The Charlotte News

Thursday, May 5, 1938


Site Ed. Note: To understand the mention within "The Mighty Book" of the near lynching of Hinton Helper and the fleeing from the South of George Washington Cable, and probably for the passage of time since their works precipitant of these circumstances were published, to understand how little there is left to understand of a mentality which would so fix upon such emotional reactions to the print set upon paper between hard covers as to so create such absurd circumstances, you may read Helper's work, Impending Crisis of the South, and Cable's non-fiction work, The Silent South, or one of his novels, The Grandissimes. The Helper work being replete with all its dry statistical formulae to postulate simply, albeit a complex hypothesis when poised against the recalcitrance and ignorance of its time, that the common white and slave had too much in common when placed before the plantation owner to allow the institution of slavery to continue, that as an economic institution it performed poorly on behalf of the common white sharecropper and small farmer and thus should be abandoned to the greater benefit of the South in general, a tract which was actively circulated by the Republican Party during the election of 1860; The Grandissimes being a simple, somewhat gothic romance epic set in the Creole country in and around the author's native New Orleans, but which despite its ample doses of sentiment, (himself having been a Confed'rate cavalryman, ma'am), was nevertheless considered by Southerners libelous of the region in the 1880's.

As a sample of these heretical notions, here is an excerpt from Cable's The Silent South, published in 1889, debating whether a "race instinct" prevails to maintain segregation between those of different pigments among the race, regardless of the time's enforced legal separation:

Guns That Shoot Backward

Our demonstration is complete; but there follows a short corollary: While the colored people always did and still do accept with alacrity an undivided enjoyment of civil rights with the white race wherever cordially offered, they never mistake them for social privileges, nor do they ever attempt to use them to compel social intercourse. We might appeal to the everyday streetcar experience of hundreds of thousands of residents in New Orleans and other Southern cities; or to the uniform clearness with which civil rights are claimed and social advances disclaimed in the many letters from colored men and women that are this moment before the writer. But we need not. We need refer only to our opponents in debate, who bring forward, to prove their own propositions, a set of well-known facts that turn and play Balaam to their Balak. Hear their statement: "They"--the colored people--"meet the white people in all the avenues of business. They work side by side with the white bricklayer or carpenter in perfect accord and friendliness. When the trowel or hammer is laid aside, the laborers part, each going his own way. Any attempt to carry the comradeship of the day into private life would be sternly resisted by both parties in interest."

We prove, by the other side's own arguments, that the colored people always accept the common enjoyment of civil rights and never confound civil with social relations. But in just one phase of life there is a conspicuous exception; an exception especially damaging to the traditional arguments of our opponents. And who furnishes our evidence this time? Themselves again. We allude to the church relation. Whereas to confront the history of an effort made, they say, many times over, by Bishop Haven and the Northern Methodist Church generally, soon after the late war; an effort to abolish racial discrimination in the religious worship of the church in the South composed of Northern whites and Southern blacks; its constant and utter failure; and the final separation of those churches into two separate conferences, and into separate congregations wherever practicable. These facts are brought forward to prove the existence of race instinct, intending to justify by race instinct the arbitrary control, by the whites of the relations between the two races; and the conclusion is sanguinely reached at a bound, that the only explanation of these churches' separation on the color line is each race's race instinct, "that spoke above the appeal of the bishop and dominated the divine influences that holds from pew to pew." But the gentlemen are too eager. What in their haste they omit to do is to make any serious search at all for a simpler explanation. And how simple the true explanation is! Bishop Haven and his colleagues, if rightly reported, ought to have known they would fail. They were attempting under acute disadvantages what none of the Protestant churches in America, faithfully as they have striven for it, has ever been able extensively to accomplish. That is, to get high and low life to worship together. The character of much ritual worship and of nearly all non-ritual worship naturally and properly takes for its standard the congregation's average intelligence. But this good process of assortment, unless held in by every proper drawback, flies off to an excess that leaves the simple and unlearned to a spiritual starvation apparently as bad as that from which non-ritual worship, especially, professes to revolt. Bishop Dudley, of Kentucky, has lately laid his finger upon this mischief for us with great emphasis. But, moreover, as in society, so in the church, this intellectual standard easily degenerates toward a standard of mere manners or station. Thus the gate is thrown wide open to the social idea, and presently not our Dorcases only, but at times our very bishops and elders, are busy trying to make the social relations go extensively with the church relation. With what result? Little, generally, save the bad result of congregations trimming themselves down to fit the limitations of social fellowship. See the case cited. Here were whites, cultured, and counting themselves, at least, as good as the best in the land; and here was an ignorant, superstitious race of boisterous worshipers just emerged from slavery; one side craving spiritual meat, the other needing spiritual milk, and both sides beset by our prevalent American error that social intimacy is one of the distinct earnings of church membership. Of course they separated.

It is but a dwarfed idea of the church relation that cramps it into the social relation. The church relation is the grandest fraternity on earth. [Ftnt.: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female." Gal. iii. 28.] Social relations are good and proper, but can the social relation grasp all these conditions in one embrace? Can any one social circle span from the drawing-room to the stable, from accounting-room or professional desk to the kitchen, from the judge's bench to the tailor's and cobbler's, from the prince's crown to the pauper's bowl? Yet without any social intimacy the prince may be the pauper's best friend, and even the pauper the prince's; and the church relation ought to be so wide and high that all these ranks might kneel abreast in it in common worship, and move abreast in it in perfect, active, co-laboring fraternity and regard, gathering any or every social circle into its noble circumference, never pressing one injuriously upon another, and above all things never letting in the slender but mischievous error of confusing Christian fraternity with social equality. Yet the high and low nigh all our country over are kept apart in divine worship by just this error or the fear of it. Fifty thousand Bishop Havens could not, until they had overthrown the domination of this mistake, get the lofty and the lowly to worship together. How could they but separate? And the dragging in of a race instinct to account for the separation is like bringing a pole to knock down strawberries. Other things will, but a belief in instinct will not, keep the races apart. Look at the West Indies. But not even miscegenation--may the reader forgive us the bedraggled word--could have saved such a scheme from failure.

The gentlemen prove absolutely nothing for their case, but much against it. For here is shown by actual experiment that even where there is not of necessity a social relation, yet when the social idea merely gets in by mistake of both classes, the effect will not be social confusion, but a spontaneous and willing separation along the strongest lines of social cleavage. The log--the church--will not split the wedge--the social impulse; but the wedge will split the log. The uncultured, be they white or black, in North or South, will break away on one side with even more promptness and spontaneity than the cultured on the other, and will recoil, moreover, to a greater distance than is best for any one concerned. Thus far are we from having the least ground to fear from the blacks that emptiest of phantasms, social aggression. Thus far are we from needing for the protection of social order any assumption of race instinct. And so do the advocates of our traditional sentiments continually establish the opposite of what they seek to prove.

They cite, again, to establish this assumption of race instinct, a spontaneous grouping together of colored people in such social or semi-social organizations as Masonic lodges, military companies, etc. But there is no proscription of whites in the lodges of colored Odd-fellows or Masons. In Georgia, for example, the law requires the separation of the races in military companies. The gentlemen forget that the colored people are subject to a strong expulsive power from the whites, which they say must and shall continue whether it is instinct or not; and that the existence of a race instinct can never be proved or disproved until all expulsive forces are withdrawn and both races are left totally free to the influences of those entirely self-sufficient social forces which one of the gentlemen has so neatly termed "centripetal." But even if these overlooked facts were out of existence, what would be proved? Only, and for the second time, that the centripetal force of social selection operates so completely to the fulfillment of these gentlemen's wishes, that there is no longer any call to prove or disprove the existence of race instinct, or the faintest excuse for arbitrary race separations in the enjoyment of civil rights.

Thus, setting out with the idea that the social integrity of the races requires vigorous protection from without, they prove instead by every argument brought to establish it, that every relation really social, partially social, or even mistakenly social, takes--instinct or no instinct--the most spontaneous and complete care of itself. We are debating the freedman's title to a totally impersonal freedom in the enjoyment of all impersonal rights; and they succeed only in saying, never in bringing a particle of legitimate evidence to prove, that "Neither race wants it"; an assertion which no sane man, knowing the facts, can sincerely make until, like these gentlemen, he has first made the most woful confusion in his own mind between personal social privileges and impersonal civil rights.

Oh, but having re-read some of this vile, bilious calumny, we're so hoppin' mad anent it all, in the heat of our ferment, that we think we'll go hunt us up one Robert Taylor and ease down our cudgel just a bit before it gets to be sundown and the wolves come a-creepin' in our backyard...

One of the Jones Boys

A warrant has been issued for "Robert Taylor," the enterprising wholesale bootlegger who did his part towards allaying thirst of this signally dry city by importing 5,032 gallons of liquor from a single dealer in Baltimore between February 23 and March 17. But we read by the papers that Solicitor John Carpenter suspects that the name--that of Hollywood's leading male lovely--is a phoney, that he knows nobody named Taylor who might be involved in bootlegging, and that nevertheless he intends to move heaven and earth to try to establish the identity of this mysterious creature.

All of which, masters, sets us quite frankly giggling out loud. This dramatic determination sounds exactly of a piece with Mr. "Taylor's" name. We think that, if the astute Solicitor doesn't himself already know, he can find out the real name of Mr. Taylor by the simple and undramatic device of going down and asking the police. No, we are suggesting nothing so uncomplimentary as that the police have legal proof of Mr. Taylor's identity and his whisky dealings, and still have done nothing about it. Not a bit of it. But for all that, we'll bet the new straw hat we bought on Straw Hat Day the police know very well in their own minds who he is. And if that isn't so, then they are a lot sorrier sleuths than we have thought. For there must be several hundred laymen in town who do know.

A Bishop is Chosen*

The only remarkable circumstance in the election of Dr. W. W. Peele to the College of Bishops of the Methodist Church is that it didn't take place earlier. In capacity, training, standing, even in appearance, Dr. Peele was unmistakable episcopal material. At the quadrennial conference four years ago his name was prominently mentioned, but for some reason his election did not follow. At this conference it took place on the first ballot.

And wherever Dr. Peele's appointment may carry him, a matter which is at the disposal of his colleagues at the episcopacy, he may be sure that the best wishes of great numbers of people in all places where his long ministerial services take him, will accompany him further.

Site Ed. Note: For more on candy and, not incidentally, reading matter for children, see Cash's book-page piece, "Reading for Sub-Debs", November 15, 1936.

And, running a double-whammy risk here of probably offending both those liberals to whom Ms. Black, aka Shirley Temple, became anathema as a quite conservative Congressional candidate from California and later appointee as diplomat under you-know-who back in the late 1960's, as well those sensitive folk who objected to the Teletubbies a few years ago and who therefore might find this a suspicious admission to make, we shall make it anyway: that as a little tyke we used to rather enjoy watching the cute-as-a-little-button Shirley, when she was a little tyke herself, that is.

And, for all that, we never once even dreamed about tap-dancing with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, or ever thought about carrying a purse. In fact, we even thought those little purse-like satchels some of the urban male professionals took to carrying back in the mid-80's looked a bit suspicious ourselves.

We believe firmly and forthrightly in either carrying our briefs in a briefcase or letting it all hang out and letting fly our foolscap right out in the open wind.

So there.

By the way, don't ever forget those Miranda warnings...even in the Midnight Wind...

Comes the Silly Season

The Silly Season, mates, went into high gear with the advent of the hot and muggy days Tuesday. For with clockwork precision that day saw the filing of a suit in New York by the National Confectioners' Association, for $500,000 damages and the enjoining of the showing of Shirley Temple's starring vehicle, "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." And wherefore? Why, because there is a scene in the picture wherein Aunt Miranda, having inquired if the child has had anything to eat en route to visiting her, and having been told that she has had a candy bar, snorts: "Take the child to the kitchen and give her something decent to eat!"

Not any particular candy bar, mind you, but just any candy bar. But the candy men say that kids copy La Temple slavishly, and that the candy business has been hurt, and that candy men have been held up to ridicule and that candy men ought not to be held up to ridicule, and--oh heck!

Let us at least hope and pray, comrades, that the courts don't get involved in trying this until the Silly Season is over. For if the proposition ever gets laid down into law that you can't say--or even represent a strong-minded maiden lady as saying--unkind things about candy and collars and gadgets and sealing wax, considered generally, because, forsooth, there are people who make candy and collars and gadgets and sealing wax, then life in this republic is going to be even more dangerous than it is.

Consider, for instance, the problem of providing jails for all the good ladies of the WCTU, who, having had millions assessed against them for saying mean things about beer, refused--and they certainly would--to pay. Consider, too, the frightful potentialities of the energy generated in such an attempt to squelch ladies as determined as these are. Our guess is that it would not only blow the domestic lid off in the dangedest revolution ever heard of in anybody's time, but also would even hurl the earth out of its orbit and send it swishing out through the Milky Way in the shape of a Baby Ruth.

The Mighty Book

One of the things Paul Green said at the Book Fair last night was that we--any people in any civilization--stand or fall by our books. It is obviously true. What chiefly distinguishes man from other creatures is that he is able to transmit to his offspring the cumulative knowledge and experience of the past. Our life today is fashioned out of the stuff that men have found out and thought and believed and felt since the first shaggy troglodytes sat shivering in the communal cave. The simplest cropper plowing in his field moves and has his being in a pattern fashioned by all of the geniuses of the species, from those who first discovered how to kindle fire and how to make use of the wheel right on down. In every step of his daily ritual, in every thought and emotion that moves within him, old Babylon and Thebes and Memphis of the White Walls and spear-bearing Athena and mailed Rome and far India and Cathay and the brave splendor and the oppressions of robber barons and the singing of the troubadours on the roads of France lie imminent. And so do the Renaissance and the Reformation and, to an extent, the mighty web which science has woven since Roger Bacon and Leonardo da Vinci.

All of which is to say that--and though he never read a book in his days--he is the heir of books. For it is in books that his heritage is mainly passed on to the race.

But it is not only the function of books to serve as a vehicle for passing down of the stores of the past. There are other functions, and one of the most important of them is the attempt to understand and evaluate the past so that we may know how rightly to deal with the present and the future. That is why books must be free, why the greatest enemy of mankind is the act or spirit which would make books less than free. To be valuable books must be, not sentimental and complacent, but honest and searching. Most of the great books in the world have startled and offended people when they came upon the scene and many of them have been burned because people feared them. But they are not to be dealt with in such fashion, and a wise people, however startled and offended and frightened by a book, will, for those very reasons, search it most tolerantly, carefully.

We have not always done that in the South--for reasons that lie plain on the surface of our history. We still don't always do it, for that matter. Yet Hinton Helper was nearly lynched, when he tried looking at the South honestly in the 1850's, and George Washington Cable had to flee to New England when he tried it in the 1880's. But nobody in our time has tried to lynch Mr. Erskine Caldwell, and Paul Green continues to live very comfortably at Chapel Hill. So it may be fairly claimed that we make progress toward tolerance and understanding.

First Catch Your Rabbit

In yesterday afternoon's News, Washington Merry-Go-Round told in a plainly disapproving tone of the efforts of Gadsden, Ala., where a Goodyear plant is, to entice the Goodyear company into removing more of its plants from Akron. Gadsden was described as a place where wages were low and feeling was high against CIO organizers, whereas Akron--well, everybody knows that Akron is chronically strike-torn.

And Merry-Go-Round's unmistakable intimation was that it wasn't right for little Gadsden to hold out the blandishments of cheaper and more contented labor in order to humiliate Akron, and we found ourselves agreeing that, in a way, it wasn't right. But in the next, we read that the Ecusta Paper Corp. of Delaware and New York was going to build a $2,000,000 plant near Brevard, in North Carolina, and would give employment to three or four hundred persons after operations commenced. Patently, the inducements of cheap and contented labor are not the least of these which prompt the Ecusta Paper Corp. of Delaware and New York to situate a $2,000,000 plant in the North Carolina mountain country.

And yet, in all candor, where we had said "bad" to Gadsden's machinations, we found ourselves pronouncing "good" to the news of North Carolina's paper mill. And it is, for this mountain country can use an industrial plant, as Gadsden can more tire plants; and it is the whole South's manifest destiny that it should be better balanced with industries to go with its agriculture. Time enough after they are here in concrete form to take up the business of comparable wages and union organization.


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