From Fourth International, Vol.4 No.6, June 1943, pp.179-184.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, young man,” stated A.N. Kemp, president of American Airlines, “but I don’t believe that Negroes will be used as pilots in the immediate world of post-war aviation.” He said it in an interview in New York printed in the Pittsburgh Courier, March 27, 1943.
The airline executive went on to explain that “of course” he personally had nothing against Negroes and had even hired some to work in his ground crews, but that his company would lose money if it hired Negro pilots; and presumably to show that his outlook was not limited by considerations of profits alone, he added that “the Negro would have to become more cultured before he could expect to enjoy the fullness of American life.”
He spoke pleasantly, politely, his tone was friendly, but in his words there was no hint of doubt or hesitation: he was speaking with the voice of the whole capitalist class and frankly stating its intention of maintaining in the post-war world the rotten pattern of Jim Crow discrimination, segregation and insult which dominated this country before Pearl Harbor and the proclamation of the “four freedoms.” There are some people who harbor illusions about the character of the Negro’s status after the termination of the second “war for democracy,” but if they do, it is not the fault of Kemp and his fellow capitalists and the government, whose words and deeds speak loudly and plainly enough.
A. Philip Randolph, AFL union leader and national director of the March-On-Washington Movement, has proposed that
“... there ought to be and must be a movement known as the Free Negro, which will send a strong delegation of Negroes and their true friends to the Peace Conference at the end of this war to present the claims of Negro people in America, the British West Indies and Africa.”
One would be justified in concluding from this that Randolph believes the post-war status of the Negro will be decided at a peace conference of the victorious United Nations. To a certain extent this is correct. But to a far greater extent the Negro’s fate is being determined right now, in the midst of the war. What happens at a peace conference will depend not only on the relationship of forces between the various countries, but even more on the relationship of class forces within each country. The character of the peace conference will have been decided more or less conclusively by what happened during the war, just as the nature of the war and what happens during it flow from the developments and struggles leading up to the war.
The Negro’s greatest opportunity for advancing toward full equality is now, as his enemies well recognize, and if the Negro does not take advantage of this opportunity now he will find it much harder to make progress after the war, when his enemies will have disposed of their foreign rivals and will be able to devote their energy and attention toward keeping the Negro “in his place.”
It is necessary to make this point and to drive it home again and again because there are so many people trying to obscure it. These people — the modern Uncle Toms, in whose ranks the Stalinists must be included — never miss an opportunity to explain how much progress is being made. They loudly tell you how many more one-tenths of one per cent schools there are for Negroes today than there were before; they cite figures to show that Negro birth mortality rates have fallen by so much or that Negro preachers and lawyers have increased in number by that much. Needless to say, they attribute all this progress to the superior qualities of their own programs. Nor are middle class Negroes and Stalinists the only people addicted to the pastime of progress-shouting. Government bureaus and the capitalist press have been going in for it quite heavily since Pearl Harbor. Indeed, you might say of the capitalist press articles and reports on the Negroes that they devote two-thirds of their space to inflammatory and most often distorted accounts of crimes by Negroes and one-third to accounts of the remarkable extent of Negro progress.
The purpose behind this pointing-with-pride and viewing-with-pleasure is obvious. The Negro people instinctively want to take advantage of the present crisis to achieve the rights which have been denied them. This can be confirmed by any honest person acquainted with Negro thought today. It is hard to convince the Negro masses that this is a war for democracy when they are denied the most elementary democratic rights.  The progress-shouters seek, so to speak, to change the subject, to convince the Negroes that even though things aren’t perfect, they are getting better day by day and will eventually work out all right. Their purpose is to persuade the masses not to conduct militant struggle against Jim Crow. If they are successful, the Negro people will miss the present opportunity to improve their status with the result that they might be condemned to second-class citizenship for decades to come.
It is not our intention here to argue that the Negro’s conditions have not changed at all, nor to overlook whatever genuine progress that has been made. No one can dispute, for example, the fact that Negro unemployment today is much lower than before the war, or that many Negroes have won genuine equality on their jobs as the result of trade union efforts. What we propose to do here is to look at the whole picture, to examine the true character of the gains that have been made since Pearl Harbor, to list the losses and the setbacks that have been encountered while these gains were being made, to show what was temporary and secondary and what was permanent about these gains and losses. It is necessary for militant Negroes to ponder these questions, for World War II will not last forever and they have lives to live after it comes to an end. They must understand the developments of the first 18 months of American participation in the war, for the post-war pattern is foreshadowed in these developments.
First, the question of employment, which strikes so directly at the economic conditions of the Negro masses that there is quite often a tendency to subordinate all other questions to this one. There are many estimates of the number of Negro workers employed in war plants, the highest being a half million. This figure includes both those working on machines and janitors, porters, etc. All others listed as gainfully employed are either in non-war industries and occupations, including domestic service, on the farms, or in the armed forces. The total in the armed forces is already over a half million and is expected to increase to a million by the end of 1943. Newly-adopted legislation, embodied in House Joint Resolution 96, which was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president over the protests of many labor and farm organizations, who charge the bill with restoring “virtual peonage,” in effect ties the Southern Negro farmers and sharecroppers to the land for the duration of the war. It gives county agents notoriously staunch upholders of “white supremacy,” the power to deny Negroes the right to leave their home county for such purposes as going North to work in war industries.
Meanwhile, in the face of the most severe manpower shortage in the nation’s history and in the eighteenth month of the war, there is still a comparatively large body of able-bodied Negroes, estimated from 600,000 to 1,000,000, who remain unemployed. There are still hundreds of plants in the country which refuse to hire Negroes or which resort to “token” employment, and there are thousands of other plants — by no means all in the South — which will not permit Negroes to hold skilled or semi-skilled jobs and which refuse to give Negroes equal pay for equal work. Even in New York, the State Committee on Discrimination reported recently, “discrimination because of color, race or creed still exists” and employers continue “the old practice of discriminating against Negroes not by barring them from employment, but by restricting them to such menial jobs as porters or other maintenance men.” (New York Times, May 7, 1943) And in an industry as vital as the railroads, where Negroes have been employed for many decades, the Office of War Information admitted in April 1943 that “war or no war, unwillingness to employ Negroes in many types of railroad jobs persists.”
Negroes hold more jobs than they did before Pearl Harbor, and in
many cases better ones, and that is all to the good. But their jobs are
not as secure as those of other workers. In plants where there are
strong unions, the seniority of Negroes is generally protected. But
even in such plants the probability is that when war production is
ended or reduced after the war, they will be the first fired because
they were the last hired. Thus it is clear that gains in Negro
employment are by no means permanent and can disappear like last year’s
snow with the end of the war. This is not the least of the reasons why
thoughtful Negroes are so concerned about the post-war world.
We have indicated why Negro employment increased — not because of any widespread elimination of racial bias in employment but because of the manpower shortage. It is necessary to emphasize this point because there are many scoundrels pretending otherwise and trying to give the credit for the rise in Negro employment to the Roosevelt administration and its agencies — scoundrels like the Stalinist James W. Ford, who says:
“The government has a well-established policy against discrimination of Negro citizens in war industries. That policy was established by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802, issued June 25, 1941. One cannot deny that much has been accomplished in the elimination of job discrimination, that many hundreds of thousands of Negro workers have been put to work in war industries. The Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) was an effective instrument in exposing cases of discrimination and forcing employers to hire Negroes ...” (Daily Worker, April 10, 1943)
To show how Ford lies we need only refer to the brief history of the FEPC.
Not even its own members ever claimed with Ford that the FEPC was “an effective instrument in ... forcing employers to hire Negroes.” They knew too well that Executive Order 8802, from which they drew their authority, gave them no powers to force anyone to do anything. The FEPC was set up by Roosevelt to ward off the projected March-On-Washington in the summer of 1941, and was a concession without any teeth in it. The FEPC helped a little by a few open hearings to publicize the scandalous situation in industry, and it prevailed on a few employers to hire some Negro workers. Its ineffectualness was amply demonstrated when it held a hearing in Birmingham in 1942, where it was more or less openly defied by the Jim Crow employers.
Despite its impotence, the FEPC was the object of much opposition, especially from the Southern Democratic poll tax bloc in Washington, who hated it as a symbol of the government’s right to “encroach” in any way on the right of the states to treat the Negroes as they please. This opposition resulted, in the summer of 1942, in Roosevelt’s transfer of the FEPC from the jurisdiction of the White House to that of McNutt’s War Manpower Commission,whose finances are controlled by Congressional committees largely dominated by the poll taxers. Many labor and Negro organizations condemned this transfer as a move to make the FEPC even more powerless than it had been previously, and requested that it be restored to its previous status. Finally, in December 1942, Roosevelt answered these protests with the statement that he saw no necessity for any changes in the situation because the FEPC is “still under direct control of the Chief Executive.” He also made reference to the announcement that the FEPC was planning soon to go ahead with a number of open hearings.
But the goose of the FEPC had already been cooked in spite of these typically Rooseveltian assurances. A month later Jim Crow scored another victory in Washington when McNutt, against the expressed wishes of the FEPC members, suddenly called off an already scheduled hearing on discriminatory employment policies of the railroads, a hearing which Negro leaders had described as a “key test” of McNutt’s attitude toward the Negro. In the four months after this, the FEPC achieved absolutely nothing: some of its members resigned; Roosevelt promised, again after many protests had been made, that the railroad hearings would be held after all; McNutt and Attorney General Biddle called a number of organizations to a conference to suggest means of reconstituting and strengthening the FEPC; McNutt explained many times after that conference that the delay in further action was due to the difficulty in getting a new chairman for the agency. Finally a new chairman was secured, Mgr. Francis J. Haas, dean at Catholic University which has barred Negro athletes from its track meets, and on May 27, 1943, Roosevelt issued a new executive order establishing a new FEPC which like its predecessor has now power to abolish Jim Crow in industry. There isn’t an informed person in Washington who honestly believes after these developments that the new FEPC will meet a happier end than the old one.
The fate of the FEPC is a sign of the things to come. To this it should be added, for the benefit of those looking ahead to the post-war period, that the FEPC had authority to investigate only war plants and was never intended to function after the war anyhow.
Roosevelt’s own attitude can be gauged not only by what happened to the FEPC, which as he insisted was “under direct control of the Chief Executive,” but also by a number of other events. It will be recalled that when Negroes were preparing for a march on Washington in June 1941, Roosevelt summoned A. Philip Randolph, Walter White and other Negro leaders to the White House for a discussion. The following year Randolph declared on several occasions that the interests of the fight against Jim Crowism required that “free, independent and courageous Negro leaders have a frank, candid and plain talk with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the whole situation.” Randolph even wired the White House an assurance that he wanted a discussion “in the interests of national unity, effective defense and victory for the United Nations and the cause of democracy.” But on August 6, 1942 Roosevelt’s secretary curtly replied:
“Regret that owing to extreme pressure on the President’s time impossible to make appointment requested.”
In 1943 Randolph apparently knows better than to ask again for such a talk.
Nor have Negroes forgotten Roosevelt’s failure to intervene, as he had the power to do, to prevent the legal lynching of the sharecropper Odell Waller. And they see a deep significance in the contrast between his repeated condemnation of Axis atrocities and his continued failure to say a word against lynching in the United States. They are likewise bitterly aware of the contrast between his many declamations about the four freedoms and his cynical remarks last year while the fate of the anti-poll tax bill hung in the balance in the Senate:
“... asked whether he thought the poll tax repeal bill should pass, he reiterated that he knew nothing about it, had talked to no one about it, and therefore could not express an opinion.” (New York Times, November 21, 1942)
And this is the man who will probably be at the head of the government when the present war is ended.
Of course the executive is not the only arm of the federal government. There is also Congress, and its present members may also be in office when the peace conference is held. But is there a single high school student in the nation who does not know that this Congress is at least as reactionary as the Roosevelt administration? This is the Congress which is admittedly more conservative than the previous Congress which permitted anti-poll tax legislation to be filibustered to death. This is the Congress where the Southern Democrats hold the undisputed balance of power and where both capitalist parties vie with each other in wooing the Southern Democrats by appeasing them regularly on all issues affecting the Negro. This is the Congress where the poll taxers control the most important committees and use them to uphold and extend “white supremacy,” as in the case of the Social Security Board whose chairman, A.J. Altmeyer, was recently intimidated by poll tax congressmen into promising that hereafter no white stenographers would be permitted to assist Negroes and no Negroes would be permitted to furnish stenographic assistance to white employees of that federal agency.
There is also the judicial division, the Supreme Court, now controlled by Roosevelt’s appointees. Twice last year, while the sharecropper Odell Waller sat in death row for killing a man in self-defense, the court was asked to review the case, and twice it refused, not even explaining its refusal. Its attitude, however, was later made unmistakeable by the “liberal” Justice Frankfurter who stated:
“As a federal judge I am unable to find any justification for summary interference with the ORDERLY process of Virginia’s courts of justice.”
That the poll tax bars Negroes and poor whites from service on Virginia’s juries, that Waller was the victim of a lynch spirit and a viciously prejudiced judge — all this appears “orderly” to the gentlemen on the Supreme Court. And why not? It is in complete accord with the views expressed by this body when it upheld the poll tax laws, when it upheld the “white primary” rules which bar Negroes from voting in the most important part of elections in the South, when it upheld the educational, transportation and other Jim Crow segregation laws of the South.
The law-enforcement agency of the administration is no better. The Department of Justice has been hinting lately that it deserves to be decorated with a few medals because it has followed up a handful of prosecutions for flagrant violations of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, which forbids slavery and involuntary servitude. But what has this or any other department of the government done to put an end to the bloody crime of lynching, which certainly violates that section of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution requiring that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”? What has it done about the poll tax and other devices to disfranchise the Negroes in the South, all of which technically evade but plainly violate the first section of the fifteenth amendment which reads: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state, on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude”?
What can be expected after the “war for democracy” of a government
which refuses during that war to enforce its own laws for the
democratic rights of the Negro people? Will such a government, after
the “war for democracy” is won, be likely or willing to pass additional
laws benefitting the Negro? And if it does, will such laws be worth the
paper they are printed on?
But the capitalist plans for the Negro in the future are most glaringly highlighted by the government’s treatment of the Negro in the armed forces today. It is not necessary to recount the whole story of that treatment in this place.  Every Negro family is already too well acquainted with the details. But our discussion requires that we at least outline the pattern employed in the armed forces.
In 1940, with US entry into the war growing imminent, leading Negro organizations appealed to Roosevelt to drop the Jim Crow bars that excluded Negroes from most branches of the armed forces and confined them to segregated regiments in the army and kitchen duty in the navy. Shortly before the presidential election that year, Roosevelt answered the protests by stating:
“This policy (not to intermingle colored and white) has proved satisfactory over a long period of years, and to make changes would produce situations destructive to morale and detrimental to the preparations for national defense.”
And although this policy violates Section 4(a) of the 1940 Draft Act which prohibits “discrimination against any person on account of race or color,” it has been rigidly adhered to ever since, and applied to every Negro volunteer and draftee.
Protests and the needs of the armed forces compelled the military authorities to admit Negroes into many branches previously closed to them. But always, and under all circumstances, this was done on a strictly segregated basis. Negroes were permitted (a handful, anyhow) to enter the Army air force, but only after an all-Negro squadron and a separate and, needless to say, inferior training center had been established. They were permitted to enter the Navy in some non-kitchen servant capacities, but only after arrangements had been made to segregate them in small shore patrol ships and labor battalions in which they could not become commissioned officers. Similarly they were accepted into the Coast Guard and the Marines in separate all-Negro bodies. Negroes are permitted to take officer training — a grand total of 1,200 during the first 17 months of the war! — but only with the understanding that they will not be allowed to command any white soldiers, although naturally with such a small number of Negro officers for such a large number of Negro soldiers, there will have to be and are many white officers in command of Negroes.
To change this “satisfactory” setup in the armed forces, says Roosevelt, “would produce situations destructive to morale.” He does not say whose morale.  But it is not hard to guess that he means primarily the morale of Southern ruling class opinion. To protect Southern bias, therefore, the military authorities try to spread anti-Negro prejudices among hundreds of thousands of non-Southern white youth in uniform, many of whom went to school with Negroes and were taught to regard them as equals. To prevent “situations destructive to morale,” the military authorities export their prejudices to Great Britain, where the people greeted American Negro soldiers in the most friendly and comradely manner until they were ordered to desist in the interest of not hurting the feelings of bigoted US Army officers and soldiers.
But the utter hypocrisy of Roosevelt’s explanation for segregating Negroes in the armed forces has been bared most conclusively by his reaction to a very reasonable request made by several liberal and Negro organizations representing at least a million people. Very well, they said in effect, you don’t want to end segregation in the armed forces and we won’t press you on that; but why don’t you at least permit the formation of a single mixed division, which would be made up of white and Negro soldiers volunteering to serve in it? It is hard to see how anyone could argue against creation of such a division on the ground that it would produce situations harmful to morale; being made up of volunteers who would want to show that it is possible for Negroes and white to collaborate amicably and fruitfully, it would probably have the highest morale in the armed forces. Precisely for this reason Roosevelt not only refused to act on the mixed division petitions delivered to him — he even refused to comment on them.
This incident, and many others like it, indicate that what Roosevelt and the government are upholding is not morale but anti-Negro prejudice and the predominant Southern technique for keeping the Negro “in his (separate) place.” This is upheld in the armed forces because the Southern rulers fear, in the words of a resolution of the Socialist Workers Party, “that no Negro trained to handle a gun would peacefully go back to the old life of discrimination, segregation, disfranchisement and insult, after training in an army where he was treated as an equal with white soldiers.” But the logic of segregation is such that once adopted as a policy for the armed forces there is nothing to stop it from being extended to all the major and minor organs and institutions of society. This is precisely what the enemies of the Negroes want and are striving for.
The issue of segregation is in many respects the most important one facing the Negro today. It is the last and strongest line of defense of those who want to keep the Negro down, the stronghold from which a thousands types of discrimination can be launched. Yet the only Negro member of Congress, William L. Dawson, who like his colleagues Rankin and Bilbo believes in the greater glory of the Democratic Party, and who claims to be a representative of the Negro people not only in Chicago but in the whole United States, recently declared that such issues as segregation “fade into insignificance in the light of the bigger questions raised by this war. America’s enemies now are the foes of all minorities.” (PM, April 23, 1943.)
But flag-waving won’t solve the problems of the Negro people and it won’t change the mind of a single one of their enemies. For on this one issue there is a remarkable unanimity among all leaders of Southern ruling class thought — both openly reactionary and “liberal.” The demagogues like Rankin, Talmadge and Dixon rave and rant and threaten civil war at the very prospect of any breaches in the wall of segregation; they don’t like it but they don’t object too strenuously when Negroes in the South get jobs which were always closed to them before because this helps to win the war which they believe is being fought to save “the white man’s civilization”; but they declare their readiness even to secede from the Democratic Party when there is talk of ending or altering the system of segregation. The “Southern liberals” show their real colors when this problem is raised, as the publisher Mark Ethridge did when he warned that
“There is no power in the world — not even in all the mechanized armies of the earth, Allied or Axis — which could force the Southern white people to the abandonment of the principle of social segregation.” (July 1942)
And in April 1943 when more than 100 white “Southern liberals” met in Atlanta to discuss a program for Negro-white relations, they expressed the same idea although much more hypocritically when they stated:
“The only justification offered for those laws which have for their purpose the separation of the races is that they are intended to minister to the welfare and the integrity of both races.”
To minister to the welfare and the integrity of both races is truly a noble aim, and no doubt explains why every outspoken enemy of the Negro people is so determined to uphold the segregation laws and practices!
The truth is that all Southern capitalists and their “liberal” agents stand so firmly on this issue because once segregation is ended, all else is lost for the oppressors of the Negro people. Once the wall separating them is removed, the Negroes and poor whites will see that their interests are the same and they will unite their forces to better their common conditions. And conversely, if the barrier of segregation can be maintained for the duration of the war, then the Negro-haters will be able to use it to extend and intensify their oppression and to take back whatever the Negroes have gained during the war. For the very basis of segregation is the myth of “white supremacy” — just as the basis of the persecution of the Jews in Europe is the myth of “Nordic superiority” — and so long as that myth can be preserved, the Negro will be unable to make permanent gains.
The government does more than its share to uphold this myth. Why should Negroes be segregated in the armed forces and not in federal housing projects? There is no logic in that, so — a little pressure from the Southern congressmen, and Negroes are segregated in these projects even in Northern communities. But why in housing projects and nowhere else? The poison of bi-racialism spreads further through the government apparatus and by way of that into all spheres of economic, political and social life. Uncle Toms like F.D. Patterson of Tuskegee Institute hail the government when, for example, it opens the air force to Negroes on a segregated basis, declaring that this is “a definite improvement” in the conditions of the Negro people. These people fail to see, or at any rate to admit, that such “improvement” is comparable to the government striking off a few links in the chain binding the Negroes only to surround him with another prison wall. But every thoughtful Negro sees in these developments the intention of their enemies, with the approval of the government, to establish a strongly enforced and far-reaching system of segregation which will freeze the Negro into a permanent position of second class citizenship. To fully estimate the Negro’s status in post-war America, one must also understand the economic and political direction in which American capitalism is moving. In a recent pamphlet  we summed up the process as follows:
“The United States is the richest, most powerful capitalist country in the world. But no more than the others has it been able to escape the processes of decay which are inherent in capitalism and are developing ever more rapidly in this period. As in . the other capitalist nations, here too greater and greater power and wealth are accumulated in the hands of the monopoly corporations and heavier restrictions are set on the rights of the masses.
“In its youth capitalism was able to grant concessions: democratic liberties to certain sections of the masses, and slightly higher wages to the more skilled layers of the working class. Today, capitalism is in its death agony. To exist, it must snatch back the few concessions it was able to give in the past; it must depress the living standards of all the workers; it must destroy the democratic rights of all the masses. No capitalist nation in the epoch of imperialism is immune from this process which is speeded up in wartime but was in operation before the war and will not be eliminated after the war if the capitalists remain in power. The United States capitalists follow in the footsteps of their German brothers, although at a different tempo.
“Keeping in mind this background, Negroes will best be able to appreciate what capitalism in this country has to offer them. When the trend is toward the destruction of all democratic rights, when more regimentation is in store for the masses as a whole, Negroes have little to hope for from the capitalist system. When the employers are trying to take away the few democratic rights of the white workers, there is little chance that they will willingly extend new rights to the Negroes. The events of the last decade clearly indicate that under capitalism the prospect is not for Negroes to be raised to the status of the white workers but rather for the white workers to be driven down to the status of the Negroes. And once fascist reaction triumphs, the Negro’s status may become even more intolerable than it is today. Negroes can learn from the fate of the Jews in Europe, who made some gains during the period of capitalism’s rise only to be forcibly deprived of them when capitalism assumed the political form of fascism. Like the Jewish scapegoat in Germany, the Negro may face deportation, loss of whatever citizenship rights he now possesses, mass slaughter and extermination.”
Fortunately there is another perspective, the perspective of the socialist revolution and the establishment of a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government which will, as the Bolsheviks did in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Trotsky, not only destroy the economic cause of race discrimination but will also adopt and enforce legislation guaranteeing full equality to the Negro people and all other minorities.
It is in the light of this perspective that we can see that the Negro has made some genuine gains in recent years, gains which have a permanent character and cannot be erased at the mere command of the capitalists. These gains are in the trade union movement. More Negroes belong and there is a greater understanding of the need for Negro-white solidarity in the unions than ever before. What the white trade unionists have learned about the heroism and sacrifices of their black brothers in building the unions and what the Negro unionists have learned about the need for allying themselves with the labor movement will make possible the speedier entry of the unions into the political struggle against capitalism and for the creation of a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government. In the unions and through the unions, in and through the revolutionary party, the Negro masses will be able to meet and defeat the challenge of their enemies in the post-war world.
Unlike most other people and groups who discuss postwar problems, the Trotskyist aim is not to divert attention away from current needs, but on the contrary to show by what capitalism offers after the war the need for struggling against capitalism and all its works today. Unlike the Dawsons, the Pattersons and the Stalinists, we seek to show the Negroes that they must not be lulled into passivity and acquiescence by seeming but actually non-existent “progress.” We try to show the Negroes what fundamental achievements must be won if they are to make permanent advances on the road to equality. That is our contribution to the discussion on the Negro’s future in a capitalist world: to show the masses what lies ahead and to summon them to the struggle for emancipation today.
1. Just what the Negro thinks about this question has been demonstrated in the polls of the Pittsburgh Courier’s Bureau of Public Sentiment, the most reliable and thorough index of Negro opinion In this country.
On October 24, 1942 it asked: “Do you believe that the Negro should soft-pedal his demands for complete freedom and citizenship and await the development of the educational process?” The answers were:
One year after US entry into the war the Bureau asked: “Have you been convinced that the statements which our national leaders have made about freedom and equality for all peoples include the American Negro?” The answers, printed on Dec. 19, 1942 were:
Even before these surveys were taken, the government itself conducted one. Officials apparently found the results so devastating that the findings of the survey have never been made public to this day. But a newspaperman found out about some of the facts and revealed them in the June 14, 1942 issue of the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune and Star Journal. In part he wrote:
“A government survey which is regarded as a secret document, has uncovered the information that 38% of the Negroes questioned believe it is more important to ‘make democracy work at home’ than it is to beat the Germans and Japanese ...
“Only 50.5% of the Negroes questioned regard beating the Germans and Japanese as more important than ‘making democracy work at home.’
“That phrase has a diverse meaning ... Essentially, and to most Negroes, it means the elimination of economic discrimination, the right to work and live in decency; to others it means the elimination of segregation, and to still others complete race equality.”
As we wrote at the time:
“We are not in a position to check on the accuracy of figures in a report which is kept secret. Nor do we know what kind of people were questioned in this survey — what proportion, for example, were government employees and what proportion were in the South where a Negro worker or sharecropper might be putting his life in jeopardy by stating his true opinion. But we can take it for granted that if there was any exaggeration in it, it was all on the side of making things seem as rosy and cheerful as possible.”
2. That has been done briefly but most adequately in a 5-cent pamphlet, The War’s Greatest Scandal: The Story of Jim Crow In Uniform, issued by the March-On-Washington Movement, 2084 Seventh Ave., New York, April, 1943.
3. “What the Negro people feel about such segregationist policies is shown by their answer to the Pittsburgh Courier’s poll of February 20, 1943. The question was: “Do you believe the Negro should fight against segregation even when it is the accepted ‘pattern of the community’?” The answers:
Even in the South the answer from 88.6% of those questioned was yes.
4. The Struggle for Negro Equality by John Saunders and Albert Parker, Pioneer Pubishers, June 1943, five cents.
Last updated: 30.1.2006