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Albert Parker

William Pickens, NAACP Leader,
Gets Federal Job

(24 May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 21, 24 May 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

William Pickens has a new job. It is with the federal government, in the Treasury Department. He has left his job as branch director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

This is not surprising to those who have been watching his development in recent years. After all, he was spending more time and energy supporting the war than “advancing” the colored people. For every word he wrote about the conditions of the Negroes in the United States this last year, he wrote ten about how much tougher it would be for them under Hitler.

It is fitting for Pickens to do what he has done. Pickens should be paid by his real masters, the powers whom he really serves.

There has been a lot of sound and fury about the appointment. The Negro Democrats who supported Roosevelt last year feel bitter because none of them got the job, which pays a reported $6,000 salary. They feel that Roosevelt should never have appointed a man like Pickens, who was an ardent supporter of Willkie last November.

They don’t seem to understand what is involved. Pickens didn’t get the job because of his position in the presidential elections. He got the job because of his position on something far more important: the war. Roosevelt picked him because he supports his war plans, and certainly Pickens stands out head and shoulders above all the other Negro misleaders when it comes to war-mongering. He can show the others, both Democrats and Republicans, a lot of tricks at this game.

But while the job pays well, the work will be hard. For it is Pickens’ job to sell “defense bonds” to the Negroes. This won’t be much easier than selling refrigerators to the Eskimos.

For he has two large obstacles to overcome.

First, the Negro people (this does not apply to the so-called leaders) do not see any good reason for supporting a war conducted under Jim Crow conditions to preserve a “democracy” that does not include them. And before you can get anyone to shell out money for a cause, you’re got to “sell” the cause to him.

Second, of all the groups in this country, the Negroes have less money to buy bonds than anyone else. The reason for this is, of course, that the Negroes have been Jim Crowed out of all, the better-paying jobs in expanding industry, and relegated to the hard, low-paid menial jobs or to the relief and WPA rolls, by the same capitalists who will profit from the war Pickens is supporting. Thus, even if they were in some way to be suddenly aroused, they would find it virtually impossible to buy bonds an to be able to feed and house themselves at the same time.

Yes, Pickens will have to sweat to earn the salary, that his Jim Crow masters will pay him.

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Last updated: 2 November 2015