Socialism and Christianity in Early 20th Century America

By Jacob H. Dorn | Go to book overview

on the increase, white workers would only be fooling themselves if they believed they could solve their problems by ignoring those of the Negro: "If the white workers should organize, even to the last man, and leave the negro unorganized, their efforts are utterly in vain. Six million negro workmen will stand ready to leap into the places of their white brethren--unless they understand SOLIDARITY." Hence, every worker, regardless of color, should be reached with this special issue. 85

It is open to question whether the Christian Socialist converted any blacks to socialism. The truth is that all black Christian Socialists overlooked the fact that their people were primarily concerned with how to earn a living, how to halt the daily threats to their lives, how to educate their children, how to escape peonage and the convict labor system, and how to end their status of disfranchised, segregated second-class citizenship. Promising them a future life in a cooperative commonwealth without these burdens was hardly conducive to winning many to the cause of socialism.

With all their shortcomings, the black Christian Socialists were outstanding propagandists for the cause. They did not hide either their hatred of capitalism or their belief in socialism. Most of them suffered for their convictions and one, Reverend Woodbey, went to jail for upholding the right of socialists and workers in general to bring their message to the people. Even though they are hardly ever mentioned in studies of American socialism, 86 and not at all in those of Christian Socialism, they deserve a high place in the history of black protest.


NOTES

American Socialism and Black Americans, Philip S. Foner. Copyright © 1977 by Philip S. Foner. Reproduced with permission of GREENWOOD PUBLISHING GROUP, INC., Westport, Conn.

1.
Ohio Socialist Bulletin, February 1909. This is the only reference to Reverend Euell in the socialist press.
2.
Chicago Daily Socialist, 11 May 1908; John Mather, Who's Who of the Colored Race ( Chicago, 1921); A. W. Ricker in Appeal to Reason, 31 October 1903.
3.
Rev. George W. Woodbey, What to Do and How to Do It or Socialism vs. Capitalism, Wayland's Monthly no. 40 ( August 1903): 4; A. W. Ricker in Appeal to Reason, 31 October 1903. Correspondence with the Omaha Public Library, the University of Nebraska Library, the Nebraska State Historical Society, and the United Methodist Historical Society at Nebraska Wesleyan University has failed to turn up any information on Reverend Woodbey and his role as a Populist and socialist in Nebraska.
4.
Los Angeles Socialist, 12 July 1902.
5.
Ibid., 17 December 1904; Common Sense ( Los Angeles), 27 October 1906.
6.
Los Angeles Socialist, 2 May 1903.
7.
Common Sense ( Los Angeles), 5 August 1905. The San Diegan-Sun carried one item on the case. Under the headline "Battery Charge," it reported on 11 July 1905 that officer George H. Cooley was served with a warrant charging him with battery. "The complaining witness was Rev. G. W. Woodby, the colored Socialist orator, who has frequently been heard at the gathering of the adherents of the party in this city."
8.
Common Sense ( Los Angeles), 8 October 1904, 7 March, 11 April 1908.

-88-

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