The Negro in Depression and War: Prelude to Revolution, 1930-1945

The Negro in Depression and War: Prelude to Revolution, 1930-1945

The Negro in Depression and War: Prelude to Revolution, 1930-1945

The Negro in Depression and War: Prelude to Revolution, 1930-1945

Excerpt

Having been born and raised in Massachusetts, having earned my B.A. at the University of Alabama, having lived for five years in Rochester, New York, where I was a county committeeman in a predominantly black ward which later was the scene of a major riot, and having resided for seven of the last eight years in Union, New Jersey, a community five miles from Newark that has been ordered by the United States Office of Education -- as this is written -- to take steps to alter the racial composition, now 98 per cent black, of one of its elementary schools, I can claim more than scholarly, armchair acquaintance with race relations in various situations. The range of my experience, such as it is, brings to mind a classroom assignment I carried out almost twenty years ago for Professor Arthur A. Ekirch in his course on the Civil War and Reconstruction. I refer to a term paper entitled "Methodological Criticism of J. G. Randall." It criticized Randall's use of analogies in his famous text (since thoroughly revised by David Donald).

I shall present only three of the analogies to which I took exception:

While the manner of living of the slaves was on a low scale, they were no more wretched than millions of European peasants.

...slavery still persists in nineteen countries and that institution still holds in its grasp a population of approximately five million people.

If as a result [of its unbalanced economy] the South had missed somewhat of financial and industrial leadership, it had also escaped the cost of such leadership in terms of human suffering and the destruction of culture types.

After expounding on the difficulties involved in the use of analogies in history, I concluded that Randall's analogies shifted the reader's attention from undesirable developments in one place to those in another. I conceded some validity in the implications of such methodology for historical causation: the multiple occurrence of situations in which a significant portion of the population suffers degradation tells us something about the possibilities, and . . .

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