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

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The Crucible: Part 1

Don E. Beck

The Crucible: Part 1

Shelby Steele Analysis

What Shelby Steele has right?

He explains various stories from his life and is willing to be vulnerable. He gives perspective to the black experience.

What Shelby Steele has wrong?

Shelby Steele claims he doesn’t believe America is endemically racist. He then goes typically on to recant several instances of racism in his own life and the lives of his children. Steele had to turn down a tenure position at the U. of Utah his first year teaching due to racism encountered as a black man married to a white woman. He was offered a non-tenured position in California, but the fact that he had to turn down a tenure position was huge.

Steele continually says racism does not keep a person from achieving goals. That has been true of his life, he is very talented and could be mobile. However, most people don’t have anything they are exceptionally good at or unlimited mobility. Let’s say Steele had the responsibility of caring for a sick relative in Utah or did not get several other job offers. He would have had to accept the U. of Utah job and suffer racial harassment or divorce the woman he loves. That is the reality for most black people; we are having to navigate around prejudice while striving for goals. Most people generally could not achieve every goal with that many hindrances.

Racial harassment inflicts trauma on black people that makes it difficult to focus on tasks. Steele tells stories of racial slurs painted on buildings at University and people would yell “nigger” at him while walking down the street. A person with the mental stability of Steele can go about their day unaffected by this treatment. However, some people can’t compartmentalize the many instances of racial harassment they endure or levied at their race as a whole. This harassment has an indirect effect on a person’s ability to achieve. Some people have the mental strength to compartmentalize the harassment, some develop the talent, and others never gain the ability.

According to Steele, black people don’t support a conservative agenda because they have a “grievance identity.” The “grievance identity” is a name for an inferiority complex that provides unity for a culture. However, Steele doesn’t talk about the many conservative movements going in the black community now. The most significant and most famous is the Nation of Islam (NOI). The NOI preaches a belief in a supreme being is paramount and a person should adhere to a strict moral code to ensure stability in life. A secular conservative movement that is also popular is the push to build black business. The most famous of the pro-black business leaders is Boyce Watkins, his lectures are available for free on the internet. So there is a sizeable conservative movement in the black community.

The problem is not with conservatives it is with Republicans. The Republican party has implemented the Southern Strategy to entice former Dixiecrat voters to their party since the 1970’s. The first key opposition came with the 1968 Voter Rights Act, and the movement has grown since. Lee Atwater provides a summary of the Southern Strategy in a 1981 interview with Alexander P. Lamis. The text can be found below:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

So the Republican party has been using racial “dog whistles” to attract racist for years. The Willie Horton ad campaign of 1988 was the most famous and blatant implementation of this plan. In the Horton campaign, the story of a large black felon raping and killing a white woman was used to scare white voters into voting Republican to removing Democratic programs used to free prisoners. The “law and order” rhetoric of the Republican party has often had racial undertones.

Recently, Republican attacks have become more blatant. Trump and his rallies get the most press coverage. Audio from the rallies shows people yelling slurs from the crowd. Trump did not stop them, and none of the Republican establishment denounced the activity.

Trump is not the only Republican with overtly racist statements. St Petersburg mayoral candidate told activist to “Go back to Africa” in 2017. Jesse Helms in office from 1973 – 2003 once said: “crime rates and irresponsibility among Negroes are a fact of life which must be faced.” Also, in 1983 most of the opposition for making MLK day a holiday came from Republicans, 86 of the 90 no votes.

With all this being said, Democrats have also made racist statements and implemented racist policies. That is why black voter turnout in 2016 was 59.6% compared with national average of 61.4%. During mid-term elections, the number drops to the 40% range. Part of the reason for black voter disenfranchisement is racism endemic in both parties. To say the disenfranchisement is the result of an inferiority complex when ample evidence exists that there are severe problems in both parties is naive. Americans are conditioned to believe black people are irrational and emotional. The belief that black people are irrational leads people to ignore the many reasons black people have not voted. This racial bias has caused Steele to attribute black support for the liberalism as irrational and ubiquitous. Neither is the case.

Steele bases his opposition to Affirmative Action on the fact it fuels an inferiority complex he calls “grievance identity.” In the sample of articles studied, no psychological studies verified the pathology was endemic in black society or government set-asides cause the pathology or embolden it. He only provides anecdotal stories from personal friends and colleagues.

Even if the “grievance identity” is real, it can be avoided by the individual not putting their race or gender on the application. The demographic section of college or job applications are voluntary and if the person feels getting a job because of their demographic could hurt their self-esteem, they can opt-out. The current Affirmative Action system does not need to be changed to avoid perpetuating “grievance identity.”

The other common argument Steele makes is Affirmative Action is intended to salve the conscious of white people for the wrongs of the past. This assertion is not correct. The goal of Affirmative Action is to counter bias in the workplace that is happening now.

Vox reported on a university study that revealed whites are 36% more likely to get callbacks than equally qualified black applicants. A 2004 U. of Chicago study proved resumes with traditionally resumes with traditionally white names got 50% more callbacks. Administrative Science Quarterly surveyed minorities that remove references to their race on their resume. The study showed that “whitening” a resume increases chances of callbacks by 50%. The results were the same for companies with active diversity initiatives.

Racial bias is also very prevalent in schools. A Johns Hopkins study shows that white teachers 40 % less likely than black teachers to expect a black student graduate from high school. If the teacher shows this bias, it could hurt the student’s enthusiasm in class. A U. of California study showed white teachers were more likely to perceive a black student’s behavior as disruptive. The bias in perceived student ability leads teachers and professors to treat students differently. Wharton conducted a study showing white males were 25% more likely to receive an e-mail response from teachers than other demographics.

Ultimately, something needs to be done to even the playing field. Steele believes the discrimination laws should be enforced with criminal penalties. Making discrimination a criminal defense is something Steele only talks about to black media. He did not mention making discrimination criminal in any interviews with whites in the sample of articles in the BLA survey. If he were to explain on conservative talk radio that he feels discrimination is a criminal act, it would be doubtful he would be invited back.

An Integralist does not have to be for Affirmative Action. However, racial bias is a real hindrance to the advancement of black people. An Integralist will want something done about this. The Integralist would also be clear to all audiences they speak to as to what measures he or she feels should be done.

The idea that black people have to choose a “bargainer” or “challenger” strategy refutes the notion that America is not endemically racist. If America was not endemically racist and the racism couldn’t prevent a person from achieving goals, then black people could just live their life without a clandestine strategy. Black people could just go through life, and if someone wronged them, they could say they were mistreated, and it could be handled as an isolated incident. The fact that either a black person needs to pretend that nothing is wrong or always use race to manipulate through guilt would only be required in a racist society. Steele does say some black people are independent, but independence takes extreme courage. However, one must ask, why is courage needed to be independent. Why does black autonomy threaten society? If the answer is not racism, then what and who are threatened.

The idea that a “bargainer” has more success than a “challenger” calls into question Steele’s entire philosophy. One has to question if he is only speaking on how magnanimous white America is to attempt to flatter them. The flattery will lead to rewards in the form of radio airtime and articles in prestigious journals and papers.

Steele taking a “bargainer” position could also explain the vitriol with which he deals with liberal black leaders. All of his analysis of liberal black leaders center around the idea that they are maliciously manipulating people for personal gain. He never considers the liberal leaders have a different philosophy which they feel would help black people. Even if the liberal leader’s ideas are wrong, the leader could have positive intentions and motivations. However, when whites are accused of racism, the benefit of the doubt is always extended. Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman even received Steele’s benefit of the doubt. If Steele can defend Zimmerman, he could at least say Michael Eric Dyson doesn’t have all the facts.

When on conservative talk radio, Steele often says, “Blacks should stop begging for crumbs from white people and demand better behavior from each other.” He then goes on to list negative statistics of unemployment, fatherlessness, and crime. Steele claims nothing is being done about these things in the black community. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many initiatives in the black community to promote fatherhood, academics, and family planning. Many of these initiatives are sponsored by the black church. When Steele says nothing is being done about issues in the black community, it calls into question how often he is in the black community.

Instead of pointing out problems in the black community and attacking other leaders, Steele could build his conservative movement. If he creates a program that improves black children’s SAT scores, he could convince black people that Affirmative Action is not needed. It is completely understandable that black people fight to keep a system that counters bias if they are not presented with an alternative. Attempting to build something is much more difficult than trying to tear something else down. No one benefits from rambling on about how bad SAT scores are for black children. He has tremendous access to research being a fellow at Stanford. Also, he has communication outlets at the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal.

Where is Steele on the Spiral?

Don Beck listed Shelby Steele as an Integral thinker in the book, The Crucible. Since Don Beck is a founder, his analysis surpasses mine. However, I would like to point out, when this assessment was given when Steele only had one book out and one documentary.

Shelby Steele doesn’t fit the definition of Integral according to The Crucible in that.

  1. He doesn’t have a big picture view of Affirmative Action. Many of his arguments are easily refutable
  2. He doesn’t use an informational learning system. In that, he doesn’t use studies to back up his theory only anecdotes.
  3. The fact he says discrimination is a criminal offense in black media, but not conservative talk radio shows he is still concerned with status and authority
  4. Doesn’t exhibit “flex flow” problems solving when dealing with liberal/leftist black leaders. He assumes they are malicious and dismisses them. Dismissal is not an optimal strategy for converting followers

BLA lists Shelby Steele as Orange. He is “goal centered” in that he is chiefly focused on the economic improvement of black people. As a conservative, he wants “First Order” change in regards to racial set-asides and discrimination law. He focuses on I and We space solutions in that he calls on black people to hold each other accountable for the professional development and family planning.

For the complete series click HERE


  1. black-turnout-in-1964-and-beyond
  2. Voter Turnout Always Drops Off For Midterm Elections But W hy
  3. Black Voter Turnout Fell In 2016 Even As A Record Number Of Americans Cast Ballots 05-12-2017
  4. Teacher expectations reflect racial bias, John Hopkins study reflects 03-30-2016
  5. Study: Anti-black Hiring Discrimination is as Prevalent Today as it was in 1989 09-18-2017
  6. Hiring bias study: Resumes with black, white, and hispanic names treated as same 05-04-2016
  7. Minorities Who “Whiten” Resumes Get More Job Interviews 05-17-2017
  8. Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Disruptive Behavior: The Effect of Racial Congruence and Consequences for School Suspension 11-2015 Adam Wright
  9. Wharton Study Shows the Shocking Result When Women and Minorities Email Their Professors 05-01-2014

Shelby Steele Philosophy

Shelby Steele perceives modern day America as not endemically racist. He admits there are a minority of racist people and sometimes they commit crimes against minorities. However, a person’s race does not explicitly stop them from achieving a goal. Therefore the effects of racism are minor. Strong work ethic and ingenuity can overcome all obstacles.

Racism still exists in America. Steele recounts in his work various instances of harassment and bigotry. To list a few:

  1. People yelling “nigger” from their car as he walked by every few months
  2. A professor telling him he was not “really black” when he gave a report on the Civil Rights Movement
  3. His children being called names due to their mixed-race heritage
  4. Graffiti at a nearby school that read “NIggers, spics, and chinks. Quit complaining or get out.”

However, none of this ever stopped him from attaining goals. There are no laws specifically keeping black people from applying to school or a job.

America does have a racist history of slavery and Jim Crow that relegated black people to the sidelines of American life. However, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, most doors were open. Now 99.9% of American life is free and open. American life is so open America even had a black president.

After the victory of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1960’s the struggle took a dangerous turn. Once the Jim Crow laws were removed, the struggle was over, yet the black leaders still wanted power. They used a claim of victimization to get preferential treatment from the government

Affirmative Action is particularly problematic because it reinforces racial stereotypes. Affirmative Action implies that black people are inferior hence they need Affirmative Action. Not only are supporters of Affirmative Action implicitly agreeing with racist stereotypes, but they also assert that white benevolence is required to even the playing field. The recipients of Affirmative Action will also have to share their victory with white people.

Victimization has also infiltrated black culture and has become integral to the black identity. Therefore the most downtrodden black people are the “blackest.” Making the poorest black people the icon of a race forces other black people to validate themselves through emulating the poorest among them.

Grievance Identities is a term coined by Shelby Steele to describe those that use victimization as their lens to see the world. Grievance Identity keeps people from seeing the universal humanity in themselves and others. They separate themselves from the rest of society. Not only do they separate from those of a different demographic, but they also attack people not clinging to the Grievance Identity as sellouts and Uncle Tom’s. To separate from a Grievance Identity would separate a person from their entire community.

On an individual level victimization can lead to suppressed feelings of self-doubt. Steele recounts the story of a black student walking into a class full of whites. The student told Steele that he felt uncomfortable “Because I know they’re all racists. They think blacks are stupid.” Steele illustrates how this is a projection and most white people are not racist. The student has internal questions about his ability that he is projecting onto other students. This projection is the result of him repressing his feelings of inadequacy. If the student were to admit he has questions on his ability he could work through these feelings and be happier.

Victimization also causes black America to act as a “one-party” state. If a person has a political ideology that is not based on victimization or blaming the white man they are perceived as an Uncle Tom. By impeding healthy political dialogue real solutions are lost or not brought to light. Black conservatives are liberal, in that, they challenge the usual dialogue or paradigms on politics within their community.

The real solution to racial disparity is Flat Freedom. Flat Freedom would entail no preferential treatment for anyone. He explicitly calls for the end of Affirmative Action. However, he does not explicitly call for laws against nepotism, the end to legacy admissions in elite universities, or leniency due to hardship in college admission. He does recommend that discrimination laws be changed from civil offenses to criminal offenses. As it stands now if a company loses a discrimination case they pay a relatively small fee to the person that won the case. Typically, the person that filed the lawsuit is blackballed from the industry because the case is public record. As the law stands now, a company can discriminate and expect to pay a settlement every few years.

Preferential Treatment and Race Relations

Preferential treatment does not uplift black people or pay off the debt of Jim Crow and slavery. It does increase white anger at black people. Even after concessions are made to help black people, blacks still charge whites with racism. The continued charge of racism angers white people as they are collectively considered the scapegoat for the ills of black America.

Once black people began to assert power solely based on skin color, other “disadvantaged” groups followed suit. Women, Hispanics, and Asian also get preferential treatment due to attributes they did not earn. In academia, many departments are solely based upon differences, such as African- American Studies and Women’s History. These departments add to racial tensions not take them away.

The election of Donald Trump was the backlash from many years of scapegoating. Donald Trump’s vitriol is an expression of white people’s anger at being stigmatized as racists. Trump’s rhetoric is a response to years of racial discussions not being related to facts, but a battle of identities. Trump represents the universal American identity. He is not partial to any small demographic or particular interest group. “America First” is Trump’s motto.

Donald Trump’s success is due to his charisma, more than actual qualifications. Trump represents the antithesis of cultural and institutional liberalism. Hopes and dreams are the basis of liberalism. Pragmatic individual responsibility and discipline are the basis of conservatism.

Much of the anger black people feel now is suppressed anger. As with abused children, anger only manifests itself after a period of normalcy without abuse is established. Black people are experiencing this on a macroscopic scale now. When black people vent about racism, it is an upsurge of anger collectively hidden for so many years.

Blacks should commend whites for how far they have come in embracing racial reconciliation in a short amount of time. Very few other countries have ever even attempted to redress past wrongs. The Russian’s never paid the Georgians reparations or gave them jobs. Steele recounts many instances of whites helping him professionally.

Ultimately, the focus on improving the black community should be on personal responsibility. The entitlement culture is a distraction, and a way to abdicate responsibility. Once the entitlements are removed, black America will have to look internally for solutions. Individuals will improve themselves and rise above other applicants. Black America will “catch on fire.” The renaissance will not be the result of helping the collective, but individual achievement reaching a fever pitch.

Strategies to Maneuver in a White Dominated Society

Two strategies for dealing with white America according to Steele’s work. The “bargainer” and the challenger. The “bargainer” grants white America their innocence from oppression in exchange for entry into the mainstream. The “challenger” withholds this innocence until a demand for entry or another concession is met. Black people that adopt both strategies have made it to the highest levels of society.

In the “challenger” camp we have people like Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson acts as a provocateur stirring up negative sentiments in black people. He tells black people not to have faith in America and be suspicious of white people. The focus of Dyson’s rhetoric is what white people owe you not on what you can do for yourself.

In the bargainer camp, he puts people like Bill Cosby. His flagship show “The Cosby Show” never challenged white authority. The Cosby’s never discussed Affirmative Action, police brutality, no one ever endured racism. All the characters were fun loving and jovial. The television programmed showed black Americans thriving, without having any uniquely black issues raised.

Obama is the most famous and successful “bargainer.” Obama puts forth a non-racial image that conforms white people. He says to them implicitly “I will not hold a racial grievance against you.” The ability to absolve white people allowed him to get elected. His racial idealism is what makes him an electable candidate. hi. Obama had ambivalence for American exceptionalism and felt the full use of American military power was “neo-colonialism.”

Obama did have missteps in keeping his non-racial image. The Skip Gates controversy pulled Obama into a racial narrative. Skip Gates is a famous Ivy League professor that was arrested in his own home when neighbors called the police. Gates assumed with no evidence the police officer asked for his ID because of his race. Gates chose to make the narrative public and ask Obama for aid. Obama made a mistake by getting involved.

Jesse Jackson is an example of a person that moves back and forth between “bargainer” and “challenger” positions. One minute he is giving magnificent speeches at the DNC reminiscent of Dr. King. The next he threatens to boycott Major League Baseball and refuses to denounce Louis Farrakhan. White people do not know how to take him. They assume he is a “challenger” by instinct and a “bargainer” by political ambition.

However, some black people are truly independent. Harold Ford Jr. is an excellent example of an independent black thinker. Ford was a congressman from Tennessee. He did not use race in his politics and chose policies that were best for America.

Steele is clear that “challenging” works best for the collective, but “bargaining” works best for the individual. The new era of black progress will come from “bargainers.” “Bargaining” allows a person to enter mainstream society and make way for himself or herself. Individual achievement will grow to encompass all of black America.

Steele compares the protest that Black Lives Matter sponsor against the protests of Dr. King. He explains how Dr. King’s protest had people coming in more significant numbers and they were respectably dressed. Black Lives Matters protest were disruptive with people dressing and acting erratically.

Many of the leaders that support Black Lives Matter and other forms of “identity politics” are a bane to their people. They preach bad faith, more specifically to distrust white people and mainstream America. This distrust will impede progress because individuals will be suspicious. The suspiciousion will keep them from taking risks necessary to enter mainstream society. The distrust is more of a hindrance than any racism they will face. The leaders know this and purposefully repeat the “bad faith” narrative for personal gain.

International Politics

White guilt not only cause society to take half-measures to fix the actual race problems in America, but it also causes the US to take half-measures in foreign policy. America has the greatest military in history. If the full power of the military were unleashed on Iraq, the resistance would be over in no time. America holds back so the world will not see her as a monster. In the same way stories of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are portrayed by the media as brutal. The line between interrogation and torture is an arbitrary one and is often crossed in times of war.

The wars that currently involve America are wars to hold the status quo in regards to world power. Wars in previous years, such as World War II, were a fight for the survival of the Western world. Because the wars are wars of choice, the public has less stomach for the military using its full might. The public needs to realize the need to end radical Islam once and for all.

In the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, America needs to support Israel in all its efforts. Compromise is not an option in the Palestine conflict. For example, Steele notes that in 2006 Hezbollah launched an attack from land lost in a peace deal. Entering a peace deal with these terrorist organizations gives the terrorists legitimacy. If a Western power such as Israel negotiates with a terrorist organization, then their terrorist organization’s claim to represent the people is valid. The validation makes the terrorist organization grow.

Radical Islam is not fighting the West because of oppression and colonization. They are angry they cannot compete. If oppression were the cause of radical Islam, peace deals from Israel would reduce suicide bombings and attacks. Extremism is a product of post-colonial Arabia. After the Arabs freed themselves, they realized that their countries were woefully behind the rest of the world. The anger from not being able to compete caused extremism. To quote Steele directly “Islamic extremism is the saber-rattling of an inferiority complex.”

For the rest of the series click HERE


  1. Tucker Carlson speaks with Shelby Steele on The Exhaustion Of American Liberalism Published by the Echo Chamber on 3-10-2017
  2. Greg Gutfeld Interviews Shelby Steele by The War on SJW on 07-02-2017
  3. Laura Ingraham Interviews Shelby Steele about White Guilt on The War on SJW on 06-26-2017
  4. Shelby Steele: The Left’s Toxic Obsession with Race by Laura Ingraham on 08-31-2017
  5. The Next Debate: The Future of Race in America with Shelby Steele in 2015
  6. Dennis Prager Interviews Shelby Steele on Race in America in 2013
  7. White Guilt and the end of the Civil Rights Era 05-05-2006 NPR interview by Ed Gordon
  8. Interview: Shelby Steele Black Star News 02-29-2008
  9. The High-Wire Act of Barrack Obama Interveiw by Margaret Wente of Toronto Globe and Mai 10-20-2007
  10. Bill Moyers Talks with Shelby Steele 01-11-2008
  11. Wall St Journal Articles

  12. White Guilt and Radical Islam printed 10-31-2006
  13. Not Appeasement printed 11-26-2007
  14. White Guilt and the American Way of War 7-30-2006
  15. Down on Hilary’s Plantation 1-24-2006
  16. The Promise of President Trump 1-19-2017
  17. Trump, Clinton, and the Culture of Deference 11-7-2016
  18. From Emmett Till to Skip Gates 08-01-2009
  19. Why the GOP Can’t Win with Minorities 03-16-2009
  20. The Exploitation of Trayvon Martin 04-05-2012
  21. Hoover Institute Articles / Hoover’s Digest

  22. The Double Bind of Race and Guilt 01-30-2001
  23. Engineering Mediocrity 10-30-2000
  24. The Loneliness of the Black Conservative 01-30-1999
  25. Obama Unbound 01-22-2009
  26. Obama’s Unspoken Re-election Edge 05-25-2011
  27. Obama and the Burden of Exceptionalism 09-01-2011
  28. Better Angels 06-30-2009
  29. Nothing More Than freedom 07-01-2009
  30. The Soft Bigotry of Political Correctness 2017 Spring
  31. Who Speaks for Black Americans 2013 no.4
  32. End of the Line for the Shame Train 2017 Summer
  33. Obama’s Unspoken Re-election Edge 05-25-2011
  34. A Referendum on a Redeemer 10-28-2011
  35. Israel and the Surrender of the West 06-21-2010
  36. Good Manners and Anti-Semitism 09-29-2010
  37. Harper’s Magazine

  38. I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent 06-1998
  39. Articles Misc

  40. Racism–Fact of Faith in the LA Times 11-23-2006
  41. Michael Eric Dyson is a plague on his people 08-30-2017
  42. Recoloring of Campus Life
  43. The New Segregation
  44. A negative vote on Affirmative Action 05-13-1990
  45. On being black and middle class 01-01-1998
  46. Obama’s post-racial promise 11-05-2008

Shelby Steele Biography


  • Created Award winning documentary film on Seven Days in Bensonhust
  • In 1990, he received the National Book Critics Circle Award
  • Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution 1994
  • 2004 National Humanist Medalist from the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Labeled in Don Beck’s book The Crucible as having second tier thinking

Shelby Steele was born on January 1, 1946, in Chicago, Illinois to a black father and a white mother. His parents met as members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Steele grew up middle-class. His father was a truck driver, and his mother was a social worker.

Steele speaks fondly of his childhood. His father dropped out of school in the third grade. He drove a truck by day, yet at night was a voracious reader. Shelby Steele remembers him as having the gravitas of a university professor. Unfortunately, Steele’s father never acquired a job that would fully utilize his intellect.

Steele’s mother was white. Often interviewers ask how does his status as a mixed race individual affect his work. He replies that he does not see himself as mixed race. A white woman married to a black man in Chicago was treated as a black woman. The family lived in a segregated section of the city. So in his upbringing he was never viewed as having mixed or half-white identity.

As a college undergraduate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Steele was active in Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE). SCOPE is affiliated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Steele earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Coe College in 1968. He was one of eighteen black people that graduated that year.

After receiving a Masters degree in Sociology from Southern Illinois University, Steele continued his studies at the University of Utah. At the University of Utah, Steele also taught black literature. Steele recounts that he turned down a tenure position at the University of Utah because of animosity he experienced harassment due to his interracial marriage. After receiving his Ph.D. in English in 1974, he left Utah to teach at San Jose State University.

The 1990 PBS documentary Seven Days in Bensonhurst, was Steele first dive into the public debate on race. The PBS documentary told the story of Yusef Hawkins, a black man lynched in New York City in 1989. Two white men had been patrolling the neighborhood looking for a black man that had been dating one of the local white women. The two white men were convicted of the crime and served jail time. The documentary won Emmy Award, the Writer’s Guild Award, and the San Francisco Film Festival Award.

Seven Days in Bensonhust focused on how Hawkins death was used for political purposes. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson brought in media attention and galvanized the public. The support for Hawkin’s killer being put to justice was used to empower black mayoral candidate David Dinkins. Hawkin’s father did not want his son’s death politicized. The documentary also show the vitriol black residents had for white politicians Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo.

In the book The Content of our Character first published September 1, 1990, Steele shows how we look at the person’s race instead of character. In the introduction to the book, Steele explains the tedious and often rehearsed racial dialogue in the news prompted him to write the book. In his opinion, people split their personal racial beliefs from their public racial beliefs. The goal of the book is to facilitate a more honest discussion on race.

The Content of our Character was followed by A Dream Deferred. He expands his previous analysis by saying American betrayed its core values by creating the racial preference system of Affirmative Action. The betrayal was motivated by a deep shame and remorse for its past racial wrongs.

It took Shelby Steele 10 years to make another PBS documentary. Jefferson’s Blood explores the evidence that President Thomas Jefferson fathered children by slave Sally Hemmings. The film details the DNA evidence and shows the reaction of Sally Hemings descendants that they are in fact related to Thomas Jefferson.

Steele takes on what he characterizes as an overcorrection for racism in his book published in 2006. White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of Civil Right explains how after the Civil Rights movement many white institutions attempted to correct their wrongs and avoid charges of racism by creating Affirmative Action. Unwittingly by creating Affirmative Action, they cast all black people as victims and not the equal of white people. The real problem in black America is the decline in mortality since the 1960’s.

A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Barack Obama and Why He Can’t Win is an exploration of how Obama’s mixed race heritage affects his politics. The book was published in 2007 after Obama declared his candidacy for the presidency. Steele says the title of “why he can’t win” was done to increase interest and he always believed he had a change. The book also delves into how black people function in a white society.

In Shelby Steele’s newest book Shame How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized The Country . In this book Steele gives his autobiography and shows how America has changed over many years. He asserts that people clinging to their identity as victims bits one demographic against another. Also, activist groups based on victimization all claim to have a monopoly on compassion. America is growing tired of requests for preference without any personal responsibility. These activist groups also garner prestige from dis-identity with America.

It is interesting to note that Shelby Steele’s identical twin brother, Claude Steele, is his ideological opposite. Claude Steele is a social psychologist that chief work is on how the knowledge of stereotypes affects people performance. Claude Steel coined the term stereotype threat to describe this phenomenon. Claude Steele has a Ph.D. from Ohio State University and was Vice Chancellor Provost at University of California, Berkeley.

For the rest of the series click HERE


  1. “Shelby Steele”
  2. From

  3. ”The Content of Our Character”
  4. ”Shelby Steele”
  5. “Introduction” from The Content of our Character from
  6. Summary of White Guilt found on
  7. “Preface” from A Dream Deferred
  8. “A Bound Man”
  9. “ Shelby Steele”
  10. Synopsis of Jefferson’s Blood
  11. Seven Days in Bensonhurst 05-15-1990 Frontline PBS Transcript
  12. Jefferson’s Blood 05-02-2000Frontline PBS Transcript

Shelby Steele

Shelby Steele was rated by Don Beck as a second-tier thinker. He is against Affirmative Action and is a critic of leaders like Micheal Eric Dyson. The Wall Street Journal and Harper’s Magazine frequently publish his editorials. These articles explain Steele’s support for Donald Trump and the Iraq War. Click on the links below to find his series.




Solution Space

Black Leader Analysis is not focused on problems, we focus on solutions. Solutions are categorized as:

“I” Space: Solutions that can be implemented independently
“WE” Space: Solutions that are implemented within the black community
“IT” Space: Solutions that involve government or the wider community

Yellow Meme (Knowing / Connecting)

Characteristic Thinking: Big picture views, Integrative Structures, Naturalness of chaos, Inevitability of change, Systemic linkages

Decision Making: Highly principled, Knowledge centered, Resolves paradoxes, Competence based, Focus on outcomes

Educational Approach: Becomes self-directed, Whole-day package, Attuned to interests, Non-rigid structures, Diverse idea sources

Family Structures: Shifting roles, Expects competence, Takes each as is, Information based, All contribute as one can

Community Forms: Wants more thru less, Appropriate technology, Authority is dispersed, Rebuilds what works, Sustainable changes

Life Space Norms: Living is learning, Intrigued by processes, Freedom just to be, Rarely fearful or driven, Appreciates variability

From Foundation Stones: Bedrock Belief Systems that Shape Character, Community, and Country

Leaders in the Yellow Meme

Shelby Steele

Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. King is the most famous black American leader. Many have criticized and complimented him. Here is the site work on this leader.

Dr. King moving from Orange to Green