Thursday, January 17, 2013

1/17 Black Progressives and the Early Civil Rights Movement

J.L. Giles, "Reconstruction," 1867
Note the use of religious imagery

The Battle of Antietam was fought in Maryland on September 17th, 1862. This was the first time the Confederate army under Robert E. Lee had "invaded" the North (the second invasion would lead to the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863). At Antietam, the confederates were beaten in one of the bloodiest battles in history, with more than 25,000 killed or wounded more Americans died on this one day than on any other day in history and more than twice as many as those who died in D-Day in 1944. Five days later, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which would take effect on January 1st, 1863. This executive order freed all the slaves still in confederate territory. Notably, it did not outlaw slavery in the whole union and permitted Southern states who had sided with the Union like Kentucky to keep their slaves. 

Joseph Keppler "Conkling as Mephistopheles," Puck, 1877
Shows Sen. Roscoe Conkling (R-NY) who helped arrange the election of Hayes who is seen walking away with the "South" as a woman.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1865, also while the war was still going which officially abolished slavery in the U.S. The 13th Amendment was considered the first of the "Reconstruction Amendments" passed between 1865 and 1870. 

The 14th Amendment (1868) grants full citizenship rights (including the right to vote) to anyone born in the U.S. and also requires the states to provide equal protection under the laws. This amendment is crucial because it creates the legal pathway to applying the Bill of Rights to the states.   However, because of fierce opposition these protections have had to be fought for in a series of court cases, most notably the civil rights cases of the 1950s and 1960s. 

The 15th Amendment (1870) passed during the administration of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877), who was the commanding general of the Union army, grants voting rights to all persons regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude," however notably, not to gender. It is after this that the women's right movement separates itself from the abolition movement. These amendments were named for the Reconstruction program led by Republicans aimed at rehabilitating and rebuilding the South. This period roughly stretched from 1865-1876. Many historians, like Eric Foner, speak of a "Second Civil War" that was fought during this time which the South won. They point to the rise of terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), made up of former confederate soldiers and generals, and the forced imposition of segregation (or Jim Crow, a pejorative name for blacks) laws which effectively reasserted white supremacy at least until the 1960s. Grant used the Union army to suppress the Klan. 

Tilden has won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. Hayes wins because of LA, FL, and SC which were disputed.

Reconstruction is usually considered to have ended after the election of 1876 (the first Centennial of the Declaration of Independence), when the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly made a "corrupt bargain" with Southern Democrats to gain 19 "disputed" electoral votes in Southern states: South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida. Hayes had lost the popular vote to Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden, the Governor of New York, however Hayes was awarded the disputed votes in exchange for withdrawing federal troops from the South, and thus appeasing Democrats. After becoming President, Hayes withdrew the troops and this allowed Southern Democrats to sweep back into power. 

W.E.B. DuBois
“To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.” This begins William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) DuBois’s (1868-1963) landmark study in race relations, The Souls of Black Folk (1903). The problem to which he is referring to, the problem which he defines as the issue of the 20th century, is "the color line" that exists not just in America but throughout the world. Although relating mostly to the American experience, DuBois would argue that a proper understanding of the color line is essential for understanding imperialism which dominated foreign affairs in the late 19th and early 20th century.

DuBois then challenges the prevailing consensus, established since Tocqueville that there is a singular American tradition based on the ideas of natural rights and equality. Instead DuBois is concerned with what Rogers Smith will later term "Ascribed Americanism" (ascribed, meaning to attribute characteristics to someone, literally coming from the word "scribe" meaning to write). In other words that there are distinctly "American" characteristics "written on" people. "Ascribed" status then is used in opposition to "achieved" status and refers to an unchangeable status you have at birth. Put simply, some people are "born Americans" and some are not, this ideology can be understood to be the opposite of the idea of "transnationalism" described by Bourne.

Smith will define this ideology in direct contrast to the ideas of an American consensus we have already touched upon with Tocqueville (mores) and Hartz (irrational Lockeanism), but also with Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish economist who is ironically best known for his book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy first published in 1944—still in DuBois' lifetime but slightly ahead of the period of time we are discussing. The thesis of the book is important for what we are looking at now because Myrdal like Tocqueville shares a similar idea of an American consensus (or creed), however he argues that racism in America can essentially be explained by a failure to realize these values or to live up to these principles. DuBois then begins the line of inquiry which goes to show that an established, well-developed racist ideology has been prevalent in the development of the laws and institutions of the U.S. and continues to be in the present, that is not simply the result of a lack of values, the absence of liberal ideology, but is in fact a developed system of values and opinions in itself.

In 1903 the world had basically been divided into colonial empires between the so-called ‘Great Powers of the World’: Great Britain, France, Russia, since the 1880s Germany and Japan, and after 1898 the United States. Beginning in 1884 into the following year, the Berlin Conference was held to organize and coordinate the efforts of the imperial powers in dividing up the regions of the world, in response to the rise of Germany in the late 19th century. The results of this conference begins what scholars call the "Scramble for Africa" an intensification of the efforts of European powers to divide up the regions of Africa between 1880-1914 when World War I begins. 

Before the 1890s, the United States was engaged in a continual process of Westward expansion that dated back to the earliest origins of the nations and only concluded by then. This was the frontier thesis by Frederick Jackson Turner who established the discipline of history in the U.S. 

The U.S. then challenged the once powerful Spanish Empire resulting in the Spanish-American War in 1898. Although the U.S. annexed Puerto Rico as a result of this conflict and made Cuba a dependent (though nominally independent) state, the U.S. made significant gains in the Pacific region as well annexing former Spanish colonies Guam and the Philippines. U.S. influence in the Caribbean and South America went at least as far back as the Monroe Doctrine of the 1820s. In 1855, a private expedition was led by William Walker to intervene in a civil war in Nicaragua, and after setting up his own puppet government, Walker himself became President of Nicaragua in 1856, he was later executed in 1860. Before the Panama Canal and the transcontinental railway were constructed, Nicaragua was used a route for Atlantic traffic crossing to the Pacific, and Walker's expedition was funded by U.S. business interests like Cornelius Vanderbilt who controlled railroads and steamship lines. U.S. involvement in the affairs of Nicaragua would reach another high point in the 1980s.

Having territories in the Pacific—including Hawaii, which was also annexed in 1898 after having overthrown its monarchy in 1893—was something new. However, the acquisition of overseas territories like Puerto Rico creates the first influx of immigrants from the these territories in the early 1900s. Mexican immigration begins even earlier, however the status of "immigrants" on land that was recently part of Mexico is highly contentious.
"School Begins," Louis Dalrymple, Puck, 1899
Uncle Sam (US) is seen discipling new additions to the American Empire:
Puerto Rico, Cuba, Hawaii, and the Philippines
An African-American, working, and a Native-American, reading upside down, and a Chinese immigrant, a new addition to the class (?) can be seen as well
The blackboard in the back says, "the U.S. must govern these territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves."

 It is ironic then, that a war against a fading European power justified by its atrocities committed towards Cuba and the Philippines, had the ultimate outcome of securing the U.S. presence in the Pacific. The war against Spain on a level not usually explicitly acknowledged also reinforced the idea of a clash between civilizations. The Spanish Empire was a reminder of a once great empire that had declined in power and prestige. In a way the relative ease in which the U.S. defeated Spain reinforced the idea of the transient and fleeting nature of glory and power. At the same time in which war is being fought against Spain, the U.S. Congress votes to annex Hawaii in June 1898.The acquisition of the Philippines and Guam, however cemented the U.S. presence in the East and Southeast Asian regions. Before the U.S. troops had landed in Cuba, the U.S. Navy had already attacked and destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay under the command of George Dewey who became one of the biggest heroes of the war. 

The tenacity of the U.S. in holding on to its newly established overseas Pacific territories is testament to the prolonged occupation of Philippines islands from 1899-1902 in which as many as 1.5 million Filipinos were killed. Although not as well-known this was the Vietnam War of the early 20th century. An insurrection by the Muslim "Moros" on the Philippines lasted from 1899-1913.
Jolo Massacre, 1906

Five years before war was declared the U.S. had also suffered its worst financial panic to date at that time in 1893. The feeling of divisiveness lingering from the Civil War compounded with the dread of financial ruin and unemployment after the “Panic of ’93” weakened the American public’s susceptibility to “war fever.” 

Estimates of the impact of the depression of 1893 are difficult to determine due to a lack of reliable empirical data from this period of time. For example, determining the level of unemployment in the country from 1893 and on falls within a diverse range of interpretations. Romer, estimates unemployment higher than 11% in 1895, and still over eleven in 1898. By 1900, unemployment had dropped down to 5% (Romer 1986). However, other estimates put the unemployment levels even higher and more volatile. Lebergott estimates unemployment at almost 14% in 1895, dropping only slightly to 12%, before also reaching 5% unemployment in 1900 (Lebergott 1992). By most estimates though, unemployment was well over 10% between 1894-1900, when it drastically decreased to around 5%. As the once reluctant President McKinley said after mobilization for war began, “There is no division in any part of the land. North, south, east and west, all alike cheerfully respond. From cap and campaign there comes magic healing which has closed ancient wounds.”

The development of American imperialism obviously was not the first encounter that Americans had of people of different backgrounds. Although it was now coming into area of the Asian states directly, tensions between whites and Asians was nothing new. Threats of the “Yellow Peril” had long been a part of American discourse since the early 19th century. As the U.S. became more of an overseas power it had more and more contact with the empires of Japan and China as well. Japan had actually been "opened" to the West by the U.S. in the 1850s after U.S. Naval Commodore Perry sailed his "Black Ships" into Tokyo. China or at least its port cities in the late nineteenth century was being divided by different European powers. The U.S. tried to maintain an "Open Door" policy of free trade in China (in reality to give itself an opportunity to trade in China which had already been monopolized by Europeans especially the British).
Theodore Roosevelt

The rhetoric used to justify these policies is summed by the theme of "responsibility." Since the U.S. is the strongest and the wealthiest nation (Social Darwinism) it should use this power responsibly. This sentiment is summed up in the phrase "White Man's Burden" after the poem by Rudyard Kipling in 1899. Probably the best representative of this idea was Theodore Roosevelt, who became President in 1901 after McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist. Roosevelt had become a national celebrity for his exploits in the Spanish-American War and became Governor of New York in 1899 before becoming McKinley's running mate in the Presidential election of 1900, which they won decisively. In one of the most famous political speeches, entitled, "The Strenous Life" first delivered in 1899 Roosevelt lays out the basis of the "responsibility" of the U.S. to play a greater role in foreign affairs, and compares the U.S. to another fading empire at this time, China:

We of this generation do not have to face a task such as that our fathers faced, but we have our tasks, and woe to us if we fail to perform them! We cannot, if we would, play the part of China, and be content to rot by inches in ignoble ease within our borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them, sunk in a scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, of toil and risk, busying ourselves only with the wants of our bodies for the day, until suddenly we should find, beyond a shadow of question, what China has already found, that in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities.
Roosevelt would be re-elected in 1904 on the strength of his most famous achievement the acquisition of the Isthmus of Panama and the beginning of the construction of the Panama Canal in 1904, a vital linkage between East and West. This was followed by the election of Roosevelt’s handpicked successor William Howard Taft in 1908, the former governor of the Philippines.

Other influential progressive leaders like Indiana Republican Senator Albert J. Beveridge also spoke in favor of imperialism and the supremacy of Anglo-Saxon civilization like in this speech from early 1900 during the Philippine-American War:
God has not been preparing the English speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. No! He has made us the master-organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns….He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples….He has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America….The Philippines are ours forever. We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world (Butterfield 1957, p. 287).

Beveridge would later help Roosevelt found the Progressive Party for the 1912 Presidential election. 

In the media and academia these attitudes were also echoed by influential progressive elites like Kansas editor William Allen White who wrote in the Emporia Gazette in March 1899: “Only Anglo-Saxons can govern themselves. The Cubans will need a despotic government for many years to restrain anarchy until Cuba is filled with Yankees….It is the Anglo-Saxon’s manifest destiny to go forth as world conqueror. He will take possession of the islands of the sea….This is what fate holds for the chosen people” (Butterfield p. 287). Similarly, John W. Burgess, who founded the discipline of political science in the U.S. and the journal Political Science Quarterly, also a professor to Theodore Roosevelt at Columbia University wrote of the superiority of the Teutonic peoples in 1884: “The creation of Teutonic political genius stamps the Teutonic nations as the political nation par excellence, and authorizes them, in the economy of the world, to assume the leadership in the establishment and the administration of states” (Hofstadter 1955, p.175). 

Not all culture was pressed into servicing the myth of white supremacy and not all segments of American life favored imperialism. I mentioned last class William Graham Sumner, who founded sociology in the U.S. was opposed to imperialism and some could see through the sham of "ascribed Americanism," even then, for example Mark Twain who wrote in his travel book, Following the Equator (1897): “There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.”

However, the average American was less concerned with issues of international trade than with having to compete against immigrant laborers. Most notably Chinese immigrants competed with whites as cheap labor (Germans, Scandinavians, Poles, Scots, English, Irish, and others) for jobs working on railroads. The Transcontinental Railroad, started under Lincoln, would not have been completed without Chinese labor.
Chinese workers building the Transcontinental Railroad, circa 1868

The economic conflict over jobs that turns into racial conflict was something that DuBois noted carefully having observed a similar pattern in the South. Patterns of industrialization seem to begin first in cities and then pushes itself gradually into the rural countryside. The mechanism that explains this development is the search for cheap labor and land. As the wages of workers go up in cities, and other production costs increases like rent and transportation, manufacturers look outside the cities for a cheaper supply of workers and cheaper land. Regionally this pattern repeats itself on a larger scale: industrial factories start moving to the South. This sets off a conflict between whites and blacks for these factory jobs.

The "Great Migration" of African-Americans out of the South into Northern cities beginning about 1910, caused in large part by the end of Reconstruction and the establishment of Jim Crow laws roughly between 1870-1900. Chicago especially becomes one of the most popular destinations for blacks who are moving North. This is one reason why Chicago is sometimes referred to as "the Capital of Black America."

Distribution of African-American population, 1890

Overall as the 20th century was beginning it appeared as if race relations were getting worse in the country. In the Pacific states in the West anti-Chinese, and anti-Japanese feelings had already boiled over into full race riots. Legislation had also been passed limiting the number of Chinese and Japanese immigrants and putting strict limits on citizenship. In the South, lynching was escalating. 
Lynching of Laura and Lawrence Nelson, 1911

The first official segregation laws are passed supposedly intended as a way of diffusing more extreme forms of violence. In the North the conflict over industrial jobs was repeating itself as in the South, as some blacks begin migrating to the North for the first time. Also forms of “scientific racism” are coming into vogue at this time. All sorts of reputed “scientific studies” proving the superiority of the white race are being published during this time. Many of these theories that are equally popular in Europe and produced by many European intellectuals, become the basis of Nazi racial ideology.
Thomas Nast, "Scientific Racism," Harper's Weekly, circa 1882. Depicting Irish (Hibernian), Anglo-Saxon (Teutonic), and Negro

As African studies professor Molefi Kete Asante has said, before Dubois, African-Americans had "sporadic episodes of brilliance" and people like Phyllis Wheatley or Frederick Douglas might come to mind (Asante 2008). DuBois however was able to expand the work of African-Americans by creating institutions, in terms of education, of political activism, and other voluntary associations to provide a forum and an arena for African-Americans to mobilize themselves as a population. He also, almost single-handedly, confronts the myth of white supremacy head on to prove scientifically that blacks are not inferior to whites. He is willing to confront the supposedly scientific studies that prove white supremacy and debunk them one at a time. One way to do this is to provide real scientifc studies of African-Americans. DuBois' first major work is The Philadelphia Negro (1899), which was a systematic study of the black community in Philadelphia, the first systematic and unbiased study of African-Americans, as well one of the first major works of urban sociology, and one of the first major works to incorporate statistical analysis.

DuBois is closest to the intellectual heritage of Henry David Thoreau and the descendents of the Puritans. He was born and raised in Massachusetts as was Thoreau and Sam Adams. Later, he attended Fisk University a predominantly black college in Tennessee founded during the Reconstruction Era in 1866. He later attended Harvard, however, during his time at Harvard he transferred to the University of Berlin (1892-1894) and studied under German social scientists and economists who at that time were considered the best in their field. Despite wanting to stay on in Germany, Harvard made him come back and he finished his degree there. During his time in Germany, DuBois notices the conditions of Africans in Europe and other ethnic and racial groups. From these experiences, DuBois is able to "internationalize the African struggle" by showing that it was a global struggle. DuBois was instrumental in creating the first Pan-African Conference in 1900 and served as a delegate. He would later argue that imperialist competition over Africa is what pushed Europe into World War I.

The influence of his German philosophical training shows up in one of DuBois’ most important contributions, the idea of “Double Consciousness”. DuBois argues that everyone has a consciousness or awareness of who they think they are and who other people think they are. In German the word is Geist, and also means spirit. In Germany at this time they were teaching every people and every race has their own "spirit" and so DuBois picks up this line of thought in his work which is to depict the spirit or the souls of black folk. In the case of African-Americans, there is a greater tension between their own self-image and societies image of themselves. He argues that this causes significant tension but also allows the individual to be more self-consciously in control over their societal or public image of themselves. 

The opposite DuBois argues could be far worse, when there is no tension between your private self and your public image there is the tendency to forget there is a difference and the public self overwhelms the private self. With many Anglo-Saxons since there is less tension between their private and public selves, there is less self-awareness. In other words DuBois argues, a certain distance or tension between the two strengthens the inner spirit of the individual, however in the case of most blacks in America he argues the tension is too great and does more harm then good. Some modern African studies thinkers have critiqued this view which they regard as coming from DuBois' own mixed background.

DuBois’ had a famous feud and rivalry with Booker T. Washington, over Washington’s conformity with dominant white values and what he saw as an attitude of submission on the part of Washington. Instead DuBois favored direct political action and he was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. As the editor of its journal The Crisis, DuBois published articles that confronted racism directly and critiqued racist arguments.

He was also one of the first to write about the importance of the church in the black community. He also believed that a small part of the population “The Talented Tenth” as in ten percent of the black population was necessary in order to form a class of leadership, which has somewhat of an anti-democratic aspect to it.  

In the 1960s, he joined the Communist Party. Part of the reason DuBois is such an important thinker is because he was around so long. In terms of output he is responsible for over 2,000 publications in the course of his life. In historical terms, he is a thinker whose experience expands from the end of Reconstruction to the Cold War. He also moved to Ghana, the first sub-Saharan African nation to declare independence after World War II, where he became a committed African nationalist, Asante argues that at this point that DuBois abandons the notion of "double consciousness."

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Evidence of double-consciousness can be seen for example in the work of African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), who is known for his poems that are written in the more classical style and then poems written in "Negro dialect." It is notable that publishers usually insisted on his "Negro" poetry and was popular with a white audience. Dunbar himself always suspected the "marketability" of these poems, feeling it was in some way demeaning:

(From "Dreams")
What dreams we have and how they fly
Like rosy clouds across the sky;
Of wealth, of fame, of sure success,
Of love that comes to cheer and bless;
And how they wither, how they fade,
The waning wealth, the jilting jade —
The fame that for a moment gleams,
Then flies forever, — dreams, ah — dreams!

(From "A Warm Day In Winter")
"Sunshine on de medders,
Greenness on de way;
Dat's de blessed reason
I sing all de day."
Look hyeah! What you axing'?
What meks me so merry?
'Spect to see me sighin'
W'en hit's wa'm in Febawary?

Langston Hughes
In contrast, later poets like Langtson Hughes (1902-1967) sought to develop a more uniquely African-American perspective. Hughes came to prominence in the 1920s, as part of the Harlem Renaissance, and many of his early poems were published in DuBois' journal The Crisis. However Hughes and many other black artists and activists of his generation criticized the older generation represented by DuBois for being too accommodating to Eurocentric values, and thus anticipating the criticism of contemporary scholars like Asante. Hughes is usually credited with the phrase, "Black is beautiful."

Next class we will look at the Progressive Era. The articles by Bourne and Chesterton we read at the beginning of class were written during this time period.

Assignment (Due 1/22): Choose a passage from DuBois' writing and from the poems by Hughes  and write out the passages. Interpret them and explain why you chose them. 

Also go to African-America Odyssey and choose one section on Reconstruction and one on the "Booker T Washington Era." Summarize and interpret them on your blogs as well. If you are choosing a photo or an image, post the picture on your blog. If you are summarizing something that is written, write out the passage in your blog.

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