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Albert Parker

After Randolph Dropped the Negro March

Randolph Hailed Roosevelt’s Executive Order
as the ‘Second Emancipation Proclamation’
but It Didn’t Even Rate a Speech!

(12 July 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 28, 12 July 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A. Philip Randolph – and a few others consider Roosevelt’s executive order on Negroes and the war industries a “second Emancipation Proclamation.” But apparently Roosevelt doesn’t. He didn’t speak about it over the radio; you won’t see him reading the order in the newsreels; he didn’t even hold a press conference on the matter, as he does on almost everything else, small or big.

The capitalist press gave the order practically no publicity. (It would be interesting to find out how many newspapers south of the Mason-Dixon line even mentioned it).

Randolph had to speak about the order over the radio since Roosevelt wouldn’t. Hillman had to hold the press conference. Negroes had to wait for the Negro press to explain what the order was about, and those papers didn’t do a very good job at it either.

All this indicates very clearly how important Roosevelt considers this so-called “second Emancipation Proclamation.”

* * *

Negro Youth Blast Randolph’s Retreat

Randolph had no trouble in getting his hand-picked national committee in charge of the March to approve its “postponement, but not cancellation.” But the national youth committee, which was not hand-picked, but was made up largely of delegates of different youth organizations, had a different attitude, and one which really represented the feelings of 95 per cent of the rank-and-file supporters of the March.

At a meeting called to consider Randolph’s report on why the March was being called off, the youth committee “voted 44 to 1 to repudiate the action of the national executive committee and to demand that the march be staged within 90 days.” (Pittsburgh Courier)

* * *

The Chicago Defender tells of a typical rank-and-file supporter of the March:

“In Florida, a 77-year-old woman sold a member of the Office of Production Management staff a ‘jobless march button’ and swore that she was going to take part in the parade. She had money enough to carry her only as far as Savannah, Ga., which is about six or 700 miles short of her goal, but she was determined to get the rest of the distance and vowed she would make it if she had to walk.”

What a far cry this is from the attitude of some of the leaders of the March, who had only to get into a Pullman train or a plane, and who were just as determined to see that the March did not go through!

* * *

Horace R. Cayton, labor editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the speakers at the NAACP conference in Houston, describes a stirring speech by Robert Ming on the Negroes and the armed forces, and then says:

“In one very real sense it was a pity that they did not stop the meeting then, for A. Philip Randolph followed Ming. Randolph made an apologetic statement which finally led up to the fact that ‘they’ (I don’t know who ‘they’ were) had called off the march to Washington. His arguments concerning the reason for calling off the march, as I understood it, was because the President had issued an executive order setting up a board for the purpose of integrating Negroes into the defense program ...

“It sounded pretty thin when he stated it in the Good Hope Baptist Church; it sounds even worse when I write it today. Randolph has a lot of explaining to do, and so have all the rest mixed up in the direction of the March – and he didn’t do it down here. Walter White, in the last mass meeting on Friday night, expressed his own dissatisfaction with the President’s order and pointed out its weaknesses. He also, however, justified the calling off of the march.”

* * *

How Roosevelt’s Order Looks in Practice

The New Jersey Herald News states that Roosevelt order “will have little or no effect in New Jersey.” This seems certain if the conference between the Urban League and Glenn Gardiner, state director of defense training for OPM, means anything. It must be remembered that the first of the three points of the order provides that all governmental agencies “concerned with vocational and training programs for defense production shall take special measures appropriate to assure that such programs are administered without discrimination.”

“This is a very deep-rooted sociological problem ... I am not very hopeful that it can be solved ‘just like that’,” said OPM spokesman Gardiner. “I can’t see that the President’s order will have any particular effect on our program. Our function is helping companies in their training of employees. It’s not for us to say who shall be hired.

“Naturally,” he went on, “whenever our opinion is asked, it is our duty to encourage employment with no discrimination, but it’s not up to us to take the initiative.

“The problem may solve itself when there’s a shortage of unskilled help, as well as skilled. It’s a tough problem, and the reason it’s tough is that everyone pussyfoots on it. I’m afraid attempts to pressure the thing in the emergency may not work out.”

And this is a statement from an OPM official AFTER the issuance of the so-called “second Emancipation Proclamation”! Far better than Randolph’s speeches, it indicates what the government is really going to do about Jim Crow in industry – nothing.

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