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Black Leadership Analysis

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

Ancestral Reverence in Shadow Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Analysis: Asa Philip Randolph

What He Has Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

What He Has Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is A. Philip Randolph on the Spiral

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

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

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

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March on Washington Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Basic Philosophy of Asa Philip Randolph

Lynching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Affairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigration

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

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

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

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

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

Worker relations

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

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

Proactive Politics

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

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

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

Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimately, the Back to Africa movement was not realistic.

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

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The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Is a Pullman Porter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All Labor Has Dignity

This book chronicles King’s speeches and interactions with Unions between 1957 to 1968.

The chief obstacles to America fulfilling its promise are war, poverty, and racism. These three evils are intertwined and once person deeply understand them the lines between them are blurred. The forces that create, perpetuate, and defend the institutions are also aligned.

The three evils manifest as an ultra-right coalition: big business, military, and reactionaries in both parties. It is essential for students of Dr. King to remember he had opposition from both parties. This ultra-right coalition was formed because they used similar goals and tactics. The same way police are used to intimidate civil rights protesters the military threatens people in Vietnam. These entities work together to garner public support and maintain control.

More informally the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizen’s council weld power in opposition to the progressive agenda. He made clear both organizations were two sides of the same coin. The White Citizen’s Council would not use violence or racial slurs, but they would use legal means to undermine the civil rights movement. The White Citizens Council was more socially acceptable, so they could expose racist rhetoric in public that would aid the Ku Klux Klan in recruitment. Both organizations promoted regression and inequality in America.

To combat the ultra-right an ultra-left coalition needed to be formed from the civil rights, academia, the church, and labor movement. These movements are natural allies. Most black people are members of the working class. So labor rights, wage floors, old age medical care are vital to living freely in America. Labor will benefit from desegregation because there will not be a more vulnerable class of workers willing to break picket lines. Traditionally, black people would scab segregated unions. If labor allows people of all races to join the unions will be stronger.

Unions were some of the early financial supporters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Unions having access to well-employed people could crowdfund easily and quickly. The capital was put to good use in the Birmingham Campaign and the Montgomery Bus Boycott to name a few areas.

Fortunately, union funds did not stop King from speaking on racism and segregation in the unions. King implored the United Autoworkers Union to desegregate its local affiliates during an anniversary dinner he was asked to speak. His critique of discrimination in unions extended to the America Federation of Unions the largest and most powerful at the time.

King also praised many unions that had a history of integration and fighting for Civil Rights outsized the Union. The United Package Worker Union of America (UPWA) was an example of an integrated activist union. The UPWA even ran integrated schools in Appalachia. The CIO was not only integrated; it united workers from all trades. His affiliation with these radical unions led to much adversity for King.

Throughout King’s career, he was smeared as a Communist for his support of unions that were started by Communists. This book explains how many unions purged themselves off communists by the 1950s. Also, labor organizer Stanley Levison was considered to be a communist. The author that compiled the speeches in this book explains Levison cut ties with the Communist Party in 1957 before he met King. So King has no contact with Communists or the Communist Party.

All social ills were not merely due to policy. Automation ballooned unemployment by taking away lower skilled jobs. Blacks disproportionately occupied these jobs. White workers also felt this contraction in labor but not to the same extent as blacks. King proposed a universal basic income (UBI) to ease the effects of high unemployment. The government would peg UBI to median income, not the lowest income level.

UBI is the centerpiece of a comprehensive committed anti-poverty program. Previous anti-poverty programs targeted a single aspect of poverty such as housing or food. These programs were embarked on by groups that were not fully committed to seeing the program through. The federal government is the only entity big enough to address these issues in a holistic and sustained manner.

The Vietnam War in addition to being fundamentally immoral hindered the building of the welfare state. It diverted most of the countries resources into subverting Vietnam’s national will. Because the population wanted to support the troops and stand in solidarity against the enemy, the social justice movement was hampered. Many Americans felt a united front needed to be maintained and any internal strife should be postponed until peacetime.

The last speech in the book is “To The Mountain Top” given the day before King died. He explains how the Civil Rights Movement is just part of a larger world movement for justice. Starting with Plato, he gives a summary or Western history bending toward justice and landing right here with us at the Mason Temple in Memphis. He realized he would not make it there with us. However, we are to soldier on and continue his work.

Strength to Love

Strength to Love is a collection of sermons written when pastoring at churches in Montgomery and Atlanta. There are also three sermons written while King was in jail. The sermons that were written in jail will be highlighted with a star (*).

A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart

To be a good Christian one must marry idealism and realism. Realism characterized by a “tough-mind” is defined as incisive thinking, realistic appraisal, and decisive judgement. Idealism characterized by a “soft-heart” is the ability to empathize and love in the form of agape. Tough-mindedness alone leads a person to be cold and detached. Soft-heartedness alone drives someone to be gullible and timid.

There is a lengthy discussion on the false conflict between religion and science. King asserts they are not in conflict, but complementary. They use different methods that lead to different types of truth. So it is acceptable for Christians to offer historical and philosophical critique of the Bible. Both types of truth are necessary to navigate the current world.

He also talks about how science has been perverted to lead people to believe black people are genetically inferior. King asserts disparity in wealth and education are the result of policy current and historical injustice.

Nonviolent resistance is the synthesis of idealism and realism. In that, it realizes blacks will not be able to defeat the most powerful military the world has ever known but still needs to fight for its dignity.

Transformed Nonconformist

Christians are charged with mimicking the life of Jesus which was a life of non-conformity. Christians should be moved by their convictions and a fear of social reprisal. The current state of the world will not allow a true Christian to live a “well-adjusted” life.

Many in the field of psychology say mental and emotional health is reflected by conformity to society. With conformity comes a large social circle, wealth, and comfortable life. Jumboism, is how Dr. King defines the zeitgeist of the age, the need to grow in numbers and be part of something large. Modern day churches have a large quantity of low-quality worshipers.

On Being a Good Neighbor

It takes more than following a creed to be Christian. One must actively manifest their faith in the world. One must show the same universal altruism the Samaritan showed. On the road to Damascus. The Samaritan did not worry in the injured Israelite saw him negatively. He just helped even though doing so would mean he could be ambushed and robbed himself.

Interestingly King says even in the Bible G-d didn’t always show this love. In the Old Testament G-d commands Israel not to kill other Israelites, but slaughter Philistines. Ethnic level morality was not only in Israel. It was in the way Greeks took care of aristocracy and not slaves. The current manifestation of ethnic level morality was American racism.

The following quote shows how Dr. King viewed the relationship between laws and morality:

“Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless…But acknowledging this, we must admit that the ultimate solution to the race problem lies in the willingness of men to obey the unenforceable. ”

*Love in Action*

This sermon was based around the Bible verse “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He explains how those that perpetuate racism and discrimination are not fully aware of the hurt they cause. Then entreats Christians to offer limitless forgiveness.

King offers the example of Socrates’ execution as an example of respectable men not understanding what they did. The men that executed Socrates did not understand his concept of G-d. Socrates’s G-d had philosophical depth and went beyond traditional concepts and superstitions. King also gives the example of the same ills befalling those that persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire.

There is another discussion on what we today call racial realism, the idea that science supports the notion of black inferiority. He specifically mentions the work of Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Melville J. Herskovits in debunking the claim.

War has outlived its usefulness in Dr. King’s estimation. In the past, it was needed as a negative good to ensure dictators did not take over the world. Now with the invention of nuclear weapons, war could kill all life on earth. The world needs new methods to solve conflict.

*Loving Your Enemies*

Those outside the Christian religion see ‘loving your enemies” as impractical and/or weak. These people do not understand the concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness means an adverse action no longer affects the future relationship. It is no longer block in future interaction. The goal in Christian conflict is not humiliating to the enemy, but to it fosters love and understanding.

Love is often misunderstood. There are three types of love. Eros which is a yearning for union with G-d. Phillia which is reciprocal love between men, friendship. Lastly, there is Agape which is a love for all humanity as your brother. Often outsiders consider “love your neighbor” as “like your neighbor.” Like is a sentimental affection. It is impossible to like someone that actively works to harm you.

Lastly loving your enemies is not only beneficial for the other person. It is advantageous to the person doing the forgiving. Loving your enemies helps to build a relationship with G-d. Hate is cancerous and erodes vital unity and the agape love naturally inside the individual.

Knock at Midnight

In this speech, King urges the congregation to action by explaining society is at a midnight hour. He tells of conformity and comfort are the principle values of most people. It is the churches job to refocus these people. The loss of morality has lead to a mentality of “survival of the slickest.”

The church in recent years has become pro-war. The membership has swollen, but the quality of worship has not. The black church is burning with emotionalism and has turned worship into entertainment. The white church is freezing with classism in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ. The church should not be the master or slave of government, but its critic and conscious.

At the end of the speech, he announces the Supreme Court has deemed bus segregation unlawful.

The Man Who Was a Fool

King presents the Bible story of a rich man Jesus called a fool. He didn’t do this just because the man was rich. The man was called a fool because he mismanaged his wealth through lack of charity. The man saw himself as an island unconnected to those around him. His worldly possessions held more importance than the well-being of his brothers. By not taking his duty to his fellow man seriously, he acted like he was the creator not a creation. There is not a single event in a day that is not dependent on the community working together.

King makes a case against materialism and humanism. Materialism, the idea we are matter randomly organized, can easily be disproven by the complexity and beauty of the universe. Humanism, the idea humans are the greatest creation and destine for good, can be easily disproven by our modern world making us less happy. We have tons of labor-saving devices, but work harder for less reward. Also, science gave us the atomic bomb, proving science is as good as those the weld it.

This speech was updated in 1967. The 1967 version is far more popular.

The Death of Evil on the Seashore

This speech was given on the second anniversary of the Brown v. Board of education victory. He models history as chiefly a struggle between good and evil. The concept of an eternal struggle between good and evil is echoed not only in Christianity, but in Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Platonism. King retells the story of Moses parting the Red Sea and its closing when the Egyptian tried to enter. The evil Egyptians died on the Seashore.

Good is inevitably going to win the fight. The evidence is not only Supreme Court decisions like Brown v Board. It can also be found in the successful struggle for independence in Africa in Asia.

He ends with giving the congregation reassurance that they are on the right side of history and to continue to struggle with oppressors using love.

Three Dimensions of a Complete Life

Already summarized in Measure of a Man

*Shattered Dreams*

St. Paul’s life is used in this speech as an analogy for having a great dream differed. St. Paul planned to travel to Spain to spread the gospel but is abducted by Romans and executed in a Roman jail. St. Paul never realized his greatest dreams.

Not achieving goals can make people react in a few different ways. One can become bitter and cynical. The cynicism will cause the most harm to the person that holds it in the form of physical ailments. One can sink into fatalism, the belief there is no choice in life, and give up. The last option is to accept the bad while holding on to hope.

King believes there is an ultimate destiny for man, but man gets a level of freedom within that ultimate destiny. Due to G-d granting a degree of freedom to man he allows evil to exist on earth.

Gandhi was mentioned in this work as a historical figure that was not allowed to see a free unified India. Other historical figure mentioned were Woodrow Wilson, Handel, and Abraham Lincoln

What is Man?

Summarized in Measure of a Man

How Should a Christian View Communism

All Christian pastors must talk about Communism. Communism is a growing influence spreading over Asia, Africa, and Europe. As a philosophy, it rivals Christianity and is its biggest competition.

Communism is opposed to Christianity. In Communism, the state is central to reality, with the goal being the end of class. There are no moral absolutes in Communism so any method including violence and propaganda can be used to gain power. Because there are no moral absolutes Communism leads to authoritarian governments in practice. All personal liberty is suspended because the most important social entity is the state, not the individual.

Even though King is against Communism, he agrees with many of their criticisms of modern society. The church has lost the prophetic voice, that inspired Roman nobles to give up their life of luxury for persecution. Many Christians are more focused on heavenly freedom than human freedom. The otherworldliness has prevented Christian criticism of racism, poverty, and classism. Therefore Marx’s critique of religion as the “opiate of the people” sticks.

King’s goal is to establish The Kingdom of G-d, which is neither an individual or collective enterprise. The Kingdom is the synthesis of both universal truths.

Our God is Able

G-d is the center of the Christian universe. Many want to make man the center and science the new religion. Nothing man made can compare to the wonder of the natural universe. Science has led to the atomic bomb which puts us all at risk. Man can not save himself without divine intervention.

In Christian philosophy, evil is real, and G-d will conquer it. There is real-world evidence of history bending toward good. The ultimate defeat of fascism in WWII and the end of colonialism in the global south show that good typically prevails. Segregation will soon be added to the list.

He then goes into a personal story from his own life. The first 24 year of it was lived in ease due to his parent’s stability and wealth. When he began leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott his life changed radically. Death threats were constant. One night after a particularly frightening call he could not sleep. He went to the kitchen made coffee and paced the floor. He prayed to G-d for strength. Suddenly, King feels G-d’s presence. That event gave him enough strength to soldier on.

Later that month his house was bombed. No one was hurt, but King was able to take the news in stride. He knew he would be protected by a higher power.

Antidotes to Fear

Fear is ever growing in modern society. Some fear is good and keeps us out of trouble. Other fears force us to innovate. However, the fast pace of contemporary society can lead to constant fear.

King prescribes the antidotes to fear: introspection, courage, love, faith. Introspection will help in deciphering rational from irrational fear. Soldiering on in the face of fear is courage. Love is defined as mutual trust and goodwill. King gives the example of mutual nuclear disarmament. Faith is building an inner resilience to adversity based on spirituality.

Love was especially important to King. He explains as black people grow in political influence whites will fear retaliation. Blacks must reassure white people their fear is unfounded. Blacks want to forgive and forget and move forward in love.

To end the speech he takes time to remember an elderly woman named Mother Pollard. She was an activist in the Montgomery campaign remembered for the quote, “My feet’s is tired but my soul is rested”. After a meeting in which King was putting on a strong front to hide his inner fear and depression, Mother Pollard pulled him aside. She asked if something was wrong, he assured her he was fine. She realized he was covering and reminded him he had the full support from the team, but more importantly, he had the support of G-d. King was forever grateful.

The Answer to a Perplexing Question

The perplexing question is: “How can evil be cast out of the world?”

There are two views debunked by King. The first is the humanistic view that man can cast out evil with his ability. Modern society assumes the advances in science and technology will inevitably lead to a better future. The humanistic ideal is proven false by the current state of the world. The other model is G-d will solve our problems when he is ready, and man has no responsibility. This ideal leads Christians to become otherworldly. It also reduces G-d to a “cosmic bellhop” serving your every wish. The correct view is man acting as a tool of G-d will bring about change.

There is a brief aside in which King explains why he does not believe in infant damnation. Once one rejects the view that man has no capacity for good, one can accept that an infant is not tarnished with sin at birth. Therefore if a child dies, he will not go to hell. It is essential to understand King’s position on this issue to explain why he is pro-choice.

Paul’s Letter to American Christians

King creates a mock epistle in this essay. In it, Paul writes a letter to American Christians illustrating many points. “Paul” chides us in advancing in science but regressing in morality. Our church is divided into many denominations and by race. All divisions in the church are counterproductive. Also, America has high-income inequality with the top 0.1% owning 40% of the wealth.

Pilgrimage to Nonviolence

This essay is an explanation on how King grew past his fundamentalist upbringing. Seminary introduced him to liberal theology. This version of theology stressed reason and criticized the Bible.

There was one issue King had trouble grasping, the idea that man was inherently good. There were too many examples of men rationalizing bad behavior for King not to see reason as tarnished by sin.

Even though liberal theology had flaws, King could not go back to fundamentalism or neo-orthodoxy. It was too pessimistic on the nature of man and led followers to otherworldliness.

His disillusion with the nature of man led him to study social gospel, which is the study of how religion is used to enact change in society. In this study, Mohandas Gandhi was a giant. His idea of satyagaha, love force, was the Christian doctrine of “turn the other cheek.” Now he had a real-world example of non-violence that worked.

Non-violence was not only crucial for American race relations but international conflict. There was a time when war was needed to stop dictators from spreading. However, now with the advent of atomic weapons, war was just too dangerous. Nonviolence had to be the main conflict resolution method in the future.

The Measure of a Man

The book The Measure of a Man is summary of lectures given at the at the 1958 Conference of Christian Education. Those that attended the event loved what Dr. King had to say so much that they asked him to create the book.

King starts by fundamentally defining what a man is. Man, in his analysis, is both physical and spiritual. Individuals must cultivate both natures. Deplores those that see man as merely an animal. In this camp he puts, naturalist, materialist, and Marxist. The other camp he considers fundamentally Greek. Plato believed the soul must liberate itself from the body to fully develop. Jesus said man could not live on bread alone. The biblical quote supports the idea that the physical (bread) is needed in conjunction with other elements.

An explanation of how man is inherently a sinner follows. Man having a dual nature can choose good or evil. He knows what is right and chooses to do evil in spite of this knowledge. Because man chooses evil, he loses some of the image of G-d. To redeem himself, he needs the grace of G-d.

Many theologians lose site of man being a sinner because they see man as naturally progressing to a higher state. Depth psychology tries to confuse the issue as a conflict between phobia and desire. Ultimately, there is little real evidence of either view. Man chooses to do wrong.

King also has an interesting take on Western Civilization. He sees Western Civilization as rooted in egalitarianism and humanitarianism. The current manifestations of colonialism, segregation, and oppression is a diversion from these values. The mission of King is to return Western Civilization to its values.

The factors of a great life are length, breadth, and height. By length, King means not a life with a long duration, but one in which a person reaches a multitude of goals. For a life of longevity one must have self-love and strive to perfect a craft. King’s definition of breadth is a concern for fellow man and actively moving to improve the lot of others. Height is the connection to G-d and spiritual development. If one of these elements are missing our life is headed for folly.

This book shows King wasn’t a Democrat, Republican, Marxist, or Capitalist, but a Christian. Christianity was the root of all Dr. King’s philosophy and action. Many internet commentaries attempt to downplay King’s Christianity or deny he was Christian. A small sample of his writing would prove otherwise.

Why We Can’t Wait: History

The book details the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement (CRM) of 1963. Birmingham was considered the most segregated city in the United States of America. Nine years after Brown v. Board only nine percent of the black children went to integrated schools. Steady growth in the economy did not affect black life as blacks had two times the unemployment of whites. To add to unemployment troubles automation and discrimination in the construction industry added to unemployment.

The CRM had gotten off to an auspicious start with the 1958 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The 1962 campaign in Albany, GA was far less successful in spite of the fact five percent of the black population was willing to be jailed for freedom. Many were looking on the CRM as a flash in the pan that was soon to fizzle out.

In 1962 virulent racist and segregationist Eugene “Bull” Connor was the City Commissioner of public safety. He saw his job as maintaining the status quo and quelling protests. George Wallace, governor of Alabama, supported Connor’s stance. To aid these men in their mission in “state’s rights,” the Alabama legislature created a law that said no foreign corporation could operate in Alabama. Therefore the NAACP, SCLC, SNCC could not have a formal presence in Alabama.

To combat the political climate, Fred Shuttlesworth created the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACHR). The ACHR had many successful boycotts. The white citizens’ mob responded by bombing his house. However, with perseverance, the ACHR was able to become an affiliate with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference headed by Dr. King.

The SCLC began planning to aid Birmingham in the summer of 1962. The now-famous Gatson Motel was the site of the initial planning meetings. The SCLC would lead a protest to integrate shopping centers in Birmingham. The national convention of the SCLC would be held in Birmingham to show solidarity. Also, a boycott would follow in the spring of 1963 culminating Easter weekend. The first mobilization of protests would happen the first week of March. Protests would slowly build to a massive demonstration April 14.

The 1962 SCLC convention had a profound effect. Once business owners realized the best Civil Rights leaders in the nation would all be in Birmingham they needed to pacify the ACHR. The ACHR and local business owners held negotiations to reduce the chance of mass protests during or immediately after the SCLC convention. The business owners remove Jim Crow signs while the SCLC was in town. However, once they left the owners reneged on the deal and put the signs back up. The momentary capitulation of the business owners shows how powerful the SCLC was in the early 1960’s.

Unfortunately, the political climate would not allow for the first execution of this plan. A mayoral election was early March that included Bull Connor. If a protest happened during the mayoral election, Connor would be emboldened, and the white citizens in Birmingham would gravitate toward him. The mayoral election went into a run-off, so the protests were postponed even later. Bull Connor officially lost April 3 protest began two weeks later.

Connor and his supporters had not given up. They filed an injunction to leave the current City Commissioners in office until 1965. Another injunction was filed to stop all protesting by the ACHR until their right to protest had been litigated in court. The injunction to stop all protest guaranteed protesters could be arrested even if the protest was peaceful.

The fact that all the protesters would be arrested after April 10 but Dr. King at a crossroads. If he were to participate in the protest and be arrested there would be no one well connected enough to raise bail for the rest of the protesters. The SCLC was low on funds because of the protests that happened earlier in the month. The SCLC and ACHR debate if Dr. King going to jail will benefit the movement. In the end, Dr. King made the decision to go to jail. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s aide and friend, accompanied him to jail. It will be in the Birmingham jail he writes his famous letter.

Dr.King and Ralph Abernathy stayed in jail for eight days before being bonded out. They left to organize a new wave of protest in which children would be the main participants. Many criticized using kids as reckless. However, these same kids suffer the humiliation of segregation every day. Having them confront the violence head-on is not a far stretch.

As jails filled up, the City Commissioners has few options, but violence. The police used their infamous hoses and dogs. Their efforts were supplement by domestic terrorist using bombs. Kennedy had to bring in federal troops to restore peace.

Ultimately a coalition of citizen and business owners had to be formed for negotiations. The protesters demanded:

  1. Desegregation of private business
  2. Non-discriminatory hiring in business and industry. Black clerks and salesman had to be hired within 60 days
  3. Dropping all charges on all jailed protester
  4. Creation of a biracial committee to work our timetable for further desegregation

The coalition finally came agreed, and the protests ended. A few days later the Alabama Supreme Court forced the City Commissioners to leave office and let the officials elected in April take office. May 23, 1963, a new City Commission took office.

Relationship with Presidents

Eisenhower proved to King he was personally invested in advancing Civil Rights through many meetings. However, Eisenhower has a hard time communicating his passion to the public. Also, his rigid conservatism only allowed for small incremental change. Dr. King did not see a way to defeat Jim Crow without sweeping change to the power structure.

In the 1960 election, King did not endorse John Kennedy. King admits he liked many aspects of Kennedy’s platform and was grateful for his help in King’s release from jail earlier that year. However, King felt Kennedy was an untested politician. The Civil Rights Movement was fledging, and if Kennedy reneged on his platform, the movement could have ended.

Dr. King described a strained relationship with John Kennedy. Kenndy did run on a pro-CRM platform but abandoned the movement in 1961 and 1962 due to his small margin of victory. In 1963, JFK saw that public opinion shifted and began to support Civil Rights again.

Dr. King said he would have supported JFK in 1964 had he lived. Not because King felt Kennedy had fundamentally changed, but the Civil Rights movement was fundamentally stronger. If Kennedy were to abandon Civil Rights again, the movement would survive.

Lyndon Johnson had an intense involvement in Civil Rights intellectually and emotionally. LBJ rekindled King’s faith in the ability of white southerners to change. King attributes LBJ for inspiring him to write an article for “The Nation” magazine on changing attitudes in the South.

Why We Can’t Wait: Philosophy

Dr. King is careful to point out that the current Civil Rights Movement (CRM) is just part of a struggle of freedom happening all over the world throughout all of history. The revolutions in Africa and Asia that created new independent governments was an extension of the same struggle. Ultimately, oppressed people all over the world were beginning to stand up for themselves and fight back against tyranny.

Within the confines of American history, the Civil Rights Movement is the third revolution. The first and second are the American Revolution and the Civil war respectively. Oppressed people in all walks of life have fought for freedom. The black people are no different, and their struggle has been continual.

Many outsiders to the Civil Rights Movement see it as a sudden happening caused by outside agitators. Their evidence is that the black people they knew did not complain about their plight. Dr. King reminds these people that blacks are heavily penalized for talking about their experience. Also, most blacks would assume whites would not care about what they go through.

The method employed by the Dr. King led branch of the CRM was non-violent direct action (NVDA). In NVDA, members would purposely violate the law in such large numbers the jails would fill. Once the jail filled the unjust law would become unenforceable. Also, the oppressor would have to use his violence in public on a large scale. His use of force would show he was unjust to the greater society and increase support for the movement in the general public.

It is important to remember, Dr. King did not see his movement as a replacement for efforts within the courts and government. It was essential to have people sympathetic to the CRM in places of power. It was also essential to support NAACP efforts to fight discrimination in court. To obtain freedom, all three methods had to be deployed.

Dr. King defines freedom as social, political, and economic redress. From a social and political aspect, the rest of America would begin to respect black people because they won their freedom in the face of the most powerful government in the world. The victory would be due to African American’s ability to strategize and have restraint in the face of violence. The victory would disprove the stereotypes and allow African Americans to move through society in a more free manner.

Economic equity would come with black people obtaining positions of power due to the collective effort. These positions of power will not be tokenism, which Dr. King deplores. He defines tokenism as letting a few blacks have power to pacify the masses and slow the CRM. Dr. King supported efforts to give black people economic stability on a mass scale through set-asides. He mentions efforts in India to support Dalits. India had a reservation system that allowed for Dalits to get preferential treatment in hiring and college admittance. So from this book, it is safe to assume he would have supported Affirmative Action.

The principle tool blacks had in their arsenal was the strong faith of black people. Black America had one of the most active religious traditions in the country. The negro spiritual was the hallmark of this tradition. Dr. King was chiefly relying on a supernatural strength to propel blacks to freedom.

The organization Dr. King headed, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was centered around ten points.

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus
  2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory
  3. Walk and Talk in the manner of love for God is love
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart
  9. Strive to be in food spiritual and bodily health
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and the captain of demonstration

Once the foundations of the organization were set the goal is to have many enthusiastic members that were also committed to non-violence. Meetings would include great speakers, the ability for members to explain how they have been personally harmed by Jim Crow, and singing. The singing was very important as Dr. King believed these songs held almost supernatural powers in bolstering faith.

To achieve egalitarianism in the country, the CRM had to be egalitarian itself. Within the movement, a doctor would be looked at the same as a janitor. A senator the same as a garbage worker. Leadership roles and rank would be limited. Instead, members would be encouraged to participate. By standing off to the power structure directly, they would build self-esteem. This self-esteem would supplement the supernatural forces behind their back.

The CRM had an uphill fight with obstacles placed by more than just racist Southern whites. Many black leaders felt that SCLC protest was too radical and could cause more backlash than good. Also, many whites even in the South disagreed with Jim Crow but were afraid to speak up. Apathy and fear in the general public were obstacles worse than overt racism.

Expressed in Letter from a Birmingham jail is the need for people to not stay on the sidelines. The struggle had reached a point were active participation was needed by all supporters. Minor differences in preferred tactics or philosophy can’t keep someone from full support. The 1960’s was not the time for conciliation. It was time to fight.

The methodology for the SCLC was:

  1. Gather information to determine if discrimination was happening
  2. Negotiated with those in power
  3. Self- purification to grow in the faith and resilience for a prolonged fight
  4. Direct action to create tension to force those in power to the negotiation table

It is important to remember King’s goal was negotiation from a place of power. The South as it was in the 1960’s was not willing to negotiate with black people. NVDA would be a mechanism for pressure

Many critics asked how Dr. King could condone breaking the law from an ethical standpoint. King reminds us of the goal of law and order was to establish justice. So injustice laws should not be obeyed. He also makes a distinction between unjust laws by nature such as segregation and unjust laws in practice such as parading without a permit. There is nothing naturally wrong with requiring a permit for parade, unless the permits are specifically held from Civil Rights protesters.

Black people were justified in using extreme methods to achieve freedom. Freedom is his God-given right and should be granted upon birth. Those outside the movement who say black should wait for a more convenient time put their own comfort above other’s self- determination. Also, time is neutral and its passage will not aid or hurt the movement in an of itself. It is the job of those in the movement to make the best use of time. Ultimately, tame time to their advantage.

Alternative Methods for Freedom

Dr. King did briefly discuss alternative methods to freedom done by famous black leaders.

Booker T. Washington taught black people to let down their buckets where they were. Ultimately don’t fight for change just get the best-skilled labor jobs offered now and save as much money as possible. Ultimately, this strategy is not resistance at all.

W.E.B DuBois supported the concept of the talented tenth. The idea was that if the most talented ten percent of blacks took it upon themselves to uplift the race the rest of black society could become stable. The idea of the ten percent leading the race would create a black aristocracy that may not behave any better than their white counterpart.

Marcus Garvey believed that any attempt at integration was doomed. The only hope was to relocate black America to Africa and build an independent nation. However, most black people had been rooted in America for hundreds of years and had few resources for relocation.

The recent phenomenon of the Nation of Islam (NOI) had a similar strategy as Garvey. Instead of relocating to Africa, blacks would build a separate nation in America. Most of the members were disillusioned by the lack of militancy in the CRM. The NOI was still small and few outside of large cities knew about it. The movement was fueled by resentment that would grow and become a danger to all Americans unless America embraces Civil Rights.

The final plan that was not necessary headed by any one leader called for poor blacks and whites to unite over their shared poverty. Efforts to advance this movement were always thwarted by the fact whites did not want to give up the privilege, assumed or real, of being white.

Dr. Martin Luther King Library

This is a list of summaries of books written by MLK.

The Measure of a Man

Strength to Love

Why We Can’t Wait: Philosophy

Why We Can’t Wait: History

All Labor Has Dignity

Dr. King and Malcolm X Agree on Kennedy’s Death

As a product of historical revisionism, the public has begun to see Dr. King and Malcolm X as polar opposites. Dr. King is seen as a capitulate and begging white people for acceptance. Malcolm X is seen as someone staunchly focused on self-determination and separation. In reality, their philosophies are closely linked. One example of that was their views on the death of John F Kennedy.

Dr. King said in the book Why We Can’t Wait the following on Kennedy’s death:

The unforgivable default of our society has been its failure to apprehend the assassins (of murdered Civil Rights leaders). It is a harsh judgment, but undeniably true, that the cause of the indifference was the identity of the victims. Nearly all were Negroes. And so the plague spread until it claimed the most eminent American, a warmly loved and respected president.

These words show that King understood Kennedy as a victim of racialized violence, that Kennedy had a hand in helping spread. Some of the Civil Rights leaders King’s mentions as being killed were killed during Kennedy’s presidency. So King is saying that America’s history of racialized violence killed Kennedy.

The infamous “Chickens Coming Home to Roost” quote was given after Malcom X complete a speech in December of 1963. A reporter asked how he felt about Kennedy’s death. In response he said the following:

Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never made me sad; they only made me glad.

The Nation of Islam silenced him for 90 days for this remark. Once the period of silence was over Malcolm X explained to reporters what he meant. He told the reporter he saw the assassination as the result of racialized violence that had been prominent in America since its founding. The same thing Dr. King said.

So King and Malcolm X differed in oratory style, not philosophy. Their philosophy is strikingly similar once one reads both men.

While on the subject of the “chickens come home to roost” quote. It was given after a speech called God’s Judgement of White America. The lecture explains his stance on separation.

Many internet commentators have misrepresented what Malcolm X meant by separation. The commentators say Malcolm X wanted black people to separate without getting their share of wealth from the America they helped to build. The reader can find a link to the full speech below.

Malcolm X wanted blacks to confront the power structure to obtain their share of the wealth America had accumulated on our labor. The wealth could be used to go back to Africa or build an independent nation in America.

To not petition America for our fair share wealth is not militant or radical. It is a capitulation. So again King and X both believed in reparations. The difference is the method of compensation. X wanted to build a separate nation. King wanted to make a welfare state in America that included other races.

Chickens Come Home Speech

Claudette Colvin and Respectability Politics

One of the unhealthy manifestations of social justice in the Blue Meme is respectability politics. Here we are defining respectability politics as advocating for black people that fit a mainstream view of acceptability. Mainstream defined as wealthy, chaste, orderly, and conformist. The story of Claudette Colvin shows of these mainstream standards that are set upon us by outsiders prevents advocating for all black people.

Claudette Colvin was a high schooler that had stopped straightening her hair one year before the not giving up her seat on a Montgomery bus. She lived in Montgomery Alabama when the Civil Rights Movement was heating up. Local black leaders had been looking for a way to challenge the city bus segregation law for years. The leaders had built resources and expertise that would be instrumental in 1955.

In March of 1955, Claudette boards a bus in front of the church Dr. King pastored. After a few stops more white passengers board, but there are no seats available for these passengers. The bus driver ordered Claudette to move to allow the whites to sit. Claudette said she felt the spirit of the ancestors pushing her down in her seat and she refused to move.

The bus driver called the police. When they entered they said “We have had trouble with that “thing” before.” They move closer and order her to leave. She refuses again. The grab her to drag her off the bus. In the scuffle, she scratched the officer. In an interview year later Claudette said she does not remember doing so and the scratch was not intentional. Whether the scratch was deliberate or not she was charged with, disorderly conduct, violating segregation law, and assault on an officer.

On the way to lock-up the police joke about her bra size and call her a “nigger-bitch.” They do not take her to juvenile hall which would be warranted if she was 17. They took her to an adult jail. She spends three hours there before her mother and pastor bail her out. Her father sat up all night with a loaded shotgun waiting for KKK retaliation.

The NAACP began working on her case immediately. She was introduced to Rosa Parks who was running a youth bible study. Claudette joined the Bible study and started to help in the civil rights movement. In court, they were able to overturn the two counts of disorderly conduct and violating segregation law, but assault on an officer stuck.

Many in the black community shunned Claudette as a troublemaker. The NAACP never publicly advocated for Claudette, so many black citizens were not fully aware of the importance of what she did. She says she entered a mild depression. The condition was exacerbated by her pregnancy later that year. Once the NAACP found out she was pregnant, she definitely could be the face of the boycott campaign. She was left pregnant and alone.

In fall of that year, Rosa Parks follows the footsteps of Claudette and refuses to give her seat up. Rosa a light-skinned, relatively well-educated, adult was a much better face of the movement. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was ultimately a success, but Claudette’s early sacrifice was forgotten.

Years later in an NPR interview, Claudette was asked why she could not be the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She says being pregnant would have been a distraction to the movement. However, another reason that Rosa was a better pick as a light-skinned woman with straight hair. Her look was more palatable to blacks and whites with a European standard of beauty. Having a dark-skinned woman with natural hair would not play well in the media.

Claudette’s contributions did not stop. The NAACP asked her to be part of a Supreme Court case against the Montgomery Bus System to end legal segregation in transportation, Browder v. Gayle. She again testified at the local, state, and national level putting herself and her new baby at risk. Once the NAACP won the case, they did not invite her or any other of the four plaintiffs to the celebration.

Claudette decided that her life may be better if she moved to the north. She began a career and never spoke about her part in the Civil Rights movement until 2004. A book written by Phil Hoose on her life was published in 2009 and won the national book award.

Respectability is an area social justice activist in the blue meme and those that understand a blue meme audience struggle. Yes, it is essential that our collective best foot is put forward when trying to win allies from outside the community. However, we must remember that those within the community need aide even if they are in difficult circumstances. 1955 would not have been an optimal time to tackle segregation and teen pregnancy. Yet, we have to find a way to prevent similar stories in the future.

Buy Colvin’s Biography Here

Sources

Teen Vogue Article

BBC Article

Black Past Article

Biography

Radio Diaries

NPR

Russia Today

The Crucible Series

Part 1: Overall Summary

Part 2: Value Memes and Transitions

Part 3: Influences for the Crucible

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