J.R. Johnson

Pamphlet Points at Scandal of “Jim-Crow in Uniform”

(24 May 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 21, 24 May 1943, p.–6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

The War’s Greatest Scandal, Jim Crow in Uniform is the title of a pamphlet (published by the March on Washington Committee, five cents) on Negroes in the United States Army; and Jim Crow, ugly, barbarous and detestable as he is wherever he appears, is more than usually hideous when dressed in the uniform, and carrying out the commands, of American imperialism.

Take this: “Alexandria, La., January 11, 1942. – Twenty-eight Negro soldiers shot or clubbed in a race riot provoked by the attempt of a white MP to arrest a Negro soldier. Three thousand Negro soldiers put under arrest by white MPs and city and state policemen. Basic cause of riot: lack of recreational facilities for 16,000 Negro troops stationed in nearby camps: refusal of Army authorities to allow colored MPs.”

There you have the main point which this pamphlet makes. We must note not only the persecution and the brutal mistreatment and humiliation of the Negro troops by the reactionary elements of the population, both inside and outside the Army. It is the refusal of the Army authorities themselves to protect their own Negro soldiers, which gives another glaring proof that the war is. not a war against Nazi racialism, but is a war for nothing else but the maintenance of the capitalist system.

Government Fosters Jim Crow

How could the Army, in this society, in such a war, do otherwise than join in the savage persecution of the Negroes? The Army segregates the Negroes in its ranks and thereby not only breaks the law with impunity, but encourages racial feeling. Winfred Lynn has challenged the evil at its legal root by bringing suit against the Army authorities for inducting him into a Jim Crow regiment. But whatever the legal aspects, of the case, which the pamphlet goes into with brevity and precision, it is too much to expect that this case can act as anything more than a focus of exposure and agitation. For the Navy discriminates against the Negroes as if they have the plague; the Air Corps will not allow them any but the most meager opportunities; the Red Cross segregates their blood, in defiance of all science except the scientists of the Hitler regime.

For those hypocritical scoundrels who counsel the Negro to, trust in Roosevelt, the record of this so-called friend of the Negro is briefly but pregnantly summarized. Here is a beautiful quotation: “We are inexpressibly shocked that a President of the United States at a time of national peril should surrender so completely to enemies of Democracy who would destroy national unity by advocation of segregation. Official approval by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of such discrimination and segregation is a stab in the back of democracy.”

Who are the perpetrators of this piece of hypocrisy? Walter White of the NAACP, Arnold Hill of the National Urban League. Of course! And the latest addition to these two is A. Philip Randolph, of the March on Washington Committee. As usual they are at their old game, jumping in front whenever the Negro people are deeply stirred by intolerable injustice, running to Roosevelt and, when they are kicked in the pants, protesting to the world how deeply surprised and shocked they are.

Jim Crow Continues

Yet, despite the repeated kicks and repeated shocks and surprises of Walter White and Philip Randolph, the Jim Crow in the Army continues. The Negro press is filled with examples every week. Why it continues so flagrantly is also to be observed in this pamphlet.

The executive secretary of the MOW contributes a foreword: people may think it is unwise to raise these questions now, but it is necessary to struggle. The Negro people WERE READY to struggle! It was their determination that gave rise to the March on Washington Committee, whose aim was in its very title. But Randolph and White called off the march – called it off because they could not break with Roosevelt, called it off because they are all-out in support of the war and still want to oppose and put an end to one of the basic proofs of the American imperialist system. You cannot do both; and thus, when ever they run up against the consequences of their pro-war policy, all that they can do is to bleat: “We are surprised, we are shocked.”

Nevertheless, the Jim Crow, as usual, continues. The great arsenal of democracy sends its armies and its arms abroad. But by its very nature it piles up an arsenal of weapons against itself in its incessant attacks against the elementary democratic rights of the people. These weapons need to be collected and put in handy form at the disposal of the masses.

This pamphlet, the work of Dwight and Nancy Macdonald, is a good arsenal. In the hands of people who know how to use it, it would be a powerful aid in the struggle for true and honest democracy. But though Randolph’s organization can publish this pamphlet, it cannot use its material to any effect. To achieve any results it must be used to direct the Negro masses straight to the fountainhead – to march to the President himself in Washington.

Will Randolph do this? Only when the Negro people themselves stick him in the middle of the marchers and take him along with them, whether he wants to or not. Then, and only then, will Jim Crow begin to tremble.

Last updated on 24 May 2015