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The authority, Mr. Keefe countered, was the "mere assertion of a young Negro student

trained at Howard University."And the fact disputed . . . "is but another evidence

of the insidious influence that communism has prompted in cultivating racial prejudice."



"WPA Guidebook Arouses Fuss"

Extension of Remarks of

Hon. Robert R. Reynolds 

of North Carolina

in the Senate of the United States

Saturday, April 8 (legislative day of Thursday, April 6), 1939

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Article from the Baltimore Sun 

Mr. Reynolds. Mr President, I ask unanimous consent for publication in the Appendix of the Congressional Record of an article from the columns of the Baltimore Sun, issue of Saturday, April 8, 1939, without comment, at this time.

There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

[From the Baltimore Sun of April 8, 1939]

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W.P.A. Guidebook Arouses Fuss

Linking Washington and Negro--Allusion to "Colored Daughter"

of Adopted Son Is Blasted as Libel In House Debate

[By C.P. Trussell]


Washington, April 7 -- New hot water for the W.P.A.'s Federal writers' project was being stored up on Capitol Hill today because of what that agency views as an "incidental reference" in its guidebook of Washington to George Washington Parke Custis.

The reference, apparently unnoticed outside the project until recently, was to the effect that the stepgrandson of George Washington--who later became his adopted son--and father-in-law of Gen. Robert E. Lee, was the father of Maria Syphax, a Negro.

First to blast this assertion as "a libel" and "an attempt to stimulate a feeling of class hatred" was Representative Keefe (Republican, Wisconsin), who, after conducting his own investigation, took the issue to the floor of the House yesterday.

Today his speech in the Congressional Record caused a rumbling on the Senate side to supplement the fighting going on there over the W.P.A.'s supplemental appropriation. Several Senators threatened to take the matter to the Senate floor before the debate is ended.

Tucked away in the middle of a chapter captioned "the Negro in Washington," and telling of the disposition of a large body of freed slaves, the guidebook relates:

They were settled in Arlington in a place known as 'Freedman's Village', very near a tract left by George Washington Parke Custis to his colored daughter, Maria Syphax.

Admittedly, directors of the writers project had questioned this before permitting its publication for Nation-wide distribution nearly two years ago. Convinced, however, that it was written on "competent authority," they let it pass.

The authority, Mr. Keefe countered, was the "mere assertion of a young Negro student trained at Howard University.

"And the fact disputed by tremendous evidence to the contrary to be found in the Congressional Library," he added, "is but another evidence of the insidious influence that communism has prompted in cultivating racial prejudice."

"Here in a Government-sponsored publication, with no authority other than the word of E.D. Preston, Jr., is a gross libel upon the character and reputation of one of our first citizens. This libel has been achieved and is being disseminated by the Works Progress Administration through the instrumentality of a project that has cost the taxpayers of the Nation since the summer of 1935 through February 28, 1939, $15,016,632."

Cites Contradictory Authority

Citing as his own authority the Congressional Globe, Mr. Keefe added:

This young woman, Maria Syphax, was the daughter of two old retainers who had served his [Custis'] grandmother [Martha Washington] and George Washington for many, many years. When she passed to him as part of his inheritance he manumitted her, or freed her, and upon her marriage he gave her a little 17-acre tract of land upon which she lived at or near the present Arlington.

A former three-term prosecuting attorney for Winnebago County, Wis., Mr. Keefe, a newcomer to Congress, did not come across the guidebook until February, and when he read the chapter on the Negro in Washington he got busy. Threading through this chapter, he said, was a very obvious attempt on the part of the writer to "portray the oppression of the negro by the white race, thereby stimulating a feeling of class hatred."

"To me," he observed, "this propaganda, whether it be right or wrong, can only result in stimulating racial intolerance."

Points to Discrimination Charge

In one place, he noted, the chapter read:

Regardless of qualification, the Negro worker meets with definite discrimination. Many American Federation of labor unions exclude him, even more than the white worker he remains poorly led and unorganized.

At another point, Mr. Keefe recalled, was:

From the preservation of the color line in the District grave consequences arise. Educationally, segregation means the maintenance of a dual system--expensive not only in dollars and cents but also in its indoctrination of white children with a belief in their superiority and of Negro children with a belief in their inferiority, both equally false.

Poetically, it is believed by many that the determination to keep the Negro 'in his palce' has lessened the agitation for suffrage in the District.

Quotes Chapter's Conclusion

Concluding the chapter asserts:

In this border city, southern in so many respects, there is a denial of democracy, at times hypocritical and at times flagrant. Social compulsion forces many who would naturally be on the side of civic fairness into hopelessness and indifference.

Washington has made steps in the direction of justice, but many steps remain to be taken for the sake of the underprivileged and for the sake of a greater Washington.

Wanting to know who was the author of the chapter, Mr. Keefe wrote to Henry G. Alsberg, director of the writers' project, and was advised that the "final writing" was done by Prof. Sterling Brown, a member of the history staff at Howard University, the Government-aided Negro institution of higher education here, and a consultant of the W.P.A. project on a part-time basis. [Editor's note: Actually Sterling Brown was on the English staff.]

Says Several Collaborated

Preparation was under the editorial direction of Joseph Gaer, a member of Mr. Alsberg's staff. But, the director explained:

"It is difficult to designate by name any one person responsible for an article in our book because the work is done collectively. A number of people collaborated in the gathering of the material, the checking of facts, the drafting and writing, and then the final editing."

This came a week after Mr. Keefe had written to Col. F.C. Harrington, W.P.A. Administrator, taking issue with the statement concerning George Washington Parke Custis, and asking for an explanation.

Refers to Preston Essay

Answering this, Mr. Alsberg wrote:

The authority for the statement you refer has been taken from E. Delorus Preston, jr., who, in his essay on William Syphax, a Pioneer in Negro Education in the District of Columbia, states:

"On his mother's side William Syphax descended not only from a distinguished line but his ancestry savored very definitely of the plantation aristocracy of the South.

"Maria Syphax was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis and a maid of Martha Washington."

Search for Original Will

"Further, the article continued:

"It is stated, however, that Custis recognized Maria as his child and gave her a piece of property on the Arlington estate.

There are numerous descendants of Maria Syphax living in Washington," the Alsberg letter continued, "also claiming that she was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis.

We are instituting a search through the historical records survey for the original will of George Washington Parke Custis in Alexandria, but so far the original will has not been found . . . . We have made every effort to check all factual material for accuracy.

Preston Identified as Teacher

Mr. keefe sought further information concerning Preston. No record could be found at the Congressional Library, so he appealed to Mr. Alsberg, and was referred to Dr. W.H. Siebert, professor of history at Ohio State University.

"Mr. Preston," Dr. Siebert answered, 

is a colored man whose parents live in Washington. he graduated from Howard University in June 1918 and taught in Negro schools in the South for several years. He entered the graduate school of Ohio State University in September, 1931, his major subject being history.

He wrote a dissertation on the underground railroad for fugitive slaves through a section of Ohio. My recollection is that he has published other articles in the Journal of Negro History. I recommended him to various positions in Negro colleges, etc., since that time, but have no record of the places he may have filled.

No Answer to Letter

Mr. Keefe then went after relatives of Preston here, and was told that he now was teaching in a southern school. He wrote also to Professor Brown, asking for the source of his information concerning Maria Syphax.

Despite the fact that the institution which he serves is supported in large measure by the taxpayers of the United States," he told the House, "I, as a Member of Congress, have not as yet heard a reply to my letter, and, despite repeated telephone calls, I have been unable to contact the gentleman.

In some of the material in the guidebook Mr. Keefe saw evidences of "communistic propaganda."

"Secretly and cleverly throughout the land," he said, "Communists who have wormed their way into high places in the Government are now seeking to aline [sic] us as allies of communistic Russia, and to identify Communist ideals as part and parcel of our future economy."

posted 29 June 2008 

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011


#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

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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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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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update 4 February 2012



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