J.R. Johnson

Bourbon Campaign to Keep Jim Crow in Education

(2 February 1948)

Source: The Militant, Vol. XII No. 5, 2 February 1948, p. 4.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Persecution of the Negro people is the most irrational, the most unjustifiable, the most flagrantly undemocratic feature of American life. As the social crisis deepens Negro issues rise up to confuse, confound and expose the pretensions of the traditional social and political groupings in the country.

Faced with the case of Ada Lois Sipuel, the Supreme Court made a dramatic gesture of ordering the State of Oklahoma to produce a law school for this Negro girl or admit her into the regular school. This school has hitherto admitted only white students and had refused her application two years ago. The State of Oklahoma had only a few days- to admit her or provide the monstrosity of a law faculty for one student.

The apparent decisiveness of the court ruling created a great stir in the press. The liberals, as is customary with them, hailed this as a great victory for the democratic process. They saw visions of the achievement of Negro equality by process of law. They were somewhat disturbed by the fact that the Supreme Court carefully avoided pronouncing on the principle of segregation. But they comforted themselves with the fact that one of the justices had declared that a law school of one student was not a law school.

Now Oklahoma state officials have proceeded to set up a separate Negro “law school” with a 3-man faculty.

The Southern persecutors of the Negro people are already embarked on a vast scheme for circumventing the Supreme Court, taking advantage of its evasions, and continuing their persecution of the Negro people. Aware of the growing pressure for higher education among the Negroes, and conscious of the absurdity and expense of providing whole faculties for half a dozen students in each state, the Southerners now propose to open regional schools for Negro higher education, supported by groups of Southern states. As usual they are aided and abetted by powerful interests in the North.

In the Saturday Evening Post of Jan. 24, the scheme is launched in a nauseating article, full of superficial gestures towards Negro equality. The dearth of Negro doctors is deplored and a solution is proposed. Meharry Medical College is one of the two grade A higher medical schools in the country (Howard University is the other). Together they have turned out about 85% of all Negro doctors now practicing. Meharry is an 8 million dollar institution, with a yearly budget of a million dollars. It is run mainly by whites.

“Realistic” Segregation

Now Meharry is – or claims that it is – faced with bankruptcy. Last fall the Southern Governors Conference proposed to take over Meharry, finance it by fixed contributions from all Southern states who wish to send Negro students there, and expand its facilities. The Saturday Evening Post article takes a “realistic” view. Of course, segregation is deplorable. But inasmuch as there is no immediate probability of ending educational segregation in the South the proposal seems to the Post a good one.

It is obvious that the decision of the Supreme Court in regard to the Oklahoma law school will spur this plan, not only in medicine, but in every other field. By evading the issue of segregation the Supreme Court encourages the movement toward regional schools.

The Southern Governors do not rely only on propaganda. They employ bribery and corruption as well. Already Meharry has students whose fees are paid by the states. These we can be sure will be increased. But there is an even bigger bait. Negro professors, doctors and scientists will have dangled before them the prospect of being placed in charge of a large institution like Meharry with all the prerequisites and prestige such posts carry. There is a notorious vested Negro interest in such segregation projects.

It is notorious, also, that segregation always results in discrimination and lower standards than those prevailing in similar institutions for whites. But already the Negro capitulators are praising the prospects of the project, under the banner of realism. No doubt if the scheme goes through they will receive their reward. And Jim Crow will flourish more vigorously than ever.

The sentiment of many Negroes is overwhelmingly against such projects. A few benefit. But that is nothing compared to the entrenchment of the Southern system. The decision on the Oklahoma case with its evasion of the segregation issue will only spur on the Southern governors. The short-sighted celebration of the decision as a great milestone in the progress of democracy merely shows how superficially many liberals view both democracy and its unending persecution and cheating of the Negro people.

There is no short cut to the ending of this vicious circle whereby a hard-fought victory is so often turned into a still greater defeat, through the economic and social power of the Southern Bourbons and their allies. Nothing less is needed than an undeviating assault on the whole Southern system, and the Congress and Courts of Justice which manipulate legislation to support the system on the one hand, and fool the Negro people on the other. A Labor Party and a Workers and Farmers Government aiming at the total abolition of the whole system is what is required. Organized labor alone can lead such a political movement. The Negroes who see their efforts and sacrifices so often ignored or twisted against them have everything to wan, including the defeat of self-seekers in their own ranks, by throwing their energies, and passion into the formation of such a party.

Last updated on 8 October 2020