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Albert Parker

Another Negro Lynched;
More Soldiers in ‘Riot’

(21 March 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 12, 21 March 1942, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In this war, as in 1917, the Negro people have been promised that their reward for fighting and dying will be equal treatment – after the war. The Negroes had to wait until the first war was over to find out what a lie this was, to find that their “reward” was more lynchings, “race riots”, segregation, discrimination and insult than they had received before the war.

The chief difference between World War II and World War I, so far as the Negro people in this country are concerned, is that they don’t have to wait until after the war is over to find out what lies they have been told by the capitalist press and their own misleaders – they can see what lies they are already!

You don’t have to go back even a year ago to prove that Negroes are still considered second-class citizens. You don’t have to remember that Negroes are discriminated against in the army, segregated in the navy and air corps, barred completely from the marines. You don’t have to remember that one Negro soldier in a southern camp was lynched on an army reservation, and that another was shot dead for protecting himself from a vicious M.P. attack. You don’t have to remember the “riot” of Alexandria, Louisiana. You don’t have to remember the lynching of Cleo Wright in Sikeston, Missouri. You don’t even have to remember the housing fight in Detroit, which took place less than a month ago.

Even if you forgot all those things, you would still know that Negroes are Jim Crowed, because these are not isolated, accidental cases – they are going on all the time.

The Negro press for just the last two weeks tells the same story all over again: another Negro lynched; some more whitewash by government officials; another army “riot”; another dramatic example of navy Jim Crow; some more attempts to keep Negroes from living in homes on the basis of equality with whites; some more police brutality against Negroes; some more evidence showing what the government is doing about these cases.

Another Lynching

The Kansas City Call, Mar. 13, reveals some of the facts in the “secret lynching” in Brookshire, Texas, of Howard Wilpitz, “which never reached publication in the daily newspapers.”

Wilpitz was ordered out of Brookshire, which is 35 miles from Houston, by a local constable. In the argument that followed, the constable hit Wilpitz over the head with his pistol and shot him in the leg when he tried to run away. Wilpitz shot back, and knocked the constable’s gun out of his hand. An armed lynch mob was quickly formed, surrounded Wilpitz in the toilet behind a Negro lodge building, and riddled it with bullets until the victim fell out. They then stood over him and shot him till he was dead.

The Negroes in the town were threatened into silence. The body was held for a week and then buried secretly. Wilpitz’s wife never even saw the body.

The lynching took place on Feb. 21. No word of it was printed until the Call learned the story last week. How many other such cases there are which are hushed up, we do not know. But we have no doubt that there are many of them;

In the same issue of the Call is the report of the action by the Scott County, Missouri, Grand Jury on the lynching of Cleo Wright in Sikeston. Although everyone in Sikeston knows the names of the people who led and participated in the Wright lynching, the Grand Jury, meeting for less than two days, found no one to blame, and announced it had insufficient evidence to return a true bill. The jury was composed almost exclusively of merchants, bankers and “retired” farmers. The judge, J.C. McDowell, accepted the report without comment. Apparently he was satisfied that they had obeyed his warning, given just before they opened their hearings, not to pay any attention to “outside agitation” and “radical talk.”

Everybody knows who lynched Cleo Wright; the guilty parties are walking the streets of that town free and easy. Everybody knows that if anybody talks, he’ll join Cleo Wright, and nothing will happen to the men who murder him either. The people who lynched Cleo Wright are all-out supporters of the “second war for democracy ...”

New Army “Riot”

The California Eagle, Mar. 5, reports another army “riot” in Merced, Calif., on Mar. 2. It all began when the Negro soldiers were refused service at a tavern on the fair ground’s on which they are Camped. The report says:

“Negro soldiers attacked the discriminatory tavern twice. Both times they were ‘calmed’ by Military Police.

“Colored troops were armed only with sticks and clubs.

“Military police are still patrolling the business section, whether to prevent riots or prevent Negro patronage is not clear.”

Navy Jim Crow

The name of the Negro sailor who was hailed as hero on the U.S.S. Arizona has finally been revealed. He is Dorie Miller, 22 year old Texan. At Pearl Harbor he seized a machine gun – although he had never handled one before – and manned it under enemy fire until his ammunition ran out and the ship was sinking. The Negro press is singing his praises this week – but he is still in the mess kitchen somewhere, not permitted by Navy Jim Crow rules from doing anything but serve food and wash dishes.


In Rhode Island, “home of Roger Williams and tolerance”, there is a housing project at Newport at which it was decided that some Negro as well as white families could live. Among the whites assigned to the project it was felt equality for the Negro people was a threat to “the maintenance of the morale and prestige of the white race”, so they sent a petition to their Senator in Washington asking him to have the Negroes barred.

This is pretty much, the way the Detroit “riot” began; so far Washington has refused to do anything about the situation, but the Detroit experience showed that when Jim Crow forces put on a little pressure, they are only too willing to give in – against equality for the Negroes.

And that housing Jim Crowism is not an evil peculiar to Detroit or Rhode Island is shown in last week’s People’s Voice, the front page of which shows a large picture of a Washington Heights, New York, Negro man and woman, standing by a window, the pane of which was shattered by a milk bottle thrown by hoodlums who don’t want Negroes living on the same block as whites.

Police Brutality

New York is supposed to be the most “liberal” city in the country, but as City Councilman Adam Glayton Powell points out in a People’s Voice editorial: “... during the past few days, one man was horribly beaten, teeth knocked out, leg broken and then arrested, although he first came to the police station to make a complaint. Another severe beating was administered to a 15-year-old school boy by a special subway officer and three strong courageous police protectors of the peace,” etc.

What Government Is Doing

And what about the government while all this is going on? What are the government officials doing about lynchings and riots and brutality?

The answer is: They are out investigating the Negro newspaper editors and publishers who print the truth about conditions and have the courage to protest against them!

The Pittsburgh Courier, Mar. 14, in an editorial, Cowing the Negro Press, reports that “the Negro press is being closely watched and investigated by government agents.

“Offices of at least two of the largest Negro newspapers have been visited by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation since Pearl Harbor.

“Mrs. Charlotte A. Bass, editor and publisher of the militant California Eagle, states that FBI agents have visited her office and interrogated her about possible receipt of Japanese or German funds because her paper courageously condemned color discrimination and segregation in National Defense.

“This sort of thing is an obvious effort to cow the Negro press into soft-pedaling its criticism and ending its forthright exposure of the outrageous discriminations to which Negroes have been subjected ...”

In other words, instead of going after the enemies of the Negro people, the government is going after the defenders of equality for the Negroes. This is the typical “police mind” reaction to complaints against injustice: if somebody complains, shut him up and expect him to keep quiet even though the cause of his complaint goes untouched.

It does not take a prophet to predict that the Negro people, dissatisfied today, are going to become increasingly dissatisfied as the war goes on and conditions become worse. The government may try to cow the press into silence, it may try to explain Negro dissatisfaction as the work of “agitators” – but it will never be able to convince the Negro masses that this is a “war for democracy” as long as it is fought by a Jim Crow Army and Navy, as long as Negroes are lynched and their lynchers white-washed, as long as cops beat up Negroes and protect the fascists, – as long, in short, as the Jim Crow ruling class continues to run things in this country.

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