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Blacks, Unions, & Organizing in the South, 1956-1996


Compiled by Rudolph Lewis





He Stakes Future On Southern Way

By the Associate Press

The Charlotte Observer

(December 16, 1956)

            Ask State Sen. Sam Engelhardt of Macon County (86 per cent Negro) in southern Alabama to explain his conception of the southern way of life and he says a person would have to live in the South and learn the Negro for at least a year to understand.

            He abhors deliberate efforts to inflame racial passions, nevertheless he is determined that the southern way of life he has known for 44 years shall be maintained.

            Is the negro innately inferior to the white man?

            "Yes," says Engelhardt.

            "If you educate the Negro, what are you educating him for?"

            "Let him have his own society," he replied. "We ought to raise him morally and economically."

            Can the South maintain separate white and Negro cultures of people of equal education without conflict?

            "The vast majority of southerners think so. There might be some conflict, but the white folks would be working hard and trying to head off that conflict."

posted 24 July 2008

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White Supremacy in US. History (Ted Allen)—The capitalist system of production was in force from the beginning in these colonies. The central problem of the plantation bourgeoisie was what form of labor was best for its needs. It could not work the land under a feudal system of hereditary bondage to the landlord's ground. That would not work because of the unlimited availability of free land on the frontier. Wage labor was not feasible because it would be so costly in relation to wages in England as to lower profits below the critical point for colonial development. The method struck upon was unpaid labor for a fixed term, usually five to seven years.

To get an adequate supply of labor was an enormous problem to the planters. After the English Revolution of 1640-1660 demand for labor expanded in England and limited the supply of English labor available to the colonies, the planters turned increasingly to African labor. Up to the 1680's little distinction was made in the status of Blacks and English and other Europeans held in involuntary servitude. Contrary to common belief the status of the Blacks in the first seventy years of Virginia colony was not that of racial, lifelong, hereditary slavery, and the majority of the whites who came were not free.

All bondmen stood somewhere 'midway between freedom and absolute subjection." Their common lot led them to make common cause and to a qualitatively different relationship between Black and white labor than what it came to be later. Blacks and whites ran away together. Black and white servants intermarried. In 1661 Black and Irish servants joined in an insurrectionary plot in Bermuda. In 1663 in Virginia former soldiers of Cromwell's defeated New Model armies who had been transported to servitude plotted an insurrection for the common freedom of Black, white, and Indian servants.

The leaders of Bacon's rebellion in 1676 enlisted Black and white bond-servants to bolster the faltering revolt. "Bacon's followers having deserted him he had proclaimed liberty to the servants and slaves which chiefly formed his army when he burnt Jamestown the Virginia colonial capital." Upon defeat of the rebellion, Capt. Thomas Grantham, acting on behalf of the Governor, was by a policy of conciliation able to arrange the surrender of a part of the rebel forces at a place called West Point. "Grantham then went over to the south bank of the York and marched a few miles to Colonel John West's brick house, which served as the chief garrison and magazine of the rebels. There he found four hundred English and Negroes in arms.—SojournerTruth

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American Exceptionalism—The specific term "American exceptionalism" was first used in 1929 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin chastising members of the American Communist Party for believing that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history "thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions." Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense. To them, the United States is like the biblical "shining city on a hill," and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries. Since the 1960s "postnationalist" scholars on the left have rejected American exceptionalism, arguing that the United States had not broken from European history, and has retained class inequities, imperialism and war. Furthermore, they saw every nation as subscribing to some form of exceptionalism.—Wikipedia

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On Roediger's Wages of Whiteness—Theodore W. AllenAmerican Exceptionalism—That white blindspot, which is inherent in the doctrine of American Exceptionalism, has historically frustrated the search for an explanation for the degree of class consciousness with which European-American workers have perceived, and still do perceive, their class interests as workers.

It would seem that David might have found American Exceptionalism's historiographical tradition of white blindness relevant to his purpose of correcting the tendency of "new labor historians" who fail to pose the problem of why "members of the white working class came to consider themselves white." Yet he ignores it. A close reading of the book reveals why. For one thing, as a disciple of Herbert Gutman, Roediger proceeds on the assumption of parallels, rather than contrasts, between the development of the consciousness of the English working class in the late 18th and the early 19th century, and United States labor history in the 1812-1860 period, even though he believes that adjustments need to be made in its application. That assumption contradicts the predicate theme of American Exceptionalism. Gutman's approach, furthermore, denies the premise that there is a historical role for the working class.

When asked by an interviewer, "Why has there been no mass socialist movement in the United States," Gutman replied that that was a "nonhistorical question," because it rested on an assumption that there was a "proper" and an "improper" way for a workers' movements to develop. Having made his decision to align his thesis with Gutman, why should Roediger want to get involved in the issue of the comparatively low level of class consciousness of the American working class? Secondly, David's psycho-cultural analysis finds no relevance in objective factors such as constitute the standard rationale for the low level of class consciousness of workers in this country. Indeed reference to them could only obscure, or even contradict, Roediger's concept of his subject, designed as it is to steer clear of a class struggle interpretation of the etiology of "white" identity. He seems to have as little use for "an historical task that workers faced" as Gutman did.—Cultural Logic 

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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