The Charlotte News
Sunday, November 6, 1938
Site Ed. Note: The comments below in the letter to the editor from NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White represent not the only time the NAACP or other African-American organizations would react to News editorials which ostensibly distinguished lynchings, (that is murders committed as a result of a conspiracy by three or more persons, conspiracy being an agreement, tacit or express, to kill or cause the death of another by union of conduct and thought, intentionally or recklessly performed as to the thought and action, the thoughts and action needing not to reside in the same person as long as it can be shown the thoughts were consciously intending the untoward result), from "ordinary murders", that is one person simply killing another by lone will and wanton act. Indeed, the frequency of this exchange was such that it begins to appear rather likely that the matter was quite deliberate, the rather obviously unduly distinguishing and picayunish editorials in all likelihood promulgated to stimulate the letter, to provide greater clarity on the subject, and to protect Cash from being lynched perhaps himself. (See, e.g., "Less Than Southern", July 4, 1939, "A Distinction", July 9, 1939, and "Much Alive", August 6, 1939.)
The case of Wash Adams is particularly interesting for the facts presented suggest a frequent pattern in lynching, one necessary for its existence to maintain. There are two elements mentioned which were part of the cult. The first, of course, as often discussed by Cash, was the tacit permission, sometimes participation, by local law enforcement in the murder. The second, rarely mentioned by Cash, was the presence in the mix of a black man as enabler in some manner to the lynching. Undoubtedly, this sort of thing was cooked up through law enforcement, releasing someone otherwise arrested and subject to conviction for crime, in exchange for aid in committing a lynching, as here, a driver, a friendly face to attract the victim to the ride without a fuss. Or, perhaps, if not initiated by law enforcement, it would be another form of coercion. Forgive the next funeral bill of the driver in exchange for aiding in the lynching of the one owing $10.00 on a funeral. Of course, it appears hard to believe that even in 1938 a lynching would have occurred over merely $10.00. Likely, there were other issues and the $10.00 funeral bill merely served as an excuse, an ironic "joke" which lynchers always leave as their modus operandi calling card, you see--always. That ten bucker, that Dixie funeral. For what's the purpose of a lynching if it doesn't serve to chill others deemed of the same rebellious spirit in the surrounds?
Maybe Wash Adams had been rude or surly or just plain or'nary to 'em, and, well, they wasn't gonna tolerate that from no nigger, see--be he black or white, Republican or Democrat.
"Playing With Fire" regarding the Dies Committee's traveling road show to various cities, including Asheville, New Orleans, Dallas, searching for "Communist agitators among Negroes"--sounds tragically comical in retrospect, of course. Just as with lynchings, always--the futility of the lynching being the comical part, a comedy of errors by the stooge lynchers and their less than studious puppeteers. Such traveling shows ultimately got people killed, including several prominent people in the 1960's. No doubt, all either permitted or even stimulated by a director and his promiscuous obsessions, and associated suckers, coupled with several little otherwise insignificant congressmen who sought to make their careers off destroying the reputations of others, just as Richard Nixon in California with Alger Hiss and the labeling of opposition candidate, New Deal Democrat Congresswoman Helen Gahagen Douglas, the wife of actor Melvyn Douglas, as "the pink lady" during his successful run for the Senate in 1950. The search for Communist agitators. The only Communist agitators, at the end of the day, appear more to have been the ones doing the searching, though more akin to Nazi agitators without the boots and salutes, perhaps. It was Nixon who danced the dance ultimately with Mao. After all.
Martin Dies, as we have pointed out before, ran unsuccessfully twice for the Senate. In 1941, he ran fourth in the race, just the weekend before Cash's death in Mexico City, the race in which, because of vote-stealing, "Pass the Biscuits Pappy" O'Daniel, then Governor, after slow counting, won by a handful of votes, against labeled "greenhorn" Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1957, in yet another special election when Senator Price Daniel resigned to become Governor, Dies, having been urged by Johnson, then Senate Majority Leader, and by Sam Rayburn, Democrat from Texas and Speaker of the House, not to run for fear that he was too conservative to beat liberal Ralph Yarborough, Dies ran anyway and lost to Yarborough. It was of course a party fence-mending mission on which President Kennedy went to Texas in November, 1963, to try to heal the hostilities between conservative Texas Democrats, led by governor John Connally, and the liberal wing of the party, led by Yarborough. Both Connally and Yarborough rode in the fatal motorcade through Dallas. Senator Yarborough rode with Vice-President Johnson in his gray Lincoln. Connally of course rode in the blue Lincoln with the President. This party mending was thought crucial to the hopes of the Democrats to win Texas in 1964, believed at the time to be crucial for re-election of the Kennedy-Johnson ticket, but moreover, rarely discussed, as being deemed crucial as to its timing, given Rayburn's influence in the House, in achieving passage of the Civil Rights Bill, promulgated by the Kennedy Administration in June, 1963 but languishing by November, largely because of stubborn Southern old-line Democratic resistance. Yarborough was the only Southern Senator to vote in favor of all civil rights legislation proposed during his 14 years in Congress. Thus, having these breaches healed visibly and unified in the heart of Texas could, it was likely thought, ripple through the rest of the South and insure the bill's passage in relatively short order. Even the budget was being held in place in affront to the bill's existence by its resisters in the South, and political machinators in liaison, the latter being largely if not exclusively in the Republican camp, as we indicated, the Copperheads, the same as in the time of Lincoln, the same who ultimately got him killed, as surely as Booth pulled the trigger.
This attempt at mending fences, however, was, you see, very disturbing to some, those who had other ides about upcoming election results. These certainly were not Democrats, either, at least not in the commonly understood usage of the term. It is highly questionable and indeed doubtful whether they were, in the truest analysis of the equation, Republicans. Whoever they were, and to whatever party affiliation they had, whether in the United States or elsewhere, before, during or after the War, their string-pullers and pocket-menders liked to read things in a very strange way, obviously, for the purpose of inducing the manipulanda to pull traps without even being aware of the act--as we said, undoubtedly hopped up on something, probably more than gin rummy or playing cards, such as after a good dousing of hypnotic rounds of The Lady of the Lake, (cf. "bower" and other notes at base of text, as well as text itself, lo do not become thus hypnotized, howe'er, as can happen--remember to snap yer fingers after it), (cf. also "Foggy Mtn."), and other such abused poetry-songs, and probably a thousand pieces of the news, at least a thousand, sung and read in round and round and round, to produce hysteria.
Also, Martin Dies Reservoir in Texas came to be in 1965, previously named Dam B Reservoir. Go figure.
President Kennedy of course knew that there were grave risks in going to politically charged Texas at this time. Any newspaper which would allow an advertisement, "Wanted For Treason" above the profile of the President within its pages on the date of such a visit, preceded by a month by U.N. Ambassador Stevenson's being pelted with eggs, with known cells of reactionary activity going on, with known disgruntled hawkish generals retired to the area, including Edwin A. Walker, and some in other areas, maybe at the little Y crossing out in the Northwoods, certainly has to be questioned a little as to where its head was at the time, especially since commercial free speech and ordinary free speech are distinguished by Supreme Court cases. (More on that some other day.)
Despite the risks, however, the President's conscientious desires to insure passage of the stalled Civil Rights bill, and its portent for the nation's, the world's future, weighed precedence over his personal, transitory safety in his mind. While we would have had the matter otherwise, the risk thus taken, despite the horror of the sacrifice in the result, is something which everyone around the world may cherish as an heroic deed of chivalry for our nation and all oppressed peoples everywhere, those held in subjugation for fear of reprisal by some oppressive ruling order, anywhere.
There was a genuine and substantive attempt by the Kennedy Administration to reach out to the South, both in appointments to key positions within government, such as that of Dean Rusk to State and Luther Hodges to Agriculture, and symbolically, as reflected even in the colors of the limousines used respectively by the President and Vice-President in a time of the national commemoration of the centennial of the Civil War. At a time when numerous television programs, one series in particular which was especially educational, the American Heritage Special, aired on the history of that war. At that time, however, this notion of outreach, while appealing to many in the South, probably only inflamed the most ingrained of that old Southern Cross, not to mention some Copperheads in other parts of the country using it to engage further the arms of these desperately hungry souls; just what that flag meant to them in fact we could not say for sure, anymore than we could today with respect to those who still sport it on their bumpers or T-shirts, what have you, even in their yards--even prominently along the interstate, not far from where we write these words--something which they have every right to do of course. But it would be interesting to know what it means to them.
It may mean different things to different people of course. To us, it means a mistake. X. Check that.
We still see that old cross sometimes out in the country in another, more innocent context, don't we? In black and white only, however--at railroad crossings, both underground and above. knaB saxeT, sax et knab, Sauk, Menominee, Missisippi.
For example, just as examples, Lord Oxford says, and rightly, wight:
Sax - [OE. seax, sex, sæx (also in comb. Northumb. writsæx 'writing-knife', i.e. pen) = OFris. sax, OS., MLG., OHG., MHG. saks (also in comb. OHG. meMMisahs, meMMirahs, MHG. meMMeres, meMMer, mod.G. messer knife = OE. m£teseax 'meat-knife'), ON. sax (Sw., Da. sax scissors):-OTeut. *sahsom, f. root *sah-, sag- to cut: see saw n.1
In the well-known story related by Geoffrey of Monmouth after 'Nennius', the signal given by Hengist to his Saxons for the treacherous slaughter of their British hosts appears in the form 'Nemet oure saxas'. The OE. form would be Nimað éowre seax, the n. being uninflected in the plural. The two earliest MSS. of 'Nennius' (11th c.) have respectively saxas and sexa.]
†1. A knife; a short sword or dagger. Obs. exc. Hist.
Beowulf1545 Heo+hyre seaxe 1/4eteah brad brunecg. a800 Corpus Gloss., Culter, saex. c1000 Ælfric Josh. v. 2 Wirc þe nu stænene sex. c1175 Lamb. Hom. 81 Þet me sculde in þe ehtuþe dei þet knaue child embsniþen mid ane ulint sexe. c1205 Lay. 4015 Þe uniselie moder mid sexe hine to-snæde. Ibid. 22342 Mid swiðe scærpe sæxen. 1300-1400 R. Glouc. (Rolls) App. G. 40 Mid hare sexes hi corue þat bodi pece mele.
Sawyer - [Altered form of sawer, with assimilation of the ending to the Fr. suffix -ier. Cf. bowyer, clothier, lawyer.]
1. A workman whose business it is to saw timber, esp. in a saw-pit.
1350 in Riley Mem. Lond. (1868) 254 [Also, that the] sawiers [shall take in the same manner as the masons and carpenters take]. 1415 in York Myst. Introd. 22 Sirdellers, Naylers, Sawiers. 1497 Naval Accts. Hen. VII (1896) 143 Carpenters Sawyers Smythes laborers+& other workemen. 1548 Act 2 & 3 Edw. VI, c. 15 §3 Any+joyner hardhewer sawyer tyler pavyer [etc.]. 1616 Ms. Acc. St. John's Hosp., Canterb., Payd to the sayeures for honndred of bourdes. 1640 Brome Antipodes ii. ii, With see saw sacke a downe, like a Sawyer. 1809 Med. Jrnl. XXI. 53 William Waters,+a sawyer. 1886 Encycl. Brit. XXI. 344/2 The log being raised on trestle horses instead of one of the sawyers being sunk in the pit.
2. The name of a New Zealand beetle: see quots.
1789T. Anburey Trav. II. 452 These insects, from the destruction as well as the noise they make, have the appellation of sawyers. 1898 Morris Austral Eng. 507 A huge, ugly grasshopper, Deinacrida megacephala, called by bush~men the Sawyer. 1890 Sunday Mag. July 488/2 The Sawyer is reported to saw the branches completely off the tree,+the Sawyer beetle is the very largest insect known.
Just more hieroglyphs, you contend? Well, if you don't know what to look for in the machinators' machinations and crossed not-see eyne, their modi, you too might become cornered one day in a situation where either you carry forth under your arm your part to work one day or face some consequence for not being cooperative in the grand plan, after all, foreordained even by Revelations. Right?
And, judging by much of the tv news these days, "There's A Difference" suggests that the statistic therein quoted may well have gone to about 5,000 out of 10,000 today, at least. We counsel this thought if you think you might wish to join that mass: The killers of the dream were likely high as a kite at the time.
Instead of so much of that, we suggest "Wade in the Water" by the Blind Boys of Alabama or the Staples, as you please.
Walter White Cites Evidence On Lynchings
Letter And St. Louis Star Quoted To Show Cases About Which We Had Question Were Work Of Mob Spirit
I have just received a copy of your editorial of Oct. 14, "A Word Misused." Since you raised the question as to the accuracy of the figures on lynching in the newspapers, Tuskegee Institute, and the NAACP, I want you to have the facts so far as our figures are concerned.
As for as our resources permit, we very carefully check every case which appears to come within the definition of lynching before listing such cases as lynchings. With follow the standard definitions of lynching as incorporated in the state and Federal legislation of cases where "three or more persons conspire to cause the death of or physical injury to another person."
In the case to which your editorial refers, of Wash Adams, killed at Columbus, Miss., on June 10, I quote from the letter of a prominent white attorney in Columbus, Miss., dated Sept. 5:
"Your letter of the 1st inst. requests that I give some information relative to the death of Wash Adams and the beating of one Bishop Dodson in this city June 10, 1938, received.
"I am advised about five o'clock Friday afternoon of the above day, that prominent white men of this city were driven by a colored man to the hotel of Wash Adams' mother where Wash Adams was living at the time here in Columbus, Miss., and was at the above-mentioned time in the yard mowing grass and someone in the car called him from his work to the car; and Wash got to the car and they rode away with him to their undertaking establishment here and he was beaten there, across the back near the kidneys, and across the chest near the heart, with some kind of an iron into a pulp or jelly.
"A prominent white lady resided across the street from this undertaking establishment heard his screams for help and she telephoned to the Police Department of this city, but they failed to go to his assistance until about an hour and when they did arrive at the scene the perpetrators had carried Wash away, either in a car, or had dragged him to the car, and at about eleven o'clock P.M. they returned him to his home and threw him upon the bed unconscious; and left immediately. As the colored man driving the car left the house, Wash Adams' mother requested him to send a doctor as quickly as possible but failed to do so.
"An outstanding physician in this city later did see him before he died that night and several white neighbors also saw him before he passed away; I am further advised, he was beaten to death because he owed a balance of $10.00 on a funeral bill of his deceased wife which he had been unable to pay.
"The mother of Wash Adams has called at my office and discussed this matter freely with me; as well as several white citizens who are friends of these people, but all are very poor in this world's goods and unable to employ counsel to prosecute the offenders; and unless same is done, the matter may be whitewashed when the next grand jury convenes.
"Only one of the offenders was charged with the crime of man-slaughter, but no evidence was introduced on the hearing, and he was released by agreement with the district attorney on $2,000 bond, to appear before the next term of circuit court here."
We have reason to have confidence in the integrity, and impartiality of the writer of the above letter.
As for the Claude Banks case at Canton, Miss. on July 21, where he was "killed by a posse," we fear the facts as given in your editorial are not quite accurate. According to The St. Louis, Mo. Star and other papers, Banks was shot and killed by a mob which was hunting suspects in the killing of a white man. Banks was in no way connected with the crime but was shot and killed while trying to get out of the way of the mob. These facts have been carefully checked and fully justify, in our opinion, inclusion of this case as a lynching.
I trust you will pardon the length of this letter, but you will appreciate that in a work like ours, understatement rather than overstatement is of the utmost importance and value. Under no circumstances would we wish an influential paper like The Charlotte News to get the impression that we were at all careless in the keeping of our records.
Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
We have seen it written that Carl Durham, selected by the Democratic committee is the Sixth District to be the nominee in place of the late Judge Teague, is reported to be a man of splendid abilities, untutored in the ways of politicians, and therefore ought to be the very fellow for the job. We would quite agree if the Democrats in North Carolina still used the convention system of selecting nominees. But they don't.
They use, instead, the primary system. Two primaries had already been held. In the first, Judge Teague and Oscar Barker of Durham County were high. In the runoff, Barker trailed by 800 votes. Nevertheless, 15,727 persons had taken the trouble to go to the polls on a holiday week-end and vote for him.
Whether he or Durham is the better man is altogether beside the point. The point is that he almost won anyhow and that no committee representing the Democratic Party has any right so flagrantly to override the documentary evidence of the people's will.
A Neglected Amendment
For some reason or other, the amendment to authorize the establishment of a Department of Justice for North Carolina--which will be voted on Tuesday--has not attracted as much attention as the amendment to extend the term of the sheriff's office. Ourselves, we confess frankly that we had forgotten that it was to come up at this time until we happened to see some mention of it in the news dispatches today.
Perhaps one reason for the lack of interest in it is that the Commission on the State Department of Justice advised the Governor, in transmitting its report sometime ago, that most of the things suggested in their report could probably be done under the constitution as it stands at present. The only real point at issue seems to be how much authority the Attorney General can be directly charged with in the absence of the amendment, which specifies that he shall have charge of the department.
Perhaps, to be on the safe side, it will be best to take the trouble to vote for the amendment. Certainly, there can be no doubt that the department is needed. We know that North Carolina has one of the highest crime rates in the country, but aside from cities like Charlotte--which stands second in the whole procession of American cities--we don't even have statistics upon which to base our calculations. And our courts and law-enforcement agencies are sadly unco-ordinated. It is high time we went methodically about remedying the case in some such fashion as that proposed in the commission's report.
Playing With Fire
"Outlining the future plans of the committee, Dies said it would take up reports next week of Communist activity among the Negroes of the South. A subcommittee will go, he said, to Atlanta, Birmingham, and Asheville, New Orleans, San Antonio, Dallas..." -- Associated Press
It is our invariable custom in the South to protest against "outside interference," and that we are entirely capable of handling our own affairs. And this is one time when we can back that up without any qualms.
Not that we doubt at all that Communist agitators have been active among Southern Negroes. They have. But we know that already. And we know also, as well as anything can be known about it, that the Reds have had no great success among these Negroes and--aren't likely to-- if we see to it that the Negro gets a reasonably fair deal in the South. The Southern Negro is temperamentally as unlikely material for radical revolution as can be found on earth. And if he is ever driven into it, it will be our own fault.
The Dies Committee, that is, can do no good by this inquiry in Dixie. And it may very well do incalculable harm. We know already that the Dies Committee's method of "inquiry" is to get free reign and publicity to irresponsible alarmists who take the figments conjured up by their fears for fact. Its prize "evidence" today consists of assertions by a California Legionnaire which were so wild that the head of the Legion in that state felt bound to repudiate them. And such wild assertions about the Negro in the South are potential dynamite. Falling into the ears of the kind of people who are terrorized by "invasions from Mars," they may very well set off a hysterical race agitation, and so greatly exacerbate racial relations among us.
Ourselves, we here and now vote for the Dies Committee to stay out of Dixie.
Two reports on the corporation in which you have the most vital interest have recently been set forth in the most oblique contrast.
The corporation is your City Government, which you own and which provides the services and protections which make it possible for you to live comfortably and safely in Charlotte.
No. 1 is the annual report of the City of Charlotte. It is a brilliant report--for many reasons. In a remarkably well-prepared brochure, illustrated with pictures and charts, it shows the city ably managed, amply financed, supplying thoughtful measures of protection against disease, hazard and crime. It shows far-seeing plans for progress. The variability with which the booklet is presented--partly, like an entertaining magazine article--credits the City Council and executive management of the City of Charlotte.
No. 2 is report of the Mayor's committee on housing. Again, the report is able, well-prepared and thoughtful, but the contrast is striking. It finds 3,077 houses in Charlotte of questionable fitness for human habitation. It finds, as The News has tried to show, that these unfit houses in the slum communities in which they lie, are the chief breeders of delinquency, dependency, disease and full-blown crime.
In there they are, the two able reports, and how startling it would be if the City were forced to include No. 2 in its beautifully-printed booklet along with the fine record of its abilities and progressive accomplishments. Still, there is fair evidence that next year's annual report may be marked with reference to slums, and the reference, we hope, will be to how your corporation shoulders the task of slum clearance and disposed of it as progressively as it has managed all other factors of City Government.
Prohibition Fails Again
Belgium has made up its mind to go all the way wet again.
It had never been all the way dry. But it has an "Andy Volstead," one Emile Vandervelde, and sometime ago he succeeded in getting the Brussels Parliament to pass a "prohibition" law. It was a much milder prohibition than that which we once knew in the United States, and which in Charlotte we know until this day. Indeed, it was almost a dead ringer for North Carolina's ABC law. It stipulated that liquor can be sold only in packages for home consumption, two quarts to the sale.
But Belgium is Continental in its customs and tastes, and the liquor system that delights many a North Carolina County was repugnant to the bravest of the Gauls. The results were quickly apparent and appalling. The Government estimates that there are today 200,000 bootleggers in the little country, and one village of a thousand people is reported to have 47 by itself.
It is the same old story all over again. Wherever it has been tried--in Norway, Finland, the United States, Belgium--prohibition in any degree has served only to prove conclusively that you cannot really prohibit something that great numbers of the people want and see no reason why they shouldn't have, and that the attempt to do so only breeds corruption.
There's A Difference
The prohibition that wouldn't work in Belgium and the United States in the case of liquor (see the foregoing) is working wondrously well with drugs. The Federal Narcotics Commission reported this week that only two people out of every 10,000 were drug addicts now, whereas in 1924 the rate was ten out of 10,000.
What is it that makes the prohibition of drugs reasonably successful and the prohibition of liquor a foredoomed failure? Well, it is several things, but in part it is that people don't crack jokes about drugs and persons under the influence of drugs, whereas the tipsy person or the silk-hatted drunk are stock characters in funny stories.
It's a fact. All the efforts of the prohibitionists to depict liquor as a mad dog have made little headway, and can't make much against the disposition of man to treat the topic of liquor levitously. And until the attitude changes, prohibition of liquor is never going to be more workable than it has proved to be in the past.
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