Black Leadership Analysis

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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.

1. Rising From the Rails by Larry Tye
2. “The Negro March On Washington Movement in the World War II Period”
3. “Race and FDR’s New Deal”
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

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Basic Philosophy of Asa Philip Randolph


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.


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]


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.

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)
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
C. Scott, Daryl (1999) “ Immigrant Indigestion” Center for Immigration Studies
D. Randolph, A.P. “Our Reason for Being” transcript on
E. Transcript of Randolph’s 1963 March on Washington Speech found on

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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

For more information on the Pullman Porters please vist the official museum. HERE

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Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle
by Oliver Taylor

Dr Thomas Parham offers some stimulating strategies from his book Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle to prepare for the psychological storms that lie ahead for African Americans and Afropeans in the West. Parham quotes Wade Nobles (1986), a notable pioneer of the African American psychology movement, who wrote: ‘in the African way, ideas are the substance of behaviour.’ Parham elaborates writing, ‘consequently, if our consciousness is culturally congruent, then our behaviour should be focused on responding to our reality in ways which support, enhance, sustain, and actualize our individual and collective beings as African Americans.’

One of several strategies that Parham offers is what he refers to as Differentiating Values and Skill, found in Chapter 6, Preparing for the Next Storm: Fortification. I see this as an essential strategy for Black Atlantics to adopt, and one that if they can take seriously will increase their effectiveness, mental wellbeing and freedom in a Eurocentric society.

Differentiating between values and skills means understanding the fundamental difference between values and skills. Parham quotes values as, ‘”worth or importance that is assigned to something,” and skills are ‘”developed aptitudes or abilities at something;” it’s the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively in execution or performance’. There is a difference, and this is what Parham is emphasizing for the benefit of Blacks.

Parham believes that many Blacks, particularly young Blacks, assume that both terms mean that same thing. Parham writes that the words are not synonymous, and there is a danger making this assumption. Parham notes a case study run by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, which they published on July 24, 1992, to support this. The paper conducted interviews on African Americans who reported having to endure both other-imposed and self-imposed pressures of ‘acting White’ if they wanted to achieve and achieved academic success (Barrington, 1992). Parham writes that this is an oversimplified explanation, and a trap Blacks can easily fall in to, and therefore must be untangled for their betterment.

Correlating excellence in writing, reading, mathematics, science with being White and selling out, and Blackness with athleticism and musicality is an error in differentiating between skills and values. The skills mentioned are not inherently White. Parham writes, ‘indeed, it was ancient Africa (Kemet) and not Europe who taught the world what it knows in almost every discipline’. The Blackamoors invaded Europe and brought them out of the Dark Ages (Sertima, 1991), and the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians introduced the arts of civilization to the classical Greeks (Bernal 1987).

Here Parham makes two crucial points about Blacks learning the ‘skills and technologies of the dominant culture’ while at the same time being true to their cultural values:

‘Blacks do not have to adopt Eurocentric orientated values, especially when they are to Blacks detriment, simply because they learn or use a particular skill’.
‘Blacks cannot avoid acquiring a particular skill that might assist them in advancing themselves or their people, just because they associate that skill with being White’.
Parham then summaries this strategy–highlighting the challenge of maintaining our cultural integrity while learning the skills to navigate the pathways to productivity and success.

It’s worth noting earlier in his book in Chapter 4, The Eye of The Hurricane: Managing Anxiety, Parham shares some behavioural and attitudinal adjustments that Blacks make to manage the discomfort between the competing spirits (mentioned in Part I of this blog post). One of them is relevant to this post: Pass’in.

In reality, pass’in is adopting the values of Whiteness, and therefore what more closely equates to ‘acting White.’

Parham defines pass’in as ‘attempts to understate, downplay or otherwise camouflage one’s African American makeup. These individuals try to embrace and adopt the characteristic of the dominant culture. Every fibre of their beings suggests they want to be White, from their wardrobe, hairstyle, language style, peer group, spouse/partner, and professional affiliations and political views. They have incorporated and clearly project negative attitudes and feelings towards self and other African Americans’.

When Blacks refer to other Blacks who pursue excellence in any arena not considered traditionally ‘Black’ like sports or entertainment, as ‘acting White’ it is expressing an anti-Black idea. However, if Blacks observe another Black person adopting Whiteness and projecting negative attitudes and feelings towards themselves and other Blacks, it is likely pass’in. Blacks can misinterpret the actions of other Blacks if they subscribe to the belief that any form of Black success means that Blacks are ‘acting White.’

An excellent personal story that illustrates the experiences of being mislabelled is in a blog post by Black Leader Analysis founder David Hartful Jr. In the post, David shares his painful experience of growing up and always being labelled as the Black kid who wants to be White and his consequent resentment towards Black people and the immense guilt associated with that resentment. For David, he was ‘trying to be well behaved and productive in society,’ and ‘did not want to perpetuate behaviours that would be detrimental in my life as I had seen it be harmful in the lives of others’. For other Blacks though, it looked like David wanted to assimilate into White society, gain validation and attain some level of success while rejecting the Black community.

The lesson to be learnt here, as David writes, is ‘attempts to shame people out of their beliefs makes them double down. It creates two opposing camps in the black community. A divided house is that much easier to control’.
Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Dr Thomas Parham offers some stimulating strategies to prepare for the psychological storms that lie ahead for African Americans and Afropeans in the West. Parham quotes Wade Nobles (1986), a notable pioneer of the African American psychology movement, who wrote: ‘in the African way, ideas are the substance of behaviour.’ Parham elaborates writing, ‘consequently, if our consciousness is culturally congruent, then our behaviour should be focused on responding to our reality in ways which support, enhance, sustain, and actualize our individual and collective beings as African Americans.’

One of several strategies that Parham offers is what he refers to as Differentiating Values and Skills. I see this as an essential strategy for Black Atlantics to adopt, and one that if they can take seriously will increase their effectiveness, mental wellbeing and freedom in a Eurocentric society.

Differentiating between values and skills means understanding the fundamental difference between values and skills. Parham quotes values as, ‘”worth or importance that is assigned to something,” and skills are ‘”developed aptitudes or abilities at something;” it’s the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively in execution or performance’. There is a difference, and this is what Parham is emphasizing for the benefit of Blacks.

Parham believes that many Blacks, particularly young Blacks, assume that both terms mean that same thing. Parham writes that the words are not synonymous, and there is a danger making this assumption. Parham notes a case study run by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper on July 24, 1992, to support this. The paper conducted interviews on African Americans who reported having to endure both other-imposed and self-imposed pressures of ‘acting White’ if they achieved academic success (Barrington, 1992). Parham writes that this is an oversimplified explanation, and a trap Blacks can easily fall in to, and therefore must be untangled for their betterment.

Correlating excellence in writing, reading, mathematics, science with being White and selling out, and Blackness with athleticism and musicality is an error in differentiating between skills and values. The skills mentioned are not inherently White. Parham writes, ‘indeed, it was ancient Africa (Kemet) and not Europe who taught the world what it knows in almost every discipline’. The Blackamoors invaded Europe and brought them out of the Dark Ages (Sertima, 1991), and the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians introduced the arts of civilization to the classical Greeks (Bernal 1987).

Here Parham makes two crucial points about Blacks learning the ‘skills and technologies of the dominant culture’ while at the same time being true to their cultural values:

‘Blacks do not have to adopt Eurocentric orientated values, especially when they are to Blacks detriment, simply because they learn or use a particular skill’.
‘Blacks cannot avoid acquiring a particular skill that might assist them in advancing themselves or their people, just because they associate that skill with being White’.
Parham then summaries this strategy–highlighting the challenge of maintaining our cultural integrity while learning the skills to navigate the pathways to productivity and success.

It’s worth noting earlier in his book, Parham shares some behavioural and attitudinal adjustments that Blacks make to manage the discomfort between the competing spirits (mentioned in Part I of this blog post). One of them is relevant to this post: Pass’in.

In reality, pass’in is adopting the values of Whiteness, and therefore what more closely equates to ‘acting White.’

Parham defines pass’in as ‘attempts to understate, downplay or otherwise camouflage one’s African American makeup. These individuals try to embrace and adopt the characteristic of the dominant culture. Every fibre of their beings suggests they want to be White, from their wardrobe, hairstyle, language style, peer group, spouse/partner, and professional affiliations and political views. They have incorporated and clearly project negative attitudes and feelings towards self and other African Americans’.

When Blacks refer to other Blacks who pursue excellence in any arena not considered traditionally ‘Black’ like sports or entertainment, as ‘acting White’ it is expressing an anti-Black idea. However, if Blacks observe another Black person adopting Whiteness and projecting negative attitudes and feelings towards themselves and other Blacks, it is likely pass’in. Blacks can misinterpret the actions of other Blacks if they subscribe to the belief that any form of Black success means that Blacks are ‘acting White.’

Parham, in a fascinating, inspirational and spirited speech, posted on Youtube entitled What Matters to Me and Why, offers some advice to Blacks on pursuing higher education. He says of his graduate students that they should not avoid White institutions out of fear feeling or being judged as ‘acting White’, no he suggests getting into the White institutions of learning, learning i.e. acquire the skills and getting out i.e. not joining their faculty etc.

An excellent personal story that illustrates the experiences of being mislabelled is in a blog post by Black Leader Analysis founder David Hartful Jr. In the post, David shares his painful experience of growing up and always being labelled as the Black kid who wants to be White and his consequent resentment towards Black people and the immense guilt associated with that resentment. For David, he was ‘trying to be well behaved and productive in society,’ and ‘did not want to perpetuate behaviours that would be detrimental in my life as I had seen it be harmful in the lives of others’. For other Blacks though, it looked like David wanted to assimilate into White society, gain validation and attain some level of success while rejecting the Black community.

The lesson to be learnt here, as David writes, is ‘attempts to shame people out of their beliefs makes them double down. It creates two opposing camps in the black community. A divided house is that much easier to control’.

Thoughts on Linguistic States

Ambedkar begins the book by saying he wanted to come out on the topic of linguistic states sooner. He admits his views have changed over time, and some of his views contradict. However, the idea of linguistic states needs to be vetted with cold reason. Ambedkar denounced the hooliganism going on during the publication of this work in defense of linguistic states.

Linguistic states facilitate fellow-feeling that leads to cohesive democracy. When people are grouped in states based on a common language, they have a much easier time working together. Mixed states fail because it forces people of different ethnicities to work together. Ambedkar asserts there is no real reason for various ethnicities to have conflict in India. The separation into linguistic states would facilitate democracy by reducing ethnic strife.

The downside of linguistic states is the possibility of the states developing into separate nationalities. If this happened, there could be the possibility of interstate conflict and war. A strong central government could quell the threat of interstate war. So the downside of linguistic states is far smaller than mixed states.

Another way to increase social cohesion with linguistic states is to make the official language the same in all provinces. So all business and government transactions would be done in the official language. Ambedkar recommends Hindi because 48% of the country already speaks the language. At a later date, when the population is ready, India would transition to English. The use of an official language reduces bureaucracy and ensures everyone in the country has access to all levels of government. It is paramount that those that advocate for linguistics states support one central language. Ambedkar goes as far as to state that someone that is against on central language is not fit to be Indian.

The work briefly discusses the partition of Pakistan. Ambedkar says he supported it. Specifically, he says, “I was glad that India was separated from Pakistan.” He feared Muslims would dominate the rest of India. By letting the Muslims leave, it would make way from India to build a prosperous democracy. However, he felt recent developments of ethnic conflict could close the door on Indian prosperity.

Upon the establishment of linguistic states a new problem arises. The south would have much smaller states than the Indian north. How then would power be equated between the north and south? The power distribution mattered because, according to Ambedkar, the south is educationally advanced and modern. The north is superstitious and backward. The solution is to break up the largest states in the north: Utter Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh. The new states would have around 20 million people to put them at par with the southern states.

Maharashtra and Bombay

Maharashtra and Bombay were examples of failed mixed states currently in India. Both areas were plagued with ethnic conflict and violence. There were four proposals that the government was vetting to improve the area:

  1. To retain Bombay as a mixed state of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Bombay
  2. To disrupt the existing state and to separate Maharashtra and Gujarat and make them two separate states.
  3. To make united Maharashtra with Bombay as one state
  4. To separate Bombay from Maharashtra and make it a separate city state

Ambedkar believes none of these proposals go far enough. He proposes breaking the state up into four separate provinces: Maharashtra City State (Bombay), Western Maharashtra, Central Maharashtra, and Eastern Maharashtra. The state of Maharashtra as it is was too big to govern. The smaller states would be easier to administrate and facilitate young leaders emerging. The Maharathi people had few political leaders and lagged in education.

Bombay could also benefit from being independent. At this time, the Maharthi population has not developed political or economic leadership. If the transient population of Gujurathis left the economy of Maharahtra would tank. Formation of Bombay into a separate city-state would allow for those creating industry to be satisfied, while the Maharthi develop. Ambedkar also proposes changing the name of Bombay to a Maharthi name.

Caste System Hindered Political Development

There were many problems with the current political system. The treatise talked explicitly about issues of taxation and alcohol prohibition. As in America, alcohol prohibition in India led to a black market and more consumption. To solve this problem, India needed a system that could could facilitate political change.

The social structure of India based on the Caste System caused political stagnation. The Caste System led to an ascending scale of hatred and a descending scale of contempt. A caste has all the pride of a nation. Those in higher caste see themselves as superior, and that led to them not voting for people of lower caste. However, those of lower caste would vote for someone of high caste because they are used to seeing high caste people in leadership. Political reservation would be essential in developing political leadership in lower caste communities. Also, smaller states would allow for areas with concentrations of lower caste people to hold political office.

There are two types of majorities. The first is a political majority formed to push a political agenda. Entrance into this majority is open and would change as political needs change. Societal norms set communal majorities. Entrance into a communal majority is closed, the status is set at birth. If the communal majority became the political majority tyranny would overtake the country.

India is much too large to have a single capital. There was also historical precedent for two capitals in India. For example, the Moghal Empire had Delhi as one capital and Shrinagar in Kashmir as a second. Calcutta and Simla both served the British as capitals. Those in the south had access to a Central government. Ambedkar proposes consolidating Hyderabad, Secunderabad, and Bolraum into a southern capital.

Maharashtra as a Linguistic Province

A linguistic province is an independent political entity formed to ensure that those who speak a similar language can govern together. Ambedkar takes on the idea of reforming the region that includes his hometown of Mhow as a linguistic province.

Those that support linguistic provinces see it as a way to preserve and develop local culture. If the government creates provinces without considering local cultures, they will die. In heterogeneous societies, people tend to advantage their group over others. The group hostilities will hinder nation-building.

Linguistic states would make a national democracy more challenging to develop. Democracies work best in homogenous societies. By having province drawn without linguistic considerations, everyone in the province would be forced to use the common language. The use of the common language builds national identity.

In addition to hindering the construction of national identity, Linguistic states increase government bureaucracy. The central government would have to make documents and provide translators of all the provincial languages.

The compromise solution proposed by Ambedkar was to create provinces based on common local language but use the national language for business and government transactions. The local language could be used for cultural activities. However, if the national language overtakes the provincial, so be it. A culture can stay together without a government entity or a unique language. Cultures can be cohesive through shared history, experience, and tradition.

Maharashtra as a Province

Ambedkar begins by explaining that the proposed province of Maharashtra would be viable. When comparing Maharashtra to the American state of Delaware, it is much larger. The population is greater than the most populous American state, New York. Maharashtra also had enough tax revenue to stay self-sufficient.

The next question was, should the province be unitary or federal. Federal meaning that Maharashtra would be broken into sub-provinces that work in a confederation. Ambedkar takes the stand that a federal province would only increase bureaucracy without any advantage. Maharashtra should be a unitary province.


The largest city in Maharashtra would be Bombay, which has historically been an international trading capital. It has a sizeable Gujarathi population. Most work as merchants and liaisons from English and other European business. Many of the Gujaratis wanted Bombay to be independent.

Mostly the argument was that the Gujaratis turn Bombay into an economic powerhouse, and local Maharashtrians should not rule them. Most of the Maharashtrians in Bombay were laborers. They had no idea how to govern correctly. Many of the Gujaratis believed that Maharashtra wanted the surplus revenue of Bombay.

Ambedkar reminds the Gujaratis that they are only captains of industry because the British East India company gave them privileges to work in Bombay. Also, the surrounding provinces provide tax revenue to keep Bombay afloat. Lastly, the wealth of Bombay would not exist without Maharashtrian labor. The Capitalist did not gather their wealth themselves and had no right to its complete control. Wealth is the property of the society because it takes a community to build it.

Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

Dr. Parham’s uses Psychological Storms as a short introduction into his views on Black Psychology. In the book, he explains how racial oppression experienced by the group manifests itself as psychological issues.

The root of racial conflict comes from the differences between African and European worldviews. European worldview is based around individualism, while communalism undergirds the African worldview. As Africans living in European culture, blacks have to balance their natural essence with the need to conform for survival in a capitalistic world. This dissonance between these competing spirits cause psychological issues within individual black people that become widespread and result in societal trouble. The chart below details the European and African worldview.

Eurocentric Dimensions Africentric
Dualistic / Fragmented Self Holitic / Spiritness, Thoughts and Behaviors are Interrelated
Suppressed to rationale Feelings Expressed and Legitimized
Individual Competition Survivial Cooperative Econmics
Formal and Detached Language Informal and Connected
Commoditized with Future Orientation Time Experiential with Present Orientation
People control nature Universe People live in Harmony with Nature
Life ends at Death Death Afterlife starts at Death
Material/Individual Achievement Worth Collective Work and Responsibility

Not only are Blacks forced to hide their true African nature. They live in a world which vilifies them for being different. The Eurocentric worldview dictates control of all people and things non-European. This disregard for Black men not only manifests in personal relations but on a systematic level. It manifests in the lackadaisical investigations of black murder cases. In seeing black colleagues performing at a high capacity and not getting promoted. Mass media ignoring stories centered around black people. Racism has a profound effect on the psyche of Blacks.

Black people have developed many coping mechanisms to deal with the duality of being African in a European world. Many of the mechanisms that are not healthy involve denying one’s African identity in favor of assimilation. The over assimilation leads to feelings of alienation from one’s people. Also, even once one has no connection to their African roots, they may not be accepted in mainstream society.

Another extreme is always challenging other people’s blackness to show how connected one is to the community. Dr. Parham’s shorthand for this is “Blacker than thou.” When this is coupled with negative internalization of blackness leads to referring to fellow compatriots as niggas, bitches, and hoes. Dr. Parham does not condone the use of derogations in colloquial language, only gives background psychological underpinnings of the behavior.

Dr. Parham gives two models of one developing a healthy sense of self. He begins with the idea that all Black people have an African nature. Then they are exposed to an environment. If the environment is supportive, one will develop a Positive African Self Consciousness. If the environment is unsupportive one will undergo the stages of Nigrescence to build a positive self-image.

The stages of Nigrescence, first theorized by Dr. William Cross, are a step by step process that one grows through to actualize a healthy sense of self that includes their identity. The first stage is Pre-encounter. In this stage, a person has never been faced with the race problem and sees themselves as part of mainstream America. Then in the Encounter stage, one is confronted with race through discrimination. As a response to the discrimination, one enters the Immersion-Emmersion stage. In this stage, one immerses themselves in black culture to emerge a new person. The Immersion-Emmersion stage can manifest as joining Black political and cultural movements or just going to black spaces. Internalization is the last stage. In this stage, one accepts their ethnic identities with all their other identities and saliences. One can continue to stay in black groups and space, but one is also comfortable venturing out into the rest of the world.

To weather the upcoming racial storm, black people must cultivate an understanding of Africanity. Because Africanity is based in communalism or the idea all matter in the Universe arises from one spirit, it is specially equipped for building a strong community. Consubstantiation is the term Dr. Parham uses to define the idea that all people are united in spirit. He believes a deep understanding of consubstantiation would solve many societal ills. One couldn’t kill another because he understands that it is suicide. A person couldn’t become a drug addict because he understands how it hurts his people. Those that have education will naturally want to teach others because they see themselves as part of a community. Ultimate, black people have to reach back for the strength to move forward.

Thomas Parham PhD

Psychological Storms; The African American Identity Struggle

Part II Psychological Storms: The African American Identity Struggle

David Hartful Sr

1971 High School Protest

David Hartful began his senior year by making the honor roll the first semester. The second semester he decided not only to improve his future but the future of all the black kids going to high school in Murfreesboro now and in the future. He and other concerned Black students decide to create Murfreesboro Central High’s first Black Student Union.

The first order of business was to have a ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. He was assassinated only three years earlier. The first ceremony was at Central High School on April 2, 1971. The second was open to the public and held at First Baptist Church on April 4, 1971.

Later that month the students stage a sit-in at the high school. They wanted better treatment and more opportunities at the high school. The list of demands were:

  1. Two more black cheerleaders
  2. A black speaker at commencement
  3. A black speaker at commencement ceremony
  4. More black literature in the library
  5. More black teachers and coaches

Their actions got the attention of the faculty and the school board. In a Saturday school board meeting, they were able to make their demands and talk about what it was like to be a black student at the recently integrated school. They saw white students being punished more leniently than black students. Many of their concerns were similar to the concerns we have today.

The school board did have some push back. For example, Mrs. Richard Reeves said many blacks have excelled and Central High and cited, David Hartful, as an example. Forever, they ultimately realized they had to capitulate. Principal Swafford said the following:

“This situation would not be where it is if the black students who came to see me on Wednesday morning had not demanded. They not only demanded action, but made it clear I don’t have much time to make up my mind”

The school board did not comply with the demand to give the BSU two black cheerleaders. They compromised at two new cheerleaders, one black and one white. David Hartful was allowed to speak at commencement. His speech can be found on this website.

Jerry Anderson Foundation

Jerry Anderson was a star athlete from Murfreesboro, TN and Vice President of the black student union. After graduation, he went to the University of Oklahoma, where he was a star cornerback. During his college football career, he led the Sooners to the 1974 and 1975 National Championships. He later went on to play in the National Football League as a Cincinnati Bengals and the Canadian Football League.

Football was not Anderson’s only passion. He wanted to help people and especially children. His first act of selflessness came during the Tulsa flood of 1984. Anderson rescued two people trapped in vehicles. However, he was haunted because there was one he could not save. After his football career was over, Anderson headed back to Tennessee to pursue a degree. He wanted to get a job helping children.

On Memorial Day of 1989, Anderson decides to go fishing with two young family members. At the same time, two other boys, Pooh McFarlan and Johny Lodgson decided to fish nearby. The two boys fishing nearby decide they need to move to catch more fish. There was an old dam nearby that was underwater because the river was swollen. The boys decided to cross to the other side of the river by walking on the dam.

When the boys were walking on the damn, one slipped and fell into the river. The current was so strong he started to be pulled underwater. The other boy attempted to save the first, and he fell. Anderson sees the boys in the whirlpool and jumps in the river to save them. The boys that came with Jerry ran to call 911.

Anderson swam out to the whirlpool and was able to toss both boys out of the whirlpool so they can swim to shore. Jerry watched as both boys swam safely to shore. Unfortunately, Jerry would not be able to save himself. He attempts to swim out of the whirlpool, but can’t free himself. He comes up for air three times before losing the battle. A paramedic arrives on the scene, but it is too late. Jerry’s body was exhumed and transported to the hospital. He was declared dead on arrival.

The death of Anderson hit the class of 1971 very hard. Plans began to create someway to honor him. It was decided to create a foundation to help underprivileged children. The scope would begin as local and would grow nationally. The first project the group embarked upon was getting a pool named after Anderson in a low-income part of town. With that mission in mind, The Jerry Anderson Memorial Foundation was born in October 1989.

From the beginning, the foundation had influential Tennesseans on the board and serving as officials. On the board was a Kiwanis Club Governor, County Executives, the President of First City Bank, and a State Representative.

Murfreesboro NAACP eventually absorbed the Jerry Anderson Foundation. They were successful in buying computers for the Boys and Girls Club in 1991. Even without a formal foundation, the class of 1971 has not stopped helping the community. Their reunion in 2006 resulted in a fundraiser to buy books for school children.

Isaac Fulwood Series

Operation Clean Sweep

Operation Clean Sweep Sources

Washington Post Articles

  1. D.C. School Budget Stirs Few Sparks at Hearing: Usual Political Acrimony is Missing By Marc Fisher 02-14-1987
  2. Reclaiming Clifton Terrace; NW Neighbors Wage War on Drug Dealers
  3. Tracking D.C.’s Clean Sweep Arrests; Computer Yields Surprises in 6 Month Oil Crime Crackdown by Linda Wheeler 03-03-1987
  4. D.C. Police End Drug Roundups, Say Funds Short by Sari Horwitz 04-28-1987
  5. D.C. Operation Clean Sweep To Resume, Officials Say by Sari Horwitz
  6. Clean Sweep’s Real Value 05-01-1987
  7. Drug Probes Invigorated By New Commitment, Cash by Nancy Lewis 05-04-1987
  8. Smart Moves by the Police 05-12-1987
  9. Barry Urges $12 Rise in Tax Bills; Public Safety Cited For Budget Shortfall by Tom Sherwood & Gwen Ifill 05-15-1987
  10. 3 D.C. Prison Are 700 Inmates Above June 1 Court Cap by Nancy Lewis 05-18-1987
  11. Car Impoundment Law Hits Innocent Owners; D.C. Police Seize Autos in Drug Arrests by Elsa Walsh 06-05-1987
  12. Gloomy D.C. Financial Outlook; Report on Government Spending Heats Up Tax Debate by Gwen Ifill 06-07-1987
  13. Slain Officer Remembered at Police Promotions by Victoria Chruchville 06-11-1987
  14. Drug-Linked D.C. Killings Rise Sharply; Rival Dealers Use Powerful Weapons In Growing Violence by Victoria Churchville 06-17-1987
  15. Police Seize $233,000 Worth of Drugs in NE Raid 06-17-1987
  16. ANC Actions 06-18-1987
  17. Photographer For Life Sues District Police by Nancy Lewis 10-23-1987
  18. Paradise Manor Co-Op Plan Hailed at Partners’ Party by Douglas Stevenson 10-29-1987
  19. Southeast’s Search for a Little Understanding; Residents of Historic Quadrant Struggle Against Stigmas, Assert Pride in Diversity by Linda Wheeler 11-08-1987
  20. D.C. Officer Shot in NE Drug Mart; Clean Sweep Has Its First Casualty by Carlos Sanchez & Rene Sanchez 12-02-1987
  21. N.Y. Youth Charged in Police Shooting; Officer Wounded In NE Drug Arrest by Sari Horwitz 12-08-1987
  22. D.C. Prison Officials Ask for Emergency Release; Barry Expected to Free Over 1,000 Inmates by Victoria Churchville 12-05-1987
  23. Washington, Police Reach a Separate Peace; On the Third Day, the City, Demonstrators and Even Soviets Seem to Be Loosening Up Series: Summit in Washington by Victoria Mintz & John Mintz 12-10-1987
  24. Clean Sweep Roundup Nets More Than 100 Arrests in SE; Crackdown One of the Largest in Program by Carlos Sanchez & Martin Weil 12-12-1987
  25. Clean Sweep Nets 124 Arrests 12-13-1987
  26. Jail Filled, But Drugs Still a Problem, Chief Says 12-17-1987
  27. 3 Officers Shot in D.C. Drug Deal By Carlos Sanchez 12-17-1987
  28. Sending the Right Message 12-28-1987
  29. Unsolved Killings Hit New High in District; Drug Trade, Burdens on Detectives Cited by Rene Sanchez 12-31-1987
  30. Guns Mean Status to Some D.C. Youths by Patrice Gaines-Carter & Lynne Duke 01-01-1988
  31. “Headline Missing” 01-12-1988
  32. District Revising Drug War; Clean Sweep’s Role May Be Reduced by Sari Horwitz 01-13-1988
  33. Proposed Clean Sweep Cuts Draw Barrage of Criticism;2 on D.C. Council Vow to Save Drug Fight by Sari Horowitz 01-15-1988
  34. Hiring 150 Officers Proposed to Offest Clean Sweep Cuts by Athelia Knight 01-16-1988
  35. D.C. Police: Strained, Overworked 01-22-1988
  36. Clarke Suggests Holding the Line on D.C. Hiring by Athelia Knight 01-23-1988
  37. Prince George’s Battles to Stem Drug Traffic, Improve Image by Retha Hill & Jeffrey Yorke 01-24-1988
  38. Operation Clean Sweep’s Future Uncertain; D.C. Police Officials Seek to Revamp Drug Program to Cut Cost by Linda Wheeler & Sari Horwitz 01-26-1988
  39. D.C. Homicides Equal Record; NW Barbershop Slaying in 32nd Killing in Single Month by Sari Horwitz 01-28-1988
  40. Youth Crime Plan Gets a Slow Start; 3 Times in 2 Years, Barry Has Promised New Programs by Marcia Slacum Greene 02-01-1988
  41. Drug-Induced Frustration Plagues Search for Solutions by Courtland Milroy 02-04-1988
  42. A Regional Ban on Handguns? Yes. They’re at Least As Dangerous As Beer and Wine 02-07-1988
  43. D.C. Police to Boost Drug War Firepower; Officers to Carry Semiautomatic Guns by Victoria Churchville 02-10-1988
  44. D.C. Clean Sweep to Resume Sunday; Turner Announces Offensive Against Drug by Victoria Churchville 02-11-1988
  45. A Drug War With Real Troops; While the Guard Directs Traffic, Out Cops Can Hit the Dealers by Linda Wheeler 02-14-1988
  46. Clean Sweep Reborn as Police Seek Drug Sites; District Officers Enter Suspected Crack Houses by Victoria Churchville 02-15-1988
  47. Why Not Hire More Police? 02-20-1988
  48. More Police Is Not the Answer 02-24-1988
  49. D.C. to Add Police Reserves; Latest Tactic Calls for Training Volunteer Officers by Victoria Churchville 02-25-1988
  50. Suburban Drug Use Here Worst in U.S.; Region’s Problems Unmatched, Report Say by Lynne Duke 02-26-1988
  51. Police, Lawyers and Drugs (Cont’d) 02-29-1988
  52. How to Stop the Murder; Begin with a Consensus the Illegal Drugs are Evil 03-06-1988
  53. Tip Yields Drugs, Guns, 8 Arrests in Raid in NW by Carlos Sanchez 03-09-1988
  54. Clean Sweep Drug Team Cut Swath in SE Area by Sari Horwitz 03-12-1988
  55. Appeals Court Bars D.C. From Using U.S. Prisons; City Sought to Ease Crowding at Lorton by Nancy Lewis 03-12-1988
  56. Operation Clean Sweep Net Snares Atlanta DEA Agent by Lynne Duke 03-13-1988
  57. 90 Arrested in Clean Sweep On Drug Areas in Southeast 03-13-1988
  58. Friday Night Live 03-15-1988
  59. Clean Sweep’s Dirty Trail by Courtland Milloy 03-22-1988
  60. City Workers Arrested on Drug Charges; Corrections Officers Accused of Dealing 03-23-1988
  61. Antidrug Faction Won’t Surrender in NE Housing Project War Zone by Victoria Churchville 03-29-1988
  62. ANC Actions by Virginia Mansfield 03-31-1988
  63. PCP Allegedly Found on Boy, 4; Manassas Police Charge Father With Possession of Drugs by John Lancaster 04-03-1988
  64. Hide and Seek With Drug Smugglers; Union Station Squad Gives Couriers an Inhospitable Welcome by Rene Sanchez 04-14-1988
  65. Drug Patrol Turns Violent; Muslims Beat Man in NE Narcotics Market 04-19-1988
  66. Fighting Fire with Fire by Courtland Milloy 04-21-1988
  67. Legalize Drugs? 05-02-1988
  68. D.C. Police Seize Biggest Drug Cache; 29 LBS. of Cocaine Taken at Train Station by Rene Sanchez 05-06-1988
  69. Drug Problem in Prince William Worse Than Ever; Official Says by Thomas Pierre 05-12-1988
  70. P.G. Police, Posing as Dealers, Arrest 23 for Buying ‘Drugs’ by Jeffrey Yorke 05-13-1988
  71. P.G. Police Arrest 30 More In Drug Sting by Keith Harriston 05-14-1988
  72. Learning to Play the Drug Game; District Youngsters Emulating adults in Make-Believe Deals by Rene Sanchez 06-05-1988
  73. Routine District Drug Arrests Generate Long, Complex Cases by Nancy Lewis 06-13-1988
  74. Drug War Puts Unanticipated Squeeze on D.C. Budget Series; Running on Empty; The District’s Troubled Finances Series Number: 2/3 01-09-1989
  75. Priorities of D.C. Policw 02-06-1989
  76. Year-Old Antidrug Program Falls Short of Barry’s Pledges; ‘Operation Fight Back’ Meets Obstacles by Sari Horwitz 02-12-1989
  77. Manassas Takes Steps Against Drugs by Pierre Thomas 02-16-1989
  78. Detectives’ Overtime Curtailed; New Order Affects D.C. Homicide Cases by Sari Horwitz 02-17-1989
  79. 2 Drug Case Suspects Still WOrk of Police; 3 D.C. Officers File Complaints on ‘Obvious Security Breach’ by Sari Horwitz 02-18-1989
  80. Va. Drug Bust Fills Jail 02-18-1989
  81. Georgetown South Changing Its Image; Manassas Community Turns to Volunteerism to Fight Crime, Recharge Neighborhood by Pierre Thomas 02-23-1989
  82. Turner Acknowledges Need For More Police in District; Police Chief Declares Crime Emergency by Sari Horwitz 02-25-1989
  83. D.C. Anitcrime Proposal Mirror System’s Flaws; Courts Can’t Handle Load, Experts Say by David Broder 03-07-1989
  84. The Mayor’s Forceful Critic; Police Union Leader Gary Hankins, Speaking out on Marion Barry and District Crime by Jacqueline Trescott 03-07-1989
  85. Drug Raids Illustrate Vicious Circle in Criminal Justice by Thomas Pierre 03-09-1989
  86. D.C. Killings Top 100 with No Solution in Sight; Officials Renew Appeal to Public for Help by Sari Horwitz 03-09-1989
  87. Government Actions;City of Manassas 03-16-1989
  88. Strike Force Planned in D.C. War on Drugs;Bennett to Target Markets, Repeat Offenders by Michael Isikoff 03-19-1989
  89. Kemp Quarterbacks a Drug Fight; Crusade in Public Housing Systems Resurrects Legal Problems by Gwen Ifill 03-22-1989
  90. Antidrug Sweep Judged a Success; Arrests Clear Streets in Georgetown South by Pierre Thomas 03-23-1989
  91. D.C. and Drugs:Priorities 04-06-1989
  92. 16 Linked to Drug Gang Arrested in Area Sweep; U.S., District Forces Catch 2 Alleged Leaders by Nancy Lewis & Sari Horwitz 04-17-1989
  93. Taking the System to Its Limits; Prison Director Hallem Williams & the Cost of Containing Crime by Jacqueline Trescott 04-18-1989
  94. Public Housing Residents Describe ‘Emergency’ Drugs, Gangs Plaque Areas, Hill Panel Told by Gwen Ifill 05-11-1989
  95. Bennett and the Priorities Trap by William Raspberry 05-12-1989
  96. Quantico’s Tiny Police Department Gets a Major Influx of Help by Claudia Sandlin 06-01-2019
  97. Weary Drug Unit Losing Ground as District Police Tactics Shift by Rochelle Riley 06-05-1989
  98. In the District, Justice vs Management; Prosecutors’ Role in Papering’ Deflects Cases Before They Reach Court by Barton Gellman 06-08-1989
  99. Next D.C. Police Chief Considered a “Man of Action”; Many Like Fulwood’s Can-Do Attitude but his Style Sometimes Rubs People the Wrong Way by Sari Horwitz 06-13-1989
  100. Barry Nominates Fulwood As Next D.C. Police Chief by Sari Horwitz 06-13-1989
  101. Fulwood’s First Priority: Recuruiting Officers by Sari Horwitz 06-14-1989
  102. Drug Ring Boss Faces Life Term; Tough New U.S. Law Provides No Parole by Tracy Thompson 06-18-1989
  103. Fear of Drug Violence in D.C. Slows Some Suburban Buyers by Jeffrey Goldberg 06-27-1989
  104. Fulwood Sworn In as Chief, Asks Community for Help by Carlos Sanchez 08-05-1989
  105. Va. Businessman Slain in SE; Death Called Drug-Related by Carlos Sanchez 09-15-1989
  106. Ex-Officer Sentenced in Drug Case; Money Laundered for Area Ring by Robert F. Howe 09-30-1989
  107. Barry Says Slayings Are Unstoppable; City Is Doing “All I Know How to Do” by Sari Horwitz 10-20-1989
  108. Courting Rayful Edmond; Ex-Hoya Turner Among Those Who Play Roles in Drug Suspect’s Sporting Life by Bill Brubaker 11-02-1989
  109. Valley Green Wraps Skepticism Around City’s Promises by Lynne Duke 12-04-1989
  110. Fulwood Shakes Up Police Department; Consolidation of Investigative Units Reflects ‘Change in Mission’ by Sari Horwitz 02-01-1990
  111. Just Cause For Change; Is an Overflowing Jail any Reason to Build a Bigger One? 02-18-2019
  112. Regulators Shift Strategy on Selling Ailing S&Ls; U.S. Hopes to Reduce Costs of Rescue by Disposing of Thrifts Before They Go Broke by Jerry Knight 07-11-1990
  113. Ex-Chief As Mayoral Candidate; Turner’s Record Raised in Race Series: OCC by R.H. Melton & Sari Horwitz 11-01-1990
  114. D.C. Police See Thereat to Overtime, Free Parking by Michael York 03-28-1991
  115. D.C. Drug Roadblocks Ruled Illegal; Appeals Court Panel Surprises ACLU by Saundra Torry 05-02-1991
  116. Putting Public Housing in Social Order by Neal R. Peirce 06-08-1991
  117. The Ghosts Are Always Around A Little Bit by Sari Horwitz 06-30-1991
  118. Dixon to Propose Broad-Based Effort Against Violence; Stiffer Penalties, New Programs for Teens on Agenda, Sources Say by James Ragland & Sari Horwitz 11-22-1991
  119. 3,000 Killings Later, A Culture of Violence Poisons Area Series; In the Line of Fire: Five Years of Killing Series Number: occ by Sari Horwitz & Paul Duggan 12-20-1991
  120. Barry’s Setup for Self-Destruction by Milloy Courtland 04-26-1992
  121. Fulwood Passes On an Uneven Legacy: Chief’s Successes are Tempered by Low Morale, Equipment Woes by Keith Harriston 09-10-1992
  122. Former Police Chief Maurice Turner Dies at 57 by Martin Weil & Sari Horwitz 06-17-1993
  123. D.C. Moves To Stem Tide of Violence; More Police Planned for Affected Areas by Serge F. Kovaleski 06-26-1993
  124. D.C. Police Chief Sets An Anti-Crime Initiative by Serge Kovaleski 07-17-1993
  125. Putting Their Best Feet Forward; Community Patrols Send More Police Onto D.C. Streets by Ruben Castaneda & Paul Duggan 09-17-1993
  126. In D.C. Violence,’We’ve Seen It All Before’; Residents Battle to Save Neighborhoods, Watch as Officials Try Again and Again to End Crisis by Rene Sanchez & James Ragland 10-03-1993
  127. Halfway Home 10-24-1993
  128. To Resotre D.C.’s Domestic Tranquillity; Give up The War on Drugs 11-07-1993
  129. Barry Says Jail Gave Him Vision for a Better City;’I Now Know What Didn’t Work,’ Mayoral Candidate Asserts in Outlining Agenda by Yolanda Woodlee 07-01-1994
  130. Crack’s Crash; Teens Are Rejecting the Drug That Ruled D.C. by Katherine Boo 08-26-1994
  131. Back to ‘Clean Sweep’ by Colbert I. King 08-12-1995

Operation Clean Sweep

Washington, DC, was one of the last cities in the nation to encounter the drug boom of the 1980s and 1990s. The crime began to spike in 1986, and the public demanded a response from the Police Commissioner Maurice Turner and his Assistant Commissioner Issac Fulwood. Fulwood created Operation Clean Sweep, a comprehensive crackdown on street-level dealing. Washington was known for large open area drug markets, and the new effort was designed to strike a blow to the practice. Operation Clean Sweep began August 31, 1986.

The operations had a few signature initiatives.

  1. “Stop and Question” any person that is in a drug infested neighborhood
  2. Installing busses and trailers outside drug markets known as “mobile police stations”
  3. Drug roadblock to facilitate random searches in neighborhoods known for drugs
  4. Undercover officers posing as users and dealers

These initiatives created backlash because they sacrificed privacy and freedom of movement for safety. Some examples of the collateral damage of Operation Clean Sweep can be gleaned from how the implementation at Clifton Terrace.

Clifton Terrace was a luxury apartment complex built in 1916. By the late eighties, it was an open-air drug market. The complex was such a popular drug market there would often be traffic jams due to so many customers coming into the apartments to buy their wares.

The police responded by banning people from parking near the building. They also patrolled the halls, randomly stopping anyone in the building. They had a master list of all leaseholders. If the police didn’t find one’s name on the leaseholders’ list, the person would have to name the person they were visiting in the building. The patrolman would then follow them to the apartment to verify the story. [2]

Another example of the cost of Operation Clean Sweep was roadblock set up to search cars for drugs. Police implemented the tactic in the historically black neighborhood of Anacostia. The area has had predominantly black people since the turn of the century. There were pockets of high crime, but there were also many upstanding black middle-class residents. In December of 1987, police arrested 124 people at a single roadblock. The two articles on the bust did not mention how many drugs, guns, and money were confiscated.[24,25] More than likely, these were arrested for small possession for personal use.

Not only were civil liberties constrained, but tax money was exhausted. In February of 1987, Mayor Barry had to cut the school budget to cover the cost of increased policing. In March of the same year, Operation Clean Sweep recorded 12,000 arrests, seizing 6.8 million in drugs, confiscating 300 cars, and hundreds of weapons.[3] Up to this point, there was only a 2% drop in overall crime.[4] However, the cost of $4.5 million exceeded the budget, and the city suspended the program in April. Public outcry forced the city to reopen it the next week.

Operation Clean Sweep was successful in increasing arrests. However, the facility that houses DC inmates, Lorton in Virginia, was soon overcrowded. The overcrowding forced the city to release prisoners. From July to October of 1987, the city released 815 inmates. Housing inmates is a serious problem for DC because there is nowhere in the city limits to put a prison. The District would have to coordinate with another state to house prisoners or use Federal prisons. By 1988 Clean Sweep arrested 46,400 people, but only 1,400 went to prison.[91,90]

Despite increased arrests, there was a decrease in the number of solved murders. From 1970 to 1980, about policed solved 83% of the murders. From 1980 to 1985 it was around 70%. By 1987 the stat fell to around 60%.[29] Part of the problem was people from outside of DC traveled there to sell drugs. When someone from out of town murders or is murdered, it is even more challenging to find the killer. Because no one in the city knew the killer, there were very few witnesses that were useful in court. Investigators had to travel for clues. The percent of drug-related murders increased from 25% in 1985 to 60% in 1987. It is also important to remember 1985 was a record low for murders and 1987 was the record high. [29] To increase the closed homicide rate, the city needed to hire more detectives.

No one took more risks or paid a higher price than the 200 officers assigned to Operation Clean Sweep. The first casualty happened in December of 1987 when Herman Keels died in an undercover operation. Weeks later, three more officers are wounded in the line of duty.

Due to high costs in overtime, Operation Clean Sweep was suspended again in December of 1987. The public was not informed until late January 1988.[35] Publicly Mayor Marion Barry wanted to continue the operation as it was. The police chief Maurice Turner wanted the program to end. They were arresting many people, but the overall crime rate was not going down. Turner wanted to try a holistic approach that included schools and churches.[26] He also supported mandatory minimum sentencing.[43] The city council was pushing to hire 150 more cops.[34] The overtime cost of 1987 could be reallocated in new hires so there would be no net increase in the budget. However, many experts, such as Fraternal Order of Police Chairman Gary Hankins, said 500 new officers need to be hired. [33]

So the city was looking for low-cost ways to supplement the police force. The first method was to modify the role of the City Police Reserve Corp. Previously the Reserve Corp were unarmed volunteers that aided police. Now they would receive full police training and weapons.[49] The Dopebusters initiative was the second. The Nation of Islam ran the Dopebusters force. They would provide unarmed security for problem housing developments on a volunteer basis initially. Eventually, the Dopebusters became DC contractors through Nation of Islam Security Inc.

Operation Clean Sweep officially resumed in February 1988. It could not have started at a better time because there had been 46 murders so far that year. [44] The first order of business was to replace the officers’ six-shooter revolvers with semi-automatic weapons. There was not a large amount of overtime allocated in 1988, so traffic patrol lost officers.[45]

Despite Operation Clean Sweep, straining the court and prison system without reducing the overall crime rates, neighboring communities adopted Clean Sweep tactics. Montgomery County MD, Fairfax VA, and Manassass VA all underwent similar police overhauls. These suburbs needed to respond to a spike in crime partially caused by criminals fleeing the crackdown in DC. Implementing these smaller Clean Sweep Operations further exacerbated the prison population problem.

A power vacuum was left in the drug market as another side effect of arresting large amounts of people at one time. This vacuum was filled by out of town drug dealers, mostly from New York as stated earlier. The influx of out of town dealers made crime investigation even more difficult and costly. Also, children were often employed as dealers because they would not receive long sentences. Usually, when the Washington Post wrote stories about the phenomenon of children dealing drugs, they rarely mention external factors that could cause such a problem.

Fortunately, the DEA created an alternative to Clean Sweep, Operation Pipeline. In this effort, the DEA trained local police on how to spot drug traffickers and collaborated with them on investigations. Drug sniffing dogs inspected packages at train stations. Police were trained to spot shotty welding on cars, which usually mean after-market modification to create drug compartments. By having a detailed methodology for identifying traffickers, older, cruder methods were replaced. One antiquated method would be to stop Hispanic men with Florida license plates to see if they were running narcotics. Operation Pipeline caught drug dealers at twice the rate of Operation Clean Sweep.[64]

Another Alternative to Operation Clean Sweep was Operations Fight Back. Fight back started initially to work concurrently to Clean Sweep. Mayor Barry announced it on January 12, 1988. [76] A new drug enforcement unit was initiated with 101 reassigned officers. The officers would collaborate with Federal and other local drug enforcement agencies. The city would also fund drug education and treatment services.

Turner retired as police chief in 1989, and Fulwood took over. One of his first acts was to end Operation Clean Sweep officially. He admitted, “We attempted to try to make police operation the backbone of fighting drugs. It did not work.”[104] The DC police moved to more comprehensive methods that use community watch, drug rehabilitation, and collaboration with various law enforcement agencies.

Clean Sweep cannot be considered a total failure. Evidence gathered in Clean Sweep arrests and investigations was instrumental in taking down DC most notorious kingpin Rayful Edmond and the Mayfair’s most notorious kingpin Michael Palmer. Clean Sweep was DC’s first comprehensive attempt to take stop the crack boom. There were many problems, but the lessons learned helped DC build the foundation of their current methods.

Police did bring back Operation Clean Sweep in 1993 on a limited basis. It appears that they only increased overtime for officers. By 1994, even Marion Barry admitted Operation Clean Sweep was a failure.

It is doubtful that Operation Clean Sweep will ever fully return. One of the main pillars of the operation, the drug roadblock, was found to be unconstitutional by DC Superior Court. The drug roadblock was used to enforce the law in general, not to find a specific offense such as a DUI roadblock. Therefore it violated the fourth amendment rights.


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