Critical Edition: The Crisis
The early 1900’s were years of serious turmoil in the African American community in the United States, due to social injustice, governmental control, racism and the overlaying existence of white supremacy. Leaders of the black community such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois preached to blacks to guide them around the hateful society that they were forced into. In 1903 W.E.B DuBois published “The Souls of Black Folk,” where he examined a ‘twoness’ in the black individual: a tension between identifying with African heritage and American citizenship (or lack thereof). In this piece he also challenged Washington’s philosophical views, stressing importance of higher education, while Washington supported the movement of acceptance towards the African American’s role as an industrial worker for the white man. Washington emphasized survival in this time, noting that the best way for blacks to advance in the U.S at this time was through manual labor. DuBois saw this as similar to the slave state, and responded by pushing for the black community to be seen as intellectually equal. In 1906 DuBois helped to establish the Niagara Movement, “an organization dedicated to civil justice and the abolishment of caste discrimination in America.” (Hayes, 24). During this time he also started The Crisis Magazine. The first issue was published in 1910, and the magazine would prove to be his means to enlightening the country on the horrors, as well as progresses experienced by African Americans during this time. As Kecia Hayes says in “Bring in da Noise, Bring in DuBois,” an essay exploring the effects DuBois had on the education system for African Americans, “DuBois dedicated his scholarship and efforts not only to the documentation of the social condition of African Americans, but also to sociopolitical agitation for a transformation of the community’s position in society.” (Hayes, 22.)
Not only was this a large step in educating the black community and providing a beacon for their chronic struggle, it was also the beginning of African American involvement in the press. Although DuBois’s Crisis was directed to a more educated audience, it grew quickly, eventually reaching 60,000 subscribers in the 20’s. It was different from magazines like The Guardian, which began in 1901 through editor William Monroe Trotter. The Guardian was described as “one of the most poorly-written Negro sheets in America’ (Digby-Junder, 265). Although radical thought was being voiced and heard by the black community, magazines like The Guardian were not seen as legitimate as The Crisis; which reached more intellectual readers, and was recognized by the white community as a threat. The Crisis was so threatening to whites that DuBois once received a letter from a man who was eager to serve DuBois as an ‘agent,’ however was reluctant at the same time due to the fact that blacks were often beaten or lynched for distributing the Crisis (Digby-Junger, 266). This however was indicative of the impact that black participation in the press made on society.
Crisis issues consisted of social updates concerning the advancement of African Americans as well as the continually experienced suppression. Often times there would be advertisements for books published by black authors or teaching jobs opening at black schools to spread awareness of African American progress. The Crisis was different in appearance than other radical magazines at the time, not only because its level of intellect, but also because it usually included images of mulattos rather than darker skinned African Americans. DuBois hired Marie Dunlap Maclean, a New York Times feature reporter, who re-styled the Crisis into an attractive 20th century magazine. With an attractive structure, The Crisis, as DuBois said, was “First and foremost…a newspaper…”(Digby-Junger, 269), however it was also renowned for its literature, which became a main focus eventually. Jessie Faucet, a light skinned Cornell English Major became the Crisis’s first fiction editor, and “even convinced DuBois to locate fiction before his editorials…” (Digby-Junger, 270). With illustrations, images of the African American community, updates of social injustice and progress, productive advertisements encouraging involvement, and affective literary prose, the Crisis Magazine was a crucial factor in the rise of the African American voice and society’s recognition of race equality.
What The Crisis provided for the African American community during the beginning of the 1900’s was not only a voice maintained by passionate activists, it was a checkpoint in history that can be referred to in any social turmoil experienced now and in the future. By not only explaining what has progressed in the African American struggle, but also what remains problematic in the struggle for equality, The Crisis provided both hope and clarity. Some people today create “D.I.Y” magazines of personal prose, poems, social commentaries and illustrations, usually pertaining to radical thought. They mimic the frame that The Crisis made in the early 1900s. The history of America is marked by its presence, the magazine provides a timeline of the African American struggle in the 1900’s. Its importance historically can also be found in the U.S’s current proximity to many of the addressed issues, such as African American education and white supremacy.
The Crisis October issue of 1914
“Lynch, John R. (Roy).” Encyclopedia of African-american Writing. Ed. Shari Dorantes Hatch. Amenia: Grey House Publishing, 2009. Credo Reference. Web. 29 Oct 2015.
John R Lynch was born into slavery eventually freed in 1863 by the army. Deprived of any formal education, Lynch taught himself how to read and write and after the war pursued his passion for photography. Despite the setbacks of slavery and lack of education Lynch become “a Justice of the Peace, the first African-American Speaker of the House in Mississippi, then one of the first African-American members of the U.S House of Representatives (at age 26). Each of his three Congressional elections was contested, then he lost his fourth bid to Congress by 600 votes.” In the 1870’s he gained a considerable amount of attention through his speeches most of which unfortunately are no longer in print (but still accessible). In 1877 he wrote The Last Election in Mississippi before he married Ella Somerville. They divorced after having a daughter and he pursued life as a farmer. He then grew interested in law, passing the Mississippi bar exam and then participated in the Spanish American War. His military service continued in 1901, when “Lynch joined the U.S. Army, from which he retired in 1911. That year, he married Cora Williams, and the couple moved to Chicago, where he practiced law and earned money from real estate.” In the October 1914 issue of the Crussis B.G Brawley mentions one of Lynch’s points in his book “Facts of Reconstruction” , where he discusses the role of blacks in Mississippi’s legislation, which was clearly stifled by a racist majority. He says that they spoke on the grounds of preparing schools for colored people; clearly an important topic for Lynch as he was not only stifled by the white man through slavery but also never received an education. His self improving persistence lead him to spread his word through law and through literature, portraying the struggles of reconstruction systematically in his book. This legitimizes Brawley’s complaints with historical and literary context.
Ions, Peter. Guitton, Stephanie. “Eugenics, Race, and Marriage.” Facing History and Ourselves. Ed. Peter Ions and Stephanie Guitton. Facing History and Ourselves., 1993. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
Although anti-miscegenation had been around since colonial times, during the period of reconstruction and early 20th century a large focus was taken on the intermarriage of blacks and whites. “By the late 1800s, 38 states had anti-miscegenation statutes.” Through social and political regulations the marriage of whites and blacks was not only prohibited and punishable, but was also frowned upon by the racist society. Most of the southern states had definitions of ‘Negro’ in order to avoid confusion with mulattos, however none of their definitions are consistent: “In Mississippi, Mongolian-White marriages are illegal and void, while in North Carolina they are permitted. . . . In Arkansas, a Negro is defined as any person who has in his or her veins “any Negro blood whatever”; in Florida, one ceases to be a Negro when he has less than “one-eighth of African or Negro blood,” and in Oklahoma, anyone not of the “African descent” is miraculously transmuted into a member of the white race.” The argument against allowing the intermarriage of races was inaccurately portrayed through eugenics, which were based on ideals reflecting white superiority. “They argued that interracial relationships are “dysgenic unions” in which “the superior group (whites) risks polluting their germ plasm with inferior hereditary traits.” This text reflects the ‘social equality section of the crisis where Mecklin’s “Democracy and Race Friction” is explored. This excerpt shows the exact same ignorance and arrogance displayed by hateful insecure men that saw the African American as sex crazed and unable to love.
“Dr. Eugene Fischer.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
Dr. Eugene Fischer and other genetic elitists were in part responsible for some of the anti miscegenation in this era, as his article is reviewed in the 1914 October Crisis edition by Robert Lowie. Fischer was the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, human Heredity, and Eugenics. During the years from 1927-1942 Fischer wrote about his study of the “Mischlinge (racially mixed) children of Dutch men and Hottentot women in German southwest Africa.” He believed that the demise of European culture would find its beginnings in the mixing of white and black blood; suggesting that the blood of African Americans would taint the superior blood of whites, thus creating an insufficient generation. Quite predictably Fischer pursued his corruption of white supremacy by participating in the education of Nazi SS Guards. He continued to preach about the dangers of interracial relations leading to birth of mixed babies, extending it to Jewish and non Jewish partners. Fischer retired in 1942 as Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics. After the war he worked to secure university teaching positions for many of his former students (including Otmar von Verschuer).
Berenbaum, Michael. The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed, and the Reexamined. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1998. 116-125. Print.
More on Fischer and a detailed account of his studies. Fischer’s “Bastard Studies” as he called them were published in 1913 based on an anthropological study conducted in 1908 in German South West Africa. 310 members of what he called “Rehoboth Bastards”, offspring of white German fathers and Black mothers were experimented in what is present day Namibia. using geneological sources, eye and hair charts, as well as head and body measurements, he set out to determine whether or not interbreeding races with create an alternate race. He then sought to find what characteristics are dominant and superior. He found that the fertility of mixed race babies was defective, strictly advising not to have interracial relationships as he said: “…each eurpoean people that has assimilated the blood of inferior races has paid for this absorption of inferior elements by intellectual, spiritual, and cultural decline…Only one thing matters to the patriot anthropologist; not whether Mischlinge are born, but that they remain native at all costs.”. He continues:
“So accord them just the measure of protection they require as a race which is inferior to us, in order to continue their existence, nothing more: and only as long as they are of use to us. Otherwise, survival of the fittest, that is, to my mind, in this case, extinction. This point of view sounds almost brutally egotistical, but whoever thinks through thoroughly the notion of race cannot arrive at a different conclusion.”
The extinction of what Fischer deems as ‘inferior’ people is called in this excerpt. The holocaust may find its roots in such ideas. He even admits that he is brutally egotistical, and it is ridiculous to close his argument with such ignorant confidence; as most African Americans who are forced only to think about race constantly, given the condition of their Nation, would likely arrive at various different other conclusions.
“Oliver Cromwell.” African American History. Oliver Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell History Society. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
Oliver Cromwell was a decorated black soldier who fought under George Washington in the War for Independence . “He was born a freeman in Black Horse, present day Columbus in Mansfield Township , on May 24, 1752.” Oliver Cromwell began his military service when he joined the 2nd New Jersey Regiment under the command of Colonel Israel Shreve during the Revolutionary War. He received high praise for his military discipline, superior personal conduct, strong physical abilities, his dedication and sacrifice.” He joined Washington during the war in New York, eventually making their way through New Jersey to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania . He later participated in the battles of Trenton and Princeton as well as the battles of Brandywine, Monmouth and Yorktown. George Washington signed his discharge papers in 1783 after he had served 7 years as an army drummer. “The Badge of Merit was awarded to Cromwell for his outstanding dedication and service. After his discharge, he established residence at 114 E. Union Street in the city of Burlington , New Jersey . Mr. Cromwell attended the Broad Street United Methodist Church . He died in 1853 at the age of 100 and he is buried in the Broad Street Methodist Church cemetery.” The colored women of Princeton constructed a tablet in dedication of Oliver Cromwell as mentioned in the 1914 October edition of the Crisis magazine, a further background of his military influence will help the reader understand why the women were being acknowledged.
“Fisk Jubilee Singers.” – Our History. Fisk University, 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
In 1866 Nashville’s Fisk University opened as the “first American university to offer a liberal arts education to ‘young men and women irrespective of color.’” By 1871 the school was facing serious financial struggle George L.White started the Fisk Jubilee Singers at this point to raise money for the school; touring neighboring areas with the “nine-membered choral ensemble”. The day they departed Fisk on their tour is remembered as Jubilee Day, celebrated annually on October 6. The reason this detail gives a special insight into this edition lies within a small detail in the section about Howard University. Describing the decorations of the University, a picture of the Fisk Jubilee singers is included noting that it inspires the students. It is important to know the impact of music at this time, not only as an art but also as a means of advancement. They were able to maintain Fisk University.They continued to fund their education with the profits from this group and in the same year played a concert that raised 50$ to the Chicago Fire victims. “In 1872 they sang at the World Peace Festival in Boston and at the end of the year President Ulysses S. Grant invited them to perform at the White House.” Education is important to the African American community at this point in time; crucial to their existence and advancement in society. Through the Fisk Jubilee Singers a black community was not only able to maintain its University, but funds were donated to those suffering, it was known what greatness can come out of working against society’s barriers.
Rucker, Walter. “‘A Negro Nation Within The Nation’: W.E.B. Dubois And The Creation Of A Revolutionary Pan-Africanist Tradition, 1903-1947.” Black Scholar 32.3/4 (2002): 37. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
In 1935 W.E.B Du Bois wrote “A Negro Nation Within the Nation”, describing “decades of frustration in his long standing battle against white supremacy, racism and imperialism.” The continual disenfranchisement of the African American race showed through lynching, “systematic denial of education to black youth, disenfranchisement, various economic distresses and Jim Crow segregation.” Feeling inadequate and defeated, Du Bois was seeing that although the NAACP had a strong presence, barely anything had changed in America. At this time around 1934 when Du Bois became “disillusioned with the NAACP”, he began the series of editorials in The Crisis that advocated segregation. Through segregation Du Bois found that the black community would gain economic cooperation, “organize self defense initiatives against white repression, and build pride and self confidence…”. In the October 1914 issue of the Crisis Du Bois includes an editorial called “Must be less talk of racial friction”, where he advises African Americans to stop fighting the ideas of segregation. Du Bois writes, “Quit thinking of the parts of the cities you can’t live in, but begin to beautify that part in which you can live,” he advised in discussing segregation laws recently enacted in several cities.” It is important to know that this perspective was new and a result of continuously failed efforts for racial equality.
Howard University.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition (2015): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
Howard University was one of the first schools without racial limitations to be funded by the American government. Founded in 1867 by General Oliver O. Howard of the Freedmen’s Bureau, to provide education for newly emancipated slaves. The departments of education in the university expanded in 1868 with a department of law, pharmacy, and medicine, “followed by the theological (1871), dentistry (1882), music (1883), and engineering and architecture (1910) departments.”. It eventually added a school of fine arts, nursing, business, public administration and social work. It was predominantly populated by black students however was open to all, showing early signs of integrated schools. The description of this University in the Crisis (October 1914) is hopeful and inspiring, stressing the importance of educating African Americans. In order to understand the foundation that created such a university is crucial in understanding its context at the time; including the idealized description of Howard University possibly gave young aspiring students hope and motivation. Again, the fact that it was not a “black” school is also important for the time, paving the way for equal and fair education rights and establishments.
Ravitch, Diane. “A Different Kind Of Education For Black Children.” Journal Of Blacks In Higher Education 30 (2001): 98-106. ERIC. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
After the Civil War only 58% of black children ages 6-14 attended a bare minimum education. High schools were rare due to the fact that most black children did not remain in school after fifth grade. Compared to the 1268 white public high schools in the South there were only 64 for blacks which could barely be defined as schools due to the severely poor conditions.Thomas Jesse Jones’s report including information on the state of schools describes black schools as, “abysmal both in quantity and quality.” Blacks were not able to have state or local school boards because they didn’t have the right to vote, which was partially why they were so underfunded. They were also underfunded because the state money allocated to public education was not split evenly between black and white schools. Per capita, six to 12 times more money was spent on white students than blacks. “Many black schools were ill equipped, ramshackled, and filthy…it was not uncommon to find pupils who walk 6 or 7 miles to attend school.” When even the bare minimum of a structure to learn inside of, a shelter, was not available in some communities far away they would seek out abandoned churches, houses and other buildings to establish schools.
Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt. “The Freedmen’s Bureau.” Freedmen’s Bureau (2009): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
Du Bois gives us his own abstract of this work in the beginning, writing: “It is the aim of this essay to study the Freedmen’s Bureau,–the occasion of its rise, the character of its work, and its final success and failure,–not only as a part of American history, but above all as one of the most singular and interesting of the attempts made by a great nation to grapple with vast problems of race and social condition singular and interesting of the attempts made by a great nation to grapple with vast problems of race and social condition.” There was a period of turmoil before The Bureau was set up where many blacks out of work suffered, and those who did have work squandered their money. In this time the creation of several bureaus were attempting to systematically help African Americans transition from slavery to mild citizenship, however they were mostly inadequate. Du Bois saw the Freedman’s Bureau to be detrimental to the African American community as he writes, “Two of these arguments were unanswered, and indeed unanswerable: the one that the extraordinary powers of the Bureau threatened the civil rights of all citizens; and the other that the government must have power to do what manifestly must be done, and that present abandonment of the freedmen meant their practical enslavement.” It is important to have this knowledge when reading the 1914 October edition of The Crisis because much is mentioned about the struggle or charity offered to freedmen, especially with their education. Mrs. Lucy E. Case is mentioned in this edition and praised for her participation in educated freedmen. The actual government Act did not help the black race as much as it was designed to.
“Freedman’s Bureau Act Of 1865.” Freedman’s Bureau Act Of 1865 (2009): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
This is the document of the Freedman’s Bureau Act which was a department set up by the government in order to aid the refugees of slavery and the vast population of disenfranchised African Americans. Dubois questioned its legitimacy and said that its plan only served to create an extension of slavery; as the money was divided by commissioners in the government rather than the African American population. Those details are lined out in this document, which will serve to further explain neglect by the American government as well as provide a footnote.
Capshaw, Katharine. “The Emblematic Black Child.” Children’s Literature of the Harlem Renaissance. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004. 18-19. Print.
This source gives a bit of an insight into what Capshaw calls ‘maternal sorrow songs’, which is exactly what Moten’s “Lullabye” is in this issue of the crisis. These songs reflect the image of maternity towards a doomed infant, fated to a world of suffering. The mother suffers knowing her child’s bleak fate, and the child must suffer as well to breing out this fate. Often times these pieces show a mother crying and singing to a sleeping infant. In Lullabye, the speaker even admits to not being able to protect her child from the prejudice that he or she will experience, completely dimishing her ability to act through maternal instinct. The protected domestic sphere, as Capshaw explains, is retorted by this style of prose and poetry, as the mother no longer can offer safety to her child, even at home. This can be used as a footnote as well as a further explanation towards constant white supremacy and its affects on a society on the domestic level.
McKibbin, Molly Littlewood. (2014). The Current State of Multiracial Discourse. Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies. Dec. 2015.
Early scholarship and ongoing advocacy have made claims about how multiraciality will bring about the breakdown of race. For instance, foundational scholar Naomi Zack argues that “the facts of racial mixture, namely the existence of individuals of mixed race, undermine the very notion of race, which presupposes racial ‘purity.’After all, racial mixture does not necessarily dissolve ideas about distinct races or pure races. To borrow Spenser’s use of color as an analogy, green does not make yellow or blue disappear. The only thing green really challenges is a belief that yellow and blue cannot be mixed. It only makes sense to claim that multiraciality challenges existing race concepts if it is believed that the races cannot be crossed—and this would seem a rather groundless charge to make since even white supremacists have argued for centuries that mixture is an abomination, not that it is impossible. New generations are being raised with an awareness of non-normative sex, gender, sexuality, nationality, and race and they consequently come to consider identity of any kind to be more flexible and transitory than had earlier generations. Ultimately, if multiraciality or blackness is not considered in relation to and as affecting whiteness, but is instead considered an issue of one’s relatedness to or understanding of blackness, whiteness remains unaltered.
Digby-Junger, Richard. “The Guardian , Crisis , Messenger , And Negro World : The Early-20Th-Century Black Radical Press.” Howard Journal Of Communications 9.3 (1998): 263-282. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
For the introduction to The Crisis, this source puts its historical significance in context and compares it to other magazines. It mentions the magazine’s origins, DuBois’s beginnings in starting The Crisis, as well as information on which audiences were reached and how the nation perceived the African American press.
U.S Department of Education. “African Americans and Education.” Fact Sheet. NAACP, 2008. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
Provides statistics on Education in 2006-2007, comparing students racially and based on financial background. The numbers show that African American students are less likely to graduate, less likely to become employed after graduating, and are more often concentrated in impoverished areas with lacking educational systems.
Hansberry, Lorraine. “The Scars Of The Ghetto.” Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine 67.1 (2015): 32-35. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
The Scars of the Ghetto is an ideal document when examining the growth of the African American educational system and the social stigmas around it. Hansberry is able to show that despite the common thought that ‘things just worked out that way’, there is clearly an underlying issue that has kept the African American education inferior to that of whites. She examines policy issues, as well as social constructions used to defend the corruption in our modern day educational system, specifically focusing on impoverished areas.
Fultz, Michael. “African-American Teachers in the South, 1890-1940: Growth, Feminization, and Salary Discrimination Teachers College Record Volume 96 Number 3, 1995, p. 544-568.
Predominant source for education statistics and an account of African American Education during 1890-1940. Salaries for black teachers during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were described as “a mere pittance miscalled salary” or “hardly plow hand wages.” (Fultz, 553). Furthermore, the schools were dilapidated and filthy, lacking the most basic supplies. Often times young black students would have to walk five to ten miles in order to attend the ‘school’ that was closest to them. Part of the issue was that most of the money given to black schools was only enough to pay the teacher, close to minimum wage, if not less. Therefore, it is clear that through this disenfranchisement, and the inequality of allocated money, the black schools were unable, not incapable, to change or improve. With no money to train teachers, buy supplies, or even have a stable structure to learn in, the black education system was bare and inadequate. Indeed, this was more evident in the South rather than the north, as Fultz quotes Charles S. Johnson: “counties which raise cotton are dominated by in socially as well as economically.”
- 272: Dr. John P. Turner was the only African American member of the Philadelphia Board of Education at the time. He successfully handled the ringworm epidemic in schools and homes, further dedicating his life “to give the Negro a new hope, a new vision, to aid him to reduce his mortality through the consciousness that he must not have consumption just because he is a Negro.” (Braithwaite, 26)
- 274: The Freedmen’s Aid Society was one of scores of freedmen’s aid and relief organizations formed by religious and secular groups as the war ended and the Reconstruction period began. incorporated in 1870, became the Board of Education for Negroes of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1920. It owned the property where all of its institutions were located, and eventually the property of all the surviving organizations was deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church. (Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt- “The Freedmen’s Bureau”)
- 276: Freedman’s Bureau Act 1865; “The said bureau shall be under the management and control of a commissioner to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, whose compensation shall be three thousand dollars per annum, and such number of clerks as may be assigned to him by the Secretary of War, no exceeding one chief clerk, two of the fourth class, two of the third class, and five of the first class. And the Commissioner and all persons appointed under this act, shall, before entering upon their duties, take the oath of office prescribed in an act entitled ‘An act to prescribe an oath of office, and for other purposes,’ approved July second, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, and the commissioner and the chief clerk shall, before entering upon their duties, give bonds to the treasurer of the United States, the former in the sum of fifty thousand dollars, and the latter in the sum of ten thousand dollars, conditioned for the faithful discharge of their duties respectively, with securities to be approved as sufficient by the Attorney-General, which bonds shall be filed in the office of the first comptroller of the treasury, to be by him put in suit for the benefit of any injured party upon any breach of the conditions thereof.” (Freedman’s Bureau Act Of 1865. Freedman’s Bureau Act Of 1865 (2009): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.)
- 279: Peaceful Segregation- DuBois would eventually share Washington’s sentiment, around 1934 when Du Bois became “disillusioned with the NAACP”, he began the series of editorials in The Crisis that advocated segregation. (Rucker, Walter. “‘A Negro Nation Within The Nation’: W.E.B. Dubois And The Creation Of A Revolutionary Pan-Africanist Tradition, 1903-1947.)
- 279: Lynching- In Bryan Stevenson’s recent research on Lynching as Racial Terrorism, it was found that there were 4,000 lynchings of black people in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. The report focuses on what it describes as “racial terror lynchings,” which were used to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. Victims in these cases were often murdered without being accused of actual crimes but for minor social transgressions that included talking back to whites or insisting on fairness and basic rights. (Stevenson, N.Y Times)
- 281: Fisk Jubilee Singers- In 1866 Nashville’s Fisk University opened as the “first American university to offer a liberal arts education to ‘young men and women irrespective of color.’” By 1871 the school was facing serious financial struggle George L.White started the Fisk Jubilee Singers at this point to raise money for the school; touring neighboring areas with the “nine-membered choral ensemble”. The day they departed Fisk on their tour is remembered as Jubilee Day, celebrated annually on October 6. (Fisk University)
- 281: Howard University was one of the first schools without racial limitations to be funded by the American government. Founded in 1867 by General Oliver O. Howard of the Freedmen’s Bureau, to provide education for newly emancipated slaves. (Howard University)
- 282: John R. Lynch was born into slavery eventually freed in 1863 by the army. Deprived of any formal education, Lynch taught himself how to read and write and after the war pursued his passion for photography. Despite the setbacks of slavery and lack of education Lynch become “a Justice of the Peace, the first African-American Speaker of the House in Mississippi, then one of the first African-American members of the U.S House of Representatives (at age 26). His book, “The Facts of Reconstruction” served as an inspiring platform for many other black activists. (Hatch: Encyclopedia of African-american Writing)
- 282: Interracial Marriage- By the late 1800s, 38 states had anti-miscegenation statutes. Through social and political regulations the marriage of whites and blacks was not only prohibited and punishable, but was also frowned upon by the racist society. Most of the southern states had definitions of ‘Negro’ in order to avoid confusion with mulattos, however none of their definitions are consistent: “In Mississippi, Mongolian-White marriages are illegal and void, while in North Carolina they are permitted. . . . In Arkansas, a Negro is defined as any person who has in his or her veins ‘any Negro blood whatever’; in Florida, one ceases to be a Negro when he has less than ‘one-eighth of African or Negro blood,’ and in Oklahoma, anyone not of the ‘African descent’ is miraculously transmuted into a member of the white race.’” (Ions, Guitton.)
- 282: The Dial that Brawley wrote to was an earlier little magazine, beginning with the transcendentalist version edited by Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller (1840-44). After a 16-year lapse, the Dial was resuscitated in 1860 for a year by Moncure Conway. Then in May 1880, Francis Fisher Browne restarted the magazine for a run that lasted until 1920, when Scofield Thayer transformed the Dial into a journal of avant-garde arts and letters. (Butler, Walker – Index of Modernist Magazines).
- 282: John Mecklin- Mecklin was a white supremacist who found his arguments in the idea that interaction on a large social scale of different races will only lead to turmoil and the downfall of a nation, quite similar to Eugene Fischer. He wrote Democracy and Race Friction on the account that the racial tension in the United States was a product of the population, not the individual. (Johnson, Franklin.)
- 283: Dr. Fischer- During the years from 1927-1942 Fischer wrote about his study of the “Mischlinge (racially mixed) children of Dutch men and Hottentot women in German southwest Africa.” He believed that the demise of European culture would find its beginnings in the mixing of white and black blood; suggesting that the blood of African Americans would taint the superior blood of whites, thus creating an insufficient generation. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.) (Berenbaum, 120.)
- 284: Oliver Cromwell began his military service when he joined the 2nd New Jersey Regiment under the command of Colonel Israel Shreve during the Revolutionary War. He received high praise for his military discipline, superior personal conduct, strong physical abilities, his dedication and sacrifice.” He joined Washington during the war in New York, eventually making their way through New Jersey to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania . He later participated in the battles of Trenton and Princeton as well as the battles of Brandywine, Monmouth and Yorktown. (Oliver Cromwell History Society)
- 271/285: Federation of Women’s Clubs- Founded in 1890, the Federation of Women’s Clubs’ roots can be traced back to 1868 when Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist, attempted to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring British novelist Charles Dickens. Croly was denied admittance based upon her gender, and in response, formed a woman’s club—Sorosis. In celebration of Sorosis’ 21st anniversary in 1889, Jane Croly invited women’s clubs throughout the United States to pursue the cause of federation by attending a convention in New York City. (GFWC-Our Mission and History).
- 296: “Lullabye”- During the time of the Crisis, various ‘maternal sorrow songs’ were written mainly by mothers feeling incapable of acting through their maternal instincts due to the suppressive supremacy instilled so powerfully in their society. The central idea of these poems was the dreadful fate of young African Americans naive of this, and the cries of a sorrowful mother who cannot provide safety in this world of discrimination. Cora Moten’s “Lullabye” reassures the resting child that nothing can overpower a mother’s love, however in the second half of the poem she describes the terrible fate that the baby awaits. (Capshaw, Katherine – The Emblematic Black Child).
The sign on Oliver Cromwell’s house, a historical site in Burlington, New Jersey. Local residents organized the Oliver Cromwell Black History Society in 1984.
Image from : Kauffman, Susan. “Hidden New Jersey.” Oliver Cromwell in Burlington. 16 June 2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2015. (“Oliver Cromwell.” African American History. Oliver Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell History.)
A table showing the trends of where African American teachers are located from 1890-1940; as time passed more teachers ended up in the harsh conditions in the south, with underfunded (or not funded) schools- however the amount of African American teachers nationwide quadrupled in 50 years. (Fultz, 552.)
A photo from Dr. Eugene Fischer’s “Bastard Studies” as he called them, which were published in 1913 and based on an anthropological study conducted in 1908 in German South West Africa. 310 members of what he called “Rehoboth Bastards”, offspring of white German fathers and Black mothers, were experimented in what is present day Namibia. (Berenbaum, 116).
Image from: “Herero and Namaqua Genocide – Herero Genocide Nama Genocide.” Herero and Namaqua Genocide. Gallery Ezakwantu. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
A graph from the Equal Justice Initiative reflecting Bryan Stevenson’s research on lynchings in America. “Researchers found at least 700 more lynchings in the 12 states than were previously reported, suggesting that “racial terror lynching” was far more common than was generally believed.” (N.Y Times).
A photo of the Fisk Jubilee Singers from 1885. By this time they had gained national fame and performed at the World Peace Festival in Boston. (Winship)
A Tradition of Inequality
It can be said that the African American community was suppressed and controlled by the racist American government in most ways, however one of the most important aspects of black struggle during reconstruction and the early 1900’s was the lack of educational funding. A large part of this issue was not only triggered by the greed and hatred of white men in the south, but it was also masked through lies told by white men in order to hide the systematic disenfranchisement of African Americans. We can see in the October issue of The Crisis in an article titled, “Some More Lies,” the layout of corrupt and dishonest quotes by white men, and the response of B.G Brawley. It is also visible in the account of the mistreated college student later in the issue that the experience, even if a black student was allowed a proper education, was unfair and unjust. Education today still reflects the systematic suppression of the African American community as experienced throughout history. As Lorraine Hansberry writes in “Scars of the Ghetto,” the struggle to a sufficient education and conditions “is, as that ruling class perfectly well knows, a highly concentrated, universal, and deliberate blanket of oppression pulled tightly and securely over 20 million citizens of this country.” (Hansberry). The African American community has been subjected to corrupt policy and racism through the lacking educational system, which today remains a serious problem; statistics show large populations of African Americans in impoverished areas with less promising futures than whites.
Benjamin Griffith Brawley was born in 1882 in a relatively well-off South Carolina family. His home life reflected warmth and the importance of culture, as well as equality; his parents taught him that “all men come from common clay and that except for their own industry and integrity and the grace of god no one of them had the right to look up or down, but always across at the other” (Parker 184). His upbringing included many educational opportunities; he attended Atlanta Baptist Seminary and graduated with honors in 1901. Despite early careers in teaching at universities such as Howard University and Georgetown, he eventually felt urged to start writing as a ‘productive scholar’ to give more attention to the social injustice experienced by the black community. He became a minister, and resumed teaching at Shaw University. He was deeply religious in his roots and upbringing, and evaluated the role of religion in his time. He criticized the YMCA’s claims to Christianity, when there is no mention of Jesus in their teachings. (Parker, 188). He is the voice that contests the misleading claims made by white men in ‘Some More Lies’.
R.M Powell is quoted in the beginning of “Some More Lies”, saying that there is “no discrimination whatsoever in the amount per capita of public money” (Brawley). It is observable in the previous opinion article, titled “Segregation,” where the author mentions the imposed concentration of prostitutes towards school and church areas, as well as the concentration of blacks in Jackson ward, that indeed, per capita, public money was not distributed equally. To further prove this false claim of equality, a quote from the Columbia State, a southern white paper, reads, “”FOR EACH ONE DOLLAR OF TAX REVENUES SPENT FOR THE SCHOOLING OF A NEGRO CHILD SEVEN DOLLARS AND OVER IS EXPENDED FOR THE SCHOOLING OF A WHITE CHILD.”
These realities can more thoroughly understood with Michael Fultz’s, “ African American Teachers in the South, 1890-1940: Growth, Feminization, and Salary Discrimination,” where he discusses the funding for black schools, teachers’ salaries, school conditions, and growth trends. Salaries for black teachers during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were described as “a mere pittance miscalled salary” or “hardly plow hand wages.” (Fultz, 553). Furthermore, the schools were dilapidated and filthy, lacking the most basic supplies. Often times young black students would have to walk five to ten miles in order to attend the ‘school’ that was closest to them. Part of the issue was that most of the money given to black schools was only enough to pay the teacher, close to minimum wage, if not less. Therefore, it is clear that through this disenfranchisement, and the inequality of allocated money, the black schools were unable, not incapable, to change or improve. With no money to train teachers, buy supplies, or even have a stable structure to learn in, the black education system was bare and inadequate. Indeed, this was more evident in the South rather than the north, as Fultz quotes Charles S. Johnson: “counties which raise cotton are dominated by in socially as well as economically.” (Fultz, 560). It is then clear, when putting these facts together, that through the slave system that the South had instilled to imprison the black community into a labor cage, they were again able to suppress the progression of African Americans. The money in cotton counties was concentrated by the white men who ‘earned’ it, although many were illiterate and did not attend school. Therefore, a system was created in which the uneducated, or educated and corrupt, are able to prevent the black community from achieving a proper education, which further tied them to the necessary dependence on manual labor to provide.
In “Some More Lies,” Mr. Smith admits to the choice of the men in power to disenfranchise the African American community in the south: “in those districts riots and bloodshed on election days were too often common, and race antagonism was being engendered. Such a condition had to be changed, or it is hard to tell where we would have drifted to. The disfranchisement of the Negroes was the only solution to the problem.” We can see that the underlying problem is not addressed, all that is addressed is the fact that riots broke out, and the reaction to those riots was the systematic disapproval and disenfranchisement of the African American community. The source of the riots, the lack of representation, the continuation of a slave state, and the overall suppression of an entire race is not addressed. Brawley responds with, “Is it not about time that a stop is to be put on these old slurs and slanders on the Negro?” (Brawley, 282). He is processing the facts of reconstruction and education that we see through Fultz’s essay; that the underlying issue is the failure for a nation to change. His most affective words are, “Why? Because it is a popular thing to give the Negro a kick.” Like the entire existence of African Americans in the United States, 1914 was no different. His use of the word ‘popular’ and ‘kick’ give us his tone, which is that America does not change habits, it continues to act in social discord by being detrimental to the African American communities existence. He then mentioned, that at the height of African American political power thus far, which was in Mississippi, African Americans were limited to less than 30% of the entire legislation. His tone, is broken. It is not encouraging; it is a product of being kicked for years and seeing that his pain and suffering was the foundation of a corrupt and unequal American society.
In today’s society we find similar oppression toward the world of African American education through mere numbers. In 2006-2007 in high-poverty elementary and secondary schools, only 4% of their population was white, where as a staggering 33% were African American (U.S Dept. of Education). It can be concluded from the harsh conditions faced in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in African American education that poverty and poor education are related. With no money to buy supplies or train staff the education system will suffer. Furthermore, twice as many black college graduates will face unemployment than other races, according to an article written by Janell Ross for the National Journal. We have not progressed much since the early 1900s as far as the ignorance towards the African American condition. As it was quoted in The Crisis, less money per capita is spent on a black student than a white. Are we not in the same scenario today? The tension we observe in the ignorance of static oppression towards African Americans can be found in the assertion that this condition is “accident of economic circumstance, demographic trends, personal preference, and private discrimination,” (Hansberry); a simple explanation for a faltered system. The truth, historically supported, that the residential segregation forcing the African American population into impoverished areas is “resulting from racially-motivated and explicit public policy whose effects endure to the present.” (Hansberry).
White Supremacy: Philosophy, Morality, and Genetic Elitists
In the October issue of The Crisis in 1914, an opinion article on ‘“science” and race” and an article titled ‘social equality’ both explore the tensions created with white supremacy. The latter reviews “Democracy and Race Friction” by John Mecklin, relating Mecklin’s racist account against the mixing of races to the issue of intermarriage. In “Democracy and Race Friction,” Mecklin writes, “Among savages there is no such thing as love, merely sex instinct.” (Crisis 283.) The “‘Science’ and Race” article provides a further speculation on race superiority, where Dr. Eugene Fischer’s writings are reviewed by Robert Lowie. Fischer conducted experiments to prove to the world that the white race was superior to all other races. The issue of white supremacy overwhelms the timeline of African American struggle; it is the root of the systematic oppression instilled by American society. Through Robert Lowie’s review, Peter Singer’s ideas on morality, and Molly McKibbens modern account of inter-racial genetics/stereotypes, white supremacy is debunked societally, morally, philosophically, and genetically. Dr. Eugene Fischer was part of a group of ‘genetic elitists’, who conducted studies with dead and living bodies in order to discern the genetic differences between blacks and whites, and eventually of all other races and whites. Many of these men became active participants in the Nazi movement before and during World War II, on the foundation that the white race is genetically superior to all other races. First, this argument was used to discourage inter-racial relationships, citing research that showed the mixing of black and white blood would yield a ‘defective’ child. It was then taken further by saying there is no need for an inferior race, it will only taint the white race. In The Crisis, Robert H. Lowie reviews Fischer’s “Some Recent Expressions on Racial inferiority,” which is an account claiming the scientific inferiority of African American genetic makeup. Lowie provides a philosophical lens that allows the reader to realize the ignorance exhibited by the ‘genetic elitists’. He uses Fischer’s argument to prove his own point. Lowie’s strongest argument remains in his assertion that there are no grounds on which civilization should systematically separate labor between races, of similar ability, because the achievement and ability of a race cannot be based on the history that was unfair and limiting. In other words, the assertion that the white race is superior based on its achievements does not make sense and is not comparable to the achievements of the black race, which has been systematically stifled and suppressed. It can also be claimed that even in that state of controlled struggle, the African American race accomplished far more than the white race did, considering the fact that they were the massive labor force that drove southern production for almost an entire century.
Lowie writes, “…And if it be admitted, as Fischer does admit, that the average ability of the whites and of the colored races is about on a level, it will make no practical difference to civilization whether the laborers are white or colored. In other words, on rational grounds, based on the needs of humanity, there would be no reason for the artificial restriction of the activities of any race.” (Lowie, Crisis). Through this excerpt we take a step back from morality and judgement, and are able to see the issue with Eugene Fischer’s argument, as a question of false evaluation. If both races are able to work, the only possible reason why one race would be forced into labor while the other is not, is deeply rooted in racism and white supremacy. What this creates is the image of men who are so enamored by the elitist idea of race inferiority and supremacy, that they are somehow using their education and academic or doctoral status to conduct experiments in order to prove their hate and elitism valid by logical means. It is very predictable that he would then continue on to participate in the Nazi party, and it is important to note that Dr. Eugene Fischer and his genetic elitists were thus partial catalysts to the Anti-semitic genocide observed in World War II.
Lowie delves deeper into the root of hate politics exhibited by anyone discriminatory by mentioning the parallel of Fischer’s statements to the also exaggerated and jaded opinions of sexists or anti-feminists. Lowie says, “Not long ago anti-feminists asserted an inferior average endowment of women as compared with men; now the emphasis is rather on the alleged difference in variability…Instead of denying to the colored races the possession of an approximately equal degree of average intelligence, they are entrenching themselves behind the convenient dogma of greater Caucasian variability.” This excerpt fully embodies the overwhelming issue of white/male supremacy and all that it has bred. The focus turns from diminishing the victim and defacing their status, to elevating the male white race through an undeniable falsehood that they are elite. Through inert facts, through corrupt and inhumane research, and through the systematic popularity of choosing to disenfranchise a population, the underlying issue with society is defined: white men, specifically, who are race and gender elitists.
Although Lowie is able to provide a critical analysis that disproves Dr. Fischer’s essays, there is a lack of humanistic insight, and still a focus on a social hierarchy. He argues that the achievements (seen by elitists as what makes white’s superior) made by the white race were only hypothesized and could not be compared to the achievements of other races. The underlying issue is perhaps more elementary than these scholars made it out to be. By comparing races by ability and by hypothesized achievements, humanity only becomes more divided. This is how stereotypes are created. This is also a foundation on which genocide is built, as observed in Hitler’s reign during World War II. In Peter Singer’s, “Utilitarianism and Vegetarianism,” he asserts that it is a moral obligation, once we recognize that animals should be defined and perceived through their capacity to suffer and experience happiness, rather than their ability, to make sure we as humans are not the catalyst for any source of suffering. By doing so, and seeing animals through their capacity to experience suffering and happiness, it is a moral obligation to do nothing to provide suffering to animals. We can see the question of ‘ability’ debated in this part of The Crisis, where Lowie discusses the compared ability of white and black men. Eugene Fischer states that genetically, African Americans are inferior in certain aspects. The question at hand seemed to be discussing the social rank and labor status of blacks, and the question of the societal force that keeps blacks laboring for the whites. Lowie asserts that this is wrong because whites can work to. The real question at hand was: what caused such heartlessness, and why can a society function in complete disillusionment of the continuous suffering and suppression of arguably its most important component? The question was, where is human instinct? Where is the instinct for sympathy or empathy? It was covered in societal norms of systematic abuse.
Dr. Eugene Fischer asserted that the combination of the white race with the black race (and other non-caucasian races) would inevitably lead to downfall of mankind in Europe. He conducted his experiments that his writings are based off of in 1904 on survivors of the concentration camps from the Herero Rebellion in South West Africa. Through his writings he suggested that intermarriage or interracial relationships must be avoided. Again, we see here the problem at hand is completely backwards. In the first case, Dr. Fischer asserts species should be graded and controlled based on their ability. When evaluating living creatures on their capacity to feel or not feel good or bad, it is easy to see how his argument contains a serious lack of morality and humanity. The same paradoxical tension can be observed with Dr. Fischer’s disapproval of interracial relationships/breeding. Where he is only able to assume the defectiveness of mixed race children, through distorted and inhumane studies of impoverished subjects, he fails to see emotion. As morally we are to evaluate living creatures based on their ability to feel or not feel, we are also in no place to evaluate love, especially based on each agent’s race. The issue at hand is not the preservation of a fabricated elite race, as Dr. Fischer sees it. The issue is seeing other humans not as other humans, and thus treating african americans as less than human.
Perhaps Molly McKibbons comparison would prove helpful in the lack of clarity exhibited by race elitists. She uses colors, to make it simple: “…green does not make yellow or blue disappear. The only thing green really challenges is a belief that yellow and blue cannot be mixed. It only makes sense to claim that multiraciality challenges existing race concepts if it is believed that the races cannot be crossed—and this would seem a rather groundless charge to make since even white supremacists have argued for centuries that mixture is an abomination, not that it is impossible.” (McKibbons, 41.) In 2014 technology has advanced exponentially, we are able to discern genetic differences through modern science. As she puts, very simply, ‘green does not make yellow or blue disappear’. It seems as though she is reacting to Dr. Fischer’s claims as her subject matter is so close to his, especially when she mentions how white supremacists see mixture as an abomination, not impossible. The disgusting nature of white supremacy is debunked through Lowie’s claims against Fischer’s evaluation of achievement, Singer’s philosophical ideas on the human morality through interaction with other living beings, and through McKibbon’s clarification on the genetics of mixing races.
Work Cited (Not annotated in Bibliography)
Braithwaite, Ronald L. Health Issues in the Black Community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.
Butler, James, and Catherine Walker. “INDEX OF MODERNIST LITTLE MAGAZINES.”
INDEX OF MODERNIST LITTLE MAGAZINES RSS. Index of Modernist Magazines.
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Johnson, Franklin. Political Science Quarterly 29.3 (1914): 528–530. Web.
Kauffman, Susan. “Hidden New Jersey.” Oliver Cromwell in Burlington. 16 June 2012. Web. 14
“Lynching as Racial Terrorism.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Feb. 2015. Web.
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Winship, Kihm. “Jubilee Choirs in Skaneateles.” Skaneateles. 21 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.