting slaves.

Meanwhile, enlistment were running lower and lower in the Continental Army. Bounties of land, money, and in some states slaves were offered to entice volunteers. But recruitment was just not sufficiently forthcoming.

After having braved the ordeal of the 1777–1778 winter in Valley Forge, Washington welcomed every able-bodied man, Black, white, free, or slave into the Continental Army. "By the end of the war, some five thousand Negroes, slaves and freemen, had shouldered arms in defense of American liberty. There were Negro soldiers from every one of the original thirteen colonies…"

"Negro soldiers fought and they fought brilliantly. …Negro seamen, sailors and pilots distinguished themselves in the infant Navy. …There were also spies and undercover agents… Perhaps the greatest of all Negro spies was James Armistead, a Virginian who helped trap (Gen.) Cornwallis." The Negroes were used generally, however, as cooks, laborers, orderlies and guides.

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris (negotiated by Ben Franklin, John Adams and John Jay) acknowledged American Independence. Thus, formally ending the war. (The British, in 1786, established the colony of Sierra Leone for the Blacks that they had promised freedom.)

Also, many slave owners, feeling the pangs of conscience, manumitted their slaves. Men's ears were ringing with the glorious words of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, a proponent of this attitude, tried in vain to get the Continental Congress to add freedom of Blacks in the document. (Recall "The Deleted Clause.")

For a short period, men were speaking out for the "rights of man." Blacks flooded the courts with petitions to gain freedom. Even some southerners were making steps to free slaves. Slavery died in the North as a direct result of the "rights of man" movement (together with its non-plantation and non-agrarian environment).

In addition to this, many Blacks were given a chance to develop their potentials. Among them were the likes of Benjamin Banneker: astronomer, author of an almanac; mathematician, and inventor; maker a wooden clock; drafter of the layout the city of Washington, D.C. Also, there was Phillis Wheatly, Poetess; Prince Hall, organizer of the Masonic Lodge; Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

By this time, there were enough free Blacks to advocate for their brethren still in bondage. Among the most notable ones was Banneker. The fear of slave uprisings haunted the southerners. The Toussaint L'Oveture upheaval in the Haiti beginning in 1791, sent a save of horror and fear over the South which responded with more repression on the slaves as well as free Blacks.

Moreover, their fear of introducing the rebellious Blacks from the West Indies caused them to accelerate their anti-slave trade feelings. The news of Gabrial Prosser's conspiracy in 1800 agitated the southerners' apprehensions.

Eventually, congress enacted a law abolishing the slave trade in 1807

. But this still did not quiet the uneasiness among southerners. For insurrection of many forms persisted up until the Civil War. Denmark Vesey was to make his presence felt in 1822. Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, following David Walker's Appeal in 1828, calling for bold action, wreaked havoc in the South. The problems wrought by this "peculiar institution" were eating into the very soul of the country.


Bennnett, Lerone — Before the Mayflower
Bohannan, Paul & Curtin, Phillip — Africa and Africans
Chambers, Bradford — Chronicles of Black Protest
DeGraf Johnson, J. C. — African Glory
Goldstein, Robert — The Negro Revolution
Rogers, J. A. — 100 Amazing Facts
Worlds Great Men of Color, Volume II

New York Times Encyclopedic Almanac
The Negro Almanac

Author's Note: All quotations are from Bennett, Goldstein, and Rogers

Part 03: Slave Revolts, Insurrections, and Conspiracies

A Black Perspective of American History

By Leon Dixon, Gerald Hynes, and Carolyn Gaines Nelson

Part Three: Slave Revolts, Insurrections, and Conspiracies

General Overview

Africans rejected slavery from the day they set foot on American shores, even before for that matter. Reports show that many Africans committed suicide before they would be taken from their homeland. Many more committed suicide while crossing the Atlantic, a journey known as the "Middle Passage." Some others revolted and/or plotted revolt during the voyage.

Once subjected to American slavery, many Africans ran away, some found refuge with the Indians. Others lived in maroon camps, while many were recaptured and some went back to their masters. The presence of Black and exceptionally dark-skinned Indians reported in such encounters with whites as raids, etc., attests to this. The marooned ex-slaves raided farms, plantations, etc., looted and even conducted guerilla warfare.

There is documented evidence of conspiracies throughout the entire duration of chattel slavery. Few actually realized fruition, though most were discovered or betrayed by scared and/or "loyal" servants. Moreover, there were plenty of individual acts of rebellion, including laziness, poisoning, arson, killing, the breading of tools, faking sickness, and escape (e.g. the "Underground Railroad").

The causes of rebellion were various:

Hard times in general; this caused restlessness and slaves were not getting sufficient provisions, etc.
Talk of freedom and democracy (as during the American Revolution); slaves identified with this type of rhetoric and felt it was (or should be) applicable to them.
The news of an insurrection and/or conspiracy elsewhere; this encouraged slaves to fight for their own freedom.
Large Black over white ratios; in areas where this occurred slaves found strength in numbers.
As previously stated, the slaves were often aided by Indians, but also, for various reasons, including avarice and conviction, some whites too (e.g. John Brown). However, there were those Indians who worked along with the whites in suppressing the slaves.

The fear of slave insurrections created great consternation among the white populace. Some had heart attacks and died, almost all began to sleep with arms at bedside. Many built shelters in the event they should have to escape.

Various manners of controlling the slaves were implemented, such as the slave patrols, using poor whites and sometimes Indians, to catch runaways. Militias were organized to handle revolts. White preachers were used to instill docility and the acceptance of the lot of slavery, exclaiming, "if slaves are obedient, they will be rewarded in the hereafter."

The South also resorted to censorship of the news in order to keep down fear amongst the white population and unrest amongst the slaves. They exaggerated and distorted accounts to attest to the docility of slaves and if white outsiders and foreigners would stop instigating their Negroes, everything would be under control.

The slave insurrections and conspiracies played an integral part in the suppression of the slave trade as the slave owners felt that additional wild and/or hotheaded Blacks added to the unrest.

The final revolt came during the Civil War when 500,000 Blacks rushed to the northern lines, in so doing swung the tide of the war.

Some slave insurrections and conspiracies are discussed below.

In August of 1839, Joseph Cinque led an African revolt on the slave ship Armistad with 53 Africans aboard, killing the captain; "the vessel was then captured by a United States vessel and brought to the Connecticut." "Defended before the Supreme Court by former President John Quincy Adams, and were awarded their freedom."
On November7, 1841 the slave ship Creole of Richmond, Virginia was transporting slaves to New Orleans; the crew mutinied and took her to Nassau, British West Indies. "The slaves were freed and Great Britain refused indemnity."
In 1730, in New Orleans, when a French soldier delivered a violent blow to a slave woman, he became suspicious of her angry shout, "that the French should not have long to insult Negroes." An investigation turned up a slave named Samba who in his own country had "been at the head of the revolt by which the French lost Fort Arguin; and when it was recovered again … one of the articles of peace was that this Negro should be condemned to slavery in America: that Samba, on his passage, had laid a scheme to murder the crew, in order to become master of the ship; but that being discovered, he was put in irons, in which he continued toll he landed in Louisiana." Also, that Samba had been involved in a "widespread conspiracy to destroy the slaveholders."
When these facts were read to Samba, upon the threat to torture him again he "confessed his complicity in a plot as charged…"

"Ex-Virginia slave, Beverly Jones tells (in a letter) of … an aged Negro, 'Uncle Silas', and the Reverend Mr. Johnson."
"A preachin' an' de slaves was sittin' dere sleepin' an' fannin' theyselves … an' Uncle Silas got up in de front row of de slaves pew an' halted Reverend Johnson. "is us slaves gonna be free in Heaven? Uncle Silas asked. De preacher stopped an' looked at Uncle Silas like he wanta kill him 'cause no one ain't spose to say nothin' 'cept 'amen' whilst he was preachin'. Waited a minute he did, lookin' hard at Uncle Silas standing there but didn't give no answer.

"Is God gonna free us slaves when we git to Heaven?' Uncle Silas yelled. Old white preacher pult out his handkerchief an' wiped de sweat frum his face. 'Jesus say come unto Me ye who are free from sin an' I will give you salvation'. "Gonna give us freedom 'long wid slavation?" asked Uncle Silas. "De Lawd gives and de lawd takes away, an' dat is widdout sin is gonna have life everlastin', preached de preacher. Den he wen' ahead preachin', fas-like, widdout payin' no 'tention to Uncle Silas.

"But uncle Silas wouldn't sit down; stood dere de res' of de service, he did, an' dat was de las' time he come to church' Uncle Silas died fo' 'nother preachin' time come roun'."

In 1816, a legislative account was given in South Carolina that: "A few runaway Negroes, concealing themselves in the swamps and marshes … not having been interrupted in their petty plunderings for a long time, formed the nucleus, round which all the all the ill-disposed and audacious near them gathered, until at length their robberies became too serious to be suffered with impunity. Attempts were then made to disperse them, which either from insufficiency of numbers of bad arrangement, served by their failure only to encourage a wanton destruction of property. Their forces now became alarming, not less from its numbers that from its arms and ammunition with which it was supplied. The peculiar situation of the whole of that portion of our coast, rendered access to them difficult, while the numerous creeks and water courses through the marshes around the islands, furnished them easy opportunities to plunder, not only planters in open day, but the inland coasting trade also without leaving trace of their movements by which to be pursued. … Major-General Youngblood (was ordered) to take the necessary measures for suppressing them … By a judicous employment of the militia under his command, he either captured or destroyed the whole body."
"On a Sunday evening, September 9, 1739, about a score of slaves at Stono, South Carolina led by one named Jemmy, rebelled, killed the two guards of a warehouse or magazine and appropriated 'a pretty many small arms and powder', and headed at a slow pace, south, apparently aiming to reach St. Augustine. On the way they killed all in their path, with the exception of an inn keeper … who, they felt, 'was a good man and kind to his slaves', and burned several buildings."
"Other Negroes 'Joined them' until something like seventh-five or eighty slaves were gathered, 'they called out liberty, marched on with colours displayed, and two drums beating." They were chanced upon by the Lt. Governor riding near their line of march; he immediately spread the alarm."

"Guards were posted at all ferries and roads, and the militia was assembled and set out in pursuit." When they met the Negroes they encountered resistance by the Negroes, who waged battle led by one named Cato. About thirty whites were killed, and many more Negroes. "The Negroes, though they 'behaved boldly' were defeated." However, some did manage to escape.

The Haitian Revolt

During the beginning of the last decade of the eighteenth century occurred a slave rebellion that was to induce more impact in the Americas than any other in the "New World." It was the renowned "Haitian Revolt" from which Toussaint "'Overture emerged from an obscure slave to become proclaimed "one of the great men of an age that abounds in greatness."

The demands of the rebelling slaves were for better working conditions. But, when these demands were met by intransigence, the rebels pressed for full emancipation and control of the territory.

With Toussaint at the helm, and ably assisted by his generals Jean-Jacque Dessalines and Henri Christophe, the Haitians successfully warded off the Spanish, English, and French.

This liberty achieved by the slaves is the only one acquired as a result of revolution in the Americas.

Meanwhile, "Napoleon's ambition was to build a great colonial empire" the keystone of which was the "incomparable colony" on Haiti, from which France is said to have derived more profit than all other nations derived from their combined colonies in Asia, Africa, and America. But Haiti had to depend on the United States for supplies; and the United States was "a dangerous neighbor both by its political example and its commercial and maritime rivalry with the mother country." By substituting the Louisiana Territory in its place this could be corrected.

The first step was to eliminate Toussaint. So Napoleon sent his bother-in-law, General Emanuel LeClerc, "and some 25,000 soldiers to do the job" ("the most powerful army that had ever crossed the Atlantic"). "LeClerc did not succeed. … Having lost… Napoleon lost interest in the Louisiana Territory and sold it to Jefferson" "…for four cents and acre—the biggest real estate bargain in history." Furthermore, this purchase, around $15 million, enabled the United States to double its size.

Another ramification wrought by the Haitian revolt was the repression that the North American slaves were subjected to because of the fears of rebellion induced into the slave owners. It also had its attributions toward the Act of 1807, prohibiting the slave trade. For one reason, the thought of introducing new wild slaves from South America was disheartening.

The Gabriel Prosser Planned Revolt

Gabriel, slave of Thomas H. Prosser, a 24 year old man who stood six feet two inches tall, began laying plans for a slave revolt in the spring and summer of 1800. The plan was simple: "Three columns would attack Richmond (Virginia); the right wing would grab the arsenal and seize the guns, the left wing would take the powder house; the key, central wing, would enter the town at both ends simultaneously and would cut down every white person, except Frenchmen, Methodists, and Quakers. After Richmond was secured, Gabriel planned lightning like attacks on other cities in the state. If the plan succeeded, he would 'proclaim Virginia a Negro state."

"Several thousand (estimates ranged from 2,000 to 50,000) slaves had been enlisted." The date August 30, was selected to begin the revolt. "on that very day, they were betrayed" by two slaves who informed their master, who, in turn, communicated the intelligence to the authorities."

"Gabriel unaware of the betrayal, pushed forward with his plans." That night a heavy rain fell, "making the road to Richmond impassable." The delay gave the stunned authorities an opportunity to mobilize themselves. Some forty slaves were arrested and put on trial. They revealed the names of no other participants. One of the participants of the insurrection remarked: "I have no more to offer than what General Washington would have had to offer, had he been taken by the British and put on trial by them. … I beg, as a favor, that I may be immediately led to execution. I know that you have pre-determined to shed my blood, why then all this mockery of a trial?" Gabriel tried to escape but was betrayed by two Negroes. He was convicted and, after a postponement in hopes of seeking further information, hanged.

The Denmark Vesey Conspiracy

One of the most elaborate conspiracies was led by the brilliant, hot-tempered ex-slave for twenty years to a slave trader, who bought his freedom with the winnings from a lottery he entered. Denmark Vesey, "traveled widely and learned several languages; he learned also that slavery was evil…" and developed "a deep and unquenchable hatred of slavery and slaveholders."

"For four or five years, he patiently and persistently played the role of an agitator. Men, he saw, must not only be dissatisfied, they must be so dissatisfied they will ACT." Tirelessly, seeming never to rest he was always, everywhere teaching, ridiculing (he would rebuke slaves he saw bowing down to white men, when they replied, "but we're slaves," Vesey would respond with biting sarcasm, "you deserve to be slaves"), taunting, and threatening until he "gain a vise hold on the minds of the Negroes in Charleston and surrounding areas."

"Having reached this point, Vesey switched from the role of agitator to the role of an organizer." "Around Christmas … 1821, he chose lieutenants and perfected his organization." Vesey in his fifties, vigorous, big-bodied and with a keen insight into human nature, he selected among others:

Gullah Jack; an African born sorcerer, considered invulnerable,
Peter Poyas; possessed organizing ability bordering on genius, with "ice water" in his veins, and "was a blend of caution and recklessness." Peter advised his recruiting agents "take care and don't mention it to those waiting men (house servants) who receive presents of old coats etc. from their masters, or they'll betray us: I WILL SPEAK TO THEM."
Vesey and Peter perfected a sell-like organization. … Only the leaders knew the details of the plot; … If a single recruit was arrested, he was not in a position to endanger the whole plot. … It has been estimated that some 9,000 slaves were recruited.

On Sunday, july 16, 1822, the slave army was to strike at six points, taking possession of arsenals, guardhouses, powder magazines, naval stores. All whites were to be killed.

The very thing that Peter tried to prevent happened when an unauthorized slave tried to recruit a house servant. Five days later, the authorities were aware of bare outlines of the plot, (around the end of May). A guessing game ensued; Vesey and company versus the town authorities. Peter and another leader Mingo Garth—drew suspicion. Instead of trying to escape, they went to the mayor's office. They were indignant; their honor, their fidelity had been questioned. Justice demanded that they be questioned and cleared. The authorities were confounded; guilty slaves didn't act that way. Peter and Mingo were released and the cops-and-robbers game continued. … Then, on the Friday before D-Day, another slave (who actually knew valuable information) went over to the enemy.

With inside information and the names of some leaders, the alarm spread, the guard beefed up and the militia alerted. Vesey and most of the leaders were arrested, tried and hanged. … They behaved noble, eyewitness say. Only one leader confessed; the rest remained silent in the face of abuse, threats, promises, and torture. … So cool, so carefree was Peter that he spurned last minutes pleas for additional information. "Do not open your lips,' he said to the other leaders. "Die as silent as you shall see me do."

David Walker's Appeal

One of the great abolitionist pamphlets was Walkers Appeal, published in 1828. … The "Appeal" ran through three additions in 1829, the year following publication, each containing language more militant than the preceding one. … It implores, threatens, and curses. It called for bold action; for the Blacks to assert themselves and not to passively submit to slavery.

A Georgian received fifty copies of the Appeal through the mail, became afraid and informed the police who in turn informed the governor. The legislature passed a bill making a capital offense the circulation of literature that might incite slaves to revolt … and also offered a reward for Walker's capture: $10,000 alive; $1,000 dead.

Walker, born to a slave father and free mother, therefore, legally free, died in relative obscurity (despite the Appeal's fame) in 1831, and some say "under mysterious circumstances." But within months, David Walker's name was to become a by-word throughout the nation. For on August 21, 1832, Nat Turner revolted, and the fearful predictions of white southerners who had found such a threat in the Appeal seemed borne out."

The Nat Turner Revolt

"…Nat Turner organized a small band of slaves in Virginia's Southampton County, where he lived." On August 21, 1831, Nat was to meet with his men and proceed to execute his plans. It was late in the afternoon when Nat joined them he sized up the group assembled. "Having assured himself of the steadfastness of his men, Nat outlined his plans. They would strike that night, beginning at the home of his master and proceeding from house to house, killing every an, woman, and child. In this way, he explained, they would terrorize the whites and stampede them. Then, he said, women and children would be spared and; men too how ceased to resist'."

About 10 p.m., the conspirators left … and moved to the home of Joseph Travis. Proceeding according to plans, moving quietly and swiftly through the night, the little band cut a swath of red, chopping down old, young, male, female. At almost every stop, additional slaves joined them. All through that night, men, women, and children died. No one with a white skin was spared except a family of poor whites who owned no slaves. Monday morning dawned and Nat rode on.

When the first bodies were discovered, a nameless dread seized the white citizenry. Women, children, and men fled to the swamps and hid under the leaves. Other citizens flocked to public buildings and barricaded the doors. Some whites left the country. Others left the state.

Nat rode on, picking up recruits at each stop, moving closer and closer to Jerusalem (the county seat). On Monday afternoon, he reached the Parker farm, only three miles from Jerusalem. Nat wanted to bypass the farm and push on to the city. His men, some of whom were groggy from periodic raids on cider stills, wanted to stop. Nat gave in—a fatal mistake. While waiting, he met his first opposition. A group of eighteen or twenty whites held their ground for a moment and then turned and fled. Nat gave chase, crossed a hill and discovered that the whites had been reinforced by a larger group from Jerusalem. It was now his turn to retreat. He decided to retrace his steps and recruit more men. The next day he was defeated and his men dispersed. Nat retired to Cabin Pond and waited for his disciples to regroup. After waiting for a day or so, he dug a cave and went into hiding.

By this time, soldiers were flocking to the country from all points. … A massacre followed. The enraged whites shot down innocent Negroes who smiled and innocent Negroes who did not smile. … Nat eluded capture for almost two months. While he was at large, a panic seized large parts of Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. … The panic rolled over a large part of the South.

It was the barking of a dog that betrayed Nat. When he was finally captured guns fired all over Southampton County… At his trial he pleaded not guilty, saying that he did not FEEL guilty. Nat Turner was found guilty and sentenced to hang until he was "dead! dead! dead!"

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad (UR) was a network of secret routes by land and by sea, over which Black people escaped to free states and to Canada. It took its name from the then new industrial invention, the locomotive. The escaping slaves were called passengers; the people who sheltered them, station agents; and those who guided them, conductors.

The UR was most active from the 1840's to the 1869's and during that period several thousand slaves each year made successful flights to freedom. There were two main routes. One was the Middle Western Line, leading from the South through Ohio and Indiana and terminating in Canada. The other was the Eastern Line or Seaboard Route, running through Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

The most famous conductor was Harriet Tubman, herself a fugitive slave from Maryland. She made regular trips back and forth, bringing slaves out of the South and escorting them to Canada. Harriet Tubman made at least nineteen forays into the South, with a price on her head, and she single-handedly effected the escape of more than three hundred slaves.


Apthetaker, Herbert — American Negro Slave Revolts
Bennnett, Lerone — Before the Mayflower
Bohannan, Paul & Curtin, Phillip — Africa and Africans
Chambers, Bradford — Chronicles of Black Protest
King, Woodie and Anthony, Earl — Black Poets and Prophets
Korngold, Ralph — Citizen Toussaint
Goldstein, Robert — The Negro Revolution
New York Times Encyclopedic Almanac
The Negro Almanac

Author's Note: All quotations are from the above references.

Part 04: The Ante-Bellum South (1800–1860)

Part Four: The Ante-Bellum South (1800–1860)

The ante-bellum south was primarily an agrarian way of life. Slavery had long since taken root and anti-slavery sentiments were being heard in the North from the abolitionists.

The southern people were constantly being harassed by the Indians, and fear of slave insurrections combined to make them uneasy. With sparsely populated territories and the plantation being primarily the population centers, the task of protection fell upon the people or plantations themselves. The consequent arming of themselves led to a self-defense, take-the-law-into-your-own-hands type of atmosphere, reminiscent of sparsely settled frontier towns and ranches, where each plantation was as a town within itself.

The South was caught unprepared militarily for the war of independence. The North viewed slavery and Indian harassment as southern liabilities during the war and asserted that it was the assistance of the North that was responsible for the successes in the South. Whereas, the South considered and cited the heroic sacrifices of its people as the reasons. All in all, the inadequacy of the South's defenses at the war's outbreak, and the lack of sufficient support from the North caused the South to strive to be ever ready for military confrontation.

In this environment, political institutions matured slowly and personal danger was frequently imminent. The government proved ineffective for protection, hence, the southerner grew to be self-sufficient in this respect. With only his personal resources to rely on for protection he became edgy and quick to react to potential dangers, often acting too hastily. He acquired a reputation for being hot-headed and trigger-happy, even in his personal relationships. Fights often broke out (often over trivial matters), many of a most gory nature (gouging out eyes, biting off noses, ears, fingers, and pieces of flesh, etc.). People became obsessed with defending their honor (in fact, one had to be careful not to offend anyone's honor, if he wanted to avoid a confrontation. Hence, the genesis of southern manners and chivalry. In the upper classes, dueling became commonplace. All of these activities enjoyed popular support: A wife told her husband as he left for the dueling grounds that she would rather be "the widow of a brave man than the wife of a coward."

Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton (who was born in the West Indies and had African ancestry) to a duel. Hamilton shot in the air, not wanting to harm Burr, but was mortally wounded in return. It was unfortunate incidences by dueling such as these, involving important figures, that ultimately brought about the downfall of this dastardly activity.

The lack of densely populated areas, the southern inclination not to sponsor the local government's tax program, and the arrogant and often rebellious nature of the "southern genteel" led to serious educational deficiencies. In order for any formal institution to survive and/or thrive it would become necessary for that institution to conform to the moral and ethical dictates of the people. Now, since the people had developed great skills of the nature of out-doorsmen (hunting, horsemanship, shooting, etc.) a logical evolvement of this undisciplined, martial attitude would be a school with these attributes. Hence—military schools. For these type schools could both discipline the students as well as prepare them for military endeavors (often including, Indian fighting and squelching slave insurrections).

The news of Gabrial Prosser's plot for a slave revolt in 1800 and the success of the Toussaint L'Overture led Haitian slave revolt, caused great concern for militarization of the southern countryside which resulted in more repression on the slaves. All in all, the South grew more arrogant and confident of its military capacities and felt itself quite capable of rising to any type of military occasion. Military academies sprung up throughout the South; the former students were often called upon to set up schools, teach, and head up state militias. On the local levels, patrols were set up to watch for run-away slaves, often employing poor whites.

At any rate the proximity of the Indians caused much concern among the southerners. The Indians' constant harassment and their receiving of slaves, together with the land greed of the southerners produced a desire for the removal of the Indians. (The transportation of the Indians from the southeast to the Midwest, due to the wretched conditions and suffering wrought among the Indians, including starvation and death, became known as "The Trail of Tears.") Numerous volunteer militia groups from all over the South rallied to the cause of removing the Indians. (The Seminoles of Florida were one of the tribes the southerners contested, who registered stout resistance, beating the southerners on many occasions. In fact, some of them are still there.)

The southerners continued to raise their volunteer militia groups right up to the Civil War. As a matter of fact, the military grew to hold the key to respect and success. The prestige of military leadership became an obsession. As a result, high sounding titles began to appear almost everywhere. The South had for more officers than were needed. (North Carolina, for example, had one officer for every sixteen men!) Frankly, it wasn't even necessary to be in the military to have a title. As a rule, most "better class" men were at least colonels and judges; tavern keepers, majors; captains were among the stage drivers.

When France's legions were finally defeated in Haiti, Napoleon decided to abandon his plans for America and concentrate on Europe. Consequently, he sold the Louisiana Territory for fifteen million dollars (i.e. a song and a dance) in 1803 to the United States giving the United States a common border with Mexico, which contained Texas, and doubled its size. The southerners soon began making expansionist designs on Texas.

In 1810 the Mexican Revolution against Spain began, and shortly afterward the southern interest in Texas accelerated. The economic and political interest of the slave states created a desire for expansion. Southerners confidently expected to make important territorial acquisitions as a result from the War of 1812 (with England) and southerners engaged in expansionist activities which had little or nothing to do with war.

Mexico won her independence in 1821, but the southern interest in Texas never waned, even though the acquisition of Florida in 1819 diverted it for a while. Any and every attempt at a slave insurrection would serve to give impetus to the militarization of the South as well as its martial spirit, especially Denmark Vesey's conspiracy in 1822 and Nat Turner's revolt in 1831.

Attempts to conquer land were made during the War of 1812 as well as the Mexican Revolution, but in neither case were they wholly successful.

Again, the political, economic and social considerations for new lands strengthened the planters' determination to expand, even against strong opposition. The anti-slavery forces, astonished at the South's extension of slavery at the close of the War of 1812, sought to evolve a policy of containment that the slave owners feared might lead to the extinction of slavery. When the Tallmadge Amendment to Missouri's application to the Union was proposed (which would prohibit further extension of slavery into the Louisiana Territory and free at the age of 25 all slave children born in Missouri after the admission), the South considered it an attempt to eradicate slavery. Peace was not restored even with the Missouri Compromise in 1820 (which prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of Missouri's southern border and admitted Missouri to the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state).

When Mexico abolished slavery, in 1829, the South made it known that slavery was an important factor in their desire for Texas. The United States' support of the Texas Revolution came largely from the slave states (moved partly by desire to support the independence movement of Texas and a strong desire by the planters for more slave territory).

In 1836, Santa Anna led the Mexican victory at the battle of the Alamo at San Antonio. (Among the Texas casualties were Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and Jim Travis.) Later that same year Sam Houston led the decisive Texan victory at the battle of San Jacinto. After which Texas set up an independent republic and Houston became its president.

Texas joined the Union in 1845 and Mexico broke off diplomatic relationship with the United States. The following year they were at war and the Wilmot Proviso was submitted which prohibited slavery in the territory acquired from Mexico. The South considered this a drastic move by the anti-slavery movement to contain and destroy slavery. (The proviso failed to pass.)

Consequently, the southerners became more aggressive in their expansionist activities. Slogans of "manifest destiny" became the order of the day. They had their sights on Mexico, Cuba, Central America, the northern portion of South America, and the Caribbean area. Simultaneously, the gap between the North and the South began widening. Southerners began to think in terms of secession. It was ultimately these forces which led to the Civil War; thus ending the southern expansionist schemes as they began to concentrate their attention on the North.

Principle Reference: The Militant South by John Hope Franklin

Other References:

Korngold, Ralph — Citizen Toussaint
Rogers, J. A. — 100 Amazing Facts
World Almanac, 1968

Part 05: On the Causes of the Civil War

Part Five: On the Causes of the Civil War

Slavery, from its very inception, created a paradox to the concept of government by the consent of the governed, the basic principle of this country's democracy. The founding fathers tried to deep the recognition of slavery from the constitution and hoped that the prohibition of the slave trade would eventually end slavery; reasoning that the continued existence of tropical people in this land was due to continued additions from abroad. They misjudged, or could not foresee, the changing economic world. Whereas, in the West Indies it was more profitable to kill slaves by overwork and replace them with cheaply bought new ones, in America, without the slave-trade, slaves were multiplied by breeding.

The Southern Americans raised sugar, rice, and tobacco. But when they began to grow cotton the demand for slaves was accelerated, especially with the advent of Eli Whitney's cotton gin (a machine that separates the cotton fibers from the seeds, making the processing of cotton much faster, hence, the need for more cotton, hence, more slaves), as cotton was used to clothe the masses of the world.

As cotton and Blacks proliferated, an alteration in the seams of American conscience was forthcoming.

American slaves were at the bottom of a "growing pyramid of commerce and industry" and COULD NOT BE SPARED! All of this created a desire for expansion, the cause of new political demands, and visions of power and empire.

"First of all, their work called for widening stretches of new, rich black soil—in Florida, in Louisiana, in Mexico, and even Kansas. This land, along with cheap labor, and labor easily regulated and distributed, made for profits so high that a whole system of culture arose in the South, with a new leisure and social philosophy. Black labor became the foundation stone not only of southern social structure, but also of northern manufacture and commerce, and of buying and selling on a worldwide scale. New cities were built on the results of Black labor, and a new labor problem, involving all white labor, arose both in Europe and America."

"…the growing exploitation of white labor in Europe, the rise of the factory system, the increased monopoly of land, and the problem of distribution of political power, began to send wave after wave of immigrants to America, looking for new freedom, new opportunity and new democracy.

Patterns in American life style began to develop. There were the native-born Americans, largely of English descent, property holders, and employers; the free northern Blacks and fugitive slaves from the South; the free Blacks of the South living off the goodwill of white patrons; the great mass of poor whites, and, of course, the slaves.

This system of slavery required a special police force, manned mostly by the poor whites. The effectiveness of this special kind of force in stifling insurrections and patrolling for runaways is the reason why revolts in America were not as successful as those in the West Indies. (It should be noted that coercion, patrolling, and murdering did not curtail the efforts of Blacks in their escape attempts, but rather, caused them to develop the wisdom and boldness necessary to make successful their intent. Case in point—The Underground Railroad.)

In the North, Black labor was cheap, due in part to both custom and competition. The northern employer preferred the immigrants as long as they worked just as cheaply. As a result the immigrants blamed the Blacks for driving the price of labor down. The consequence of this stirred up race tension and led to race riots in many instances. In the South, Black laborers (slaves) kept the immigrants out of work.

It should be pointed out that the first waves of immigrants opposed slavery more so from the economic fear of its competition, than from the moralistic point of view. But as the competition with Black labor persisted, gradually with succeeding immigrants, attitudes changed.

"Thus northern workers were organizing and fighting industrial integration in order to gain higher wage and shorter hours, and more and more they saw economic salvation in the rich land of the West. A western movement of white workers and pioneers began and was paralleled by a western movement of planters and Black workers in the South. Land and more land became the cry of the southern political leaders, with a growing demand for reopening of the African slave trade. Land, more land, became the cry of the peasant farmer in the North. The two forces met in Kansas…" For the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) repealed the Missouri Compromise, and placed in the hands of the territories themselves the ultimate decision as to whether or not they would be slave of free. "For the next few years Kansas bled; Abolitionists swept into the state to oppose the in-rush of the Missourians; northern workingmen and farmers who had been desirous of winning land grants in the West, rushed in alongside the Abolitionist, prepared to deep the western territories free. Naturally, a guerilla warfare opened up with the anti-slavery forces on the defensive."

John Brown was in Kansas at the time and led numerous abolitionist oriented guerilla warfare operations. The confrontation between anti- and pro-slavery groups was soon dubbed "The Winning of the West" (it was actually war, some say the first stages of the Civil War).

Although the North and South considered their own military structure superior to the other and often spoke of the ways each could annihilate the other if provoked, neither region thought and/or prepared for Civil War before 1861.

However, the Harper's Ferry Raid did create quite a furor. Though John Brown was executed, "John Brown's spirit" lived on among the Blacks (free and slave) and the abolitionists. And as a result, abolitionist activities began to accelerate. While in the pro-slavery camps, Brown and "the raid" were bitterly denounced.

This, coupled with the facts that "the South was determined to make free white labor compete with Black slaves, monopolize land and raw material in the hands of a political aristocracy, and extended the scope of that power; … the industrial North refused to surrender its raw material and one of its chief markets to Europe; … White American labor, while it refused to recognize Black labor as equal and human, had to fight to maintain its own humanity and ideal of equality," made the fulfillment of Harriet Tubman's prophecy, "I know there is going to be a war," inevitable. For northern industry wanted to monopolize the raw material raised in the South for its manufacturers; and northern and western labor could not maintain their wage scale against slave competition and "the South had sent its cotton abroad to buy cheap manufacturers, and had resisted the protective tariff demands by the North."

Tensions mounted until "Edwin Ruffin, white-haired and mad, fired the first gun at Fort Sumter, …, and so the war came."

Principle Reference: Black Reconstruction in America 1860–1880 by W.E.B. DuBois

Other References:

Conrad, Earl — Harriet Tubman
Negro Almanac
The New York Times Encyclopedia Almanac
All quotes are from Black Reconstruction and Harriet Tubman

Part 06: The Civil War

Part Six: The Civil War

The North had visions of an industrial/manufacturing complex to build up a national economy. But the South, realizing that raw material like cotton, tobacco, sugar, rice, and other food stuffs constituted the wealth of the nation, wanted no part of it. It preferred trade with Europe, whereby manufactured goods could be bought at the lowest prices, and did not wish to see northern exaltation of industry at the expense of agriculture.

Moreover, the northerners were hard workers and simple livers, devoting their energies and intelligence to building industrial systems. Hence, they quickly monopolized transport, mines, and factories. Whereas, the southerners were lazy and self-indulgent, wanting results without effort. As a result, Northern and European industries began to control their prices, hence, their profits became lower. In an attempt to counteract this, they put more repressive demands on their slaves in order to lower the cost of slave labor. This heinous act met with stiff resistance among the slaves. For, although there were ways and means to make the enslaved work, there was no way to make them work well. Thus, instead of negating the economic advantage held by the North, paradoxically, slavery created an economic lag in the South.

As the southern planter's economic power declined, his political power, obtained from slavery and the disenfranchisement of the poor whites, became indispensable to him for the maintenance of his income and profits.

To circumvent this he turned to the acquisition of more lands upon which slave labor could bring in adequate profits. The South looked toward the Southeast; then toward Louisiana and Texas, then Mexico; finally the Northwest and toward the West Indies and South America.

The South had grown self-confident as it had conquered Mexico (i.e. Texas) without help and dominated the Army and Navy. They knew that a much larger proportion of their population could go to war, because of slavery, than in the North. Though aware of possible slave insurrections during a long war with invasions an all, the South discounted that possibility and really didn't expect any war at all, and began contemplations of independence, internal or external.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President on a platform that would prohibit further expansion of slavery. This action inflamed the already outraged South. The planters felt that this mandate would stifle their economic growth (e.g. in 1850 a cotton crop of three billion bales, in 1859, five billion bales) and also curtailing their intentions of securing more in the years to come. Couple this with the paranoid feelings of political disenfranchisement and the ubiquitous fears of radical abolitionists taking over and you have a South primed for secession.

The segments of the North which opposed secession, in order to unite the most of the people in the North, West and perhaps border states, came up with the slogan of "Save the Union." This slogan fitted just fine as the North and West wanted the southern market and agriculture for the manufacturers and potential trade and profits. While the Border States wanted to continue to sell surplus slaves to the South as well as to remain united with the West and north for the trade possibilities. Little or no thought was given to "freedom for slaves" as a slogan, as few people would rally for such a cause.

As the South began to secede, beginning with South Carolina in 1859, then Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas in 1861 (forming the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis president on a states rights doctrine), the northern opposition stepped up its activities. Consequently the South Carolina troops fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, starting the war.

Subsequently, in 1861, Lincoln proclaimed the blockade of Confederate states: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the Confederacy; Robert E. Lee resigned from the United States Army; and West Virginia broke away from Virginia and was admitted into the Union.

In the meantime, the Black masses, mostly on plantations, moved slowly and painstakingly. They waited to find out just where their interest lay, for they knew the North was not fighting for their freedom, and the South was fighting for continued and expanded enslavement—and winning!

Thus, the southern planter, with seven percent of a section within a nation, ruling "five million white people and four million Black people" seeking "to make agriculture equal to industry through the rule of property without yielding political power or education to labor" led the South into war.

The South was using slave labor to build roads, forts, raise food, taking care of homes, etc. The North at first returned runaway slaves, but upon realizing the southern advantage of slave labor, came up with a doctrine of "contraband of war" relative to confiscated, captured and runaway slaves. Seeing that the North would not return runaways, the enslaved in mass would flee to the northern camps whenever and wherever the Union Army approached. This created what amounted to a workers "general strike." At the same time the North would employ the Black runaways to labor for them. Hence, releasing more hands for combat action.

The North was utilizing the Underground Railroad for the gathering of war intelligence and espionage, as well as to prepare the Blacks for their arrival. More and more the Blacks were becoming involved in the war; some were beginning to even fight!

Across the ocean the aristocracy and upper classes of England and France were favoring the South, as they wanted the trade and low prices on cotton, and viewed the North as fighting for high tariffs and not for freedom of the slaves. For Lincoln had declared time and again that he was neither for nor against slavery, that his desire was to "save the Union" and that if he could do that without freeing the slaves, he would. The laborers in both countries favored the North and the abolition of slaves.

If England and France would have recognized the Confederate government, the South might have won out over the North. But they hesitated because of their labor upheavals, which favored the North. While they did, the Blacks became more and more involved in the war. Many were beginning to now serve as fighting soldiers. The abolitionist rumblings were becoming louder. The northern white laborers began to view the war as the "Niggers Fight." Lincoln had to resort to the draft for soldiers. In the midst of all of this, Frederick Douglass urged Lincoln to use Black troops and to form Black fighting units. The "Emancipation Proclamation" was drafted and presented in September of 1862 (a military tactic; a strategy to threaten the abolition of slavery in the Confederate States if they did not surrender). The document was hotly discussed and debated. The South did not budge. And on January 1, 1863 the proclamation was issued.

The European laborers (among them Karl Marx) hailed the proclamation, as the enthusiasm for abolition of slavery permeated the countryside. As a result, Europe's sympathies swung toward the North who now was, on the surface, fighting under the "freedom banner."

Five days after the Emancipation Proclamation the Secretary of War authorized the Governor of Massachusetts to raise two Black Regiments for three years service (the celebrated 54th and 55th Black regiments). And so it went, in Pennsylvania, three; G. L. Stearns raised Negro regiments in Nashville; Gen. Banks proposed an army to be known as the Corps d'Afrique encompassing an infantry, artillery, cavalry, three divisions of three brigades, with engineers, hospitals, etc.

Thus, the Blacks entered the war as official Union troops. Although there was discrimination in pay, and while many regiments refused to receive the reduced rates, they continued to fight. For they knew that their freedom was at stake!

The logistics of the Black labor moving from south to north coupled with the zeal of the Black soldier fighting for freedom spelled doom for the South. The South considered using slaves as soldiers (in fact, a few slaves did fight, though mostly by force), but the consequence of such an endeavor would result in their freedom. And by just walking into northern camps volunteering their services they crippled the South by depriving them of that same service. The realization of losing the Blacks to the North weighed heavily on the South.

On January 31, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery was ratified. The Blacks were jubilant and this was reflected in their fighting spirit. The defeat of the South was inevitable. On April 9, 1865 at Appomattox, Virginia, Lee surrendered, officially ending the Civil War.

Principle Reference: Black Reconstruction in America 1860–1880 by W.E.B. DuBois

Other References:

Conrad, Earl — Harriet Tubman
Negro Almanac
The New York Times Encyclopedia Almanac
All quotes are from Black Reconstruction and Harriet Tubman

Part 07: The Involvement of Blacks in the Civil War

Part Seven: The Involvement of Blacks in the Civil War

The "…slow, stubborn mutiny of the Negro slave was not merely a matter of 200,000 Black soldiers and perhaps 300,00 other Black laborers, servants, spies, and helpers. Back of this half million stood 31 million more. Without their labor the South would starve. With arms in their hands, Negroes would form a fighting force which could replace every single northern white soldier fighting listlessly and against his will with a Black man fighting for freedom."

Moreover, the southern poor whites supported the planters, for the most part, as long as they seemed to be winning; as the planters had warned them of labor competition with free ex-slaves (bearing in mind that some had acquired skills working on the plantations). But, more and more the poor whites began to view the war as a "slave-owners war"; thus, the amount of volunteers decreased; and the planters had to resort to the draft (selecting many poor whites and few planters/slave-owners). Consequently, the ensuing opposition, desertion and disunion contributed vastly to the fall of the South.

As we have seen, several factors constituted the South's downfall. However, some of the events experiences and involvement of the Blacks themselves should be explored for our references.

The North thought that the Blacks would not fight. Consequently, the Blacks' war efforts began as laborers and spies. The most famous of spy was Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman served as a scout, spy, nurse, and of course, a soldier. As a nurse she also doubled as a liaison between the "contraband of war" and the military. She also organized and conducted a completely successful guerilla campaign on the Combahee River in South Carolina. Although her commanding officer Col. James Montgomery got most of the credit for it, she asked that the Black soldier's contribution be recognized.

Other Black involvement:

One group of slaves upon hearing that they might be forced to fight for the South, devised the following strategy. Knowing that they would be segregated; if they were placed in front, when the Union troops approached they would turn and fire on the south; if they were placed in back, they would trap the South in crossfire.
William F. Tillman, a Black steward on the Brig. S. J. Waring carrying a cargo valued at $100,000, led a revolt and regained control of the vessel which the Confederates had seized. With the help of a German and Canadian, he brought the ship to New York.
This action raised the question as to whether or not Blacks could master vessels, and was later affirmed.

Robert Smalls, a Black pilot of the steamship Planter, led the ship's Black crew, along with some of their family members, at three o'clock in the morning of May 14, 1862 at Ft. Sumpter, South Carolina, in commandeering the vessel. They signaled the guards for permission to pass, and proceeded slowly out of range of the fort's guns. Then they raised the white flag and sailed until they reached a Union blockade.
"Black men were repeatedly and deliberately used as shock troops."
Colonel T. W. Higginson on the Black troops he led into Florida in February 1863: "It would have been madness to attempt with the bravest white troops what (was) successfully accomplished with the Black ones."

April 1863—Ship Island, the key to New Orleans: Seven Black companies with Black officers, out numbered five to one, were attacked by Confederate troops. The Black troops retreated in order to allow the federal gunboat to shell the pursuers. But the white crew disliked the Negroes and they opened fire directly upon them while they were fighting the Confederates. Fortunately, the Black officer in charge, Maj. Dumas, was able to rescue the troops, repel the Confederate, bring the men out safely; commending the colored officers, thusly. "They were constantly in the thickest of the fight, and by their unflinching bravery, and admirable handling of the commands, contributed to the success of the attack, and reflected great honor upon the flag."
In June 1963, at Milliken's Bend, the Confederate troops launched a surprise attack on the fort. Gen. Grant left the fort to be guarded by three Black regiments, and a small white cavalry. The rebels drove the white cavalry to the breast works of the fort; at three o'clock they made a bayonet charge. The Black troops held until the gunboats came. During the fight the rebels had captured some Black troops and murdered them. This enraged the others so much that they rallied and charged more heroically and desperately than ever has been recorded in the War.
There are numerous battles in which the Blacks engaged; they fought with and for the likes of General Banks, Butler, Sherman (both T. W. and Wm. Tecumseh) and Sheridan. However, there is one engagement that deserves special recognition.
In order to seize Charleston, S.C., Fort Wagner, which guarded it, had to be taken. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (white), and the Black 54th regiment from Massachusetts under his command, was selected for the task. [This was the battle that inspired the movie "Glory."] The Blacks as well as Col. Shaw realizing that this was one of the first battles with a large amont of Black troops, knew there was a lot at stake here. Not only did most white persons think that the Blacks did not have enough courage to fight but resented them from being used as soldiers.

The troops advanced toward the fort under coverage of mortar shelling, right into a trap laid by two thousand Confederate troops. Following the 54th were five regiments from New England. The advancing troops were moving quickly and silently through the night; then the trap was sprung. Heavily losses were sustained. In the heat of the fight, Shaw gained the parapet of the fortress, stood there steadfastly with musket in hand urging the troops on as bullets riddled his body. The Confederates were re-enforced by thousands who had slipped in unseen; the Confederates rallied. The Blacks could have retreated and saved their lives, but may have lost face in lieu of the cry: "The Negroes are afraid to fight." There was no choice but to stay, to fight, and to die.

Though this battle was lost, it contributed greatly to the fighting reputation and spirit of the Blacks. From then on they were used on all fronts, all over the nation, and "Their contribution was the balance of power in the ultimately northern victory."

Principle Reference: Black Reconstruction in America 1860–1880 by W.E.B. DuBois

Other References:

Conrad, Earl — Harriet Tubman
Negro Almanac
The New York Times Encyclopedia Almanac
All quotes are from Black Reconstruction and Harriet Tubman

Part 08: Post Civil War/Reconstruction

Part Eight: Post Civil War/Reconstruction

As the Civil War came to an end people north and south became concerned about "what to do with the Negro." Some went so far as to predict his extinction. Others, notably President Lincoln, saw colonization in Africa as the solution. However, this notion was highly contested, especially by Frederick Douglass who felt that most of these Negroes were born in America and therefore entitled to be a part of it. The planters sought to continue to exploit their labor, rationalizing that they were dumb, lazy, inclined toward crime and loose living, etc. Besides finding the Negro unacceptable as free men, neighbors and citizens, uneducable and uncivilizable, the planters feared the emergence of an educated Black vote as the worst of all evils.

In the year 1865, three significant events happened:

April 9th, Lee surrendered at Appomattox;
Lincoln was assassinated five later by John Wilkes Booth, elevating Andrew Johnson to the presidency;
And the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery was ratified in December.
In his early days (before the presidency) Johnson was a champion for labor (white) and the poor and demanded punishment for the planter, who by slavery prevented his cause. Now, the Blacks were free, but Johnson just could not conceive of them as MEN. Upon becoming president and realizing that the things that he had been advocating for would mostly benefit Blacks, his positions began to change. Johnson succumbed to his prejudices and became more and more aligned with the planters and their desire to restore slavery under a different name.

The poor whites of the South followed the course laid out by their champion, Andrew Johnson; "and although ignorant and impoverished, maimed and discouraged, victims of a war fought largely by the poor whites for the benefit of the rich planter, they sought redress by demanding unity of white against Black, and not unity of poor against rich, or of worker against exploiter."

"Right here had lain the seat of the trouble the war. All the regular and profitable jobs went to the Negroes, and the poor whites were excluded. It seemed after the war immaterial to the poor white that profit from the exploitation of Black labor continued to go to the planter. He regarded the process as the exploitation of Black folk by white, not of labor by capital. When, then, he faced the possibility of being himself compelled to compete with a Negro wage worker, while both were the hirelings of a white planter, his whole soul revolted. He turned, therefore, from war service to guerrilla warfare, particularly against Negroes. He joined eagerly secret organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan, which fed his vanity by making him co-worker with the white planter, and gave him a chance to maintain his race superiority by killing and intimidating 'niggers'; and even in secret forays of his own, he could drive away the planter's Black help, leaving the land open to white labor. Or he could murder too successful freedmen."

To make these revelations clearer, let us recall that as the tide of the war swung toward the North, and as territory came under the North's control, military rule was set up. What to do with the emancipated Blacks became a major concern. Some thoughts were as follows:

Lincoln; colonization in Africa,
Sojourner Truth; transplantation in the West,
Douglass; leave them where they are.
To deal with this problem the Freedman's Bureau was proposed. It was Sen. Charles Sumner, who chaired the committee that shaped the bill, "to take the form of great measure of social uplift and reform," and pressed for its passage on March 3, 1965.

"Lincoln assigned Gen. O. O. Howard to head the bureau and administer its tasks, which were: to make as rapidly as possible a general survey of conditions and needs in every state and locality; to relieve immediate hunger ad distress; to appoint state commissioners and upwards of 900 bureau officials; to put the laborers to work at regular wage; to transport laborers, teachers, and officials; to furnish land for the peasant; to open schools; to pay bounties to Black soldiers and their families; to establish hospitals and guard health; to administer justice between man and former master; to answer continuous and persistent criticism, north and south, Black and white; to find funds to pay for all this."

The abolitionist movements in the North including churches and philanthropic organizations "began the systematic teachings of Negroes and poor whites." They instituted day, night, and industrial schools, Sunday schools and colleges. They began the training of Black teachers. Most of the present Black colleges, like Howard (named after the general and bureau head), Fisk (named after Gen. Fisk), and Atlanta, were "founded or substantially aided in their earliest days by the Freedman's Bureau." The hospitals and medical care made tremendous inroads into the Black death rate.

In addition to this several banks had been established for Blacks: Gen. Banks established one in New Orleans in 11864; Gen. Butler and Gen. Saxton established several in South Carolina. As a result of these beginnings, Lincoln signed the law on March 3rd to incorporate the Freemen's Savings and Trust Company (Freedman's Bank). The thrift of the Blacks astonished the whites both north and south. For the ex-slaves' bank had total deposits at one time of 57 million dollars. At first these savings were protected by provisions declaring that investments be made in government securities. But an amendment was passed in Congress in 1870, which allowed half the holdings invested in United States Bonds to be invested in other "notes and bonds secured by real estate mortgages." The Freedmen's savings were then loaned recklessly to speculators, ultimately leading to the bank's decline. (An effort was made to dump this mess on Douglass as a representative of the Black man.)

When the slaves were made legally free (by the Thirteenth Amendment), the planters and ex-slave owners were bent on the continued exploitation of Black labor. To accomplish these ends they immediately set out to enact a set of laws designed to virtually re-enslave the Blacks. Laws against vagrancy allowed Blacks in violation of such laws to be arrested and worked on county "prison farms" or have their labor hired out to land owners with the county or sheriff keeping the money. Labor contracts were legalized and when a Black left his job to search for a better one he could be arrested for vagrancy. Laws of this nature became known as the infamous "Black Codes."

When the abolitionists of the North became aware of these carryings on they began to press for intervention on behalf of the Blacks, offering the argument that they had been loyal to the Union and it was their fighting and contributions that helped preserve it. These considerations were important factors, also, in the establishing of the Freedman's Bureau.

Meanwhile in the North:

"During the war, business prospered… inflated currency increased and favored business profits… it decreased real wages and the income of the farmers. Wealth became concentrated among the manufacturers, merchants, and the financiers and the speculators. There was, consequently, a large accumulation of capital for investment in new business enterprises; industrial development hastened. Inventions and technical improvements increased. Plants became larger and more efficient; steel manufacture became the basis of modern industry and developed rapidly because of demands of war. The metal industry, thus expanded, turned to the production of peace goods."

"The freeing of the nation from the strangling hands of oligarchy in the South freed not only Black men but white men, not only human spirit, but business enterprise all over the land… Quite naturally, and logically, under the stress of war, national and local taxes rose and rose and rose yet again, forcing the whole community and the nation to pay for things formerly paid for by individuals. First, necessary money was provided for by taxing imports; then, to encourage local manufacturers of goods that must be had for war; thus by imperceptible transition, that must be had for war; thus by imperceptible transition, the nation was taxed to support manufacturers." The South, at first, forced the tariff down until in 1857 there was practically free trade. But during the war, since the tariff was the easiest way to raise money, it rose higher and higher until industry had a virtual monopoly. All of this was fostered by the new national spirit whose slogan was "America for the Americans."

As the war dwindled to a close, "the new organized industry of the North was not only triumphant in the North but began pressing in upon the South; its advance guard was represented by those small Northern capitalists and officeholders," dubbed carpetbaggers, "who sought to make quick money in raising cotton and taking advantage of the low priced labor and high cotton prices due to the war famine." The planters and landowners did not take too kindly to this intrusion on their territory, as they wanted to recoup as much of their losses as possible. Hence, they began a campaign of slander against the carpetbaggers. This campaign was at one time to include every northerner who defended the Blacks or was connected with the Freedman's Bureau, Black schools, or who advocated his right to vote, or defended him in any way. It was their general belief that carpetbaggers were liars, jailbirds, criminals, and thieves. However, in time, their feelings and pronouncements became more moderate as they realized that there were "a few" decent people among them.

Among the planters, the masses, and the more intelligent of the poor whites were leaders who wanted political combination and economic alliance with Blacks. These persons were called "scalawags" and they sought a democracy across racial lines and wanted to organize labor against capitalists and landowners.

The planters strove for political control of Blacks to secure their economic interest. The poor whites feared this action. The carpetbaggers offered the Blacks the right to vote and to hold office as well as some economic freedom. This economic freedom meant land holding and higher wages for the Blacks that came into conflict with the schemes of the planters. So, With the planter alienated the Blacks, carpetbaggers, and scalawags combined to form a coalition that would exclude the poor whites unless they make common cause with the Blacks; which they did.

The interplay of all of these activities produced several events in a two to three year span. In order to point them out as well as tie it all together we recall: That during slavery, slaves were counted as either "three-fifths" or a "whole man." Thus, the South was given representation in Congress; and since the slave-owner cast the slaves' vote he had additional power both locally and nationally. This is how the South had enough political power to force down the tariffs. But after the war, emancipation and the Thirteenth Amendment (abolishing slavery), since the Blacks did not vote, questions arose about the South's representation.

To deal with the problem of representation and apportionment, the "committee of Fifteen" with Thaddeus Stevens as its chairman was set up. It was this committee, with the relentless pressure of Charles Sumner and the abolitionists, that produced the Civil Right Bill (passed over Johnson's veto on March 14, 1866) giving the Blacks United States citizenship. And produced the bill, which in June of 1966, became the Fourteenth Amendment. Which made the Blacks citizens and based representation and apportionment on the whole number of citizens who are eligible and not denied the opportunity to vote. Its ratification was made a condition for the southern states' restoration to the Union.

It was now left up to the states to ratify the amendment. The South wanted to count the Negro population, but it did not want the Negro to vote. Consequently, southern states refused to ratify it.

The North viewed the South as being in shambles. They were afraid that democracy as well as industry would not be allowed to flourish there. As martial law had already been set up as a result of the North conquering southern territory, it was expedient to prolong this military rule. Hence, the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 were passed. These Acts divided the South into military districts each having a commanding officer, under the jurisdiction of the President, to govern them; and re-admitted the southern states into the Union. When the bill passed over Johnson's veto, he resorted to executive action that would nullify it. This is what eventually led to the attempt to impeach him in 1868. (Remark: Congress could always override a veto, but to deal with executive action, other steps had to be taken.)

The carpetbaggers, who were aligned with northern industry through business interest and the scalawags, were beginning to make their presence felt much to the dismay of the southern planters and landowners. If the Blacks are not allowed to vote, they cannot be counted or have representation nationally. This would mean the North would control the national government, but the South would control local southern governments. Since the latter perceivably would stifle business prospects, the North, industry, and big business would be uncomfortable with it. If the Blacks were given the ballot they would be expected to align themselves with the scalawags and carpetbaggers, which was in the best interest of the northern factions. With the abolitionists pressing hard for Black suffrage, a coalition evolved, containing both of these groups, known as the "abolition democracy." The result of all of this was that in 1869 their representatives in congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment (ratified in 1970) giving the Blacks the vote.

After the war's end, wholesale violence broke out against the Blacks. The masses of poor whites as Ku Klux Klansmen et. al. threatened Black voters and laborers. In order to suppress southern violence and destroy conspiracies against the Fourteen and Fifteenth Amendments, President Grant requested military aid. As a result the Ku Klux Klan Enforcement Act of April 20, 1871 was passed.

When the poor whites saw the Blacks with the ballot, backed by northern industry and power, they "began to conceive of an economic solidarity between the white and Black workers." For with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Reconstruction Acts in 1966 and 1867, respectively, the Blacks' use of the ballot from 1868 "aroused the property holders to a frenzy of protest. But it also attracted certain elements of white labor, and bade fair, with reform and efficiency, to build a southern labor party."

During the period of 1868 to 1876 the Black man's vote, selection of candidates, action in convention and early legislatures, was, "on the whole, sane, thoughtful and sincere." A public school system was established in the South where there was none before. (And due Black demand, it was void of racial discrimination.) The ballot-box and jury box was opened to thousands of men, Black, and white, who had formerly been barred from them due to lack of earthly possessions. Home rule in the South was instituted. Barbarous forms of punishment (whipping-post, branding, etc.) were abolished. Appropriations were made for public works. And "no man's rights of person were invaded under the forms of laws."

Even in view of all this, the southerners thought that Blacks would not work as a free laborer. But he did. And slowly but surely the tremendous losses of the war were restored. By 1870, the cotton kingdom was re-established. And by 1875, it was clear that with cheap labor, free from government control, it was possible for individuals to acquire large profits from the old agriculture and new industry.

In the North, after the war, there were new supplies of raw material, a vast organization for production, a growing land and water transportation system, and a new technical knowledge. These things combined with the industrial monopoly achieved through the tariffs and immigration of laborers greatly stimulated the economy.

The scramble that broke out for the control of this new power, wealth, and income was characterized by graft, bribery, patronage—in short, wholesale corruption. William N. "Boss" Tweed became a New York state senator in 1868 and his candidates became mayor and governor. Tweed became the director of several great corporations. And through bribes in the legislature and grafts in city business, he and his cohorts stole somewhere around $75,000,000.

This disgrace was national. It embraced all sections, classes and races. In 1873 financial panic broke out and evolved into a five-year depression.


Hence, the reform movement of reconstruction was being undermined. "Race repulsion, race hate, and race pride were increased by every subtle method, until the Negro and his friends were on the defensive and the Negro himself almost convinced of his own guilt. … The South resorted to brute force (e.g. KKK) and deliberate deception in dealing with the Negro…"

Meanwhile, abolitionists had been pushing for Black civil rights, such as public accommodations, in the North as well as the South. But this renewed attack on the Blacks in the South accelerated their efforts. It was Charles Sumner, steadfast, true, and dedicated to his convictions to his dying day who pushed for the passage of the civil rights bill, which he had worked on. In march of 1874, with three Blacks, including Frederick Douglass, beside his death bed he thrice, hoarsely, and earnestly urged: "You must take care of the civil rights bill—my bill, the civil rights bill—don't let it fail!"

"The temporary dictatorship as represented by the Freedman's Bureau was practically ended by 1870. This led to an increase of violence on the part of the Ku Klux Klan to subject Black labor to strict domination by capital and to break Negro political power. The outbreak brought a temporary return of military dictatorship, but the return was unpopular in the North and aroused bitter protest in the South."

The presidential election of 1876 was a close one. "The whole nation waited on the outcome in Louisiana which would settle the outcome." For the "Klansmen" like activities and corruption in Louisiana ran rampant, so much so as to throw the election into shambles. As a result, Louisiana ended up with two sets of election returns. President Grant had to resort to the use of federal troops to keep the peace.

"The white folk of Louisiana with threat of civil war entered into negotiations with the President and President-elect and arranged a filibuster of 116 Congressmen to prevent counting the electoral vote." Rutherford B. Hayes and his party "promised to work for the 'material prosperity' of the South and allay sectional feeling." The legislature "solemnly agreed not to deprive the Negro of any political and civil rights. … Finally, the filibuster was dropped. …" When the votes were counted, Hayes became president. Later the federal troops were withdrawn "and Louisiana was free for a new period of unhampered exploitation of the working classes." "Labor control passed into the hands of white Southerners, who combined to out northern capitalists." First in Louisiana, then Mississippi, and finally in South Carolina.

By 1877 the Reconstruction era had ended.

Principle Reference: Black Reconstruction in America 1860–1880 by W.E.B. DuBois

Other References:

Negro Almanac
The New York Times Encyclopedia Almanac
All quotes are from Black Reconstruction.

Part 09: Black Participation in Reconstruction

Part Nine: Black Participation in Reconstruction

"In a certain way this great struggle of a laboring class of five million was epitomized by the appearance of sixteen of their representatives in the Federal Congress from 1869 to 1976. These are the men, their states and their service:

Hiram R. Revels, Senator, Mississippi, 1870–1871
Blanche K. Bruce, Senator, Mississippi, 1875–1881
Jefferson P. Long, Congressman, Georgia, 1869–1871
Joseph H. Rainey, Congressman, South Carolina, 1871–1879
Robert C. DeLarge, Congressman, South Carolina, 1871–1873
Robert Brown Elliott, Congressman, South Carolina, 1871–1875
Benjamin S. Turner, Congressman, Alabama, 1871–1873
Josiah T. Walls, Congressman, Florida, 1873–1877
Alonzo J. Ransier, Congressman, South Carolina, 1871–1873
Richard H. Cain, Congressman, South Carolina, 1873–1875, 1877–1879
John R. Lynch, Congressman, Mississippi, 1873–1879, 1881–1887
Charles E. Nash, Congressman, Louisiana, 1875–1877
John A. Hyman, Congressman, North Carolina, 1875–1877
Jere Haralson, Congressman, 1875–1877
Robert Smalls, Congressman, South Carolina 1875-1879, 1881–1887
Several other, like Menard of Florida, Pinchback of Louisiana, Lee, and others, had excellent titles to their seats, but did not gain them. Twelve of these men who were the earliest to enter Congress were ex-slaves or born of slave parents and brought up when Blacks were denied education. On the other hand the other four had received a more or less complete college education in the North and abroad. Five of the Congressmen were lawyers, and two, Elliot and Rapier, had unusual training and ability."

Below is a profile in grief of six of the Black participants in Reconstruction:

South Carolina

Francis L. Carodoz:

Free-born; educated at the University of Glasgow, and in London; served as a Presbyterian minister in New Haven; after the war he served as Principal of Avery Institute in Charleston; was Secretary of State during 1868–1872, and State Treasurer from 1872 to 1876. "He was accused in several instances, but no dishonest act was ever proven against him."

Robert Brown Elliot:

Educated at Eton College in England; was a first rate lawyer; served in the legislature and was twice elected to Congress.

Robert Smalls:

(Who stole the Confederate ship Planter and delivered it to the union authorities.) Self-educated, popular; was a member of Congress until after Reconstruction.


Oscar J Dunn:

Ran away from slavery; finally bought his freedom; began his education prior to his freedom; State Senator in 1868; Lt. Governor from 1868 to 1870; reputed to be firm, courageous and incorruptible, died suddenly in November, 1871.

P. B. S. Pinchback:

Educated in Cincinatti, was a captain in the army; succeeded Dunn as Lt. Governor, when Govenor Warmoth was impeached in December 1872; he became governor for a few days.


Hiram R. Revels:

Hailed from North Carolina; educated in Indiana; served as a minister in Baltimore at the beginning of the war, and helped to organize two Black regiments; was affiliated with the Freedman's Bureau; and was selected to "fill the unexpired term of Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy).

Principle Reference: Black Reconstruction in America 1860–1880 by W.E.B. DuBois

Other References:

Negro Almanac
The New York Times Encyclopedia Almanac
All quotes are from Black Reconstruction.

Part 10: A Word About The Black Cowboys

Part Ten: A Word About The Black Cowboys

There were a few discernable trends or social phenomena to evolve around Black cowboys. One phenomenon that occurred was when the history, legends, folk tales, and fiction about the West were written, the Black cowboys were virtually deleted. But the WERE there! For "they rode all the trails, driving millions of cattle before them. Some died in stampedes, some froze to death, some drowned. Some were too slow with guns, some too fast. But most of them lived through the long drives to Abilene, to Dodge City, to Ogalala. And many of them drove on the farthest reaches of the northern range, to the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana."

As mentioned earlier, many Blacks lived among the Indians. (There are reports of Black chiefs leading battles.) Then too, there were the famed Buffalo Soldiers (so called because their wooly hair reminded the Indians of the buffalo; and by other accounts, because of the buffalo's spirit, especially when provoked). Here seems to be another phenomenon. The Black soldier's Civil War record proved their effectiveness. Because of their exemplary performances, "the Federal government prepared to use them." So "the Congressional Act of July, 1866, … ,established two Negro infantry regiments and two Negro cavalry regiments. All four saw continuous service in the West during the three decades following the Civil War. … Negro cavalry fought in almost every part of the West from Mexico to Montana." They drew praise from their commanding officers attesting to their "courage and skill" during the Indian campaigns.

The Black cowboys numbered in the thousands, among them many of the best riders, ropers, and wranglers. They haunted wild horses and wolves, and a few of them hunted men. Some were villains, some were heroes. Some were called offensive names, and others were given almost equally offensive compliments.

The history of this period, in order to portray truth as well as reality, should be inclusive of the Black folk who experienced the torture of the times and who in their own individual manner helped romanticize the folklore of the West.


No attempt will be made to profile any individuals, though there existed some very note-worth ones. For any who are interested, we refer you to the sole reference for this section, from which all quotes were taken.

Reference: The Negro Cowboys (now entitled The Black Cowboys) by Phillip Durham and Everett L. Jones.

Part 11: Post Reconstruction up to World War I

Part Eleven: Post Reconstruction up to World War I

General George Armstrong Custer; his golden hair lost its luster in the battle of the Little Big Horn when he stupidly tried to challenge the military genius of Crazy horse, the war chief of the Sioux Indian Nation of which Sitting Bull was head chief. It was a year (1876) which the Indians will long remember. So too will the African Americans, but unlike their Indian counterparts, their remembrance will be void of fondness and pleasantness. For it was the year that the blacks were compromised, as pawns in a chess match, by Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican Party and northern business interests, to the "tender mercies," "trust and care" of the "intelligent white southerners."

"First, there was the systematic disfranchisement of the Blacks. They were kept from voting by force, by economic intimidation, by propaganda designed to lead them to believe that there was no salvation for them in political lines but that they must depend entirely upon thrift and the good will of white employers. Then came the series of disfranchisement laws discriminating against poverty and ignorance and aimed at the situation of the colored laborer, while the white laborer escaped by deliberate conniving and through the 'understanding' and 'grandfather' clauses."

"Jim Crow" (a character in a song of the 1820's, stereotyping a Black man who "turns about and turns about and does jis so") became the connotation of the laws designed to restore the "Black Codes" and to eradicate the gains that the Black man made during Reconstruction.

The peonage system that developed virtually restored slavery. For Blacks were forced to work to pay debts (even debts passed down from generation to generation). Convicts were leased to planters on chain gangs (saving the state the cost to care for prisoners; providing for planters the cheapest possible labor; giving sheriffs incentives to arrest and sentence as many Blacks as possible).

The task of trying to eke out a living, to survive in this environment was such that many Blacks concluded "that there was no hope for them in the South, and very quietly they began to organize to leave."

In 1879, fifty thousand Blacks migrated from Louisiana mostly to Kansas and Oklahoma, in the first movement of the "Great Exodus." Other migrations were in 1881 and 1889 from South Carolina and Alabama, respectively. The South became upset because they were losing workers and began to employ the same tactics they used to disfranchise the Blacks to prevent them from leaving (e.g. KKK-ism).

The North welcomed the Blacks at first, but as their numbers grew the northerners became more leery and hostile. The attention of the congress was attracted and an investigation was conducted. It was revealed through testimony that the Blacks had met to discuss their grievances, and had sent out scouts to investigate for possible areas of the South where they could probably "make it." The scouts reported that the treatment of the Blacks throughout the entire South was the same. That there was no other hope but to leave.

Even in those counties where Blacks were numerous, whites seized control of the government. With this control, they diverted much of the funds allocated for the Blacks, to the whites. Consequently, these whites had relatively more money to use for their needs than the whites in counties with lower number of Blacks. This inequality among these two sets of whites manifested itself in their respective standards of living that were evolving. As a result, the whites in the counties with few Blacks began to complain. (The demagogues raised "appropriations for the Negroes" as the issue.)

Since the Panic of 1873, the plight of the farmer had been rough. They had been squeezed "hard and dry" by the banks, the railroads and the farm machinery manufacturers. Taxes took its toll on what was left.

The farmers felt that both parties were tools of big business and, thusly, organized into the Southern Farmer's Alliance. This alliance tried cooperative buying and selling, and dealt with social and educational programs. As a result of its refusal to admit Blacks, the Colored Farmer's Alliance was created which paralleled it. By 1891 the Colored Farmer's Alliance claimed more than a million members. The two alliances began more and more to cooperate. This emerging coalition became known as the "Populist Movement" whose leader was Thomas Watson (white) who told the Blacks "the colored tenant is the same in the boat with the white tenant, the colored laborer with the white laborer." Blacks were told, "if you stand shoulder to shoulder with us and fight" we will "wipe out the color line and put every man on his citizenship irrespective of color."

It appeared as though poor whites and Blacks would once again try to unite to improve conditions. But the power the conservatives had accrued since the bargain of 1876 was just too much.

By employing any means available such as fraud, bribery, intimidation, violence, and terror, the conservative retained control in the election of 1896.

The aftermath of this defeat left the Populace Movement in disarray. The poor whites viewed their association with Blacks as causing the fear of "Negro Domination," which was the cry of the conservatives. These same conservatives who had been "paternalistic protectors" of the Blacks, turned to Negrophobes. For they had won the election with the help of extremists. One by one the northern liberals began to abandon the Blacks, for various reasons including "It's a regional problem," political and economic "hands off "attitude, etc. Some northerners even began to utter the shibboleth of white supremacy.

The severance was complete: The Blacks were a liability to the poor white; not needed by the conservative; and useless to the North. Thus, they were discarded with little or no way to turn.

"Had it not been for the Negro school and college, the Negro would, to all intents and purposes, have been driven back to slavery. His economic foothold in land and capital was too slight in ten years of turmoil to effect any stability. His Reconstruction leadership had come from Negroes educated in the North, and white politicians, capitalists and philanthropic teachers. The counter-revolution of 1876 drove most of these, save the teachers, away. But already, through establishing public schools and private colleges, and by organizing the Negro church, the Negro had acquired enough leadership and knowledge to thwart the worst designs of the new slave drivers."

"This brings us to the situation when Booker T. Washington became the leader of the Negro race and advised them to depend upon industrial education and work rather than politics."

In 1895, the year of Frederick Douglass' death, Washington delivered his famous "Atlanta Compromise" speech to open the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. In the speech he used the phrase "Cast down you bucked where you are" to encourage Blacks to make friends "in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded"; and in the professions. He also exclaimed, "that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands…."

He used this same phrase to counsel the whites saying: "Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories. While doing this, you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has ever seen." … "In all things that are purely social (Washington held up his hand with his fingers wide apart) we can be as separate as the fingers, yet (he the clinched his fist) one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress."

"That attitude brought him the support of northern white philanthropist—the millionaire Andrew Carnegie offered to underwrite any project Washington proposed. The nation's leaders in government, education, and industry extolled Washington's virtues. Such support made it possible for Tuskegee Institute to grow and others like it to be founded in the South, where Black men and women supported themselves in schools and learned agriculture and industrial trades. White support of Washington, as well as considerable respect from people of his own race for his accomplishments in education, make him the most powerful Black man of his time."

Washington's conciliation failed to arrest totally the uneasiness amongst the Blacks. For the South had developed boundless zeal to protect itself from the Blacks. "Jim Crow" laws abounded. "White Only" or "Colored" signs adorned the portals of theaters, boarding houses, restrooms, water fountains, etc. In 1896, only a year following Washington's "Atlanta Compromise" speech, in the famous case of Plessy V. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled, eight to one, that the state of Louisiana had the right to arrest Homer Plessy for trying to occupy a railroad car reserved for whites. As a result the justification was provided for the idea of "separate but equal." Hence, the Black man had lost all hope of fighting the "Jim Crow" laws in court.

These considerations weighed heavily upon the hearts and souls of Black folks. While Booker T. Washington was compromising in order to ascertain a few material benefits and some facets of education (mainly industrial and mechanical; i.e. to work with the hands), many other Blacks felt the need for political, civil, social, and economic justice. His critics began to grow. Among the leaders of this new militancy was W. E. B. DuBois and William Monroe Trotter.

Trotter founded the Boston Guardian publication, in 1901, and in his opening editorial he attacked Washington as a traitor to his race.

DuBois, in 1903, published his book Souls of Black Folks, which is a collection of essays and articles, including an essay entitled "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others." The book "heralded a new approach on nonviolent activism, and it effectively divided Black men in America into two camps. One led by Booker T. Washington and the other by DuBois and Trotter."

Washington sought a rapprochement and asked DuBois to help arrange a meeting with Black leaders, to be sponsored by Andrew Carnegie, in January 1905. It was decided that Washington, DuBois and Hugh Brown (a Washington ally) would select a committee of twelve. DuBois claimed that they voted two to one against his recommendations. DuBois, due to illness, requested Washington to postpone the meeting date. Washington refused; took command of the organization; DuBois resigned.

In June of this same year DuBois sent a letter to selected Black leaders. In it he proclaimed the need for "organized, determined and progressive action" by the addressees (mostly professionals, intellectuals and a few businessmen) toward Negro freedom and development.

As a result, a meeting was held July 11–13 on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Hence, the name "Niagara Movement" was adopted (also, to symbolize the power they hoped to generate).

The following year they made an appeal to college students; and organized a Junior Niagara Movement. A national meeting was held at Harper's Ferry (of John Brown fame), where they issued a strong statement to the nation, partly as follows: "We will not be satisfied with less than our full manhood rights…We want full manhood suffrage, and we want it now, henceforth and forever."

An anti-Black riot occurred in Springfield, Illinois during the summer of 1908, which aroused the indignation of several white authors. They then urged influential white citizens to assist the Blacks in their struggle for equality. The result was the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Its leadership included most of the members of the Niagara Movement, which was lacking in funds and dying. DuBois who preferred and all Black organization consented to participate as the director of publicity and research. He became the editor of the Crisis (NAACP's official organ); and his editorials and articles greatly boosted the organizations credibility among Black folk.

Trotter refused to join, saying, "I distrust white folk." Instead, he founded the Nation Equal Rights League.

Also, in 1906, there was formed the Committee for Improving the Industrial Condition for the Negro in New York (CIINC), which had as one of its functions to locate employment and create jobs for Blacks. In 1911 this organization merged with two others to form the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes (National Urban League).

The NAACP, in its early years, waged a tremendous fight against lynching, (KKK-ism in general). The NAACP and the National Urban League were major instruments in the Black struggle during these times.

During the presidential campaign of 1912, Woodrow Wilson spoke of a program of reform he called "The New Freedom." He attracted the support of Black leaders, like DuBois, and thus, the Black vote. However, upon his election he continued to foster segregationist ways. The Blacks' disappointment was immediate and sharp. (Wilson's party was still dominated by the "Solid South.")

In 1914, the NAACP's fight against discrimination in government employment began to pay off as the treasury and other departments began to rescind anti-Black rules and regulations.

Meanwhile, across the waters the beginnings of World War I were being felt. The United States proclaimed its neutrality.

In the Supreme Court, the NAACP successfully challenged the various "Grandfather Clauses," in 1915. However, the Blacks still could not vote in the South because of the threat of violence. For the aftermath of the "Populace Movement" opened the floodgate for anti-Black attitudes in the South. The Blacks became and "open target for aggression." Lynching ran rampant (the NAACP fought continuously against this).

The Rumblings of the war were getting louder. Their repercussions in America were introducing another factor and variable into the sociology of the country, which were to have their effects on Blacks and whites alike.


Chambers, Bradford — Chronicles of Black Protest
DuBois, W. E. B. — Black Reconstruction in America 1860–1880
Goldston, Robert — The Negro Revolution
Meltzer, Milton — In Their Own Words
Perkinson, Henry J. — The Imperfect Panacea: American Faith in Education 1865–1965
Resh, Richard — Black America
New York Times Encyclopedic Almanac
Quotations are from DuBois, Chambers, and Perkinson

Part 12: The Causes Leading up to World War I

Part Twelve: The Causes Leading up to World War I

"The nineteenth century was an age of European expansion" in both territory and knowledge. Throughout the first three quarters of this century, the naval and commercial supremacy of Great Britain was unquestioned. But after that the British had to face "very real competition from America" and newly formed nation states in continental Europe. When Germany won the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, they "became the greatest continental power." This brought an end to France's preeminent position on the continent.

Both the British and the French then turned their attention overseas to regain their "greatness." Their technological advantage enabled them to establish colonies in North, East, and West Africa. (The Africans resisted and fought bravely, but their inferior weapons were nor match for those of the Europeans.) King Leopold II of Belgium, who "always wanted a colony," competed with France for control of the Congo in Central Africa. "In 1883–1884, Bismarck decided that Germany needed colonies." … "Once determined to seize colonies, Bismarck set out to collect them swiftly and ruthlessly. In a year and a half between 1884 and 1885 Germany acquired extensive regions in South-West Africa, Togoland, the Cameroons, and East Africa."

In October of 1884 Bismarck joined with France "to invite twelve other states to a conference in Berlin to discuss free trade in the Congo basin, freedom of navigation on the Niger and the Congo rivers, and the requirements for international recognition of European occupation in Africa." This conference began in November of 1884. When it ended in February of 1885, the European "Partition of Africa" was virtually complete and King Leopold's claims on the Congo were recognized.

As we have seen: "During the last quarter of the nineteenth century the nations of Europe, in their mad scramble for colonies, had practically completed the partition of Africa. (See Table on the 1895 Partition of Africa.) Now they had turned their attention to China as the last of the great 'backward' nations as yet unappropriated. 'Spheres of influence' were already marked out in which one nation or another had obtained 'concessions' for the 'development' of a specified region and in many instances outright ownership was asserted. England, ever since the Opium War of 1842 (a war which England fought for the right to sell opium, which influenced their economy, to China), had held Hong Kong; Japan after the war with China in 1895, assumed control of Korea"; Germany, France, and Russia all had interests in Asia.

But inside China, anti-foreigner feelings were rising. In 1900, under the leadership of a Chinese athletic society known as Boxers, foreigners including traders, missionaries, and government agents came under attack in what was called "The Boxer Rebellion." Military intervention was necessary for the European powers to quell the uprising.

The United States, in order to maintain its favorable trade conditions, advocated an open door policy for China. With the exception of England, the other powers called for partitioning. The diplomacy of Secretary Hays carried the day for the Americans and English. Negotiations were held wherein the withdrawal of expeditionary forces were to be withdrawn by the fall of 1901. All parties complied except Russia, which maintained a special concentration in Manchuria.

The depression following the Panic of 1873 hit America hard. In the beginning of the country working men looked upon America as the "land of opportunity." This illusion was being shattered. This discontentment was fed by Henry George's book Progress and Poverty, in which he argued that the progress of the few had been built on the poverty of the many. For John D. Rockefeller's company, Standard Oil of Ohio, had gained control of 95 percent of all pipelines and refineries in the United States, and was on his way to become "the most feared and hated man in America." Commodore Vanderbilt had accrued more than $20 million by the end of the war by keeping up with the technological revolution in transportation. Later when the Vanderbilts announced wage cut prices on their railroad lines, the other lines followed. Workers' strikes ensued. Rioting and mob violence destroyed over $5 million worth of railroad property.

In an effort to quell the emerging radicalism, and to assure the workingman that there was room at the top, men of wealth began to publish their success stories. The myth of Horatio Alger (poor boy makes good; rags to riches, etc.) became an American dream.

Andrew Carnegie, asserted that the rich man's role was to provide ways of success for the less fortunate. He espoused the theory of schools as "ladders of success." As a result, the wealthy families established institutes of learning including Carnegie Institute of Technology, Cornell, Pratt, Stanford and others.

(Needless to say that during this period, labor unionism accelerated representation for the working man.)

The interest of the American people, in general, had been toward westward expansion towards the end of the nineteenth century. The Monroe Doctrine had warned Europeans to stay out of American affairs, while proceeding to control the Western Hemisphere under the slogan of "manifest destiny."

By the last decade of the nineteenth century, continental expansion had ended; the United States had matured; pioneering and the frontier were fading; good, cheap, or free lands were nearing exhaustion; American industry was beginning to hold its own; many mines and factories were supplying the country's needs and selling the surplus abroad. American interest began to turn to areas outside of the United States.

American began to foster ambitions of Pan-Americanism. Relationships were set up with Hawaii, Samoa, Chile, Venezuela, and Cuba. Using the Monroe Doctrine as a guideline, the United States generally worked out relationships with the European countries. However, there was a lingering dispute over the boundary between British Guyana and Venezuela, which was thrust into controversy upon the news of the discovery of gold in the disputed territory. The United Sates called for arbitration, while the British were only willing to arbitrate within certain limits.

Developing European tensions made the British realize that Germany loomed as her future enemy. Thereby, making friendship with the United States desirable in the event of a future war (World War I validated this reasoning). Therefore, plans for arbitration were eventually agreed upon which were satisfactory to the United States. The Americans talked loudly of their diplomatic triumphs.

The American entanglement with Spain over Cuba took a different course. The McKinley Tariff in 1890 removed the duty on sugar and compensated American growers by bounty. The Cuban economy prospered enormously as a result. "The Cuban 'native', colored by a strong fusion of Negro blood, did most of the work, while the upper class whites took most of the profits." When the Wilson-Gorman Act, in 1894, restored the duty on sugar, the Cuban economy declined just as rapidly as it had risen.

Hard times, unemployment, and depression followed. The Spanish policy of discrimination in favor of the mother country and the pure breed Spaniards contributed to the wretchedness of the peons as well as provided ample reason for discontentment. Insurrection ensued.

When the Spanish proceeded to crush the "revolution," together with the corrupt and inefficient Spanish officials in Cuba, the insurrectionaries found support form the Americans. For the southern expansionists had coveted Cuba since before the Civil War.

When the Spanish destroyed the battle ship "Maine" in Havana Harbor, Americans entered the Spanish-American War.

Four Black regular army regiments fought in Cuba. Blacks were with Theodore Roosevelt and the "Rough Riders" at San Juan Hill. There were some Blacks who understood the real meaning of the war to be American imperialism. Charles G. Baylor, attorney, observed "…the American Negro cannot become the ally of imperialism with enslaving his own race." Lewis Douglass (son of Frederick Douglass) wrote: "It is a sorry, though true, fact that whatever this government controls, injustice to dark races prevails. The people of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Manila know it well as do the wronged Indian and the outraged Black man in the United States…its (America's) expansion means extension of race hate, and cruelty, barbarous lynchings, and gross injustice to dark people."

As the war came to an end, not only was Puerto Rico conquered, but the advent of the belligerent mood of the Americans that developed during the 1890's subsided. And what's more, the war had been enough to involve the United States into world politics.

As we recall, the European powers partitioning of Africa had been practically completed and they had turned their attention to Asia. As they did so their interests came in conflict and tensions evolved. In particular, the French-British cordial understanding "of the new century was faced by a German demand for 'a place in the sun', a right to extract from colonial and semi-colonial areas a sphere of the wealth which was going to Britain. When Germany invaded Belgium, and with that invasion brought war with England, it must be remembered that by that same token Germany was invading the Belgian Congo and laying claim to the ownership of Central Africa."

"World War I then was a war of spheres of influence in Asia and colonies in Africa, and in that war," writes DuBois, "curiously enough, both Asia and Africa were called upon to support Europe."

The rate at which Europe plunged into war left the Americans aghast. In 1914, the United States declared its neutrality, as this had been a tradition since George Washington.

Control of the high seas posed a major struggle in the war. Though America proclaimed its neutrality, she acquiesced to the allies. And when Britain set up its blockade she virtually sewed up a monopoly on the American trade. Germany, handicapped by its inability to trade with the United States, in retaliation set up a war zone around the British Isles and threatened to blast anything coming into it. Prodded by the popular slogan, "Keep us out of the war," President Wilson embarked upon peace negotiations. Though Wilson did not think the Germans would actually carry out their threats, on March 18, 1917, German submarines sank three ships with loss of American lives.

This act set the machinery in motion that carried the Americans into the war. On April 4th and 6th the war resolution passed the senate and house, respectively.


Collins, Robert O. — The Partition of Africa: Illusion or Necessity
DuBois, W. E. B. — The World and Africa
Goldston, Robert — The Negro Revolution
Hicks, John D. — The American Nation
Perkinson, Henry J. — The Imperfect Panacea: American Faith in Education 1865–1965
Negro Almanac
New York Times Encyclopedic Almanac
Quotations are from Collins, DuBois, and Goldston

Part 13: The Effects of World War I

Part Thirteen: The Effects of World War I

In the fall of 1914, the United States "escaped a depression only by virtue of war orders." American moneylenders loaned over a billion dollars to the allies who used this money for the purchase of supplies from the United States. As a result, by August 1915, American prosperity was becoming dependent upon the sell of these "war orders" to the allies.

When Germany threatened submarine warfare in the Atlantic, the United States faced, "without shipping to move American goods overseas," economic collapse, and "Great Britain faced the loss of the war."

Now, Germany had long been restive under the Monroe Doctrine, and had cast jealous eyes upon Latin America as a field for colonial expansion. The British intercepted some secret German dispatches headed for Mexico which they decoded and turned over to the American government on March 1, 1917, revealing that: "The German Foreign Minister had offered the States of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, together with liberal financial aid, if Mexico would join Germany, in the event of war between Germany and the United States."

So then, if the English lost the war, and thus giving the control of the Atlantic to Germany, American national interest would be threatened. Hence, this posed a crucial situation that was magnetically drawing the United States into the war.

"Wilson's argument that 'we entered the war as the disinterested champions of right' was a rationalization." When he said, "the world must be made safe for democracy," he struck a magic chord. For a war to make the world free from autocratic rulers who were "free to build up military machines and declare war on peace-loving at will" would be a "war to end all wars."

"Under the circumstances, it might have been expected that Negroes would have viewed America's entry into World War I, the 'war to end all wars', the war to 'make the world safe for democracy', with more than a little irony. But the clamor of the drums in April 1917 was accompanied by an upsurge of Negro patriotism. Like other Americans, Negroes rushed to 'make the world safe for democracy'…Negroes dreamed that a substantial contribution on their part toward victory overseas would somehow lead to an improvement in their status at home. Negroes flocked to enlist, and the War Department was deluged with offers of Negro troops. But the War Department was uncertain as to what policy it would pursue in regard to Negro soldiers. A month after war was declared the department stopped the enlistment of Negroes."

"The old fears that Negro troops would not or could not fight made themselves felt once again in conservative military circles. However, the Selective Service Act of May 1917, at least made certain that Negroes would not 'miss' the war. Although volunteering was closed to him, the Negro found himself drafted—and overdrafted. … Of all Negroes registered for the draft, 31.74 percent were called to arms, while only 26.84 percent of registered whites were actually enrolled. More than 365,000 Negroes were eventually taken into the armed forces."

The Negroes were subjected to segregated units throughout their length of service; not only in the military but even in the communities where they received their training, and especially in the South. (For example, some white citizens goaded into desperation members of the Negro Twenty-fifth Infantry Regiment in Houston, Texas, in 1917. This action led to a riot under the cry: "To hell with going to France let's clean up this dirty town!" Thirteen Black soldiers were hanged and forty sentenced to life imprisonment as a result of the killing of seventeen whites during the disturbance.)

Overseas, the Black soldier was compiling an impressive record on the fighting front—drawing praises from General John J. Pershing himself as well as from France. Individuals as well as fighting units won medals of honor (especially the "Croix-de-Guerre," i.e., war cross, from the French). However, more than two-thirds of the Black troops in France were "relegated to the Quartermaster Corps, where they did the back breaking, humdrum, and essential heavy labor which kept the armies supplied up front."

On the home from, there was a phenomenon taking place changing the sociology of America. In order to meet the demands of the "war orders," laborers were needed in the northern factories. Because of high draft calls and the cessation of European immigration, due to their need for servicemen, the manufacturers looked south toward the Blacks. As an offer of better jobs and higher wages for an incentive, the Blacks began, during the decade 1910–1920, their second wave of migration northward.

The "war migration" had two sociological impacts. The first was the strained racial tensions brought about by the cheap Black labor, which was used to break strikes and to lower the price of white labor. This phenomenon led to many race riots such as the one in East St. Louis, Illinois, in July 1919, "claiming the lives of nearly two hundred Negroes and destroying almost half a million dollars worth of property."

Strangely enough, the white south, spewed with race hatred, baptized in Black lynchings, actually did not want the Blacks to leave. For they soon realized that they too were running short of workers. After the East St. Louis riot some white southerners sent delegations up North "with great-hearted offers to take the workers to a lesser hell. The man from Greenville, Mississippi, who wanted a thousand got six,…"

Secondly, the "war migration" created the ghettos of the North. For most of the new arrivals were jammed into the rat infested and over-flowing Black ghettos. "They competed for housing and services with poor white workers, and, after the war, for jobs. The wretched conditions under which both Black and white laborers lived in northern cities with the tensions of new competition, were at the roots of the race riots."

The returning Black soldiers in 1919 encountered the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, and all that it does and stands for. Also, their return accentuated the situation in the northern cities and industrial areas. Black workers were laid off to make room for the returning white soldiers. The scarcity of jobs contributed to the mounting racial tension. A series of over twenty brutal race riots ranged from Longview, Texas to Washington, D.C. Perhaps the most significant was the riot in Chicago involving the deaths of twenty-three Blacks and fifteen whites.

A transubstantiation of Black people had taken place. For "the pre-war migrants had taken jobs as porters, janitors, and domestic servants. The war migrants became laborers at Swift, Armour, Pullman, and International Harvester."

Many Blacks found full employment for the first time. In July 1918, "after some doubts, DuBois used his influence in the editorial pages of the Crisis (NAACP's publication) to support America's entry into the conflict in his famous editorial entitled 'Closed Ranks'." ("Not a few Blacks denounced DuBois and the war, but many Blacks participated on the home front and on the front lines.")

Closed Ranks

This is the crisis of the world. For all the long years to come men will point to the year 1918 as the great Day of Decision, the day when the world decided whether it would submit to military despotism and an endless armed peace—if peace it could be called —or whether they would put down the menace of German militarism and inaugurate the United States of the World.

We of the colored race have no ordinary interest in the outcome. That which the German power represents today spells death to the aspirations of Negroes and all darker races for equality, freedom and democracy. Let us not hesitate. Let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our own white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy. We make no ordinary sacrifice, but make it gladly and willingly with our eyes lifted to the hills.

As a result of the experiences gained, both home and abroad, during the war, a change was induced in the souls of Black folks such that, many observed, they had acquired "a ready willingness…to retaliate when attacked, and a Negro editor in New York bade good-bye to Uncle Tom."


Bennett, Lerone, Jr.— Before the Mayflower
DuBois, W. E. B. — Darkwater
Goldston, Robert — The Negro Revolution
Hicks, John D. — The American Nation
Resh, Richard — Black America
All quotations are from the above references.

Part 14: The Roaring Twenties

Part Fourteen: The Roaring Twenties

As the war ended, homecoming troops flooded the job market, while simultaneously the orders for war supplies fell off and came to an end. This situation produced a post war recession. As usual the Black laborers, both those already at home and the homecoming, were relegated to the ranks of the "last hired, first fired." "Only in the heaviest work, such as road building and longshore work could Negroes hope to hold jobs. The market for domestic servants was shrunken by post-war introduction of domestic labor saving devices such as washing machines. And, as always in a tight labor market, the Negro found himself dispossessed from those few jobs which had been traditionally available to him."

As early as 1919 the returning Black soldiers were confronted, with the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, a series of brutal race riot as well as the scarcity of jobs. "The possibility of intervention on the economic front by the Federal government was nil—the American people had overwhelmingly voted for a return to 'normalcy' under the Republicans and their genial if corrupt presidential candidate, Warren G. Harding. Conservative policies in government had returned with a vengeance. Business influence in government was supreme. As Harding's successor, Calvin Coolidge, put it, 'the business of the nation is business'."

"The quest for the dollar became a national crusade, prosperity was for those who could seize it, and the devil was welcome to the hindmost. The level of the national morality was well illustrated in 1925, when, with the government's permission, the Ku Klux Klan (which now boasted four million members) was allowed to parade in full white-sheeted regalia down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington."

The Blacks, especially those who had flocked to the northern industrial cities in response to the manufacturers, etc., call for laborers, were in disillusionment and despair with no where to turn; pessimism and cynicism abounded.

When the hapless Blacks heard the doctrines of Marcus Moziah Garvey (a full-blooded Black from Jamaica), espousing Black pride and self-help, masses of ordinary Black folks rallied to his ideology and to the support of his projects; the most ambitious of which "was the Black Star Steamship Line, Inc., to transport Blacks to their homeland in Africa, and to open up commercial relations with the African continent." For "he told his followers that the Black man's only hope was to build an independent nation in Africa where they could choose their own leaders."

Thundering slogans like, "Up you mighty nation, you can accomplish what you will" and "Africa for the Africans at home or abroad," he became an exponent of Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. Exclaiming that God, Jesus, and the angels were Black and that Satan and imps were white, he amassed more than one million followers by the mid-twenties. "He gave his followers parades, uniforms and pageantry" as well as a flag, red (blood of our fathers), black (for our skin), and green (for the earth). He had raised an estimated ten million dollars in one two-year period.

"These grandiose schemes collapsed when, in 1923, Garvey was indicted on a charge of using the mails to defraud in connection with the sale of stock in his steamship line." Garvey in all his organizational and rhetorical ability was not a businessman and had to rely on the help of others, some of whose lack of dedication and honesty contributed to Garvey's demise. "After two years of appeals, Garvey was sentenced to five years in prison." Two years later his sentence was commuted but he was immediately deported to Jamaica. Garvey had his critics among Blacks; one of whom was DuBois who viewed him as "visionary" but acknowledged his sincerity and appeal to the Black masses.

There was another phenomenon taking place in the twenties spawning from the northern Black population areas. For the developing life styles and patterns evolving from their folkways began to find expression through Black artists, writers, musicians, intellectuals, etc. The era was known as the Harlem (or Negro) Renaissance. It produced the likes of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and James Weldon Johnson (who wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing,", which became accepted as the "Black National Anthem"). At first Black people entertained themselves at house parties (and some rent parties) and community gatherings; from whence musicians were transformed into playing for dances and parties, producing the dance bands, from whence evolved the jazz bands let by such geniuses as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong. "Country and folk blues" changed to "big city blues," to "rhythm & blues."

According to Langston Hughes, "It was a period when local and visiting royalty were not at all uncommon in Harlem." However, neither the Garvey movement nor the steady work of the NAACP and the National Urban League could bring much relief to Black people—"of the several million unemployed each year during America's biggest 'boom', a large percentage was Negro."

With the repercussions following in the wake of the crash of the stock market, in October 1929, leading to the Great Depression, dissipating much of the optimism of the Harlem Renaissance, the Blacks found themselves once again in the position of extreme vulnerability.


Bennett, Lerone, Jr.— Before the Mayflower
Chambers, Bradford —Chronicles of Black Protest
Cronon, E. David — Marcus Garvey
Goldston, Robert — The Negro Revolution
Jones, LeRoi — Blues People
Resh, Richard — Black America
All quotations are from the above references.

Part 15: The Depression to World War II

Part Fifteen: The Depression to World War II

"As a result of the war, the American nation had enormously expanded its industrial plant; it had discovered unsuspected possibilities by way of agricultural production; it had accumulated out of its profits huge sums for new investment." The results of this figured into the rise and evolution of the automobile, airplane, motion picture, radio, and other industries. "The prosperity of the twenties, was to a remarkable extent, corporation prosperity. … The fact that American business was actually owned by millions of investors was regarded with satisfaction by President Hoover and others as proof of its democracy, but any careful examination of corporation statistics was apt to prove that a comparatively small number of investors owned the greater part of the stock. Moreover, the direction of a given industry lay inevitably with the few insiders represented on the board of directors. In a sense, the control of business was less democratic than ever before."

Hence, the prosperity of the corporations encouraged speculative demands for stock, which in effect caused the price of stock to rise higher than its actual worth. "Even the Federal Reserve Board, at least indirectly, supported speculation, for it allowed loans to corporations ostensibly interested in programs of expansion, only to see the funds so obtained quickly passed along to speculators. … Too much of the country's credit was being diverted into stock-exchange loans, and industry as a result of the easy money was being tempted to over expand. Who was to buy all the goods that producers could make and sell? Already the building boom that characterized the earlier twenties was on the decline, automobile sales were off, and oil production far exceeded the demand."

"The stock-market collapse came in October 1929, when English interest rates were raised to six and one half percent in order to bring home needed capital that had been attracted to the United States by the high speculative profits. As a result many European holdings were thrown on the market, and prices began to sag. Frightened at the prospect, and no longer able to borrow at will, American speculators also began to unload." Frantic selling ensued, "prices dropped sharply; foreign trade fell off; factories curtailed production…; real estate values (but not mortgages) declined; new construction, except on governmental works, practically ceased; bands went under; worst of all, wages were cut drastically and unemployment figures began to mount. … No longer able to secure American loans, foreign nations fell likewise into the abyss of depression. … Once again…the United States was to learn by experience that whatever seriously affected one great nation was bound to affect all."

The repercussions of the 1929 financial disaster were to be felt first by the Black banks. On July 31, 1930, state auditors put a seal on Jesse Binga's big bank in Chicago's South Side Black ghetto. The word spread fast. "On the street a large crowd shouted in panic for its life savings now vanished. The same scene was quickly repeated in the Black sections of cities throughout the country; it would become commonplace in white communities eighteen months later. Thus, while the entire nation plunged into the Great Depression, Blacks as a group were affected earlier and more harshly. The chronic underemployment of Blacks was rapidly transformed into mass unemployment on a far higher percentage scale than among whites." Many Blacks found themselves plagued with misery, homelessness and starvation. Uneasy and restless mobs appeared in the northern cities. Blacks organized boycotts against local merchants. "While millions of Negroes were unemployed, white-owned stores in Negro ghettos continued to refuse to hire them. Committees were formed in various cities, especially Chicago and New York (where the fight was led by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.) under the slogan 'Spend you money where you work!' The campaign was effective…" as stores began to hire Black help.

During the twenties and the beginning of the thirties the Communist Party tried to make inroads into the poorer classes, especially the Blacks by capitalizing on the despair and discontentment among the poor. They had difficulty gaining Black converts as "most rank-and-file Negroes followed the advice of their clergy or middle-class Negro leaders, the majority of whom had conscious reasons for opposing Communism."

"The high-water mark of Communist influence among Negroes was reached when the party organized the defense in the Scottsboro Case. On March 25, 1931, nine Negro adolescents were accused of raping two white women (of uncertain reputation) on a freight train in Alabama. Tried in the little town of Scottsboro, Alabama, within two weeks eight of the boys were condemned to the electric chair. While such organizations as the N.A.A.C.P. volunteered help and legal counsel, the parents of the boys preferred to let the Communist International Labor Defense handle the case. … But while Negroes were genuinely grateful to the Communists for such efforts, and genuinely admired their determined struggle for Negro rights, they did not flock to join the party."

The Great Migration of Blacks to the North created a new set of political relationships. One manifestation of this occurred when President Hoover nominated Judge John H. Parker to the Supreme Court. When the NAACP investigation indicated that he had since opposed Black suffrage, they amassed a letter-writing campaign to Washington when Hoover refused their request to withdraw Parker's name from nomination. The Senate's refusal, in 1930, to confirm the nomination attests to the success of the NAACP's efforts.

Another display of the changing political relationships came with the unprecedented show of unity of the NAACP, the Urban League, the Black churches, sororities and newspapers behind the demand for fair play in defense industries, armed forces and governmental apprenticeship programs.

"Asa Phillip Randolph fused the demands in a mammoth March on Washington organization." (Along with Randolph were Walter White, then executive secretary of NAACP and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.) With the apparent inevitable American involvement in the war already raging in Europe, "the idea of a Black revolt in a time of crisis threw Washington into a panic. President Roosevelt called the March leaders to Washington and tried to persuade them to call it off. They refused. On June 25, 1941, Roosevelt capitulated and signed the famous Executive Order No. 8802—The Fair Employment Practices Act—banning discrimination in defense plants and government offices and services 'because of race, creed, color, or national origin'." The objective of the expected 100,000 marchers was achieved. Hence, the march was called off.

Perhaps the most politically significant result of the Great Migration was the number of Black voters it produced. For in the South Black suffrage was stifled by KKK type activities, but in the North the Blacks right to vote was unhampered. "Negroes disappointed and embittered by Wilson's lack of interest in their problems, had largely returned to the Republican Party during…the twenties. But big city Democratic Party bosses had taken careful note of the enlargement of the Negro vote…" and began to appoint Blacks to small political jobs.

In 1932 the poor and working classes, especially Blacks, thought they detected a note of promise in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's words and voted overwhelmingly for his presidency. After the election Roosevelt embarked upon the task of leading the nation out of the depression. Although Hoover realized the necessity for governmental intervention to prevent the total collapse of the nation's economy, and that the needs of the unemployed outran the resources of state and local authorities, Roosevelt went much further than Hoover had contemplated.

The program that Roosevelt undertook was known as the "New Deal." "With the recovery of white America as its first priority, the New Deal was not overly concerned with the Negro. The National Recovery Administration provided for a minimum wage scale and the abolition of child labor under the age of eighteen, gut few Negroes were represented at the code hearings. In addition, government cost of living differentials discriminated against the unskilled groups in which most Blacks were to be found. The Agriculture Adjustment Administration paid out a great deal in subsidies, but little of it went into the Black tenant farmer's pocket. Similarly, many Negroes were not covered under the Social Security Act." (These are among the conditions that combined to give rise to the March alluded to earlier, led by A Phillip Randolph.)

"Despite these considerable commissions, Negroes made some gains under the New Deal. For the first time the federal government admitted qualified Negroes in larger numbers into various governmental departments," such as Robert C. Weaver, Robert L. Vann, editor of the influential "Pittsburgh Courier," and William H. Hastie, Dean of Howard University Law School. The Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration (NYA) under the directorship of Mary McLeod Bethune (founder and president of Bethune-Cookman College), enrolled 64,000 young Blacks in a student work program. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which existed between 1932–1942, placed some 200,000 Black youths in segregated camps established by the agency.

"World War II eased the country out of the Depression but once again the Negro found his position a decidedly inferior one,"


Bennett, Lerone, Jr.— Before the Mayflower
Chambers, Bradford — Chronicles of Black Protest
Goldston, Robert — The Negro Revolution
Hicks, John D. — The American Nation
Resh, Richard — Black America
All quotations are from the above references.

Part 16: World War II

Part Sixteen: World War II

"While the United States had turned aside from the main currents of world affairs to enjoy the prosperity of the 1920's and to struggle against the adversity of the 1930's, the makers of national policy both in Europe and in Asia had pursued courses that could lead only to war. Russian Communism, Italian Fascism, German Nazism, and Japan Stateism all had their predatory sides; each planned to expand its system and interest at its neighbors expense."

"With the defeat of France, the control of the Atlantic was imperiled, while in Asia Japanese conquests at the expense of China, and the will for other conquests elsewhere, made the Americans realized the danger to their Pacific outpost."


In the interval between World War I and World War II, India's determined opposition to British rule increased under the leadership of Ghandi, who sought to substitute peaceful non-co-operation for war. The answer was the massacre of Amristar. In America organized industry rose in its might to realize fantastic profits through domination of world industry. It fought labor unions and tried to nullify democracy by the power of wealth and capital. In the very midst of this, the magnificent structure of capitalistic industry collapsed in every part of the world. Make no mistake, war did not cause the Great Depression; it was the reasons behind the depression that caused war and will cause it again.

…Faced by the threat of Russian Communism, Italy, which with Spain was the most poverty-stricken country in Western Europe, seized control of the nation and of industry… Hitler followed, opposing the Socialist state of Weimar, with its unemployment and political chaos, with a new state and a new nationalism. The industrial leaders surrendered their power into his hands; the army followed suit; unemployment disappeared, and Hitler diverted the nation with visions of vengeance to be achieved through a new state ruled by German supermen. Simultaneously, Japan, having been rebuffed by England and America in her plea for racial equality before the League of Nations, saw an opportunity in this new order go displace Europe in the control of Asia.

Then came rumblings of World War II. The Axis [countries aligned against the Allies, i.e. Germany, Italy, and Japan] wooed first England and France and then Russia. Britain made every offer of appeasement. Ethiopia was thrown to the dogs of a new Italian imperialism in Africa. Everything was offered to Hitler but the balance of power in Europe and the surrender of colonies. America, hesitating, was ready to fight for private industry against Nazism and to defend Anglo-American investment in colonies and quasi-colonial areas.

Hitler would not be appeased. So war began. Hell broke loose. Six million Jews were murdered in Germany through a propaganda which tied the small shopkeepers back of Hitler and placed unreasoning race prejudice back of war. France feared to trust colonial Africa. DeGaulle [French Prime Minister] and the Black Governor Eboué, with co-operation from England and France, could have established a new Black France in Africa and shortened the war; but France yielded to Germany. England resisted doggedly. Russia yielded and joined hands with Germany, but not for long.

The real battle then began; the battle of the Nazi-Fascist oligarchy against the dictatorship of the proletariat. Germany determined first to crush Russia and then with Russian resources to destroy the British Empire. Japan aroused Asia, and by attacking America thus furnished the one reason, based on race prejudice, which brought America immediately into the war. …

The Surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, vaulted the United States into the war. As the Americans, whose indignation had been raised, plunged head on into the war "a group of Negro leaders urged the War Department to create at least one non-segregated volunteer division; but the suggestion was turned down. The only area in which the Army would give in on its policy of segregation was in the training of Negro officers."

"A total of 1,154,720 Negroes were inducted or drafted into the armed services." At first the approximate one hundred thousand who saw duty in the navy had to contend with the old policy of "messmen only," but after considerable agitation the Black enlistees were used for general services.

The Air Corps (then part of the army) maintained strictly segregated units. However, they did train Black pilots, and the all Black squadron trained at Tuskegee (who became known as the "red Tails") compiled "an exceptional total of 'kills'." The other Black squadrons, organized later, also established impressive records.

"Most Negro troops in Europe were in the Quartermaster Corps, as they had been in World War I. And in the task of servicing the fighting fronts, Negro Units performed prodigies of stevedoring, trucking, wire-laying, beach-clearing, and evacuation of the wounded. Some forty thousand Negroes were the majority of the men who formed the amazing 'Red Ball Express', a truck supply route in Europe that ran from the ports and beaches right up to the front lines. Bumper to bumper, in any weather, under strafing and shelling, the Red Ball trucks went through night and day. Disabled trucks were pushed off the road (which was five times as long as the famed Burma Road), but the Red Ball Express kept moving—a feat that amazed the military commanders of all nations and a vital, if not the vital, key to Allied victories in Europe. On top of this, when the Red Ball men delivered their supplies, they often picked up rifles and fought. At Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, the Red Ball Express rolled into the beleaguered American pocket as German forces closed in behind them. After distributing their supplies, the truck drivers grabbed weapons and helped the 101st Airborne Division make its legendary stand against the last German offensive of the war."

"Negro combat units were to be found in every branch of the Army." They were with General John Patton when he entered Germany. "Badly needing infantry replacements in Europe in the winter of1945, the Army was forced to organize Negro platoons to serve in white regiments. The experiment was an immense success. White officers, questioned later about the performance of the mixed units, were unanimous in their praise."

In spite of all of this, "injustices continued in the form of Jim Crow regiments and harrassments from white officers. The popular image of the Negro serviceman was one of a jitterbugging and crapshooting individual who was unreliable in combat."

"With the usual touch of irony so common in the Negro's history, while Negro soldiers and sailors and airmen were piling up impressive records on the various fighting fronts of the world, Negroes in the United States were finding that this war, like all previous wars, was heightening racial tensions. Negro soldiers at Army camps in the South were the special targets of race hatred. There were race riots at Fort Oswego, Camp Davis, Fort Huachuca and Fort Bragg. … And lynchings continued. …While Nazi saboteurs and spies were given, fair, and prolonged trials, Negro were dragged from jails in Mississippi and hung from bridges."

"Tensions in northern cities erupted into race riots on several occasions. As in World War I, the demand for labor in northern industry had brought about another wave of Negro migration from the South to the already overcrowded Negro ghettos of the North. About 330,000 Negroes moved north or to the Pacific Coast during the War. Riots occurred in New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit, during the week of June 20, 1943. Twenty-five Negroes and nine whites were killed, scores were injured, and property damage ran to $2,000,000." ("A young lawyer for the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall, investigated the Detroit riot and concluded that the police contributed to the violence by encouraging the white mob and by refusing to protect Negro citizens and their property. In the future, others would repeat the charge that police bear a share of the blame for civil disorders.")

"As in the past, competition for housing and better jobs and the influx of many poor white southerners as well as Negroes accounted for the explosions. A new factor was the bitterness felt by some whites because of the tremendous economic advances made by Negroes during the war years. Between 1940 and 1944, for example, the number of Negroes employed in government service jumped from sixty thousand to three hundred thousand, the ratio of skilled to non-skilled Negro workers doubled, and the number of Negro women employed in industry quadrupled."

"When victory in World War II came in 1945, Negro Americans could look back with pride on their contribution to the war effort—a contribution made despite continuous opposition and discrimination."


Bennett, Lerone, Jr.— Before the Mayflower
Chambers, Bradford — Chronicles of Black Protest
DuBois, W. E. B. — The World and Africa
Hicks, John D. — The American Nation
Resh, Richard — Black America
All quotations are from the above references.

Part 17: Post World War II to the Seventies

Part Seventeen: Post World War II to the Seventies

The unity of effort that the allies, commonly called the United Nations, achieved during the war culminated in the establishment of an organization (of that same name) in an attempt to bring "rationality and order" into international relations. Unlike the League of Nations, the UN did not limit itself to purely international concerns. It "announced certain domestic policies and attitudes which were of special interest to American Negroes"; such as its Declaration of Human Rights, which caused Black leaders such as W. E. B. DuBois, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Walter White to rejoice with cautious optimism.

Upon Franklin D. Roosevelt's death, the impetus of the New Deal was transferred to his successor, Harry S. Truman, and his Fair Deal. It was given special urgency by America's new role in world affairs.

Domestically, as war industries cut back production, the Blacks once again were the first to be fired. Fortunately, the economic lessons learned from the Great Depression caused the federal government to intervene with public assistance programs. In any event, after a brief slump in 1946, American industry began to boom as a result of the high demands for consumer products. Black prosperity was assured by the Fair Employment Practices Committee (F.E.P.C.).

Militarily, President Truman, partly due to the outbreak of the Korean War, ended segregation in the armed forces between 1950 and 1955. "Battling against communist forces for the avowed purpose of preserving a democratic form of society among Asians, the United States could no longer afford world-wide criticism of an official policy of discrimination against its own colored population."

"And American sensitivity to world opinion explained much of the progress that Negroes were to make after World War II. As African and Asiatic nations won freedom from their former white imperialist masters, they also won a majority of the votes in the United Nations General Assembly. And as America entered a new cold war against world-wide communism, the support of uncommitted nations and of the world's majority of colored peoples became a key to survival. Communist spokesmen were quick to criticize anti-Negro discrimination in the United States; and such criticism was their most effective weapon against America in the vital propaganda war to win the allegiance of Africans and Asians. A lynching in Georgia, a race riot in some northern city, a protest march—these events were now trumpeted to the world by America's enemies and critics. And when they pointed out such evidences of anti-democratic injustice, most thoughtful Americans could only admit that they were right. Making democracy work in the United States became more than an urgent domestic problem…"

"Having initiated the restraints of military segregation in 1947, leaders turned to the problem of education and voting." In the midst of this prevailing atmosphere, a series of spontaneously evoked events and incidents caused the "civil rights revolution" to be ushered in. Beginning when Oliver Brown of Topeka, Kansas, in 1951, tired of having his daughter, Linda Carol, bussed to a segregated Black school twenty-one blocks away, while a public school was within walking distance, filed suit against the Topeka Board of Education. ("Other suits were simultaneously filed in Virginia, Delaware, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.")

The lower courts had followed the precedent of Plessy vs. Ferguson, "separate but equal." But when the ruling of the supreme Court decreed that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, it signaled for the Blacks an unprecedented opportunity to begin anew the painstaking process of equal rights by adding a new dimension to the civil rights struggle.

In Montgomery, Alabama, December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to "move to the rear" of a bus. ("It is important to know that a year before Mrs. Parks' arrest, a 15-year old Black girl had been pulled off a bus, handcuffed, after refusing to give her seat to a white man.") The arrest of Mrs. Parks sparked the 382-day-long Montgomery Bus Boycott. The success of which vaulted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the protest movement, into prominence as a civil rights leader. The formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which he headed, was formed shortly thereafter.

On February 1, 1960, four Black Students strode into Greensboro's Woolworth store in North Carolina and sat at the traditionally all-white food counter. They were ignored; they sat and waited; after an hour the counter closed for the day; they went home. Within two weeks the lunch-counter sit-ins spread to fifteen cities in five southern states. "Students staged sit-ins at colleges, wade-ins at beaches, kneel-ins at churches."

Late in February of 1960, SCLC launched the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC of SNICK) with $800 and some student leaders. Shortly after, James Farmer resigned as the program director of the NAACP to become National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

CORE, along with some members of SNICK, initiated the dramatic and famous Freedom Rides to attack the segregated bus terminals throughout the South, while other SNICK workers were to concentrate on voter registration. From the later effort emerged the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) a Black and white coalition that contested the state's regular Democratic Party's delegation to the 1964 Convention on the grounds that they excluded qualified citizens from participating in their elections. Though they acquired the support of the delegations from New York, Michigan and seven other cities, the United Automobile Workers, and the Americans for Democratic Action, the support fell through the back rooms of the convention.

Meanwhile, since the thirties, there was another Black phenomenon quietly and efficiently amassing a movement—the Nation of Islam. Under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, self-respect and self-help was taught and encouraged. Dubbed "Black Muslims" by the American press, they established schools for their children, stores, restaurants, police or security forces (the Fruit of Islam), temples (mosques), a newspaper (Muhammad Speaks) and a publishing firm. Their analyzation and understanding of the Black historical past found its way to other Blacks and was very integral in inducing a new wave of Black awareness and Black consciousness that was to influence the entire national Black population (and white too for that matter).

Mr. Muhammad's arch-disciple was a man known as Malcolm X (who later broke from the Nation of Islam). Malcolm X was a very dynamic, articulate, and hard-hitting speaker whose role in the Black struggle wrought controversy. For Malcolm, speaking primarily to northern and Ghetto Blacks, identified the white man as the "Black man's oppressor" and, therefore, his enemy. He exhorted Blacks toward self-determination and pride, and spoke against self-hatred. By expounding on the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X regenerated a philosophy of separatism and Black Nationalism, earlier impregnated by Marcus Garvey, but with much more profundity.

Little by little the masses of Blacks grew tired of the violence they received during the non-violent protests encounters. Some were growing militant and beginning to retaliate; to organize for self-defense. The whites countered with increased violence. James Meredith, on June of 1962, was shotgunned during his "March Against Fear" through Mississippi. He recovered and continued the March along with other Black leaders. On June 13, 1963, NAACP leader Medgar Evers was shot to death in Jackson, Mississippi.

There was uneasiness throughout Black America. Civil rights legislation was proposed to curtail the violence, which was giving America a bad image abroad and which her enemies capitalized on, by guaranteeing certain rights. The southern congressmen avowed to filibuster. Grassroots Blacks began advocating going to Washington and taking over the Capitol until the Civil Rights Bill was passed. "People were talking about sitting-in on Capitol Hill and the floor of Congress…They were ready to bring the country to a halt, but Jack Kennedy called in the top 'civil rights leaders' and before the people knew what was happening, the March was Kennedy-sponsored and proclaimed as being 'in the American tradition', …and all marchers were out of town by sundown."

The event, on August 7, 1963, called "The March on Washington," in which Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, was denounced by Malcolm X as a farce saying, of the power structure, "they joined it, they didn't integrate it, they infiltrated it. …They took it over, …it lost its militancy. …It ceased even to be a March. It became a picnic, a circus. …It was a sellout."

The violence continued. Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham, Alabama Black church killing four girls from ages 11 to 14.

Many white students were attracted to the student oriented civil rights groups, like SNCC. Though there were some Black members who wanted an all Black organization, they acquiesced when it was pointed out that the presence of whites would give them badly needed press coverage. However, problems arose. "Some whites with special skills…drifted into leadership positions to the dismay of a large number of Negro staff members who felt the organization must be 'Black led', Black oriented, and Black controlled. …" Also, Black workers found themselves spending more time briefing the whites and mediating between the Black folks and the white workers than they were dealing with the problems (e.g. registration of Black voters); the Black folks just did not loosen up around the whites; the whites were not trusted by the Black folks.

Moreover, "fifteen Black people were murdered in the state of Mississippi in 1964 as a result of SNCC activity in the state. Only one was reported by the press—James Chaney (who was killed with Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, both white). The following year the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Alabama evoked little reaction, but the murder of a white minister, the Rev. Mr. James Reeb, brought thousands of whites to Harlem on a march protesting the slaying. Events of this nature caused Blacks to feel the "white folks cared only about white folks." (The reaction of the press and country to the shootings at Jackson State College, a historically Black university, in Jackson, Mississippi as compared to the shootings at Kent State University, a white school, in Kent, Ohio, during the summer of 1970 was but one example of the prevailing white attitude towards "equal" justice.)

"The Negro's cause helped politicize a generation of young whites, which was a reversal from previous reform movements in which whites and the goals of the white community had played the dominant role." After the civil rights organizations (which were growing more and more militant and hostile towards whites) began to expunge the whites from their midst, the white news media did not accurately report the transformation, labeling the groups ungrateful and charging them with "racism in reverse." To which these accusations were countered: "So what did they want us to do? Humble ourselves on our knees? Their attitude had generally been the missionary one; they were depriving themselves to 'help' us." When asked about whites that died, they said, "And we were sorry they died, but we were a little more sorry for the four thousand brothers and sisters who've been murdered, who have been completely ignored by you."

Stokely Carmichael:

"As for white America, perhaps it can stop crying out against 'Black supremacy', 'Black nationalism', 'racism in reverse', and begin facing reality. The reality is that this nation, from top to bottom is racist; that racism is not primarily a problem of 'human relations' but of exploitation maintained—either actively or through silence—by the society as a whole. …Can a man condemn himself? Can whites, particularly liberal whites, condemn themselves? Can they stop blaming us, and blame their own system? Are they capable of the shame which might become a revolutionary emotion?"

The experience gained in the civil rights struggle taught that the problem was much more engrained than was previously anticipated.

The politicized young whites, now exiled from SNCC, CORE, etc., found expression of their political awareness through such causes as the Vietnam War, environmental pollution, the boosted interest in women's liberation movement, political reform, etc.

"The 'long hot summer' of 1964 demonstrated that the northern ghetto could and would violently explode. In mid-July, the killing of a Negro teenager by an off-duty policeman in New York City led to rioting and looting in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Similar outbreaks occurred in Jersey City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. …" Again the white press contributed the outbreak to looters, lawless and dissatisfied Blacks. Polls were taken and interpreted by the white media, that only five percent of the Blacks were dissatisfied. Whereas Black folks interpretation was the 95-100% were dissatisfied, 5% was doing something about it. Malcolm X, attributed the cause of the riots to "conditions " in the ghetto.

After Malcolm X's break with Mr. Muhammad, in 1963, Malcolm visited Arab and African countries. He engaged himself in trying to strengthen relationships between Blacks in Africa and America. He sought to dispel the false impressions and images projected by Euro-America of each toward the other. Malcolm approached American Blacks about raising the level of the struggle from "civil rights" to "human rights" whereby help could come through the United Nations from the Africans and Arabs sympathetic to "The Cause."

Early in 1965, Malcolm X was gunned down by Black men, who were suspected by many to be put up to the deed by the CIA (as earlier, the French government refused to allow Malcolm to enter their country because they had gotten word of an assassination attempt. Malcolm reasoned that the Nation of Islam was not that powerful).

That summer, "the Watts area of Los Angeles erupted after the arrest of a Negro charged with reckless driving. Cries of 'burn baby burn' were heard at the height of the violence which had claimed 34 lives and millions of dollars worth of property damage."

The call by Stokely Carmichael for "Black Power" was distorted "out of all proportions to its original meaning of the political and economic solidarity among Black people." Carmichael had been nonviolent at that time. "So, too, was another organization—the emerging Black Panther Party of Oakland, California, (an organization formed after the riots in Watts to advise Black ghetto residents of their legal rights when apprehended by the police.)."

"White newspapers did not report honestly the modest demands of Stokely Carmichael; the police of Oakland precipitated incident after incident to force the Panthers to take violent action. Carmichael no longer shows moderation. The Black Panthers grow even more militant,: and throughout the land Black united fronts are coming into being to gain 'by any means necessary' what men refuse to grant peacefully."

"With depressing regularity, the disorders continued, and from the white community there came cries of 'Law and Order'. In a two-week period of July 1967, Newark and then Detroit ignited into scenes of extraordinary violence. The Presidential Commission charged with investigating the causes for the riots reported that 'Our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one white—separate and unequal' and called for 'the realization of common opportunities for all within a single society'."

When trouble threatened to break out in Memphis, Tennessee during the city's garbagemen's (mostly Blacks) strike for higher wages, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rushed to the city to prevent violence. On the night of April 4, (1968) as he took the air on the balcony of a motel in the Negro district of Memphis, he was shot to death by a white man."

"There were a few hours of stunned and anguished disbelief across America. President Johnson appealed for calm. There were pleas from Dr. King's followers that the fallen leader's policy of meeting violence with love be maintained as a fitting monument to his memory. But even before Martin Luther King's body was buried in Atlanta, a mounting wave of violence broke out over the nation. From New York to Los Angeles, from Seattle to Tampa, Negroes struck out in grief and outrage. They struck out at the only visible monuments of white supremacy, which were within their reach—the nation's big-city slums.

The death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "may have marked the passing of an era: for many, 'were to consider non-violence as a impotent weapon in a violent society'."


Bennett, Lerone, Jr.— Before the Mayflower
Breitman, George — Malcolm Speaks
Chambers, Bradford — Chronicles of Black Protest
Haley, Alex — Autobiography of Malcolm X
Hicks, John D. — The American Nation
Lester, Julius — Look Out Whitey
Resh, Richard — Black America
Negro Almanac
All quotations are from the above references.