Extension of Remarks of
Robert R. Reynolds
in the Senate of the
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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Guidebook Arouses Fuss
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
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
The authority, Mr. Keefe countered, was the
"mere assertion of a young Negro student trained at Howard
"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
"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,
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
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.
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
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
* * *
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
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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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
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
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update 4 February 2012