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Black Leadership Analysis

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Was Dr. King Green Meme?

Dr. King’s philosophy is centered in the Green Meme as described by Clare Graves, Don Beck, and his students. The Green Meme is characterized by building cross-cultural bridges, working to develop a social safety net, and ending war. The Green meme casts aside old lines that divide between race, religion, and ethnicity to build a new coalition. Building coalitions were the center of King’s life.

King’s version of Civil Disobedience was called Non-Violent Direct Action. In this method, people would refuse to comply with unjust laws. By mass disobedience, protesters would flood the local judicial system. Once the jails were filled, and the courts were backed up, those in power would have to free the prisoners or expunge the cases. On the grander scale politicians locally and nationally would see how many voters were willing to be jailed would be motivated to enact policy initiatives. The groundswell of support would motivate the politicians to adopt more liberal stances. The change in popular opinion along with progressive legislation would end segregation law.

Non-Violent Direct Action was different than the method used by the NAACP which was court action. An example of NAACP methodology would be Thurgood Marshall’s strategy in Brown v Board. Marshall would find state-level cases in which state law forbid someone from going to a quality school due to race. The client had to exceed the standards of admission and conform to mainstream standards of respectability. Not only would Marshall bring a strong case to the court, but he would also make sure the local paper covered the case. Once enough precedents were created on a state level, he was able to present Brown v Board to the Supreme Court.

NAACP campaigns did work. However, the only people involved were lawyers and clients. Both usually came from the more aristocratic class of black America. So even if an average black person benefited from the abolition of the law, they would feel like they were saved, not that they had affected change in their life. Also, if the only people that are defended by the NAACP were relatively aristocratic, there would be resentment in the masses of black people. The NAACP method succeeded in changing law, but it did not create a new community.

The other method was armed rebellion. Insurrection had never been done on a large scale by black Americans. The reason is that a minority could not have beat what is the best military in the world by the 1950s. Most black people would never even attempt insurrection because there is little likelihood of success. An attempt would end in a quixotic story for black people and another excuse to discriminate for whites. In the end we would have an even more divided nation.

King’s method could bring together many factions of the black liberation struggle and white America. Because it is based on an action and not a philosophy, people with different belief systems could participate. Also, people of different ages, education levels, regions of the country could come together for the cause. Even if one did not want to participate, they could respect the protester’s sacrifice. The peaceful protest would also challenge commonly held negative stereotypes of black people. In the end, there would be a movement led by black people that proves and supplements their dignity and self-reliance.

Challenging authority is a marker of the Green Meme. Peaceful protest directed at the institutions of injustice is a healthy way to pressure those in power. His demonstrations are still seen in a positive light today because they targeted at the institution causing the suffering. The bus was segregated, so the boycott was directed at the bus company. The city of Memphis wouldn’t pay black garbage workers equally, so there was a march to city hall. A study of King could prevent current activists from protesting obscure ideas in places not directly responsible.

Most in the mainstream media concentrate on King’s ability to find white allies. These connections are not to be discredited. Stanley Levison, ex-communist turned humanist, was instrumental in early funding. The coalitions built with Catholic, Jewish, and white Protestants were vital in spreading King’s message. But undoubtedly his most important collaboration was with John Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson. Through them, he was able to enact the most important civil rights legislation for housing, voting, and travel.

Few people know of King’s effort to connect with more radical factions of the black liberation struggle. The most high profile of these instances was his ability to have a joint march with the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. Both organizations wanted armed guards on the march. King acquiesced because he understood the importance of unity. The March Against Fear was a success.

An even more obscure instance of King’s ability to build bridges was with the Memphis Invaders. The Invaders were a local black liberation organization analogous to the Black Panthers. They got the name Invaders because they were accused of taking over the Student Union at LeMoyne – Owen College. They were also accused of starting the riot that ended Dr. King’s first march through Memphis. When King returned to Memphis he understood he needed the Invaders on his side.

He got the Invaders to agree to be marshals in the non-violent march. By making them responsible for keeping the peace, he removed an element of possible violence. Remember the SCLC did not consent to involve the Invaders. Most members of King’s organization saw the Invaders as street thugs. King saw them as young men trying to find themselves. The Invaders are still active in the community today, and they credit their continued success to their mentorship by Dr. King.

Another aspect of the Green Meme is being anti-war, and King was an exemplar in the peace movement. He first came out against the war in a 1967 speech in Riverside Church. His involvement in the Center for New Politics and The Poor Peoples Campaign provided a vehicle to get this message to the masses. To prove his point, he criticized those that praise his non-violent movement in the Dixie and support violence against the North Vietnamese. He understood that military expenditures deplete capital that could be used for public good.

His stance on the war, but him at odds with Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party. The Democrats had just signed the civil rights bill and were poised to do even more for the movement. Many, especially in the SCLC, wanted King not to take a stance on Vietnam. It took a generation even to get an audience with a president that was interested in helping. There was little King could do to stop the war, so there is no reason to risk the entire movement.

King stuck to principle and opposed the war. His anti-war stance led to people calling him a traitor and unpatriotic. It also gave many Democrats ammunition to turn Johnson on King. Ironically, exactly one year after the Riverside Church speech King was killed.

King centered his life around knocking down barriers of race and building a society based on love. Non-violence was a way of life that should permeate through the personal, community, and international relations. Love and Non-violence are a hallmark of a healthy version of the Green Meme. The Green Meme also challenges authority and traditional social structures. Peaceful protests are a healthy way to accomplish this goal. In the end, King built a more inclusive society.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Conflict

The book began in January 1954. Dr. King was in Boston working on his Ph.D. thesis. He was newly married to a woman he met in Boston from Marion, AL, Coretta Scott. They were looking to move back to help in the fight against segregation. Many churches from all over the country were vying to make King their pastor. However, an offer from Dexter Ave Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL could not be refused.

Montgomery was known as the cradle of the Confederacy. Birmingham hosted the inauguration of Jefferson Davis and the served as the Confederacy’s first capital. A system of segregation that kept them out of critical industries stifled the economic development of black people in the town. The one exception was an integrated Army base. Montgomery was also home to an HBCU, Alabama State University.

Various human rights organizations planted the first seeds of integration. One of the integrationist groups was the Alabama Council on Human Relations. The council was interracial and focused on educating whites on the plight of blacks. There was also the NAACP which worked to bring court cases to make integration illegal. Many saw the goals of these two groups as opposed. However, King saw that the law could constrain individuals until education could enlighten them. Therefore he united these and other Alabama civil rights groups into the Citizens Coordinating Committee.

The first rumblings of a bus boycott came with the Fall 1955 arrest of Claudette Colvin. The teenager was not only arrested for refusing to give up her seat but was assaulted by the police while being arrested. The boycott never materialized because of disorganization in the various civil rights organizations. Black people also feared retaliation for speaking out. It became apparent that King had to build public consensus.

December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving her seat up to a white person on a city bus. The Women’s Political Council which Rosa Park led was the first to call for a boycott. Leaders from the various organizations agreed to take action. Fliers are printed up saying the boycott will start Monday, December 5, 1955. The newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) with Dr. King as the president will lead the boycott.

Alternatives must be created to get around town to ensure the maximum amount of participation. King convince everyone the 18 black-owned taxicab companies to commit their 250 cars to the struggle. Cabs would charge the same fee as the bus to get people back and forth to work. Others were even more improvisational, using donkeys and horse carts for transportation.

Once law enforcement got wind of the taxi coalition, work began to stop them. There was a law saying that a taxi had to charge at least $0.45 for the fare. The police commissioner decided on December 9, 1955, to start enforcing it. Now that the $0.10 boycott rate was made illegal a “Plan B” needed to be formed.

So over the weekend, MIA elicits 300 hundred volunteers to participate in a carpool system. Ninety dispatch locations were created all over the city and ready by the next Monday. Most of the stations were at local churches, and church vans were also used in the effort.

These drivers needed financial support. MIA embarked on an international press campaign that included speaking engagements in various cities. Donations come in from as far away as Tokyo. In the year-long boycott, they received over $250,000.

The carpool made the bus boycott possible. Many black Montgomerians could not walk to work due to age or disability. So those that wanted to stop the boycott understood they had to stop the carpool. Police began harassing drivers and riders. Police arrested passengers for hitchhiking while waiting at stops. Drivers were ticketed and arrested for minor traffic violations. King himself was arrested driving a few MIA members back to their homes after the meeting. The charge was going 30 mph in a 25 mph zone. Many carpool drivers had their insurance companies threaten to suspend coverage. Dr. King had to get his insurance from Lloyd’s of London.

Their perseverance in carpooling did not stop the Montgomery government from sabotaging the movement. A local club owner allowed the MIA to use his club during off hours as an office. The city threatened to pull his liquor license in retaliation. Harassment of the town forced MIA to change locations many times.

There were also efforts to turn King’s followers against him. Pamphlets and leaflets were created that portrayed King as attempting to get rich and famous on the backs of good Montgomerians. Those that live in Montgomery will pay the future cost of this outside agitator. Those that wrote the pamphlets labeled themselves concerned negro citizens, but most people knew they were Klansmen.

The most egregious attempt to intimidate King was the bombing of his home on January 30, 1956. Dr. King was not home at the time; his family was there alone. He rushes from the MIA meeting to confirm they are ok. Coretta’s father comes from Marion upon hearing the news. He offers to take his daughter and grandchildren back to Marion where they would be safe. Coretta refuses to leave Dr. King’s side showing her level of commitment.

Once Montgomery heard news of the bombing of Dr. King’s house bombing a mob of angry boycott supporters assembled in front of his house. Many of the supporters were armed and would not disperse when police told them to. King took the bullhorn told the crowd that his home was now safe and there was no need to stay. He reminded them of how important it was for the movement to remain non-violent. The crowd soon dispersed.

Members of the white citizens’ council dug up a law that made it illegal to conspire to sabotage a business. Montgomery courts gathered a grand jury and indicted 100 people including Dr. King for conspiracy to undermine a business. King turns himself into authorities February 22.

The defense team attempted to make the case that the boycott was to stop injustice not put the bus company out of business. Many Montgomerians came to give testimony of the abuse they received at the hands of bus drivers. The judge was unmoved and sentences King to 386 days of hard labor and a $500 fine. The sentence would have been worse, but the judge had leniency because King stopped a riot the night of the house bombing.

In the end, King will be victorious. However, it is important to remember what he and his supporters had to endure. It also serves as a lesson in what the system will do to maintain itself. Ultimately, this is the level of conflict one needs to survive to make a positive social change.

Scipio Africanus Jones (1863 – 1943 )

Scipio Africanus Jones
(1863 – 1943 )

Accomplishments

  • Successfully defended “Elaine 12” and won the landmark supreme court victory of Moore v. Dempsey
  • Republican Presidential Delegate
  • Held sit-in at Arkansas Republican convention
  • Married once in 1890 and widowed married again around 1915
  • Fought against the repeal of black voting rights in Arkansas

Short Biography

Scipio Africanus Jones was born in Dallas County Arkansas to a white father and black mother in 1863. He was educated at Smith College and Shorter College in Little Rock Arkansas. He became a lawyer in 1889.

Jones as a member of several organizations. He joined the Wonder State Bar Association where he was able to network with prominent white lawyers. Jones also joined Booker T. Washington’s National Negro Business League and founded the Black Lawyers Auxiliary. In 1926, the Black Lawyers Auxiliary separated and became the National Negro Bar Association. Jones served as the first treasurer.

Jones was an active politically all his life. In 1902, Jones formed an independent party and ran candidates for county offices. He was elected to the Little Rock School board in 1903. Arkansas attempted to prevent blacks from voting by enacting educational requirements for voting. In response, Jones formed the Negro State Suffrage League in 1911 and stopped the laws from passing.

Arkansas has Black Republican Conventions in 1914 and 1916 which were organized by Jones. He held a sit-in for the 1920 State GOP Convention because it was in a segregated hotel. Even with all of Jones’s activism, the GOP respected him greatly. He served as the GOP delegate in 1912, 1928, and 1940.

One of the early victories in school integration came from Jones. In 1941, black law student petitioned the University of Arkansas for tuition assistance. He won the case because there were no black law schools in Arkansas at the time. Unfortunately, the money to fund the law education was pulled from money allocated to the one black technical college in Arkansas.

Moore v. Dempsey

The information for this section is a summary of “Evanescence The Elaine Massacre by J. Chester Johnson.”

Throughout Jones’s law career he fought for the expansion and solidifying of the fourteenth amendment. The first case in which he used the Fourteenth Amendment as a defense was in 1901. The case in 1901 was to repeal a criminal conviction. Jones lost the case, but never lost faith in the power of the amendment.

For those that don’t know the Fourteenth Amendment Section 1 says the following.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The phrase that Jones continually quoted was “without due process of law.” In the South, during reconstruction and Jim Crow, many blacks were denied access to a fair trial. Often juries had no black members on the jury when race was an issue in the trial. Also, blacks were tortured into a confession or testifying against other black people.

Moore v. Dempsey case was the result of criminal cases that came from the Elaine Massacre. The Elaine Massacre caused the death between 250 to 850 black people. The Massacre was conducted to stop the formation of The Progressive Farmers and Household Workers Union of America, an all-black union. There were 250 black men arrested.

The Governor of Arkansas, Charles Brough, wanted a speedy end to the trial. The first reason was not to impede the upcoming cotton harvest. He needed everyone to feel racial tensions had been eased so blacks would come in to pick the cotton. He also did not want attention from the Federal Government and national press. When the men were arrested on October 2, 1919, whites formed a mob to have another mass lynching in front of the courthouse. Various county officials told the mob to disperse and that the courts will serve justice to the men.

The men were jailed for conspiracy to commit murder. The wealthy men of the town did not want blacks to form a union to get fair pay. The plutocrats then created a rumor that the union was a front for a black insurrection. A “hit list” was supposedly found written by a union member. The full story of the Elaine Massacre can be viewed in this blog under Robert Hill’s leader analysis.

The Governor appointed Committee of Seven composed of County Judges, Mayor of neighboring Helena, and various wealthy cotton farm owners to conduct an investigation. The committee determined the original police patrol was unarmed and in the area to investigate bootlegging. The police patrol was ambushed and unaware of the union meeting. When the second patrol went into Elaine to arrest the men that ambushed the first patrol the second patrol was ambushed. Further police investigation uncovered the “hit list” of planters and only fourteen black people were killed during the arrest of the 285 men.

Another governor-appointed committee that included influential blacks and whites verified the Committee of Seven’s report. Many of Arkansas black elite were willing to comply with the obviously flawed report. Some analysts say the black elite involved in this committee only wanted to further their political influence by cozying up to the governor. Other analysts say they feared retaliation from a governor who recently ordered federal troops to attack civilians. The motivation of the black elite involve in the oversight committee will never be known.[2]

During the investigation, many witnesses against the defense were prisoners captured during the Massacre. These men were tortured until they complied with the story of the Committee of Seven. The Committee of Seven chose the prosecutors, and the judge chose the defense lawyers. Twelve men were picked for the first round of trials. The jury consisted of no blacks and white men that took part in the massacre. The trial resulted in jury deliberations of less than two minutes. All twelve were sentenced to death.

There was a slight problem with the trial. Six of the men were indicted with the phrase. “We, the Jury, find the defendants guilty as charged in the indictment.” the phrase should have been, “We, the Jury, find the defendants guilty of murder in the first degree, as charged in the indictment.”[3] The other six had the correct phrase used. The six sentenced with the incorrect phrase will be known as Ware 6 had their case reversed and had to go back to Philips Co for a retrial. The other six, referred to as the Moore 6, had their case appealed to the State Supreme Court and lost. The Moore 6 had their execution date postponed until the Ware 6 got a retrial. The Moore Six were Frank Moore, Ed Hicks, Frank Hicks, J. C. Knox, Ed Coleman, Paul Hall. The Ware Six were Ed Ware, Alf Banks, J. Martin, Joe Fox, Will Wordlaw, Albert Giles.

Jones knew to free the men he needed to work with many white people to get these convictions overturned. He teamed up with an ex-Confederate soldier Colonel George Murphy to aid in the defense of the Elaine 12. The retrial of the Ware 6 by the county resulted in many black witnesses recanting their story and admitting to being tortured. Unfortunately, the trail led to the reconviction of the Ware 6. Jones, however, set a trap for the county court that allowed for appeal to that Arkansas Supreme Court (ARSC). The ARSC invalidated the second conviction of the Ware 6.

In the case of invalidating the second conviction, the ARSC stated it is not unconstitutional to have an all white jury. However, it is unconstitutional to actively discriminate against black people that could serve on a jury.[3]

In 1921, a new Governor, Thomas McRae, takes charge and wants to decouple the execution of the Ware 6 and the Moore 6. The Moore 6 were now scheduled to be executed June 10, 1921, and the County judge decided not to rule on the Ware 6 until the Moore 6 were executed.

The imminent execution of the Moore 6 forces Jones to race against the clock. He finds an Arkansas judge to stay the execution of the Moore 6. The AR Attorney General appealed the decision to the ARSC. The ARSC held a hearing later that week that resulted in the Governor being allowed to set a new execution date. The prohibition was overturned because it came from and Chancery Court in Pulaski County and the judge did not have jurisdiction in Phillips County. [3]The Governor decided to move the execution date to September 23, 1921.

The addition of three more months allowed Jones to appeal to the Federal District Court. The death of Colonel Murphy, Jones’s partner, earlier in the year caused Jones to partner with another white attorney Edgar McHaney. Working with this white attorney two of the white police officers in the first trial recanted their stories. The state of Arkansas demurred on the grounds the Federal judge did not have jurisdiction over the case.[3] The case was then sent to the United States Supreme Court in the next thirty days.

Jones was able to get the case in front of the USSC. At this point, the State of Arkansas had demurred the facts of the case in the lower court. Demurring the facts means Arkansas could not defend their investigation. The USSC ruled 6 – 2 in favor of Moore. The State of Arkansas had not given Moore a fair trial.

As stated earlier the other 273 arrested in the Elaine massacre plead to second-degree murder. They all were on work detail at Cummins State Farm. By October 1922 all but 15 released from prison.

At this point, the defendants were not free; the USSC ruled they had an unfair trial. Jones petitioned the ARSC for a change of venue to Lee County and won. [3] In Arkansas if a case is not tried with it two terms of the circuit court, the trial is dismissed. The case of the Ware six had been postponed for two terms. Therefore Ware 6 were freed in 1923. [3]

A third county trial will either result in the County attempting to take on the Supreme Court or the County Court freeing the Moore 6. Jones gathered enough signatures to petition the Governor to grant a pardon to the twenty-one remaining prisoners. At the same time, Jones petitioned Phillips County officials, including the Committee of Seven, to commute the sentence of the remaining prisoners to time served. Jones finally creates the last compromise for the Moore 6. The defendants did not have to plead guilty, but their sentences were commuted to time served. The Governor promised to release them within twelve months.

Governor McRae released the last seven of the second-degree murder prisoners in 1924. The Moore 6 were still in jail after the original agreement between Jones had been etched. The Governor finally released the prisoners on his last day in office in 1924 after the date of the original agreement on indefinite furloughs.

The Moore v Dempsey case was important because it made the Federal Government the final determinant of the fairness of a local trial. The expanded authority of Federal Courts was pivotal in the Civil Rights movement. Now when Civil Rights protesters and leaders were tried, they could appeal to Federal Courts that were not beholden to local prejudice. Moore v Dempsey was arguably the most important court victory of the century.

Analysis

No record of Jones’s feelings on race could be found. All the information on Jones’s was particular to a case. Until more information can be found, Jones will be considered Blue Meme. He is strongly committed to the Constitution. The Constitution is a founding document he had no personal input in creating; he is exhibiting Blue Meme values in using it.

Sources

  1. Johnson, J (02-27-2013) Evanescence The Elaine Massacre from http://greenmountainsreview.com/
  2. Widell, Robert (08-2002) Blood In Their Eyes Review from http://www.h-net.org
  3. Dunaway, L.S. (1925) What a Preacher Saw Through a Keyhole in Arkansas

Robert Lee Hill (1892 – 1963)

(1892 – 1963)

Accomplishments

  • Founded the Progressive Farmers and Household Workers Union of America
  • Worked for Santa Fe Railway for forty years
  • Member of Topeka Kansas NAACP

The Elaine Massacre

Robert Lee Hill founded the Progressive Farmers and Household Workers Union of America in Arkansas in 1919. The founding of the union led to the Elaine Massacre that left somewhere between 250 to 850 black people dead and four or five white men dead. The Elaine Massacre is part of the Red Summer of 1919. The Red Summer consisted of numerous race riots in various cities and towns in America. The Elaine Massacre also led to the landmark Moore vs. Dempsey trial that will solidify the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

Robert L. Hill was born in 1892 or 1898 [9] to working class parents. He married in 1916 [9] before going off to war. Hill was a World War I veteran [4]. His time served in the military, more than likely, led to his militancy. 370,000 blacks that fought in World War I [1], when they returned home, they were not afraid to stand up for their rights. Black WWI vets let many armed resistance movements in 1919 in major cities. When Hill returned home, he worked for Valley Planting Company.[9]

Even though Hill was not a sharecropper himself, he felt called to do something to help the sharecropper’s plight. A sharecropper, also known as a tenant farmer, is a person that rents a farm from a land owner. The sharecropper then lives on credit from the landlord until the harvest arrives. The landowner and tenant then agree to share the crop. The tenant gets a percentage of the crop, and so does the landowner. The farmer can then pay off the debt to the landowner and have enough profit to last the winter after the sale of the crop.

Unfortunately, in the southern cotton industry, this ideal scenario never plays out. Often sharecroppers were illiterate and uneducated so they could not evaluate the books to ensure they got their share of the crop. The landlord would not let the sharecropper see the books even if the sharecropper had an education. Because blacks had no legal recourse, landlords would confiscate the entire crop. Ultimately, the sharecropper stayed in perpetual debt.

Not only did debt keep black people in the cotton industry, so did the law. The black codes made it illegal for a black man to be without a job for an extended period. Most companies outside the cotton industry did not hire black people. The person would be forced into a work camp if convicted of vagrancy, not having a job. The work camp would force inmates to pick cotton.

The need for a union was evident. 1919 was one of the worst times for the Labor Movement. The Russian Revolution happened in 1917 and by 1918 Russia was a communist country. The revolution began as a prolonged labor strike that turned into a riot. When the Russian army was called in to stop the riot, the army joined the rebels. The Tsar had to abdicate and the world’s first communist republic was born. Many American capitalists were afraid the same thing could happen in America.

The labor movement was also not welcoming to black people. The American Federation of Labor’s (AFL) 1919 convention declared the job of the AFL was to protect the jobs of “native-born white men” and upheld the restrictions on blacks joining unions. [2] This declaration ultimately hurt the labor movement. Blacks in the North broke strike lines to work at factories. Blacks were used to dilute the power of the Union. The racial strife in the North can be traced back to fear of blacks crossing picket lines.

The cotton industry expected a downturn in 1919[4][1]. World War I ended in 1918 and the southern cotton industry had been supplying cotton for the allied troops. The demand for cotton from Europe was expected to decrease severely. The planters were especially wary of giving sharecroppers a fair shake in 1919.

Despite all the adversity, Hill was able to create nine lodges of his union across Arkansas.[3] It was at a meeting of the lodge at Hoop Sur that the trouble began. On September 30, 1919, the Union had a meeting with one hundred people on how to organize for collective bargaining. In attendance at the meeting were men, women, and children.

Hill expected to be harassed by the local plutocrats. He had six patrolmen stationed outside the Hoop Sur church.[1]The Missouri Pacific (MoPac) Railway had a private police force that worked in conjunction with the sheriff’s office.[4] An informant tipped a group of patrolmen that a union meeting was happening in Hoop Sur. An altercation ensued, and the parties exchanged gunfire. [1][4][6]The church was burned later that night to destroy evidence of return fire.[4] One MoPac agent died, and a sheriff’s deputy was wounded.

The blacks of Hoop Sur decided to prepare for retaliation. Many men took up arms to defend the residential area known as Helena. The sheriff organized a posse of five hundred to one thousand men [3] outside the courthouse. The attack from whites happened at mid-morning October 1st. The black resistance was able to hold off the onslaught, and only 15 to 20 blacks died on that morning.[4] The resistance accomplished an incredible task that day and will go down in history for their bravery.

The Governor decided to call in reinforcements. The Federal Government was afraid of a socialist uprising. The government allowed the Governor to bypass calling in the National Guard and gave him authority over 500 trained federal troops from Camp Pike. The intervention of federal troops caused the carnage.

The federal troops were responsible for most of the killing [4]. The soldiers carried machine guns, and white mobs from all over the South supplemented the force. Many unarmed blacks hid in the woods and were hunted down like dogs. Here are some of the quotes from whites that witnessed the massacre.

“[The white mobs and troops] shot and killed men, women, and children without regard to whether they were guilty or innocent of a connection with killing anybody or whether members of a union or not.”[1]

“Vigilantes killed a black woman pulled her dress over her head, and left her body on a road, another brutal lesson of what happened when [blacks] lost their place”[1]

“Several hundred (whites) … began to hunt negroes and shooting them as they came to them.”[3]

“Committed one murder after another with all the calm deliberation in the world, either too heartless to realize the enormity of their crimes, or too drunk on moonshine to give a continental darn.” [3][6]

“When finally the soldiers’ ammunition was exhausted, and their liquor ran low, they withdrew from the scenes of their sins against humanity, the remaining negroes gathered up their scattered dead and with slow, awkward step marched to their little churchyards and there said their simple rites over the bullet-riddled bodies of loved ones.”[6]

In the face of federal troops blacks still resisted. An eyewitness account from L.S. Dunaway reports a black dentist was arrested for his connection to the union. He and his three brothers were put in the back of two police cars. When the cars were transporting the men to jail, the envoy was ambushed. One of the police officers was shot with a shotgun. The other officers immediately killed the four suspects. [9]

The black resistance was not well documented. Much of the reason for such little information is the black men that were captured then freed were on extended furlough. They did not get a pardon. Furlough meant the governor could send them back to prison at any time. Also, after they saw the carnage inflicted on their families after their capture, they wanted to make sure the people that survived would not be attacked. No one wanted to be seen as bragging about shooting whites.

The fact that over 250 men were captured alive proves that the resistance was formidable. If the troops could simply annihilate the resistance, they would. There were too many instances of black towns being burned to the ground such as Rosewood, FL, and Tulsa, OK. The five hundred federal troops must have evaluated particular encampments and decided that forcing the rebels to surrender would reduce the loss of life. One corporal is reported to have died in the skirmishing. There is one quote by L.S. Dunaway that attest to the bravery of these men.

“There were those among [Blacks] that openly defied officers, citizens and soldiers alike, until death cut short their futile stand against the whites. ”

Unfortunately, after most of the resistance was captured or killed, blacks were killed indiscriminately in Elaine, AR. There are reports of black men being shot while running away from white mobs. Many eyewitness accounts report the killing of women and children. The troops often opened fire on unarmed civilians with machine guns. The exact number of blacks killed will never be known. Most of the bodies were burned in large pits to allow for quick disposal. [6] Many blacks fled Arkansas and created new lives in the North and West.

There is no record of Robert Hill participating in the fighting. However, there was a special search made for him.[6] He was able to escape to Boley, OK an all-black town in Oklahoma then moved to South Dakota to evade capture. [9]. He finally settled near Topeka, KS.

Topeka police captured Hill in 1920.[9] He had written a friend in Arkansas to let people know he was safe. The friend asked to meet him in Kansas City, MO. Hill agreed, and the friend tipped off the authorities.

The NAACP took the defense of Hill. After a prolonged legal battle, the NAACP prevented Hills extradition to Arkansas. Hill took an assumed name and worked for the Santa Fe Railway for forty years.[9] In gratitude to the NAACP, he served in the Topeka NAACP for many years.[9] He died in 1963.

Most of the black resistance was captured by October 3.[1] A few hundred people were put into makeshift jails to await trial. [3] The result of the original trial cause 12 men to be sentenced to death, 273 to pleas for second-degree murder, and a few had the case dismissed. Details on the trail and the landmark Moore vs. Dempsey case will be in next week’s Leader analysis.

Analysis:

No transcripts or recordings could be found of his speeches. However, L.S. Dunaway said, “Hill’s influence over the less intelligent Darkey was something marvelous.” According to Dunaway Hill said this:

“He had them believing that by standing together the negroes could make the white people divide with them in the matter of land ownership, and that if a peaceable division could not be obtained, then the negroes, outnumbering the whites about ten to one in that section, would “rise up and march on the whites with high-powered rifles and shotguns, thus showing the strength of the colored race.” p 107 [6]

For the sake of analysis, the statement’s truth will be assumed. The statement expresses an Orange level understanding of the situation of black people. Hill understands the underlying problem is economic, and once others realize that the real issue is money, poor whites and blacks are natural allies. The statement shows that Hill ultimately saw the struggle beyond racial lines.

Hill obviously was not against using physical force to protect members of his movement. He also made it clear to his followers that they had numbers in the town of Elaine and that they should not be intimidated by white people. The use of physical force is a precarious subject in black empowerment. The Elaine Massacre goes to illustrate this point. It is hard to speculate on what would happen if the black people of Hoop Sur did not have guards for the September 30 the meeting. Maybe the whites would have simply broken up the meeting, which there is little historical precedence. More than likely they would have hung Hill. It is also most probable they would have burned Helena to the ground if there had been no resistance on October 1st. The white mob of 500 to 1,000 people did not come to take six suspects peaceably. However, the result was the killing of 250 to 850 blacks in southeast Arkansas. Ultimately, white people have the firepower and numbers nationally. A large scale attack or defense will produce an outcome similar to the Elaine Massacre.

Sources

  1. Krugler, David (2-26-2015) America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching. from http://www.thedailybeast.com
  2. (5-25-2012) Causes of the 1919 Race Riots from https://socialistworker.org/
  3. Stockley, Grif (08-01-2016) Elaine Massacre from http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net
  4. Johnson, J (02-27-2013) Evanescence The Elaine Massacre from http://greenmountainsreview.com/
  5. Widell, Robert (08-2002) Blood In Their Eyes Review from http://www.h-net.org
  6. Dunaway, L.S. (1925) What a Preacher Saw Through a Keyhole in Arkansas
  7. (May 2016) Never Forget America’s Mass Lynching from https://blackmainstreet.net/
  8. (05-07-2011) Race Riots of 1919 from http://www.globalsecurity.org/
  9. Gruber, John (02-26-2015) Robert Lee Hill from http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net

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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