The Charlotte News

Tuesday, December 13, 1938


Site Ed. Note: "Facing a Dilemma" refers to State of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 US 337 (1938), wherein a unanimous Supreme Court held that the State of Missouri, in upholding a decision not to allow a qualified African-American applicant to enter the University law school because of his race, when there was no in-state law school maintained yet by the State for African-Americans, violated the separate-but-equal doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson, under the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection clause. Missouri had a statutory scheme whereby a purpose was enunciated for equal educational facilities between the races, Lincoln University being the state-supported school for African-American students. The statute also provided for state supplied tuition for African-American students to neighboring state educational facilities for any course of study not afforded by Lincoln. Lincoln had no law school. The neighboring states of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska admitted out of state African-Americans to their respective law schools. The State therefore argued that since provision was made for attending these other law schools, each comparable to the University of Missouri, the Constitutional mandate for separate but equal facilities had been met, despite the absence of an in-state law school facility for blacks. The Court, however, held that since there were intangible benefits to attending an in-state school for anyone wishing to practice law in that state, Missouri had not complied with the law. For the same reasons, it further found that the statement of purpose to create a law school facility at Lincoln was inadequate for compliance, even coupled with the payment of the out-of-state tuition to the neighboring state facilities in the meantime. Thus, the State was ordered to admit the applicant.

This case, while resting itself on Plessy, marked a beginning of the slow movement through Sweatt v. Painter, 339 US 629, (1950), holding, also on Plessy grounds, that the State of Texas had not provided an equal facility for African-Americans in its creation of a black law school, expressly not reaching the argument, then put forward by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall for the petitioners, that Plessy should be overturned, leading then to the historic overruling of Plessy in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 US 483, in 1954, also argued in part by NAACP lead counsel Marshall.

And, you might note that FDR, on his visit to Chapel Hill December 5, stated, by way of re-asserting his liberal platform for governing, that the security and well-being of the American people rests on "the affirmative action which we take in America".

Cash's take on this early bell-weather case on civil rights and integration is therefore quite interesting as a predictor of how he would have reacted to the advances through the 1950's and 1960's. As we have consistently argued before, it appears quite clear Cash would have been wholeheartedly in favor of these advances toward full integration of society. This despite that then he offered his typical cautionary warning regarding backlash to these efforts and suggests that it would be foolhardy in the South of 1938 to try to integrate colleges and universities. But then, read him next as he asks whether the state should have to build separate facilities for the relatively few black students seeking graduate level degrees at the time. Then the last of the editorial demonstrates his usual concomitant counsel on racial issues, that "candor and good will on both sides of the fence" should be encouraged to afford what he states must be afforded at the beginning of the piece, equal opportunity and equal access in all forms of education. Was not therefore Cash subtly saying that institutions of higher learning had better start facing matters squarely across the racial divide such that resistance to integration might be lessened with time, resistance which remained evident on college campuses in the South well into the middle 1970's certainly, and probably beyond that in some instances. Though lessening by degrees gradually from the mid-1960's onward, directly proportional to increasing integration over time, the hoary-headed locked bogeys of suspicion, rumor, and stereotype, especially as to the students made accustomed to integration in the larger cities of the South before they ever got to college, would gradually dissipate, as slowly but surely, twisting the night away, side by side in the library, will have such a tendency.

Voila! No more bogey.

And, of course, Cash wrote his book in some part so that it might so be used to effect that good will and candor--and posthumously, given its wide readership over time, especially among college students, into the 1960's and 1970's at Southern and Northern campuses alike, it likely had just that impact, as a teaching vehicle for instructors to provide a starting text to effect some understanding of the issues through history which had led to the racial divide, such that others might then begin to propose some practical ideas for amelioration and bridging of it.

Anyway, so much for those few scholars who have in the last couple of decades sought to revise opinion on the impact and philosophy of Cash and suggest, for his expressed suspicion in the 1930's of force bills for their likely creation of violent backlash among retrogrades, that he would not have supported the reforms of the 1950's and 1960's, in some respects brought about by force bills. We say to that: Hogwash. He would have been at the forefront encouraging such a movement, just as he was doing on this December 13, 1938 in response to the decision in Gaines.

Unfortunately, of course, on any side of the issue, it is a quite unproveable thesis as to what Cash might have opined by the 1950's. The retrogrades made sure of it.

Below, we include a piece from the editorial page this day by Cam Shipp, regarding slum clearance. His series in 1937, for which Cash gave lavish praise both in his column and in the eventual book, was prime reason for Charlotte obtaining a Federal government grant to build a housing project in May, 1939.

U. S. Housing Is Now Cheap Enough For The Poor

By Cameron Shipp

Proposals for slum clearance a year ago were met with these objections: first, the Marster Classes indignantly denied that there were any slums. When proof was thrust under their noses, they argued that giving the po' whites and the Negroes better houses would be foolish because they would only befoul them.

Now, these arguments having been found insufficient, the objection is that new houses cannot be built cheaply enough for poor persons to afford them. And in the beginning, this was true, as I pointed out in Collier's magazine last Spring. It was pointed out again by another in The Saturday Evening Post two weeks ago.

The facts are these: under union regulations controlling erection of Techwood in Atlanta (first slum clearance project in the United States) and other projects of two years ago, it was necessary to build solid houses capable of withstanding a Michigan Winter. That was a mistake. Techwood houses need slum dwellers--not at $32.50 a month rent. Not with Georgia Tech [indiscernible word] at $2,000 a year housed in it. But the original error has been corrected. It is now possible to build slum clearance projects to rent for prices which many, if not all, of the poorly-housed bottom income people can pay. For instance:

The median for all the projects started to date, according to Nathan Strauss, Administrator of USHA, is $4.24 per person per month or about $13 per month per home of three rooms, and $16 for a home with four rooms. In Charlotte, the rents average somewhere around [indiscernible figure] cents a room a week, which then comes to something between $6 and [indiscernible figure] per month.

The only valid objection now left to a Charlotte slum clearance project is, unfortunately, unanswerable. Charlotte has waited so long to create its housing authority--that all of Uncle Sam's housing money is gone. Now we have to wait for Congress.

Meanest Crime

Somewhere around Charlotte the meanest man ever heard of in the history of the town is walking free. Or maybe we should say the meanest men. Anyhow, somebody seems quite plainly to have stolen 38 U. S.-owned bales of cotton intended for mattresses for the sick and the destitute to sleep upon, and to have replaced it with trash. For a year the sick people at the Mecklenburg Sanatorium for Tuberculosis, people who particularly need restful mattresses if there lives are to be saved, did sleep on the lumpy and painful mattresses which resulted from this contemptible steal. And now--

The Mecklenburg Grand Jury, the County and City police forces all have a serious crime before them. And not only these, for that matter. The cotton in this case was Federal property, worth perhaps $1,500. And the theft of $1,500 worth of property, a felony under any law, is usually treated by the Federal Government as a crime of the first magnitude. What's wrong with the Department of Justice horning in on this party?

In sum, we hope that all these agencies turn every ounce of their energy to ferreting out the perpetrator of this crime. And that, when they find him--or them--, that the Federal courts stretch their usual grim policy in such matters to the last limit and dish out the works.

Site Ed. Note: Former FBI agent, fired by Hoover in 1924, Means, in his "investigation" of the death of President Harding in San Francisco's Palace Hotel by apparent heart attack on August 2, 1923, conducted initially, he claimed, at the instance of the First Lady seeking information on one of the President's amorous affairs, turned up, instead, he said, a conspiracy by Teapot Dome scalawags, who poisoned him.

To what purpose, we don't know. Perhaps, they were afraid that the paramour might reveal the payoff?

In any event, as lifelong devotees of Hardingiana, and out of insatiable curiosity for it, we ordered the book; we'll let you know.

As to the Lindbergh matter, on which no book exists--but surely there ought to be at least one, maybe even a movie--he claimed, three days after the kidnapping, to Evalyn Walsh McLean, the former wife of the publisher of the Washington Post, that the kidnappers had sought to enlist his aid in the crime, that he had refused but therefore had intimate knowledge of them, their desires and whereabouts. He convinced the wealthy lady that "The Fox", ringleader of the band, wanted a hundred grand as the ransom. She paid him the ransom. And, sure enough, "The Fox" took it and made off with it. After a month, the lady became suspicious and the gig was up. That landed him, and his disbarred lawyer accomplice, in jail for the 15 years he was serving at this point in 1938 when he kicked. Odd, indeed.

Perhaps, at least in the early days, John Edgar was not always the shrewdest judge of character, in some cases.

An Odd, Dead Duck

It was a curious career--that one of Gaston Means which was ended by death in a prison hospital yesterday. He was no moronic underdog driven to crime by desires which he had no power to satisfy through legitimate channels, but a man of education and good family background who seems, with deliberate purpose, to have chosen crime as a career. The fellow undoubtedly had shrewd intelligence and personality, and might reasonably have expected to get on within the law--might reasonably have expected to do a lot better than he did do for himself. For all his deeds netted him was trouble and prison.

Why did he elect to go the way he did? To keep piling crime on crime until he became almost legendary by the very enormity of his deeds? It is impossible to guess. But one thing that is to be noticed is that he seems to have a highly developed streak of a sort of Puckish exhibitionism and effrontery in him--that he apparently found his greatest delight in doing something so brazen, or telling a lie so brazen, that it left the country gasping. The Lindbergh hoax had the look of a crime committed by a man who really didn't mind getting caught so long as he could make the headlines and victimize a credulous woman. And he must have known beforehand that his tales in "Strange Death of President Harding" would quickly be shown to be preposterous.

An odd duck, truly.

Solace for the Russkys

The New York correspondent of Izvestia, Soviet newspaper, cables his paper that there is an acute shortage of automobile transportation in the United States, that rumble seats are overcrowded with three, four or even five passengers. The United States, he concedes, has two-thirds of all the automobiles in the world, but 40 per cent of them are either out of commission or parked on dealers' lots waiting for buyers.

It's a canard, of course, palpably designed to make the little Russkys feel better because they, after a couple of five-year plans, are still walking. Everybody knows that the reason Young America prefers the rumble seats to inside is a certain sort of exhibitionism that may be lamentable but hasn't anything at all to do with misery. And everybody knows too that the reason there are so many used cars parked on dealers' lots is because there are so many brand-new cars darting over the streets.

But if Izvestia's man had wanted to give the little Russkys a crumb of comfort and remain strictly within the bounds of truth, he could have done it merely by reporting that the average American motorist gives up a lot for the privilege of owning a car. The American Petroleum Institute put out the figures only the other day. The poor chap, 43, married and the father of a couple of rumble-seaters, makes, $20-$25 a week. Automobile taxes alone take a couple of weeks' salary every year, not to mention other items which take much more. But he rides, and after all its his money.

Facing a Dilemma

The Supreme Court's decision that the Southern states must give Negroes equal rights with whites as regards schooling opportunities is entirely in order. That, under the Fourteenth Amendment, is plainly the law of the land, and the court justifies the national faith in its courage and integrity in refusing to hedge on the matter.

But it raises questions that in a practical sense, are exceedingly difficult of solution. To open the white colleges and universities to Negroes is plainly inadvisable--from the standpoint of the simplest common sense. It is foolish or dishonest or both to blink the fact that racial prejudice exists, and to imagine that it can be put down by appealing to abstract justice and will-nilly, introducing the black man upon the white campuses. What such a course is perfectly certain to do is greatly to exacerbate race relations.

On the other hand, the Negro is clearly entitled, both in law and justice, to equal schooling opportunity. If he wants to be a doctor, or a lawyer or pharmacist, or to become a candidate for his doctorate in philosophy, science, or literature, he indubitably ought to have the same facilities for doing so that the white man enjoys. Yet it is obvious that, in states like North Carolina, the number of Negroes who are eligible for such education, who have the same means for pursuing it, is very small. And that being so, how on earth are we to provide really equal opportunity for them? Must we set up complete medical, law and graduate schools, staffed with large faculties of celebrated experts such as the white schools enjoy, to take care of the few who can attend them--simply because, in strict legal logic, the state has no right to ask them to go outside its bounds to seek such education?

That is the problem. And to reach any sort of a workable solution, candor and good will are needed on both sides of the fence.

Hurdle for Bumble

"This is the last territory in Europe I shall ask..."

Thus Adolf Hitler at Godesburg, with reference to the rape of Sudetenland under the claim of racial determination for the Germans living there. Mr. Bumble, you will recall, came back from Munich and told Parliament that he was quite sure that Adolf had spoken in good faith. But what is Mr. Bumble going to argue now? Adolf is obviously out to annex Memel, and at once bring Lithuania to heel and get himself into better shape to strike Poland should she dare to try to avoid becoming his absolute satellite.

Well, there's an out for Mr. Bumble all right, if he has the face to take it. Adolf isn't going to "ask" for Memel. He is going to have Memel now ask him to take it over. And since Adolf believes in "self-determination"--for Germans, that is, and not for the 800,000 Czechs who now find themselves dwelling in German territory, and the 10,000,000 Czechs and Slovaks left in the stooge state of Czechoslovakia--why, of course, he'll be bound to accede and let Memel become a part of the glorious Reich. And Bumble--Bumble believes in "self-determination," too, doesn't he?

It is a curious spectacle. Violence masquerades under the forms of right and idealism. The lie takes the shape of legalistic truth. And everybody pretends solemnly to think that it is all quite in order, and that Mr. Hitler is in fact an honest man.

Site Ed. Note: For more on traffic safety, see "Bomb's Rival", November 30, 1940, as well as "Toll of Speed", September 5, 1938.

Without Comment

Ten cities of the United States cut down their traffic death toll by 40 per cent or more in the first eleven months of 1938 as compared with 1937, according to a survey just completed.

The three leading cities were Providence, R. I., which reduced its rate 69 per cent; Columbus, Ohio, which cut down 58.3 per cent; and Cleveland, Ohio, with a reduction of 48.2.

It is interesting to observe the chief reasons given for their success. They were:

Columbus takes traffic offenders to court immediately.

Cleveland convicts 98 per cent of those charged with traffic violations, and wages an intensive and incessant campaign against the fast driver.

And Providence? Providence reduced speeds to 25 miles an hour everywhere in the city, and enforced the rule without exception. For 111 days, Providence, a city of 300,000 people, hasn't had a traffic death.

Site Ed. Note: Surely there ought be a wordplay somewhere in dead duck, Means, rumble-seats, Russkys, and Bumble. But, never having had the pleasure of riding in a rumble, we haven't quite got it yet. We'll let you know.


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