The NAACP

The NAACP started with a lynching 100 years after the birth ofAbraham Lincoln, and in the city, Springfield, Illinois, whichwas his long time residence. William English Walling, a whiteSoutherner, dramatized the gruesome happening and a group of liberalsformed a committee in New York, which I was invited to join. A conference was held in 1909.

This conference contained four groups: scientists who knew therace problem; philanthropists willing to help worthy causes; socialworkers ready to take up a new task of Abolition; and Negroesready to join a new crusade for their emancipation. An impressivenumber of scientists and social workers attended; friends of wealthyphilanthropists were present and many Negroes but few followersof Booker Washington. In the end Trotter, the most radical Negroleader, and Mrs. Ida Wells Barnett who was leading an anti-lynchingcrusade, refused to join the new organization, being distrustfulof white leadership. I myself and most of the Niagara Movementgroup were willing to join. The National Association for theAdvancement of Colored People was formed, which without formalmerger absorbed practically the whole membership of the NiagaraMovement. With some hesitation I was asked to join the organizationas Director of Publications and Research. My research work wasto go on but my activities would be so held in check that theAssociation would not develop as a center of attack upon Tuskegee.

Here was an opportunity to enter the lists in a desperate fightaimed straight at the real difficulty: the question as to howfar educated Negro opinion in the United States was going to havethe right and opportunity to guide the Negro group. Back of thislay an unasked question as to the relation of the American Negrogroup to the whole labor movement. This was not yet raised butseveral of the group were Socialists, including myself.

One may consider the personal equations and clash of ideologiespossible here as a matter of the actions and thoughts of certainmen, or as a development of larger social forces beyond personalcontrol. I suppose the latter aspect is the truer. My thoughts,the thoughts of Washington, Trotter and Oswald Garrison Villardwere the expression of social forces more than of our own minds. These forces or ideologies embraced more than reasoned acts. They included physical, biological and psychological habits,conventions and enactments. Opposed to these came natural reaction;the physical recoil of the victims, the unconscious and irrationalurges, as well as reasoned complaints and acts. The total resultwas the history of our day. That history may be epitomized inone word--Empire; the domination of white Europe over black Africaand yellow Asia, through political power built on the economiccontrol of labor, income and ideas. The echo of this industrialimperialism in America was the expulsion of black men from Americandemocracy, their subjection to caste control and wage slavery. This ideology was triumphant in 1910.

I accepted the offer of the NAACP in 1910 to join their new organizationin New York as Director of Publications and Research.

My new title showed that I had modified my program of research,but by no means abandoned it. First, I directed and edited myAtlanta study of 1912, in absentia with the help of my colleague,Augustus Dill, my student and successor as teacher in Atlanta. Then in our study of 1913, I secured the promise of Dr. J. H.Dillard, of the Slater Board, to join Atlanta University in keepingup the work of the conferences. The work of research was to becarried on in New York, with a conference and annual publicationat Atlanta. I was jubilant at the projected survival of my work. But on advice of President Ware himself, this arrangement wasnot accepted by the trustees of Atlanta University. Ware wasprobably warned that his tie with a radical movement would hamperthe university.

In August 1910, I reported at my new office and new work at 20Vesey Street, New York. As I have said elsewhere, the NAACP "provedbetween 1910 and the first World War, one of the most effectiveorganizations of the liberal spirit and the fight for social progresswhich America has known." It fought frankly to make Negroes"politically free from disfranchisement, legally free fromcaste and socially free from insult."

This new field of endeavor represented a distinct break from myprevious purely scientific program. While "research"was still among my duties, there were in fact no funds for suchwork. My chief efforts were devoted to editing and publishingThe Crisis, which I founded on my own responsibility, andover the protest of many of my associates. With The Crisis,I essayed a new role of interpreting to the world the hindrancesand aspirations of American Negroes. My older program appearedonly as I supported my contentions with facts from current reportsand observation or historic reference. My writing was reinforcedby lecturing, and my knowledge increased by travel; my thoughtwas broadened by study of socialism.

We had on our board of directors many incongruous elements aswas to be expected: philanthropists like Oswald Villard; socialworkers like Florence Kelley; liberal Christians like John HaynesHolmes and liberal Jews like the Spingarns; spiritual descendantsof the Abolitionists like Mary Ovington and radical Negroes. Clashes now and then were inevitable.

To a white philanthropist like Villard, a Negro was quite naturallyexpected to be humble and thankful or certainly not assertiveand aggressive; this Villard resented. I knew Villard's mother,who was Garrison's favorite child, and I liked her very much. His uncles were cordial and sympathetic. There was much thatI liked in Villard himself, but one thing despite all my effortkept us far apart. He had married a wife from Georgia, a formerslave State, and consequently I could never step foot in his houseas a guest, nor could any other of his colored associates. IndeedI doubt if any of his Jewish co-workers were ever invited. Iknew the reasons for this discrimination, but I could hardly beexpected to be happy over them or to be his close friend.

My first rather bitter falling out with Villard was at a meetingof the Board of Directors. Villard presumed to tell me how toedit The Crisis, and suggested that with my monthly recordof lynchings, I also publish a list of Negro crimes. I resentedthis, not only because it was logically silly, but because itwas interfering with my business. It was for this reason andfrom similar clashes that he finally resigned the chairmanshipof the board and was replaced by Joel Spingarn. Villard, however,kept his membership on the board and his interest in our work. Social workers like Florence Kelley criticized my status: Iheld the rather anomalous position of being both a member of theboard and, as executive officer, the board's employee. This wasnot from any demand which I made, but was due to the inescapablefact that I knew the Negro problem better than any of the whitemembers of the board, and at the same time I was the one coloredman whom they could put their hands on to carry out the objectsof the organization. My double capacity was repeatedly a matterof discussion, and sometimes dispute; but no answer was forthcomingfor 24 years.

Few of us realized what an organization of this sort had to beand what changes of form it had to go through. In early yearsit was a conference of men and women seeking agreement for commonaction, and finally carrying out the work decided upon by meansof a committee of one or more. It was this form that the NAACPhad in mind when it was organized in 1909. It needed money, andthat Villard and some of the other members of the committee proposedto raise from their wealthy friends, or from well-known philanthropists. It became increasingly necessary for the organization to havea paid executive whose chief business was to raise money.

When I was called to join the group it was expected that I wouldbecome that executive, but that was just what I refused to do,because I knew that raising money was not a job for which I wasfitted. It called for a friendliness of approach and knowledgeof human nature, and an adaptability which I did not have. WhatI had was knowledge of the Negro problem, an ability to expressmy thoughts clearly, and a logical method of thought. I wantedthen to write and lecture; and this become my job. We needed,however, an executive secretary, and after relying a few yearson untrained services, we hired a white trained social workerat $5,000 a year. It seemed to many of us a huge sum and an impossibleeffort, but it worked out under three secretaries; the first white,the other two colored. [12]

It was carried on in accordance with growing experiences amongphilanthropic organizations. The secretaries trained to raisemoney used approved and tried methods and expected and receivedcooperation from a Board of Directors whom they helped to selectbecause of their money and their advertising value. This meantthat the secretary had to have power put in his hands and themore money he raised for the objects of the organization, themore power he got. If he knew his job and had a broad conceptionof the purposes of his organization, things would go well. Ifhe became more interested in money and power, and less clear asto ideal, the organization might not go as well. Changes dueto these facts have occurred in the NAACP during its long andsuccessful career.

The span of my life from 1910 to 1934 is chiefly the story ofThe Crisis under my editorship, but it had also an astonishingvariety of subsidiary interests and activities.

Beginning a little before this period I continued my visits toEurope. I went in 1900 to the Paris Exposition and again by thegrace of an English friend in 1906. I helped organize and tookpart in the great Races Congress in 1911 and went to France inDecember 1918, just after the Armistice. This close touch withEurope and European developments had much to do with my understandingof social problems and trends of the world. I followed the developmentof English imperialism and the forces in England, France, Italyand Germany which resulted in the Balkan War, the World War andeventually the Russian Revolution. In the United States I studiedthe political development from the free silver controversy ledby Bryan through the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt andTaft, and especially the "Bull Moose" campaign and theelection of Wilson.

I kept on writing and publishing not with as much concentrationof effort as I ought to have had, but with some effectiveness. In 1907 appeared The Negro in the South--- from lectures,two by myself and two by Mr. Washington. In 1909 I publishedJohn Brown, one of the best written of my books, but onewhich aroused the unfortunate jealousy of Villard who was alsowriting a biography of Brown. In 1915 I published my volume onThe Negro. To this must be added part of a bulletin inthe Twelfth Census of the United States and several magazine articles.

I still clung to my idea of investigation in lines which wouldtemper and guide my exposition of a racial philosophy; and forthat reason I determined from the beginning to make my work withthe Association not that of executive secretary but editor ofits official organ. There was opposition to this organ from thefirst. First of all, organs of this sort were known to be usuallycostly and this organization had no money. Secondly, organs wereof doubtful efficiency. My good friend, Albert E. Pillsbury,Attorney-General of Massachusetts, wrote feelingly: "Ifyou have not decided upon a periodical, for heaven's sake don't. They are as numerous as flies"--and he meant to concludeabout as useful. I came to New York to occupy a bare office;associated with a treasurer, Villard (who said frankly, "Idon't know who is going to pay your salary. I have no money"),and with a generally critical if not hostile public which expectedthe NAACP to launch a bitter attack upon Booker T. Washingtonand Tuskegee.

My first job was to get The Crisis going; and arrivingin August, I got the first copy off the press in November 1910. It came at the psychological moment and its success was phenomenal. From the 1,000 which I first ventured to publish, it went upa thousand a month until by 1918 (due, of course, to special circumstances),we published and sold over 100,000 copies.

With this organ of propaganda and defense we were able to organizeone of the most effective assaults of liberalism upon reactionthat the modern world has seen. The NAACP secured extraordinaryhelpers; great lawyers like Moorfield Storey and Louis Marshall;earnest liberals like Villard, John Milholland, John Haynes Holmes,Jane Addams, and the Spingarns; Socialists like Mary W. Ovington,Charles Edward Russell and William English Walling.

We gained a series of court victories before the highest courtsof the land which perhaps never have been equaled, beginning withthe recognition of the validity of the 15th Amendment and theoverthrow of the vicious Grandfather Clauses in 1915; and thebreaking of the legal backbone of housing segregation in 1917. Above all, we could, through The Crisis and our officers,our secretaries and friends, place consistently and continuouslybefore the country a clear-cut statement of the legitimate aimsof the American Negro and the facts concerning his condition. We tried to organize his political power and make it felt, andwe started a campaign against lynching and mob law which was themost effective ever organized, and at long last seemed to bringthe end of the evil in sight.

With these efforts came other activities. I lectured widely innearly every state in the Union. I furnished information to peopleeverywhere on all sorts of subjects closely and remotely connectedwith race problems, and carried on from time to time studies andinvestigations. I was held more responsible for the success ofthe NAACP than I cared to confess to myself, than most other peoplewanted to admit. I had to spread myself over a whole field ofactivities when I would have done great deal better work if Icould have confined myself to writing and study.

The development of The Crisis, where most of my writingwas done, was interesting and difficult. It was impaired firstand last by lack of trained business management. For the mostpart I was my own business manager which meant the loss of muchtime in details. Then there was the delicate matter of policy;of how far I should express my own ideas and reactions in TheCrisis or the studied judgment of the organization. Fromfirst to last I thought strongly, and as I still think rightly,to make the opinion expressed in The Crisis a personalopinion; because as I argued, no organization can express definiteand clear-cut opinions; so far as this organization comes to conclusionsit states them in its annual resolutions; but The Crisis states openly the opinion of its editor so long as that opinionis in general agreement with that of the organization.

This of course was a dangerous and delicate matter bound eventuallyto break down in case there was any considerable divergence ofopinion between the organization and the editor. It was perhapsrather unusual that for two decades the two lines of thinkingran so largely together. If on the other hand The Crisis had not been in a sense a personal organ and the expression ofmyself, it could not possibly have attained its popularity andeffectiveness. It would have been the dry kind of organ thatso many societies support for purposes of reference and not forreading. It took on the part of the organization, a great dealof patience and faith to allow me the latitude that they did forso many years; and on the other hand I was enabled to lay downfor the NAACP a clear, strong and distinct body of doctrine thatcould not have been stated by majority vote. It was probablyinevitable that in the end a distinct and clear-cut differenceof opinion on majority policies should lead to the dissolutionof this interesting partnership.

One of the first difficulties that the Association met was thecase of its attitude toward Mr. Washington. I carefully triedto avoid any exaggeration of our differences of thought; but todiscuss the Negro question in 1910 was to discuss Booker T. Washingtonand almost before we were conscious of the inevitable trends wewere challenged from Europe. Mr. Washington was in Europe in1910 and made some speeches in England in his usual conciliatorylines. John Milholland, who had been so influential in the organizationof the Association with paid employees and an office, wrote methat American Negroes must combat the idea that they were satisfiedwith conditions. I therefore wrote an appeal to England and Europe.

"If Mr. Booker T. Washington, or any other person, is givingthe impression abroad that the Negro problem in America is inprocess of satisfactory solution, he is giving an impression whichis not true. We say this without personal bitterness toward Mr.Washington. He is a distinguished American and has a perfectright to his opinions. But we are compelled to point out thatMr. Washington's large financial responsibilities have made himdependent on the rich charitable public and that, for this reason,he has for years been compelled to tell, not the whole truth,but that part of it which certain powerful interests in Americawish to appear as the whole truth. In flat contradiction, however,to the pleasant pictures thus pointed out, let us not forget thatthe consensus of opinion among eminent European scholars who knowthe race problem in America from De Tocqueville down to Von Halle,De Laveleys, Archer and Johnston, is that it forms the gravestof American problems. We black men who live and suffer underpresent conditions, and who have no reason, and refuse to acceptreasons, for silence, can substantiate this unanimous testimony."

In furtherance of this statement and in anticipation of the meetingof the Races Congress in 1911, Mr. Milholland arranged that Ishould go early to the conference and make some addresses. Theplan simmered down to a proposed address before the Lyceum Club,the leading woman's group of London. There it ran against theopposition of an American woman who wrote: "I think thereis serious objection to entertaining Dr. Du Bois at the Lyceum." The result was a rather acrimonious controversy, from which Itried gently to withdraw but was unable to; and finally, led byHer Highness the Ranee of Sarawak and Dr. Etta Sayre, a luncheonwas held at the Lyceum Club with a bishop and two countesses,several knights and ladies and with Maurice Hewlett and Sir HarryJohnston.

The Races Congress in 1911 would have marked an epoch in the racialhistory of the world if it had not been for the World War. FelixAdler and I were made secretaries of the American section of theCongress in London. It was a great and inspiring occasion bringingtogether representatives of numerous ethnic and cultural groupsand bringing new and frank conceptions of scientific bases ofracial and social relations of people. I had a chance twice toaddress the Congress in the great hall of the University of Londonand to write one of the two poems which greeted the assembly.

Returning to the United States I was plunged into the "BullMoose" campaign. I thought I saw a splendid chance for athird party movement on a broad platform of votes for Negroesand industrial democracy. Sitting in the office of The Crisis I wrote out a proposed plank for the Progressives to adopt attheir Chicago meeting: "The Progressive party recognizesthat distinctions of race or class in political life have no placein a democracy. Especially does the party realize that a groupof 10,000,000 people who have in a generation changed from a slaveto a free labor system, reestablished family life, accumulated$1,000,000,000 of real property, including 20,000,000 acres ofland, and reduced their illiteracy from 80 to 30 percent, deserveand must have justice, opportunity and a voice in their own government. The party, therefore, demands for the American of Negro descentthe repeal of unfair discriminatory laws and the right to voteon the same terms on which other citizens vote."

This was taken to Chicago by Joel V. Spingarn and advocated bytwo other directors of the Association, Dr. Henry Moskowitz andJane Addams. They worked in vain for its adoption. TheodoreRoosevelt would have none of it. He told Mr. Spingarn franklythat he should be "careful of that man Du Bois," whowas in Roosevelt's opinion a "dangerous" person. The"Bull Moose" convention refused to seat most of thecolored delegates and finally succeeded in making Woodrow WilsonPresident of the United States.

Bishop Alexander Walters and myself conceived the idea that Mr.Wilson might be approachable. I proposed to throw the weightof The Crisis against Roosevelt and Taft and for Wilson,and Bishop Walters went to see him. He secured from Woodrow Wilsona categorical expression over his signature "of his earnestwish to see justice done the colored people in every matter; andnot mere grudging justice, but justice executed with liberalityand cordial good feeling. I want to assure them that should Ibecome President of the United States they may count upon me forabsolute fair dealing, for everything by which I could assistin advancing the interests of their race in the United States."

In this effort to divide the Negro vote which was successful toan unusual degree, we were cruelly disappointed when the Democraticparty won and the next Congress met. There was the greatest floodof discriminatory bills both in Congress and among the Statesthat has probably ever been introduced since the Civil War. Onlyunited and determined effort defeated bills against intermarriageand for other discriminations in eight States; and while mostof the proposed legislation in Congress was kept from the statutebooks, the administration carried out a segregation by color inthe various departments which we had to fight for years and vestigesof which remain even today.

In other respects our lines were cast in difficult places. TheSocialists began to consider the color line and to discriminateagainst the membership of colored people in the South, lest whitesshould not be attracted. Mr. Villard tried to get the Presidentto appoint a National Race Commission to be privately financedto the extent of $50,000, but nothing was done. Suddenly warand revolution struck the world: the Chinese Revolution in 1912;the Balkan War in 1912-13; and finally, in 1914, the World War.

In that very year the National Council of Social Agencies metin Memphis without daring to discuss the color question, but Spingarnand I went down and held open meetings advertising for all whodared hear the truth." We had an interesting time. Thissuccess and the death of Booker T. Washington in 1915 led to thefirst Amenia conference later that year which tried to unite theAmerican Negro in one program of advance.

Finally the World War touched America; with it and in anticipationof it, came a sudden increase of lynching, including the horribleburning alive of a Negro at Dyersburg; there came renewed effortsat segregation; the whole extraordinary difficulties of the draftand the question of Negro officers. We offered our service tofight. What happened? Most Americans have forgotten the extraordinaryseries of events which worked the feelings of black America tofever heat.

First was the refusal to accept Negro volunteers for the armyexcept in the four black regiments already established. Whilethe nation was combing the country for volunteers for the regulararmy it would not let the American Negro furnish even his proportionatequota of regular soldiers. This led to some grim bantering amongNegroes:

"Why do you want to volunteer?" asked many. "Whyshould you fight for this country?"

Before we had a chance to reply to this there came the army draftbill and the proposal by Senator Vardaman and his ilk to exemptNegroes. We protested to Washington in various ways and whilewe were insisting that colored men should be drafted just as othercitizens, the bill went through with two little "jokers."

First, it provided that Negroes should be drafted but trainedin "separate" units and, secondly, it somewhat ambiguouslypermitted men to be drafted for "labor."

A wave of fear and unrest spread among Negroes, and while we werelooking askance at both these provisions suddenly we receivedthe draft registration blank. It directed persons "of Africandescent" to "tear off the corner!" Probably neverbefore in the history of the United States has a portion of thecitizens been so openly and crassly discriminated against by actionof the general government. It was disheartening and on top ofit came the celebrated "German plots." It was allegedin various parts of the country with singular unanimity that Germanswere working among the Negroes and it was further intimated thatthis would make the Negroes too dangerous an element to trustwith guns. To us, of course, it looked as though the discoveryand the proposition came from the same thinly veiled sources.

Considering carefully these series of happenings the AmericanNegro sensed an approaching crisis and faced a puzzling dilemma. Here was evidently being prepared fertile ground for the spreadof disloyalty and resentment among the black masses as they wereforced to choose apparently between forced labor or a "jim-crow"draft. Manifestly when a minority group is thus segregated andforced out of the nation they can in reason do but one thing--takeadvantage of the disadvantage. In this case we asked for coloredofficers for the colored troops.

General Wood was early approached and asked to admit suitablecandidates to the Plattsburg Officers Camp. He refused. We thereuponpressed the government for a "separate" camp for thetraining of Negro officers. Not only did the War Department hesitateat this request but strong opposition arose among the coloredpeople themselves. They said this really was going too far. "We will obey the law but to ask for voluntary segregationis to insult ourselves." But strong, sober second thoughtcame to rescue. We said to our protesting brothers: "Weface a condition, not a theory. There is not the slightest chanceof our being admitted to white camps, therefore, it is eithera case of a 'jim-crow' officers training camp or no colored officers. Of the two thing no colored officers would be the greatest calamity."

Thus we gradually made up our minds. But the War Department stillhesitated. It was besieged and when it presented its final argument,"We have no place for such a camp," the trustees ofHoward University said: "Take our campus." Eventually1,200 colored cadets were assembled at Fort Des Moines for training.

The city of Des Moines promptly protested but it finally changedits mind. The city never before had seen such a class of coloredmen. They rapidly became popular with many classes and encomiumswere passed upon their conduct. Especially was the money theyspent popular with merchants. Their commanding colonel pronouncedtheir work first class and declared that they presented excellentmaterial for officers.

Meantime, with one accord, the thought of the colored people turnedtoward Colonel Young, their highest officer in the regular army. Charles Young was an heroic figure. He was the typical soldier--silent,uncomplaining, brave and efficient. From his days at West Pointthroughout his 28 years of service he had taken whatever taskwas assigned him and performed it efficiently, and there is nodoubt but that the army had been almost merciless in the requirementswhich it had put upon this splendid officer. He had been segregated,discriminated against and insulted. He came through everythingwith flying colors. In Haiti, Liberia, in Western camps, in theSequoia forests of California, and finally with Pershing in Mexico--inevery case he triumphed. Just at the time we were looking tothe government to call him to head the colored officers trainingat Des Moines, he was retired from the army because of "highblood pressure!" There is no disputing army surgeons andtheir judgment in this case may have been justified, but comingat the time it did, every Negro in the United States believedthat the "high blood pressure" that retired ColonelYoung was in the prejudiced heads of the southern army oligarchywho were determined that no Negro should ever wear the star ofa general.

To say that Negroes of the United States were disheartened atthe retirement of Colonel Young is to put it mildly; but therewas more trouble. The provision that Negro troops must be trainedseparately looked simple and was simple in places where therewere large Negro contingents; but in the North with solitary Negroesdrafted here and there we had some extraordinary developments. Regiments appeared with one Negro and he had to be separatedlike a pest and put in a house or even a village by himself, whilethe commander frantically telegraphed to Washington. Small wonderthat one poor black fellow in Ohio solved the problem by cuttinghis throat. The whole process of drafting Negroes had to be heldup until the government could find methods and places for assemblingthem.

On the top of this came Houston. In a moment the nation forgotthe whole record of one of the most celebrated regiments in theU.S. Army and their splendid service in the Indian Wars and inthe Philippines. It was the first regiment mobilized in the SpanishAmerican War and it was the regiment that volunteered to a manto clean up the yellow fever camps when others hesitated. Itwas one of the regiments to which Pershing said:

"Men, I am authorized by Congress to tell you all that ourpeople back in the States are mighty glad and proud at the waythe soldiers have conducted themselves while in Mexico, and I,General Pershing, can say with pride that a finer body of mennever stood under the flag of our nation than we find here tonight."

The nation also forgot the deep resentment mixed with the paleghost of fear which Negro soldiers call up in the breasts of thewhite South. It is not so much that they fear the Negro willstrike if he gets a chance, but rather that they assume with curiousunanimity that he has reason to strike; that any other personin his circumstances or treated as he is would rebel. Insteadof seeking to relieve the cause of such a possible feeling, mostof them strain every effort to bottle up the black man's resentment. Is it inconceivable that now and then it bursts all bounds?

So, in the midst of this mental turmoil came Houston and EastSt. Louis, in 1917. At Houston, black soldiers, goaded and insulted,suddenly went wild and "shot up" the town. At EastSt. Louis, white strikers on war work killed and mobbed Negroworkingmen. And this is the result:

HOUSTONEAST ST. LOUIS
OffenseOffense
17 white persons killed125 Negroes killed
PunishmentPunishment
19 colored soldiers hanged9 white men imprisoned 5-15 years
51 colored soldiers imprisoned for life11 white men imprisoned 1 year
40 colored soldiers imprisoned18 white men fined
10 colored men imprisoned 14 years

My career had at this time a certain sense of drama. I had neverbefore seen Theodore Roosevelt but in November 1918 I presidedat a meeting in Carnegie Hall where he made his last public speech,appearing together with Irwin Cobb and a representative of theFrench High Commission. I remember my introduction: "Ihave the honor to present Theodore Roosevelt." Then on my50th birthday there was a public celebration and many kindly messages. The Crisis had reached a monthly circulation of 68,000and during the year I had a little dinner with Glendowen Evans,Margaret DeLand and William James; and Albert Bushnell Hart wrotethe words: "Out of his fifty years of life I have followeda good thirty--and have counted him always among the ablest andkeenest of our teacher-scholars, an American who viewed his countrybroadly."

The most important work of the decade as I now look back uponit was my travel. Before 1918 I had made three trips to Europe;but now between 1918 and 1928 I made four trips of extraordinarymeaning: to France directly after the close of the war and duringthe Congress of Versailles; to England, Belgium, France and Genevain the earliest days of the League of Nations; to Spain, Portugaland Africa in 1923 and 1924; and to Germany, Russia, and Constantinoplein 1926. I could scarcely have encompassed a more vital partof the modern world picture than in those stirring journeys. They gave me a depth of knowledge and a breadth of view whichwas of incalculable value for realizing and judging modern conditions,and above all the problem of race in America.

But this was only part of my work. In the United States I wasstill fighting the battle of liberalism against race prejudice;trying to adjust war and postwar problems to the questions ofracial justice; trying to show from the injustices of war timewhat the new vision must encompass; fighting mobs and lynchings;encouraging Negro migration; helping woman suffrage; encouragingthe new rush of young blacks to college; watching and explainingthe political situation and traveling and lecturing over thousandsof miles and in hundreds of centers.

In addition to this I was encouraging the writing of others andtrying to help develop Negro art and literature. Besides editingThe Crisis continuously, I published Darkwater in 1920; The Gift of Black Folk in 1924; and theessay on Georgia in These United States in 1924. ThisGeorgia fought bitterly to keep from appearing. Ernest Gruening,now senator from Alaska, who edited the series, accepted it. I also wrote the concluding chapter in The New Negro editedby Alain Locke in 1925, besides a number of magazine articles. Most of the young writers who began what was called the renaissanceof Negro literature in the 20's saw their first publication inThe Crisis magazine.

Above all in these days I made two efforts toward which I lookback with infinite satisfaction: the two-year attempt in theBrownie's Book to furnish a little magazine for Negrochildren in which my efforts were ably seconded by Augustus Dilland Jessie Fauset; and most especially my single-handed productionof the pageant "The Star of Ethiopia." The pageantwas an attempt to put into dramatic form for the benefit of largemasses of people, a history of the Negro race. It was first attemptedin the New York celebration of Emancipation in 1913; it was repeatedwith magnificent and breath-taking success in Washington with1,200 participants; it was given again in Philadelphia in 1916;and in Los Angeles in 1924. Finally I attempted a little theatremovement which went far enough to secure for our little groupsecond prize in an international competition in New York.

When President Wilson was planning to attend the Congress of Versailles,I wrote him a letter, saying:

"The International Peace Congress that is to decide whetheror not peoples shall have the right to dispose of themselves willfind in its midst delegates from a nation which champions theprinciple of the 'consent of the governed' and 'government byrepresentation.' That nation is our own, and includes in itselfmore than twelve million souls whose consent to be governed isnever asked. They have no members in the legislatures of stateswhere they are in the majority, and not a single representativein the national Congress."

In 1918 I was asked rather suddenly by the NAACP to go to Europeright after the Armistice, to investigate the treatment of Negrosoldiers and keep the record straight; and then at the behestof a group of American Negroes I considered that the interestsof Africa ought to be represented during the peace efforts followingthe war. With infinite difficulty and through the cooperationof Blaise Diagne, the French Deputy from Senegal, I succeededin gathering in February 1919, at the Grand Hotel in Paris, aPan-African Congress of 57 delegates including 16 American Negroes,20 West Indians and 12 Africans. France, Belgium and Portugalwere represented by officials. This was to my mind but a beginningand in 1921 I returned and held a Second Pan-African Congressin London, Brussels and Paris from August 28 to September 6. There were 113 accredited delegates from 26 different groups,including 35 from the United States, 39 from Africa and the restfrom the West Indies and Europe. Among the speakers were SirSidney, afterward Lord Olivier; Florence Kelley, Bishop Hurst,Paul Otlet, often called the father of the League of Nations;Senator La Fontaine of Belgium, Dr. Vitellian, former physicianto Menelik of Abyssinia; General Sorelas, Blaise Diagne, NormanLaya, and others.

The attention which the congress evoked all over Europe was astonishing. It was discussed in the London Times, Observer and Daily Graphic; in the Paris Petit Parisian,Matin and Tempe; in the Manchester Guardian and in practically all the daily papers of Belgium. It led toheated debate in Brussels touching the rights of these delegatesto discuss the relation of colonies, and it emphasized in theminds of all of us the consequent importance of such discussions.

Two of us visited the League of Nations and the InternationalLabor Office with petitions and suggestions. In 1923 a ThirdPan-African Congress, less broadly representative than the second,but nevertheless of some importance, was held in London, Parisand Lisbon; and thence I went to Africa and for the first timesaw the homeland of the black race.

It was the time when the United States had disappointed Liberiaby not granting her a promised loan, and a gesture of goodwillwas in order. At the suggestion of William H. Lewis, AssistantAttorney-General in Washington, I was therefore designated bycable as special minister plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinaryto represent President Coolidge at the inauguration of PresidentKing. In the presence of the diplomatic and consular representativesof England, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Holland and Panamaof whom I was Dean, I had the honor to tell the President of Liberia: "Your Excellency: . . . I am sure that in this special markof the President's favor, he has had in mind the wishes and hopesof Negro Americans. He knows how proud they are of the hundredyears of independence which you have maintained by force of armsand brawn and brain upon the edge of this mighty continent; heknows that in the great battle against color caste in Americathe ability of Negroes to rule in Africa has been and ever willbe a great and encouraging reinforcement."

At the London meeting of the Third Pan-African Congress, HaroldLaski, H. G. Wells, and Sir Sidney Olivier spoke. Ramsay MacDonaldhad promised to speak to us but was hindered by the sudden openingof the campaign which eventually made him prime minister of England. Among other efforts, at this time we held conferences with membersof the Labour Party of England at which Mrs. Sidney Webb, Mr.John Robert Clynes and others were present. We emphasized theimportance of labor solidarity between white and black labor inEngland, America and elsewhere. They were not particularly impressed. In Portugal our meeting was attended by cabinet ministers anddeputies and though small was of great interest.

To return again to the fight in the United States, there aroseearly in this decade the case of Marcus Garvey. I heard of himfirst when I was in Jamaica in 1915 when he sent a letter "presentinghis compliments" and giving me "a hearty welcome toJamaica, on the part of the United Improvement and ConservationAssociation." Later he came to the United States. In hiscase, as in the case of others, I have repeatedly been accusedof enmity and jealousy, which have been so far from my thoughtthat the accusations have been a rather bitter experience.

In 1920 when his movement was beginning to grow in America I saidin The Crisis that he was "an extraordinary leaderof men" and declared that he had "with singular successcapitalized and made vocal the great and long suffering grievancesand spirit of protest among the West Indian peasantry." On the other hand, I noted his difficulties of temperament andtraining, inability to get on with his fellow workers, and deniedcategorically that I had ever interfered in any way with his work. Later when he began to collect money for his steamship line Icharacterized him as a sincere and hard-working idealist but calledhis methods bombastic, wasteful, illogical and almost illegaland begged his friends not to allow him foolishly to overwhelmwith bankruptcy and disaster one of the most interesting spiritualmovements of the modern world.

But he went ahead, wasted his money, got into trouble with theauthorities and was deported. As I said at the time: When Garveywas sent to Atlanta, no word or action of ours accomplished theresult. His release and deportation were a matter of law whichno deed or wish of ours influenced in the slightest degree. Wehave today, no enmity against Marcus Garvey. He has a great andworthy dream. We wish him well. He is free; he has a following;he still has a chance to carry on his work in his own home andamong his own people and to accomplish some of his ideas. Lethim do it. We will be the first to applaud any success that hemay have."

I felt for a moment as the war progressed that I could be withoutreservation a patriotic American. The government was making sincereefforts to meet our demands. It had commissioned over 700 Negroofficers; I had had a personal interview with Newton Baker, Secretaryof War, and he had made categorical promises; Wilson had spokenout against lynching; and I myself had been offered a captaincyin the Intelligence Service, afterwards, to be sure, rather incontinentlywithdrawn as the higher command realized just who I was. Nevertheless,I tried to stand by the country and wrote the widely discussededitorial "Close Ranks" in which I said to the Negroes: "Forget your grievances for the moment and stand by yourcountry."

I am not sure that I was right but certainly my intentions were. I did not believe in war, but I thought that in a fight withAmerica against militarism and for democracy we would be fightingfor the emancipation of the Negro race. With the Armistice camedisillusion. I saw the mud and dirt of the trenches; I heardfrom the mouths of soldiers the kind of treatment that black mengot in the American army; I was convinced and said that Americanwhite officers fought more valiantly against Negroes within ourranks than they did against the Germans. I still believe thiswas largely true. I collected some astonishing documents of systematicslander and attack upon Negroes and demands upon the French forinsulting attitudes toward them, and when I published these documentsin America the government started to interfere by refusing TheCrisis mailing facilities; then, realizing that this wasan admission of guilt, they quickly withdrew their prohibition.

I was especially upset by the mobs and lynchings during this time: by that extraordinary upheaval wherein for several hours blackmen fighting against a mob practically held the city of Washingtonin their hands; then the riot and murder in Chicago. [13] Wefought back through the NAACP, the columns of The Crisis,through lectures and articles, with every force at hand. MaryTalbert started the Anti-Lynching Crusaders and with her helpand that of our secretary, James Weldon Johnson, we raised a defensefund of $70,000 and put the Dyer Lynch Bill through the Houseof Representatives and on to the floor of the Senate. It wasnot until years after that I knew what killed that anti-lynchingbill. It was a bargain between the South and the West by whichlynching was permitted on condition that the Japanese were excluded.

Court cases kept pressing upon us: there were the Elaine riotsand the Arkansas cases; there was the Sweet case in Detroit; [14]and equally significant to my mind but to few other Negroes theSacco-Vanzetti case in Massachusetts. We continued winning courtvictories and yet somehow, despite them, we did not seem to begetting very far. We added to the Grandfather Case of 1915 andthe Segregation Case of 1917, the victories in the Arkansas cases,the white primary case and another segregation case in the highcourts, in addition to the eventual freeing of Dr. Sweet and hisfamily. Still injustice prevailed. In the case of the Mississippiflood, the Red Cross allowed the Negroes to be treated as slavesand peons, and in Oklahoma, the Episcopal church refused to prosecutea white murderer on its own school grounds. Above all there camedisquieting situations among Negro students: a strike at Hampton,disturbed conditions at Wilberforce, turmoil at Howard, and anuprising at Fisk.

It was thus a decade of infinite effort and discouraging turmoil. I suppose it had to be. I suppose that with the best will, itwould have been impossible for me to concentrate on a few greatlines of creative effort. I had to be a part of the revolutionthrough which the world was going and to feel in my own soul thescars of its battles. Two events made a sort of finale to thedecade: the Fourth Pan-African Congress held in New York in 1927with Dantes Bellegarde, George Vylvain and other speakers; andthe Congress of British West Africa which began its meetings in1920 and forced the British government to the greatest step towarddemocratic method ever taken up to that time in black colonies.

Finally, to my surprise and quite against my best judgment, therewas given for me upon my return from Africa at the Cafe Savarinin New York, a dinner. Among the speakers were Heywood Broun,Walter Hampden and Mrs. Mary McCleod Bethune, and tributes weresent by Witter Bynner, Zona Gale and Eugene O'Neil. It was avery beautiful and touching tribute.


ENDNOTES

12. The Secretaries of the NAACP were as follows: Frances Blascoe(1910-1911); Mary White Ovington (1911-1912); May Childs Nerney(1912-1916); Mary White Ovington (January 1916 to February 1916);Royal Freeman Nash (1916-1917); James Weldon Johnson (1917 toJanuary 1, 1918); John R. Shillady (1918-1920); James Weldon Johnson(1920- January, 1931); thereafter Walter White (until his deathin 1955) and presently Roy Wilkins.

13. In the summer of 1919 white mobs, with large contingentsof soldiers and sailors, attacked the Negro communities in Washingtonand in Chicago. Dozens were killed and scores seriously injured;in both cases, after the original assault, Negroes formed self-defenseunits and fought back with great effectiveness. Many other pogromsoccurred in what became known as the "Red Summer" of1919; one of these is discussed in the note that follows.

14. Negro farmers and sharecroppers in and around Elaine, Arkansas,in 1919 formed an organization for the purpose of bargaining collectivelywith the plantation owners; they intended to obtain wages andimprovements approaching conditions suitable for human beingsand also a termination of peonage. A sheriffís posse attackedtheir meeting; in the resistance, one deputy was shot and killed. Terror followed for three days throughout Phillips County andabout 250 Negroes were killed. In a ìtrialî--itlasted about 45 minutes--12 Negroes were sentenced to die and67 were given long prison sentences. In Moore v. Dempsey (1923), brought by the NAACP, these convictions were reversed. Du Bois wrote of this case several times; notably in The Crisis,February, 1920, XIX, 169ff.

The Sweet case refers to the attack by a mob in Detroit in 1925upon the home of a Negro physician, Dr. O.H. Sweet, recently purchasedin a ìwhiteî neighborhood. Armed resistance fromthe house resulted in the killing of one of the attacking mob. Dr. Sweet, his brother and some of his friends were brought totrial. The NAACP led the defense; their attorneys were ClarenceDarrow and Arthur Garfield Hayes, and all were finally acquitted. Du Boisí comments on the event and the trial are in TheCrisis, January and July, 1926, XXX, 60f., XXXI, 114.

From W.E.B. DuBois, The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century.New York, NY: International Publishers Co. Inc., 1968, pp. 254-276.


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