From the American Socialist Collection of Sol Dolinger

Last month, the American Socialist published the Debs Centenial speech of Dr. Du Bois. This month, we are privileged to bring our readers this article by the noted Negro scholar and author giving his views about the role of the Negro people in the coming national election. Dr. Du Bois, one of the founders of the American Negro movement for full equality, writes from a background of familiarity with the history of the Negro’s struggle gained from first-hand experience and long study.

Negro Voters Face 1956

by W.E.B. Du Bois

THERE will be in 1956 about nine million persons of Negro descent 21 years of age and over, of whom two-thirds live in the South. Only between one-half and two-thirds of the American voting population go to the polls; and in the South most Negroes are still disfranchised, despite recent increases in the number of Negro voters. We may guess therefore that in 1952about three million Negroes will vote. This will be roughly five percent of the votes cast. But in certain urban areas like New York City and Chicago, the Negro vote reaches ten percent or more. This vote therefore, while not proportionally large, will be influential for the future of the nation. How will it be cast?

Before the election of 1912, it was cast as a block for the Republicans as the party of Lincoln and emancipation. But in the South the Negro vote was not counted and in the North it was not courted but taken for granted; so the Negro got less and less attention from the Republican Party and was slowly disfranchised in its councils. In the election of 1912, Woodrow Wilson, although a Southerner, promised Negroes to see "justice done to the colored people in every matter; and not mere drudging justice, but justice executed with liberality and cordial good feeling." More Negroes voted Democratic in 1912 than ever before. But Southern influence made it difficult for Wilson to fulfill this promise, even if he had continued to want to. This and the landing of our marines in Haiti forced the Negro vote in 1916 back into the Republican ranks.

The first World War and the rumor of Harding’s Negro descent led the Negroes to support Harding and Coolidge, and agitate for freedom in Haiti. But the election of 1928 threw the Negro into confusion bordering on despair. It was a curious situation. Al Smith, the Democratic candidate, was handicapped enough by his religion not to dare risk alienating the Sough on the Negro problem. Herbert Hoover disliked all colored peoples and wooed the South by support of the "Lily Whites" in the Southern Republican ranks. Both parties ignored or maligned the Negro. Negro leaders of every alignment from Tuskegee ot the NAACP complained bitterly in a nation-wide appeal:

The emphasis of racial contempt and hatred which was made in this campaign is an appeal to the lowest and most primitive of human motives, and as long as this appeal can successfully be made, there is for this land no real peace, no sincere religion, no national unity, no social progress, even in matters far removed from racial controversy.

We are asking, therefore, in this appeal, for a public repudiation of this campaign of racial hatred. Silence and whispering in this case are worse than in matters of personal character and religion. Will white America make no protest? Will the candidates continue to remain silent? Will the Church say nothing? Is there in truth any issue in this campaign, either religious tolerance, liquor, water-power, tariff or farm relief, that touches in weight the transcendent and fundamental question of the open, loyal and unchallenged recognition of the essential humanity of twelve million Americans who happen to be dark-skinned?

WITH the New Deal the tide turned. During the depression the Negro suffered discrimination, but new measures were developed, until never before in America had he been so recognized as an integral part of the nation. His vote from 1932 to 1944 went with increasing unanimity to the Roosevelt Democrats. In 1948 Truman held the Negro vote because of his promises following the recommendations of his Commission on Civil Rights, headed by C. E. Wilson and including two prominent colored members. The Progressive Party under Wallace attracted a large number of intelligent Negroes who distrusted Truman. But the rising anti-Communist hysteria induced most Negroes to vote for Truman as the heir to Roosevelt.

In 1952, the red-baiting and witch-hunting frightened the Negro voter more and more. already Negroes were losing hard-earned jobs on accusation of "subversive associations." The intellectual leaders of the Negroes were yielding place to a new bourgeoisie whose object was to make close alliance with Big Business. The Negro newspapers, either for fear of reprisal or for money, almost unanimously supported Eisenhower, avoided an unknown and silent Stevenson, and refused any third-party connections. Probably nine-tenths of the Negro vote went to Eisenhower.

The most spectacular occurrence during the Eisenhower administration has been the school anti-segregation opinion of the Supreme Court. This was hardly a Republican measure, since seven of the justices were appointed by Democratic presidents and only two by Republican. Indeed it is doubtful if Eisenhower with his Southern birth and political ites to the South welcomed this unexpected decision. He has never hailed the decision and his administration has done nothing to carry it out.

The Eisenhower administration has allied itself with the South in doing nothing to enforce rights for Negroes and little to force a Fair Employment program except Nixon’s phony meeting. The Attorney General and FBI have made no effective move in the outrageous Till murder, on Mississippi lawlessness, or on the open threats of nullification of federal law by demagogues like Eastland. The Department of Justice has hounded organizations like the Council on African Affairs out of existence, has driven West Indian Negroes out of the country when possible.

Eisenhower has made two major Negro appointments to office, but also has dismissed Horne from his position of power in federal housing. Eisenhower has pleased Negroes by entertaining socially three Negro heads of governments; but Dulles, with the President’s acquiescence, has been contemptuous of colored peoples like the Chinese; has let Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. ignore dark Krishna Menon, and has ruined our ties with Nehru and India. Segregation of Negroes in the army has lessened under Eisenhower, but slowly and with many bad results. Moreover, the high taxation of the Eisenhower administration falls with crushing force on Negroes, nearly a quarter of whose families get less than a thousand dollars a year.

FINALLY, the American attitude toward Russia smarts. There are few Negro Communists and not many more Socialists. Only a few Negro scholars and labor leaders realize the surge of socialism and most of these dare not risk their jobs by talking frankly. Negroes by and large have been firmly grounded in individual initiative and private profit. That was the meaning of Booker Washington and his crusade, and of the powerful white forces behind him. But Negroes who hear of the lack of color prejudice in the Soviet Union are deeply impressed. Few whites in America realize that the thing which daily hurts in Negro experience more than disfranchisement or exclusion from social clubs is the hundred daily insults which a dark skin brings on the innocent and unassuming on the streets of every American city from New Orleans to Boston.

I remember once hearing a brown girl--a college graduate--say of Paris: "The thing I like here is going out in the morning without having to plan where I’ll be able to get lunch!" Common decency on the street is what the Negro craves and he cannot think that the nation which grants this without question is such a threat to civilization. Negroes are tired of hearing their bribed emissaries testify abroad that the race problem in America is "settled"! One black American who tried that fairy tale in India, where plenty of dark folk have had personal experience in the United States, was nearly mobbed. Frankly, Negroes are tired of fighting for "their country." They do not willingly sing, "My country, ’tis of thee!" Increasing numbers are beginning to question if there may not be more to socialism and communism than the newspapers print.

For these reasons and unless the very busy Attorney General and the liars hired by the FBI can find some way to punish murder in Mississippi, the Negro voter will not be attracted to Republicans in 1956.

But if he does not vote for Eisenhower, Tricky Dick, or Chiang Kai Knowland, for whom can he vote? Stevenson unfortunately has learned nothing about the race problem since the day of his grandfather. The pictures of him and Georgia’s Talmadge do not attract Negroes. Kefauver is coy, and Harriman much too eager. There is no third party. The ADA can protest everything except the things which hurt fifteen million black folk. There is one thing which both the black and white voter can do next November, and that is to stay at home, just as forty million Americans usually do.

But the day must come, if not in 1956, then some time in 1960 or 1964, when the American people get tired of spending most of their government funds on war and insist on education and homes; when they will refuse to be stampeded by fear into crime and insanity, and choose the rule of a third party instead of supporting one party with two faces which are exactly alike.

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