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Still, the basic mission of the black press remained intact. Black newspapers North and South continued to alert black readers to the need for action and forced at least a few white Americans to face the issue of race and confront the gap between American ideals and the practices of lynching, segregation, and disfranchisement. And to the extent that black journalists forced white people to pay attention, they succeeded in poking holes in the veil, making themselves visible, and forcing whites to reconsider their assumptions about African Americans and race.
Yet in the years between the turn of the century and the start of World War I, the tide began to turn away from the accommodationism of Booker T. Washington and toward more militant protest against the status quo, especially in the North. Thomas Fortune and Booker T. Washington by throwing red pepper onto the platform and shouting damning questions unanswerable accusations, really at the speakers.
Trotter eventually spent thirty days in jail for his role in the incident. As Trotter biographer Stephen R. Du Bois soon afterward helped establish the militant Niagara Movement, a group of mostly northern black men united in opposition to Tuskegeean accommodation and in outspoken advocacy of civil rights.
Murray far left and L. Hershaw center are also pictured. Courtesy Special Collections and Archives, W. Rather than winning goodwill, accommodationism seemed to have emboldened southern whites to further oppress African Americans. If Trotter could not assume the leadership role, certainly others like him would step forward. They believed simultaneously in equality and self-help, full citizenship and black nationalism.
During the war, membership rose dramatically. Unlike Trotter, however, Du Bois took a more moderate position as editor of the Crisis, and he was never completely independent. Spingarn hoped Du Bois would stay, but he suggested the editor become more agreeable. The Crisis was certainly more measured than the Guardian. White individuals, therefore, had a more direct impact on Du Bois than they had on other black editors. Du Bois frequently repeated or summarized editorials from the black press in the Crisis, which gained more notice than most black weeklies. Age publisher Fred Moore, a real estate investor with close ties to the Tuskegee machine and little experience in newspapers, was fortunate in his choice of Johnson, who would write the majority of Age editorials during the war.
He advocated protest, although not the use of physical force; called for group pride and solidarity; endorsed self-help; and espoused mainstream economic and political doctrines. Johnson clearly believed that one of the main objectives of an editorial writer should be to reach white as well as black readers. Unlike most black editors other than Du Bois, he sometimes published articles in mainstream journals.
Johnson led a delegation to the White House to plead for clemency for courtmartialed black soldiers and ask Wilson to speak out against lynching. Wilson greatly shaken. The Defender blazed the trail and set the tone for the new mass circulation black press. Hockley Smiley, instituted the changes that would give the Defender its appeal. Eye-catching headlines—some of which had no obvious connection to the text—spread across the entire front page.
The paper lured migrants by sensationalizing and often exaggerating southern lynchings, continually highlighting other examples of racial oppression in the South, and portraying Chicago and the North as a land of racial justice and boundless economic opportunity. During the war in particular, the federal government, southerners who thought the paper was stirring up trouble, and a variety of others felt compelled to respond. Pittsburgh Courier publisher Robert L.
Publisher P. As the Journal and Guide was getting its start, a number of other vigorous black publications arose that sought to provide leadership and represent black demands—some locally and some nationally. Two older newspapers shifted their focus during the decade. Just as America stood on the verge of a transformative event, the black press was about to enter a new era. In the coming months, as Washington passed from the scene and the country edged ever closer to war, each black journalist struggled to devise a response to the national emergency that combined the accommodationist impulses of Washington and the militant style of Trotter.
Black editors used this new power to press their demands for democratic reform. Yet black editors and activists across the country immediately began to sort out the implications of the war. Indeed, the former resembled a strategy of protest, whereas the latter smacked of accommodation. Black journalists were not alone in struggling to reconcile these two contradictory motives during World War I. Contests among nations for colonial possessions and national power contributed to tensions among the nations of Europe, and Balkan nationalism generated the sparks that started the war.
Often, these two impulses clashed. Yet for the most part, supporters of the war acknowledged no contradictions between the two impulses, demanding blind patriotism and promoting democracy with equal vigor. African Americans found themselves caught between nationalism and democracy in even more complicated ways than those confronting Wilson and other white Americans. Like Wilson, they never resolved the contradictions in their position because tangible results were more important than the consistency of their ideas.
Allied propaganda converged with German actions, turning U. The Norfolk Journal and Guide suggested the Belgians deserved what they got from the Germans as punishment for their own atrocities in their African colonies. The Chicago Defender and the Savannah Tribune noted that the British committed worse violations of American neutrality than the Germans. Indeed, what happened in Belgium was a natural consequence of a military invasion. Black editorials frequently contrasted stories of atrocities in Europe with accounts of lynchings of African Americans in the American South.
In the early nineteenth century, lynchings took place mostly on the frontier, where practitioners hoped to deter crime in areas of dispersed population and weak law enforcement. Lynchers targeted mostly whites until the Civil War, when Confederates lynched some slaves to prevent rebellion. During Reconstruction, lynchers attacked both black and white Republicans as a means of political intimidation. Johnson wrote: It does seem like hollow hypocrisy that this nation is.
Wells had used the black press and an international speaking platform to condemn lynching as a blot on the national character that belied its claim to civilization. After the outbreak of war in Europe, black editorialists made three convincing arguments about the connection between lynching in America and events in Europe that used the mainstream discourse about the war to shed light on the situation of blacks in the South. These arguments were not meant primarily to inspire black readers to action but rather to make it impossible for white Americans who believed in the humanitarian ideals underlying their critique of European atrocities to continue to ignore the lynchings of blacks in America.
First, editors wondered why Americans were so much more concerned about atrocities far away than they were about lynchings right at home. We are not speaking from experience. Occasionally, black newspapers addressed white Americans more directly. But the Tribune pointed out that the Journal had ignored a much more serious crime against blacks right in Atlanta.
A mob had invaded black homes located near a white neighborhood and forced their owners to move out. The Atlanta case was far worse because it punished individuals for thrift and industry. Editorials in such mainstream periodicals as the Independent, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York World acknowledged this, and black newspapers often commented on or reprinted them.
He went so far as to print the two articles side by side. Wilson, the Sun argued, could serve humanity by doing something about the plight of African Americans rather than looking abroad. Why Mexico? Why bother about Germany or Japan? Since before the turn of the century, southern apologists for lynching had been churning out tracts with titles like The Negro a Beast or The Negro: A Menace to American Civilization that portrayed African Americans as inferior, criminal people who had to be kept in line with an occasional lynching.
Although somewhat tamer than the novel, Birth of a Nation conveyed the same message and promised to reach a far wider audience. Inside, they discover two Union Army veterans. Instead of driving the Confederates away, the Union veterans welcome them. Thus North and South are reunited in their determination to protect white women, keep African Americans in their place, and assure the continuation of white supremacy in America. It presents what the south says and the north of our day, at least, is inclined to believe to be truth. Vardaman, and Benjamin Tillman Jr. Blease had been defeated in his bid for the U.
In the following days, Trotter led a protest gathering at Faneuil Hall and a march on the State House. A closer look at one relatively successful local campaign spearheaded by Cleveland Gazette publisher Harry C. A charter member of T. In a sense, Smith set the standard for the independent black editor-publisher-proprietor, a standard no one else ever quite met.
One of these happened to be the state attorney general, E. Turner, who oversaw the censorship board. According to Smith, the judge who heard the case on Monday afternoon handed down his decision against censorship on Tuesday morning in part because of the actions of the unruly black protesters the night before. After all, Smith was arguing that African Americans were not prone to uncivilized violence, so lynching was not needed to keep them in order.
Franklin Frazier has argued. On one side—humanistic, democratic, and civilized—stood the North, the loyal Union, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and abolitionism; on the other—inhuman, undemocratic, and violent—stood the South, the disloyal Confederacy, racism, disfranchisement, and Jim Crow.
Nationally, however, the censorship campaign against Birth of a Nation failed to achieve its major objective.
Black Newspapers & America's War for Democracy, 1914-1920
Booker T. Washington and his followers adopted this stance early on, and his personal secretary, Emmett J. Black opposition may have prevented Birth of a Nation from fully nationalizing southern race sentiment. African Americans might have rejected the notion that they had a duty to a nation in which they were granted second-class citizenship and often lacked the protection of the law.
Indeed, that response would have been in keeping with their criticisms of foreign policy during this same period. But such a strategy would have gone against the tradition of African American participation in U. It was not clear, however, what reward, if any, they would receive in exchange.
At a time when Birth of a Nation was suggesting otherwise, the black press hoped to show that African Americans conformed to a demanding standard of loyalty that subordinated all other interests to national duty. And yet, at the same time, they would demand something in return. Black newspapers sought to use notions from the mainstream political discourse about patriotism, loyalty, unity, and, in particular, Americanism and preparedness to advance the cause of racial justice. In a sense, though, these notions would use them. After all, the white leaders who coined the phrases that would lead America into war never meant for them to advance the interests of weak minority groups —quite the opposite.
They hoped that members of such groups would abandon their particular interests and channel all of their energies into winning the war. The onset of the war brought these tensions to a head. Such creatures of passion, disloyalty, and anarchy must be crushed out. First as a candidate himself and then on the stump for Republican nominee Charles Evans Hughes, Roosevelt advocated a military buildup, American entry into the war, and an extreme brand of nationalist conformity. He asserted that forming ethnic organizations is absolutely incompatible with the fundamental idea of loyalty, and that loyalty is not a self-pleasing virtue.
I am not bound to be loyal to the United States to please myself. Oppressed as a group, they needed to agitate for redress as a group. Set apart because of their racial identity by whites, they could not renounce their blackness because whites would not ignore it. African Americans, they argued, had no divided loyalties, no homeland other than the United States to whom they owed allegiance, and no reason to be disloyal. Journalist Ralph Tyler, writing in the Appeal, a black weekly in St.
Patriotism required preparedness. These black writers were trying to bend to their own purpose words that were intended to crush dissent, bolster national unity, militarize the nation, and facilitate the process of making war. But most African American writers could not do that. Editorialists went to great pains to frame their demands for democracy in a way that made them seem in harmony with the interests of the nation. We are not seeking the advantage of any outside power at the expense of the United States. We are simply seeking, as Americans of undivided loyalty, to maintain our status and rights as citizens.
If we do not succeed in doing that, all other issues will be of no importance to us. Elsewhere, he and other editors emphasized loyalty rather than protest or democracy. Instead, George W. They reported on mass meetings in which African Americans pledged support of the war and quoted black leaders—including W.
The Baltimore Afro-American even quoted a southern black attorney who repeated the dubious claim that blacks had proven their loyal nature by refusing to rebel against the Confederacy during the Civil War. He never fought for slavery in a land of Liberty. Instead, they argued that simmering resentments among blacks there made the German plot plausible, even understandable. On the one hand, reports of rebellion among blacks in the South threatened the image of loyalty that the black press had always cultivated. The black press served as a link between the two, providing a channel through which African Americans could make their demands known and through which the state could reach and propagandize African Americans.
In the process, the black press also prodded America to live up to its highest ideals.
As the federal government assumed more and more power over more and more areas of life during the war, it became increasingly plausible that it might do something about race relations. Even many white Americans—some in the South—began to accept that notion. The Savannah Tribune, for example, asserted that all African Americans would back the war out of patriotism and a belief in the cause. Another reason for accepting the camp was to bolster claims of black loyalty by countering rumors that African Americans were plotting with German spies.
On the one hand, why should they subject themselves to such humiliations to support a war against a distant enemy? Individuals who generally agreed in their opposition to segregation disagreed over the issue of how to respond to the camp proposal. Most of the mainstream race advocates including most black editors were integrationists who nonetheless supported some separate black institutions. But no one denounced the black press or black colleges as Jim Crow institutions.
Other institutions caused greater contention, however. The newspaper even chastised blacks for not showing more enthusiasm. Since the paper did not urge blacks to oppose the war or refuse to participate, it is unclear what the editorial intended black men to do.
It let white America know that African Americans opposed this kind of segregation. In the spirit of those same patriots, whose children we are, we say the Negro who speaks of duties where he has no rights, places himself in the position where he may deserve the name—a moral coward. The people will accept this sub-citizenship, not because they want to, but because they must. Most of those portrayals—at least in northern newspapers—focused on the South, which could be shown to be an enemy of the nation in at least four ways. First, the South had once rebelled against the federal government and still opposed federal authority in many instances.
Vardaman, John Sharp Williams, and J. African Americans subscribed to the Liberty Loan drive, volunteered for the Red Cross, and enlisted in the armed forces, often at higher rates than white Americans. Although the laws supposedly applied to both blacks and whites, the black press noted that southerners enforced them only against blacks. And most important, as African Americans had contended before America entered the war, lynching was as bad as any of the alleged atrocities of Germany and its allies.
The most disturbing lynchings of the war took place in Brooks and Lowndes Counties, Georgia, where lynchers murdered as many as ten victims, including Mary Turner, a pregnant woman whom they disemboweled. Editorialists used these incidents to condemn both the South and the nation. Yet most black papers refrained from using the race riot in East St. Louis as evidence that northern whites deserved equal blame with southerners. When the Aluminum Ore Company broke a strike in April, workers blamed blacks for having crossed the picket lines.
Although most of the strikebreakers had been white, black scabs provided easily recognizable scapegoats. Parked in front of city hall, the bullet-ridden cruiser served as a rallying point for a crowd of angry white laborers the next morning. President, why not make America safe for democracy? These editors seemed to believe the riot would force white America to confront the contradictions between the war aims and the treatment of black citizens at home. Louis riot might have led black writers to conclude that northern whites were no better than their southern counterparts. Louis riot as evidence of the unity of all whites—North and South—against blacks.
Other black newspapers similarly placed the South outside the pale of American civilization and equated it with German autocracy. Louis riot contradicted the war aims, but they tended not to lay so much of the burden on the South. Louis riot. Not only would the parallels with Europe push them in that direction, but so would the continuing example of the almost superhuman loyalty and patience of African American soldiers and citizens in spite of the continued violence and proscription against them.
This apparent example of black disloyalty would put the black press on the defensive and would challenge its ability to continue to present its message to the nation. When Corporal Charles W. Fearful that a mob of white rioters was approaching, the soldiers fell in line behind Sergeant Vida Henry and marched out of camp. Unlike the white rioters in East St. Eventually, authorities rounded up all of the soldiers and sent the entire battalion by train to a camp in Columbus, New Mexico, to await courts-martial. Some of the soldiers were unrepentant.
Anonymous notes dropped from the train on its way to Columbus, picked up by dutiful citizens, and passed on to military authorities expressed righteous satisfaction at having shot up Houston. Du Bois only obliquely dared to suggest that African Americans might approve of the killings of innocent whites for a change. But to exult in the mutiny of a battalion of American soldiers would certainly undermine the image of loyalty Du Bois and others wanted to foster. Bouldin published a letter from a black Austin,Texas, woman in support of the soldiers.
On your way to the Training Camps you are jim-crowed. Every insult that can be heaped upon you, you have to take, or be tried by court-martial if you resent it. The author went on to list a number of recent instances in which blacks were insulted by whites in Austin and could have used the protection of the Twenty-fourth Infantry. Crossing this boundary proved too much for the authorities. His plight likely served as a warning to other black editors. Nor, however, did black writers unanimously condemn the mutineers. Instead, they walked a narrow line between condemning the mutiny and justifying it.
They broke the law. We condemn it. Editorialists and reporters sought to show that the soldiers had been pushed to a point at which any normal person would have retaliated. Black newspapers tried to pin the guilt for the mutiny on racists or poorly trained police. The Richmond Planet and the Norfolk Journal and Guide argued that Houston police were more to blame than the black soldiers for the violence. There is no use in seeking to disguise the fact that the United States uniform is not held in high favor in all parts of the South.
Thus, at least for northern black newspapers, Houston became not an attack of black soldiers on American citizens but an attack by the unreconstructed and disloyal South on both the Union and African Americans. As they sought to reinterpret the war to show black loyalty, some black editors sought to reinterpret Houston to show the disloyalty of the South.
Within a month of the East St. It also allowed for prosecution of mob members in federal courts and required county governments to pay reparations to families of victims lynched within their jurisdictions. Spingarn used the black press as a key component of his argument to convince the committee, which included several southerners, to approve the bill. Representative Robert Y. Americans would grant justice, if not voluntarily, then because they had no choice.
Black Newspapers and America's War for Democracy, - William G. Jordan - Google Books
Democracy Must Rule. The optimism of the black press grew in the last year of the war. Each writer and each newspaper devised a unique response to each situation, yet the black press as a whole followed a discernible pattern. Outside observers might have viewed these responses as either loyal or disloyal. Southern papers appear to have been more conciliatory toward the South, but their approach still blended protest and accommodation.
It showed the government why Wilsonian ideals had to be applied at home and informed black readers of the ways in which the war was generating racial progress. Most of these links were apparent rather than tangible, but in some cases, the connections between the black press and the state were reinforced by important back channels, as when Johnson met with the president or Spingarn used the advocacy of black newspapers as another reason to enact antilynching legislation in Congress. Other evidence, however, suggests that the state was successful in making the black press an instrument of control of African Americans during the war.
Even opponents of the war came to support it, and black writers treaded lightly on the issue of the Houston mutiny, most condemning it in spite of their empathy for the mutinous soldiers. In addition, the threat of censorship provided an important incentive that must be considered in arriving at an understanding of the black press during World War I.
The author of the letter in question, twenty-eight-year-old Howard University graduate Uzziah Miner, said that he would not volunteer for service in the armed forces because the East St. Lamar, who would rule from Washington on whether the issue could be delivered. Burleson and another to Virginia senator Thomas Martin. Martin forwarded his letter to the postmaster general without any recommendation.
Senate chamber. The following day, Wednesday, he talked by phone with J. At the same time, black editors became aware of the dangers of censorship and sought to moderate their tone, but usually not at the expense of making demands for racial justice. Most black newspapers fell somewhere between capitulation and unequivocal protest. They emphasized the loyalty and patriotism of black folks yet noted the volatility of the black population; they praised American ideals and criticized continuing racial injustice not as a failure of those ideals but as a betrayal of them by unpatriotic, disloyal Americans.
Worried about the unrest of African Americans, the federal government called a conference of three dozen black editors to give them an opportunity to present their demands and to assure their continued loyalty. The editors interpreted black unrest as a demand for federal action, and the government responded. Thus, in a dangerous time, the black press served as a mediating forum between blacks and the white-controlled government.
The government tried to use the black press as a means of domination during the war, and African Americans sought to use it as a tool of resistance. Socialist and German-language publications fared the worst at the hands of the censors. Neither the German American press nor the socialist movement ever fully recovered after the war. Most black newspapers did not encounter censorship directly, yet all knew of the danger of censorship.
The best way to do is to tell your troubles to God, but go into your closet and shut the door while so doing else some one else than God may hear you and arrest you when you come out. San Antonio Inquirer editor G. Bouldin received a jail sentence after the war for printing C. According to prosecutors, she went too far when she excused the actions of the soldiers, called on other black soldiers to imitate them, and derided the notion that blacks should defend Europe.
Du Bois and Kelly Miller, should sign up for service themselves. Thus, unlike most black editorialists, Messenger editors A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen opposed the war and supported and encouraged black opposition to it without equivocation. Justice Department seized Randolph and Owen in the midst of a speaking tour and charged them with violating a section of the Espionage Act that imposed a twenty-year sentence for inspiring disloyalty or interfering with the military.
After they spent two days in jail, a judge threw the case out. But support of the war—the policy of most other black newspapers—did not guarantee immunity from government surveillance and coercion, as several editors found out, most conspicuously W. Du Bois perhaps confronted greater and more persistent pressure to moderate his approach than any other black editor.
A Justice Department investigator in Waco thought the publication had had something to do with the Houston riot the previous year. Assistant U. Attorney Earl B. Bruce Bielaski, believed the Crisis was a tool of German propagandists. Spingarn and Du Bois believed that in that capacity they would be able to work from within the government to bring about measures for the improvement of racial conditions.
He stated in the editorial: We of the colored race have no ordinary interest in the outcome. That which the German power represents today spells death to the aspirations of Negroes and all darker races for equality, freedom and democracy. Let us not hesitate.
A combination of friendly persuasion and implied threats did the trick. In the latter, they convinced the editor, through a combination of threats and enticements, which appealed to his own predilections, that he should stop agitating. Although one issue of the News may have been kept out of the mails, neither it nor the Age lost its second-class mailing privileges during the war. Chacun a son gout! Comments like these suggest that the New York censors shared the racist assumptions of most white people of the day. Their memoranda on the Age and the News read like a defense of those assumptions combined with a generally hostile attack on the black press and, by extension, the African American population.
Regardless of whether or not black newspapers violated any laws, Bowen and other censors held a negative opinion of them. Given their intense hostility, New York censors sought persistently to build a case of sedition against both of these newspapers. This is the time for suppressing newspapers that maintain such an attitude. Assistant District Attorney George L. Thompson, and others, but no action was taken. One censor even listed the biennial lynching statistics a state-by-state accounting with no commentary released by Robert R.
Moton, Booker T. In June, he responded to an article about a black draftee ejected from a train in Arkansas by suggesting to his supervisor that the incident be investigated. Yet he did not recommend any particular actions against the paper. Major Walter H. Scott and Spingarn, both advocates of African American equality, hoped not to silence the black press but to give it a hearing with the federal government.
Participants included publisher Fred Moore and editor W. Mitchell of the St. Louis Argus, P. Roosevelt, a general and two majors from the French army, and representatives of the Shipping Board and the Food Administration. Clearly, the government succeeded in scoring propaganda points with the editors. Depicted in the front row, from left to right, are P. Pinchback, Charles W. Anderson, Emmett J. Moton, Robert H. Terrell with Robert S. Abbott over his left shoulder , W. Harry C. A statement drafted by Du Bois and endorsed by the editors masterfully walked the line between declaring loyalty and making demands.
Third, they sought an end to Jim Crow travel restrictions on railroads, which were now controlled by the government. All of the demands were important, but the plea for action against lynching stood out, mirroring the editorial emphasis of black newspapers. The most important of these is lynching. An attempt to equalize among black and white troops the proportion of draftees assigned to stevedore regiments, service battalions, etc.
He then asked Wilson to take action. Two weeks later, Baker again prodded Wilson to act on the matter, at least by replying to Scott. Since war had proved to be a catalyst for black progress, it seemed reasonable to assume that another major advance might accompany this war. Germany has outlawed herself among the nations because she has disregarded the sacred obligations of law and has made lynchers of her armies.
Lynchers emulate her disgraceful example. If we really are, in deed and in truth, let us see to it that we do not discredit our own. I say plainly that every American who takes part in the action of a mob or gives it any sort of countenance is no true son of this great Democracy, but its betrayer. How shall we commend democracy to the acceptance of other peoples, if we disgrace our own by proving that it is, after all, no protection to the weak? Every mob contributes to German lies about the United States what her most gifted liars cannot improve upon by the way of calumny.
They can at least say that such things cannot happen in Germany except in times of revolutions, when law is swept away. Weaver assumed a connection. After all, the St. Surely they would respond to this plea, too. Who knows? Most important, African Americans had apparently convinced the man with the greatest access to the American public to speak out against lynching.
They had won all this not through passive accommodation or extreme militancy but with a measured approach combining militant demands with accommodating assurances. In short, they wielded what power they had but not heedless of the dangers they faced.
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Black editors had seized his rationale for war and applied it to the situation of blacks, particularly in the American South. Prodded by top advisers, Wilson had come to see the need to recognize black loyalty and undermine black unrest.
The black press did not bring this about single-handedly. The Houston riot was only the most extreme example of black soldiers lashing out against racism. In several other cases, black soldiers retaliated against white soldiers and civilians who were trampling on their rights. Some black men resisted conscription. When Creel and Baker sought to understand black unrest, they monitored black newspapers and then called black editors to Washington.
The black press became a channel through which black America communicated with the highest levels of authority. It portrayed African Americans in a favorable light, announced their demands, and made a convincing case that those demands had to be met sooner rather than later. In actuality, lynching had been going on for decades. Public opinion— even in the South—now sustained organized opposition to lynching. Just a week earlier, Smith, a white investment banker who had formed an antilynching league but supported disfranchisement of blacks and separation of the races, had read a newspaper account of the killing of a black man after a similar incident in the city.
The two streetcar episodes troubled Smith because they seemed part of a larger disturbing pattern. In the year after the end of the war, black newspapers sought to present the New Negro to white America in a particular way. In the year or so after the end of the war, white Americans were eager to listen to these messages. Federal government surveillance did not end with the cessation of hostilities but expanded, and it was matched by increasing interest among white citizens, ranging from a former president to white residents of numerous rural southern communities.
Again, the federal agencies investigating these mainstream black newspapers imposed no serious negative sanctions against them, and most of the publishers were probably unaware of the extent of government scrutiny. For these reasons, he said, black people must know that violence would not further their cause. Byrnes accused the black press of driving black readers to interracial violence. In an ensuing riot, whites killed one black man and burned several homes and stores. Longview was not the only community where whites kept their eyes on black publications.
White readers from across the South complained to federal authorities about the Defender and other black newspapers. Brough and the Arkansas Gazette, based in Little Rock, claimed that black newspapers had incited blacks in Phillips County to plot a massacre of local white plantation owners. As it turned out, whites in Phillips County would massacre perhaps hundreds of poor blacks that fall. In a second letter, this time to the new postal solicitor, H.
After conducting his own investigation in Phillips County, White had formulated a version of events totally at odds with the account given by Brough, the Arkansas Gazette, and the Committee of Seven white citizens who had investigated the riot. Bratton, about challenging elements of this peonage system in the courts, and others were planning to refuse to harvest cotton unless the landowners agreed to pay market prices. But the Defender and other black publications probably did contribute to the emergence of a more militant attitude among black readers in Phillips County, thus nurturing activism and encouraging armed self-defense.
At the same time, assertive black newspapers may have spurred whites to launch their massacre of African Americans. One white reader from the county warned the Defender that its rhetoric led whites to kill blacks. Between July and November, Robert T. Still, even committed white supremacists like Brough sometimes had to engage in dialogue with northern black editors whom they could not destroy through force.
Although these charges turned out to be baseless, the Lusk Committee concluded that radical propaganda addressed to blacks fell on soil made fertile by racial oppression, a point some black editors had made. According to the white daily, the Cleveland News, Chief Smith accused the Gazette editor of trying to stir up trouble and threatened to charge him with murder if anyone died in a race riot in Cleveland. Another local daily, the Cleveland NewsLeader, however, reported that Chief Smith denied the remarks.
In the next Gazette, Smith reiterated his endorsement of armed self-defense, while noting his longterm opposition to mob violence. It mattered because they believed black newspapers had a major impact on the consciousness and actions of African Americans, whom they hoped to control. Longview rioters who responded to this were not simply defending the honor of one white woman; they were defending their particular view of reality and way of life.
Other readers, particularly northerners and Robert Kerlin, showed a more open-minded curiosity about the black press, a willingness to listen to it and learn from it. On such individuals, the editors, publishers, and writers of the black press pinned their hopes for a more just society. I am very much interested in having the editorial feeling of the newspaper get to the white people. With your help and experience we shall look forward to a new tomorrow, not of subservience, not of meek and humble obeisance to any class, but with a determination to demand what is our due at all times and in all places.
Webb wrote in the Baltimore AfroAmerican. Ellis, a decorated black war hero who had made friends with white soldiers in military hospitals and on the boat ride home from France, arrived in Newport News and boarded a local ferry, a white southerner tried to prevent him from accompanying his friends.
But the Tribune did not deny that the war had made African Americans in general more militant. No doubt much of this writing was directed at African Americans to encourage them to seize the propitious moment soon after their patriotic contribution. But writers frequently aimed their remarks directly at white Americans or the nation as a whole. They reminded white people of what blacks deserved and what would happen if they did not get it.
Black editors and journalists—North and South—generally condemned the lawlessness but applauded blacks who fought back with force. Reports on the riots resembled accounts of sporting events, with writers tallying up the casualties on each side of the color line. Army riot guns, got him into trouble with the local police. Both the chief of the Cleveland police and the local newspapers got the message. Yet Abbott still wanted to drive the lesson of the rioting home to white Americans who might read or hear about his paper.
Those who indulge in mobbing him now and hereafter have got to pay the cost, and pay it in lives. The blacks fought back. Only a few black publications, like the Messenger, the Challenge, and the Crusader, all published in New York City, professed the radical ideologies the government feared most: bolshevism, socialism, anarchism, and syndicalism. Most black weekly newspapers used great care in presenting this aspect of the New Negro to white America. But ultimately the editors maintained a stand of political independence. The two were sometimes depicted as locked in battle with each other for the soul of America.
But the moment also held extraordinary promise for the redemption of America. Rather than taking the urban rioting in northern cities as evidence that racism was a national rather than primarily a southern problem, black newspapers could blame it, as they had the East St. The result is the inculcation of a disregard of law and order in both races. He does not feel that he has the force of the whole community, the whole county, the whole state, and the whole section of the country against him.
The records of history will show that the United States fought valiantly for Democracy in Europe. It spread lawlessness, undermined democratic values, and promoted the values of the enemy—whether they be autocratic Germans or Russian Bolsheviks. Shillady in Austin, Texas. After Governor William Hobby condoned the attack, Mitchell wrote an editorial that indicted the South and invested hopes for racial progress solely in northerners. Mitchell had shrewdly surmised that the longer the war went on, the more race reform it would bring.
In fact, the attacks on black radicals and periodicals after the war showed that the federal government could not be relied on to bring about justice for African Americans. They continued to trust that many white men of goodwill believed in fairness and justice without regard to race and that many would support black rights if only they were better informed.
The ease with which government propagandists manipulated public opinion during the war led journalist Walter Lippmann and others to conclude that the people could not be relied on to comprehend the complexities of modern mass society and to call for intelligent and knowledgeable leaders to guide public opinion in the interests of order and prosperity, even at the cost of truly democratic decision making.
In a nation founded on democratic ideals, President Wilson found it necessary to articulate a democratic rationale for going to war, and some activists managed to convince him, in turn, that the same ideals should be applied to oppressed individuals at home. To some extent, African Americans soft-pedaled their criticisms, especially after the enforcement of the Espionage and Sedition Acts began.
But their wartime moderation should not be judged simply as a response to the threat of physical force wielded by the government or uncritical acceptance of prowar propaganda. Even historian Theodore Kornweibel Jr. After the end of the war, militancy increased again even though government scrutiny continued. So a number of factors, including coercion, prowar propaganda, public opinion, local conditions, and the expectations of African American readers, helped to shape the responses of black newspapers to the war.
But although black journalists could not ignore these factors or act as if they were free of their social context, their actions were not wholly determined. Rather, they took account of existing circumstances while devising responses that helped to shape events in ways that, for the most part, served black interests well. After the government met with black editors, listened to their demands, and then began acting on them, it seemed that the war might actually advance the interests of African Americans.
Editors who believed the war was serving their interests accordingly became more supportive of the federal government. There is no reason to believe that their optimism was misplaced. Although the government was acting out of necessity rather than moral conviction—as some black editors observed—the measures it took were real and seemed to signal a reversal of its long-standing inattention to African Americans. Had the war lasted longer, the gains might have been more substantial. A number of southern organizations began to campaign against lynching during the war, and a congressman from Missouri introduced a bill to make lynching a federal crime.
If, as sociologists Stewart E. Tolnay and E. Beck argue, white southerners came to oppose lynching because they thought it was driving away their labor force, then the black press can be said to have reinforced this trend by urging blacks to migrate and publicizing the theory that lynching caused migration of blacks from the South. Although most of the mainstream media remained closed to dissident or minority views and concerns, the experience of the black press suggests that alternative media can circumvent that limitation and allow disfranchised citizens access to the state.
Of course, the black press was not completely successful. Advocates of militant protest sometimes played down or condemned evidence of black rebelliousness during the war. Editors who saw the reasons for the Houston mutiny denounced the mutineers or even endorsed their punishment.
Even the most militant of the black newspapers followed a path that combined protest and accommodation and mixed demands for reparations with pledges of loyalty. But none of the papers were either purely militant or purely accommodating. Although northern black newspapers made more scathing condemnations of the South and southern whites, they also exhibited accommodation in important ways with their strong support of the war. Looking back, militants have found too much accommodation in the black press during the war.
Militancy should not be considered an end in itself but rather a means to bringing about greater human rights. Moreover, African Americans were not alone in struggling with ideological contradictions in relation to World War I. All over the world, individuals attempted to reconcile the desire to promote democracy with nationalistic feelings. No one exhibited this tension more than the American president, who pledged to make the world safe for democracy while signing and enforcing legislation that sent dissenters to jail.
Even after W. In both wars, most black publishers proceeded resolutely but cautiously in forwarding black demands during a time of national crisis. Like all individuals, they did not make history just as they liked but from existing conditions. Chicago Broad Ax, Dec. Some, however, commented on its role as a representative or defender of the race. California Eagle, Sept. On the treatment of blacks in the media, see Marian J. Thousand Oaks, Calif. See also Roland E. Wolseley, The Black Press, U. See Ottley, Lonely Warrior, esp. See E.
For another account that emphasizes the black press as an agent of identity formation, see Martin E. Dann, ed. Another piece of evidence that whites read the black press of which the editors would not have been aware is that some whites saved clippings from black newspapers in their private papers.
Linguist M. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist; ed. The idea that power is exercised through discursive practices as well as coercive force is discussed in Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. On southern atrocities, see Savannah Tribune, Nov. The best example of this interpretation is in Arthur E. See also David M. Tuttle Jr. Patrick S.
Theodore Kornweibel Jr. Kornweibel and others argue that accounts that emphasize black support of the war shortchange militancy by relying too heavily on elite sources and ignoring the actions of the masses. See, for example, Steven A. Washington and W. See also John E. Unless otherwise noted, the following account is based on Christine Lunardini, ed. Trotter and Mr. Stephen R. Arthur S. Some would question whether Du Bois belongs in this group.
Unlike most black periodicals, the Crisis was published monthly instead of weekly and was not fully controlled by blacks. See also Charles A. Clint C. See also ibid. See ibid. See Roland E. On racial attitudes in the antebellum period, see George M. Fredrickson argues that Lincoln acknowledged the humanity of blacks while denying them equality with whites and favoring colonization to Africa. See George M. Thomas J. Few of these journals survived more than a decade; most collapsed after a few years. For a critique of uplift ideology, see Kevin K. Clarence E.
Savannah Tribune, Jan. Lester C. Mildred I. Thompson, Ida B. Darlene Clark Hine et al. On the Mississippi black press, see ibid. Some southern black newspapers like the Dallas Express, the Nashville Globe, and most notably the Norfolk Journal and Guide prospered after the turn of the century, but these were the exceptions.
See Jerrell H. Thornbrough, T. On Smith, see Kenneth L. On Fortune, see Thornbrough, T. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds. Quoted in Thornbrough, T. See, for example, Appeal, Mar. See Thornbrough, T. See Willard B. Gatewood Jr. Washington bought the shares through his personal secretary, Emmett J. Louis R. Ida B. On the veil metaphor, see W. Broderick, eds. On the Niagara Movement, see W. Du Bois Papers, W. Du Bois to Joel E.
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Du Bois, The Correspondence of W. Du Bois, ed. Spingarn et al. Rudwick, W. Joel E. Spingarn to W. Du Bois, Oct. Du Bois, Apr. Quoted in Rudwick, W. On Washington, see Booker T. Washington to Thomas T. Fortune, Jan. Washington, The Booker T. Washington Papers, ed. Harlan and Raymond W. Washington to Emmett J. Scott, Jan. On Garvey, see Elliott M. Lewis, W.
Francis L. Broderick, W. The discussion of Abbott and the Chicago Defender is based on ibid. On the masthead suit, see ibid. Trotter Jr. Sanders and Philip M. James W. Two notable exceptions included the Crisis, as already mentioned, and the Norfolk Journal and Guide, which agreed with Du Bois that Germany must be defeated. Savannah Tribune, Dec.
For the observation that the overthrow of the czar should serve as a warning to white southerners who believed in the divine right of one group to rule over another, see ibid. See Stewart E. Even statistics after that time are considered conservative estimates since some lynchings were never reported. On the early history of lynching, see W. On problems with statistics, see ibid. A guest columnist opposed U. See Reverdly C. See James W. Untitled editorial, Baltimore Afro-American, Aug. For the argument that America had little reason to invade Haiti and the Dominican Republic, see untitled editorial, Savannah Tribune, Aug.