The giant, Labor, in all the world is awakening. Labor is slowly but surely beginning to realize that the fabric of civilization rests upon its shoulders. Only ignorance stands between labor and economic freedom. Ignorance is the mother of race prejudice, and prejudice still haunts the trail of labor. White and black workingmen, in the South, still fight over race prejudice, while the rich white plutocrats pick the pockets of both. The official American labor organization—the American Federation of Labor is criminally negligent and recreant to its duty, in either ignoring or opposing Negro workers.
Not only does it ignore Negro workers, however, as a rule it also ignores the unskilled worker and the women.
The American Federation of Labor, is essentially a craft or trades’ union organization. The Negro is mostly an unskilled laborer. His interests lie with that group which neither discriminates against workers on account of color, or on account of being unskilled.
There is but one question, which, more than any other, presses upon the mind of the worker today, regardless of whether he be of one race or another, of one color another—the question of how he can improve his conditions, raise his wages, shorten his hours of labor and gain something more of freedom from his master—the owners of the industry wherein he labors.
To the black race, who, but recently, with the assistance of the white men of the northern states, broke their chains of bondage and ended chattel slavery, a prospect of further freedom, of REAL FREEDOM, should be most appealing.
For it is a fact that the Negro worker is no better off under the freedom he has gained than the slavery from which he has escaped. As chattel slaves we were the property of our masters, and, as a piece of valuable property, our masters were considerate of us and careful of our health and welfare. Today, as wage-earners, the boss may work us to death, at the hardest and most hazardous labor, at the longest hours, at the lowest pay; we may quietly starve when out of work and the boss loses nothing by it and has no interest in us. To him the worker is but a machine for producing profits, and when you, as a slave who sells himself to the master on the installment plan, become old, or broken in health or strength, or should you be killed while at work, the master merely gets another wage slave on the same terms.
We who have worked in the South know that conditions in lumber and turpentine camps, in the fields of cane, cotton and tobacco, in the mills and mines of Dixie, are such that workers suffer a more miserable existence than ever prevailed among the chattel slaves before the great Civil War. Thousands of us have come and are coming northward, crossing the Mason and Dixon line seeking better conditions. As wage slaves we have run away from the masters in the South, but to become the wage slaves of the masters of the North. In the north we find that the hardest work and the poorest pay is our portion. We are driven while on the job and the high cost of living offsets any higher pay we might receive.
The white wage-worker is little, if any, better off. He is a slave the same as we are, and like us he is regarded by the boss only as a means of making profits. The working class as a whole, grows poorer and more miserable year by year, while the employing class, who do not work at all, enjoy wealth and luxury beyond the dreams of titled lords and kings.
As you are both wage-workers, you have a common interest in improving conditions of the wage-working class. Understanding this, the employing class seeks to engender race hatred between the two. He sets the black worker against the white worker and the white worker against the black, and keeps both divided and enslaved. Our change from chattel slaves to wage slaves has benefited no one but the masters of industry. They have used us as wage slaves to beat down the wages of the white wage slaves, and by a continual talk of “race problems,” “negro questions,” “segregation,” etc., make an artificial race hatred and division by poisoning the minds of both whites and blacks in an effort to stop any movement of labor that threatens the dividends of the industrial kings. Race prejudice has no place in a labor organization. As Abraham Lincoln has said, “The strongest bond that should bind man to man in human society is that between the working people of all races and of all nations.
The only problem then, which the colored worker should consider as a worker, is the problem of organizing with other working men in the labor organization that best expresses the interests of the whole working class against the slavery and oppression of the whole capitalist class. Such an organization is the I.W.W., the INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD, the only labor union that has never, IN THEORY OR PRACTICE, since its beginning twelve years ago, barred the workers of any race or nation from membership. The following has stood as a principle of the L.W.W., embodied in its official constitution since its formation in 1905:
“By-Laws—Article 1. Section 1. No working man or woman shall be excluded from membership in Unions because of creed or color.”
If you are a wage-worker you are welcome in the I.W.W. halls, no matter what your color. By this you may see that the I.W.W. is not a white man’s union, not a black man’s union, not a red or yellow man’s union, but a WORK_ING MAN’S UNION. ALL OF THE WORKING CLASS IN ONE BIG UNION.
In the I.W.W. all wage-workers meet on common ground. No matter what language you may speak, whether you were born in Europe, in Asia or in any other part of the world, you will find a welcome as a fellow worker. In the harvest fields, where the I.W.W. controls, last summer saw white men, black men and Japanese working together as union men and raising the pay of all who gathered the grains. In the great strikes which the I.W.W. has conducted at Lawrence, Mass. in the woolen mills, in the iron mine of Minnesota and elsewhere, the I.W.W. has brought the workers of many races, colors and tongues together invictorious battles for a better life.
Not only does the I.W.W. differ from all organizations is a fundamental difference in form of organization from all other labor unions. You have seen other labor unions organized on crafts or trade lines. Craft unionism means that any small section of any industry has a labor union separate from all other sections that cannot act in any concerted movement of labor because of this craft separation. For example, in the railroad industry there are the engineers’ union, the conductors’ union, the brakemen’s union and many others on the road in the shops and yards.
Each union acts for itself and usually has time agreements with the companies for a term of years, each agreement ending at a different time than the others. When one craft union goes on strike at the end of the time agreement, the other craft unions keep at work and by remaining on the job act as scabs and strikebreakers in defeating their fellow workers of the craft on strike.
Thus in 1911 the men in the shops of the Harriman lines went on strike and the trainmen, who belonged to different craft unions, remained at work; the train crews took cars from and delivered cars to the strikebreakers in the shops because they were organized separately and had separate time agreements with the companies. The strike was lost because the railroad workers were organized wrong. The I.W.W. has INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM, which means that all crafts in any industry are organized together and act together. Had the I.W.W. been in the place of the craft unions on the Harriman lines in 1911, all workers could have gone out together, not a wheel would have turned, not a train would have moved until the companies would have come to terms with the shopmen. For the I.W.W. makes no TIME AGREEMENTS with any employer and makes AN INJURY TO ONE AN INJURY TO ALL. The I.W.W. always leaves its members free to strike when they see an opportunity to better themselves or support their fellow workers.
The foundation of the I.W.W. is INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM. ALL workers in any division of any industry are organized into an INDUSTRIAL UNION OF ALL the workers in the ENTIRE INDUSTRY: these INDUSTRIAL UNIONS in turn are organized into INDUSTRIAL DEPARTMENTS of connecting, or kindred industries, while all are brought together in THE GENERAL ORGANIZATION OF THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD—ONE BIG UNION OF ALL THE WORKING CLASS OF THE WORLD. No one but actual wage workers may join. The working class cannot depend upon anyone but itself to free it from wage slavery. “He who would be free, himself must strike the blow.”
When the I.W.W., through this form of INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM, has become powerful enough, it will institute an INDUSTRIAL COMMONWEALTH; it will end slavery and oppression forever and in its place will be a world of workers, by the workers and for the workers; a world where there will be no poverty and want among those who feed and clothe and house the world; a world where the words “master” and “slave” shall be forgotten; a world where peace and happiness shall reign and where the children of men shall live as brothers in a world-wide INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY.
The following is the preamble of the I.W.W. constitution, showing the reason and form of its organization, the aims and purposes of its membership:
“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
“Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production and abolish the wage system.
“We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the evergrowing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping to defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the workers have interests in common with their employers.
“These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any industry, or in all industries, if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, this making an injury to one an injury to all.
“Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,’ we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system.’
“It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized not only for the every day struggle with capitalists, but to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.”
The Messenger, 2 (July, 1919): 14–15.
The I.W.W. is the only labor organization in the United States which draws no race or color line. It deals chiefly, too, with unskilled labor and most Negroes are unskilled laborers. They stand on the principle of industrial unionism, which would necessarily include, in its organization, any Negroes in an industry. For instance, the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, has in its organization, the conductors, firemen, engineers and switchmen. Negroes are not permitted to join, notwithstanding the fact that there are 149,000 Negroes engaged in the transportation work. The I.W.W. would include those 149,000 Negroes, who have the power, by stopping their work, to tie up the railroads as completely as the Big Four Brotherhood could. If the Negroes stopped loading the cars, repairing the tracks and producing the materials which are necessary for the transportation, the engineers would have nothing to carry, but the Big Four Brotherhoods are so highly American that they are shot through with race prejudice which blinds them to their enlightened self-interest.
There is another reason why Negroes should join the I.W.W. The Negro must engage in direct action. He is forced to do this by the government. When the whites speak of direct action, they are told to use their politcal power. But with the Negro it is different. He has no political power. Three-fourths of the Negroes in the United States are disfranchised. Over two million Negro men pay taxes but cannot vote. Therefore, the only recourse the Negro has is industrial action, and since he must combine with those forces which draw no line against him, it is simply logical for him to throw his lot with the Industrial Workers of the World. Nor do the Negroes need to bother about the abuse heaped on the I.W.W. Most of it is lies, told by their opponents, just as the opponents of the Negroes lie about them. Again it needs to be noted that most of the forces opposed to the I.W.W. are also opposed to Negroes. John Sharp Williams, Vardaman, Hoke Smith, Thomas Dixon, D. W. Griffith, who produced the Birth of a Nation—and practically all the anti-Negro group, are opposed to the I.W.W. Now, as a general proposition and principle, if we found John Sharp Williams, Vardaman, Hoke Smith, Thomas Dixon and D. W. Griffith opposed to anything, we should be inclined to accept it on its face without an examination. And Negroes cannot afford to allow those Southern bourbons and race prejudiced crackers, together with their hand picked Negro leaders, to choose for them the organizations in which they shall go. The editors of the MESSENGER have made a thorough study of the economic and social problems in the United States. We know the history of labor organizations. We know their record on the race question. We have compared them carefully. We know that the American Federation of Labor is a machine for the propagation of race prejudice. We, therefore, urge the Negroes to join their international brothers. The Industrial Workers of the World, the I.W.W.134
The Messenger, 2 (July, 1919): 8.
Because of the slowness and inadequacy of political action class conscious labor is more and more relying on industrial solidarity as the omnipotent weapon for the achievement of its immediate aims as well as its ultimate liberation. All over the world—in Australia, Canada, England, France, Spain and the Virgin Islands, the working class with minds that interpret the inevitable trend of social and industrial evolution, is being inspired with the grand idea of the One Big Union. This new form of unionism, logical and revolutionary, is the workers reply to capitalism’s gigantic combinations of trusts, cartels and financial syndicates. It is the antidote for capitalist poisons.
Split up into separate craft unions, convulsed by jurisdictional jealousies, deluded by notions of craft aristocracy, organized labor in the past refused to avail itself of its entire strength, but instead, permitted itself to be flattered with patriotic slush, cajoled by ecclesiastical soothsayers, pampered by designing philanthropists and deceived by artful and professional worshippers at the shrine of racial and national prejudices. Instead of depending upon their industrial power to achieve results, the workers were induced by their venal and corrupt leaders to over-emphasize and use political means, such as dignified arbitrations and eminently proper “working agreements,” for the enforcement of their demands. This policy proved barren of real results. Instinctively labor began to change its tactics. It saw that “orderly” methods, methods that depended upon politicians to legislate justice for the working class were clumsy of execution and productive of delay and internal discord. With their dissillusionment as to tactics, the working class began to apply a radical remedy—one that could bring maximum results by the exertion of a maximum of pressure.
Strikes ceased to be localized as they extended their scope and embraced entire industries. This tendency became infectious, and when the workers of an industry struck to enforce their demands, other groups, superficially unrelated, struck sympathetically. With many a reverse, but with definite gains in discipline, experience and class solidarity, it was but a question of time that the goal of a Big Strike became labor’s objective. The dream of the Socialist theoretician was gradually transferred from the inanimate pages of books to the sentient and pulsating battlefields of the class-struggle. Thus the theory of the General Strike became more and more coordinated with the actualities of industrial and political life.
This development corresponded in character with the growth of capitalist combinations. It was the ruthless competition among small businesses that forced the birth of trusts. Also it was the sdabbing of one craft upon another in cases of strike that called the industrial union into being. To have unity of action without unity of purpose and organization was an anachronism that could not long exist. Hence, in order for the General strike to function effectively, it had to have an organization of suitable structure.
Realizing the futility of attempting general strikes while maintaining craft unions, the workers, ignoring the advice of conservative leaders, began to scrap their obsolete and unwieldly organizations for the more wieldly and, to the capitalists, terror-inspiring industrial union. To conform with the goal of a strike that included every worker, the form of One Big Union that included all workers was evolved. The accomplishment of this revolutionary aim was opposed at every step by the forces of reaction in and outside of the ranks of labor. Imperial business interests recognized in the new union a formidable and deadly foe and mobilized every ounce of strength to destroy it. Governments whose chicane had deceived the workers into believing in their impartiality, threw off their masks and revealed their class affiliation and class character. The class struggle was more luridly revealed. Persecution of various kinds was meted out to the leaders. Laws to suppress industrial unions were enacted and, to live up to the best traditions of patriotism, so that Americanism should not perish from the earth, members of the Industrial Workers of the World were tarred and feathered, deported into arid wildernesses, while their leaders were treated even as Negroes, are now being treated—LYNCHED! However, despite misrepresentation, persecution and violence visited upon its disciples, the principles of the One Big Union are swiftly encircling the globe and making new converts. From the Pacific Coast it sweeps eastward to the Atlantic, across the ocean to Europe, and then to Asia. Where it will stop only its proponents dare assert with any degree of positiveness. Already all races are affected. Its magnetic phrase—One Big Union—has magnetic potency in bringing members of the working class under its sway. Wherever it is heard, be it in Winnipeg, Glasgow, Sydney or the little known islands of the Virgin group, the workers become victims of its seductive spell. ON WITH THE ONE BIG UNION! ON WITH INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM! ON WITH THE EMANCIPATION OF THE WORKERS OF THE WORLD!
The Messenger, 2 (September, 1919): 6–7.
How He Can Get It
Two lynchings in a week—one every three or four days—that is the rate at which the people in this “land of the free and home of the brave” have been killing colored men and women for the past thirty years—3,224 Negroes known to have been put to death by mobs in this country since 1889, and put to death with every kind of torture that human fiends could invent.
Even during the war, while colored soldiers were being obliged to “fight for democracy” abroad, ninety-one of their race were lynched at home.
The wrongs of the Negro in the United States are not confined to lynchings, however. When allowed to live and work for the community, he is subjected to constant humiliation, injustice and discrimination. In the cities he is forced to live in the meanest districts, where his rent is doubled and tripled, while conditions of health and safety are neglected in favor of the white sections. In many states he is obliged to ride in special “Jim Crow” cars, hardly fit for cattle. Almost everywhere all semblance of political rights is denied him.
When the Negro goes to ask for work he meets with the same systematic discrimination. Thousands of jobs are closed to him solely on account of his color. He is considered only fit for the most menial occupations. In many cases to accept a lower wage than is paid to white men for the same work. Everywhere the odds are against him in the struggle for existence.
Throughout this land of liberty, so-called, the Negro worker is treated as an inferior; he is cursed and spat upon; he is treated, not as a human being, but as an animal, a beast of burden for the ruling class. When he tries to improve his condition, he is shoved back into the mire of degradation and poverty and told to “keep his place.”
How can the Negro combat this widespread injustice? How can he, not only put a stop to lynchings, but force the white race to grant him equal treatment? How can he get his rights as a human being?
Protests, petitions and resolutions will never accomplish anything. It is useless to waste time and money on them. The government is in the hands of the ruling class of white men and will do as they wish. No appeal to the political powers will ever secure justice for the Negro.
THE MASTER CLASS FEARS THE ORGANIZED WORKER
He has, however, one weapon that the master class fears—the power to fold his arms and refuse to work for the community until he is guaranteed fair treatment. Remember how alarmed the South became over the emigration of colored workers two years ago, and what desperate means were used to try to keep them from leaving the mills and cotton fields? The only power of the Negro is his power as a worker; his one weapon is the strike. Only by organizing and refusing to work for those who abuse him can he put an end to the injustice and oppression he now endures.
The colored working men and women of the United States must organize in defense of their rights. They must join together in labor unions so as to be able to enforce their demand for an equal share of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” When they are in a position to say to any community, “If you do not stop discrimination against the colored race, we will stop working for you,” the hidden forces behind the government will see to it that lynchings cease and discrimination comes to an end. Only by threatening to withdraw their labor power and thereby cripple industry and agriculture can the Negroes secure equal treatment with other workers.
THE WORKERS OF EVERY RACE MUST JOIN TOGETHER
But the Negroes cannot accomplish this alone; they must unite with the other workers in order to make their industrial power count to the utmost. If they form separate racial organizations they will encourage race prejudice and help the master class in their effort to divide the workers along false lines of color and set one race against the other, in order to use both for their own selfish ends.
The workers of every race and nationality must join in one common group against their one common enemy—the employers—so as to be able to defend themselves and one another. Protecting for the working class lies in complete solidarity of the workers, without regard to race, creed, sex or color. “One Enemy—One Union!” must be their watchword.
TRADE UNIONS DO NOT WANT THE NEGRO
Most American labor organizations, however, shut their doors to the colored workers. The American Federation of Labor excludes him from many of its unions. In those to which he is admitted, he is treated as an inferior. The Negro has no chance in the old-line trade unions. They do not want him. They admit him only under compulsion and treat him with contempt. Their officials, who discourage strikes for higher wages or shorter hours, are always ready, as in the case of the Switchmen’s Union, to permit a strike aimed to prevent the employment of colored men.
The narrow-minded policy of excluding the Negro from the trade unions often forces him to become a strike-breaker against his will by closing legitimate occupations to him. The consequence is racial conflicts such as the frightful tragedy in East St. Louis in 1917.
THE I.W.W. ADMITS NEGRO TO FULL MEMBERSHIP
There is one international labor organization in this country that admits the colored worker on a footing of absolute equality with the white—the Industrial Workers of the World. The first section of its By-Laws provides “no working man or woman shall be excluded from membership because of creed or color.” This principle has been scrupulously lived up to since the organization was founded.
In the I.W.W. the colored worker, man or woman, is on an equal footing with every other worker. He has the same voice in determining the policies of the organization, and his interests as zealously as those of any other member.
Not only does the I.W.W. offer the Negro worker union membership free from any taint or suggestion of racial inferiority, but in its form of organization it is far superior to the old-fashioned trade unions.
INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM THE STRONGEST FORM OF ORGANIZATION
The I.W.W. organizes the workers by industries, not trades, instead of the American Federation of Labor plan of dividing the workers in any plant into ten or twenty separate craft unions, with separate meetings and separate sets of officials, the I.W.W. unites all the workers in each industry, whatever their particular line of work may be, into One Big Industrial Union. In this way, the industrial power of the workers is combined and, when any of them have a disagreement with their employer, they are backed by the united support of ALL the workers in that industry.
But the I.W.W. does not limit its aim, as do the trade unions, to “less work and more pay.” Its greatest object is the complete emancipation of the working class. As long as the workers hold their jobs only by permission of some employer, they are not free. As long as there is one class that lives in ease and idleness of their labor, they are industrial slaves. Freedom for the workers will come only when everybody does his share of the work of the world and when the workers take control of the industries and operate them, not as at present, for the benefit of the leisure class, but for the welfare of society as a whole.
SERVANTS OF CAPITALISM LIE ABOUT THE I.W.W.
Do not believe the lies being told about the I.W.W. by the hired agents of the capitalists—the press, preachers and politicians. They are paid to deceive the workers and lead them astray. They are hired to throw dust in their eyes because the master class does not dare to let them know the truth.
Investigate the I.W.W. for yourself and get the facts. We are confident that, when you learn the truth about it, you will realize that it is to your interests to join and help build up the organization.
Fellow workers of the colored race, do not expect justice or fair treatment as a gift from the ruling class. You will get from them nothing but what you are strong enough to take.” “In union there is strength.” The only power that the workers of any race or nationality have is their power to act together as workers. We, therefore, urge you to join with your fellow workers of every race in the
ONE BIG UNION of the INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD
1001 West Madison Street, Chicago Illinois Workers’ Halls, with Reading Rooms, at 119 S. Throop St. and 951 W. Madison St.
NOTE—The I.W.W. admits to membership every wage worker, man or woman, young or old, skilled or unskilled. Its plan of organization includes all workers. No matter what your occupation, if you work for wages, you can get a union card in the I.W.W.
Pamplet, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Papers, State Historiciety of Wisconsin.
One group of workers in the United States that all too little organization work has been done among is that of the colored men and women of the country. One reason for this is that workers’ organizations have mostly followed the large industries where the work was constant, and these have largely been located in the Northern states. Another reason is that in the Southern states the task of obtaining food, clothing and shelter has been comparatively more easy than in the North. This has made the organization of strong unions for the purpose of self-protection less needed in the South than in the North.
But the old-time conditions are gone. Giant industries have been introduced in the South. More than this, hundreds of thousands of colored workers have been induced to come North to work in the giant industries of this section because of beautiful promises, that were made to them. More than 100,000 colored men were brought from the South to work in the packing houses of Chicago alone during 1917–18.
The employers do not want any organizations among the workers, either colored or white. They want every worker, no matter what his race, to go to the factory gates with his hat in his hand and ask humbly for a job at just what the boss is willing to pay and to work just as long hours as the boss wants him to work. For the purpose of keeping the workers divided, the employers want all workers to believe that there is a race problem that must be solved. For the purpose of keeping the workers of all races apart, the employers are willing to have race riots that go to unlimited proportions and result in the death of hundreds of victims. It matters not to the employers how many are killed and wounded, or how much property is destroyed, just so it is only the workers who suffer.
But the problem of the workers is not a race problem. There is no white or brown races. All have but one problem to solve, and that is the problem of how to overthrow the system of slavery under which all are bound to the employing class. When this one problem is solved there will be no race problem.
No employer cares what the color of his worker is. The only consideration with him is whether the worker he hires will produce the most profit for him. The owners of the Chicago packing plants are all white and they hire those who can do the work, regardless of their color. It is profits they want, but they know their profits will vanish the moment the workers join in one organization without any regard to what race they belong to. For that reason they are doing their best to keep the workers apart, and it is just for that very reason the workers of all races should form themselves into one strong organization that is formed on correct lines, and do this for the purpose of overthrowing the system of slavery.
New Solidarity, September 27, 1919.
Radical Propaganda on the Increase, But Has Not Reached Proportion of Movement
OPPOSED TO WILSON
Southern Folk Hostile to the President on Account of Mob Violence
Chicago, Ill., Nov. 20.—Radical propaganda among Negroes is on the increase in Chicago. But it has not resulted in any definite drift, and in no respect has assumed the proportions of a “movement.” This is the view of T. Arnold Hill, secretary of the Urban League, the foremost employment and social center of the colored race. Other prominent workers emphasized this view.135
“I am sure that socialist and syndicalist propaganda has not increased among the Negroes in the proportions that it has among the whites,” said Hill. “There are papers and magazines published every month of course. It can easily be shown that they have been in existence for years, and slowly built up a self-sustaining subscription list. One of these (the Messenger) is extremely radical. Its editor is an instructor in the Rand School for Socialism in New York.136
“The I.W.W. has a special organizer, J. W. Sims, formerly an organizer for the American Federation of Labor, active in Chicago. Negro leaders from four southern cities have passed thru Chicago in the last two weeks. In all cases they escaped from mobs seeking to lynch them or they were warned by white officials and friends that if they did not leave, mobs would get them. Also in each instance the refugee was promoting the work of an organization which urges the colored race to stand for the complete constitutional rights of the Negro.137
“I have talked with these men who escaped the mobs or were warned of mobs, said Dr. George Cleveland Hall, one of the leaders in Chicago and a member of the State Race Relationships commission. There is a propaganda and a movement active in the south which aims to destroy Negro leadership. If the department of justice is looking for propaganda of violence and lawlessness, utter disregard of the constitution and law and order, we suggest that the department pay some attention to this phase of sedition, anarchy and contempt for American institutions.
“Is the Negro getting more hostile to our government?” Not at all. He is turning more and more bitterly against the administration of our government, however, which permits discrimination in law and action against people who are asking only constitutional rights. Our enemies always emphasize social equality. But you will notice we put the strong pedal on economic and political equality. Let us have these and social equality will take care of itself.”
Baltimore Afro-American, November 21, 1919.
James Weldon Johnson says Strikes will bring Whites to Reason
Referred to as Only Organization Freely Admitting Colored People
New York, Dec. 4.—Asserting that it was useless for colored people to take up shotguns and shoot down white people who oppressed them, altho it “helped matters” when colored people fired back and killed whites who attacked them. James W. Johnson, Field Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People declared Monday night that the mightiest weapon in the hands of the colored people is the “strike.” He was the main speaker at the church of the Ascension.
“If the colored people in a city like Jacksonville, Florida, for example, would organize,” Mr. Johnson said, “they could help wonderfully to better their condition. They could send a committee representing ten thousand of their number to the city government, and declare that if they did not receive protection, equal schools, abolition of the jim crow conditions, or iron or do a stitch of work. . . . Such a course would be more effective than the use of the shotgun.
Mr. Johnson stated that the I.W.W., which is being condemned by thoughtless newspapers as radical, is nevertheless the only organization that takes the Negro freely. He said the A.F. of L. accepted colored members only when it was absolutely necessary.
Castigating pussyfooters in general and spineless men who are relying on “good white friends” to give them citizenships rights, Mr. Johnson admonished his hearers that fifteen millions of people in this country cannot be weak, they will get only as much as they will take, go out and lay hands on, to seize and to hold.
President Wilson was said to be to blame for the increase of lynchings and mob violence in the South.
Baltimore Afro-American, December 5, 1919.
37. BEN FLETCHER138
Negro newspapers seldom publish anything about men who are useful to the race. Some parasite, ecclesiastical poltroon, sacerdotal tax gatherer, political faker or business exploiter will have his name in the papers, weekly or daily. But when it comes to one of those who fights for the great masses to lessen their hours of work, to increase their wages, to decrease their high cost of living, to make life more livable for the toiling black workers—that man is not respectable for the average Negro sheet.
Such a man is Ben Fletcher. He is one of the leading organizers of the Industrial Workers of the World, commonly known as I.W.W. He is in the Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas, where he was sent for trying to secure better working conditions for colored men and women in the United States. He has a vision far beyond that of almost any Negro leader whom we know. He threw in his lot with his fellow white workers, who work side by side with black men and black women to raise their standard of living. It is not uncommon to see Negro papers have headlines concerning a Negro who had committed murder, cut some woman’s throat, stolen a chicken or a loaf of bread, but those same papers never record happenings concerning the few Negro manly men who go to prison for principle. Ben Fletcher is in Leavenworth for principle—a principle which when adopted, will put all the Negro leaders out of their parasitical jobs. That principle is that to the workers belongs the world, but useful work is not done by Negro leaders.
We want to advocate and urge that Negro societies, lodges, churches, N.A.A.C.P. branches and, of course, their labor organizations begin to protest against the imprisonment of Ben Fletcher and to demand his release. He has been of more service to the masses of the plain Negro people than all the windjamming Negro leaders in the United States.
The Messenger’ 2 (August, 1919): 28–29.
To the Marshal of the Northern District of Illinois,
You are hereby commanded that you take Ben Fletcher if he shall be found in your district and him safely keep, so that you have his body forthwith before the Judge of the District Court of the said United States for the Northern District of Illinois, at Chicago, in the Eastern Division of the said District, to answer unto THE SAID UNITED STATES in an indictment pending in the said Court against him charging that he together with William D. Haywood and others, during the period from April 6, 1917, to September 28, 1917, at Chicago, in the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois, unlawfully and feloniously did conspire by force to prevent, hinder and delay the execution of the laws of the United States pertaining to the carrying on of the war with the Imperial German Government; to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate citizens in the free exercise and enjoyment of the right and privilege of supplying the United States with war munitions, supplies and transportation; to commit divers offenses consisting of procuring persons to fail to comply with the registration and draft laws of the United States, and of causing disloyalty in the military and naval service; to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service; and to commit divers offenses consisting of placing in the post office at Chicago of mail matter for the purpose of executing a scheme to defraud employers of labor; contrary to the form of the statutes of the United States in such case made and provided; viz: Sections 6, 19 and 37 of the Criminal Code of the United States, and Section 4 of the “Espionage Act” of June 15, 1917.
And have you then and there this writ, with your return hereon.
Witness, the Hon. Kenesaw M. Landis, Judge of the District Court of the United States of America, for the Northern District of Illinois, at Chicago, aforesaid, this 28th day of September in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and seventeen, and in the 142nd year of the Independence of the said United States.
T. C. Mac Millan, Clerk
United States of America
Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
The President of the United States of America to the Marshal of the Northern District of Illinois, and to the Warden of the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas
Whereas Ben Fletcher appeared before the District Court of the United States of America for the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois, on the First day of April A.D. 1918 to answer an indictment filed therein against him for violation of Sections 6, 19 and 37 of the Criminal Code of the United States and Section 4 of the “Espionage Act” of June 15, 1917, and the said Ben Fletcher upon a trial in due form of law, having been found guilty as charged in the said indictment, and having on August 30, 1918 been sentenced to imprisonment in the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth Kansas for and during a period of six years on count 1, ten years on counts 2 and 4 and two years on count 3, said sentences to run concurrently and to pay a fine of five thousand dollars on each counts 1 and 2 and a fine of ten thousand dollars on each of counts of 3 and 4 besides the costs in this behalf expended.
Now therefore you said Marshal are hereby commanded that you convey the said Ben Fletcher to the said Penitentiary and you the said Warden of the said Penitentiary are hereby commanded that you receive the said Ben Fletcher into the said Penitentiary and him there safely keep until the expiration of said sentence, or until he be discharged therefrom by the due course of law.
Witness the Hon. Kenesaw M. Landis, Judge of the District Court of the United States of America for the said District of Chicago aforesaid, this 30th day of August, in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred eighteen and of the independence of the United States the 143rd year.
T. C. Mac Millan, Clerk
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION
United States of America
Plaintiff vs. William D. Haywood, et all Defendants
Affidavit in Forma Pauperis No. 6125
State of Kansas, County of Leavenworth SS
Benjamin H. Fletcher, being first duly sworn, on his oath says that he is a native born citizen of the United States; that on the 30th day of August, 1918, after a trial before a jury duly empannelled in the above entitled court, he was adjudged guilty of the crime of conspiracy committed as charged in the first four counts of the indictment in the above entitled cause and sentenced to imprisonment in the United States penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, for the term of ten years and to pay a fine of $30,000; that he desires to sue out a writ of error to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for ths Seventh Circuit, and to review said conviction and reverse said judgment for error; and has been advised by Mr. George F. Vanderveer and Mr. Otto Christensen, his attorneys, and verily believes that he is entitled to the redress he seeks; but that because of his poverty he is wholly unable to pay the costs of said writ of error, or to give any security for the same and therefore makes this application for leave to sue out and prosecute the same to a conclusion without being required to prepay any fees or costs or for the printing of the record in said Appellate Court and without being required to give any security therefor.
Benjamin H. Fletcher
Subscribed and sworn to before me
this 21st day of February, A.D. 1919.
Thos. C. Taylor, Notary Public
My commission expires Jan. 13th, 1923.
Miscellaneous Political Records, Political Prisoners, U.S. Department of Justice Files, National Archives.