J.R. Johnson

The Speech That Was Not Made
at NAACP Meet

(8 July 1940)

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, vol. 4 No. 13, 8 July 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Mr. Chairman and Delegates:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is holding its conference, and we can truly say that it has never held a conference at a more critical period in the history of humanity. Today we live while one war rages in Europe and Africa, another rages in Asia and preparations for American entry into one, the other or both, are going on openly before us.

We speak in the name of the Negro people but we are all Americans. We must think in terms of the country as a whole. If the country goes to war, then the Negro people are at war.

The war, we are told, is a war for democracy and Mr. Spingarn, our president, has just told us that “No Negro will be found in the ranks of the Fifth Column.”

Now the Fifth Columnists are the enemies of democracy, the men who preach and practice race-prejudice, the enemies of human equality, the persecutors of the poor, all the things for which Hitler, France and Mussolini stands. We of the NAACP know that these enemies of the people and friends and admirers of Hitler are found in every country and we openly declare war against them. In this country you can look for them in those who propose an end to social legislation and labor unions.

The NAACP therefore, calls upon President Roosevelt immediately to declare:

  1. The American people are determined to stamp out race-prejudice in America so as to show the population that Hitler and Hitlerism will have no basis in this country for their criminal practices.
  2. The President will summon Mr. Willkie to the White House and both will issue a statement in the Name of the Democratic and Republican parties that all poll-taxes, grandfather clauses, violence against Negroes at elections and. any discrimination whatever against them in the exercise of their lawful electoral rights shall henceforth cease and that Congress will mercilessly punish all those enemies of democracy in America who for 75 years have carried on Hitlerite practices against the Negroes.
  3. The President will immediately publish an emergency decree which will prohibit any Jim-Crow practices against Negroes in any part of the country. The Federal government will heavily punish all breakers of this decree.
  4. The President will summon William Green to the White House and inform him that if any union in the AFL should exclude a Negro from its ranks, or in any way discriminate against the Negroes, that union will thereby be considered an enemy of democracy and a supporter of Hitlerism and the Fifth Column.
  5. The President will inform all employers that if any of them discriminate against Negroes, either as workers or office employees, they will be excluded from all government contracts.

That we think is the plain duty of the President, and we can assure him that if he were to take the lead in enforcing these elementary laws of democracy, we would be more impressed with his anger against Hitler and Hitlerism abroad and Fifth Columnists at home.

Suggestions to John L. Lewis

Mr. John L. Lewis has also spoken to us and he seems to be asking us to support the Republican Party. We Negroes have supported the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the past, and wo have nothing to show for it. For the most part we are working people and Mr. Lewis is a labor leader. We therefore, as working people, propose to him the following:

  1. Mr. Lewis should within eight weeks from to-day summon a conference of all the ranks of of organized labor, poor farmers, Negroes, youth groups, and old age pension groups.
  2. At the Conference Mr. Lewis should propose:
    a. A united working class organization on the basis of working class democracy.
    b. As association of poor farmers which will collaborate with the workers organization for the attainment of common ends.
    c. A gigantic program of public works which will give thirty dollars a week for thirty hours of work to every worker in the country.
    d. Sixty dollars a month for all over 60 years of age.
    e. A special fund to provide training and special opportunities for the youth.
    f. The rich to be taxed and Wall Street bankers to be expropriated to find the funds for the above program.
    g. That the government take over all the war industries and run them under the control of the workers.
    h. That the government arm the people under the control of the unions and the workers themselves so as to constitute the best defense against the real Fifth Columnists at home and Hitlerism abroad.

On such a program the NAACP would support Mr. Lewis for President and it can assure him that it will not only mobilize 99% of the Negro vote in America but will make of every Negro a propagandist and agitator among the white workers for a real democracy in the U.S. In this way the NAACP would advance the colored people, would make its contribution to the prosperity and the well-being of all Americans, and would carry on the only real war for democracy that can be fought today.

Last updated on 8.9.2012