The Emancipation Proclamation 150 Years: Pre and Post (Part 2)

Uploaded by usnationalarchives on 28.03.2012

Bonita Cornute: It goes so far back, and there’s truly a connection. Dr. Gerald Early is our next presenter.
Tonight Dr. Early will discuss baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s military court-martial. Dr. Early.
Gerald Early: Good evening. I see a lot of people out here have pads like you’re taking notes, and that makes me nervous.
Because if I see people taking notes I feel like I’m giving an exam after this, or something like that. Don’t take any notes on this.
I’m going to tell you a story. A very simple story. I’ve got a beginning, a middle, and an end. You don’t have to take any notes on this, trust me.
In his autobiography Knocking Down Barriers: My Fight for Black America, Truman Gibson recounts the incident
that ultimately led to Jackie Robinson’s departure from the military in 1944. Here is a quote from his book.
“Troops were transported in buses driven by white civilians who had orders to enforce the conventions of the strict segregation
that ruled the south then. That meant blacks sat at the back of the bus, or even at times rode black-only buses. The drivers were sworn in as
deputy sheriffs and given firearms. These pistol-packing bus drivers regularly shot black servicemen, and not infrequently killed them.”
“Robinson found himself facing one such driver at Camp Swift, Texas. ‘Nigger, get to the back of the bus,’ commanded the driver.
‘I’m getting to the back of the bus,’ Robinson said, ‘take it easy!’ ‘You can’t talk to me like that,’ the driver said.
‘I can talk to anybody any way I want,’ Robinson responded. The bus driver drew a revolver. But his draw wasn’t as fast as Robinson,
who wrestled the pistol away and massaged the driver’s mouth with it, depriving him of many teeth.”
“Joe Louis called me and I flew to Texas. But as matters turned out, I didn’t have to make any arguments on Robinson’s behalf.
The brass at Camp Swift knew who Robinson was, apparently understood the injustice of the situation, and in all
likelihood reached the logical conclusion that Robinson would not put up with this kind of raw bigotry and
realized only more trouble lay ahead. Robinson was discharged for the good of the service with no court-martial.”
That’s the end of the quote from Mr. Gibson’s book. Now if anyone should know the story of what happened to Jackie Robinson in
the U.S. army, it should have been Truman Gibson, who was the civilian aide to the War Department at the time of the incident.
The civilian aide job was one of the concessions blacks won from Franklin Roosevelt during the 1940 election season.
In 1940, A. Philip Randolph along with other prominent blacks asked Roosevelt to integrate the armed forces,
as well as integrate local draft boards established under the new conscription act, and to end discrimination in defense hiring.
It is unlikely blacks would have gotten much in the way of any of these concessions had it not been an election year, for one.
Two, Steven Early (no relation to me), Roosevelt’s press secretary, announced after the meeting Roosevelt had with black leaders that blacks
supported keeping the military segregated. A gross distortion of their position. This angered black leaders greatly and forced the
administration to seek some compromise. Matters worsened a few weeks later as Steven Early kicked a black New York policeman in the groin
who was trying to keep a police line intact to protect Roosevelt after the president had delivered the speech. This incident was played up
royally in the black press. Roosevelt, not wanting to take a chance on losing a significant portion of the northern black vote, made three
concessions to blacks after this concerning the military. Number one, Benjamin O’Davis would be appointed the first black brigadier general.
Number two, Campbell C. Johnson would be appointed Assistant to the Director of Service.
And number three, William Hastie would be appointed civilian aide to the Secretary of War to oversee issues involving black soldiers.
William Hastie served as civilian aide from 1941 to January 1943, quitting in frustration over the military’s stubbornness
in changing how it treated its black personnel. Truman Gibson, who had served as Hastie’s assistant, became his replacement.
Gibson, who was later to have a career as a fight promoter with ties to the mob, was considered more accommodating and
less militant than Hastie, although Gibson considered himself more diplomatic and realistic. At any rate if anyone should know
the details of Robinson’s military story it should be Gibson, who was there when it happened and read all the files about it.
Yet Gibson’s account does not jive with either Robinson’s account or the official record. In fact, in almost every detail it’s wrong.
And it’s most particularly wrong in the major point. And that is he was wrong in saying that Robinson wasn’t court-martialed.
Robinson was indeed court-martialed. As Robinson described the incident in his first autobiography Wait Till Next Year – which came out in 1960,
he wrote this book with a black journalist you may have heard of named Carl Rowan. Here’s his version in his autobiography:
“Robinson got on the bus with a black woman who was so white-skinned that she could pass for white. Apparently annoyed that a black soldier
was sitting next to what he thought was a white woman, the white bus driver yelled at Robinson to move to the back of the bus.”
Mostly because he was sitting next to what he thought was a white woman, rather than strictly
because of where he was sitting in the geography of the bus. So I’m quoting directly from the book now:
“The driver stopped the bus and walked to where Robinson and the woman sat. Listen you, I said to get to the back of the bus with the colored people.”
“Now you listen to me, buddy. You just drive the bus and I’ll sit where I please. The army recently issued the orders that there is to be no more racial
segregation on any army post. This is an army bus operating on an army post.” And Robinson was right about that. “You just let me tell you, buddy,”
said the driver, “if you ain’t off this bus by the time we get to the last stop I’m gonna cause you a lot of trouble.”
“I don’t care what kind of trouble you plan to cause me,” snapped Robinson, “you can’t cause me any trouble that I haven’t already faced.
I know what the regulations are, and I don’t intend to go to the back of this bus. So get out of my face and go drive the bus,
because I don’t intend to be pestered by you anymore.” The driver mumbled angrily as he stalked back to his seat.
Okay, that’s the end of quoting here. Now I’m going to sum it up in my own words, but that was a direct quote from this book.
When the driver reached his last stop on the post where Robinson and his companion would have boarded a city bus,
the driver left the bus and returned with three white men. One of the white women passengers on the bus began to berate Robinson,
and Robinson got into an altercation with one of the white men whom the driver had brought back with him.
At this point the military police arrived. They took Robinson to see Captain Gerald M. Beard.
Robinson’s companion, the woman he was with, offered to accompany him but he told her to go ahead without her trip.
Robinson was questioned by Captain Beard and by Beard’s secretary, a civilian and a Texan, who remarked that Robinson
purposely wanted to start trouble on the bus by sitting where he did. Robinson resented her questioning him and asked Beard
if he had to be subjected to an investigation by his secretary. To which Beard responded by calling him, “uppity and out to make trouble.”
The secretary angrily left the room expressing her feeling that Robinson had insulted her. Beard had Robinson submit to a sobriety test.
He thought he was drunk. Two weeks later Robinson was charged with insubordination, disturbing the peace,
conduct unbecoming an officer, insulting a civilian woman, and refusing to obey the lawful orders of a superior officer.
Colonel Bates refused to sign the charges, expressing the opinion that Captain Beard had conducted an incompetent investigation.
Robinson was then transferred from Beard’s battalion to the 758th Tank Battalion. He was in the 751st.
The commander of the 758th signed the charges. Several black officers, deeply concerned that Robinson was being railroaded,
publicized the case as a way of protecting Robinson, by notifying the NAACP and two of
the leading black newspapers of the day, The Pittsburgh Currier and The Chicago Defender.
When this happened Robinson was notified that several of the charges were being dropped. He was, according to his autobiography,
finally court-martialed on August 2nd, 1944. But according to the army records, he was actually court-martialed on August 3rd, 1944, not August 2nd.
He was court-martialed on two charges: that he had behaved disrespectfully to a superior officer (Beard) and that he had disobeyed an order from a
superior officer (Beard). Colonel Bates testified on Robinson’s behalf,
Beard’s testimony did not hold up well under cross-examination and Robinson was acquitted.
This is the account that Robinson gives. To be sure, Robinson did not base this account merely on his memory.
He formally requested a copy of his army records in April 1958, in which he said he needed them in order to write the book.
The book I just quoted. The army replied in May, sending him not his records but a one page official statement of his military service
that was full of errors. For instance, incorrectly stating that he was discharged January 27th, 1943. Which was actually the date – January 28th, 1943 –
that he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Which was noted in the letter, actually, that he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
This means that according to the letter that the army gave him, he was discharged first and then given his commission.
Which is impossible. He was court-martialed in 1944, as I said above. In June Robinson desperately
repeated his request and the army responded by sending him a copy of his general court-martial orders.
Now there are three types of courts-martial. When you want to say it plural you say “courts-martial.”
A summary court-martial is for minor offenses which usually, if the defendant is found guilty, he gets a reduction in pay and possibly
a short-term confinement of 30-60 days. A special court-martial is for more serious offenses where the defendant can request a jury composed
1/3rd of enlisted men or can request to be tried solely by a judge. The maximum penalty for a special court-martial are a loss of 2/3rd of your pay
for one year and possible confinement of up to a year. Finally there is a general court-martial, which are
for the most serious charges and punishments can include death for treason or desertion of duty under fire.
You can have a multiple year confinement, and you can be dishonorably discharged or given a bad conduct discharge.
Robinson had a general court-martial, the most serious kind. And had he been convicted he almost certainly would have
been dishonorably discharged from the service, which would have made his later Major League Baseball career impossible.
Because Rickey would not have chosen him had he been dishonorably discharged from the military.
In his second autobiography I Never Had It Made, which came out in 1972,
Robinson gives the same story – only a little bit shorter, but it’s basically the same story.
Okay, the official records. Reading the official depositions of all the witnesses and actors in the incident that led to Robinson’s court-martial,
a few things become clear. First it was nearly a certainty that the bus driver, Milton N. Renegard, was not armed.
Robinson almost certainly would have been shot if the bus driver had been, as he likely would have used his weapon and
Robinson would have likely been unable to unarm him. Nowhere in the court record is it mentioned that the bus driver was armed.
Moreover, I am convinced that Robinson would have been shot had the bus driver been armed, because the driver as well as several of the other
witnesses make it plain in their depositions that they thought Robinson had been disrespectful to white women. First, he talked back to and
allegedly cursed a white woman passenger on the bus who objected to his behavior and said that she was going to report him to the MPs.
Second, he was asked to move to the back of the bus in part because several white women and their children were boarding the bus and
the driver particularly didn’t want the white women and children who were boarding the bus to mix with him and his black companion.
That’s the major reason why they wanted him to go to the back of the bus. The sexual aspect of this is especially explosive,
which is why I believe that Robinson would have been shot or assaulted if the driver had been armed.
In the depositions of the whites – in all the depositions of all the whites – the white women present at the incident are always referred to as “ladies.”
And the black woman who was with Robinson, Virginia Jones, wife of a black first lieutenant, is always referred to as “a colored girl.”
The racial hierarchical distinctions are clearly delineated in the language of the depositions.
Robinson himself was clearly incensed. This is the other major point that’s clear in the records –
Robinson was clearly incensed by somebody calling him a “nigger” or something that he misheard or thought he heard was “nigger.”
Robinson at one point said to Captain Whittington, one of the white officers who questioned him after he was taken into custody,
“Any captain, any private, you, or any general calls me a ‘nigger’ I will break you in two.” All parties, including Robinson,
agreed that this was said. So everybody in all the depositions, including Robinson himself, said this.
Robinson clearly saw the whole incident of what was happening to him as an assault on his black manhood.
After being taken into custody and vigorously and counter-productively arguing his side of the story,
Robinson became convinced that the white officers in the room were mounting a conspiracy against him –
which they probably were, because their depositions all matched incredibly well – and that he would not get justice.
The fact that Robinson was acquitted had much to do not so much with the strength or weaknesses of the prosecution’s case,
but rather that Robinson was somebody, not a nobody. He had been a star college athlete, and his brother Mack had been on the
1936 Olympic track and field team. Robinson knew Joe Louis, who used his influence to help him.
Robinson wrote letters to powerful people and had letters written on his behalf, some of which can be found in the record.
In a July 1944 telephone conference conversation between Colonel Kimball of Camp Hood – it didn’t happen at Camp Swift.
That’s another thing that Gibson got wrong. It happened at Camp Hood, Texas – and Colonel Buit of the 23rd Corps, it is clear that the army’s
top brass was aware of the hot potato they were trying to handle. Kimball said, “This case is full of dynamite and requires very delicate handling.”
Kimball wanted an outside inspector for the case, afraid that all the men at Camp Hood would be prejudiced.
Buit said that he had no inspector immediately available, but would send one as soon as possible. Which eventually he did.
So Robinson was acquitted probably because it was the most expedient way for the army to get rid of him without making
him a martyr or a cause célèbre for the black American leadership. And so in that respect Truman Gibson was right.
Eventually he was kicked out of the army – eventually he was honorably discharged to get rid of him from the army
because his standing up the way he did was too much for the army to deal with at that time. Thank you so much.
Bonita Cornute: We’ve heard it all. Thank you Dr. Early. We’ve talked about the mood of the country and the Lincoln administration prior to the
Emancipation Proclamation. We’ve heard a little bit about how people dealt with it once we had the Emancipation Proclamation and what life was like.
And education of the newly freed slaves and their offspring, bringing us right up to the present. And then the story of a great
American and his struggles with racism and discrimination in our country. All of that presented to you tonight by very gifted individuals.
Now we’d like to offer you the opportunity to ask questions of them based on comments. We will take a few.
I don’t know how much longer … five minutes? Okay, we’ll do thirty minutes of questions. So anyone? Yes sir.
Would you stand and give us your loud voice? We don’t have a microphone, I don’t think.
Audience Member: You showed that picture of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass was the only one missing from that picture.
But Frederick Douglass met with Lincoln three or four times. He was a staunch advocate all of his life for freedom.
Could you tell us a little about his contribution to bringing about African-American emancipation?
Bonita Cornute: Anyone in particular you would like to answer? Do you have any comments on the picture?
Dr. Louis Gerteis: The picture of course was just of Lincoln’s cabinet. Douglass was an early advocate of raising black troops
long before Lincoln decided to do it. He was very actively pursuing that in his speeches around the country. And yeah, he had a major role
to play in moving the whole prospect forward. One of the things that we have to remember is that politics were involved then just as they are now.
And one of the reasons Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation was that Congress was getting ahead of him.
Congress had already abolished slavery in the District of Columbia. Congress had said that the army had no obligation to
enforce the Fugitive Slave Law of 18:50. Congress had passed two Confiscation Acts that were kind of a wedge for emancipation.
So one of the reasons Lincoln moved forward – Douglass had been involved in pushing all of that forward – but one of the reasons
that Lincoln moved with the presidential proclamation was to try to get ahead of the issue and get himself back in the forefront of it.
Bonita Cornute: Any other comment about Frederick Douglass and his contribution to
the writing of the proclamation? Alright, sir, your question? And there is a microphone, I’m told.
Audience Member: Just very quickly, my picture of Jackie Robinson was a bit different from what I heard tonight. That Branch Rickey chose
him for his ability to withstand racial abuse. But what I heard here tonight is a bit different, so I was wondering if you could talk about that.
Dr. Gerald Early: Yeah, sure. Jackie Robinson had a hair-trigger temper. He was an extremely competitive man and a quite driven man,
and he could not stand taking any kind of harassment from white people. Now what he did in the first three years he was in Major League Baseball
is because Branch Rickey asked him to do that, it wasn’t because he was the way he was. When Jackie wrote his book,
he felt like a freak when he had to do that because that wasn’t him. And when he got freed up from that – you’ll notice if you read about him –
he became very outspoken on the field, very argumentative. And the white folks who loved him the first three years when he was like Mahatma Gandhi –
he started getting bad press from white sports writers. They kept saying, “He’s too sensitive.
He’s too temperamental. He’s always jumping out and arguing with people.” That was the way Jackie Robinson was.
Now there’s a lot of reasons why. Jackie Robinson had a lot of pride, a lot of race pride. And he was very competitive.
That was the kind of person he was. For instance, that’s one of the reasons why he and Roy Campanella did not get along very well on the Dodgers.
Because he though Roy wasn’t interested in race pride the way he did. So you know, the picture you got of Jackie Robinson tonight is Jackie Robinson.
Dr. Dowden-White: I just want to add something real quick to that. I think it’s safe to say that historically,
we have been fed a manipulated image of Jackie Robinson. And I’ve been looking forward to reading your book, Dr. Early. I really am. I'm looking forward to that.
Bonita Cornute: Let me just say this. In the interest of recording this event, if you have a response could you come to the microphone?
Or else I’ll have to bring the microphone to you. It’d be easier if they came to the podium. Alright, any other questions? Yes sir.
Audience Member: You stated that Governor Gamble made a term for when the children could not become slaves.
What was his thought process behind that? Because what I get from that is that he agreed that slavery was bad. Why would he say after ten years?
Dr. Louis Gerteis: You’re talking about Hamilton Gamble the governor? Well he was pro-slavery. And what Lincoln was trying to
do with the Border States – the states we saw across from Delaware that didn’t secede from the Union but were slave states –
Lincoln in the early years of the war said, “Okay, we’ll let you deal with slavery however you want.”
He encouraged them to move in the direction of emancipation. And that’s what Hamilton Gamble was doing.
But what I was trying to point out was that if he had his way, the slave owners would have continued to have control of the labor power of their servants,
as they were now being called, for another generation or more. Slavery wasn’t going to end until the late 19th century if Hamilton Gamble had his way.
Does that help answer? So the Border State loyal slaveholders are really hoping – the fact that they didn’t accept
the compensated emancipation indicates to me that they really hoped that they could hold on to slavery for quite a bit longer.
Audience Member: Is this working? Okay. Yes, and in real life they did. I’m saying this just because I’ve sat up late in the night
this week watching the program on PBS called Slavery by Any Other Name about, as they call it, peonage. And the convict labor that went
on for decades and decades – and we’ve still had it in recent years as well, and it’s a huge industry in our country, the prisons.
I really want to recommend that film and the other films that are happening for African-American History Month on PBS.
And also there’s a black women’s American history cultural theme for the St. Louis Public Library System
in several of the different branches. And I have the program here. And it was launched by Priscilla.
I also wanted to say when Jackson, in her usual modest way, did not mention her magnificent coloring
book about her wonderful ancestors. I have a copy of that on me which I never leave home without.
Bonita Cornute: Did you have any that you were wanting to share tonight?
Lynn Jackson: I didn’t bring them.
Bonita Cornute: She said she didn’t bring them because this is a different program. Thank you though for bringing it to our attention.
Audience Member: Also, as a librarian director myself, I want to promote another wonderful librarian, Ruth Ann Hager, who did the Dred and Harriet
story in the phenomenal research that was a thriller to watch when she did the slideshow about trying to find out about the family and where Harriet was buried.
Bonita Cornute: Thank you. Yes mam? We have a question. We’ll take this young lady and then the gentleman here.
Audience Member: I just wanted to ask Ms. Jackson. For many years all we’ve heard about the Dred Scott Case was Dred.
And it’s only been in the last few years that it’s come out that Harriet and Dred filed separate, almost identical suits.
Could you elaborate on – was Harriet really the one pushing her husband? Or do you know?
Lynn Jackson: That I can’t say for sure. But I always go back to the fact that, if you know the women in our family genetically speaking,
she definitely had her opinion about what they should do. I appreciate you asking that because it gives me an
opportunity to tag onto what Reverend Scott was saying. The Pastor Reverend John Anderson was a
free abolitionist black man, and we believe that he taught them the ins and outs on how it was.
And since their owner didn’t let them buy their freedom, which they had offered to do, they could then sue for their freedom in courts.
And because Harriet had been in the same free territory as Dred, Fort Snelling, and he had also been in Illinois, and they had the
“once free, always free” rule, that allowed them to do this. And so by virtue of her own situation she decided that she should file for her own freedom.
But also it’s important to remember “so goes the mother, so goes the child.” So if she had won her case then she and her daughters
would be free even if Dred did not. But they were willing to at least get 3/4th of the family free, as opposed to nobody being free.
And so they did file, both of them, on April 6th of 1846 at the old courthouse. And their first trial was a mistrial
because of hearsay. And then the second trial they had, they were literally giving their freedom there to a jury of white men.
So we can’t prove that, but there is a book called Mrs. Dred Scott by attorney Lea VanderVelde of Iowa. And it’s a thick book.
Half of it is bibliography. But in the first half she tries to make a case for that. And so somewhere in there she feels that’s the case.
And this is where this has come from for the most part. But yes, I think she had the grounds, personality, and motive. Thank you for the question.
Dr. Gerald Early: And could you clear up the Catholic comment?
Lynn Jackson: Oh yeah, he’s very adamant about that. Dred was not Catholic. Chances are he went to church with Harriet.
And I say that because even though her name is the only one in the records, if you were to go and read the eulogy that
James Milton Turner wrote and read in 1882 when they had the color portrait of Dred in the Missouri History Museum
on the third floor – it’s that color portrait that’s on my book. That picture was dedicated and Milton Turner did the eulogy.
In that eulogy he said that Dred was among those prominent notables such as Reverend John Anderson and others – I think he names three or four people –
who were diligent to care for the poor and the indigent and to look after their welfare. So he named him among four other pastors. And so by virtue
of deductive reasoning, one might presume that he went to that church. But he was certainly a Christian as well. So to that end …
So he goes to your church, but he’s buried in Calgary’s Cemetery. And Calgary is of course a beautiful Catholic cemetery. He was first, however,
buried at Westland Cemetery. Westland was at Grand and Wendel where St. Louis University is. And there was time that came where
they said they were going to abandon that. And they said, “We’re going to move him.” So they had to buy two plots at Calgary.
And that meant that Dred, being black, couldn’t be buried next to a white person.
So if you go there now you won’t see another headstone real close to his. It’s on the side of the road. But he was
reinterred there because they did not want to lose him. And so he’s in a Catholic cemetery, but he himself was not Catholic.
Bonita Cornute: Thank you. And the question here from this gentleman on this side of the room?
Audience Member: Yeah, this is for Dr. Dowden-White. This is my loud voice. I heard you mention at the tail end of your presentation
Starkville, Mississippi. And I was just wondering, what impact did the Great Migration have on St. Louis public education?
Dr. Dowden-White: Thank you for the question. The Great Migration had a tremendous impact on education in St. Louis and on St. Louis as a whole.
In so many areas, the Great Migration had a tremendous impact. As you probably know, St. Louis – during the interwar period during
the first leg of the Great Migration around the First World War period – was one of the major centers of the Great Migration.
And it was also a major center of migration into the city. I found in my early research when I was working on my dissertation –
in some weeks in 1922, there were some weeks where approximately 1,000 African-Americans were moving into St. Louis.
Now what was somewhat different about the impact of the Great Migration on education in St. Louis,
unlike cities to the north – Chicago, if we go up into Pennsylvania, those cities – in those more northern cities,
they had had at least some semblance of racial segregation in their public schools. St. Louis had always maintained segregated schools.
And so where you have in those northern cities what one historian who wrote on education and public schooling in Chicago referred
to as “down from equality” - and that’s the title of his book – as a result of the Great Migration. In St. Louis you just have a steady entrenchment
of racial segregation. Not only in the schools, but in the health care field and in other arenas of social welfare reform in St. Louis.
Bonita Cornute: We have a question in the back of the room? Yes sir.
Audience Member: Yes, Lynn Jackson and I have been friends for years now and I admire her and her leadership in the Dred Scott Foundation.
But we have heard and seen the models of the statue of Dred and Harriet, which are very well done. They are to be placed,
we understand, at the old courthouse to highlight the progress of that movement. Where are we and what can we do to help?
Lynn Jackson: Thank you Harold and Joan. You guys are precious, thank you. I have a lot of unpaid PR people in the room, if you can tell.
Real quick though, the progress is that we are right at halfway of the funds that are required for the statue. The statue is also
well underway. We expect to see it sometime this year, and ideally if we can just finish raising the money for that we’d be real happy.
But we’re going to get it in this year I’m pretty positive. The sculptor is Harry Weber, and you’ll know him from the statue of Bob Gibson
and many other people. Chuck Barry, just recently. He’s done a beautiful job. So I don’t think I can solicit funds tonight,
but if you go to our website. Just Google the Dred Scott Foundation and you’ll get all the information you need on that, and I thank you.
Bonita Cornute: Alright, we have another question on this side of the room? Young lady?
Audience Member: I have a question for Dr. Dowden-White. I go to school in the area,
and I was wondering when the private Catholic schools were first integrated?
Dr. Dowden-White: You know, my research has not dealt a great deal with private schooling. And that is a topic that I am aware
there is some current scholarship that’s underway. And I can’t now think of where this student is, but recently a few months ago
I heard about a student who is working on a dissertation on private schooling in St. Louis. So unfortunately
I can’t address that. My research deals with public schooling in St. Louis.
I just wanted to take an opportunity to say something else to this gentleman who asked this question earlier. What I didn’t have time
to really elaborate on in terms of those local school movements really further answers your question about the impact of the Great Migration
on schooling in St. Louis. One of the things that occurs by the mid to late 20’s as the racial demographics of these neighborhoods are changing as a
result of the impact of black residents moving into predominantly white, formally all-white areas, is that these white schools become colored schools.
And one of the things that’s really interesting about what happens when these schools become colored schools, often the African-American
representatives will petition the board to have the names changed to reflect those names of African-American heroes.
And you may be surprised that something that seems so non-political would just elicit a firestorm
within some of the white communities. And so you have all of these struggles around the name changes of schools.
And there was one example in the original Glasgow School that was changed to Paul Lawrence Dunbar.
And I have not been able to find a photograph of this. I know that someone had to take a photograph of this.
But the newspapers actually talked about how the white students of Glasgow actually went on strike with their parents.
And they had posters, and on the posters it would say, “Glasgow forever, Dunbar never.” Now they didn’t win that battle.
But there are plenty of examples like that. And I read in Dr. Early’s bio that he is promoting his book. I actually brought my book with me.
Bonita Cornute: And I was going to let everyone know that they are available.
Audience Member: I would just say that the reverse of that happened, too. Having taught in ’65 and ’66, the principal was
very quick to tell me that integration was the rule at Sumner High School. Because from that point on, the very strong
community that they had – the students were allowed to go wherever they wanted. And that was his view.
Bonita Cornute: There’s a question in the back. The young man there.
Audience Member: I have a question for Dr. Dowden-White. At my school we’re doing a research project on race.
Could you tell us what were the affects of segregation in the schools and how those issues that remain can be addressed?
Dr. Dowden-White: Well I’m not going to talk about how to tackle it right now. We can talk about that later. But I will say something
about the cause of it, and it’s connected to this young lady’s observation that this teacher made which I actually disagree with.
And that’s not to say that I don’t acknowledge that the structural concerns of racial segregation
actually led to a cohesiveness in the African-American community.
But it is my view that even during Sumner’s heyday, the foundation of segregated schooling was undermining African-American
education and the St. Louis public schools in general. Even in its heyday. We couldn’t see it yet, but we are still dealing with
these decisions that our fore-parents made in the 19th century to segregate our school system. And of course the
problem of schools is intimately connected with where we live. And that’s why it’s such a buggabear for us to work on.
William Seibert: In partial response to the young man and his question about when private parochial schools integrated,
I don’t know about private schools. But the parochial schools were technically desegregated in 1948.
And how much that actually accomplished I don’t know, but that was when that specifically happened for just the archdioceses.
Bonita Cornute: Any other comments or questions? Oh here’s a hand, and then we’ll come over to this gentleman again.
Audience Member: I go to high school and we were just talking about Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois and their different views
on how to get equality for African-Americans. And I was just wondering if you guys had an opinion over which one was better?
Dr. Charles Robert Scott: The interesting thing is that within the social constructs when it comes to educating anybody about
African-American history is that they try to create this dichotomy between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.
The interesting thing is that Booker T. Washington, of course, was more – looked at the use of hands and efficiency whereas W.E.B. Du Bois
had the concept of the “talented tenth.” The interesting thing is that neither – one is not better than the other. It takes an embracing of the both.
And so a part of what I’ve helped my parishioners to understand is that if you are African-American you need to be able to use your hand
as well as your brain and engage in whatever uplift you can to improve the community and transform those spaces into reconciliation and liberation.
Bonita Cornute: Any other comments from our panel?
Dr. Louis Gerteis: I’ll just make one. Years ago August Meyer wrote a book about African-Americans in the United States.
And he made a point which I think we often forget when Booker T. Washington is described as an accommodationist that he was developing
the boycott movement in the south using the economic power of African-Americans that became the cutting edge in the modern Civil Rights Movement.
Bonita Cornute: Yes sir?
Audience Member: I just wanted to point out that Isabel Wilkerson wrote a book called "The Warmth of Other Suns" last year
and it’s a great book about the Great Migration. I’m sure there are a lot of other resources out there that the panel might know about.
But she said that there were 8 million African-Americans who left the south. And they went by various train routes depending on where they
lived in the south. If they were in Florida they went to New York and New Jersey. If they lived in Alabama or
Georgia they came by train to St. Louis or Chicago. And those in Texas and Louisiana went to California and the west.
The other thing was - I’m a physician, and the brain controls the hand.
So for anybody who has mechanical ability, it came from his brain. The hand doesn’t have a brain by itself.
And thirdly, I am from Kansas. And where I grew up, Kansas was a free state. Lawrence, Kansas was the center of the abolitionist movement.
There’s a statue of John Brown very close to where I grew up. As you know, John Brown was a staunch advocate for freedom.
So I’ve read some stories about the raiders coming across and Bloody Kansas in history, but I also knew that Kansas was a free state.
There’s a place called Nicodemus that was originally an all-black town. There were many black towns.
And that was my home state. So I wanted to say that basically, depending on your history,
our history was that I’m from a free state. Now it’s also a state where Brown vs. Board of Education was passed.
There’s also a Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas. There’s a Sumner High School in the state of Washington that’s an all-white school.
Sumner High School was a prominent name around the country. One of my classmates from medical school was from a Sumner High School in Washington.
Bonita Cornute: Any other questions or comments. This young lady here, then we’ve got a
question by the camera, and then we’ll come back to this gentleman who’s asked a question already.
Audience Member: Good evening everyone. I wanted to ask if any one of the talented panel knows the origin of how
Elleardsville High was named. And also I wanted to ask Dr. White, did you mention anything about an elementary
school being housed on the grounds of a high school? What elementary school was that?
Dr. Dowden-White: When I was speaking about the movement to place a new elementary school on the grounds, it actually did not occur.
But the issue was that there was nationwide within the education movement
this new idea that was floating around about how to socialize children. And so there were
these new experiments that were taking place. And the board had made an argument that by putting the new elementary
school that was needed on the high school grounds, that this could be an example of this new experiment in socialization.
Well as you can imagine, those who were opposed to this – which of course was not only the black community but some of the white
community who also agreed with them – argued that this was not good. To have elementary aged children with high school aged children
in intimate contact with one another. And so what the African-American representatives argued – they said, “If you’re going to do
this with the black schools – separate but equal – in a measure of equivalency you have to do it with the white schools.
And so this is why it became a city-wide issue. And it went to court, and it was decided that it would not occur.
Now you had a question before that. It was Elleardsville, and it was named after a white horticulturalist named Charles Elleard.
And in the 1880’s Charles Elleard began to settle that area. By the time that we get into the first and second decade of the 20th century,
the Ville has become predominantly black. And the reason why the Ville becomes an institutional anchor for the black community – when you look at
this westward movement of African-Americans from the riverfront as they become more upwardly mobile – beyond making due …
If you know anything about the history of the housing stock in the Ville neighborhood, there was a disproportionately large number
of houses that are called shotgun style houses and frame houses. Now there are brick homes that are old that are still in the Ville,
but the primary housing was small. And there were very few race-restrictive covenants that were contracted in the Ville because whites
did not fight to hold onto the Ville. There was some racial friction, but whites did not fight to really hold onto that area.
Now if you go outside of the Ville, at the outskirts where you have the larger brick homes, you will find race-restrictive covenants.
And sot that was an area that African-Americans found that they were unencumbered by the race-restrictive covenants.
And so it becomes this solidly working-class and professional class community. Now there’s a myth that it’s
where all of the black elite live, but that’s not true. But it was a solid working-class and professional class community.
Bonita Cornute: Thank you. We’re going to take these last two questions and we’ll wrap up.
If you have any additional comments you can approach the panelists individually. Yes sir?
Audience Member: I appreciate it. The question is primarily aimed at Ms. Jackson, but I think any panelists’ comments would be very helpful.
I was very impressed with your foundation, and my understanding is that it’s dedicated to history, education, and reconciliation.
I think that history and education are very important, and I think that reconciliation is perhaps the most important and also the most tricky of those three concepts.
I think that we can address the relationship between history, between the past, and between reconciliation and the present.
So do you have either stories or examples of reconciliation that you have observed or suggestions for
how we can walk away having a firmer concept for what that means in everyday life?
Lynn Jackson: Yes, that last part of your question really did get my antenna up. Two things. One, it’s commemoration, education, and reconciliation.
And it was downloaded to me that this is what it should be. And I figured I understand commemoration. We’re going to do this 150th.
And education is a no-brainer. But reconciliation, I said, “Oh my gosh, what’s that going to turn out to be? I don’t have a clue.”
But as I’ve gone through the last 5 or 6 years, it’s unfolding and unveiling itself to me as to where that will probably lead.
However, one of the things that happened during this process the year of the anniversary in 2007, there was an opportunity for the Southern Baptists
to do something very special. They presented to me 3 separate resolutions at their state, local, and national levels of a resolution to acknowledge that
the Dred Scott Decision was wrong and that they would do all that they could to undo the harm that had been done and work for reconciliation.
And those 3 resolutions that I have are very precious to me because that’s very unusual. And the wording is beautiful and unique. But that’s a national
movement of a religious order that at one time obviously was pro-slavery to say that in this day and age we’re going to do something different.
And then one last thing is that, among the many groups that I’ve spoken to and some of the wonderful little societies that exist in the city that
most people don’t know about – and the president of one of them is in the room tonight – one is the Daughters of the American Revolution.
And if you don’t recall, this is the group that said that Marian Anderson was not welcome to sing for them at Constitution Hall.
And as that story goes – which is a really good story – the president’s wife Eleanor Roosevelt said,
“That’s fine. I’m resigning, and you come with me.” And she took her to the Lincoln Memorial and she sang for 12,000 people.
Well the daughters of the Daughters of the American Revolution who exist here now in St. Louis have had me at their home for a presentation.
And they’ve given a donation to the statue. They’re also working to promote the legacy of Marian Anderson.
So these are little things that you don’t hear about but are wonderful. And it’s happening. It’s a groundswell that’s
just going to burst out one day, and all of a sudden it’s going to be there. So I really appreciate that question. Thank you.
Bonita Cornute: I think in the interest of time we will conclude our comments and our program. But certainly if
you want to approach our panelists, feel free to do so if they have time for a few more comments.
Again we’d like to say thank you to all of the speakers tonight. Would you give them a round of applause please?
And I also want to thank the St. Louis African-American History and Genealogy Society for partnering in promoting this event.
And in case you noticed, there were 4 or 5 young people who volunteered to help and serve as hostesses.
We want to say thank you to them for being a part of the program tonight. Mr. Seibert.
William Seibert: Thank you so much Ms. Cornute, panel members, Mrs. Jackson and Reverend Scott, for this wonderfully informative
and thought-provoking evening. As a small token of our gratitude for making this program possible, we’d like you
to accept some certificates of appreciation as a reminder of our time together. And I’d like to present those now.
Thank you everyone for your participation and please check our website for future programs in April and May.