Viewing page 8 of 27

66      THE CRISIS



A widely-traveled and intelligent colored man writes:

"I recently made a trip through the South as far down as New Orleans, La., and I saw hundreds who were making their way north-ward. When in New Orleans, I learned that there were about 800 in the city from the inland district waiting to go, and who expected to leave during  the next week. I went with a friend down where I could meet some of the leaders and talk with them. I met them, and they informed me that they were willing to go anywhere rather than continue to live like they had been. These were heading toward Chicago. I was shocked at the statement made by some of them as to how they lived on those big inland farms, and how badly they were treated by the whites. Many of these men were in overalls. I told them that they were unprepared for the climate; but they were willing to run any risk to get where they might breathe freer. Who blames them?" 

Many of the southern whites, through their newspapers, are confirming this general unrest. A white woman says:

"That which a regard for common justice, fair paly, human right could not accomplish, a fear for our bank account is doing, and we are asking: Why is the Negro dissatisfied? What can we do to keep him in the South? We can't afford to let him go; he means too much for us--financially. He works for little; his upkeep costs us little, for we can house him in any kind of shack, and make him pay us well for that; we do not have to be careful of his living conditions; he is good-natured, long-suffering, and if he should happen to give us trouble we can cope with that and the law will uphold us in anything we do."

The Columbia S.C. State asks:
 
"If you thought you might be lynched by mistake, would you remain in South Carolina? Ask yourself that question if you dare."

The Greenville, S.C., Piedmont feels that, "The truth might as well be faced, and the truth is that the treatment of the Negro in the South must change of the South will lose the Negro."

The Greenville, S.C., News says:

"The Abbeville outrage may yet prove more of an economic crime than an offense against the peace and dignity of the state. Where is our labor to come from if not from these people who have lived here beside us for so many generations? Immigration has been a distinct failure in the South; it is expressly declared to be against the policy of South Carolina by our laws."

It is interesting to note that this migration is apparently a mass movement and not a movement of the leaders. The wave of economic distress and social unrest has pushed past the conservative advice of the Negro preacher, teachers and professional man, and the colored laborers and artisans have determined to find a way for themselves. For instance, a colored Mississippi preacher says:

"The leaders of the race are powerless to prevent his going. They had nothing to do with it, and, indeed, all of them, for obvious reasons, are opposed to the exodus. The movement started without any head from the masses, and such movements are always significant."

The character of the people who are going varies, of course, but as the Birmingham, Ala,. Age-Herald remarks: "It is not the riff-raff of the race, the worthless Negroes, who are leaving in such large numbers. There are, to be sure, many poor Negroes among them who have little more than the clothes on their backs, but others have property and good positions which they are sacrificing in order to get away at the first opportunity.

"Various reasons are assigned for the migration of Negroes from the South to the North. It was believed for a while that they were lured away by the glowing reports of labor agents who promised high wages, easy work, and better living conditions. But there is something more behind their going, something that lies deeper than a temporary discontent and the wish to try a new environment merely for the sake of a free trip on the railroads...

"The entire Negro population of the South seems to be deeply affected. The fact that many Negroes who went North without sufficient funds and without clothing to keep them warm have suffered severely and have died in large numbers, has not checked the tide leaving the South. It was expected that the Negroes would come back, sorry that they ever left, but comparatively few have returned. With the approach of warmer weather the number going North will increase."

How great this migration will eventually prove depends upon a number of things. The entrance of the United States into the war will undoubtedly have some effect. When the war ends it is doubtful if the labor shortage in Europe will allow a very large migration to the United States for a generation or more. This will mean increased demand for colored laborers in the North. A writer in the New York Evening Globe predicts that 1917 will see 400,000 of the better class of Negro workers come to the North.

At any rate, we face here a social change among American Negroes of great moment, and one which needs to be watched with intelligent interest.


National Association of the Advancement of Colored People


SEGREGATION

Once more the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has, as it did in the "Grandfather Clause" Cases, proved itself the main bulwark of the American Negro against those forces that are at work to deprive him of his citizenship and manhood rights.

On April 27 the Louisville Segregation Ordinance Case, brought by the Association, was re-argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. Counsel for the N. A. A. C. P. were Mr. Moorfield Storey, president of the Association, and Mr. Clayton b. Blakey, of Louisville, the attorney of record.

No more important fight against discrimination was ever made than the taking of this segregation case up to the highest tribunal in the nation. The far reaching effect of the decision to be handed down cannot be estimated. The fate if the case which was fought through the courts of Maryland by attorney Ashby Hawkins of the Baltimore Branch hangs on what decision the Supreme Court will render on the Louisville case; and so do the fates of the cases fought in St. Louis and Richmond.

We believe we shall win, not only because our cause is just, but because of the masterly way in which it was handled by Mr. Storey. If we win, legal segregation will be killed all over the country. It is unnecessary to add that if we lose, Negro Ghettos will be established in cities North end South.

The following extracts are taken from the brief filed by Mr. Storey, who again places the whole race in his debt by giving without any charge his time and his services through the conduct of the whole case.

EXTRACTS FROM THE BRIEF 

No one outside a court room would imagine for an instant that the predominant purpose of this ordinance was not to prevent the Negro citizens of Louisville, however industrious, thrifty and well-educated they might be, from approached that condition vaguely described as "social equality."

Here again, all doubt is removed by the frank admissions in the defendant's brief, which says:

"The ordinance will only affect that relatively small percentage of... Negroes, who to gratify their new-born social aspirations, seek to move into white neighborhoods."

"Can it be that a Negro has the constitutional right, which cannot be restricted in the slightest degree, whatever the consequence, to move into a block occupied by white families... simply to gratify his inordinate social aspirations to live with his family on a basis of social equality with white people?"

"This law only seeks to regulate that natural and normal segregation which has always existed and to prevent a few of each race from overstepping the racial barriers which Providence and not human law has erected, and which, whenever they are overstepped, result inevitably in most serious clashes, and often bloodshed, and in this particular instance also in the most destructive consequences to the white man's property, thereby only accentuating the existing race antagonism."

We may fairly disregard the few of the white race who are forbidden to move into Negro blocks and who are described by the defendants as "almost invariably the worst element of the race." These men are obliged by the ordinance to live in white blocks (unless perchance they already live in Negro blocks), but nothing can show more clearly the prejudice which is the sole foundation of this enactment than the fact that the most degraded white man is considered a better neighbor than a Booker Washington.

* * * * *

The ordinance in this case seeks to preserve the semblance of equality among the races by forbidding white men to reside in blocks where the colored residents preponderate, though the whole segregation movement rests on the assumption that white men will not live in such neighborhoods. This provision cannot disguise the purpose of the enactment, which is to establish a 

67
 
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact transcribe@si.edu.