IX. INFAMY OF THE NATION
BY ALBERT E KAHN
Chapter 9 from THE GAME OF DEATH
All education must have the sole object of stamping the conviction into the child that his own people and his own race are superior to all others.
1. The Way in Washington
DURING DECEMBER 3-7, 1950, a widely publicized and impressively staged Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth took place in Washington, D. C. Preceded by months of nationwide preparations involving scores of private organizations and numerous state and Federal agencies, the Conference was attended by approximately 5,000 official delegates, many members of the press and a group of special guests. Also present were some three hundred observers from foreign countries, although, as the Proceedings Report regret fully noted, "the application of the McCarran Act reduced the number of delegates from abroad."
The Conference, which had been called by President Truman, was conducted under the auspices of a National Committee composed of fifty-two nationally prominent citizens. Chair-man of the Committee was Federal Security Administrator Oscar R. Ewing. Honorary Chairman was President Truman.
In a statement on the "Conference Focus," the National Committee declared:
. . . the purpose of the Conference shall be to consider how we can develop in children the mental, emotional and spiritual qualities essential to individual happiness and to responsible citizenship, and what physical, economic, and social conditions are deemed necessary.
To you, our children, who hold within you our most cherished hopes, we . . . make this pledge:
From your earliest infancy we give you our love, so that you may grow with trust in yourself and in others.
We will recognize your worth as a person and we will help you to strengthen your sense of belonging. . . .
We will provide the conditions for wholesome play that will add to your learning. to your social experience and to your happiness. . . .
We will provide you with rewarding educational opportunities so that you may develop your talents and contribute to a better world.
We will protect you against exploitation and undue hazards and help you grow in health and strength." (1)
Even if the Conference's high-sounding Pledge to Children had not come at a time when a nationwide effort was being made to groom young Americans for war, the words of the declaration would still have had bitterly mocking overtones for a major portion of the nation's youth.
For five million Negro American children, notwithstanding the slogans of freedom and democracy under which the U.S. Government was prosecuting the Cold War, the country of their birth remained a forbidding and hostile place in which from infancy they were subjected to savage discrimination and barbarous persecution.
And nowhere in the land was this infamous fact more vividly exemplified than in the city where the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth was held.
In the fall of 1947, with much fanfare, a Bill of Rights Oratorical Contest was sponsored by the Washington Junior Chamber of Commerce among the city's public-school children. The finals of the contest were scheduled to be held in a public school auditorium. At the last minute, these arrangements had to be changed: Negro children had reached the finals and would be competing with white children. . . .(3)
Not even when at play are Negro children in the Nation's capital allowed to feel they are the equals of white children.
On the playground as in the classroom, Jim Crow holds sway. Negro boys and girls are forbidden by the regulations of the District of Columbia Recreation Board to enter many of the playgrounds for white children.
The report, Segregation in Washington, describes a school in the heart of a largely Negro area. . . with an enrollment of nearly 1,000 Negro children. The school does not have a single square inch of play space. Across the street is a city playground-"No Negroes Allowed."
"I often sat in classrooms," relates a former student at this school, "and watched this fenced-in playground being used by a handful of white children playing baseball, while scores of Negro children peered through the fence with longing glances."
In the summer of 1952, the official policy of preventing Negro and white children from playing together resulted in a particularly tragic incident. On the oppressively hot night of June 22, after closing time at the Rosedale Playground where Negro children were not allowed, a thirteen-year-old Negro boy, Kenneth Carroll, clambered over the fence to take a swim in the playground's pool. Several hours later, the night watchman found the boy's body in the pool. Alone and unwatched, the child had drowned. (4).
Within view of the White House, and in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln's gravely beautiful memorial, there sprawls a hideous ghetto in which more than a quarter of Washington's inhabitants - 250,000 Negro men, women and children - are penned. Describing this ghetto, Mrs. Agnes E. Meyer wrote in the Washington Post:
. . . not in the Negro slums of Detroit, not even in the southern cities, have I seen human beings subjected to such unalleviated wretchedness as in the alleys of our own city of Washington. . .
Not only houses have been subdivided, but small rooms already too filthy for animal habitation, have been partitioned with cardboard to absorb more tenants.
In Burke's Court, I4 occupants have been stowed away in a single room; in Ninth Street, N.W., a small house holds 19 persons, while a woman and three children live in the basement.
Five or six persons to a room, occupying at times a single bed, is commonplace . . . (5)
Despite the appallingly high incidence of sickness among the Negro population, due to systematically imposed poverty; malnutrition and slum conditions, Washington hospitals are more concerned with maintaining Jim Crow barriers than with providing Negroes with medical care. Private or semi-private hospital rooms for Negroes are practically non-existent. One fourth of the private hospitals exclude Negro patients altogether, and the remainder allot them a limited number of beds in segregated wards.
The bylaws of one hospital state: "This institution is administered under the auspices of the Church, and its doors are open to all persons - regardless of color." Nevertheless, only fifteen beds in the entire hospital are for the use of Negro patients; and when these beds are filled, colored patients are turned away, whether or not space is available in the "white" section. The hospital contains a children's ward for white children only.
At another church-supported hospital in Washington, this incident occurred in the winter of 1946. A young Negro woman in labor rushed to the hospital; she knew she would not have time to reach any other hospital before her child was born. Attendants at the church-supported hospital refused to admit her. She collapsed on the pavement outside, and there, a few minutes later, gave birth to her child. Members of the hospital staff condescended to cover the mother and infant with a sheet until an ambulance arrived and took them both away. . .
There are two public hospitals in Washington which accept Negro patients. They are the all-Negro Freedmen's Hospital and the Gallinger Municipal Hospital. Both of these hospitals operate on grossly inadequate budgets.
A hospital survey in 1946 reported "an inordinately high mortality" among infants at Gallinger Hospital, where half of the city's colored patients were segregated. Regarding conditions at this hospital, an article in the March 22, 1947, issue of the Saturday Evening Post stated: "Gallinger Municipal Hospital puts the legs of its beds in pans of water to keep the cockroaches from snuggling up to the patients."
Front-paged on the New York Times of May 14, 1948, under the headline, "RACE BIAS IN WASHINGTON DEPRIVES 51 YOUNGSTERS OF TRIP TO CAPITAL," was a news item which read in part as follows:
Long-cherished dreams of passing a few hours among the tokens of freedom and historical attractions of the nation's capital were shattered yesterday for fifty-one New York children by Negro segregation and discrimination rules as practiced in Washington. All of the youngsters were medal winners in the safety patrol contests in the New York metropolitan area. . .
Among the children designated to share in the safety honors were four Negro children. . . When the Automobile Club sought accommodations for them with their white companions, the Washington hotel doors were closed to them. This action caused the cancellation of the junket yesterday. A special citation was to have been given by President Truman . . .
Commenting on this incident, the New York Herald Tribune editorialized: "The humiliation of these New York schoolboys was a national disgrace."
Allied against the Negro in this doubtful enterprise . . . is the full majesty of the United States Government. . . .
In spite of all its principles and professions, its executive orders and directives, the United States Government is systematically denying colored citizens of the capital equal opportunity in employment, and is setting an example of racial discrimination to the city and nation.
. . . the Federal Government is holding more citizens in bondage than any single person or agency in the country. It is responsible because it, and it alone, has the power to break the chains that bar a quarter of a million Negroes in Washington from their equal rights as Americans.
Worse, the government has helped to make the chains. Its District courts have been used . . . to force colored people into ghettos. Its lending, housing and planning agencies have been drawn into the general undertaking. Its District Commissions, appointed by the President, and its various other officers, have helped maintain the color bar in municipal agencies, schools, hospitals and recreational facilities.
On January 23, 1953, the U. S. Court of Appeals ruled that racial discrimination in restaurants and similar establishments was legally permissible in Washington.
2. Shadow Over the Land
DURING THE New Deal era, particularly during the years of the Second World War, certain breeches were made in the caste system by which Negro Americans had been held in virtual bondage for almost a century after the Emancipation Proclamation. With the upsurgence of industrial trade unionism and with the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Committee, tens of thousands of Negro men and women had obtained jobs as skilled workers from which they had previously been barred. As the manpower needs of the armed forces had multiplied, the traditional discrimination against Negro enlistments in various branches of the services was largely broken down; and with the nation engaged in the most crucial struggle of its history, the Negro people had rallied to the defense of their country and played an epic role in the war effort. (6)
"The American Negro," wrote Harry Haywood in 1948 in the preface to his book, Negro Liberation, "faces the most crucial decision in his entire history. All of the gains so painfully won through years of struggle and sacrifice stand in jeopardy as the specter of World War III looms sinisterly above the skyscrapers of Wall Street."
Jim Crow stalked the nation; and children, no less than adults, were its victims.
Illustrative of the legally institutionalized Jim Crowism prevailing for Negro children throughout the South in the United States today is the following clause from the constitution of South Carolina:
Article Xl, Section 7
Separate schools shall be provided for children of white and colored races, and no child of either race shall ever be permitted to attend a school provided for the children of the other race.
Similar laws decreeing the segregation of Negro school children are in force in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri and the District of Columbia.
A similar point of view was expressed by Governor Herman Talmadge of Georgia in slightly different language. It was his opinion, according to the New York Times, that "if racial segregation were ended in Georgia's schools, attempts would be made to run all Negroes out of at least 50 of the state's 159 counties "….(8)
Jim Crow legislation on the statute books of southern states by no means concerns only the public-school system. In the words of An Appeal to the World! a document submitted to the United Nations in February 1947 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:
In three states the statutes require separate schools even for the deaf, dumb and blind. In six states the statutes call for separate schools for the blind. Sixteen states require segregation in juvenile delinquent and reform schools . . . Three states require separate school libraries. Florida stipulates that textbooks used by Negro pupils shall be stored separately.
In fourteen states the law requires separate railroad facilities.
. . . Separation in buses is required in eleven states; ten states have the same requirements affecting streetcar transportation . . .
Two states require separation of the races at circuses and tent shows. Three states require separation in parks, playgrounds and on beaches. . . .
There are laws which require separation of the races in hospitals. In eleven states even mental defectives must be separated by race. . . .
In the Black Belt of the South there are approximately five million Negro men, women and children, a major portion of them living in virtual serfdom or involuntary servitude on great cotton plantations as sharecroppers and tenant farmers. Although Negroes comprise approximately 60 per cent of the population of the Black Belt area, which stretches through twelve southern states, the overwhelming majority of them are deprived of their right to vote. The methods used to keep Negro citizens from the polls range from the poll-tax and other "legal" devices to terrorization and lynch mobs . . .
Throughout the North, too, "Black Belts" exist.
An article describing living conditions in Harlem, published in the December 6, 1949, issue of Look magazine; which featured a photograph of a tragically weary-faced Negro mother sitting beside her three sleeping children, opened with these words:
For the sad-eyed Harlem housewife in the picture . . . sleep is an expensive luxury. When her children go to bed, she posts guard against the hungry rats that have already bitten the boy nearest her. A month ago, the shrieks of her fourth child roused her from bed. Blood oozed from two jagged wounds in the child's cheek. In the morning, the baby was dead.
Counterparts of this grisly episode are anything but rare in Harlem. Though this woman scrubs her railroad flat and patches up ratholes as fast as they are chewed, the odds are against her. For she lives in one of Harlem's 7,000-odd brick tenements built before 1900. Most of them have not known proper maintenance for a quarter of a century. Walls are torn; dumbwaiters are choked five stories high with refuse; plumbing is merely trial and error, heat and hot water are at best a hope and a prayer.
Three square miles of these ancient wrecks still stand in Harlem. They are packed with more than 450,000 people, most of them Negroes and Puerto Ricans. Unlike Miami, New York doesn't designate the Negro boundaries of the city. It doesn't need to. For in physical fact, Harlem is the only big section where those who are not white may live. The boundaries enclose a near medieval ghetto, with all the evils of ghetto life.
In the fall of 1950 the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association reported that since 1944 the incidence of tuberculosis had increased 44 per cent among Negroes in Harlem and 181 per cent among Puerto Ricans. In 1951 the national death rate from tuberculosis among Negro girls between the ages of ten and nineteen was nine times that of white girls of the same age.
According to the U. S. Office of Vital Statistics, less than half of the Negro women in childbirth are attended by physicians and the mortality rate among Negro mothers is three times as high as among white mothers. Infant mortality among Negroes is almost twice as high as among whites.
The average life expectancy of a Negro child in the United States is nearly ten years less than that of a white child.
Against those Negro parents who seek to rescue their children from the misery, squalor and disease of ghetto life and to move into other neighborhoods, restrictive covenants and various other "legal" and extra-legal devices are employed to keep them segregated. When these measures fail, the next resort is frequently mob violence. During 1944-46, in Chicago alone, fifty-nine attacks were made on the homes of Negroes trying to settle in "white" areas - five shootings, twenty-two stonings and more than a score of arson bombings. During the ensuing years, Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Cicero and other cities in all parts of the country have been scenes of bombings, house-burnings, shootings and viligante-inspired riots directed against Negro families seeking to make their homes in "white" districts . . .
Almost invariably, the culprits in these cases have not been arrested or punished for their crimes.
It cannot be said that the law is so slow to act against Negroes who have the temerity to defend their lives.
3. Justice in Americus
THE LIFE of Mrs. Rosa Lee Ingram had been like that of hundreds of thousands of other Negro women in the Black Belt of the South. Born on a farm about forty miles from the town of Americus, Georgia, her lot since childhood had been one of bitter poverty, hardship and backbreaking toil. At the age of eight, she had gone to work on a plantation. At fifteen, she had married a sharecropper. "I don't know how old he was," she relates. "He was an older man than me. Me and him loved each other. The first child came when I was sixteen. I owned children fast after that. Two of them died in childbirth. None of my children was born in a hospital . . ,"
When Mrs. Ingram was forty, her husband died. She was left with eleven children to care for, the youngest being a fourteen-months-old baby and the oldest a boy of seventeen. Her twelfth living child, a daughter, had married a migratory farm worker and was no longer living with the Ingram family on the farm near the small town of Ellaville, Georgia, where they were now eking out an existence as sharecropping tenants.
That was in August 1947.
Two months later, an event occurred which was destined to make the name of Rosa Lee Ingram known to countless human beings in every corner of the globe as a symbol of the suffering, oppression and heroism of the Negro people of the United States.
On the afternoon of November 4, 1947, Mrs. Ingram set out from her farm to retrieve some pigs and mules which had strayed onto the property of a neighboring white farmer named John Stratford. She went with uneasiness. Several times since her husband's death, Stratford had made advances to her. Repulsed by her, he had turned from cajolery to angry threats.
On reaching the Stratford place, Mrs. Ingram encountered the farmer. He was carrying a rifle. Pointing at her animals, he shouted furiously, "Get those goddam hogs and mules out of here or I'll kill them!"
As Mrs. Ingram began rounding up the animals, Stratford came menacingly toward her. "You damned son of a bitch," he said, "I'll fix you too"
Suddenly, with savage force, the farmer struck Mrs. Ingram across the shoulders with his rifle. As she staggered from the blow, he smashed the gun into her face. When Mrs. Ingram seized the rifle and with a desperate effort managed to wrest it from him, Stratford reached into a pocket and drew out a knife. Before he could release the blade, Mrs. Ingram grabbed one of his arms. With his free hand, Stratford began pounding the woman's bleeding face with the butt of the knife.
Hearing their mother's screams, two of Mrs. Ingram's sons, seventeen-year-old Wallace and fourteen-year-old Samuel Lee, came rushing to the scene. The younger of the two boys, horror-stricken at what he saw, burst into tears and stood frozen to the spot. Wallace ran up to Stratford, crying, "Stop beating mama, stop beating mama!"
When Stratford continued to pound Mrs. Ingram with the unopened knife, Wallace picked the farmer's rifle off the ground and struck him twice on the head with it.
Stratford sank to the ground and lay motionless. The two blows had killed him . . .
Dazed and shaken, Mrs. Ingram returned to her house with her sons. She quieted down the other children and put her baby to bed. Then She sent Wallace to Ellaville to get the sheriff. "Tell him the whole truth of what happened," she instructed her son.
Soon, several cars raced up to the Ingram house. Out of them poured a number of armed, grim-faced men. Crowding into the house, the sheriff and his posse accused Mrs. Ingram and her children of deliberately murdering the white farmer. Mrs. Ingram's oldest son was told that unless he confessed he had helped murder Stratford, he would be immediately lynched. When Mrs. Ingram tried to say what had actually happened, she was shouted into silence.
Mrs. Ingram and her four oldest sons were roughly herded into the waiting cars and taken to jail.
The seven smaller Ingram children, the oldest of whom was an eleven-year-old boy, were left to fend for themselves as best they could . . .
Later that day, a neighboring Negro farmer named Sam Hill took the seven stranded Ingram children to his farm for safekeeping.
Word of what had happened was sent to Mrs. Ingram's married daughter, Mrs. Geneva Rushin, who was with her husband harvesting beans in Florida; she was told to hurry home and help care for the children.
For thirteen weeks, Mrs. Ingram and her four sons were held in prison without bail. Locked in separate cells and forbidden to see any relatives or friends, they were subjected to continuous threats and third degree in an effort to make them "confess" they had intentionally murdered Stratford. None of the Ingrams confessed. . .
On February 3, Mrs. Ingram and her sons, Wallace and Samuel Lee, were placed on trial at the County Courthouse in Americus on the charge of first-degree murder. The presiding magistrate was Judge W. M. Harper. The jury was all-white.
The facts of the case were beyond dispute. As S. Hawkins Dykes, a local white attorney who had been appointed by the court to act as defense counsel for the Ingrams, subsequently stated: "The evidence clearly showed that John E. Stratford, the white farmer whom the Ingrams were accused of murdering, assaulted the mother with a rifle and died from a blow on the head when the Ingram boys came to her defense. Everyone around here knows that the Ingrams would be free today had they been white."
But the Ingrams were Negroes.
The trial lasted exactly one day. The jury found Mrs. Ingram and her sons Wallace and Samuel Lee guilty of murder in the first degree.
Judge Harper sentenced the Negro mother and her two sons to die in the electric chair.
"My dear beloved mother. . . this is from your child, Rosa Lee Ingram," Mrs. Ingram wrote, shortly after she and her sons had been sentenced to death, in a letter to her mother, Mrs. Amy Hunt, who was living in Philadelphia. "I am not feeling so well this morning. I have been sick. . . Mother send up some good prayers to the Lord for me. I pray day and night. I know the Lord will answer. . . But Mother I just think about my little children so bad I cannot help from crying. . ."
The elderly Mrs. Hunt came from Philadelphia to visit her daughter. Afterwards she related:
I was with her in the jail for one half hour. I couldn't help crying, it was so pitiful. They brought her up to the bars. "Rosa Lee," the jail man called, "do you see anyone here you know?" She kept peeking through the bars. "Yes, that is my mother. . .".
I saw the boys that are in the jail there too. They almost cried when I left . . .
"Mom," Rosa Lee said, "Mom, don't worry about me. I'm getting plenty to eat. . . . You are going out to Geneva's to see my children. Mommy, you go out there. I'm afraid for my children . . .
Mrs. Hunt went to visit the Ingram children on Sam Hill's farm:
I stayed a week . . . There were seventeen of us in the house. Maybe you wouldn't call it a house. It's a shack by the woods. Sometimes the snakes came right into it. They have two rooms and a kitchen. They don't have any windows, just wooden shutters. The ceiling is made of burlap bags. They get full of soot and dirt.
There were four of us in one bed - Geneva, two of her kids, and me. Rosa Lee's nine children that ain't in jail sleep there. And Geneva's sister-in-law and her two kids. Some of them sleep in the other bed, and the rest sleep on the floor.
Mrs. Hunt sent a letter to the President of the United States. "Dear Mr. Truman," she wrote, "will you help to save the lives of my daughter and two young sons? They are condemned to die in the electric chair in Georgia. They defended their lives from an armed white neighbor and he died. My daughter is a good woman. . . . My daughter has had a heart attack last week in jail. If she is not freed soon I fear for her.
. . . Would you lend a hand? Would you help to save a Mother's life? Her only crime was to defend that life. . . . Help me, Mr. President. Help my daughter. Help the mother of 12 living children. Help her two sons."
President Truman sent no reply to the letter.
There were, however, other Americans who were less in different to the fate of Mrs. Ingram and her children. . .
As the appalling facts of the case had spread across the country in the months since the arrest of the Ingrams, a constantly growing section of the Negro people and the liberal movement had rallied to their aid. Throughout both southern and northern states, in small farming communities and large industrial centers, committee after committee had been formed to help finance the Ingram defense and to collect food, clothing and funds for the stranded Ingram children. With the verdict of guilty and the imposition of the death sentence, the campaign to save the lives of Mrs. Ingram and her two sons assumed the character of a fervent nationwide crusade.
Mass protest meetings, many of them organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Civil Rights Congress, took place in every part of the country. From church bodies and trade unions, army camps and colleges, fraternal societies and women's organizations, messages and resolutions demanding the reversal of the death sentence and the freeing of the Ingrams poured into the office of Governor Melvin E. Thompson of Georgia. "From the four corners and from across the Atlantic," reported the Pittsburgh Courier, "help is rushing to aid the Ingrams . . . From London, England, the London Daily Mirror made a Trans-Atlantic telephone call to ascertain what it could do to help. . ."
In March, after several postponements, a hearing on a defense motion for a new trial was held before Judge Harper. The courthouse in Americus, where the hearing took place, was surrounded by armed state troopers with instructions to "keep order." In the packed courtroom, special deputies and attendants herded the Negro spectators into the gallery. Even Negro newspapermen and photographers were barred from the main floor.
Denying the motion for a new trial, Judge Harper commuted the death sentence of Mrs. Ingram and her two sons to life imprisonment.
The defense attorneys, who now included NAACP counsel, immediately appealed Judge Harper's ruling to the Georgia State Supreme Court.
In July the Georgia Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, upheld Judge Harper's ruling and denied the petition for a new trial.
On April 2, 1949, after the Ingrams had been in prison for a year and a half, a delegation of prominent Negro and white women, led by Mrs. Theresa Robinson, head of the Women's Civil Rights Division of the Elks, came to the Georgia State Penitentiary to visit Mrs. Ingram. It was by no means certain that the delegation would be permitted to see the prisoner. Held in virtual solitary confinement, Mrs. Ingram had been repeatedly denied the right to have visitors.
At first, the women's delegation was informed by the prison authorities that only residents of Georgia would be allowed to see Mrs. Ingram; but, after some consideration of the prominent names of the delegates, the authorities granted the group permission to make the visit.
The interview took place in the prison courtyard. The delegation members asked Mrs. Ingram about the state of her health, her prison work, her food. But Mrs. Ingram wanted only to talk about her children. "I miss my children so bad, so bad," she said. "It hurts my heart for my little children."
The delegation told Mrs. Ingram of developments in the nationwide campaign to secure her release from prison.
Mrs. Ingram listened attentively. "Thank you all," she said with quiet dignity. "I know you all will help me get my children back" . . .
That autumn, with Mrs. Ingram and her sons about to begin their third year in prison and the Georgia State and Federal authorities still disregarding the pleas of millions for their freedom, the National Committee to Free the Ingram Family submitted a petition to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Drafted by the eminent Negro author and scholar, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, the petition stated in part:
The Federal government has made no move; the governor of Georgia has done nothing. The President of the United States when approached by a delegation from 8 states, would not talk to them and through his secretary said he had never heard of the case . . .
Throughout 1950 and 1951, protests against the continued imprisonment of the Ingrams and pleas for executive clemency continued to deluge the Georgia state capital and the White House. In Paris, Bombay and Prague, Mexico City and Moscow, Peiking and Stockholm, Melbourne and Warsaw, and scores of other cities in every land, organizations passed resolutions urging that Mrs. Ingram and her sons be set free. Hundreds of renowned scientists, churchmen, educators, writers and statesmen added their voices to the impassioned world-wide appeal.
At last, in January 1952, it seemed that the Georgia State authorities were about to heed the myriad demands for justice in the Ingram case. That month, the Georgia Pardon and Parole Board met with a delegation of American religious, trade union and civic leaders who urged that the state regulation by which the Ingrams were ineligible for parole before serving seven years be waived in their case and that they be immediately pardoned and liberated.
"Mrs. Ingram has suffered enough," one of the members of the delegation, Mrs. A. A. Hardy, president of the Georgia Council of Church Women, told the Parole Board. "We women are dedicated to the principles of Christian democracy and we believe Mrs. Ingram should be returned to her family. I am a mother too, and I am sure that if the same thing had happened to me, my child would have done the same thing for me as Mrs. Ingram's boys did for her."
The Parole Board advised the delegation that careful consideration would be given to its request. . .
Heartened by this news, Mrs. Ingram wrote shortly afterwards in a letter to her mother:
Mother, I hope I can go home to my little children. . . . I am praying to the good Lord to fix a way for me and the boys to go home. . . Any little children need their mother with them. I hope the time ain't long now. If I can go to my little children I will be all right. I need to be with them children . . .
In February, the Pardon and Parole Board issued a terse statement which read:
Since all of the information was before the jury, and the case was affirmed by the Supreme Court, and nothing additional has been presented to this board, the undersigned members vote not to make an exception of the established parole eligibility rule.
Affixed to the statement were the signatures of the three members of the all-white Parole Board.
As these words are written, five years after their conviction, Mrs. Rosa Lee Ingram and her two sons remain in the Georgia State Penitentiary. Mrs. Ingram's other children still longingly await their mother's return. In the words of a letter from Mrs. Ingram's daughter, Mrs. Geneva Rushin:
The children talk of our mother all the time and ask me sister will our mother live with us or go some place else to live - I tell them yes mother will stay in my room with me and her baby boy will sleep with her. Jim say I am her baby boy, I am the one will sleep with her. . . . Dolly Mae say when mother come home she will have my teeth straighten out.. . . Frankie say when Ma come home she will carry me with her every Sunday to church like she did when she was here and I was a little baby. . . I hope that mother will soon come home we need her very bad . . .
4. Words versus Deeds
ON DECEMBER 5, 1950, in an address delivered before the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth, President Truman declared:
. . . nothing this Conference can do will have a greater effect on the world struggle against communism than spelling out the ways in which our young people can better understand our democratic institutions and why we must fight when necessary to defend OURdemocratic institutions, our belief in the rights of the individual, and our fundamental belief in God.
On December 7, two days after President Truman had made his speech, John Derrick, a young Negro veteran just discharged from Fort Dix, N.J., was shot down and killed in Harlem, New York City, by two policemen. When Derrick was shot, after being peremptorily challenged by the officers, both of his hands were in the air. The policemen who killed Derrick were subsequently cleared by a New York Grand Jury and returned to active service on the police force.
On December 8, three days after the President's speech, Matthew Avery, a Negro student at the North Carolina A. and T. College, was seriously injured in an automobile accident at Durham. Doctors refused to admit the youth to the Duke Hospital, stating that there was no space for him. Avery died an hour later; while being transferred to another hospital where Negroes were "acceptable" . . .
These were a few of them:
New Orleans, Louisiana, September 1945: Seventeen-year-old Tom Jones was shot and seriously wounded by a white bus driver for not saying, "Yes, sir."
Hanover County, North Carolina, December 1945: Fourteen-year-old Ernest Brooks, Jr., was sentenced to life imprisonment on a charge of rape. He had originally been sentenced to die but Governor R. Gregg Cherry of North Carolina commuted the sentence to life in prison.
Natchez, Mississippi, February 1946: The Negro children, fourteen-year-old James Lewis, Jr., and fifteen-year-old Charles Trudell, were convicted of the murder of a white farmer and sentenced to death. The state supreme court upheld the verdict. The case was carried to the U. S. Supreme Court which upheld the verdict, although defense attorneys pointed out that the only evidence against the children was a confession obtained under duress. Lewis and Trudell were both electrocuted.
Detroit, Michigan, October 1947: The thirteen-year-old Negro boy, Beverly Lee, was shot and killed by a policeman while the child was walking down the street with a friend. The policeman shouted, "Stop, you little son of a bitch'" and then fired. The policeman was exonerated.
Nacogdoches, Texas, March 1948: The Negro Ellis Hudson was shot to death by a Texas constable when he went to court to arrange bail for his son who had been arrested and beaten by the same officer when the boy failed to address him as "sir."
Detroit, Michigan, June 1948: After brutally manhandling Leon Moseley, a fifteen-year-old Negro boy, two policemen shot and killed him. The police report of the case stated that the boy was driving a car without lights.
New Bern, North Carolina, March 1948: The fourteen-year-old Negro boy, David Bryant, was sentenced to serve thirty years in the Central State Prison after being convicted of second-degree burglary.
Groveland, Florida, September 1949: Three youths were arrested and tortured by police into "confessing" they had raped a white woman. Doctors later found on examination of the youths that they had been whipped and had had their teeth broken and the soles of their feet cut. The youths were tried and sentenced to death and life imprisonment. White mobs went on a rampage in Groveland and attacked the Negro section of the town, burning and pillaging. One Negro was shot and killed.
Kosciusko, Mississippi, January 1950: Three Negro children, Ruby Harris, aged four, Mary Burnside, aged eight, and Frankie Thurman, aged twelve, were murdered by three white men, who also raped Pauline Thurman, aged seventeen, and shot and killed Thomas Harris, father and stepfather of the children. Ten days before, the three men had been arrested on the charge that they had attempted to rob the Harris home; and, after swearing to revenge themselves on the Harris family, they had been allowed to "escape" from jail. A furor of protest resulted in two of the murderers being sentenced to life imprisonment; the third received a ten-year prison sentence.
Cairo, Georgia, March 1950: The Negro Baptist minister, James Turner, and his three young children were found murdered in their beds. Their heads had been smashed in with an axe. Mrs. Turner, who had fled from the house when the marauders broke in, told that she had been pursued by a man wearing a white garment, resembling the robe worn by KKK members.
Opelika, Alabama, November 1950: Willie B. Carlisle, nineteen-year old Negro youth, was beaten to death with rubber hose by two policemen. Subsequently tried in a Federal court on the charge of violating the civil rights of a Negro, one policeman received a sentence of ten months and the other of six months. Both police officers were acquitted on the charge of murder.
From September 1947 to December 1948, a Freedom Train journeyed on an elaborately publicized tour of the nation, with three exhibition cars containing 131 historical documents and flags "marking the development of liberty in the United States,"
There was a grim symbolism to the circumstances surrounding the death of the young Negro veteran, Roland Price.
While American youth have been urged day in and day out during the Cold War to join the U; S. Armed Forces in the name of defending "democracy and freedom" at home and abroad, thousands of Negro soldiers and veterans have been undergoing brutal maltreatment in every state of the union. The persecution has not been without a purpose. As the Atlanta World stated as early as November 11, 1945: "Some Atlanta police are reported to be beating up discharged and disabled veterans at the slightest provocation and practising a general get-them-in-line-with-post-war-attitude:"
Merely to list the names of Negro soldiers and veterans who have been viciously beaten, permanently crippled or murdered as a result of this "post-war attitude" would require many pages. . . (9)
Why are we in the Army? Why is this country fighting in Korea? . . .
We belong to the -th QM Laundry Company. It is a segregated outfit. All of the outfits we have seen at Fort Devens are segregated except a couple of training units. . . .
When some of us went home on leave the uniform did not mean much to white people down South or up North. What counted was the color of our skin. So we were jim-crowed right on.
The letter went on to point out that such treatment was not restricted to the United States:
In Korea itself, they discriminated against us. . . . The all-Negro Twenty-fourth Regiment was on the front lines without relief for longer than any other outfit, and all the time MacArthur was using jim-crow policies against them and other Negro troops.
Sure, we have heard of Ralph Bunche and Mrs. Edith Sampson and Jackie Robinson and the positions they hold. But they are only three. What about the rest? Still the same jim-crow for them. Still the same frame-up trials from Jackson, Miss., to Trenton. N. J. Still the same slums and low-pay. Still the same struggling mothers and kids. From one end of the country to the other.
The letter concluded:
It seems to us that the average, ordinary people, both colored and white, fight and die in wars that somebody else makes. Big-time Old Soldiers make the wars and ordinary young ones fight them. Old soldiers never die, but plenty of young ones do.
We think that we Negroes, who are asked to fight wars in Asia and Europe, but who are not free at home, should have our say before it is too late. If enough of us can get together, we believe we will get our peace and freedom too. Because in unity there is strength.
More and more Negro Americans are asking the same questions and finding the same answers.
On every side there is mounting evidence that the Negro people are implacably determined to secure the sort of life that rightfully belongs to them and their children. On the plantations of the Deep South and in the industrial centers of the North, on picket lines and at the polls, in schools and churches, army regiments and housing developments, hospitals and law courts, Negro men, women and youth are conducting a momentous unwavering fight not only to maintain but to extend the gains they have so arduously won through decades of struggle. Together with other progressive Americans, they are waging one militant campaign after another in every corner of the land to eradicate housing restrictions, end segregation in the schools, halt anti-Negro violence and wipe out every other manifestation of racial oppression and Jim Crow.
No section of the population has been more grievously victimized than the Negro people by the repression of the Cold War; and no section of the population is doing more to forge a future peace and true freedom for their children. (10)
(1) Interestingly enough, neither the Platform adopted by the Conference nor its Pledge to Children made any specific reference to the desirability of working for peace in the world, although the fulfillment of all of the Conference's proclaimed objectives was actually dependent upon the establishment of a secure peace.
Throughout the Conference proceedings, in fact, the subject of peace arose with remarkable rarity. The topic of war, on the other hand, was far from neglected.
For example, in a special paper entitled "The Effect of Mobilization and War on Children," Dr. Lois Meek Stoltz. Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, discussed such matters as Effect of War on Infants, War Program FOI- Infants, War Program For School Age Children and Federal War Plans For Children.
One of the Work Groups at the Conference dealt with the subject of Mobilization and War. The summary of this Group's findings read in part:
"A minority of the present group believed that our people should concentrate on working internationally for peace, and outlawing atomic warfare. But the majority felt that the present realities must be faced. . ."
(2) Among the members of this Committee were Reverend Harry Emerson Fosdick, Philip Murray, Roger N. Baldwin, Walter White, Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam and Eleanor Roosevelt.
(3) Operated under the cynical, self-contradictory formula of "separate and equal," the schools for Negro children in Washington are invariably inferior in all respects to those for white children. Most of the schools for Negro children are in old, dilapidated and wretchedly equipped buildings, one third of which were constructed before the turn of the century.
(4) As a result of vigorous protests and militant action on the part of Negro parents, together with progressive white parents and civic-minded organizations, the District of Columbia Recreation Board has finally been forced to permit Negro children to use the Rosedale Play ground and several other playgrounds in Washington formerly reserved for white children.
(5) In the Capital of their own land, Negro citizens are barred from '''white'' hotels, restaurants and places of amusement, denied the right to patronize the main department stores and compelled to stand while eating at downtown lunch counters.
(6) Despite the gains made by Negroes in the armed services during the war, it remained a shocking fact - and one of the major contradictions of the American war effort - that almost all Negroes were compelled to serve in separate units. Negro soldiers were given the right to die, but not the right to fight in the company of white soldiers.
(7) In 1947, when the Army had reduced the number of Negro soldiers to the desired proportion, a limited number of enlistments were accepted.
(8) The discrimination against Negro school children is not, of course, limited to segregation. As Benjamin Fine writes in his book, Our Children Are Being Cheated: "The education received by Negroes in the United States is a national disgrace."
In every respect, the schools for Negro children are inferior to those for whites. Grossly inadequate as are the funds invested in the public schools of the country as a whole, the amount spent on the education of Negro children is proportionately half that spent on white children; and in the southern states, the average expenditure per white pupil is frequently four to five times as great as the average expenditure per Negro pupil.
Regarding the schools in the South, educator Doxey Wilkerson states:
"In general, and especially in rural areas, Negro elementary pupils attend extremely impoverished, small, short-term schools, lacking in transportation service, void of practically every kind of instructional equipment, and staffed by relatively unprepared, overloaded teachers whose compensation does not approximate a subsistence wage. The vast majority of pupils progress through only the primary grades of these schools. The few to finish the elementary grades find relatively little opportunity, especially in rural areas, for a complete standard secondary education."
According to the U. S. Census for October 1947, the illiteracy rate among Negro citizens was six times greater than among white citizens. A pamphlet entitled Education of Negro Leaders, which was published by the U. S. Office of Education in 1949, records: "Approximately one-fourth of the Negro population in the United States is functionally illiterate." This situation is, of course, the direct product of the educational system provided for Negroes.
(9) Here are a few of the cases in which Negro veterans of World War II have been killed or crippled in the United States during the years of the Cold War:
Travis Butler, shot in the back in January 1946 in Houston, Texas, for sitting in the "white section" of a bus.
Isaac Woodward, just discharged from Army and returning home in February 1946, both eyes gouged out and blinded for life by the local chief of police, following an altercation between Woodward and a bus driver.
Thomas Hood, shot to death in February 1946 in Bessemer, Alabama. A street car conductor fired five shots into Hood's body when he attempted to pull down a Jim Crow sign. Then, when Hood was taken wounded to a nearby house, the local chief of police came and shot him in the head.
George Dorsey, and his wife, and their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Roger Malcolm; murdered in July 1946 near Monroe, Georgia. A group of twenty to thirty white men ambushed the Negroes, beat the women, then lined up all four of them and poured into them a sixty-shot broadside from rifles, pistols and shotguns. .
L. C. Jenkins, castrated by a group of white men in December 1946 near Collins. Mississippi.
Joe Nathan Roberts, shot and killed in May 1947 in Sardis, Georgia for failing to say "yes sir" to a white man.
Otis Newsom, father of three young children, shot and killed in April 1948 in Wilson, North Carolina, by gas station operator after Newsom demanded that his car be properly serviced.
Isaiah Nixon, killed in September 1948 in Montgomery County, Georgia, in the presence of his wife and children after he had voted in primary election.
ChrisPin Charles, shot down and killed in July 1949 by police in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Eugene Jones, beaten to death in jail in November 1949 in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.
Samuel Ellis, shot and killed in October 1950 by a policeman in a sub way in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
None of the perpetrators of these crimes was penalized in any way.
(10) The deprivations, discrimination and hardships endured by the children of Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans and various other national minorities in the United States are no less terrible than those of Negro children.
Perhaps the most appalling of all are the conditions under which American Indian children live today.
Exemplifying these conditions is the situation of the children of the Navajo Indians, the largest single tribe in North America. Living for the most part in squalid huts constructed of logs and earth, on a reservation which is largely barren rock and arid semi-desert, these children are doomed to an existence of frightful misery, poverty and disease. Of the 28.000 Navajo children of school age, less than half attend school. For 15,000 of the Navajo children, no schools whatsoever exist. It is not to be wondered at that 80 per cent of the Navajos are illiterate.
The health conditions among the Navajo children resemble those in the most backward colonial areas in the world. "Nowhere in the American scene." writes Professor Haven Emerson of Colorado University, "is the gap between medical knowledge and application so great as on our Indian reservations. . . . The Indians' death rate from diarrhea, Enteritus, is eight times that of the country as a whole . . . the infant mortality rate four times as great. . . The statistics in some areas are almost incredible." According to the Navajo official, Roger Davis. "The Indian death rate from tuberculosis is over ten times that of this country's general population." There is only one tuberculosis sanatorium on the reservation, with a capacity of 100 beds; there is one doctor per 7,500 of the population; there are three dentists to meet the needs of the 65,000 Navajos. The life expectancy of the average Navajo child is seventeen years. Half of the Navajo children die before they are of school age.
"No institutions exist for the care of delinquents, the crippled, the deaf, blind or otherwise handicapped persons," states Senator Arthur Watkins of Utah. "There is no State or Federal aid for dependent children and consequently many orphans and other dependent children are very seriously neglected. The Navajo people have about half enough to eat . . . Consequently, they have the highest death rate in the United States."
In the spring of 1952, after Congress had virtually eliminated all of the meagre appropriations authorized in the Navajo-Hopi Rehabilitation Act, author Oliver La Farge wrote bitterly in a letter to the New York Times: "The children can stay illiterate, the people stay hungry, disease stalk the land, hearts sicken with hope betrayed."
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