A THIEVES' KITCHEN, 1938–39
Towards all peoples of whatever race the British have built up a characteristic atti-
tude of cultivated aloofness, but most Britons, irrespective of social status, display
an added aversion to peoples of darker skin. It is this racial egotism and national
arrogance which has created a conflict between the British and colored peoples of
the Empire.… Few Negroes, in England, I imagine, have not passed through the
bitter experience of looking for apartments and being told constantly, “We do not
take colored people.” In five weeks of flat-hunting the writer learned to find his
way competently about London.
—George Padmore, The Crisis, 1938
I haven't much to say about Negroes. I know that the popular conception of them
as a lazy, throat-cutting, fried chicken eating race is wrong but I do think that they
are different from the white races—less civilized if you like. I suppose the Tropics
are not the place to look for a Leonardo, an Einstein or a Farraday—but I don't
think that means they are intellectually inferior. The policy of the white races has
always been to exploit the negro, but now that they are getting some measure of
Freedom and the benefits of Western culture, they are proving that though they
may be backward, there is no reason, given good conditions, why they shouldn't
play a very important part in the world.
—Mass Observer, housewife, age thirty-nine, near Olney, Yorkshire, 1939
IN NOVEMBER 1937 the fearless Padmore purportedly returned to Nazi Germany. The Chicago Defender published his remarkable, if unverified report from Hamburg:
Four years ago I was arrested by the Nazis and deported from Germany for criticiz-
ing Hitler's treatment of Negroes from the former German African colonies.… I
have recently made a tour through Germany from Holland to Sweden, during which
I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with many Jewish leaders and to dis-
cuss the “Jewish” problem. For obvious reasons, I shall not mention names, but I am
able to say that the position of the Jews under the Nazi regime is as bad as the condi-
tions of the Negroes in the Southern States of America and South Africa.
He described the use of “drastic anti-Semitic methods of terrorism" and the dispatch of fascists to America and South Africa in order to study the methods applied toward blacks in each region, since the Nazis considered Jews to be the
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Publication information: Book title: From Scottsboro to Munich: Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain. Contributors: Susan D. Pennybacker - Author. Publisher: Princeton University Press. Place of publication: Princeton, NJ. Publication year: 2009. Page number: 240.
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