J.R. Johnson

We Must Strike a Mighty Blow at Jim-Crow Now

(9 June 1941)

The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 23, 9 June 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Do not wait. Now is the time to strike. Why isn’t every Negro community in the country, every discussion forum, every Elks lodge, every church group, every labor union with a Negro in it, every Negro social club – why aren’t they getting together and organizing a nation-wide mass movement of protest against Jim-Crow in all its forms?

Roosevelt Overlooks the Negroes

Roosevelt goes on the radio and declares a state of unlimited national emergency. Democracy, he says, is in danger. Therefore get ready to fight for Dakar and the Cape Verde Islands, Brazil. Peru, Argentina, all these are in danger. He invites all the diplomats from the Latin-American nations to hear all about the danger and how he proposes to fight it. But he invited no Negroes. So far as he is concerned, that part of democracy is not in danger.

He is in tears over China, the Jews of Germany cause him nights of sleeplessness, he is quaking with fear lest the “democracy” of Vargas, the Brazilian fascist dictator, be one tiny degree affected. But with regard to the Negroes in this country, lynching, the shameless discrimination in industry and in the government services – on that Roosevelt declares no national emergency. That can wait. It has waited for 75 years and can wait for 75 more. And it will wait till doomsday until the Negroes themselves jump to it.

Our Own “Emergency” Plan

In this world crisis the Negroes are in more danger than any other group of people, not because they are black, but because they are the poorest and most oppressed. In every crisis it is upon the poor that the heaviest weight falls, and never was there such a world crisis as this one. This is the time to fight. The plan of a march on Washington by thousands of Negroes is one of the best political ideas that has appeared in this country since the war has begun. Properly organized, it will create a sensation from London to India and bring the Negro question right where it belongs – in the front. It will be a fierce material challenge to Roosevelt’s windy words. Democracy. Mr. Roosevelt? Die for democracy? What about some democracy here and now before I die? And not promises, but deeds. And not little scraps like a job for Pickens (to fool Negroes), or a Negro being made a general (who is to retire in a year’s time), but complete democracy – no Jim-Crow anywhere – jobs for Negroes – in industry, in colleges as teachers, as officers in the army, freedom to enter training college and schools anywhere.

But is the President going to declare any national emergency over that? Not he! Is the Senate, that is ready to vote millions for the defense of democracy in China (read, instead, defense of American profits against Japan), is the Senate going to hold a special session to investigate the Jim-Crow from which the Negroes are suffering everywhere? You know as well as I do, my Negro friends, brothers and sisters, that nothing like that is going to happen. Therefore what? We have to do it ourselves. Unity is strength! All together!

Harlem Has Shown the Way

Harlem has shown the way. Harlem, long before the President declared a nation-wide emergency. Harlem said that democracy was not only in danger from Hitler, but that the New York bus companies were carrying out a most anti-democratic policy and had been doing so for years. So they didn’t wait for the President, they didn’t wait until after China had won. No. They went tooth and nail at the non-democratic employers and won a little democracy – not much, but a little.

And now what about Washington, and Baltimore, and Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Cleveland, Akron, Buffalo, Pittsburgh? The Negroes there need democracy as much as it is needed anywhere today. So organize and come out, brothers. Let us get together and march on Washington. And if you are too far away, march on the mayor of your town, march thousands strong, make your demands, picket and demonstrate.

Now is the time. They have to listen to you now. A national emergency exists. But it isn’t the same national emergency as Wall Street’s national emergency. Not on your life. Ours is a call, not to die, but to live for democracy and more democracy. And no Negro can breathe freely, far less live, as long as Jim-Crow exists.

Last updated on 31.12.2012