Viewing page 7 of 21

the ears of America....First, we would vote; with the right to vote goes everything....Second.  We want discrimination in public accomodation to cease...Third.  We claim the right of free men to walk, talk, and be with them that wish to be with us....Fourth. We want the laws enforced against rich as well as poor; against Capitalist as well as Laborer; against white as well as black....Fifth. We want our children educated....Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States...."

In the realm of economics my father-in-law and his friends were enamoured of the Horatio Alger mythology. They envisioned the emergence of a large monied Negro business class as both a possibility in the American free enterprise market of the turn-of-the-century, and as a necessity to ensure a minimum of economic independence and self-sufficiency to the Negro masses.  On the political front the letter of the United States Constitution was their doctrine and banner.  They demanded with Du Bois every right enjoyed by white citizens.  They were uncompromising foes of segregation and the foremost advocates and believers in the power of widespread popular as well as intensive-that is, liberal, classical-education.  They were for the education of the whole man to enable him to exercise all the functions as citizen in a democracy, as against the policy of conciliation of Booker T. Washington.

I am told that my father-in-law participated in the struggle against the institution of the one-man Jim Crow trolley cars; in this battle he was beaten bloodily and jailed, but not before he had defended himself.  This struggle resulted in tying up the whole trolley car transit system for hours.

His drugstore-home was a kind of headquarters for other battles of Richmond Negroes against the assaults of the white supremacists. He was among that pioneer band that won one of the earliest victories against the restrictive residential covenants in regard to housing during the 1920's.  Only recently a struggle led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other Negro organizations has resulted in the historic Supreme Court decision making such covenants unenforceable by law.

At the outset of the anticipated participation of our country in World War I, before the then-renowned "Young Men's Forum" at

10

[[end page]]
[[start page]]

the Ebenezer Baptist Church, my father-in-law spoke against our entry into the war.  He characterized it as an imperialist war of thieving nations whose hands would be forever stained with the innocent blood of the outraged African and Asian peoples.

An Answer to the Klan

Following World War I, though my husband was scarcely out of his crib, he, like most Negro children born in the South, was early aware of the fact that returned veterans were met everywhere in the country by the unbridled terrorism of the KKK.  The local authorities, the planters and the industrialists were determined to erase from the minds of returned veterans, through the instrument of the Ku-Klux-Klan, any notions of equality that they might have brought home with them from France.

The Klan rode in Atlanta, St. Louis, Tulsa, Chicago, Washington, and many other places on its mission of putting "uppity" Negro servicemen "in their place." The Klan committed wholesale acts of murder, raping, lynchings and burnings in dozens of Negro neighborhoods across the country.  The present master of the FBI bloodhounds, J. Edgar Hoover, whose men are with such energy sniffing around the peaceful homes of thousands of law abiding citizens, vindictively seeking the whereabouts of my husband and his colleagues today, gave the orders to the government's manhunters then! But not a single one of those murdering Ku Kluxers did he choose to arrest and bring to justice, although they committed in broad daylight hundreds of overt acts of force and violence in contemptuous disdain for the highest laws of the land!

When the Klan advertised its intention of invading the Negro neighborhood in Richmond where my husband's family lived, the community formed a self-defense association, and then waited to receive the would-be invaders. When an informer passed the word to them that the people had prepared to defend themselves, the Klan discreetly did not choose to ride through that part of town!

Furthermore, my husband's family, like those of hundreds of thousands of other Negros throughout the South, was always a part of the every day struggle for human dignity against the tides of white supremacy, arrogance and ignorance, which everywhere

11
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.