W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963
Lewis, David Levering, The New Crisis
The following excerpt was taken from David Levering Lewis's WE.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963, pp. 8- 11, 23-28, 85-87, and 229-232.
Race relations seemed to reach a nadir in the Arkansas outback that October  . Gunfire from black sharecroppers meeting in a church near Elaine, a town in the Arkansas Delta, had left a deputy sheriff dead and several white citizens wounded in the early morning of October. Having provoked the Wednesday shootout, enraged white planters and farmers chased down black men and women in the high cotton of Phillips County in a frenzy lasting seven days, until the count of the dead approached two hundred. The fact that Elaine's whites had paid for their jamboree with five of their own dead made the "legal" aftermath notably outrageous even for the Deep South of that time. U.S. infantry, arriving from Camp Pike, took the side of the frenzied whites. A thousand or so black men were rounded up by soldiers and vigilantes and packed into a stockade where the sheriff and the big planters selected seventy-nine of them for rapid grand jury indictment. Six of these were sentenced to hang on November 18 and another six on the following day after five-minute deliberations, while the rest were convicted in batches and given prison terms of from five to twenty-five years. Their alleged crime, as The New York Times reported in all seriousness, was conspiracy to seize control of the county by armed force.
Furious about distortions in the press concerning the Arkansas bloodlettings, Du Bois sent a three-page letter to the editor of the New York World that served as a powerful corrective when it appeared in the November 28 edition. The real crime said, was to have the gall to hire a maverick white Arkansas lawyer to help organize and incorporate a farmer's protective association in order to compel landlords to open their books on prices and profits of supplies and cotton revenues. The normal practice in that part of Arkansas, Du Bois explained to the World's readers, was for a farmer to sell to the planter and wait a full year to be told "how much his crop was worth, and what is the balance due" for the supplies bought on credit from the company store. It was slavery by another name, but to dispute such an arrangement was, "in Arkansas custom, to dispute `white supremacy."' "There is not a civilized country in the world that would for a moment allow this kind of justice to stand." The editor and officers of the NAACP had inside information about the Arkansas pogrom, thanks to Walter Francis White, the twenty-six-year-old new assistant secretary. White's sensational expose in The Nation of a six-person lynching in two Georgia counties in May 1918 had already caught the attention of northern progressives. A small, trim man of seemingly bottomless, nervous energy and enormous self-confidence, White was the light-skinned, blond, blue-eyed son of an austere postal employee and his civicminded wife, both of whom were highly respected members of Atlanta's colored community. Du Bois knew the White family well from his years spent at Atlanta University; he regarded young Walter, who played football and graduated from "AU" with high marks, as a model representative of the Talented Tenth.
Because Walter White looked so white, his services to the NAACP were invaluable, but they also placed him in situations of awful danger. Aboard a train leaving a Deep South lynching bee, the assistant secretary was once challenged by a suspicious white passenger who boasted that he could always spot a "yaller nigger" by the absence of half moons on the fingernails. White's half moons saved him. Hurrying back to NAACP headquarters from Arkansas undercover work as a white reporter (the governor gave him a reference and Phillips County vigilantes took him into their confidence), White handed in a detailed report of surreal …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963. Contributors: Lewis, David Levering - Author. Magazine title: The New Crisis. Volume: 108. Issue: 1 Publication date: January/February 2001. Page number: 33+. © Not available. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.