The last part was on Marcus Garvey. This section will be a little bit less involved and complicated; however, it marks a very important time in history. It was this contention between Du Bois and the N.A.A.C.P. that started the contention between separation and integration. Prior to this, although we use that categorization in retrospect, it was nonexistent. The contention, or multiple contentions between various elements, were in the main between those who wanted to fight for political and civil right and those who had varying degrees of more and less radical approaches to the issue. There were those who stood opposed in accommodationist approaches like Booker T. Washington. Also, there were those like Monroe Trotter and the black socialists/communists discussed in relation to Garvey, e.g., Hubert Harrison, A. Philip Randolph, Cyril Briggs, etc., who wanted to establish more radical, black-controlled and black-led movements. That was, in addition, to Garvey’s movement that co-opted various elements of those other movements while inserting himself and his ideas on top of it all.
During the aftermath of Garvey, it would be the movements that modeled themselves after Garvey’s approach, such as the Nation of Islam (to be discussed in the next part), that held up the emphasis on the contention from the position of being for separation and in opposition to integration. During this time, however, it was W.E.B. Du Bois who, opposing the N.A.A.C.P.’s position, made an issue over striking a balance between fighting against segregation and maintaining and building a strong black community, regardless of its state of being independent and deprived of access to certain aspects of the white community. During this, he never deviated even sightly away from fighting for complete political and civil rights; nor did he change on being against segregation; he simply asked for an approach that kept in mind the need for black people in their communities to be able to provide the basics of educational programs and economic sustainability.
W.E.B. Du Bois had a contention with the N.A.A.C.P. This contention did not simply take place within the context of the years following Marcus Garvey. As with the financial collapse of 2008, which brought about a change in the minds of a lot of individuals as to the future of the political-economic system within the U.S. and globally, the Great Depression of that time period raised many similar questions. The Great Depression, along with being a great economic collapse of the capitalist system, also took place within the context of white supremacy. A great number of issues discussed in the previous parts, regarding the political disenfranchisement of black Americans, depriving black Americans of civil and political rights, committing acts of terrorist violence against the black community, etc., all remained.
Du Bois, in around 1932, would start an extremely serious campaign, primarily disseminated through his editorship in the N.A.A.C.P.’s The Crisis magazine. He would start by boldly questioning the positions and direction of the N.A.A.C.P. He would go on to outline a comprehensive agenda for strengthening the black community and becoming very critical toward N.A.A.C.P. policy on segregation. His sentiments would reflect what later would pop up in Malcolm X’s calls for Black Nationalism, elements of the Black Panther Party’s agenda, Dr. Claud Anderson’s PowerNomics, as well as what would be incorporated into other movements.
What Is Wrong with the N.A.A.C.P.
On May 18, 1932, Du Bois delivered an address criticizing the N.A.A.C.P. He summarized four, core criticisms:
“1. It has laid itself open to the charge of being a high-brow organization…
2. [It] has got to decentralize the power of the central office and learn that great lesson of democracy, to use the store of experience and knowledge which the masses of people possess.
3. [They] must have a positive program rather than mere negative attempt to avoid segregation and discrimination. We need a program of economic guidance and of united effort for realization of radical and interracial ideals and a program which recognizes the color and race problems of the world as part of our Negro problem here in America.
4. Finally, [they] must get the strength and courage for this readjustment of our objects by attracting and assisting and welcoming Youth to our organization.”
This was followed by a series of articles in The Crisis magazine with Du Bois outlining a radical program for black Americans and ultimately becoming very critical of N.A.A.C.P. policy, specifically toward segregation.
In November 1932, Du Bois was very critical of Hoover’s anti-black and Southern “Lily-White” agenda, as well as his overall handling of the economy during the Depression. He follows, however, more importantly, by outlining twenty-three questions that he obtained while lecturing at Atlanta University the year before. The questions were on economic power, literature, faults in the black community, class distinction in the black community, education, methods of uplift, Russia, political action, and the future.
Although Du Bois would not go on to immediately answer the questions – nor would he attempt to do so question by question in the future – he would pose the questions to the public for feedback and start through 1933 until he left the N.A.A.C.P. to outline a complete agenda, assessment, and program for black Americans to follow. In this, he would also be very critical of numerous aspects of American society and black leadership, including the N.A.A.C.P.
A New Radical Philosophy
In both January and February of 1933, he would include in his postscript to The Crisis a section called Toward A New Radical Philosophy.
In the January 1933 Crisis, Du Bois was met with a question coming from a college graduate asking the following: “What has the N.A.A.C.P. published concerning the present problems of the Negro, and especially of young Negroes just out of college?” Du Bois came to a stark conclusion: “Nothing.” This was the beginning of his “re-examination” of the “Negro problem”. He went on to list in this issue twelve tentative areas of concern to be expanded into larger discussions by the editor, readers and other authors within the upcoming issues: 1) Birth – physical survival; 2) Health – infant mortality, illness, death rate, and role of colored physicians; 3) The Home – city versus country living, North versus South, black versus white neighborhoods, etc.; 4) Occupations – work, jobs, employment, professions, the economy, etc.; 5) Education – going to black versus white schools, college, technical training, etc.; 6) Income – standards of living; 7) Discrimination – attitude toward discrimination, cooperation with whites; 8) Government and Law – voting, revolution, violence, civil disobedience, etc.; 9) Race Pride – relation to the diaspora and Africa, black organizations, loyalty to the group; 10) Religion – belief, the church; 11) Social Contacts – economic building, class structure; 12) Recreation – vacations, travel, etc.
In the February 1933 Crisis, Du Bois started to further outline a series of articles, and he stated that “The Crisis plans the following program of discussion in its future numbers.” He goes on to provide a March-December outline on topics ranging from Depression, Capitalism and Karl Marx to Schools, Propaganda and the Press. Building on the previous issue, he shared his vision to discuss topics from work, income, education, voting, and religion. The goal was to outline a self-sustaining, black agenda to be implemented with the help of a democratic campaign and intelligent leadership in the black community.
I think it would be good for me to state here that although I will not be coving all of The Crisis issues, especially in great detail due to time and availability of the issues online, I’ll try to provide at least some insight into the topics that were discussed prior to Du Bois leaving the N.A.A.C.P. I will also try to provide the links to as many of these issues as I can, so those who want to read the entire issues and articles can do so on their own.
A Return to Marx
Starting in March, he was able to address Marxism in an article by the name of Karl Marx and the Negro.
“It was a great loss to American Negroes that the great mind of Marx and his extraordinary insight into industrial conditions could not have been brought to bear at first hand upon the history of the American Negro between 1876 and the World War. Whatever he said and did concerning the uplift of the working class must, therefore, be modified so far as Negroes are concerned by the fact that he had not studied at first hand their peculiar race problem here in America. Nevertheless, he did know the plight of the working class in England, France and Germany, and American Negroes must understand what his panacea was for those folk if they would see their way clearly in the future.”
His sentiment holds true today with regard to a need for an understanding of Marx among black Americans with an emphasis on being critical of Marx where he might have missed aspects specific to the black American experience. This adherence to an agenda to introduce Marxism into a mainstream black political framework, especially from someone as educated and respected as Du Bois, was a huge threat to power structures, as it could have had a huge and positive influence over the black community. This reality existed from that point forward with Du Bois and others who would become the targets of the McCarthy era. The same reality existed surrounding the black radical, socialist and communist, thinkers during the Harlem Renaissance subject to early Red Scare anti-communism; in addition, it would become a reality again during movements by the Black Panthers and later individuals and groups who would be, again, targeted, at that point by COINTELPRO. Du Bois, himself, continued this trend and line of reasoning around a Marxian political-economic analysis, not just through his work with The Crisis but extending to his release of Black Reconstruction, in which that analysis played a crucial role in his framing of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
In The Crisis, again, in the May issue, he had another article titled Marxism and The Negro Problem. In that article, he went as far as praising Capital by Marx as a “monumental work” on a level with the Bible, Critique of Pure Reason, and the Origin of Species. In addressing the relation to the “Negro problem” and the need to adjust Marxian analysis to the American situation, Du Bois points to white supremacy and its effectiveness in appealing to the white proletariat. He goes on to say that “…race antagonism and labor group rivalry is still undisturbed by world catastrophe. In the hearts of black laborers alone, therefore, lie those ideals of democracy in politics and industry which may in time make the workers of the world effective dictators of civilization.”
Du Bois also goes on with his Marxian analysis to provide an economic agenda to his political-economic analysis. In the April 1933 issue, Du Bois, questions the “fixed and permanent” nature of the “industrial system”. He states that “[n]o system of human culture can stand world war and industrial cataclysm repeatedly, without radical reorganization, either by reasoned reform or irrational collapse.” Keeping in mind the issues of racism and white supremacy in America, Du Bois looks at the potential power of black Americans within the revolutionary struggle, their historical perseverance, and future economic prospects.
“We are physically able to survive slavery, lynching, debauchery, mob-rule, cheating and poverty, and yet remain the most prolific, original element in America, with good health and strength. We have brains, energy and even taste and genius. From our depths of poverty, we have amassed some wealth. Out of charity, our schools, colleges and universities are growing to be real centers of learning, and Negro literature and art has been distilled from our blood and sweat. There is no way of keeping us in continued industrial slavery, unless we continue to enslave ourselves and remain content to work as servants for white folk and dumb driven laborers for nothing.
What can we do? We can work for ourselves. We can consume mainly what we ourselves produce, and produce as large a proportion as possible of that which we consume.
Why may not Negroes begin consumers’ co-operation under intelligent democratic control and expand at least to the productive and consuming energy of this one group? There would be white monopoly and privilege to fight, but only stupidity and disloyalty could actually stop progress.
[It] will cost us something. … But if we succeed, we have conquered a world. No future revolution can ignore us. No nation, here or elsewhere, can oppress us. No capital can enslave us. We open the gates, not only to our own…,but to five million West Indians, and eight million black South Americans, and one hundred and fifty million more Africans. We stretch hands and hands of strength and sinew and understanding to India and China, and all Asia. We become in truth, free.”
The Black Vote
In the June 1933 issue, there is a rather detailed analysis of the black vote. This starts with A History of the Negro vote wherein it is shown that “[i]n every American colony in its earliest days the Negro, if free and meeting the other requirements, had the right to vote.” It details the process of disenfranchisement that took place starting with South Carolina (1716), Virginia (1723), and Georgia (1761). The early restricting of voting to white males corresponded with slavery becoming better established. From the founding, up through the Cotton Kingdom, despite 10 of the 13 starting blacks having some voting rights, there was a continual disenfranchisement impacting both the original colonies, as well as new states coming into the Union. It also documents – as is documented more fully in Black Reconstruction – how voting rights were restored and being exercised during the Reconstruction era, following the Civil War and particularly the 15th Amendment. Pointing toward this era “[t]hree things Negro suffrage did for the South…: 1. Establishing democratic government by inaugurating universal suffrage. 2. Establishing a free public school system. 3. Began new legislation for social betterment and wider distribution of land and wealth.”
“Beginning in 1876 Negro voters in the South were disfranchised by force and fraud, and between 1890 and 1910 a series of laws were passed, legalizing by various subterfuges the exclusion of the Negro from the ballot; so that since 1910, in the lower South, the Negro has exercised but a limited right to vote.”
The above disenfranchisement of black voters, as is pointed out in the article and was the topic of previous parts in this series, was “acquiesced” by black leaders such as Booker T. Washingon; the remaining context, also discussed in previous parts, following Du Bois responding to Booker T. Washington, as well as the First World War, Harlem Renaissance, etc., led to a situation of greater interests in voting. The “problem” was “therefore” as is posed rhetorically and addressed in the postscript: “how democratic government is going to be restored in the South through Negro votes, and how the votes of white and black workers are to be used for the advancement and development of the nation.”
In the postscript, The Strategy of the Negro Vote is developed first in rejection of the major two parties:
“The Negro faces two major political parties: the Democrats and the Republicans. They stand essentially for the same thing. They represent a dictatorship of organized industry which is running the United States for the benefit of the owners of wealth. … What difference does it make, then, whether the Negro votes the Republican or Democratic ticket? He is voting for the same essential dictatorship.”
After categorically rejecting the major parties, he then goes on to explain the strategy for third parties (socialists, communists, etc.). With these, he maintains an insistence on black voters prioritizing civil and political rights for black Americans. He re-iterates his critique of Marx where he previously analyzed the unique situation of blacks in American. In this, he considers racial sentiments and the white proletariat. The goal for the black voter, then, he says, is the following:
“Keeping his eye upon ideals, measures which make for the uplift of mankind and particularly for the establishment of a state ruled by the working classes for the benefit of all the workers, his object is so to use his vote as to accomplish any and all reforms leading toward the great goal so long as he is able, simultaneously and in the same degree to break down color caste. No matter how fair the promises or programs of the parties may be, Negroes will refuse to support them unless they can show an object compatible with the Negro’s survival and reasonable power to carry this out. He will tell both Socialists and Communists that their first job is to make the American working classes free from color prejudice. And that until they do this, the Negro refuses to give up his chance to make a living, in order to put bread and butter into the mouths of his enemies.”
Education, Leadership, and Re-examining Black Elites
In the July 1933 postscript, Du Bois discussed the topic of Our Class Struggle in the black community. Years after his emphasis on a Talented Tenth, Du Bois started becoming critical and in several instances called out the more elite class of blacks looking to separate themselves from the black community and not recognizing and obligation to use their positions to uplift the rest. In this section, he addresses the issue of black Americans who have an “American ambition to become rich” and whose “ideology ranks them on the side of white capitalists.” He then poses the question of the responsibility of the group to those who may be “unfortunates” or “delinquents”.
In August Du Bois discusses black colleges/universities. In his article The Negro College he emphasizes the need to utilize black universities as institutions to further the black community collectively and encourage ideas that promote leadership and positive change. Here he starts what later evolves into ideas, in future issues, that directly address his ideas on fighting segregation:
“A Negro university, from its high ground of unfaltering facing of the Truth, from its unblinking stare at hard facts does not advocate segregation by race; it simply accepts the bald fact that we are segregated, apart, hammered into a separate unity by spiritual intolerance and legal sanction backed by mob law, and that this separation is growing in strength and fixation; that it is worse today than a half century ago and that no character, address, culture or desert is going to change it in our day or for centuries to come. Recognizing this brute fact, groups of cultured, trained and devoted men gathering in great institutions of learning proceed to ask: What are we going to do about it? …it is idiotic to proceed as though we were white or yellow, English or Russian. … We are American Negroes. … It is not ours to argue whether we will be segregated or whether we ought to be a caste. We are segregated; we are a caste. … Our problem is: How far and in what way can we consciously and scientifically guide our future so as to insure our physical survival, our spiritual freedom and our social growth? Either we do this or we die. There is no alternative. If American proposed the murder of this group, its moral descent into imbecility and crime and it utter loss of manhood, self-assertion and courage, the sooner we realize this the better. By that great line of McKay:
‘If we must die, let it not be like hogs.’
.. Therefore let us not beat futile wings in impotent frenzy, but carefully plan and guide our segregated life, organize in industry and politics to protect it and expand it and above all to give it unhampered spiritual expression in art and literature. It is the counsel of free and cowardice to say this cannot be done. What must be can be and it is only a question of Science and Sacrifice to bring the great consummation.
… If the college can pour into the coming age an American Negro who knows himself and his plight and how to protect himself and fight race prejudice, then the world of our dreams will come and not otherwise.”
Du Bois in the postscript Organization continued his call for organizing in the black community, as the name implies. He also continued with his criticism of the growing class dynamics forming within the black community. He did this by calling out part of the “educated” group of blacks. Toward organizing, he started by saying how “[t]he American Negro has not begun to use his power of organization or to conceive of what he might accomplish if he did.” Adding that “[the] most educated elements seek to evade the social leadership.” He points out how these elements seek to advance through separating themselves from the black community, black neighborhoods, and black colleges, in favor of “finding a place in white civilization.”
Organizing, Economic Cooperation, and Race Pride
This carried over to the September issue, in An Essay on Race Pride: On Being Ashamed of Oneself. This article stands out as one in which Du Bois uses the term “integration” in questioning “What are we really aiming at? The building of a new nation or the integration of a new group into an old nation?” This is the place to note the very important event following this effort by Du Bois: integration, as a term, would become juxtaposed with separation as tactics for the black community; however, in the outline and agenda of Du Bois, he advocates a path differing from either side of the standard divide. Du Bois discusses the bottom-casteness of black Americans being a reality only getting worse despite successful efforts to transcend notions of intellectual inferiority through educational accomplishment and decreased illiteracy, and this leading to bleak economic prospects. He goes on again mentioning “integration” with regard to industry within the current industrial and occupational outlook that saw black Americans excluded, including as a part of organized labor.
“Facing these indisputable facts, there is on the part of the leaders of public opinion in American, no effective response to our agitation or organized propaganda. Our advanced in the last quarter century has been in segregated, racially integrated institution and efforts and not in effective entrance into American national life. In Negreo churches, Negro schools, Negro colleges, Negro business and Negro art and literature our advance has been determined and inspiring; but in industry, general, professional careers and national life, we have fought battle after battle and lost more often than we have won. There seems no hope that American in our day will yield in its color or race hatred any substantial ground and we have no physical nor economic power, nor any alliance with other social or economic classes that will force compliance with decent civilized ideals in Church, State, industry or art.”
He goes on to provide something in a way of a path forward:
“The next step, then, is certainly one on the part of the Negro and it involves group action, It involves the organization of intelligent and earnest people of Negro descent for their preservation and advancement in American, in the West Indies and in Africa; and no sentimental distaste for racial or national unity can be allowed to hold them back from a step which sheer necessity demands.
A new organized group action along economic lines, guided by intelligence and with express object of making it possible for Negroes to earn a better living and, therefore, more effectively to support agencies for social uplift, is without the slightest doubt the next step.”
Summarizing, he emphasizes how the “organization is going to involve deliberate propaganda for race pride.” Saying how it will “start out by convincing American Negroes that there is no reason for their being ashamed of themselves: that their record is one which should make them proud; that their history in Africa and the world is a history of effort, success and trial, comparable with that of any other people.” In way of the almost inevitable exaggeration, he holds that although inescapable, “we can use intelligence in modifying and restraining [the exaggeration]” while “taking just pride in Nefertari, Askia, Moshesh, Toussaint and Frederick Douglass, and testing and encouraging belief in our own ability by organized economic and social action.”
“There is no other way; let us not be deceived. American Negroes will be beaten into submission and degradation if they merely wait unorganized to find some place voluntarily given them in the new reconstruction of the economic world. They must themselves force their race into the new economic set-up and bring with them the millions of West Indians and Africans by peaceful organization for normative action or else drift into greater poverty, greater crime, greater helplessness until there is no resort but the last red alternative of revolt, revenge and war.”
In the September postscript carrying over to the October 1933 issue, Du Bois discussed his disappointment with the National Recovery Act – a part of New Deal legislation in response to the Great Depression – and its impact on black Americans and the prospects of it being something to be coopted more by capitalists interests rather than the working class. In the December 1933 issue, Du Bois continues the criticism of federal programs with regard to them working in favor of capital interests, this time with regard to the American Federation of Labor. He also, in the October postscript, provides his criticism of The Church and Religion, saying that “[w]e must have religion in the sense of a striving for the infinite, the ultimate and the best. But just as truly we must straitly curb the effort of any exclusive guild to be the single and final arbitrator of individual interpretation of desired and desirable truth.”
In November, Du Bois connects all of the previously discussed topics to an international and Pan-African agenda.
“We have considered all of these matters in relation to the American Negro but our underlying thought has been continually that they can and must be seen not against any narrow, provincial or even national background, but in relation to the great problem of the colored races of the world and particularly those of African descent.”
He goes on to point out the fact of there still being “large numbers of American Negroes who in all essential particulars conceive themselves as belonging to the white race.” This being with regard not to their skin color but in relation to their reactions, prejudices, and intended social alignment.
“Here is a boy, born in America, of parents who were born in America, of grandparents and great grandparents born in America. He speaks the American twang; he reads American history, he gets his news from American papers, and he understands American baseball. It is impossible for that boy to think of himself as African, simply because he happens to be black. He is an American. But on the other hand, as he grows up and comprehends his surroundings, he is going to be made to think of himself as at least a peculiar sort of American. Against this, he is going to protest, logically and emotionally, and dwell upon the anomaly of a person being outcast and discriminated against in his own home. Gradually, however, he is going to find that this protest has only limited effect; that to most white Americans of today, Negro prejudice is something that is beyond question and will. It is a stark, true fact and little or nothing can be done about it at present. In the future, the long future, things may change. But they are not going to change in the lifetime of those now living.
So long now as this is an academic question, a matter of attitudes and thoughts and spiritual likes and dislikes, we can leave it there. But when it becomes an economic problem, a stark matter of bread and butter, then if this young, black American is going to survive and live a life, he must calmly face the fact that however much he is an American there are interests which draw him nearer to the dark people outside of American than to his white fellow citizens.”
In the January 1934 issue, Du Bois starts on the issue of Segregation.
“The thinking colored people of the United States must stop being stampeded by the word segregation. The opposition to racial segregation is not or should not be any distaste or unwillingness of colored people to work with each other, to co-operate with each other, to live with each other.”
He proposed countering white resistance through the countering of discrimination, by going against refusals to provide equal educational funding and equal access to, particularly public, resources. He goes on to say the following to summarize his points:
“Doubtless, and in the long run, the greatest development is going to take place under experiences of wides individual contact. Nevertheless, today such individual contact is made difficult and almost impossible by petty prejudice, deliberate and almost criminal propaganda and various survival from prehistoric heathenism. It is impossible, therefore, to wait for the millennium of free and normal intercourse before we unite, to cooperate among themselves in groups of like-minded people and in groups of people suffering from the same disadvantages and the same hatreds.
It is the class-conscious working man uniting together who will eventually emancipate labor throughout the world. It is the race-conscious black man cooperating together in his own institution and movements who will eventually emancipate the colored race, and the great step ahead today is for the American Negro to accomplish his economic emancipation through voluntary determined cooperative effort.”
Du Bois continues to push forward his narrative on segregation encouraging the building of strong black institutions and cooperative economic arrangments over just an aimless opposition against segregation that puts the black community as a whole at risk. After outlining the historical position of the N.A.A.C.P. on segregation, as well as their historical position with regard to him as the editor of The Crisis, in the February 1934 issue, Du Bois finally faces some opposition by the N.A.A.C.P. This would be the beginning of “integration” in its modern, popular usage.
It will be very important to recognize here that Du Bois in that February issue postscript, The N.A.A.C.P. and Race Segregation, is clear on the fact that the N.A.A.C.P., up to that point, although wanting to fight segregation, did not put down a definitive stance on an approach, saying that “[the N.A.A.C.P.] has taken no general stand and adopted no general philosophy.” He later states, “[t]o be sure, the overwhelming and underlying thought of the N.A.A.C.P. has always been that any discrimination based simply on race is fundamentally wrong, and that consequently purely racial organizations must have strong justification to be admissible. On the other hand, they face certain unfortunate but undeniable facts.” And, after explaining some historical context he states that “[i]n other words, the N.A.A.C.P. has never officially opposed separate Negro organizations – such as churches, schools and businesses and cultural organizations. It has never denied the recurrent necessity of united sperate action on the part of Negroes for self-defense and self-development; but it has insistently and continually pointed out that such action is in any case a necessary evil involving often a recognition from within of the very color line which we are fighting without. That race pride and race loyalty, Negro ideals and Negro unity, have a place and function today, the N.A.A.C.P. never has and never can deny.”
From that time, moving forward, the modern ideological conception of integration, upon which this series is based on critiquing, was brought forth.
In the March issue, Walter White responded with his own article on segregation saying, “The Negro must, without yielding, continue the grim struggle for integration and against segregation for his own physical, moral and spiritual well-being and for that of white America and of the world at large.” This would be the beginning of a series of attempts to push this narrative on “integration”.
Du Bois responded back by pointing out the problems with accepting only the one solution of complete “integration”, as opposed to recognizing the rational alternative; however, the push in the opposite direction was already started by the N.A.A.C.P. and other interests.
James Weldon Johnson joined the attack in Negro Americans, What Now? by misinterpreting, potentially misrepresenting intentionally, the position of W.E.B. Du Bois. This came in around October 1934 with a foreword dated for June. If that alone did not indicate a direct propaganda effort in response to Du Bois, in a section titled Isolation or Integration, again, like Walter White – both of whom initiated the usage of the term integration, specifically, also, in that context – he imposes a false dilemma by ignoring the situation of fighting for political and civil rights, which was a situation that was swayed away from, if not outright rejected, by the previous Booker T. Washington led leadership, while simultaneously building black institutions, economic stability and cooperation that allows for survival, sustaining, and building, within the reality of segregation. Du Bois, laying a groundwork decades ahead of his time, was advocated for that position of fighting segregation while protecting interests of the group and overall humanity.
Following Weldon and White, Paul E. Baker joins mentioning “integration” with Negro-White Adjustment in American, April 1934, saying of the N.A.A.C.P. that they were “working for the integration of American life and the absorption of the Negro into the institutions and organizations of the country.” Also, despite acknowledging the potential need of showing “capacities in a separate world…before [being] admitted to the general life…”, he says that “[the N.A.A.C.P. and others] feel that the establishment of distinctly Negro communities, business and social life means the postponement of the time when the Negro will take his rightful place in Amerian society.”
George Schulyer also contributed to the issue, as is noted in Notes on the Concept of Integration, which is a source I used for many of these examples explaining the emergence and context surrounding the concept of integration. Schuyler, it can be noted, was one of the individuals in the black community – of which there are at least some who have very notably done this – who shifted politically to a conservative position, including association with the John Birch Society during the McCarthy era. He positioned himself in favor of integration, specifically from a definition of it in terms of Americananiztoin and assimilation. Schuyler also frames a debate between him and Claude McKay in May of 1937 from the same perspective of the imposed “integration” versus “segregation/separation/isolation”. This was basically similar to what Du Bios was going through with the N.A.A.C.P. in 1934.
And to move back to Du Bois and the N.A.A.C.P. in 1934, following White and others entering in opposition to Du Bois, the May 1934 postscript shows the discrepancy in a section called The Board of Directions on Segregation. It explains how Du Bois proposed the adoption of his position on segregation for the N.A.A.C.P. to consider. His position recognized, as he had been arguing in The Crisis, the need for calling out and opposing the injustices of segregation, while recognizing, also, the need to support black institutions in the form of churches, colleges, businesses, etc. The resolution passed by the board contradicted Du Bois and his position on the issue, opting to only state a position against segregation without the emphasized support for black institutions.
In the June issue, the last issue prior to Du Bois exiting, he addresses the issue of segregation one more time, specifically questioning the discrepancy from the decision discussed in the May issue.
“The assumptions of the anti-segregation campaign have been all wrong. This is not our fault, but it is our misfortune.”
He goes on to say, concerning the position on segregation:
“Indeed, there is nothing else we can do. If you have passed your resolution, “No segregation, Never and Nowhere,” what are you going to do about it? Let me tell you what you are going to do. You are going to go back to continue to make your living in a Jim-Crow school; you are going to dwell in a segregated section of the city; you are going to pastor a Jim-Crow Church; you are going to occupy political office because of Jim-Crow political organizations that stand back of you and force you into office. All these things and a thousand others you are going to do because you have got to.
If you are going to do this, why not say so? What are you afraid of? Do you believe in the Negro race or do you not? If you do not, naturally, you are justified in keeping still. But if you do believe in the extraordinary accomplishment of the Negro church and the Negro college, the Negro school and the Negro newspaper, then say so and say so plainly, not only for the sake of those who have given their lives to make these things worthwhile, but for those young people whom you are teaching, by that negative attitude, that there is nothing that they can do, nobody that they can emulate, and no field worthwhile working in. Think of what Negro art and literature has yet to accomplish if it can only be free and untrammeled by the necessity of pleasing white folk! Think of the splendid moral appeal that you can make to a million children tomorrow, if once you can get them to see the possibility so the American Negro today and now, whether he is segregated or not, or in spite of all possible segregation.”
Continuing, he gives a very prescient critique of protests. In addition, he also revisits The Conservation of Races from The Souls of Black Folk. The Conservation of Races, along with the American Negro Academy – back from the year 1897 – was discussed earlier in the series. The thoughts of Du Bois remained relevant with him seeing agreement in the sentiments that he expressed at a time way back when Booker T. Washington was cementing himself as a leader. This goes against some notions of Du Bois coming into a different position – this is a confusion of those who often, erroneously, see Garvey as too much of a crucial factor. Although Du Bois did evolve into a way more radical position, later becoming a communist from a more liberal/conservative, socialist position, he always had a black centered agenda for pride and education centered around black experiences and promotion of blacks as a people, even from a pan-African perspective. This is very much in contrast with Garvey, especially looking at the political-economic analysis Du Bois showed with returning to Marx. Garvey remained rather reactionary and right-leaning.
It was in June that Du Bois would resign. An action on June 11 saw an article from The New York Times on the 12. In addition, there would be a letter dated the 26 (“For release July 1”) where Du Bois further addressed his resignation. The resignation was in large part a reaction to a decision by the Board of Directors of the N.A.A.C.P. stating that:
“On the motion of Dr. Wright, duly seconded, it was VOTED, That The Crisis is the organ of the Association and no salaried officer of the Association shall criticize the policy, work, or officers of the Association in the pages of The Crisis; that any such criticism should be brought directly to the Board of Directors and its publication approved or disapproved.”
It is almost a dramatic irony that the recent mysterious death, potentially a suicide, of William Monroe Trotter on April 7, 1934, came right in the middle of what would be the beginning of another full circle effect of social control over the N.A.A.C.P. being exercised to silence a now radicalized Du Bois. It was the beginnings of the N.A.A.C.P. that saw the exclusion of Trotter over distrust of the white elements in leadership. It was also the beginning where there were questions about censorship in attacks against Booker T. Washington. Now, here is Du Bois, years later, coming into a radical, Marxian position that is encouraging pan-Africanism, race pride, and political-economic intelligence, power, and cooperation. This going against the agenda of elites, most notably, as was the theme to point out in previous parts of this series, sees that dissent being directly and immediately opposed and squashed.
In his final resignation letter, Du Bois explains:
“Today this organization, which has been great and effective for nearly a quarter of a century, finds itself in a time of crisis and change, without a program, without effective organization, without executive officers, who have either the ability or disposition to guide the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the right direction.
These are hard and arresting charges. I make them deliberately, and after long thought, earnest effort, and with infinite writhing of spirit. To the very best of my ability, and every ounce of my strength, I have since the beginning of the Great Depression, tried to work inside the organization for its realignment and readjustment to new duties. I have been almost absolutely unsuccessful. My program for economic readjustment has been totally ignored. My demand for change in personnel has been considered as mere petty jealousy, and my protest against our mistakes and blunders has been looked upon as disloyalty to the organization.
So long as I sit by silently consenting, I share responsibility.”
Nation Within A Nation
On June 26, 1934, in New York City, Du Bois gave a speech: A Negro Nation Within A Nation. Here is a part of the speech.
“The colored people of America are coming to face the fact quite calmly that most white Americans do not like them, and are planning neither for their survival, nor for their definite future if it involves free, self-assertive modern manhood. This does not mean all Americans. A saving few are worried about the Negro problem; a still larger group are not ill-disposed, but they fear prevailing public opinion. The great mass of Americans are, however, merely representatives of average humanity. They muddle along with their own affairs and scarcely can be expected to take seriously the affairs of strangers or people whom they partly fear and partly despise.
For many years it was the theory of most Negro leaders that this attitude was the insensibility of ignorance and inexperience, that white America did not know of or realize the continuing plight of the Negro. Accordingly, for the lat two decades, we have striven by book and periodical, by speech and appeal, by various dramatic methods of agitation, to put the essential facts before the American people. Today there can be no doubt that Americans know the facts; and yet they remain for the most part indifferent and unmoved.
The peculiar position of Negroes in America offers an opportunity. Negroes today cast probably 2,000,000 votes in a total of 40,000,000 and their vote will increase. This gives them, particularly in northern cities, and at critical times, a chance to hold a very considerable balance of power and the mere threat of this being used intelligently and with determination may often mean much. The consuming power of 2,800,000 Negro families has recently been estimated at $166,000,000 a month—a tremendous power when intelligently directed. Their manpower as laborers probably equals that of Mexico or Yugoslavia. Their illiteracy is much lower than that of Spain or Italy. Their estimated per capita wealth about equals that of Japan.
For a nation with this start in culture and efficiency to sit down and await the salvation of a white God is idiotic. With the use of their political power, their power as consumers, and their brainpower, added to that chance of personal appeal which proximity and neighborhood always give to human to human beings, Negroes can develop in the United States an economic nation within a nation, able to work through inner cooperation to found its own institutions, to educate its genius, and at the same time, without mob violence or extremes of race hatred, to keep in helpful touch and cooperate with the mass of the nation. This has happened more often than most people realize, in the case of groups not so obviously separated from the mass of people as are American Negroes. It must happen in our case or there is no hope for the Negro in America.
Any movement toward such a program is today hindered by the absurd Negro philosophy of Scatter, Suppress, Wait, Escape. There are even many of our educated young leaders who think that because the Negro problem is not in evidence where there are few or no Negroes, this indicates a way out! They think that the problem of race can be settled by ignoring it and suppressing all reference to it. They think that we have only to wait in silence for the white people to settle the problem for us; and finally and predominantly, they think that the problem of twelve million Negro people, mostly poor, ignorant workers, is going to be settled by having their more educated and wealthy classes gradually and continually escape from their race into the mass of the American people, leaving the rest to sink, suffer and die.
Proponents of this program claim, with much reason, that the plight of the masses is not the fault of the emerging classes. For the slavery and exploitation that reduced Negroes to their present level or at any rate hindered them from rising, the white world is to blame. Since the age-long process of raising a group is through the escape of its upper class into welcome fellowship with risen peoples, the Negro intelligentsia would submerge itself if it bent its back to the task of lifting the mass of people. There is logic in this answer, but futile logic.
If the leading Negro classes cannot assume and bear the uplift of their own proletariat, they are doomed for all time. It is not a case of ethics; it is a plain case of necessity. The method by which this may be done is, first, for the American Negro to achieve a new economic solidarity.
It may be said that this matter of a nation within a nation has already been partially accomplished in the organization of the Negro church, the Negro school and the Negro retail business, and despite all the justly due criticism, the result has been astonishing. The great majority of American Negroes are divided not only for religious but for a large number of social purposes into self-supporting economic units, self-governed, self-directed. The greatest difficulty is that these organizations have no logical and reasonable standards and do not attract the fines, most vigorous and best educated Negroes. When all these things are taken into consideration it becomes clearer to more and more American Negroes that, through voluntary and increased segregation, by careful autonomy and planned economic organization, they may build so strong and efficient a unit that twelve million men can no longer be refused fellowship and equality in the United States.”
Du Bois would go on to work at Atlanta University for the second time; however, his work was complicated by the death of John Hope. Du Bois was rejected in getting the proper grants and in his attempts in setting up one of the largest sociological studies; he was later forced out. Traveling across the world from Europe, Africa, China, Russia, etc., and continuing in his communism, Du Bois would keep fighting for international, pan-African and radical politics, fighting for political and civil rights. Du Bois would be a part of the original efforts to petition the U.N. over human rights violations and genocide. He returned to edit the N.A.A.C.P. petition before again being forced out of the organization. He also joined with Paul Robeson in supporting the Civil Rights Congress petition, We Charge Genocide by William Patterson. Du Bois was later in his life more openly targeted for his activity. In exile, he would eventually die in Ghana in 1963.
Du Bois would place down an agenda that would properly be revisited by those to be discussed in the next part of the series: Malcolm X and Dr. King. There, however, would be behind them the same nefarious elements holding them back and the same attacks against them once their views developed more and more into a vision that would stand for radical change and against the ruling elites.