ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Mr. Wilkins decries not merely the prejudice that was taken along by white
soldiers overseas in an attempt to set up Dixie practices in places like England,
Australia, and North Africa. This article talks about African-American soldiers
being assaulted and killed not by Nazi Germans but by white Americans in
places like Alexandria (Louisiana), Baltimore (Maryland), and in an Arkansas town.
“The Color Line and the War”
A Commentary by Amin Sharif
As I write this commentary on Roy Wilkins article, first published in the The Interracial Review (May 1943), I can not help but reflect on the status of African-Americans and other minorities in the Armed Forces now waiting the impending conflict with Saddam Hussein. There can be no doubt that Wilkins article reflects the true conditions of Negro involvement in pre-war and wartime activities. And, as expected, Mr. Wilkins testimony is no more than a wartime postcard from another time explaining thatthen as nowthings were rough in the Black Community.
What is rare about this article is that it is not simply a generalization of the conditions facing an African-American community ready and willing to give their lives again to defend America. This article contains specifics about the treatment of African-Americans during Americas entry and participation in the war. It is these specifics that paint a damning picture of race prejudice maintained not only at home but abroad.
Mr. Wilkins decries not merely the prejudice that was taken along by white soldiers overseas in an attempt to set up Dixie practices in places like England, Australia, and North Africa. This article talks about African-American soldiers being assaulted and killed not by Nazi Germans but by white Americans in places like Alexandria (Louisiana), Baltimore (Maryland), and in an Arkansas town.
Today, of course, American troops of color face another problem. For, perhaps, the first time in American military and political history, these troops–our sons and daughters–are being asked to fight an uncertain war. Quick parallels will be made between this conflict and the War in Vietnam. And those parallels, in many ways, should be dismissed. The American public, including many prominent Black leaders, were early supporters of that war. It was only after the body bags began returning that the American public turned sour on the war. There is no such illusion connected to this War. It will be costly in manpower (human lives) as well as in dollars (our flagging economy). What is ironic is that these are the two commodities that America needs most and is readily willing to squander in a cause whose outcome is at best doubtful.
I mention these things not because I am a great supporter of Hussein. Hussein disgusts me. He was the one who declared war on Iran killing thousands of them with chemical and perhaps biological weapons. As a Muslim and a human being, I find his ability to make war in this most horrendous fashion appalling. I do, however, have concerns about what this war will do to the long suffering Iraqi people and the region. A hellfire will erupt if there are large numbers of human causalities and Americans, all, rightly or wrongly, will once again have become the Great Satan cursed by every Muslim from Egypt to Indonesia.
But most of all, I am deeply concerned by what effects this war will have on our sons and daughters. For all Americans, the actions taken in Iraqi will be placed upon their heads. What will they see when they are forced to killand they will killinnocent Iraqis? Will they be able to live with themselves after they have killed to defend America?
After the Second World War, Black American soldiers returned home and demanded freedom and equal justice. The outgrowth of this demand was the modern Civil Rights Movement. After Vietnam, Black soldiers, again, returned asking for the same thingfreedom and justiceand the streets and cities of America became a temporary war zone. I can only wonder what will happen if Black American and other minority soldiers return home after an Iraqi war and a peace (?) expected to last some ten years. What will be their demands and how will America after squandering so many human and material resources meet them? America better think about this? We all had better think about this and pray to God that we have not created a situation that will not swallow us whole.
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Roy Wilkins (August 30, 1901 September 8, 1981) was a prominent civil rights activist in the United States from the 1930s to the 1970s. Wilkins’ most notable role was in his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Wilkins graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in sociology in 1923. He worked as a journalist at The Minnesota Daily and became editor of St. Paul Appeal, an African-American newspaper. After he graduated he became the editor of the The Call (Kansas City). In 1929, he married social worker Aminda “Minnie” Badeau; the couple had no children.
Between 1931 and 1934, Wilkins was assistant NAACP secretary under Walter Francis White. When W. E. B. Du Bois left the organization in 1934, he replaced him as editor of The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP. From 194950 Wilkins chaired the National Emergency Civil Rights Mobilization, which comprised more than 100 local and national groups. In 1950, Wilkinsalong with A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Arnold Aronson, a leader of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Councilfounded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR). LCCR has become the premier civil rights coalition, and has coordinated the national legislative campaign on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957.
In 1955, Roy Wilkins was chosen to be the executive secretary of the NAACP and in 1964 he became its executive director.
He had an excellent reputation as an articulate spokesperson for the civil rights movement. One of his first actions was to provide support to civil rights activists in Mississippi who were being subject to a “credit squeeze” by members of the White Citizens Councils.
Under the plan, black businesses and voluntary associations shifted their accounts to the black-owned Tri-State Bank of Memphis, Tennessee. By the end of 1955, about $280,000 had been deposited in Tri-State for this purpose. The money enabled Tri-State to extend loans to credit-worthy blacks who were denied loans by white banks. Wilkins participated in the March on Washington (August 1963) which he helped organize, the Selma to Montgomery marches (1965), and the March Against Fear (1966). . . . In 1951, J. Edgar Hoover and the state department, in collusion with the NAACP and Wilkins (then editor of The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP), arranged for a ghost-written leaflet to be printed and distributed in Africa. The purpose of the leaflet was to spread negative press and views about the Black political radical and entertainer Paul Robeson throughout Africa. . . .
Gil Scott-Heron mentioned Wilkins in his most famous spoken word song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” with this lyric: “There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy Wilkins strolling through Watts in a red, black and green liberation jumpsuit that he has been saving for just the proper occasion.”
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By Roy Wilkins and Tom Mathews
History will remember Roy Wilkins (19011981) as one of the great leaders of the twentieth century for his contributions to the advancement of civil rights in America. For nearly half a centuryfirst as assistant secretary, also succeeding W. E. B. Dubois as editor of The Crisis, and finally succeeding Walter White as executive directorRoy Wilkins served and led the NAACP in their fight for justice for African Americans. Wilkins was a relentless pragmatist who advocated progressive change through legal action.
He participated or led in the achievement of every major civil rights advance, working for the integration of the army, helping to plan and organize the historic march on Washington, and pushing every president from Franklin Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter to implement civil rights legislation. This is a dramatic story of one man’s struggle for his people’s rights, as well as a vivid recollection of the events and the people that have shaped modern black history.Da Capo Press
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By John Lewis
The Civil Rights Movement gave rise to the protest culture we know today, and the experiences of leaders like Congressman Lewis have never been more relevant. Now, more than ever, this nation needs a strong and moral voice to guide an engaged population through visionary change. Congressman John Lewis was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He is the author of his autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of a Movement, and is the recipient of numerous awards from national and international institutions, including the Lincoln Medal; the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Lifetime Achievement Award (the only one of its kind ever awarded); the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, among many others.
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By C. Fraser Smith
Though he lived throughout much of the Southand even worked his way into parts of the North for a timeJim Crow was conceived and buried in Maryland. From Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s infamous decision in the Dred Scott case to Thurgood Marshall’s eloquent and effective work on Brown v. Board of Education, the battle for black equality is very much the story of Free State women and men. Here, Baltimore Sun columnist C. Fraser Smith recounts that tale through the stories, words, and deeds of famous, infamous, and little-known Marylanders. He traces the roots of Jim Crow laws from Dred Scott to Plessy v. Ferguson and describes the parallel and opposite early efforts of those who struggled to establish freedom and basic rights for African Americans.
Following the historical trail of evidence, Smith relates latter-day examples of Maryland residents who trod those same steps, from the thrice-failed attempt to deny black people the vote in the early twentieth century to nascent demonstrations for open access to lunch counters, movie theaters, stores, golf courses, and other public and private institutionsstruggles that occurred decades before the now-celebrated historical figures strode onto the national civil rights scene.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 26 May 2012