Politics in the twentieth century; The Negro on the move
The National Association of educational broadcasters welcomes you to the negro on the move an examination of the role of the Negro in present day American politics. One in a series of discussion programs titled politics in the 20th century produced and transcribed by the Community Education Project at San Bernardino Valley College. First you'll hear Samuel Lubell political analyst journalist and author speaking from his study in New York and calculating some of the forces that are remaking the American political scene. Next you'll hear a group of foreign experts and scholars picking up the discussion in the department of government seminar room at the Mormon College in Claremont California. The group will be led by Dr. Charles Nixon political scientist University of California Los Angeles and will have as its regular members Dr. Frank Lees so she ologist University of California Riverside and Dr. Lee McDonald political scientist for going to college. We have as our special guest today Mr. Lauren Miller attorney member of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and of the Board of Trustees of the National Urban League.
Now here is Samuel LaBelle as recorded in New York. In nineteen hundred the last of the negro congressmen from the Reconstruction South lost his post. Twenty eight years passed before another negro came to Congress. This time he represented a district not in the South but in Chicago more recently both New York and Detroit have also sent Negroes to the House of Representatives in Washington. This reappearance of negroes on Capitol Hill is symbolic of the reappearance of the negro as a major political force in American life following the reconstruction period. The negro was suppressed. He was impotent politically. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans paid him much attention. Today the negro on his vote is a top concern of the strategists in both parties. Clearly what brought the negro back onto the political scene an active role was the great migration out of the south to the cities of the north and west between
one thousand nine hundred forty one thousand nine hundred fifty. The number of negroes outside the South leapt almost 60 percent from just under three million to well over four and a half million in the industrial states which have drawn almost all of this migration. The number of negroes has risen five to ten times as rapidly as has the white population. To understand the negro's role in 20th century American life one must focus on the dynamics of this great migration out of the South this Great Migration has not only brought the negro back into national politics but it moved him into a wholly new orbit of social economic and political conflicts. One consequence is that the negro question is no longer a Southern question. This is something many southerners fail to realize when they cry leave us along to handle our racial problem in our own way. But the Negro is no longer merely the South's problem as the Negro population
spreads through more and more of the country. The race question becomes more national in scope. It requires a national solution. Racial relations in the north in fact may prove even more combustible than in the south. The South has a safety valve for its racial tensions. If Negroes refuse to accommodate themselves to segregation they can get out. They can go north but the northern and western cities cannot shift the burden. They represent the end of the racial line. The most northern and western cities a negro came as the newest immigrant replacing the supply of cheap European labor which was cut off after World War One. At first he was isolated from other urban workers in many industries the negro was introduced as a strike breaker. This Sat him off from both the Native Americans and immigrant workers. Will the new deal all this
change by storing a common sense of class consciousness among all of the urban elements. Roosevelt helped suppress these old racial and religious divisions. The formation of the CIO largely mocked this field of the interests of immigrant and native born workers of both whites and blacks. This fact that Negroes have been class conscious as well as race conscious is the key to their strong attachment to the Democratic Party. In 1932 most Negroes still voted Republican despite the hardships they had experienced in the Depression. Not until the WPA gave every negro the guarantee of a living wage. Did negroes swing Democratic becoming even more democratic in the elections that followed. Harry Truman got a higher proportion of the Negro vote than did Roosevelt in 1952.
Negroes were the one element in the country which gave Adley Stevenson a bigger percentage of their vote than they had given Truman. Some Republicans like Thomas E. Dewey while he was governor of New York. Bad for the Negro vote by pressing various civil rights reforms such as a fair employment practice law but the law was of the negro's allegiance to the Democratic Party was based not on race alone but on a sense of economic solidarity with other workers. Whether this solidarity will hold in the future and whether the continued northward negro migration will remain a source of democratic voting strength is open to question. Simultaneously as more and more Negroes have moved up out of the south many negroes who have been living in the North for years have been pressuring to climb the economic ladder to middle class status. Steady employment has given them the financial means to
break out of the Black Belt slums and to move into a nicer neighborhood. Since the wars and in every major city Negroes have been spilling out of there all the crowded black belts and wherever they have moved they have touched off a bitter conflict between tension and tolerance. There's conflict and trying has been a major source of defection among white Democrats who feel resentfully that the Democratic Party is too closely allied with negro advancement. In the years to come the prospect is that the negro will prove an even greater source of conflict within the Democratic Party. This becomes particularly clear if one examines the make up of the most strongly Democratic seats in Congress by far the largest single bloc of such sure Democratic seats are in the south of cause. But RAW is not
generally appreciated. Is that the second largest block of such safe Democratic seats. LIASSON precisely those northern cities where negro numbers have been expanding most rapidly. The racial conflict in other words is being embedded ever deeper in the very structure of the Democratic Party. Even as Negroes have been migrating into these northern cities the better income white residents have been leaving the cities for the suburbs. If this pattern persists segregation in the north could harden rather than ease. To sum up an ominous contradiction confronts us at a time when the economic cleavage is among different elements of our country are being narrow the conflicts of race are widening. This was Mr. Samuel Lubell recording in his study in New York. Now let's continue
our discussion of the role of the Negro in present day American politics. As we join our scholars and their guest and room six Department of Government at the moment college here is Dr. Nixon. I would tell him and you have heard Mr. LaBelle's analysis of the place of the negro and our current political picture I'm wondering what you think of this Mr. Lee. As a sociologist how does Mr. Bell's analysis strike you. A most excellent analysis and I think the point I'd like to stress to begin with there is this tremendous migration out of the South and the effect which it has had upon the Negro Problem question in this country. Mr. McDonald as a political scientist what do you think is most significant of what Mr. LaBella had to say. I would certainly agree that this is an excellent analysis of the so-called Negro problem especially his note that it is not a national rather than simply a southern problem but I would like to add to that that once we have seen it
as a we have as a national problem once the nation has accepted the problem of racial integration the solution is already in sight. And this should be perhaps cause for optimism. I think the solution which was to build does not explicitly state is implied in what he says namely racial integration. Mr. Miller as a publisher of a Negro newspaper in Los Angeles and a negro attorney in this community and as a member of the board of the NAACP I presume that you have had close contact with negro political interests and ambitions I'm wondering how Mr. LaBelle's analysis strikes you. I find myself in general agreement with his analysis. I think there's some over simplifications about it that we'll probably talk about as time goes on. I think the first paragraph Mr Nixon cited gives us a cue. He points out that in 1900 the last of the negro congressman from the Reconstruction South lost his post and the
twenty years later another negro came to Congress for the first Negro that came to Congress 28 years later was a republic. Now there are now three Negro congressmen in the Congress. All three of them are Democrats. All three of them are from large metropolitan areas. Well now what would you say was the explanation as to why when Negroes go to Congress today they go as Democrats rather than as Republicans. I think that the Democrats more nearly express the economic attitudes and the economic thinking of negroes and the Republic. It's obviously than it was during the Reconstruction period were Republicans they were the products of the party liberation the party of emancipation those long years since that time and egos began to think not only in racial terms but also in terms of his economic position as a worker in the great metropolitan areas of our nation. LUBELL has stressed in his statement that fundamentally the
Negro has been drawn into the Democratic Party and in fact perhaps votes more heavily for Democrats than any other identifiable group in our society today. And this is because essentially he belongs to the lower economic group within our society and this voting behavior is related to his economic position rather than to a particular racial consciousness would you say that this was fundamentally the case. I would say that this is fundamentally the case. However I would not like to neglect the fact that racial issues are also of great importance to him for example as he points out more Negroes voted for Truman than voted for Roosevelt. Both Roosevelt and Truman a spokesman for the Democratic Party seem to the negro to be spokesman for the economic group to which he belongs. But Mr. Truman added something else he had a grave concern for civil rights so that it added to his voting on an economic basis. It was his feeling that he was also voting for his best racial interests.
Mr. Miller would you presume then that the use of the racial appeal or the concern for civil rights has in this situation been a supplement to an economic interest appeal and that apart from that economic interest appeal there but not of had anywhere near the same effect. I think that that is undoubtedly true. The situation exists in many instances that Republicans let's take Governor Dewey of New York have been spokesman for certain civil rights aspirations for Negroes. But in the. He said that the Republican Party has not been able to woo the urban negro voters away from the Democrats. Well this would seem that Mr. Miller to have extremely serious consequences for the possible future of political alignment particularly of the Negro population in this country with respect to our two major parties. If for example in spite of the fact that Republicans with as good a civil rights issue as governor do we cannot count upon any substantial reward in terms of
Negro votes in spite of the fact that Truman although he certainly had an excellent record on civil rights undoubtedly played a good bit of politics with it and got something did not get something that he might have gotten had he asked for less. If in spite of these facts a negro is going to remain within the Democratic Party. This could and if fact could it not encourage the Republican Party to consistently ignore him and eventually to give up seeking his vote. Perhaps Mr Lee this situation has or already come to be. That is if the strategists of both parties are concerned the Negro vote. It may be that the appeal that Republicans make to the Negro vote is not really so much for the negro voters as for the kind of will be synced to the ideology of equality which other Americans share and perhaps they realize they will not win you girl votes necessarily by these people.
Then of course I think that you have to take into account the fact that in particular congressional districts a Republican congressman maybe as the phrase goes as a liberal as a Democratic congressman I know many districts in this country where Negroes do vote for Republican candidates for Congress because these people are not only a spokesman for. The economic interests and aspirations of negroes but also spokesman for civil rights this way and many of these instances do you guys feel pretty good about this this gives them an opportunity to vote against the Southern Democrats and still to vote for somebody who expresses their economic and and civil rights aspirations. At the same time that they generally speaking continue to vote the national Democratic ticket. At the same time if they continue to vote the national Democratic ticket. So I think that you would always have that situation entering into it it is a matter of fact there's a great feeling among Negroes that if somehow we could just get these northern liberal
Republicans and these northern liberal Democrats all of the same party and exclude all these reactionary Republicans in the Dixiecrats and get them in one party this would be the best of all possible worlds. What we're also going to get that aside from the national level aside from the Negro voting from time to time for those congressman who happen to be members of the Republican Party and who are liberal. What we're going to get it seems to me is an increasing division in our northern states between our city vote which will become increasingly heavily weighted with negro voters and all suburban and rural areas which will increasingly become lily white. So what we will find will be possibly an increasing tension and friction not only on a national level between the on the race question between the two major parties but also when a state level. I think that's true. There is presently Now of course a conflict between the city voter in the rural voter. Now the mechanics of residential segregation are
such that Negroes are increasingly living in the centers of the old cities. They white voters tend to move to the suburban areas so that this conflict between the city voter and the rural voter will take on the appearance of a of a racial conflict because an increasingly large number of negroes will be urban voters will be opposed to the rural voters and that of course will be many people will begin to insinuate that this isn't a racial conflict whereas it's apt to be really good urban rural conflict. Are there any other elements or places in our political life or economic life today where one sees that certain traditional political alignments are now serving to reinforce the attachment of the Negro to the Democratic Party or may serve to break down this attachment of the Negro to the Democratic Party. Well I think it's very important to bear in mind. That the unions labor unions play play a large part in this matter. And it goes as unskilled workers belong generally to the so-called
mass unions. The Old CIO unions say automobile workers are rubber workers the steel workers. Now these unions are predominantly Democratic and outlook I'm using democratic in the sense of an attachment to the Democratic Party so that the negro worker who takes many of his cues from his union as do other workers tends to have his allegiance to the Democratic Party both straight within the very union to which he belongs and the union is a place in which color barriers have fallen very rapidly in the past few years and he will get into a union. He gets elected to office he finds it comparatively easy. Not entirely easy but comparatively easy to move up and take a part in union activities. You must remember that part of the way you guys drive in America is a drive toward status the union gives him status he becomes attached to the Union he picks up union attitudes toward political as well as other matters. Mr Miller is well known fact that labor leaders are less militant in their general techniques
and strategy today than they once were. Does it follow the leaders of the Negro people will be less militant as the acquirer status whether in a union or otherwise. I suppose that you'd have to say as a generalization as they acquire status that they will become less militant. However becoming less militant is also influenced by the needs of the group with which they are identified as long as the new group as a by and large has great needs with that tends to coerce people who take positions of leadership into action. In other words what you're saying there Mr Miller is not the while the leaders of the Negros in America may become increasingly conservative and cautious that they may be increasingly pushed by their followers to do more than they are possibly willing to do.
I that's exactly what I was trying to say that. The rank and file Negro has is just beginning to get a share in the good things of American life. His share is so small that he is by no means satisfied. And if his leaders have a little larger share and tend to remain satisfied in order to maintain their leadership status they must at least keep a job or two ahead of him. Isn't this suggesting that in fact you have with the negro politics precisely the same process that you have with NY politics in this country and that is that much of the leadership of the mass movements and the white community come from middle and upper class whites but they are not drawing their strengths from the rest of upper middle class whites these people are in fact cautious moderate. And consequently won't give their support to the mass political leaders so that the mass leader who is going to play a significant political role
has to voice the demands of the larger mass of white voters. And in many respects than the negro leadership will come from the middle and upper class negro groups. But he won't draw his political base of support from that group but rather from the larger group of lower income workers. And since his base of support is so overwhelmingly the working class in origin he's tends to be pushed a little bit faster perhaps than the white person who may also have a share of middle class support. Well what is the relationship here between the Northern negro in the southern negro in terms of his leadership. We have heard a reference here in Mr Lubos remarks to the safety valve as it operates this can always flee the South if he wants. We have heard in other contexts the safety valve theory of American expansion across the continent. Presumably those who do leave and set out for a new country are the more aggressive the more individualistic has this been the pattern with the
negro who have left the South to move to the north and to the west. By and large more aggressive Have they been more militant. That has been very true in the past. The militant aggressive negro left the South. It is because it is increasingly less so these days. I recall the time just a few short years ago for example and we had no Negro lawyers in Mississippi and none in Louisiana virtually none in Georgia and Alabama. Those situations reversed itself. You have an ever larger number of Negro professional men who are staying in the south and there are going to fight it out there that I think is partially true because they're finding that they have much more freedom to fight down there now. A few years ago it was hopeless. Now there is hope. Well that's brings me back to another question which you were raising earlier Mr. Miller and others with respect to the effect of the unions on this overall problem. Do you think that there will be any substantial difference in the future between the
effect of unions in the north and unions in the south. I'm under the impression that many of our mass unions so-called in the south are pretty much segregated except in unusual plants like International Harvester. That's quite true many of the Southern unions have retained at least a measure of segregation. I think that is an eagle comes increasingly into industry in the south and it seems to me that that is a forecast that the union southern unions are going to reflect his presence. Well gentlemen it seems to me that in the course of our discussion there's been a considerable amount of agreement with respect to certain elements of this picture. We've gotten the negro's place in our party life and there seems to be a good deal of agreement that in fact the negro's voting behavior is motivated and structured by his economic position as much if not more than by the particular racial issues that in fact his traditional alignment I shouldn't
say traditional that is alignment in the period from 1935 on with the Democratic Party has been due in many respects to his membership in the lower economic class in our society and of the specifically racial questions such as civil rights are important as a supplement to this. Economic class position. But there are also the kinds of divisions which previously have continued to exist between parties such as a rural urban division the division between the upper income and the lower income groups will continue to operate and the negro by becoming more urban than he is rural by continuing to remain in the lower income groups as well as more whites get a chance to move into the upper income groups that they will have a continual overlap filling and supporting of this racial division with what one might call traditional economic divisions or class
divisions in our party life. I'm wondering if. With This is perhaps the major thing which we see in this picture. If any of you see any other major questions which are of particular importance that we haven't touched on but you think nonetheless are important that we ought to keep in mind with respect to the position of the Negro in our political life Mr Lee. Mr Nixon I feel that there is one comment I'd like to make in closing and that is with respect to one of Mr. bluebells earlier remarks about an increase in race tension. I think the use of the word tension might be a bad one in that tension is generally regarded as undesirable. I think one should keep in mind that one aspect of improving race relations in many cases at least with respect to the upward movement of the negro status the economic social and so forth will be tension and that therefore tension in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Mr Macdonald and nothing else that you see of importance or I would have to agree with Mr Lee's
certainly on this point and simply add one illustration of this. Mr. Bell does discuss the deepening tensions within the Democratic Party as Negro districts are regarded as safe districts and as Southern white districts are regarded as safe districts. A built in conflict perhaps but I would not like to see the impression left that this conflict if it exists within the Democratic Party is paralleled by some kind of conflict within the American people at large I think actually there is a greater awareness of Negro white relationships and therefore perhaps less conflict. Mr. MILLER Many further points that you see that we haven't really made here. Yes there is one point that I should like to direct some attention to and that is Mr. Lew Bell's tacit assumption. That the mere increase of numbers of negroes in the north is bound to lead to what he calls greater tensions. I do not think that that is necessarily so. I think as a
matter of fact if you look back over the past 20 years and note the tremendous increase in the group population in our great urban centers. And then if you were to take a look at those same centers you would see that what we call race relations are much better than they were 20 years ago. So I don't think that we should fall into this error of thinking as the southerners are so fond of suggesting that as soon as the number of negroes increase that you will deal with Negroes just as we have to deal with them. As a matter of fact I think that the Negro population in the north can increase and that race relations can better themselves along with it. That is actually what I FOR FOUR see and what I forecast. Mr. Miller I want to thank you very much for joining with Mr. Lee and Mr. McDonald and myself in this discussion of the position of the negro when the current American political scene. You have been listening to the negro on the move and examination of the role of the Negro in present day American politics. One in a series of discussion programs
- The Negro on the move
- Producing Organization
- San Bernardino Valley College
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program discusses the African-American role in American life and politics.
- Other Description
- This series consists of moderated panel discussions on American political affairs in the mid-20th century. It features Samuel Lubell, Professor Charles Nixon and others.
- Broadcast Date
- Politics and Government
- Media type
Panelist: Lee, Frank
Panelist: McDonald, Lee Cameron
Panelist: Miller, Loren
Producing Organization: San Bernardino Valley College
Speaker: Lubell, Samuel
Speaker: Nixon, Charles
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-8-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Politics in the twentieth century; The Negro on the move,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 29, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dn3zx717.
- MLA: “Politics in the twentieth century; The Negro on the move.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 29, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dn3zx717>.
- APA: Politics in the twentieth century; The Negro on the move. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dn3zx717