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George Breitman

Newark Negro “Leaders”
Drop Colored Candidate

No Longer Backing Any Colored Man
for City Commission Race; Back Machines

(19 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 16, 19 April 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Every colored worker acquainted with what goes on in Newark’s City Hall knows that he has no friends there. That is why every time elections come around, there is a rumbling among the masses, and the beginning of organization to oppose the City Hall machines and to elect an independent colored candidate as Commissioner.

It is always at this point that the so-called colored “leaders” jump into the picture and try to head off or break up an independent colored political movement.

Early in this campaign several Negroes announced their candidacy. The different colored organizations began to stress the necessity of fighting for the election of a colored Commissioner. Talk began to spread about uniting the different groups behind one candidate by holding a city-wide conference representative of the organizations.

Then the lawyers and doctors and wardheelers stepped in.

Holding one or two conferences representative only of themselves, and supported by the colored press they decided to push the candidacy of Rev. William P. Hayes, a safe and sane conservative whose only role in political life has been to oppose the $21,000,000 relief referendum of 1929 at a time when defeat of the measure would have meant starvation for thousands.

Hayes, said these leaders, would antagonize no one, and so everyone would get behind him. None of the City Hall factions would oppose him (because he wouldn’t oppose them). So all the colored ward heelers could support him at the same time they supported their individual factions. The fact that Hayes did not stand for any particular program, they said, was in his favor.

And so all the other colored candidates, and all the working class candidates were ignored and their campaigns played down, while Hayes was built up by the colored press.

This went on until about two weeks ago when Hayes left them holding the bag by declaring that he was too busy in the church (he felt he couldn’t win anyway, so why run?).

Immediately, these “leaders” scattered to the wind, dropping the idea of a campaign for an independent colored candidate like a hot stone and scurried off to offer their services to the various boss political machines.

And so we see the strange picture of the so-called leaders of the colored race deserting the movement to place a colored man on the Commission and flocking to the aid of the politicians who have kicked the Negroes around for so many years.

And we see the strange picture of the colored press, which claims to be the voice of the colored race and which a month ago printed long editorials on the need of securing colored representation on the Commission, now filling its columns with article after article on the lily-white politicians and printing virtually nothing on the colored candidates, even when something significant occurs on their campaign.

The two outstanding colored candidates are William E. Bohannan and Dr. Andrew V. Morris.

Bohannan is a trade unionist and member of the CIO, endorsed by some unions and running on the working class slogan of “Make Newark a 100% Union Town.” His campaign is important because it illustrates that a colored candidate can get support of white workers if he presents a platform in their interests as well as in the interests of the colored workers.

CIO Endorses His Bills

As an example of this, one an point not only to endorsement of Bohannan by unions of white and colored workers, but also to the action by the Greater Newark Industrial Union Council, central CIO body, just last week when this powerful body of white and colored workers voted to endorse the two “Bohannan Equal Rights Bills” to punish discrimination against Negroes in employment by companies dealing with the city and by proprietors of public places.

A few examples from the press will illustrate the hopelessness of expecting any independent leader ship from them in this campaign:

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