For you to listen to or watch if you prefer as you read the text of the speech:
Archive for the ‘African Americans’ Category
What is fascinating is that this was aimed specifically at African Americans and showed how FDR had not forgotten them.
During the Great Depression, the WPA hired writers to collect oral histories from former slaves, who by this time ranged in age from their 70s to the 100s. This video is a student project using Slave Narratives that were gathered in from former slaves living in Missouri. Some of the writers wrote down the narratives phonetically based on the pronunciation of the former slave; others were recorded in standard English.
This video can also be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E68yahKvqH0
This is an excellent site to learn more about the Slave Narrative Project, and it contains transcripts of some of the oral histories that were collected: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/wpa/wpahome.html
This video can also be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wHRuKwImAk
Professor James Horton discusses the significance of the WPA Slave Narrative project.
Music to set you in the mood to study, part one:
Here’s the Cab Calloway version, recorded in 1958:
Here’s the Blues Brothers version (audio, only, sorry)
Atlanta Compromise Speech (1895)
Booker T. Washington
On September 18, 1895, African-American spokesman and leader Booker T. Washington spoke before a predominantly white audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. His “Atlanta Compromise” address, as it came to be called, was one of the most important and influential speeches in American history. Although the organizers of the exposition worried that “public sentiment was not prepared for such an advanced step,” they decided that inviting a black speaker would impress Northern visitors with the evidence of racial progress in the South. Washington soothed his listeners’ concerns about “uppity” blacks by claiming that his race would content itself with living “by the productions of our hands.”
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Board of Directors and Citizens:
One-third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. No enterprise seeking the material, civil, or moral welfare of this section can disregard this element of our population and reach the highest success. I but convey to you, Mr. President and Directors, the sentiment of the masses of my race when I say that in no way have the value and manhood of the American Negro been more fittingly and generously recognized than by the managers of this magnificent Exposition at every stage of its progress. It is a recognition that will do more to cement the friendship of the two races than any occurrence since the dawn of our freedom.
Not only this, but the opportunity here afforded will awaken among us a new era of industrial progress. Ignorant and inexperienced, it is not strange that in the first years of our new life we began at the top instead of at the bottom; that a seat in Congress or the state legislature was more sought than real estate or industrial skill; that the political convention or stump speaking had more attractions than starting a dairy farm or truck garden.
A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, “Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is their next-door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”— cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded.
Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the professions. And in this connection it is well to bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called to bear, when it comes to business, pure and simple, it is in the South that the Negro is given a man’s chance in the commercial world, and in nothing is this Exposition more eloquent than in emphasizing this chance. Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labour, and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the ornamental gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin, and not at the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.
To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.
There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all. If anywhere there are efforts tending to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these efforts be turned into stimulating, encouraging, and making him the most useful and intelligent citizen. Effort or means so invested will pay a thousand per cent interest. These efforts will be twice blessed—blessing him that gives and him that takes. There is no escape through law of man or God from the inevitable:
The laws of changeless justice bind Oppressor with oppressed;
And close as sin and suffering joined We march to fate abreast…
Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load upward, or they will pull against you the load downward. We shall constitute one-third and more of the ignorance and crime of the South, or one-third [of] its intelligence and progress; we shall contribute one-third to the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic.
Gentlemen of the Exposition, as we present to you our humble effort at an exhibition of our progress, you must not expect overmuch. Starting thirty years ago with ownership here and there in a few quilts and pumpkins and chickens (gathered from miscellaneous sources), remember the path that has led from these to the inventions and production of agricultural implements, buggies, steam-engines, newspapers, books, statuary, carving, paintings, the management of drug stores and banks, has not been trodden without contact with thorns and thistles. While we take pride in what we exhibit as a result of our independent efforts, we do not for a moment forget that our part in this exhibition would fall far short of your expectations but for the constant help that has come to our educational life, not only from the Southern states, but especially from Northern philanthropists, who have made their gifts a constant stream of blessing and encouragement.
The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house.
In conclusion, may I repeat that nothing in thirty years has given us more hope and encouragement, and drawn us so near to you of the white race, as this opportunity offered by the Exposition; and here bending, as it were, over the altar that represents the results of the struggles of your race and mine, both starting practically empty-handed three decades ago, I pledge that in your effort to work out the great and intricate problem which God has laid at the doors of the South, you shall have at all times the patient, sympathetic help of my race; only let this he constantly in mind, that, while from representations in these buildings of the product of field, of forest, of mine, of factory, letters, and art, much good will come, yet far above and beyond material benefits will be that higher good, that, let us pray God, will come, in a blotting out of sectional differences and racial animosities and suspicions, in a determination to administer absolute justice, in a willing obedience among all classes to the mandates of law. This, coupled with our material prosperity, will bring into our beloved South a new heaven and a new earth.
Source: Louis R. Harlan, ed., The Booker T. Washington Papers, Vol. 3, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974), 583–587.
W.E.B. DuBois Critiques Booker T. Washington
From The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
The most influential public critique of Booker T. Washington’s policy of racial accommodation and gradualism came in 1903 when black leader and intellectual W.E.B. DuBois published an essay in his collection The Souls of Black Folk with the title “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others.” DuBois rejected Washington’s willingness to avoid rocking the racial boat, calling instead for political power, insistence on civil rights, and the higher education of Negro youth.
Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others
From birth till death enslaved;
in word, in deed, unmanned!
Hereditary bondsmen! Know ye not
Who would be free themselves must strike the blow?
Easily the most striking thing in the history of the American Negro since 1876 is the ascendancy of Mr. Booker T. Washington. It began at the time when war memories and ideals were rapidly passing; a day of astonishing commercial development was dawning; a sense of doubt and hesitation overtook the freedmen’s sons,—then it was that his leading began. Mr. Washington came, with a single definite programme, at the psychological moment when the nation was a little ashamed of having bestowed so much sentiment on Negroes, and was concentrating its energies on Dollars. His programme of industrial education, conciliation of the South, and submission and silence as to civil and political rights, was not wholly original; the Free Negroes from 1830 up to wartime had striven to build industrial schools, and the American Missionary Association had from the first taught various trades; and Price and others had sought a way of honorable alliance with the best of the Southerners. But Mr. Washington first indissolubly linked these things; he put enthusiasm, unlimited energy, and perfect faith into this programme, and changed it from a by-path into a veritable Way of Life. And the tale of the methods by which he did this is a fascinating study of human life.
It startled the nation to hear a Negro advocating such a programme after many decades of bitter complaint; it startled and won the applause of the South, it interested and won the admiration of the North; and after a confused murmur of protest, it silenced if it did not convert the Negroes themselves.
To gain the sympathy and cooperation of the various elements comprising the white South was Mr. Washington’s first task; and this, at the time Tuskegee was founded, seemed, for a black man, well-nigh impossible. And yet ten years later it was done in the word spoken at Atlanta:“In all things purely social we can be as separate as the five fingers, and yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” This “Atlanta Compromise” is by all odds the most notable thing in Mr. Washington’s career. The South interpreted it in different ways: the radicals received it as a complete surrender of the demand for civil and political equality; the conservatives, as a generously conceived working basis for mutual understanding. So both approved it, and today its author is certainly the most distinguished Southerner since Jefferson Davis, and the one with the largest personal following.
… One hesitates, therefore, to criticise a life which, beginning with so little has done so much. And yet the time is come when one may speak in all sincerity and utter courtesy of the mistakes and shortcomings of Mr. Washington’s career, as well as of his triumphs, without being thought captious or envious, and without forgetting that it is easier to do ill than well in the world.
The criticism that has hitherto met Mr. Washington has not always been of this broad character. In the South especially has he had to walk warily to avoid the harshest judgments,—and naturally so, for he is dealing with the one subject of deepest sensitiveness to that section. Twice—once when at the Chicago celebration of the Spanish-American War he alluded to the color-prejudice that is “eating away the vitals of the South,” and once when he dined with President Roosevelt—has the resulting Southern criticism been violent enough to threaten seriously his popularity. In the North the feeling has several times forced itself into words, that Mr. Washington’s counsels of submission overlooked certain elements of true manhood, and that his educational programme was unnecessarily narrow. Usually, however, such criticism has not found open expression, although, too, the spiritual sons of the Abolitionists have not been prepared to acknowledge that the schools founded before Tuskegee, by men of broad ideals and self-sacrificing spirit, were wholly failures or worthy of ridicule. While, then, criticism has not failed to follow Mr. Washington, yet the prevailing public opinion of the land has been but too willing to deliver the solution of a wearisome problem into his hands, and say, “If that is all you and your race ask, take it.”
Among his own people, however, Mr. Washington has encountered the strongest and most lasting opposition, amounting at times to bitterness, and even to-day continuing strong and insistent even though largely silenced in outward expression by the public opinion of the nation….[T]here is among educated and thoughtful colored men in all parts of the land a feeling of deep regret, sorrow, and apprehension at the wide currency and ascendancy which some of Mr. Washington’s theories have gained. These same men admire his sincerity of purpose, and are willing to forgive much to honest endeavor which is doing something worth the doing. They cooperate with Mr. Washington as far as they conscientiously can; and, indeed, it is no ordinary tribute to this man’s tact and power that, steer-ing as he must between so many diverse interests and opinions, he so largely retains the respect of all.
But the hushing of the criticism of honest opponents is a dangerous thing. It leads some of the best of the critics to unfortunate silence and paralysis of effort, and others to burst into speech so passionately and intemperately as to lose listeners. Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,—criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, — this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society….
Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission; but adjustment at such a peculiar time as to make his programme unique…. In other periods of intensified prejudice all the Negro’s tendency to self-assertion has been called forth; at this period a policy of submission is advocated. In the history of nearly all other races and peoples the doctrine preached at such crises has been that manly self-respect is worth more than lands and houses, and that a people who voluntarily surrender such respect, or cease striving for it, are not worth civilizing.
In answer to this, it has been claimed that the Negro can survive only through submission. Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three things, —
First, political power, Second, insistence on civil rights, Third, higher education of Negro youth,
— and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have occurred:
1. The disfranchisement of the Negro. 2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro. 3. The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro.
These movements are not, to be sure, direct results of Mr. Washington’s teachings; but his propaganda has, without a shadow of doubt, helped their speedier accomplishment. The question then comes: Is it possible, and probable, that nine millions of men can make effective progress in economic lines if they are deprived of political rights, made a servile caste, and allowed only the most meagre chance for developing their exceptional men? If history and reason give any distinct answer to these questions, it is an emphatic No. And Mr. Washington thus faces the triple paradox of his career:
1. He is striving nobly to make Negro artisans business men and property-owners; but it is utterly impossible, under modern competitive methods, for workingmen and property-owners to defend their rights and exist without the right of suffrage.
2. He insists on thrift and self-respect, but at the same time counsels a silent submission to civic inferiority such as is bound to sap the manhood of any race in the long run.
3. He advocates common-school and industrial training, and depreciates institutions of higher learning; but neither the Negro common-schools, nor Tuskegee itself, could remain open a day were it not for teachers trained in Negro colleges, or trained by their graduates.
This triple paradox in Mr. Washington’s position is the object of criticism by two classes of colored Americans. One class is spiritually descended from Toussaint the Savior, through Gabriel, Vesey, and Turner, and they represent the attitude of revolt and revenge; they hate the white South blindly and distrust the white race generally, and so far as they agree on definite action, think that the Negro’s only hope lies in emigration beyond the borders of the United States. And yet, by the irony of fate, nothing has more effectually made this programme seem hopeless than the recent course of the United States toward weaker and darker peoples in the West Indies, Hawaii, and the Philippines,—for where in the world may we go and be safe from lying and brute Force?
The other class of Negroes who cannot agree with Mr. Washington has hitherto said little aloud. They deprecate the sight of scattered counsels, of internal disagreement; and especially they dislike making their just criticism of a useful and earnest man an excuse for a general discharge of venom from small-minded opponents. Nevertheless, the questions involved are so fundamental and serious that it is difficult to see how men like the Grimkes, Kelly Miller, J.W.E. Bowen, and other representatives of this group, can much longer be silent. Such men feel in conscience bound to ask of this nation three things.
1. The right to vote. 2 Civic equality. 3 The education of youth according to ability.
….His doctrine has tended to make the whites, North and South, shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro’s shoulders and stand aside as critical and rather pessimistic spectators; when in fact the burden
belongs to the nation, and the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs.
The South ought to be led, by candid and honest criticism, to assert her better self and do her full duty to the race she has cruelly wronged and is still wronging. The North—her co-partner in guilt—cannot salve her conscience by plastering it with gold. We cannot settle this problem by diplomacy and suaveness, by “policy” alone. If worse comes to worst, can the moral fibre of this country survive the slow throttling and murder of nine millions of men?
The black men of America have a duty to perform, a duty stern and delicate,—a forward movement to oppose a part of the work of their greatest leader. So far as Mr. Washington preaches Thrift, Patience, and Industrial Training for the masses, we must hold up his hands and strive with him, rejoicing in his honors and glorying in the strength of this Joshua called of God and of man to lead the headless host. But so far as Mr. Washington apologizes for injustice, North or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, belittles the emasculating effects of caste distinctions, and opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter minds,—so far as he, the South, or the Nation, does this,—we must unceasingly and firmly oppose them. By every civilized and peaceful method we must strive for the rights which the world accords to men, clinging unwaveringly to those great words which the sons of the Fathers would fain forget: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Source: W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Chicago, 1903).
Maryland Heights woman tries to prove her US citizenship: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/woman-fights-to-prove-she-s-a-u-s-citizen/article_beba66e5-a28d-5691-88a7-bc1c16ad66af.html
Legal definition of Jus soli: http://definitions.uslegal.com/j/jus-soli/
Legal definition of Jus sanguinis: http://definitions.uslegal.com/j/jus-sanguinis/
Here’s a story of widowed spouses facing deportation: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30056223/ns/us_news-life/t/widowed-immigrants-fight-deportation/
Some politicians have called for the 14th Amendment to be revised:
Excellent article from TIME magazine which explains how historians’ views on the Civil War have changed. Especially highlights early biased interpretations:
From The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, by Eric Foner, chapter 4.
Two days after the inauguration of James Buchanan in March 1957, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most infamous decisions in its history. During the 1830s, Dred Scott, a slave of Dr. John Emerson of Missouri, resided with his owner in Illinois, where state law prohibited slavery, and the Wisconsin territory, from which it had been barred by the Missouri Compromise. He married another slave, Harriet Scott, and in 1846, after returning to Missouri, the Scott family, by now consisting of husband, wife, and two daughters, went to court claiming that residence on free soil had made them free. In time, the case made its way to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, supported by sic other members of the court, concluded that the Scotts must remain slaves. No black person, Taney declared, could be a citizen of the United states and thus the Scotts had no standing to sue in court. The case could have ended there. Taney, however, went on to argue that because the Constitution “distinctly and expressly affirmed” the right to property in slaves, slaveholders could bring them into federal territories. The Missouri Compromise– repealed three years earlier by the Kansas-Nebraska Act– had therefore been unconstitutional. Only once before, in the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison, which established the principle of judicial review, had the Court invalidated an act of Congress on constitutional grounds.
Much of Taney’s opinion consisted of a historical discussion purporting to demonstrate that the founding fathers had not recognized black persons as part of the American people. The framers of the Constitution, he insisted, regarded blacks, slave and free, as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race.. and so far inferior, that they had no rights that the white man was bound to respect.” (This statement, Thaddeus Stevens later remarked, “damned [Taney] to everlasting fame; and, I fear, everlasting fire.”) States could make free blacks citizens if they wished, but this did not require the federal government or other states to recognize them as such. No state could unilaterally “introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution”– a community, according to Taney, limited to white persons.
“The most important decision ever made by the Supreme Court,” as the New York Times described it, Dred Scott was the work of a chief justice who belonged to a long-established planter family in Maryland. Taney had manumitted his own slaves in the 1820s but strongly believed in black inferiority. He seems to have thought that the Supreme Court could restore sectional harmony by resolving the slavery controversy. The decision had precisely the opposite effect. As a Georgia newspaper exulted, it “covers every question regarding slavery and settles it in favor of the South.” Taney had declared unconstitutional the platform of the nation’s second largest political party. His ruling also seemed to undercut Stephen A. Douglas’s popular sovereignty doctrine, for if Congress lacked the authority to deprive slaveholders of their constitutionally guaranteed right to bring slaves into a territory, how could a territorial legislature created by Congress do so?
…The Dred Scott decision propelled to the forefront of public debate questions that would dominate politics until the outbreak of the Civil War: the founders’ intentions regarding slavery; whether slavery should be viewed as a local or national institution; and the constitutional authority of the federal government to prohibit slavery in the territories. Lincoln had already expressed his opinion on these issues and would continue to do so between 1857 and 1860. But the decision inspired him to elaborate his views on a subject about which he had previously said very little, the place of blacks in American society. Lincoln knew that this question carried an explosive political charge. Soon after the Court issued its ruling, Stephen A Douglas delivered impassioned speeches declaring that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution had been written for whites and charging that Republicans who opposed the Dred Scott decision favored “perfect and absolute equality of the races.” Lincoln believed that rhetoric of this kind had played a role in Fremont’s defeat in the presidential election of the previous November. Republicans, Lincoln wrote, had been “constantly charged with seeking an amalgamation of the white and black races; and thousands turned from us… fearing to face it themselves.” If others would not “face it,” he would.
Lincoln later called Dred Scott a “burlesque upon judicial decisions.” On June 26, 1857, two weeks after Douglas spoke in Springfield in its support, Lincoln responded in the same city. The decision, he argued, was so erroneous that it could not be viewed as having established a “settled doctrine for the country.” Nearly all Republican leaders agreed. But unlike most Republicans politicians, who preferred to attack Taney for having taken on the territorial question when he need not have done so and who devoted most of their attention to the constitutional power of Congress to bar the institution in the territories, Lincoln addressed head-on the vexatious question of black citizenship. He denied that Taney had presented a plausible account of the founders’ racial outlook. Free blacks, he pointed out, echoing Justice McLean’s dissent, had voted in several states at the time the Constitution was ratified, indicating that they were them viewed as members of the body politic. Taney, moreover, was “grossly incorrect” to imply that “the public estimate of the negro” had improved since the revolutionary era; in fact, “the change between then and now is decidedly the other way.” Lincoln conspicuously failed to mention the deteriorating situation in Illinois, whose voters and legislature within the past decade had approved measures barring free blacks from entering the state….
More information on Dred Scott from PBS here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2932.html