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Black Leadership Analysis

This is an unofficial Spiral Dynamics blog. It is not endorsed by D. Beck PhD.

Ancestral Reverence in Shadow Work

Part of Buddhist and African spirituality is reverence for your ancestors. In both frameworks, ancestors provide guidance and assistance. In addition to the help they can provide, people that adhere to these spiritualities use ancestral reverence as a way to recognize and thank our forebears for their sacrifice. The practice allows for a person’s ancestors to move through them. Reverence for ancestors will also aid in coming to grips with yourself as part of an unbroken continuum of experience. The continuum stretches back to the beginning of time and forward until the end of time. The continuation happens whether an individual has children or not. The ancestors will help a person to integrate aspects of their personality.

My ancestral reverence practice occurs after my daily meditation. After meditation, I bow, the Buddhist term is half-prostration, and imagine how my ancestors looked. In meditation, a person should move away from using words and attempt to concentrate on first order sensations. I chose as my ancestral image to be a slave. For me, a female image is more natural and more soothing. I am not sure why.

I feel Black Americans need to come to terms with our slave ancestry. The first step for us was coming to grips with our African ancestry. Black Americans were told the pre-colonial Africans were primitive and lacked culture. Those myths have been debunked, and most blacks understand that African civilization was advanced.

I viewed my slave ancestry as something I have to overcome. My slave ancestors sacrificed for me to be here. I now owe them being successful. If I am unsuccessful, their sacrifice was for nothing. I suspect many other people feel the same way.

What I was missing was slaves had full lives in spite of the oppression. The slaves sought wisdom, savored the few pleasures they had, and found love. I am a product of them finding love. When I came to grips with that, I could allow myself to live a full life. My life doesn’t solely have to be about being successful. My slave ancestors showed me how to have a full life in spite of oppression. I owe them being happy, not successful.

Anyone that follows my blog knows I have completed extensive research on the Pullman Porters. While doing research, I stumbled across many stories of the abusive treatment the porter’s received. Porters were called every racial slur. One of the most frequently used was calling all porters “George.” The name came because a man named George Pullman owned the Pullman company. During slavery, slaves were named after their master. Most passengers, especially from the south saw the porters as slaves and treated them accordingly.

These stories triggered me emotionally. Many times in my career I did not speak up when I or someone around me suffered a racial injustice. Many of my black co-workers expressed that I was extremely passive. I had a rocky start to my career and felt I needed to concentrate on the “nuts and bolts” of the job. I avoided unnecessary conflict because I had very little experience and could be replaced easily if things come to a head. I was fired from my first job due to having a racial conflict, and I did not want to repeat this pattern.

I often second guess my decision on this job. I regret not standing up for myself and others more. I have a few instances, in particular, I regret very much. I justify it to myself by saying I had to take care of business. I needed to hold on to the job and gain experience. Deep down I feel not only did I not stand up for myself, but I also did not stand up for my race.

I contrast my struggles with what the Pullman Porters accepted from the company and what they were able to accomplish in the field of Civil Rights. Even if a porter was completely passive, he was part of an organization, if he joined the union, which laid the foundation for the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. If he was kowtowing, he kowtowed for the struggle. If a few racist white people laughed about making a spectacle of a porter, who cares? The porter laid the foundation for me.

I am not saying I have accomplished anything anywhere near as significant as the Pullman Porters. However, progress is not about individual achievement. Progress is about community achievement. I could get the opportunity to redeem myself, someone in a future generation could redeem me. Everyday I decide if the cumulative affects of my actions are positive or negative. Being black is not about winning every fight; no one wins every fight. The goal is to have a larger balance of positive action than negative actions. Your positive action balance is tallied every day. In each moment you create your legacy.

I recently, re-read Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries. In the book, he recounts a story of meeting a black man in Peru that reported the murder of his friend. Below is the quote:

“Until this point, we had been traveling in the same truck as the black guy who had reported the murder. At one of the stops along the road, he bought us a meal and throughout it, lectured us on coffee, papaya, and the black slaves, of whom his grandfather had been one. He said this quite openly but [in] it you could detect a note of shame in his voice. In any case, Alberto and I agreed to absolve him of any guilt in the murder of his friend.”

The man from Peru had an intellectual understanding of the history of his people. The man did not have emotional acceptance, hence the shame. A person must foster both the intellectual understanding and the emotional acceptance. I feel that we as black people have a difficult time with the fact we have had to and still have to acquiesce to injustice. It is a survival method forged by our slave ancestors and is often still useful. Black people hate to admit that they had to acquiesce and others around them had to acquiesce.

The shame of acquiescence causes black people to vilify many our mainstream Civil Rights leaders as Uncle Toms. Many hate that A. Philip Randolph had to say the racist American Federation of Labor leader and L. Johnson was a greater friends to blacks than Lincoln. He was able to accomplish more than any other Civil Rights leader. Randolph was not a dogmatist; he was a pragmatist. He built relationships and allied with those he needed, not those with similar views. He separated the needs of the group and race from his personal need for pride. The same goes for Ed Nixon who organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Nixon was also pragmatic and extremely successful. He is now often viewed as a Tom. These men should be revered as examples of successful leadership.

I think the vilification of Nixon and Randolph would lessen if black people came to grips with their issues with acquiescence. Once a person accepts they did not directly confront the racism they encountered they can accept the behavior in other people. When can then realistically evaluate the sum of all actions and determine if the leader was successful or not. It is true many leaders acquiesce and get no benefit to themselves and the race at large. Acquiesce without results should be vilified. However, if you can prove the leader made the material conditions of black life better, then give the leader the credit they deserve.

To recap, ancestral reverence will help to integrate various aspects of a person’s personality. Once a person has a better understanding of themselves and their psychology, they will reevaluate many leaders from a more logical standpoint. Often we don’t like in leaders aspects of ourselves. As a community, doing shadow work will help us to choose the most suitable leaders.

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Analysis: Asa Philip Randolph

What He Has Right

Randolph’s treatise on lynching was superb. He understands and relays to the audience the underlying cause of lynchings is economic, not racist. By being able to see the bigger picture, the audience can understand the manipulation. The treatise on lynching illustrates how race issues are rooted in economics.

Randolph did understand the causes of World War I. Many modern historians point to the German colonial expansion was a catalyst for the War. Also, the war can be a boost for the economy and did boost the economy in America and Europe. The war utilized idol materials and workers.

He also understands that global peace will only come after all people are independent and self-agentic. He realizes that the non-European countries are not ready for full independence as of yet. However, the European countries should nurture and bring the countries along.

Randolph’s ultimate plan of bringing together black and white workers will work to the benefit of all involved. Uniting the workers will reduce the number of people willing to cross picket lines and gives the union more power. However, he also understands people will not integrate without laws forcing them to do so. He knows the failure to comply should lead to a loss of funding or political power.

The march toward fair hiring practices will require sustained action. He encouraged the crowd to take the energy back home. He also tutored younger leaders such as Martin Luther King. Randolph understood the process would not only extend his whole life, but it will extend through many lifetimes.

Randolph is correct that he and more moderate Civil Rights leaders are the voice of most Black Americans. Only Dr. King can rival Randolph’s list of accomplishments. Integration is the only way forward for a people systematically disenfranchised. Blacks should not leave or separate. Blacks were an integral part of the building of the country and should reap all the same rewards.

What He Has Wrong

Peace is not a sufficient motivator to get the European countries to facilitate the growth of Non-European countries. The Orange meme, which most European countries were operating at the time, has no reason to help other countries grow. In the Orange meme, the European countries want to have as much status and resources as possible. If profit sharing and knowledge sharing happens, the European countries must give up their status. Here are a list of reasons why the European nations will never facilitate third world growth

1. The European nations want to keep the resources to themselves
2. The European nations want to keep labor cheap
3. The European nations do not see the natives as intellectual equals
4. Admitting that change is needed proves that the European countries were wrong in the past

Full equability requires a shift in consciousness. No council full of countries at Orange level consciousness will perpetuate the current system. That doesn’t mean that a council will not at least ensure the world does not regress. However, profound psychological work will be needed by a large group of individuals before any real progress occurs. At the time Randolph was writing this treatise very few people had made the connection between spirituality, politics, and psychology. The modern day analyst, especially the integralist, can see where this philosophy is lacking.

His framing of President Johnson is overly rose-colored. It is important for the reader to know that Johnson was a Dixiecrat and supporter of segregation until he became president. Most other historians recount how afraid most black people were when Johnson took over the Presidency. Johnson did sign some of the most important Civil Rights legislation. However, the motivation was more political than moral. A separate blog post is needed to give this subject justice.

It is also clear that Dr. King was under FBI surveillance during his entire career. Johnson had to be aware of this fact. To say Dr. King and Johnson had good relations is simply not accurate.

The Democratic party absorbed most of the Civil Rights leadership of the 1960’s. Randolph knew he had to keep his political allies to push forth more legislation. Randolph was also Vice President of the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO was strongly allied with the Democratic party. Randolph was being pressured on all sides to keep a positive relationship with the Democrats.

Where is A. Philip Randolph on the Spiral

A Philip Randolph is in the Orange Meme Integrationist. He is a Democratic Socialist that supports First Order Change. Randolph saw race as a subset of the larger issue of economic inequality. In his work, he concentrated on American blacks. Even though he did have a world perspective, which is usually Orange Meme, his work was all in America. Randolph was a power player in the Democratic Party for decades and had recognition internationally. He concentrated on America.

At the beginning of his career, he wanted Second Order change and supported the revolution in Russia. He saw the treatment of minorities in the USSR and determined Communism was severely lacking. Just because he felt the system was superior that did not mean change was not needed. Randolph demonstrates pragmatism in action.

I saw no change in values, so there was no shift up or down the Spiral in Randolph’s public life. He is centered in Orange the entire time.

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March on Washington Movement

After the departure from the National Negro Congress, A. Philip Randolph tours the country with his Brotherhood Vice-President Milton Webster. Webster has the idea of a mass demonstration in Washington. He suggests 10,000 people Marching on Washington. [1] Randolph closes his speeches with a call for a mass protest. The idea spreads like wildfire. In 1941, many are calling for Randolph to go through with the march. Black people have been excluded from the Defense Industry too long. Randolph also wants to end Jim Crow in the military.

Randolph started the March on Washington Movement to create a new coalition to create a mass demonstration to force the government to end segregation in the military and defense industry. He allies with the NAACP, Federal Council on Negro Affairs, and National Urban League. [2]All groups are moderate Civil Rights organizations that wanted first-order change.

Mary McLeod Bethune headed The Federal Council on Negro Affairs. She was a Washington insider that had unprecedented access to the Roosevelts. She was the highest paid government official at the time. [6] Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt were close friends. Bethune received inside knowledge on how the President thought and had an advocate for blacks that is extremely close to the President.

Walter White headed the NAACP at this time. White was another Washington insider and had several meetings on the topic of desegregation in the defense industry. [6] In later years, Randolph and White become rivals and tell conflicting stories about who convinced Roosevelt to sign the executive order. Ultimately, both men had influence on Roosevelt. White pressured from inside the White House. Randolph pressured from outside the White House.

He now needs to ensure those that want second-order change, the Communist, are excluded from the group. He calls for only black people to come to the march. At the time, few whites outside the Communist Party had interest. There were very few black people in the Communist Party because they abandoned the cause of Civil Rights during World War II. Calling for only black people to be at the march was a shrewd method to dissolve the threat of Communist agitation. There is still bad-blood between the two groups since the National Negro Congress split and the Communist could use a disturbance at the march to reduce A. Philip Randolph’s power.

Roosevelt never said he was against desegregation, but he did not actively support Civil Rights. He needed Southern support to pass and continue the New Deal. To keep the Southerners support, he purposely excluded domestic and agricultural workers from New Deal benefits. At the time 60% of black people were domestic and farm workers. Roosevelt also refused to back an anti-lynching bill in 1938.[3] No matter what Roosevelt personally believed, he would always act with political motives.

The USA had not entered World War II in the summer of 1941. Roosevelt wanted to aid the allies in not only supplies but soldiers. He also was framing the war as a struggle against tyranny and genocide. A mass demonstration against racism would call into question America’s moral authority in the war. Roosevelt could not risk a civil disturbance at this critical time.

Eleanor Roosevelt, heavily influenced by Bethune, calls A. Philip Randolph to discuss postponing the march. Randolph agrees to meet with Roosevelt, other Civil Rights leaders, and various cabinet members. According to Randolph in a 1968 interview, Roosevelt was chiefly worried about a civil disturbance at the march. [4] Roosevelt initially proposed an executive order to outlaw segregation in the government contracted defense industry in return for calling off the march. Randolph would not agree. He demanded that the government include non-contract defense industry. Randolph is only willing to postpone not stop the march. Roosevelt balked at first but ultimately capitulated. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8802 two days before the march. [4]

Randolph makes a unilateral decision to call off the march. [2]It is possible he did not have enough time to consult with the rest of his team. It could be that he thought the team would not agree unless the order included the military. Many historians chastise Randolph for unilaterally calling off the march. Originally the March on Washington Movement was a collaboration among equals; now it was Randolph’s group.

There is another group of historians that believe Randolph would not have been able to make the march happen. [6] Washington was a segregated city at that time, that meant few accommodations for housing and restricted access by rail. Because many of the rural areas around DC did not have black newspapers, word of the March spread in major cities across the country not to blacks within driving distance. It is possible that Randolph knew he would not be able to gather his 100,000 people.

Randolph has only postponed the march he has not called it off altogether. He now has branches in Los Angeles, Chicago, Trenton, Milwaukee, Washington, Cleveland, Richmond, St. Louis, Atlanta, Savannah, St. Paul, and Jacksonville. [2] The new national movement was successful in creating demonstrations in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis.

Roosevelt created the Fair Employment Practice Committee, FEPC, to enforce desegregation in the armed forces. He appoints Southerner Mark Ethridge to oversee the committee. Ethridge was a staunchly believed segregation had moral and practical justification. [2] The FEPC has no authority to punish the contractors or government agencies if they are found not obeying the executive order. The result of the FEPC is only documentation that segregation is happening. [2]The FEPC ended due to government cuts in 1943.

The FEPC did have practical reasons for not punishing desegregation. The country was in the middle of supplying and fighting (by the end of 1941) a war effort. Stopping a production line or pulling a contract could get people killed on the front line. However, there could have been measures taken that would not shut down the line, such as disqualification in future contracts.

Randolph continues to use the threat of a mass protest to pressure the government into desegregating the military. To execute a massive protest, he needed more organizational infrastructure. In the 1942 conference, organizational ground rules are made. The first is no money from whites. The MOWM can only serve blacks if it is funded by blacks. The second was a complete denouncement of communism. The third was all local branches come together for the March on Washington.[6] Other than the March on Washington local offices had autonomy.

The institutionalization of the MOWM causes the NAACP to worry that they could lose membership and funding. The NAACP denounced the MOWM as being exclusionary to whites. Turning the NAACP into an enemy caused the most problems with the Washington local branch. The NAACP did everything to discourage membership. The DC local was found to have no members in a 1943 audit. [6]The lack of membership was partly due to poor management, but denouncement by the local NAACP did not help the matter. [6] If there is no support in the city in which the protest takes place, there is no reason to think a protest can happen.

The Left criticized the MOWM first. The Left felt the executive order did not go far enough because there was no penalty for non-compliance. The second issue was a fear that Randolph was working to gain a foot into the Democratic Party on the backs of his people. Blacks would then have total loyalty to the Democratic Party. People do not bait hooks for caught fish. From the extreme Left the criticism was Randolph was not attempting to overthrow an inherently racist system, he was just trying to get black people included in the system at a deeper level.

On the right, there was the charge that a mass demonstration is too risky. The summer of 1943 birthed two race riots in Detroit and New York. Both ended with dozens of blacks killed or injured. The Ohio newspaper,Cleveland Call, urged Randolph to concentrate on local protest at factories. The paper cited numerous instances of local protest working without the risk or cost of a national demonstration. [7]

Randolph wanted the march to be all black to reduce the likelihood of infiltration by saboteurs and to promote black pride. Having an all black march would combat the inferiority complex in blacks. [6] If blacks cannot do anything on their own they will never have the confidence to compete in America. Having the MOWM funded totally by blacks allowed for total control of the movement. Randolph reiterates an old saying “there is no instance of people… winning freedom who did not have to pay for it in treasure, blood, and tears, and since who pays the fiddler calls the time.” [6]

Ultimately, a movement can’t be funded by people with no money. Funding from the NAACP dries up when the MOWM is thought to be working for a permanent organization. In 1942, Randolph admitted to a lieutenant that the movement does not have a dime. [6] In 1943, Randolph asks the Executive Committee for personal loans to keep the movement afloat. [6] The organization holds itself together until 1947 with no paid staff members.

The first organization dedicated to nonviolent direct action was The March on Washington Movement. The NAACP focused on winning cases; the National Urban League groomed politicians, the MOWM got people in the streets across the nation to protest. The MOWM successfully picketed an arms manufacturer in St. Louis along with other local victories. The blueprint will be taken up in the 1960’s by Randolph protege Dr. Martin Luther King.

As stated earlier, Executive Order 8802 did not desegregate the military. Truman will have to implement Executive Order 9981 in 1948 and Secretary McNamara issuing Defense Directive 5120.36 in 1963. However, it was a crucial first step. After EO 8802 the number of black civil servants triple and the number of blacks in the defense industry went from 8.4% to 12.5%. [6] Desegregation would never happen overnight. It took many people of all races working together in many different manners. The MOWM created a template for non-violence that will be used for the entire Civil Rights Movement.

One can not be sure why Randolph left his earlier pragmatism behind. It is reasonable to assume he was terrified of communist infiltration. It is also sensible to think he needed an all-black movement to be successful to salve his ego. It’s hard for a person to share a victory with people he does not trust. I assume there were some shadow elements within Randolph that caused some self-sabotage. Randolph also lacked a lieutenant in the MOWM effort. Milton Webster was a pragmatic Vice-President of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Randolph had a few female secretaries, but due to money issues, none stayed long enough to influence the movement. History will never understand Randolph’s lapse in judgment.

Sources
1. Rising From the Rails by Larry Tye
2. “The Negro March On Washington Movement in the World War II Period” https://theanarchistlibrary.org
3. “Race and FDR’s New Deal” http://www.shmoop.com
4. Thomas Baker Interview with A. Philip Randolph October 29,1968
5. New York Amsterdam News August 7, 1943
6.“It’s A New Kind of Militancy” by David Lucander
7. Cleveland Call Sept 12, 1942
8. “Harry Truman and the Desegregation of the Military” by Joy A. Reid http://www.thegrio.com

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Basic Philosophy of Asa Philip Randolph

Lynching

In 1917, Randolph and his business partner, Chandler Owen, wrote a treatise called The Truth About Lynchings. Lynchings was a way to punish people or entire groups without a trial. Lynchings were very common in the South, and the victims were mostly black.

Randolph and Owen created the treatise to combat the myth that black men having sex with white women cause lynchings. Often interracial relationships ended with an accusation of rape. The whites of the town would rally and kill the offending black man.

To prove the cause of lynchings is not racial, Randolph and Owen show the stats for victims of lynching. Around 35% of victims of lynching were white, and only 34% followed a rape charge. There were black men lynched for dressing well, standing up to whites that disrespected them and attempting to vote. Often black men were just randomly killed. Even when a black man was accused of rape, he did not even know his white accuser. The cause of lynching is much deeper than race.

The writers contend all the victims were extremely poor and often exploited for labor. Most times blacks moved into an area and provided incredibly cheap labor. The skilled labor, generally white, would then need to run these people out of town or kill them. A mob would form to kill one man in hopes the rest would leave out of fear. If that did not work, an attack on the entire black population would follow. That was the story of lynchings in the North.

In the South, lynching provided cause for a constant state of fear in the black community. The state of fear impeded organizing and protesting for equal pay. The fear keeps the old exploitative Capitalist system alive, and the South stayed one step away from slavery.

The capitalists perpetuate racial fears and cause lynchings. The wealthy control the newspapers and can create whatever narrative they want. The public believes the narrative, and the skilled workers are pitted against non-skilled workers. Both have their attention diverted from the real cause of suffering.

Ultimately, exploitative Capitalism led to lynching. Instating socialism can correct the problem. The first order of business was to have all trade unions integrated. Blacks also have to begin to support trade unionism. It is insane to be against trade unionism because most black people are in the working class. In spite of the discrimination in the Union, the fundamental principles of Unionism are sound.

International Affairs

Randolph wrote a treatise on how the United States should handle World War I in 1917 with fellow socialist Chandler Owen. The duo was instrumental in the formulation of socialist thought in the black community. For the reader to fully understand the essay a summary of World War I is needed.

World War I started in 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne. A terrorist organization known as the Black Hand carried out the assassination, and the group had connections to Serbia. Serbia had recently gained full independence from the Ottoman Empire with the help of Russia. The Serbians wanted to liberate various Slavic countries from Austria – Hungary.

Austria – Hungary declared war on Serbia to avenge the killing of the heir. Serbia had a mutual protection pact with Russia. An alliance between France, Russia, and England had existed for decades. The entry of Germany on the side of Austria – Hungary culminated in “The war to end all wars.”

At the beginning of 1917, the United States was not yet in the war. A telegram from Germany was intercepted by the British. The telegram offered Mexico aid if Mexico declared war on the United States to reclaim land lost during the Mexican-American War. The telegram is now known as the Zimmerman Telegram. Public opinion swayed from isolationism to interventionism upon publication of the Zimmerman Telegram. The USA declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

Even though America was justified in entering the war, there were many issues getting soldiers half-way across the world. America could not reinforce European Allied force at speed to move the front line. 1917 was a year of stalemate. America was dumping tons of resources in a war with no end in sight. The government instituted the draft. America will solve all these logistic issues and by 1918 ten thousand new soldiers will be sent to France a day. The Allies will begin to push the Axis Powers back, and the war will end in the summer of 1918.

The stress of the war was not only taking a toll on America. Russia was also near starvation by 1917. The harsh living conditions for the average Russian resulted in a revolution to overthrow the Czar. The new government was the first Socialist government in the world. The new Russian government scales back on the war effort. A treaty between German and Russian will be signed in March of 1918.

Randolph and Owen’s joint treatise Terms of Peace and the Darker Races details how to the major European powers can gain peace with each other and with the non-whites of the world. The treatise takes the position that the war was not intended to avenge the death of Ferdinand. The war was to halt German progress in acquiring new territory in Africa and the Pacific. At the beginning of the war, Germany had colonies in East Africa, West Africa, Northern part of Papua New Guinea, and various islands in the Pacific. The German colonial growth threatened French and German power in Africa and beyond.

The second cause of the war was a surplus of military goods that was going idol. Capitalists run Europe and want to ensure resources go to use and generate profit. However, once the excess of military assets has been exhausted the European powers will end the war because there is not profit motive. The following paragraph is a good summary.

“ After the goods produced shall have been used. There is no gain in having the war continue, but on the contrary, the war’s continuance would be a substantial debt upon capitalist. The capitalist…sell immense amount of goods. When the war ends, the government owes them huge debts. It is necessary for the soldiers to become laborers now to pay this debt. Hence the object of peace is profit – gain- just as the object of war is.” p.2

To illustrate his idea the capital gain is the real reason for prolonging the war he shows how differently the new socialist government in Russia and the capitalist government are handling the issue of peace. The Russians have made their terms for peace well known. Britain and France engage in dark diplomacy, working on terms with Austria -Hungary, and Germany in secret. He concludes that Britain and France want continuance because they still see that the venture is profitable

The profit to be made is not only on the sale of arms and supplies, but the reclaiming of colonial lands recently lost to Germany. The new colonial lands have numerous untapped resources. Further development in Europe is no longer possible due to overuse of land. The new colonial lands are vital for further growth. The allies hope to weaken Germany and take the land back.

The European power’s main relationship to the colonial land is for exploitation. The people of the land are seen as a vehicle to be used to cultivate the ground. They are not independent/agentic beings. The following quotes are a summary of this aspect of the philosophy.

“To prevent such a fight, one of three things may be done: You may eliminate the fighters, you may remove the thing they fight about, or change the attitude on what they are fighting about.” p.8

“Herein lies the real bone of contention of the world war – darker peoples for cheap labor and darker people for rich lands” p 13

“Before getting into the terms of peace for the darker nations, we wish to observe that incidentally are the darker people’s exploited. It is not because of their color per se, but because colored peoples happen to assume such a low place in the scale of civilization just now as to make such exploitation attractive easy and possible.” p 15

Because you can not eliminate the European nations or the colonial lands, the attitude toward colonial lands must change. That is why the European must acknowledge the colonial’s independence an aid in the march toward self-sufficiency. Global peace and stability will be needed to facilitate this new paradigm.

The creation of a Permanent International Peace Commission will be necessary. The commission will judge international breaches of justice. The ability address grievances in a court setting will make the need for war obsolete. As part of the commission, there will be an International Council on the Condition of Darker Races. This council will ensure profit sharing between the workers and capitalist, proper education for natives, and eventual independence for the native people.

Randolph believes the desire for peace will be the ultimate motivator to accomplish this goal. World War I was so bloody on such a large scale that no one will want to endure any war ever again. If everyone wants peace, then full independence for the colonies is necessary. He extends the desired autonomy to Alsace, Lorraine, and Poland which were controlled by various European nations at that time.

Immigration

Like many other Black Empowerment Thinkers, Randolph was a restrictionist.[D] Restrictionist means a person believes jobs or government benefits should first go to United States citizens. His reasoning is complex.

1. Black immigrants rarely applied for citizenship in the early 1900’s
2. White immigrants worked to bring racist laws into the North to shut down black competition for work. Immigrants from nations that were hostile to the USA displaced black veterans in the job market.

His restrictionist stance came from the general labor dynamic of the early 1900’s. The labor unions shut out blacks. Then the union would monopolize the labor market. When the union would strike, blacks would fill the jobs left behind by the strikers. So blacks were often opposed to immigration and the unions. The racism of the labor unions led to most blacks voting Republican and most immigrants voting Democrat. The following was a quote from Randolph in 1924.

“ Instead of reducing immigration to 2% of the 1890 quota, we favor reducing it to nothing… We favor shutting out the Germans from Germany, Italians from Italy, and the Hindus from India. Negro’s from the West Indies. The country is suffering from immigrant indigestion.”[D]

It is important to note that Randolph took no stance on immigration bills after the BSCP joined the AFL. Specifically, he did not comment on the McCarran-Walter Act in 1952 or the Hart-Cellar Act in 1965.[D]

Worker relations

In a 1919 editorial in his periodical “The Messenger” he detailed his Socialist policy in an article entitled “Our Reason for Being.” Randolph explains how the interest of black and white workers are the same. Specifically, their interests are better wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions. If unions discriminate against blacks, the capitalist will have a bank of workers to use when the union workers strike. The larger the union, the more power it will have. Therefore integrating unions is only logical. He cites the Industrial Workers of the World, which was the largest union and the most powerful integrated union in the 1910’s.

Allowing Blacks in Unions will also stop the spread of communism among black people. Black radicalism was starting to spread in blacks frustrated with the slow pace of racial justice. If black people were financially stable faith would be restored in the government and society. The newfound faith in America would lead to more stability.

Proactive Politics

Randolph gave the opening speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In the speech, he details how all Americans need to have full employment. Randolph hoped the march would lead to a jobs bill that would reduce national unemployment. Fair hiring practices must accompany the new jobs. He details one of the main hindrances to fair hiring practices is the need for social peace. Opponents will always claim that change will upset current workers and customers and cause a problem. Randolph expresses the need not to be afraid of conflict for the sake of advancement. Randolph demands that federal funding be contingent on compliance was the method of enforcing the new employment laws.

Randolph also makes clear that the march is just the beginning. He calls for listeners to take a pledge to take the call to resistance back home.

“ When we leave, it will be to carry on the civil rights revolution home with us into every nook and cranny of the land, and we shall return again and again to Washington in ever growing numbers until total freedom is ours” [F]

Legacy

Thomas Baker interview Randolph in 1968 on his life and legacy. The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library kept the interview. The interview recounts his dealings with presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson

The first President that Randolph interacted with was F. D. Roosevelt. Randolph had scheduled the 1941 March on Washington to protest segregation in the armed forces and munitions manufacturing. World War II was underway in Europe. The United States would enter the war in December 1941 after Pearl Harbor. The US was supplying the allied war effort. Therefore munitions factories were opening all over the country. Blacks were applying and were not given jobs in munitions factories. For a group of people kept systematically poor, not being allowed in a growing industry was a real problem.

An even larger problem was segregation in the military. There was the moral issue of fighting discrimination overseas when blacks at home suffered and the practical issue of the glass ceiling for promotions for blacks. A black soldier could be in charge of a black division but nothing else. That made the dream of becoming a general unobtainable. All black people in the armed forces had feelings of resentment.

Mrs. Roosevelt was the first to reach out to Randolph to see if they could avoid having the march. The President did not want racial strife to divide the nation when any day the US could be called to help the Allies in Europe. Mrs. Roosevelt asked why had Randolph not come to the President first. After talking, Mrs. Roosevelt set up a meeting between FDR and Randolph.

F.D. Roosevelt explained that he was soon to execute Executive Order 8802 forcing the National Defense Industry to desegregate. Initially, the Executive Order only applied to government contractors. Randolph demanded the addition of federl government work. Roosevelt agreed if Randolph called off the march. Two days before the march, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 and it included the federal government.

Executive Order 8802 did not contain the military. Randolph and other Civil Rights leaders went to work on a national campaign to end segregation in the military. Truman agreed to meet with Randolph in either 1947 or 1948, Randolph could not remember. In the meeting, Randolph explains black were preparing to become insubordinate if the military did not desegregate. Truman did not realize the situation was that serious. Truman got to work and issued Executive Order 9981 desegregating the military.

Randolph says Eisenhower did the least of all the presidents he worked with for the cause of Civil Rights. Eisenhower was sympathetic to the black cause, but would not take public stands. Randolph did commend Eisenhower for protecting the Little Rock 9, but he could have done much more.

Randolph recounts the story of the 1963 March on Washington. Senators Javits and Douglass organized a meeting between Kennedy, Johnson, various congressmen, and Civil Rights leaders. The biggest concern was keeping the march peaceful. There had never been a demonstration of that size before. If the protest turned violent, it would be difficult to contain. The Civil Rights leaders reassured everyone they could keep control.

Johnson is the best president for Civil Rights according to Randolph. He makes sure to say that list includes Lincoln. Randolph lists Johnson’s accomplishments: Civil Rights Act of 1964, 1965, Voting Rights Act of 1967 and the Open House Occupancy Act of 1968. President Johnson is the first man that won the Presidency that received Randolph’s vote. Randolph spent most of his life as part of the Socialist Party, and Johnson was the first mainstream candidate that had his support. Randolph is confident that President Johnson would soon end the Vietnam War.

Baker asks Randolph if Dr. King and President Johnson had any animosity. Randolph says that Johnson and Dr. King had a good relationship. There was no animosity between King and Johnson.

Randolph considers himself and fellow Civil Rights activists Roy Wilkins and Andrew Young the voice of most of Black America. He grouped Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois together as Capitalist thinkers.He considered Marcus Garvey the voice of more radical separatist. He says Garvey’s Back to Africa movement will not work for the following reasons.

1. Most blacks don’t want to go back to Africa
2. Blacks don’t have enough resources to collective move back to Africa
3. Even if blacks move back to Africa, Imperialist control all the resources.

Ultimately, the Back to Africa movement was not realistic.

Sources:
Books
1. Banks, W. M. 1996, Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life, New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
2. Randolph, A.P 1917 and Owen, Chandler, Terms of Peace and the Darker Race, Poole Press Association (E-book version on Google Play)
Internet
A. Pfeffer, Paula F. (2000). “Randolph; Asa Philip” American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press.
B. “A look at Malcolm X as a mirror for America” New York Times 12-16-1992
Asa Philip Randolph biography on http://www.aflcio.org
C. Scott, Daryl (1999) “ Immigrant Indigestion” Center for Immigration Studies
D. Randolph, A.P. “Our Reason for Being” transcript on http://www.historymatters.gmu.edu
E. Transcript of Randolph’s 1963 March on Washington Speech found on http://www.jacksonville.com

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The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

Asa Philip Randolph demonstrates to black leaders how to build coalitions. Randolph was also realistic about the limitations of his organization. The realization of his limitations led him to seek strategic alliances. While in these alliances he was able to keep control of his union and stay focused on his goal.

Randolph also understood that some organizations could derail his union. If he were to ally with a group that was too radical he would not only hinder the Brotherhood, he would also put many porters in danger. Randolph sought alliances with other mainstream organizations.

As most of the readers already know, Asa Philip Randolph organized The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and obtained a charter from the American Federation of Labor (AFL). He was successful in his efforts because he made strategic alliances to increase his power. An evaluation of the porter’s previous attempts to unionize will be used to demonstrate how “going it alone” is not realistic.

The first attempt to create a porter’s union was in 1890 with the Charles Sumner Association. Charles Sumner was a Senator that fought for Civil Rights. The Pullman Company threatened to fire all the porter’s and hire white replacements. The 1890 strike never happened. The second strike threat occurred in 1897, and again the company threatened to hire white replacements to stop the strike. The closest any porter got to making an appeal for higher wages was getting an editorial in a local newspaper in 1901.

The porter’s primary barrier to successful organizing was a lack of money. In the 1920’s a porter made $1,200 a year. The poverty line in the 1920’s was $1,500 a year. So most porters did not have money for savings or union dues. In addition to only making $1,200, tips composed twenty percent of the salary. As anyone that has worked for tips knows, tips fluctuate, leaving the porter in an even more precarious position.

Not having sufficient income made porter’s even more dependent on the Pullman Company. The company had a porter rule book with two hundred and seventeen rules. When that many rules are in place, every worker made numerous transgression every shift. Pullman had grounds to fire a porter at any time. In addition to not having income or job security, a porter would have a difficult time finding new employment. Pullman specifically recruited dark-skinned black people for the porter job. The job market discriminated against dark-skinned people. The loss of a porter job could be a setback that a black man would never recover.

In 1925, Randolph was selected to run the Brotherhood of Pullman Porters. His job is to finally give the porters a much-needed raise and change the rules to allow for porters to stand up to abuse. Randolph faces many of the same problems previous organizers will face. Membership fluctuates because people can not pay their dues. Instead of simply berating members, he went out to find allies with deep pockets.

Randolph sought out donations from liberal white churches. Donations from white churches keep the Brotherhood afloat for the tumultuous early years. Many of these churches were concerned with the welfare of black people. They have established wealthy membership that kept a steady stream of money flowing to the Brotherhood.

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was another organization courted by Randolph. The AFL was the largest federation of unions at the time and had deep connections with the Democratic party. Both the AFL and the Democratic party had a long history of racism. In the North, blacks were not allowed in most unions. When unions went on strike, black workers would cross the picket line and fill the empty jobs. The AFL and Democratic party often conspired to create laws and reduce funding that would help black people as a way to retaliate.

Randolph knew that the AFL was the only union organization that could give the Brotherhood validity. Affiliation with the AFL would also give Randolph inside information on various initiatives in Congress. Most importantly the AFL could supply the Brotherhood with money in the event of a strike.

The Brotherhood received AFL affiliate status in 1929. The Brotherhood would pay the AFL $0.35 per member. A full AFL membership union only pays $0.01 per member. Many critics saw this not only as a “slap in the face,” but a poor use of scarce resources. Randolph understood that the AFL membership would be a long and arduous road. If the Brotherhood could survive this probationary period, they could obtain real government influence.

The Democratic party heavily pressured the AFL to begin to incorporate black members. The AFL had a long history of segregation in its affiliate unions. At one AFL conference, the group stated its official goal was to protect the livelihoods of native-born white men. The pressure came from the Democratic party’s need to keep control of the mayorship of many major cities, which had sharp increases in their black population. Also, the Democratic party wanted to pull membership away from third parties such as Democratic Socialists and Communists. The Democratic party could reduce the threat of a third party by being more inclusive.

Randolph garnered the most criticism for his introduction of AFL president William Green in Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. He said Green was the second Abraham Lincoln coming to rescue the black worker from industrial bondage. Many critics used this overly enthusiastic introduction as proof Randolph was using the porters as inroads into the AFL. The AFL had a long history of excluding black people and had not allowed the porters to enter as full members.

The election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1932 was the jumpstart that both the Brotherhood and the AFL needed to merge. FDR instituted the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and expanded the Railway Labor Act to include airlines. These laws set specific procedures to form a union, address grievances, and to go on strike. The introduction of a union-friendly administration increased membership in the Brotherhood of Pullman Porters. It is not a coincidence that the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters got an official charter from the AFL in 1935. Having an administration that was friendly to the cause of black liberation had substantial effects. In 1937, the Brotherhood signed a contract with the Pullman company for higher wages and improved working conditions.

Many of today’s black leaders speak of black people becoming independent. Black organizations talk about divorcing themselves from white money and white members. Historically, completely isolated organizations do not work. It would be advantageous to look at what A. Philip Randolph’s alternatives were in the fight against the Pullman Corporation.

The obvious ally would be various black organizations around at the time most notably, the black church. If all these black organizations “pooled their pennies together” they could have serious money to fight injustices. The only problem with the strategy is that all the other black organizations had similar, if not worse money problems. In fact, Pullman gave generous donations to black churches to help in the fight against the Brotherhood. The Chicago branch of the National Urban League fought against the Brotherhood because of a large Pullman donation. The National Urban League funded most of the black politicians. Therefore, many of Chicago’s black politicians were against unionization. The lack of money in the black community hurts black organizations. Most black organizations are more concerned with getting donations to stay afloat and are willing to compromise ethics to get the donations.

The Brotherhood could have enlisted wealthier members of the black community. There were some prominent members of the black community that could have provided money. However, many felt threatened by the prominence of the porter’s in the black community. The few black professionals in major cities enjoyed being the wealthiest black people in town. If the porters obtained fair wages, they could challenge their status in the community. Most black professionals were deeply invested in Orange Meme striving. They were not interested in helping others.

One could say if you were going to ally with white people at least partner with white people that were integrationist from the beginning. The biggest rival to the AFL at the time was the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). IWW was integrationist from inception in 1905. One of the founding members, Lucy Parsons, was born a slave in Texas. The IWW wanted to do away with the wage system and put workers in charge of the means of production. The IWW put itself in direct opposition to the AFL that wanted “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.” If the Brotherhood joined IWW, they would have to challenge Pullmans validity in running the railroad.

The IWW radicalism also led to scrutiny by authorities. In 1906, the murder of an Idaho Governor implicated an IWW leader. Citizen accused IWW member of rioting in Butte, Montana in 1914. Migratory farmers were also a large part of the IWW membership. Unfortunately, migratory farmers were looked down upon and blamed for many unsolved crimes. Migratory farmers were called hobos in the 1920’s and viewed negatively by the general public. The activity that put the IWW the most at odds with the Federal government was its outspoken stance against World War I.

Many unionist believe the government systematically targeted the IWW to cause its downfall. Numerous high profile cases plagued the organization from the early 1910’s to 1920’s. By 1925, the organization was a shell of itself. The union will recover in 1960’s, but the 1920’s was a dark time for the IWW. Randolph understood what the IWW was going through and was smart to keep the Brotherhood away.

Eugene V. Debs, one of the founders of the IWW, was a hero of Randolph. Randolph wrote about Debs’ philosophy in college and his first years at “The Messenger.” Even though Randolph personally agreed with the philosophy of the IWW, including the IWW’s stance against war, he knew a partnership would not be practical. Randolph knew how to set his personal feelings aside for the good of the group.

Randolph’s life and work demonstrate effective leadership. It is a model that more black leaders should follow. He understood the limitations of his group and worked with organizations that would complement the Brotherhood. Once Randolph determined which organizations could be of service to him, he put aside his personal feelings a pursued the alliance. His efforts ultimately culminated in the first contract between a black union and a major corporation. Randolph’s pragmatism is something to admire.

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What Is a Pullman Porter?

The Pullman Porter had a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. His official job description was to assist the passengers on the luxurious Pullman Sleeping Car. His real job was to create the black middle class and forge countless organizations. The porter is known primarily for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which marked the first black labor union to sign a contract with a large company. In addition to all the historical accomplishments of the union, the porter provides vital insight into the black experience.

The first point of business is explaining the Pullman Company. The Pullman Company manufactured luxury train cars for overnight travel. The Pullman Company also contracted out the crew to run the car. The crew members were called Sleeping Car Porters. The founder George Pullman began the company after having to sleep in the train chair on an overnight trip to visit relatives. He started to design a car with rooms with full-size beds called berths. Pullman also elicited help from the government to create favorable laws and obtain funding. Pullman befriended the son of Abraham Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln while petitioning the government. Lincoln took over the company after the death of George Pullman. Both men were fiercely anti-union regardless of the race of the members.

In the simplest terms, a Pullman Porter is equivalent to airline stewardess with far more responsibilities. A porter would greet the passenger upon entrance to the train, carry the bags, show the passengers around the car, and cater to the various needs of the passenger. Porters acted as babysitters while parents drank, nurses when the elderly passengers were sick, and safety advisors when the tracks got rocky. The porter was always available with a smile to make sure his passenger’s trip was remarkable.

Pullman preferred to hire dark-skinned, tall, thin porter’s from the American South. They needed to be tall to reach the shelves above the berths. He needed to be thin to walk by passengers in the narrow hallway without touching. Southern to be sufficiently submissive, Northern blacks were often too rowdy. The dark-skin was especially important. Dark-skin marked the division between passenger and porter. The passenger needed to see the porter, but the passenger should never be obliged to consider the porter fully human. The porter was “other,” a servant, and he wanted the passenger to see him as such.

The passengers on Sleeping Cars were known for their rambunctiousness. The Pullman Car was one of the most expensive ways to travel at the time. The liquor flowed freely on the train, so much so, that passengers often “found themselves in strangers beds.” A Pullman trip would be equivalent to a modern day cruise.

In addition to most passengers spending a significant amount of time on the journey drunk, the white passenger treated the porter with very little respect. The most notable feature of the disrespect was referring to all porters as “George.” The name harkens back to slavery when slaves received their master’s last name. Since the owner of the company was named George, all his black workers were George by default. Termination was the penalty for not answering to George. The Pullman Manual had two hundred and seventy rules. A porter could never show and any indication that he was angry or hurt by a passenger’s comment.

Even though porters were not allowed to fraternize with the passengers, many passengers made advances on the porters. Sumner Welles was Undersecretary of State in 1940. Welles was exemplary as a diplomat and was picked to succeed the current Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Welles derailed his career by getting drunk and offering a porter money for sex. The porter told superiors, and other porters said Welles made the same advances on them. Various government officials confirmed the story and Welles was not picked to be Secretary of State. A 1977 tell-all memoir was the first utterance of this story.

Not all advances were turned down. Here is a story of a young porter and a bride whose husband had to disembark early from the train. The account comes from Larry Tye’s book Rising from the Rails.

Watching her husband ride off in a covered wagon, she struck up a conversation with [A porter] “You -you know you’re the first Nig-nigger I have ever talked to. Can I? I? – believe all- believe all my mother and father have told me about you people?” she inquired hesitatingly, with a peculiar smile. Her remarks flashed through my mind, bringing with them thing the boys had told me that white people say about niggahs, and I realized what she was suggesting. It’s sure hard to make white people believe that what they say might be true about some of us, but not about the whole race. Still, as the legend is to our advantage, I left my work for an hour, so that it shouldn’t die with me.

Not all white and black interchanges were agreeable. The porter had to find ways to protect himself that did violate company rules. Larry Tye recounts a story from The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Malcolm X worked for a few years as a Pullman Porter before turning to a life of crime and later conversion to Islam.

I remember that once, when some passengers complaints had gotten me a warning, and I wanted to be careful, I was working down the aisle and a big, beefy, red-faced cracker soldier got up in front of me, so drunk he was weaving and announced loud enough that everybody in the car heard him, “I’m going to fight you nigger.” I remember the tension, I laughed and told him, “Sure, I’ll fight, but you’ve got too many clothes on.” He had on a big Army overcoat. He took that off, and I kept laughing and said he still had on too many. I was able to keep that cracker stripping off clothes until he stood there drunk with nothing on from his pants up, and the whole car was laughing at him, and some other soldiers got him out of the way. I went on. I never would forget that – that I couldn’t have whipped that white man as badly with a club as I had with my mind.”

Relations between blacks on the train was also interesting. Because porters had to suppress their anger toward passengers they often lashed out against each other. Often porters would accuse other porters of “cooning.” Cooning is acting overly obliging to get bigger tips. A charge of cooning could come from having too big a smile for too long or the egregious dancing for customer’s amusement. Ultimately, all the porters had to compromise their pride to work for the Pullman company. An arbitrary line separates following orders and cooning. Cooning was always something the other guy did.

The other large part of the Pullman crew was the kitchen staff. To keep with plantation tradition, the kitchen workers were normally light skinned. Often porters would say waiters were soft and did not work hard. Many people will say that this is a remnant of anger from the plantation hierarchy. Light-skinned slaves, commonly descendant of the master, got “easier” jobs in the house. I think that the animosity between porters and kitchen staff was just another way to expel suppressed anger from passenger’s behavior.

Ultimately, kitchen staff and porters worked together. Kitchen staff would save scraps to make stew. Porters would keep an eye out for empty berths to allow the cooks and waiters to get a good night’s sleep. The kitchen staff could easily sneak out before the passengers awakened. In the end, both kitchen staff and porter were on the same team. If they did not work together, they would sink together.

I will detail the formation of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in later blog posts. As of now, I will say the contract between Pullman Company and The Brotherhood will be the first time and all black union will force a major company to sign a contract. The victory catapults Brotherhood President A. Philip Randolph to national acclaim. He uses his fame to make the National Negro Congress, which is a militant alternative to the NAACP. The National Negro Congress folds due to internal conflict. He learns many leadership lessons from the organization and begins a campaign to desegregate the government and military.

To rally support, Randolph rallies crowds around the idea of a March on Washington. Originally, Randolph was going to get 10,000 people to demonstrate in Washington, DC. Once he started relaying the idea to crowds across the country people from all over the nation and of all political persuasions. Randolph officially set the date of the march on June 27, 1941.

Franklin D. Roosevelt did not want a public demonstration at this time. FDR was attempting to gain support for joining in the fight in World War II. He was also afraid that communist would cause a disturbance in the rally and put American race relations on a world stage. FDR met with Randolph to come to a compromise that would allow for Randolph to call off the march. The result was Executive Order 8802 which desegregated the defense industry government and contractor. Two days before the March on Washington 1941 was to happen it was called off.

Randolph does not just fold up shop and go home. He expands the March on Washington Movement. He builds a March on Washington headquarters in all major American cities. The March on Washington protest take place all over the country for twenty years, and it causes change at the local level. On the national level, the March on Washington Movement forced Truman to sign Executive Order 9981, finally desegregating the military. The last March on Washington was in 1963. Dr. King’s gives his “I Have A Dream” speech at this rally.

Dr. King owes much of his career to Randolph and Ed Nixon. Ed Nixon was President of the Montgomery Branch of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Because Nixon was running the Brotherhood and various Montgomery political organization, Ed Nixon recommends Dr. King to run the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott lasts for over a year. Dr. King proves to Nixon he has potential and Nixon introduces him to Randolph. Randolph and his team gave Dr. King the tutelage he needed to lead the movement.

In addition to providing an organizational template and leaders, the Brotherhood provided funding for various organizations in the Civil Rights Movement. Randolph’s motto was, “ Whoever pays the piper calls the tune.” For a black organization to be truly independent, it had to be funded by black people. Malcolm X echoes the same sentiment in later years. Randolph would often invite Malcolm to his personal residence to tell him stories of the Harlem’s socialist movement and talk about politics. A. Philip Randolph and other black leaders including Elijah Muhammad started blacks down the road to self-determination.

The Pullman Porter has a dubious legacy in the minds of Black America. On the one hand, they had a servile role and had to take abuse without fighting back directly. On the other hand, they laid the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. I feel the Pullman Porter is the ultimate symbol of the black middle class. Often we work in jobs in which we are under-utilized and treated with disrespect. Not to the same extent as the porter, but disrespect nonetheless. We do that to support the aspirations of our family and those that want to fight white supremacy directly. The fight against white supremacy takes many forms. Blacks have to utilize many methods to fight it. The porter was one of the most cunning soldiers in this battle.

The information for this blog post comes from Larry Tye’s book Rising From The Rails

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The Crucible: Part 2 Value Memes and Transitions

Buddha or Karl Marx

Buddha or Karl Marx

34 pages

Dr. Ambedkar admits that at first glance a comparison of Buddha and Karl Marx seems unreasonable. However, both can be considered practical philosophers attempting to create a more equitable world. Also, both saw that the abolition of private property would lead to a fairer and freer society.

Karl Marx proposed what he felt was a scientific socialism. In Marx’s estimation, a revolution by the poor was inevitable due to mounting inequality. The poor would collectively own the means of production through dictatorship. Once the dictatorship removed the concept of private property, a new equitable society would flourish.

However, the Communist plan has been implemented in Russia since 1917 after a violent revolution. The implementation of policies has also necessitated the use of violence and coercion. The use of force has no end in sight. Even though Marx claimed that implementing Communism would eventually lead the dissolution of the state, there is no evidence of this happening. Also if the state dissolved, it seems it would be replaced by Anarchy.

In contrast, Buddha set out to change people’s understanding of the world. Ambedkar then goes on to explain various Buddhist concepts such as The Four Noble Truths, The Ten Hindrances, and the Ten Virtues. He describes how these teaching systematically remove the idea that the individual can exist on his own or personal gain will lead to lasting happiness (ego). Once a person thinks in a collective sense, they will not want to own the means of production and want it owned by the collective.

To reframe this in Integral terminology, Buddha focused on interiors, and Marx concentrated on exteriors. Buddha understood that external changes only happen once a person’s attitude changes. If externals change without the internals, there will always need to be some greater force holding society together. People will not be motivated to maintain a healthy society without coercion so the society will always be unstable.

One of the criticisms that Communist often levy on Buddhist or people with religion is that religion makes people “otherworldly”. Those with religion care more about the afterlife than building an equitable future here on earth. Ambedkar illustrates how Buddhism professes and supports building material wealth inside the boundaries of law and morality. Buddhism is not an otherworldly religion. Ambedkar goes further to say Communist attempt to paint all religions with the same brush.

The read the entire book yourself click on the link below for a PDF copy.

Buddha or Karl Marx

Manu and the Shudra

In this treatise, he gives some background and explanation of Manusmriti, the book that codified caste law. He explains many of the rules that affected Dalits and other lower caste people.

According to Manu, the person/demigod that codified rules of Untouchability, the world is composed of those inside the caste system and those outside the caste system. Of those inside the caste system, there are priests (Brahmin), soldiers (Kshatriyas), vendors/traders(Vaishyas), and servants (Shudras). These castes were listed in descending order.

The book goes into detail on various ways in which Dalits were marked and insulted.

  1. Had to leave town from 3 pm to 9 pm to not cast a shadow on higher caste
  2. Had to hang a pot around his neck to catch spittle
  3. Had to wear black necklace, black wristband, carry broom to sweep away footsteps, or wear horn
  4. Had to wear old or torn clothes
  5. Can’t build more than a one story house
  6. Not allowed to cremate their dead

One interesting point in the book was his thoughts on Shudra forming their political party and electing the best candidate that was Shudra. Ambedkar says that the action of selecting someone just because they are Shudra is no better than choosing someone just because they are Brahmin. The Shudra are attempting to dominate in the same way as the Brahmin

Ambedkar never published or completed this work.

Found in the book The Selected Works of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar found online for free.

Waiting on a Visa

This treatise gives anecdotal information on Ambedkar’s life as a Dalit. He speaks on incidents in which his life was threatened or disrespected. He also relays some anecdotes from other Dalits he gathered while investigating Dalit issues for the government.

Ambedkar relayed the following stories in the book.

  1. He recounts how in his childhood he could not secure a wagon ride to another city because he was Dalit.
  2. He also recounts how he could not get lodging because he was a Dalit upon return from graduate school. He found lodging in a Parisi hotel under a false name until the locals found out he was a Dalit.
  3. Ambedkar retells an incident in which he was in a wagon wreck because of an inexperienced Dalit driver. All the upper caste drivers in the area would not transport a Dalit, so an inexperienced Dalit had to drive the wagon.
  4. He discussed an incident in which he was considered to be polluting the water tank of a Muslim
  5. A doctor refused to give another Dalit medical treatment. The refusal of treatment resulted in the woman’s death
  6. You can find the book at the link below.

    http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/txt_ambedkar_waiting.html

The Origins of Caste (Caste in India)

The Origins of Caste is an early work of Ambedkar written in 1916. The treatise gives a preliminary explanation of the origin and propagation of caste. It also critiques the interpretation of castes provided by others. In the end, he reiterates this theory is preliminary and could require more research.

He summaries the root caste from others to begin. The other theorists say the caste system is rooted in myths of lineage, traditional occupation, or ceremonial purity. Ambedkar describes all the opposing theories as partially correct. However, he makes his case for the root of the caste system being the prohibition of intermarriage between castes.

When a person understands the root of the caste system is the prohibition on intermarriage, many other customs can be easily explained. The prohibition on intermarriage, each group, must ensure there is an equal number of males and females. If a spouse dies, then there is a surplus man or surplus woman. This adult with no sexual partner would have the incentive to look for a mate from outside the caste. To prevent the widow from a cross-caste marriage, she can be thrown on the funeral pyre or take a vow of celibacy. For a widower, he can be forced into celibacy or given an underage girl to wed.

He criticized that the rule of caste was set forth by one authoritarian ruler, Manu. It would be difficult for one man to enforce these laws during his reign against the will of the people. It would be even more challenging to create a lineage of rulers that did the same thing. It is also unlikely the Brahmin forced caste rules on the lower caste for the same reason.

Ambedkar theorized that the most likely explanation is the Brahmin decided to close themselves off by forming a caste. The next highest social class then converted themselves into a caste to improve their social standing. This behavior continued until finally those at the bottom of society were completely shut out. To support the claim Ambedkar calls to the attention of the reader; there are fewer purity rules the further a person’s caste is from the Brahmin.

The treatise is crucial because it provides a basis for Ambedkar’s struggle for the rights of women with the overall social justice struggle. As women win the right to marry and love as they wish, the foundations of caste will be destroyed.

A copy of this treatise can be found on Google Play or from the below link from Columbia University.

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/txt_ambedkar_castes.html

Who were the Shudras?

In this treatise from 1946, he focuses on the origin of the Shudra (Menial) class. It studies Vedic scripture to get a clear picture of the origin of the castes system. The treatise also refutes the Aryan invasion theory, that was popular today and in the time of Ambedkar.

Some background on the caste system will be needed. The caste system is a social structure in which people are segregated into groups that are typically associated with professions. People can’t marry outside of caste or get an occupation that is reserved for another caste. Certain types of contact from lower caste can cause the higher class to need cleansing. A ceremony conducted by a Brahmin (priest) can fill the cleansing requirement. There are four Hindu castes: Brahmin ( priest), Kshatriya (soldiers), Vaishyas (traders), Shudras (menials). The Dalit (untouchables) are considered to be a caste by some. However, most Dalits feel that they are outside Hinduism. Dalit are not covered in this treatise.

The prevailing theory of the origin of caste in 1940 was the Brahmin descended from a central Asian tribe called the Aryans. The Aryans conquered the native Dravidian people. The Brahmin are those with the purest Aryan blood, and the lower castes are mixed until finally, the lowest class was pure Dravidian. Aryans had a white skin complexion and Dravidians had a dark-skinned complexion. This idea of mixing of race degrading a people was used to segregate people all over the world. It also was also used to justify white rule in India and other places.

He begins by laying out his main premise.

  1. The Shudra were an Aryan community
  2. There was a time only three castes were represented Brahmin, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas
  3. Shudra were Aryans and part of the Kshatriyas (soldier class)
  4. The Shudra began a feud with the Brahmin on the exclusive rights to religious ceremony
  5. In retaliation, Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on Shudra, Upanayana are the rights that are a prerequisite to land ownership and education
  6. The prohibition on Shudras from owning land or being educated led to the degradation of the Shudra.

The Shudra were an Aryan community

The word “Aryan/Aryas” was never used to mean race in the Vedic text. It derives from a Sanskrit word that meant plowed land. The term was used to differentiate the Aryan people from less sophisticated scavenger and nomadic tribes. After Vedic times Aryan meant nobleman or respected person. The only physical description of the Aryan people describes them as long-headed. Long-headed people could have any skin color.

Not only do the Vedic text not imply that Aryans have white skin. Many of the main characters in the Vedas that are Aryan are said to have a dark complexion. Rama, Krishna, and Rishi Dirghatamas all are said to have had dark skin. It is most likely that Aryans were white, copper, and black in complexion.

Also, the Vedas say that Dravidians/Dasus would convert and become Aryans. That leads Ambedkar to believe Aryan and Dravidians are early cults of Hinduism. Individuals could experience Aryan culture and determine they wanted to switch. The ability to change Varna would not be possible if Aryan denoted race. Also, the word “Varnas” which is normally translated as color, actually derives from the Sanskrit word for faith.

There was a time only three castes were in Hinduism

References to the four castes are found in the Purusha Sukta, which Ambedkar proves is a late addition to the main text of the Rig Veda. Therefore, there was a time only three castes existed: Brahmin, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. These three are the only ones mentioned in the Rig Veda main text.

Shudras were Aryans part of the Kahatriya (soldier) caste

The Shudras are the mythic progeny of the Vedic character Sudas. Sudas was a king in ancient India. Sudas coronation was conducted by Brahmin, a sign that he was Kshatriyas. Sudas was also said to be wealthy and respected before the skirmish.

The Shudra fought the Brahmin for the right to perform religious services.

Ambedkar uses passages of the conflict between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra as an allegory about the conflict between Brahmin and Kshatriya’s priest. Both were performing religious rights. Vishvamitra was a Kshatriya and wrote some of the Rig Veda’s hymns. Vasishtha was Sudas chief priest. Sudas fires Vasishtha and hires Vishvamitra. Also, Vasishtha’s son is killed by Sudas. Vasishtha’s son questioned Vishvamitra on an important matter. To hold Vishvamitra’s honor, Suda’s murdered the young lad. The sons and all the progeny of the two sides continued the feud. The Purusha Sukta and the Manusmirti hold the information on this conflict.

In retaliation, Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on Shudra, Upanayana are the rights that are a prerequisite to land ownership and education

To retaliate on the Kshatriya’s priest, the Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on the Shudras. Upanayana was an initiation rite that allowed a person to be educated and own land. Conducting sacrifice according to the Vedas was the primary reason for property ownership. The Vedas also say the Shudra of that time were few. The Brahmin held power to perform Upanayana and deny it to anyone for any reason.

The prohibition on Shudras from owning land or being educated led to the degradation of the Shudra.

Because the Shudra did not have education or land, they could not do anything other than menial tasks. They were not genetically deficient or fated to live in a servile state. The denial of Upanayana to women caused the same situation.

Also, the modern day Shudra are not descendants of the mythic Sudas. Shudra came to mean “low-class” or uneducated person. All those not Dalit or upper class got the epithet. If people understood the modern Shudra were not the descendants of Sudas, violence against them would stop.

Ambedkar also debunks the Aryan invasion theory. The Vedas have no record of an invasion. If the Aryans were conquerors, they would boast about their conquest. Both Aryans and Dravidians were native to India and are not related to Europeans. The Aryan Invasion theory was started by Europeans to justify conquest and accepted by upper-caste Indians to justify their rule.

Why is “Who are the Shudra” important”

Who are the Shudra shows how important it is to study something through many cultural lenses. Had Europeans and upper-caste Indians been the only ones looking into the subject, many biases would not have been uncovered.

Also, the roots cause of disparity between groups is the denial of education and land. Systematic economic disenfranchisement is true in Indian history, African history, and American history. There is no situation in which a people with full access to education and property over the entire history of a country ends up in a servile position.

Dr. Ambedkars Library

Caste

Manu and the Shudra

The Origins of Caste (Caste in India)

Who were the Shudras?

Politics and Society

Buddha or Karl Marx

Ranade, Gandhi, and Jinnah

Autobiographical

Waiting on a Visa

Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar

Ambedkar was an Indian Dalit, a person that was inflicted with social untouchability. Despite being a social outcast, he was able to earn degrees from Columbia and the London School of Economics. He started numerous political parties in India and served as India’s first Law Minister. While serving as Law Minister, he was commissioned to write the Indian constitution.

He is most famous for his show-down with Gandhi for the right of Dalits to have a separate electorate. Gandhi goes on his indefinite fast to force Ambedkar to concede power. Finally, the two agree to the Poona Pact in compromise and Gandhi narrowly avoids death. The rivalry between the two will continue. Gandhi will hold a paternalistic view toward the Dalit and Ambedkar will advocate for Dalit self-determination.

However, the mass conversion to Buddhism is what endeared Ambedkar in the hearts of many. In 1956, he converted to Buddhism along with 500,000 followers. This action made him the father of modern Buddhism and the founder of Navayana Buddhism. Many from all over the world consider Ambedkar a Bodhisattva.

Dr. Ambedkar’s Library

Gandhi’s Influence on Dr King ?

Dr. King saw Gandhi as a fellow Christian. Not because Gandhi was part of a church, Gandhi was Hindu. However, he did see Gandhi as a person that used love to conquer hate through non-violent resistance. He went as far as to say the bible verse “there are other sheep I must minister” (John 10:16) and “do even greater things than these” (John 14:12) included Gandhi. In a 1959 sermon, Dr. King said Gandhi was also a master of self-control.

Dr. King says that his first encounter with Gandhi’s teaching was a two years after the death of Gandhi in 1950. Dr. Mordecai Johnson gave the lecture while Dr. King was in seminary. At the time of the speech, Gandhi had already been assassinated. The address had such an effect on King he went out and bought six books on the subject. Some scholars say that Dr. Benjamin Mays introduced King to Gandhi’s work while an undergraduate. Dr. Mays had gone with a delegation of Christians to visit India and met Gandhi in 1935. However in the paper “My Journey to Non-violence” King credits Dr. Johnson for introducing him to Gandhi.

Prime Minister Nehru invited Dr. King to visit India in 1959. The Gandhi National Memorial Fund and the Quaker Center sponsored the trip. Dr. King arrived in India on February 10, 1959. He brought his wife Coretta and biographer L.D. Reddick for the month-long journey and exploration of non-violent resistance.

Upon leaving India, King calls on the United States and Soviet Russia to follow Gandhi’s example of non-violence and disarm. He also calls on India to disarm and become an example to the world. If India did disarm and some other country attacks, the world would rush to her defense, because she is a shining example of non-violence. His call for India to disarm shows how sincerely he believed in the concept of good will inevitably triumph over evil.

King’s view of Gandhi and his trip to India were recounted in the 1959 Palm Sunday sermon, a 1959 article for Ebony magazine, and a 1965 Independence Day sermon. According to King, Gandhi freed India without a gun drawn or a harsh word uttered. He gave a narrative of Gandhi’s life in the Palm Sunday sermon.

Gandhi began his journey when he was kicked off a train after buying a first class ticket in South Africa. The humiliation for being kicked off the train led him to organize Indians for equality. Gandhi gathered inspiration from the bible and Christian authors like Tolstoy. His campaigns in South Africa were so successful that those back home in India wanted his help.

In India, his campaign for equality began in 1922. This first campaign had to end because people in his movement became violent. King commends Gandhi for having the bravery to chastise members of his movement when they transgressed. He later restarted the campaign and protested the high taxes for salt with the Salt March.

Gandhi also wanted to end untouchability, according to King. King believes the fast of 1932 was to stop untouchability. Gandhi takes himself to the brink of starvation. Right before Gandhi was to die of starvation, a group of untouchables and high caste members decide to sign a pact to end untouchability. He never mentions Ambedkar by name. Now untouchability is punishable by three years in jail. Most Indian leaders publicly denounce the practice, and no one would publicly sign a pact supporting untouchability.

In reality, the 1932 fast was to remove Parliamentary reservations for Dalits. Ambedkar had gone to England and secured The Communal Award ensuring Scheduled Castes and Tribes would have seats reserved for them in Parliament. Supporters were glad that England would ensure some Dalit representation. Gandhi wanted to ensure Hindus always held the majority in Parliament. If Dalit had a separate electorate, they could form a coalition with Muslims and weaken Hindu caste rule. Gandhi went on a fast to ensure the Hindu set aside included Dalits. It is unlikely a Dalit could win an election where most of the voters were caste Hindus, and their numbers would increase the number of seats Hindus had relative to Muslims. Ambedkar and Gandhi were able to reach a compromise in the Poona Pact. Gandhi broke his fast and Ambedkar received some reserved seating in Parliament.

King continues to praise Gandhi saying he achieved absolute self-discipline. According to King, Gandhi had no secrets, and his life was an open book. King obviously was not aware of the numerous sexual allegations against Gandhi. These allegations will not be known in the West until much later. However, someone deeply involved in Indian politics would have at least heard rumor of transgression. Arundhati Roy has written many books detailing the violations.

Gandhi is also complemented for using the term “Harijan” instead of “untouchable.” It appears Dr. King is not aware that the term “Harijan” is also offensive and most people that suffer from untouchability and they prefer the term Dalit. The term “harijan” is Sanskrit for “children of G-d.” The term “Harijan” is more palatable to upper caste Hindus than “untouchables” or “Dalit” because it allows the upper caste to sidestep real issues and the root problems with caste. On the other hand, “Dalit” means “oppressed” in Sanskrit. The term “Dalit” forces upper caste to deal head on with the social problems of the day. Many Dalits protested the use of the term “Harijan” while Gandhi was alive. Gandhi knew this and continued to use the word “Harijan” because his priority was to talk to upper caste Hindus.

King also seems unaware that Ambedkar charged Gandhi of having different narratives in the three versions of his newspaper Harijan. The English version always advocated for the annihilation of caste, but the two versions in his native language advocate for keeping upper caste Hindus above Dalit, while removing rituals of purity when one is in contact with Dalits. King praised Gandhi for having a paper dedicated to Dalits.

While telling his story about his brief stint in Trivandrum, Kerala while in India, he tells the story about when he was called an untouchable. He was visiting a high school in the city that was comprised mostly of untouchables, and the principle introduced him as an untouchable from America. King was at first upset, but after reflection, he realized that he was, in fact, an untouchable, along with every other black man in America.

From the evidence I was able to gather, I am not convinced that Dr. King had a clear view of the Indian struggle and Gandhi’s role in it. He apparently knew little of Gandhi’s personal life. It is most likely that a carefully manufactured retelling of the Indian struggle through the eyes of Christian pre-determinism influenced King’s understanding. The idea that good will inevitably win over evil is pervasive throughout the Bible. All the people in King’s life that studied India were Christians with a background or career in theology. So, it can be easily seen that these people superimposed their beliefs on their retelling of the story. Dr. King was predisposed to believe the narrative because of his sincere belief in the Christian faith.

In reality, India had an armed struggle against the British that started in the 1850’s. By the 1940’s the Indian National Army was large and had carried out successful operations against the British in World War II. The English needed to concentrate on rebuilding after the war and did not have enough resources to suppress an armed rebellion. Gandhi came in at the right time to offer a transition of power that would allow for continued economic growth while not consuming British military resources. That does not mean blacks should form a resistance army to mimic the Indians. I present this evidence to show how fundamentally different what Gandhi accomplished was to what Dr. King accomplished.

King’s faith also led him to be humble and extend credit to Gandhi. In reality, the story of Gandhi had the same influence on King as the stories of rebellious Scottish chiefs had on the American founding fathers. Both gathered inspirations to fight tyranny from those that went before them. Both may have used previous struggles as a rough outline of what needed to be done to free their people. But to say that Gandhi was the inspiration or mastermind of the American Civil Rights movement is a step too far. King’s tactics and struggles were his own.

If Dr. King had been introduced to the philosophy of Ambedkar, he would not have given so much praise and credit to Gandhi. King also would not refer to Dalits as “Harijan” if he understood they prefer the term Dalit. He had a very limited view of the Dalit fight, but he saw the struggle against untouchability and racism as intertwined. If Dr. King understood Gandhi’s true feelings on untouchability, he would be highly critical.

As we continue this blog, we will go in-depth on the philosophy of Gandhi, Ambedkar, and King. It is very likely the philosophy of Ambedkar and King will be the most similar.

Sources

Background

  1. Labelling Dalits “Harijans”:How We remain ignorant and insensitive to Dalit Identity. 10-27-2015 S. Ramanathan
  2. L.D. Reddick’s Account of the arrival in India 02-10-1959
  3. Biography of M. Gandhi on http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/
  4. Narrative of Dr. King’s 1959 trip to India found on http://www.gandhiking.ning.com
  5. Poona Pact: Mahatma Gandhi’s fight against untouchability 09-24-2016 https://www.indiatoday.in
  6. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s BBC Interview in 1955
  7. Arundhati Roy: Race, Caste – Ambedkar v. Gandhi posted by Joe Friendly on 10-14-2014 YouTube
  8. Arundhati Roy: The Doctor and the Saint posted by We Are Many Media on 10-16-2014 YouTube
  9. An odd kind of piety: The truth about Gandhi’s sex life 01-02-2012 http://www.independent.co.uk/
  10. The Sexuality of a Celibate Life by Vinay Lal 05-01-2011 https://www.sscnet.ucla.edu
  11. Debunking the Gandhi Myth:Arundhati Roy posted by The Laura Flanders Show 10-21-2014 YouTube
  12. Dr. King’s Papers and Speeches

  13. His Influence Speaks to World Consciousness paper 01-30-1958
  14. My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence paper 09-01-1958
  15. Statement Upon Return from India 03-18-1959
  16. Palm Sunday Sermon 03-22-1959
  17. My Trip to the Land of Gandhi 07-1959 published in Ebony
  18. The American Dream sermon 07-04-1965

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