J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

(19 August 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 33, 19 August 1946, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The record of violence against Negroes grows every day. It is not accidental. It was not unexpected. It is a part of the social crisis in the United States.

Note please that the violence manifests itself in all parts of the United States – not the South alone.

These have all been given notice in the capitalist press.

But day after day the brutal mistreatment of Negroes in Harlem by the police continues. There have been protest meetings and a delegation is scheduled to interview Mayor William O’Dwyer and Police Commissioner Wallander.

Who Is Responsible?

Mass meetings took place all over the country to protest the lynchings – in Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee (where 10,000 workers and their families assembled), Atlanta, New York – to mention a few. From every kind of labor, liberal and church organization, the protests of indignation have been raised.

But much, too much, of this protest and honest indignation is misdirected. In fact, the protests of newspapers like the New York Times are hypocritical to the last degree. They are hypocritical because they carefully cover up or ignore the outstanding fact that law and order are on the side of the lynchers!

To call this hoodlumism is to disguise, to conceal the truth, mislead the public and cover up for the criminals.

A policeman shot the Ferguson brothers. He may be a hoodlum, but when a hoodlum wears a state uniform, the state authorities are responsible for his hoodlumism. After months of agitation, Governor Dewey appointed a commission to inquire whether the case should be reopened. He had been swamped with letters and telegrams from all over the United States and he had to make some gesture. The report which decided that the case should not be reopened has been denounced by the National Lawyers Guild. It is a whitewash.

In the Woodward case it was a policeman who blinded the veteran. The War Department was asked to intervene. It has done nothing.

In the Columbia, Tenn., case the state police did its full share of the shooting, stealing and furniture-smashing.

Lynchers Known

As for the Georgia lynching, even the reactionary World-Telegram of New York says editorially:

“The G-men who showed such skill in rounding up clever, highly trained spies in wartime should not be baffled by a rural murder in which twenty men participated. Surely, with the right amount of determination, they can find clues and evidence to lead to arrests and trial.” (August 12.)

This is hypocrisy. The Negro press claims that the NAMES OF SOME OF THE GEORGIA LYNCHERS ARE KNOWN. In the Sykestown lynching of some four years ago, Negro papers and Labor Action printed the names of the lynchers. Yet the local police and the FBI could not find them. If the FBI put in one-thousandth of the work it put in on the Lindbergh baby case it could find the murderers very quickly. It does not want to, and the World-Telegram knows that as well as we do.

Attorney-General Tom Clark made a grandiose announcement that all the resources of his department would be employed to bring the criminals to justice. That is hypocrisy. But he acts like a good servant. He takes his cue from his boss. It was six days, SIX DAYS, before the national indignation forced Truman to utter a protest.

But that is not all. The Hester family in Georgia is closely connected with the events which led to the lynchings in Georgia. Two days before the Negro, Malcolm, was jailed and two days before he was lynched, Talmadge of Georgia visited the Hester family. He had a long conference with them. Two days before this conference the Hester family had made an attempt to seize Malcolm and lynch him. (They had been frustrated by a woman who called the sheriff.)

If any men are arrested and sentenced, Talmadge will be the next governor of Georgia and can pardon them.

Officials Failed to Act

It is not white hoodlums who beat up Negroes in Harlem. When, as they sometimes do, whites and Negro boys fight in New York in border areas, that is one thing. Harlem Negroes are complaining of something else, of police brutality.

That is the record. Not so much cops on the beat, but Dewey, Governor of New York State; Tom Clark, U.S. Attorney General; Truman, the President; Talmadge of Georgia, all in their various ways are responsible for what is going on. They are responsible because by their actions they encourage violence.

But they do exactly the opposite. They save face. They do not do what they can easily do. Who does NOT do something is by that very fact actually doing something else. In this case it is protecting the lynchers, telling them as plain as day that they can get away with it. If those who make the protests and send delegations do not understand this clearly, then it is time that they did.

Last updated on 8 July 2019