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Comments on a minority. Well 1940 is the start of the beginning of a period of rapid social change and the Negro problem. And. Also is the beginning of a period of change in American life generally because it was the beginning of a new era of prosperity which we're still in. And it was of course the opening year of the Second World War which put us into a new situation with respect to the world generally. The voice is that of Dr. Arnold Rose professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota Dr. Rose worked with Gunnar Murdock all on his monumental study of the American Negro and American dilemma. The condensed version of the study the Negro in America was prepared by Dr. Rose during the past weeks. We have heard many opinions as well as facts regarding the largest of our American minorities the negro minority. We have heard from a variety of people all of whom are united in their interest in the problems of the negro for our last program in this series
Dr. Ro's comments on the changes in the pattern of Negro life in the United States during the last 20 years. These comments were taken from a longer interview recorded at the University of Minnesota by our producer E-W Richter. What would you like to briefly summarize if it's possible to do so. Of the situation as it existed in relation to the negro in 1940. Of course one of the reasons why you're interested 1042 is that we did our studies for an American dilemma about that time just before and during the few years after that. So that provides a good braking year. In general one would say the position of the negro in the United States was rather a low one as of the year in 1940 the in fact there had been a steady decline since slavery days in the position of the Negro which I had reached a low point. One might say around 1910 and it was only very gradually changed after that
up to 1940. The major changes as I've indicated are came after 1940 to be more specific. One might call attention to the fact that the. Job opportunities for Negroes were extremely limited as of one thousand forty negroes in effect could be only servants or farmers with very few exceptions and those exceptions were primarily as a. In servicing. The Negro community itself but negroes were kept out of manufacturing and out of Commerce and out of transportation and out of the major industries really except for. Agriculture and service occupations in American life. So this was a something that really represented a very low point in the position of the negro. And during the late depression years in the northern cities more than half of the Negro males were unemployed. We think of the 1930s being generally an era of
unemployment but this was much more drastic for the for the negroes. I saw the seven figures are not quite so bad and unemployment but this is partly fictitious since they were very often. Doing part time jobs they were underemployed barely living but not really properly with jobs moving. To the political realm. Negroes the great majority of them were still living in the south. Over 75 percent were living in the south in the year 1940 and they were with a few exceptions completely disenfranchised a few exceptions primarily in Virginia and Texas. That is they were not allowed to vote. There are studies there were done by Ralph Bunche since become a world statesman and documented very carefully the fact of the negroes exclusion from voting and from political life generally throughout the south. In the legal realm one can point out that the cause
of negroes exclusion from political life he had very little legal protection in the south. In general one can exaggerate a little bit but point out that. Negroes who committed crimes against white persons were sure to be punished very drastically if they ever received the advantages of legal consideration at all because the lynching rate was still significant in 1040 although not been as high as it once had been. The beatings the use of physical violence against Negroes and other illegal sanctions such as the burning negroes homes and so it was was quite extensive. Negroes who committed crimes against other negroes on the other hand were very often let off the courts and the police pay little attention to Negro criminals who operated within the Negro community. And the result was that there was very little protection for law abiding negroes. And the result is that they lived in a rather lawless state where the criminal negroes were it would
be safe as long as they didn't bother to whites. Furthermore white people committed crimes against Negroes in the south in 1940 with impunity. There had not been a single case in any of these southern states. And I'm not I'm talking about the border states now but in the deep and upper southern states. Not been a single case in which a white person has been convicted for committing a crime against a negro for some 40 years in the South as a 1040. Now. In social life of course there was a rather systematic system which we call segregation or sometimes properly called Jim Crow which required that Negroes and whites have as little contact as possible and when they were obliged by virtue of say economic relationships to come in contact with each other to have a very rigid system of formal relationships which prevented them from talking freely with regard to each other and which required a number of the ceremonial
observances which prevented. Any kind of frank or honest or even certainly not friendly conversation. And that was the situation as of 1940 as I say. Since then we have had. Some very startling changes. But I think the great change occurs after 1940. I would even dated just slightly later than that one thousand forty two I think was the beginning of the great change in the position of any one United States. Well let us then examine the changes occurring after 1940 and. Once again you mentioned the year in 1942 as being rather vital. Significant here in this context. We like you. Yes I think the reason why I would pick one thousand forty two was for two reasons the first one and probably the most important was the fact that we were now in the war. And. The was tremendous need as you know for great increase in industrial
production. There was a labor shortage for the first time in many many years a significant labor shortage and negroes had been. Under privilege they've been kept out of not only out of jobs but most kinds of jobs so that when the labor shortage developed this was an opportunity for Negroes to come in. Now at first there was an effort to keep them out even so I remember in 1040 too for example I was in New York City at that time. And. There was a drastic search for labor. In fact they were combing the. Bowery the hobo area to try to dig up extra labor. At that same time at that very moment when they were discovering the. Bowery which represented the most difficult place to find labor there were still 25 percent of able bodied Negro males in New York City unemployed. Just to give you one
example. After that the pattern broke negroes began to be employed in more industries. Now this came about by as a result of. Negroes own activity they organized all the negro organizations and their white friends organized what was then called the March on Washington movement to make a dramatic protest by sending negroes small of the country to Washington today to protest against the negroes exclusion from the war effort. They believe that they should have as much participation in industrial production in the armed forces as any other Americans. And so they organized this march on Washington movement. And that put enough political pressure. On the government officials to force the declaration by President Roosevelt of the fair employment practices. Presidential order which has set up a commission to introduce negroes into the war industries. And from then on Negroes not only began to get more jobs to get employment really for the first time
Negro men because Negro women had been employed as servants previously. But it also opened up new kinds of opportunities they negroes began to move into industry into manufacturing into into commerce into transportation. And today one can say well there is still a considerable amount of exclusion and discrimination of negroes and employment opportunities still there are probably very few kinds of occupations that are completely closed and egos as they were in 1040. That is the great economic change the result of course has also been a great increase in income for Negroes and rising living standards from being a on the whole a very marginal. Impoverished people in 1040 they now have a substantial middle class of people who are living moderately well getting some of the benefits of American life because they're able to afford this. Now that was one of the important changes the second
thing and I suppose in the long run more significant is that America came of age. Generally it around and it's at the time of its entrance into the second world war it began to think of itself as a world country instead of simply an isolated small country were separated off from the rest of the world. And many Americans began to think in world terms for the first time it has been a rather slow change in a rather unconscious one I don't think most of us are aware of this change. But one of the things it did for the negro was to require Americans to think. Other people's attitudes toward. Tilt toward. The position of the negro in the United States became aware also that the great bulk of the population of the world in Asia and Africa were themselves colored people and we had to somehow get along with them. Now this change of course affected the more educated elements of the population first and
one of the first groups that began to think in these world terms I think were government officials and most particularly of course the Supreme Court beginning in 1944 the United States Supreme Court after decades of. Sort of. Getting around the law. They had the basic constitutional provisions of equality and liberty and maintenance of protection of life and limb and property for Negroes. The courts always decided on rather specific points and never in general principles. In 1944 the United States Supreme Court began a series of unanimous decisions. Which. Increase the legal rights of negroes gave them. Almost not still not quite but almost the same legal rights that the rest of the American population enjoyed. Now this was a series of court decisions but the first one was the 1944 decision which
recognized at the white primary in the southern states that is the law. The state laws which excluded negroes from voting in the primary elections. Which in effect were the only significant elections in the southern politics. Because the general election was a foregone conclusion in all the Southern states which in this white primary law which also in states had was in effect a means of preventing negroes from exerting their constitutional rights to vote and declared that the white primary was unconstitutional. And from then on for example negroes began to vote in significant numbers in the southern states and their increase in voting has been steady. Now with the increase in the vote. They also gained some other legal rights they gain more consideration from Southern politicians. It was possible to get their streets paved and their lights put on their street in negro communities in the southern states. This was a very important change. I've heard some Negro leaders make the point that if the negro once had the complete freedom
of the ballot we could forget about the problem it's what Soros consider to be. A panacea to all the ills which the Negro suffers in our society. Do you have any comment to make about a government statement such as this. Well I think every vote is extremely important not only in terms of simply electing a few individuals but it means that there's going to be some attention paid to the social and economic needs of the Negro population as far as government is concerned it means that judges are going to pay some attention to legal rights and when a Negro comes up in court and so on but further even more important that it must be. Are exercising the right to vote. They're not going occupied by the same social status that people who do have the privilege of voting to have. So that I think that this is very important is not the only thing by any means.
It's certainly one of the most significant changes but it's not the only one because economic factors are important and also matter social relationships are very important. You just equated. The vote with social change. Having the vote would mean the difference. And social position of the neighbor I'd like you to explore that a little bit more fully. Well I think it's what I was trying to suggest there was that people's attitudes are influenced by by this that is to say if someone is prevented from having the vote you will have situation for example in which a white criminal feels that he can. Do anything he wants to to a negro without any fear of retaliation because the there will be no no protection for the Negro and that's been the fact. It's a matter of attitudes that I think is important. But let me go onto some of the other changes that have been been going on beside these economic and. Political ones. The legal changes
which I suppose are closely tied to the political ones have been very significant for the first time. White people have been convicted of committing crimes against Negroes in the south and there have been increasing numbers of this coming to public attention. And it means that the Negro population is going to have some protection from the law they've been living in are in a kind of a jungle if you will as far as law is concerned in the south. And without any protection from law from police from the courts for quite some time and not not that very many white people took advantage of this but enough did so to make life pretty miserable and dangerous. For them or. Negroes themselves or getting protection from negro criminals law abiding negroes there. And this is come about in several ways since the end of the war. A number of southern cities have hired negro policemen to patrol negro areas and this means that they don't have to rely on white policemen who tended to ignore
the operations of Negro criminals. The. Average law abiding Southern negro and now gets a great deal of protection from the from the law and he really knows also when he comes up in court he's not going to be laughed at. He's not going to be summarily dismissed or but he'll have a chance perhaps not and certainly not equal to that of the white man in the court. That is things are that good yet in the southern courts but he's going to have a chance now in social relationships you had the least amount of change. We see now that there are certain changes going on. In public facilities particularly in the schools. You probably are aware that while there's been a great resistance and the part of some especially the deep south in states to integrating or bringing Negro and white children together in the same schools even though there is an economic advantage to that. Is still a great number of states have moved in this direction.
Not discriminating between Negroes and whites in the use of publicly owned facilities. Negroes were for example excluded from public parks and public libraries in the south as recently as the 1040s. Today that's not not true in the south and negroes well in most cities to be able to make use of the public libraries and public parts parks and only also playgrounds and swimming beaches and things of that sort. All public facilities now the great area of change in the schools. All of the border states now have integrated schools as a matter the last few years and some of the upper southern states are moving in the same direction. Things that by upper south southern states I mean states like Tennessee and Texas and Arkansas and. Which are rapidly moving toward to desegregate schools. The opposition which we hear much more about occurs primarily in the deep southern states which have
not moved in this direction. And of course Little Rock where the governor decided make it a political issue even though some of the other Arkansas communities had already been integrated. Excuse me. Further. There have been changes in. In the private associations a number of professional bodies of doctors lawyers other professional groups. Organizations of business men unions trade unions and other organizations which generally have been open to people of a certain occupation or in a certain economic position have begun to permit Negroes to enter the membership of those organizations. Furthermore there are certain other public organizations which now have begun in the last few years to open their memberships to the negro participants. In the north as well in the south now because the same pattern of exclusion in social relationships occurred in the north as well as in the south.
I'm thinking of. Things like the Red Cross and the PTA and other important voluntary associations of. Our. American life so that while there still isn't a great deal of personal social relationships people don't visit each other in their homes very much across racial lines still in their more public relationships in the in the. In the public organizations such as the schools and libraries and so on and in the voluntary associations which are in a sense open to the public. There is a certain degree of relationship. It's a rather formal one and. I would imagine that Negroes feel just as in secure about as many white people do. But still it's the beginning of a way in which people can see each other as people instead of only in a completely.
Cast like relationship with which that whites were dominant and the negroes were excluded and. Participant only as subordinate servants. So this is a change even in social relationships. The amount of violence has greatly decreased. We hear a great deal about the violence these days that it occurs in a town like Little Rock but the amount of violence is nowhere near as much as it was in the year 940. The average negro. Is much more sure in the south of his safety of his family members of his home and so on from depredations from Bernie and from lynchings from any kind of violence. It's been another one of the changes in my actual 940 the violence was a matter of everyday occurrence in the US in every little town. Negroes would be beaten pushed not down. Property damaged in some way rather freely and it was an individual matter and generally not even don't
even get in the newspapers it was a matter of every negro constantly being threatened by white people in his own home town. Today the violence has shifted it's become more of the Northern pattern of violence which we used to have in the northern cities where there were in effect a kind of group against group. It's much more dramatic it gets in the newspapers. It usually involves some conflict incident. It's where the negroes are as you say in an organized fashion pushing through to gain some position of equality and some respect that their gets that the rowdier elements in the white community may organize to oppose them and there is a certain amount of violence but the total amount of violence is nowhere near as great as it was in the year 1940. It's just that we didn't count it then and today it's much more dramatic it gets the newspaper people are paying more attention to it. But it's and it's changed its character it becomes a not so much a matter of individual violence as a matter of group violence. And that's that's I think the change.
Well let me briefly summarize some of these changes the more the more apparent ones which have occurred during this period 1940 to 1959. First of all you spoke of economic changes in terms of employment opportunities for Negroes. Whereas prior to 1948 most professions and skilled trades were closed to negroes. Most of them are in one way or another. Now open skilled trades as well as skilled trades were also close negro's and eye manufacturing and Commerce and Industry in 1940. And then in the political arena we find that the Negro has. Continually improved to the possibilities of his voting. In the north of course he's always had the. Freedom of the vote in the south. This freedom is beginning to spread. On the legal front the negro now feels much more protected by the law needs to fear violence less than he did prior to 1948. On the social front you indicated that you thought this was the slowest moving in terms of progress however and the
girls are being accepted into. First of all the schools are under some. Pressure. But also negroes are being accepted in a professional organization so that even here there has been some progress do I as my summary. Yes I think I call attention to one more point which I think is very significant Most people aren't really aware of it and that is the population change. The great bulk of the negroes up through 1940 lived in the south as you know. Now this is no longer true. He bought half of the Negro population now lives in the north and the West and the course the dividing line between North and South has moved southward so that one can say today that the bulk of the negroes are now living in the north. This means two things. One is that the Negro is no longer a Southern strictly a southern problem it's now a national and it's a problem is national nationwide. Furthermore it means that there's not going to be much more migration of these rural backward. Negroes who have not had the benefit of
law and education coming northward as there has been until recently the era of most rapid migration is necessarily reaching its end because there just aren't that many rural negroes left in the south to to continue to move and many of them want to stay there of course who are still there so that we've moved into a nation wide problem where the difficulties occur between North and Northern negros and whites and they have to do with matters of housing and neighborly relations and relations of cultural differences when your city city whites are having to cope sometimes with very. Un educated backward negroes who have lived under conditions in which they were living in danger of violence and without the rights of voting and they're suddenly now getting these rights but have to a culture a to a new to really a new pattern of life. And this of course will take a generation or two but we can see the
changes they're likely to come as a result of the kind of assimilation really that many of the European migrants had when they came from rural areas of Europe especially from southern and eastern Europe and the problems they had which have been solved more or less in one or two generations the same thing is now going on with respect to the negroes. That is one of the more significant changes I suppose in the long run that means progress in the short run that of course means new problems for our northern cities. Thank you Dr. Rose. You have been listening to comments on a minority in today's program. The last of the series you have heard Dr. Arnold Rose professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota discussing the changing pattern of Negro life in the United States. Dr. Rose's comments were taken from a longer interview recorders that the University of Minnesota by our producer E-W Richter in connection with the production of the last citizen of the Negro in America a series of programs produced under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio
Center address any inquiries regarding comments on a minority or the last citizen to radio station WB A producer University Lafayette Indiana your announcer has been George Norris comments on a minority was produced by Radio Station WB A producer University. The preceding tape recorded program was made available to the station by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Comment on a minority
Dr. Arnold Rose
Producing Organization
Purdue University
WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the last in the series, presents an interview with Dr. Arnold Rose, a sociologist.
Series Description
This series explores minority issues in the United States in the mid-20th century.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
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: Rose, Arnold Marshall, 1918-1968
Interviewer: Thompson, Ben
Producer: Richter, E.W.
Producing Organization: Purdue University
Producing Organization: WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-51-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:56
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Chicago: “Comment on a minority; Dr. Arnold Rose,” 1960-11-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 19, 2024,
MLA: “Comment on a minority; Dr. Arnold Rose.” 1960-11-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 19, 2024. <>.
APA: Comment on a minority; Dr. Arnold Rose. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from