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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

Negro History Week

(2 February 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 5, 2 February 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This year Negro History Week begins Feb. 8. Its purpose is to encourage understanding and study of the history of the Negro people and thus to sweep away the lies and slanders which have the same function as restrictive covenants and Jim Crow cars – to maintain racial oppression and exploitation. In line with that purpose, we will try here to draw some conclusions from those aspects of American Negro history; which seem most significant to us.

What is the real Negro tradition in this country? It is the tradition of long, continuous, never-ending struggle against oppression, waged under the most difficult conditions and carried on with militancy and self-sacrifice. This fight has been going on ever since the first Negro stepped onto American soil; it never stopped during more than two centuries of slavery, and it is still going on after 80 years of “second-citizenship.”

This resistance movement assumed different forms, depending on prevailing conditions – slave insurrections, individual rebellions, escape through the Underground Railway, participation in the abolitionist movement, service in the Northern Army, sabotage and arson in the South, support to the glorious Re-construction effort, creation of Negro organizations, active work and leadership in progressive political and labor movements, picket lines to win jobs, armed defense against lynch mobs, bitter skirmishes against Jim Crow in the armed forces, mass movements to win the right to vote, campaigns for progressive legislation. How many groups in the world have, a finer or richer record of combat against oppression? Not many that we know of.

In some of these struggles the Negro people had powerful allies fighting at their side, in others they had to fight alone. The important thing to note is that when they had to stand alone, and fought just the same, they succeeded in arousing and inspiring and winning over those other enemies of the ruling class who had not previously realized their kinship with the Negro people. To mention only two examples: the slave insurrections at the beginning of the 19th century gave a strong impetus to the birth and growth of abolitionist sentiment in the North; and in our own time the Negro struggle against lynching, the poll tax and job discrimination have awakened the trade union movement to their own responsibility to fight against these things.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from this. Whatever progress the Negro people made in the past was due, in the first place, to their own organized efforts; whatever progress they make in the future will be due to the same. Equality will not be handed to them on a silver platter; they have to fight for it themselves.

The final victory against Jim Crow cannot be won by the Negro people alone. But it cannot be won at all unless the Negro people show the same readiness to fight and die for freedom that their forefathers did. The harder they fight, the sooner they will receive the necessary support and reinforcements from the organized labor movement.

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Last updated: 2 October 2020