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Strategic Alliances In The Fight Against Racism
The Making Of A Worldview: A Focus On A Union-CSO

By Paul Nehru Tennassee

GuyanaJournal, October 2010

The National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees (NAPFE) was one of the foremost civil rights organization in the USA during 1913-1945.This brief essay illustrates how the worldview of NAPFE members and leaders evolved in the formative years in the life of the union.

The worldview of NAPE leaders and members took shape as they defined their positions on a number of issues that affected them as a class and a race. During 1913-1945, they took a number of positions on national issues outside the Post Office Department (POD). The Hatch Law prohibited federal employees from active involvement in politics. However, through the women's auxiliary, the union was quite active. Equally important was the role of The Postal Alliance, official organ of the NAPE, in taking positions on “hot” political issues outside the POD. There were a number of articles published in The Postal Alliance, which contributed significantly to the development of the worldview of the union and its members. The views and positions expressed in the articles were compatible and consistent with the positions adopted within the POD. Among the many issues they dealt with were; the poll tax, lynching, housing discrimination, trade unionism, World Wars I and II and African American History.

The Poll Tax
W. C. Jason Jr., President of the Philadelphia Branch, in an article, “Odell Walker Dead: The Poll Tax Wins Again”, made a double edge argument against the tax. Usually, criticisms against the poll tax were made in support of the right to vote. In the article, Jason demonstrated that the implications for African Americans were a matter of “life and death.” The article is partially quoted here and continues in the end notes: “A hard working 25 year Negro named Odell Walker is dead in Virginia. He was a sharecropper and killed by a White landlord who was seeking to deprive him of that which he had and the women of his family had earned - the only wealth that stood between them and the starvation of stark poverty. Walker has had his trial. The jury made up of only those who paid their poll tax - hence, only those who could see through a landlord, overlord or landowners eyes - convicted him of murder. The United States Supreme Court has not seen fit to see that this is not “due process of law.” They will not hold that by having a jury from the landowning class and from the other side of the railroad because all people poor like the defendant, are barred by the non-payment of the poll tax and jury duty - Odell Walker was not tried by a jury of his peers.... Most Negroes have been purposefully brought to believe that voting and the rights to vote does not amount to much: That indifference alone, explains why more do not get $4.50 or whatever is required, and pay to vote: Finally and worst of all, that the poll tax only has to do with voting…”1

The Postal Alliance published another article written by Editor Jennings Perry of The Tennessean. He made a number of important points: “Americans outside the eight poll tax states (and a good many of them) have only lately awakened to the incongruity of defending democracy in foreign foxholes and at the same time taxing democracy to death at home. The poll tax is a tax on the right of suffrage. For upwards of half a century, it has progressively intruded between the citizen and his government, gradually destroying popular government. The eight states, which still set up the tax as a prerequisite to voting, are Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas. In all of them, rule by the majority of the people has vanquished. The percentage of the adult population of these states is taking part in elections ranges from 22% in Texas to 11.5% in South Carolina. West Virginia, for contrast, voted 90% of its adult population in the 1940 election. This means that instead of democracy in these states has been substituted by an oligarchy. It means that the vast majority of their people are, in effect disenfranchised. It means that political power is in the hands of the few instead of the many. And that guarantees of the Federal Constitution are mocked and the elements of Republican Government are gone. The poll tax should be abolished because it is antithetical to every principle of democracy, because it attacks popular government at the core, and because it defeats the aims of the Constitution of the United States....”2 In an effort to win support for the anti-poll tax Bill in the House of Representatives, The Postal Alliance published another article under the caption, “The Poll Tax Sabotages Democracy.”3

Finally, in 1943, The Postal Alliance reported: “Walter White, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told an audience of 5,000 people, Sunday, January 10, in Detroit, that a Bill would be introduced in Congress to cut congressional representation in eight poll tax states in proportion to the number of citizens allowed to vote. The National Alliance of Postal Employees urges all of its members and friends to support the NAACP.”4 The Poll Tax Law also permitted Southern States to have hegemony in the Congress so that they could continue with their racist policies and reverse anti-racist legislations. This was evident when it was demonstrated that California with a population of 6,907,387 cast 1,268,529 votes in the election and elected 20 Representatives to Congress, while Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia with population of 23,998,109 and 2,994,814 votes and elected 78 Representatives.5 NAPE's support for this struggle in the wider society circumvented the Hatch Law and demonstrated its unequivocal stand on a major national issue consistent with its democratic and anti-racist fight within the POD.

America prides itself as a Republic founded on a Constitution and guided by the rule of law. This was sadly not applicable to African Americans in the first half of the 20th Century. They were victims of racial riots and lynching in both the North and the South. Their status as citizens was tenuous. NAPE had its own experience when one of its railway mail clerks was lynched and another barely escaped. Southerners in particular were angry that African Americans had enlisted in the armed forces. They lynched African American soldiers dressed in their uniforms. NAPE publicly endorsed the anti-lynching Bill of 1945 and lobbied extensively for its passage.

Housing discrimination
NAPE Detroit Branch supported the struggle of African Americans to win the right to occupy and live in the “Sojourner Truth Homes” in 1942. The Defense Department built houses for defense workers in cities where there was a shortage of housing. In this particular project of 200 units of Defense Houses, African Americans were granted occupancy. The neighboring communities of Fenelon and Nevada objected because they felt that the value of their properties would be devalued should African Americans live nearby. Consequently, a struggle ensued with the support of the Labor Movement of Detroit, the NAACP and others in favor of the African American tenants. Because of White American objections, permission to occupy was withdrawn and then after a struggle restored. The conflictive issue attracted national attention and focused on the general policy and practice of discrimination in housing against African Americans nation-wide. The Postal Alliance published full coverage of the struggle.6

NAPE was born because a racist, White, American Federation of Labor (AFL) affiliated union that denied membership to African American postal workers. The AFL tolerated the practice. During the 1930's and 1940's, a new federation emerged, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). This union, like the Knights of Labor in the previous century, had its shortcomings on the race issue but was essentially progressive and made a conscious effort to deal with the problem. At one point in time, NAPE leaders were called upon particularly from the Branches in Detroit and Chicago to consider affiliation to the CIO. There was little interest on the part of most of the leaders who felt that even the CIO would not attend to racial discrimination with the zeal and consistency that the issue demanded. However, leaders such as the Editor of The Postal Alliance promoted the CIO as an ally and a union with a difference. This was demonstrated in June 1942 when he invited CIO trade unionists to contribute articles to The Postal Alliance. The articles gave an insight into the kind of trade unionism NAPE was willing to support. Editor Grigsby in his article explained that White employers refused to employ African Americans under the pretext that White workers will not work next to an African American. He cited the example of Shelton Tappes who was denied an appointment at Ford Personnel Department but was elected by fellow employees as a recording secretary of their union. He also made mention of George Grigsby who held elected union office.7

Shelton Tappes, in his contribution entitled “The Integration of The Negro in the Labor Movement”, gave an interesting insight into his union and the manner in which the race issue was being confronted. He explained that: “Increasingly large numbers of workers have realized the benefits of the UAW-CIO and of unionism in general. It is only relatively recent though that the Negro workers have begun to realize these benefits and integrate themselves into the Labor Movement. Many Negro workers, for a long time, regarded the entire Labor Movement with suspicion and distrust. They had had experiences with some unions that barred them from membership and at the same time, membership was a requirement for employment on certain jobs; thus, they were denied employment. After the CIO came on the labor scene, the picture was rapidly altered. White industrial workers had begun to realize that they would never be able to make the gains in wages and working conditions as long as Negroes were left out of the Labor Movement...Once Negro workers have become convinced that organized labor offers them a square deal and fair play, they become loyal workers and fighters for the union and the principles for which it stands. The Negro is noted for his loyalty. All he demands is something to be loyal to. It is my conviction that the Ford Local 600, UAW-CIO is proving itself to be something worth being loyal to.”8

NAPE continued to maintain a healthy dialogue with the affiliated labor unions but maintained its independence. In July 1943, Grigsby represented the union at the Mid-Western Convention of Labor Union Editors and officers in Chicago. The theme of the conference was “Labor's Part in the War Effort and America's Post War Problems.” The AFL, CIO and Independent Unions were in attendance. James M. Kinlock, a member of NAPE's National Welfare Committee, explored NAPE's position on trade unionism in an article captioned “The Labor Movement and How It Affects You.” He explained why unorganized African Americans would no longer be used against White unions.9 While NAPE maintained its independence, it was upbeat about the progressive developments in the Labor Movement and viewed the latter as a natural ally. The leadership, however, did not believe that predominantly White labor unions were as yet fully committed to racial equality for African Americans. It was recognized that the process had been initiated in many unions but still had a very long way to go. As such, NAPE would continue to fight its battles as an African American union. It saw its racial identity as comingled with its class interest without contradiction.

The Second World War
During World War I, African Americans fully supported their country when it was at war. In spite of their demonstration of loyalty and valor, they suffered discrimination both inside and outside the armed forces. NAPE leadership and membership throughout their existence had to constantly deal with reconciling their race, class, and national identities and interests, as they pushed forward their demands for racial equality and democracy within and outside the POD. The subject was so much on their minds, that they felt the need to demonstrate their loyalty to the republic constantly, to remind White Americans that they too were Americans. One such occasion was in July 1925, when President Glenn led his Executive Committee to Arlington Cemetery to lay flowers at the grave of the Unknown Soldier and make a patriotic speech.

World War II occurred at a time when NAPE was intensifying its struggle for racial equality and democracy. Within the POD and wider society, NAPE gave solidarity to all forces that pursued similar objectives. Also at this conjuncture, they faced a very serious challenge. Should NAPE abandon its struggle at the national level for racial equality, workers' rights and democracy, and focus solely on supporting the war effort? How would NAPE deal with the contradiction that America was engaged in fighting racism and dictatorship abroad but was guilty of these practices at home? The union expressed its views fearlessly in The Postal Alliance through its leaders and the published speeches and views of prominent Americans with whom they coincided. A sampling of some of the articles and speeches will show that NAPE intensified rather than diminished its struggle while fully supporting the war effort.

Many members of NAPE went to the battlefields of Europe from almost all the Branches. Thus, for the membership, the war was very real. Before many NAPE members went to war, they publically called upon their comrades to keep the battles for democracy and racial equality at the home front alive. In April 1942, Thomas P. Bomar, Secretary of NAPE, outlined the position of the union regarding the war. In an article entitled “United in the War” he wrote: “They tell us this is a war. An all out war and that this is no time to solve the American race problem but to win the war. Defense plans tell us that their job is not to hire colored people but to turn out planes. They tell us that we must have unity to win the war and this is not time to quibble over personal controversies but we must forget our personal differences and present a solid front in this emergency. Just what is meant by unity? Does it mean that we must suspend the activities of our Welfare Department during the war? Does it mean we must stand idly and permit unjust discrimination to be heaped upon us for the sake of unity? This unjustified exasperation is exaggerated. My experience, gained from daily contact with these white employees, indicate that they are not near as prejudiced as some officials would have us believe. They are more selfish than they are prejudice. They want these promotions for themselves. I do not know of any instance where the promotion of a Negro has caused disunity. At times, more than two thirds of the employees under the supervisor of colored-clerks-in-charge in Washington, D.C. terminal are white and at no time in the history of the terminal has there been better unity and more harmonious fellowship existing between the two groups of employees...Therefore, the best way for officials to maintain maximum unity in the Postal Service is for them to do the things that they know to be right and just do what they ought to do rather than do what they would like to do.... The legal maxims, “He who seeks equity must do equity” and “Two wrongs never made a right”, apply to the postal worker. The employees must do their full duty before they can demand their full rights. Although they are victims of discrimination, they must, nevertheless, do their full duty. We must make the necessary sacrifice and demonstrate unjust discrimination, both at one and the same time. For the nation to win the war, it must first achieve unity for itself. This unity cannot be attained by denying one group of loyal Americans certain rights and privileges and at the same time extend these same rights and privileges to our enemy aliens, saboteurs, and traitors. Those Americans who would rather our enemy to win than to give the Negro his full rights are enemies and traitors and they are not worthy of their freedom. Unity for our enemies and traitors will never win this war but it may lose it”.10

James B. Cobb, Chairman of the Welfare Committee of the Washington Branch, in his answer to the question, “Is Democracy On Trial?”, wrote the following: “One of the dominant issues deriving out of the present world crisis is concerned with the status of a minority peoples in the nations identifying themselves as the Democracies. Here at home, the Negro Americans are asking to enjoy and exercise the rights and privileges considered inherent in our Constitution and philosophy. Despite the utterances of the leaders of the majority and contrary to the urgent need of manpower in the factories and fields and battlefronts, the many have denied the Negro the full exercise of but a minimum of the cherished American principles, privileges and rights. For the great majority of Negroes, the American way is but to pay taxes and shed blood in the defense of their homes. I know that there is certain companies such as the North American Aviation Company, a subsidiary of General Motors, are excluding my people. I know the makers of Perry Bobsignt have openly denied us employment. I can name many other private industries of which perhaps you don't know. I feel that the trouble is not with them, but with the company to which we own stock, the company with which we are on the Board of Directors, our Federal Government. We find that our own government violates the President's Executive Order, prohibiting discrimination because of race and color, more than private industry, so how are we to expect private industry to do otherwise. We even find the American Red Cross, to which we are asked regularly to contribute, making distinctions because of color, yet it is supposed to be a humanitarian organization. We find the churches, which are supposed to disseminate the teachings of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man have failed. Right here, in our own service, we find men who have been, if not now, members of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization, which has been more anti-democratic than many other labeled organizations. These men have been placed in supervisory positions. Furthermore, they and their followers have believed in the duality of American citizenship to the extent that they have been on Capitol Hill and proposed a wage differential for whites and Negroes in the Postal Service as well as other Federal Agencies.... I have in my many contacts in the past two months, note that among the other group there is an ignorance of the Negro mind and its turmoil...they do not know our average Negro, the one that was born after the great disillusion of 1918, when he was promised, for his great fight “to save democracy” a full participation in the American “Democratic” State. We must along with our fight for double victory - Victory Abroad and Victory at Home - teach those of the other group that the Negro waited patiently and helped win the first World War with a hope that his problem will be tackled immediately afterwards. In this World War, however, the Negro problem must be tackled simultaneously with pursuing the war. We must teach them that as France had her Moroccan and Senegabian; England her Irishman and her Indian; America has her Negro, who helped build this nation as those minorities helped build Empires of Britain and France. As England is needing her India now, America surely has her Negro, not as a white man's burden to be tolerated or patronized, but as an upright citizen, enjoying all of the privileges and immunities as guaranteed in the Constitution, among which is the right to participate in the preservation of his country not in the trenches and foot-holes alone but also in the factories and offices at home. Democracy has made many promises, but now during this period of social evolution, democracy is on trial and it must prove these things are applicable to all white, black, brown, but American All.”11

On June 26, 1942, a mass meeting of 20,000 was held at Chicago's Coliseum in support of the United States in the War. The speakers included A. Philip Randolph of the “March on Washington Movement” and Walter White of the NAACP. NAPE's Chicago Branch supported the event financially and organizationally. Percy Hines reported: “The Honorable A. Philip Randolph, whose astute leadership has developed an awakening throughout the United States on behalf of the Civil Rights of Negroes, was the inspiring personality behind the gigantic spectacle through the local division of the “March on Washington Movement.” A powerful battery of speakers from various parts of the United States pointed out the evils, which beset the progress of Negroes in America. Jim Crowism, lynching, disfranchisement, racial discrimination and other ills were held up to ridicule as enemies of democracy and national unity. Poll tax was lambasted and the sharecroppers' deplorable circumstances were amplified as the 20,000 or more citizens cheered. Details of how the various injustices are practiced against Negroes, including the United States Civil Service employees, were explained. But in the face of it all, the assembly voiced its wholehearted backing of the President in the total war effort while at the same time, the citizens expressed a determination to fight here and now for justice at home...Members of NAPE were present in large numbers...The Chicago Branch, NAPE, is justly proud of the part it played in the success of the mass meeting...In the onward, forward and upward march of our country's progress it is becoming more evident that, 'Winning Democracy for the Negro is Winning the War for Democracy'”.12

The union's position of fighting simultaneously for the same freedoms, at home and abroad, was perhaps aptly put by Jesse L. Robinson, President of the 10th District and member of the National Executive Committee of NAPE when he bade farewell to his comrades before joining the armed forces in April 1943. In challenging them he said: “I am about to lose all my civil rights to fight for democracy...My battle will be against the believers of Race Superiority abroad. I am wondering, since I will be asked to give up my life if need be for democracy, do I have the same right to ask the membership (NAPE) to give up their life for democracy at home if need be? If I am to open a second front against imperialism, etc. abroad, can I expect the Alliance to open up one against race hatred and oppression at home?”13

NAPE educated its members on its positions as espoused by its leaders, but also disseminated perspectives expressed by prominent African Americans with whom they had contacts. Adam Clayton Powell Jr.'s speech, “Making America Safe for Democracy”, appeared verbatim in The Postal Alliance. Some of the highlights of the speech are as follows: “In the midst of making the world safe for democracy, how about making America safe for democracy first? We cannot successfully strengthen the far-flung front yards of democracy's cousins until we have tidied up the backyard of our brothers. In a feverish rebirth of national patriotism, many of us have probably ignored the fact that a group of 15,000,000 black folk are being pushed around. The blood and heritage of these people goes back into the very roots of American life. Today the 15,000,000 Negroes of America are being rapidly pushed out of the heart and on to the fringe of our American life. The American Way has always been rather loosely practiced as dual - one way for white folks and another for black folks. In this hour of democracy's crisis, this definition is rapidly becoming painfully specific...He, [The Negro] is not only being asked to defend that which has little content for him, but to do it in the most menial capacity. In the Navy, black men have the glorious choice of dying for democracy as toilet cleaners, shoe shiners or stewards. In the Air Corps, the blood of the Negro patriots, which goes back to Bunker Hill, may be freely shed in one isolated air squadron. This squadron, initiated at Tuskegee Institute, AL, might well be called, The Lonely Eagles for Alabama, has not yet been made safe for democracy. In the Army, Negroes are allowed in larger numbers, but in Jim Crow regiments. Nevertheless, even here, there is a distinct distaste for America's blacker half. A few weeks ago, Pvt. Felix Hall of the U.S. Army was found lynched at Ft. Denning, Georgia. Pvt. Hall volunteered to lay down his life to make the world safe for democracy. Unfortunately, Georgia had not been made yet safe for democracy. So, Private Hall was hanged from a tree in his army uniform with his hands and feet tied. Despite protests from all over the country, not one word has been issued to date by the War Department. In defense industries the plot blackens. So black has become the pictures here that on April 11, Associate Director General of the Office of Production Management, Mr. Sidney Hillman, was forced to circularize a letter to all manufactures holding defense contracts: “Current reports on Labor Market Developments indicate skilled labor shortage...this threatens to become general...artificial factors are tending to aggravate...good workers available are not being hired solely because of their racial many sections of the nation, there are today available labor reserves of Negro workers.... Negro workers are barred from defense employment....” A responsible New York State official informed me that 97% of the metal trade industry of N.Y. State in reply to a questionnaire specifically stated: “We will not employ Negroes.” It looks like New York has not been made safe for democracy as yet either...All this boils down to just a few pointed questions: Is our American Way democratic or fascist? Is this Germany or the United States of America? Is this Berlin or New York? What are we fighting for? Are we fighting for democracy or a white man's world? The destiny of America is wrapped up in the destiny of its smallest minority. This land of our will go no further than the least of it goes. Whenever the fire of democracy is allowed to die out in a Negro ghetto, it dies out along the Broadways of the people who live on the other side of the track. There is no such thing as democracy for one group and none for the other. Neither is there any such thing as partial democracy. Democracy is whole hog or nothing. The fabric of democracy is no stronger than the weaker thread. America can't crush the poor workers of the black race without the poor workers of the white race being caught in the rebound. If we are going to “all out for democracy,” then we must have democracy for all....”14

Later in 1945, The Postal Alliance reported another of Powell's speeches in which he stated: “It is significant in these times that the Army and Navy are now doing everything possible to cooperate whenever injustice is brought to their attention. This is a far cry from the early days of this war...”15

There were a number of other articles published in The Postal Alliance by individuals and organizations other than the NAPE leaders. Bishop Carey, in his article entitled: “The Negro American in a World at War” showed his views were similar to those expressed by Powell and the NAPE leaders. He underlined that, “The situation of the Negro-American, at any time, is bad...While we are fighting to save democracy all over the world, Negro Americans feel that now is the time for America to wipe from her statute books the iniquitous device called the “restrictive covenant,” which forces Negroes to live in rotting houses where babies and helpless old people are eaten alive by rats....”16

Noted author Pearl Buck wrote and had published two articles. One was addressed to White Americans and the other to African Americans. Buck responded to a number of articles, which were published in the New York Times and other publications concerning the riots in Harlem. She felt that the articles did not examine the true cause of the riots. She identified race prejudice and segregation as the causes. “...The real point is that our democracy does to allow for the present division between a white ruler race and a subject colored race, and we ought to make up our minds as to what we want and then move on to accomplish it...Let us be honest about it and change the Constitution and make it plain that Negroes cannot share the privileges of the White people. True, we would then be totalitarian rather than democratic, but if that is what we want, let us say so and let us tell the Negro so. Then the White Americans will be relieved of the necessity of hypocrisy and colored people will know where they stand...”17

In her letter directed to African Americans, she advocated support for the war effort because hundreds of millions of African and Asian people would obtain freedom from White colonial rule. “I know this is no small thing to ask of any people. Certainly, it is asking you to be better than the white man has been. For if those who have suffered learn nothing from their suffering then the world is lost indeed. Who can fight so well for freedom as those who know what it is to be deprived of it?”18

The Welfare Director of NAPE represented the union at a conference on the “Status of the Negro in a Fighting Democracy.” The venue was Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. The interesting dimension to the conference was the presence of representatives from China and India. The conference linked the struggles of the colonized in Africa and Asia to the struggle of African Americans in the content of the Second World War.

NAPE and its Branches bought war bonds. So did many of its members. The union's commitment to the war was as deep as its commitment to fight institutional racism inside and outside the POD. The war allowed the leadership and membership to deepen their ideological development in that they had to define positions on race, class, democratic, national and international issues.

Education, economics and history
African American postal workers made an important contribution to the formation of the African American middle class through education and daily economic activities. The NAPE membership and leadership were very conscious that empowerment of the race could be achieved through education, economic knowledge and practical business. They were committed to family, property ownership and education. A survey of the activities of the children of African American postal workers would have shown that an overwhelming majority received high school and/or college education. As a matter of fact, the leaders of NAPE including its Founding Fathers had college education. The role models within the union were the leaders who had completed high school, college or university. Significantly, NAPE's political philosophy never sought to overthrow the capitalist system but to empower African Americans to fight for an equal place within it. Inasmuch as they recognized that they were having a 'raw deal' within the system and were fighting on a daily basis, it was their view that the African Americans had to equip themselves to be competitive at every level. That is why they did not ask for special favors. At the same time, they advocated not only formal education and the promotion of economic enterprises within their community, but also knowledge of the history of the race. They fully supported African History Week and celebrated their Alliance Day in order to deepen their history in general from their perspective. The Postal Alliance played an important role in popularizing and disseminating these concepts within the membership. In order to accomplish this task the union invited and obtained the input of African American intellectuals and professionals.

One important ally of NAPE in this undertaking was Dr. Mordecai Johnson, President of Howard University. He formally launched the mass education program of NAPE in 1942. On that occasion, he presented a paper entitled: “The Negro's Pathway To Economic Security.” In his opening remarks he stated that: “The greatest thing that ever happened for the Negro and the thing which was his economic emancipation was the acute labor shortage prior to World War I, when the Negroes were urged, yes begged, to go north to work in the factories at greatly increased wages over what he was able to make at that time anywhere in the country. It was the first time that Negroes had had a chance to sell his labor on the open market, to earn well and live decently.”19 He continued: “Negroes prayed that it was all a mistake and that things would go on as they had been for some time to come. Then the most hurtful thing came along and the Negro became disillusioned when he found that those who had sent for him were turning against him and allowing him to be pushed out of his job, his home, his everything by white workers. This was followed by twelve years of painful embarrassment and disillusionment...But a new emancipation day for the Negro is fast coming. This world crisis is growing so grave that pretty soon, industrialist, city and governmental officials, will meet around the conference table at midnight and will try to decide whether or not the Negro isn't worth more to the country operating machines that he is at washing cuspidors. They would find that the objective necessities require that all Negroes be employed....”20

In another article, he wrote in The Postal Alliance under the caption, “Negro Education and Present Crisis”, he argued that the demands of war required that African Americans who comprised one-tenth of the population be mobilized and utilized. He pointed out that many African Americans were already well educated. There were numerous graduates from Howard, Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Columbia, etc. In this respect, he quoted the view of an 80-year old Harvard History Professor, who stated: “I have now had more than forty years of experience in the classroom. During those years, I have taught white men and Negroes, Japanese and Chinese, and I have taught enough Negroes who come, as men say, from the least advanced stratum of human life on earth, to know that there is such a thing as white mind or a Negro mind. There is the human mind, and when it is dealt with intelligently, without condescension and in faith, in all of its areas, it is capable of rising to meet our expectations....”21

Dr. Johnson went on to provide extensive statistics on African Americans attending educational institutions at all levels. It showed that a lot more needed-to-be-done, in order to ensure that the human resource of African Americans was fully developed. Like all other areas of life, segregation and discrimination structurally blocked African Americans equal access to education. Cornelius L. Henderson, a civil engineer of 30 years experience working in the private sector, wrote an article in Postal Alliance: “The Negroes' Place in a Mechanized World.” He promoted the idea that African Americans should seek a technical education because there would be a need for new skills. “...With the certainty of a highly mechanized immediate future for our country, which it is easy to believe will most likely extend over a period of many years, it's well that we consider the place which the Negro can hope to fill in this new order of things. While the Negro, during and immediately after the former world war, demonstrated in large numbers his ability to successfully withstand the shock of a sudden conversion from a purely rural or agricultural life to an urban and industrial life, he now definitely faces the need for further development to meet the increasing demands of this new age: specialized industrial training seems to be the paramount need of our present manhood to meet the demand of this new so called defense industry. It behooves us all at this time to direct the minds of our Negro youth towards the desirability of acquiring industrial training, in other words, to learn a trade or how to do something well....”22

Rev. George W. Baber, D.D., Executive Director of the Fourth District Convocation, in an article: “Taxes and The Negro,” analyzed the Supreme Court 'Gaines Decision' of December 8, 1938, which concerned graduate education for African Americans. In the decision, Baber explained: “The States had to provide equal educational opportunities within the states for all its citizens. Missouri was the State specifically involved but the decision applied to the other 16 States, which maintained separate schools for Negroes and white citizens. Nine States had done nothing about the decision and others partially responded. He examined the allocation of resources, State by State and showed with figures the disparities in favor of whites. The main argument he advanced was that the African Americans paid taxes like the white citizens but when it came to allocation of resources, they did not receive their corresponding allocation.”23

Other articles published in The Postal Alliance advocated that African Americans should patronize African American businesses. That, it was argued, would permit the circulation of money within the community and contribute to the economic advancement of all. An entrepreneur showed that when he gave business to African American enterprises it created employment opportunities. Other articles explained how the income tax system worked. NAPE understood that African Americans would not be psychologically equipped to stand firm on issues and compete effectively unless they had an African American perspective on history.

The leadership and membership understood that the knowledge of history was as important as the technical training and doctorates. Thus, it was imperative to celebrate and participate in what came to be known as “Negro History Week” in February each year. Carter C. Woodson, D.D., published an article, “Why Negro History Week Is In February.” He explained: “We concentrate especially upon the Second Week of February because the most important events of concern to the Negro took place at that time. Abraham Lincoln was born on the 12th of February, Douglass believed that he was born on the 14th and George Washington was born, not much later, on the 22nd. All three soldiers of freedom...Charles Lennox Redmond, the greatest Negro anti-slavery orator prior to the rise of Frederick Douglas, was born on the first of February. Joseph C. Price, the educator and only orator ever to be considered as approaching equality with Douglass on the rostrum, was born on the 10th of the month. Senator B. K. Bruce was invited to preside over the United States Senate on the 15th of the month in 1879. Bishop Daniel A. Payne, one of the ablest of religious leaders and educators was born on the 24th of the month in 1811. Hiram Revels, the first Negro to serve in the United States Senate took the oath of office on the 25th of February 1870. The Dominican Republic was proclaimed as established on the 27th in 1844. On the 28th of this month in 1876, George Washington received Phillis Wheatley at his camp in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the same connection, we should note that during February, other friends of the Negro played their part. James G. Birney, the Free Soil candidate for Presidency of the United States in 1840 was born February 4, 1892. Henry Wilson, the abolitionist, was born February 16, 1812, Angelina E. Gruke, South Carolina abolitionist, was born February 20, 1805. James Russel Lowell, a poet with a strong bent for freedom was born February 22, 1819, and should be honored along with George Washington. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, another liberal poet was born February 27, 1807.... The chief difficulty is that Negroes of this country have neither been taught their own history nor its relation to the history of the nation in general. Negroes have been taught to consider themselves as persons separate and distinct from others and therefore, not be counted in the social and political equation. And, if you teach people a lesson for three centuries, they may learn it and learn too well to be unlearned very easily...While the smart Negroes of the race take pride in knowing nothing about their race, a considerable number of White persons who have to deal with the Negro race and desire to control its action are studying the Negro from every point of view....”24


1 The Postal Alliance, February 1942
2 The Postal Alliance, June 1942
3 Ibid, Page 15
4 The Postal Alliance, August 1944
5 The Postal Alliance, April 1942
6 Ibid, Page 13
7 The Postal Alliance, July 1942
8 Ibid, Page 410
9 The Postal Alliance, October 1941
10 The Postal Alliance, May 1945
11 The Postal Alliance, February 1943
12 The Postal Alliance, September 1942
13 The Postal Alliance, October 1942
14 The Postal Alliance, October 1942
15 Ibid, Page 16
16 Ibid, Page 357
17 The Postal Alliance, February 1942
18 The Postal Alliance, February 1942
19 The Postal Alliance, February 1942
20 The Postal Alliance, February 1942
21 The Postal Alliance, February 1942
22 The Postal Alliance, February 1942
23 The Postal Alliance, February 1942
24 The Postal Alliance, February 1942

Paul Nehru Tennassee is a Bi-lingual Historian and Political Scientist at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) where he focuses on International Education and Glo-Local Affairs. His next upcoming book is entitled History of the National Alliance of Postal & Employees (NAPFE) 1913-1945/TREAT US RIGHT NOT WHITE.