The Charlotte News

Monday, May 5, 1941


Site Ed. Note: A letter to the editor of this date's page continues the debate on the propriety of open Sunday, this time from a minister residing in the small town of Hamlet--the town in which, fifteen years earlier, John Coltrane was born, speaking of blues and jazz.

The question comes down to whether, in a democratic society, one of whose founding principles, as embodied in the First Amendment, is separation of church and state, that Congress (and state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment's application) shall make no law "respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."--whether that society through its elected officials, Federal, state or local, may under its Constitution enact laws which establish a Sabbath day for the society, prohibiting, with various sanctions for offense to such laws, citizens from engaging in commerce, contracting that is with one another, on a given day of the week. (Thus, also is imported potentially the Contracts Clause of Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, that no state shall impair the obligation of contracts.) The answer to the question, therefore, under our legal framework, should have been quite obvious, that the state had no such power under the Constitution, that it amounted to an establishment of religion to have laws in place which prohibited any form of business on Sunday or any other day, in religious observance of that day.

While bound up in the times, no doubt, with notions of previous societal conditions embracing practically enforced slave labor conditions, especially in the South after the Civil War, with sweatshop hours and wages, mills operating sometimes probably seven days a week, save for Sunday morning during institutionalized company-sponsored church service hours, such more practical arguments were not the ones being voiced for closed Sundays, and despite the idea that the very origins of the concept of a sabbath day doubtless came from the concept of relieving Pharoah's power over the slaves for at least a day in the week that they might rest from the toil of constructing the pyramids. Instead, the Blue Laws were being promulgated not as labor relief laws. For if so, the refutation to their necessity could have been as easily supported by the institution of shift workers--and besides, there were already Federal mandates for 40-hour work weeks. No, the rule was to be based on religious fiat, not on any practical concern. For it was the Bible, the Christian Bible, which ordained that Sunday was a day of rest, because it said it right there, six days would be for toil and one day for rest and that day was the sabbath, for God himself when he created the whole of it, did the same thing and created man in the image of himself and man should therefore do likewise as God would do.

Which is all well and good, as a teaching. But the ultimate question then is whether society should stone the man picking up sticks on the sabbath, by enacting Blue Laws punishing as criminal anyone who violates it. The answer is obvious under our Constitution, to avoid the very pitfalls which had preceded in time over various attempts by churchmen to rule on the basis of ecclesiastical law in the early colonies, as imported from their European origins, origins of conflict over the centuries between church and state authority, leading on to holy wars, terrorism against the state.

That these laws apparently were not challenged in the courts as infringing the Constitution, but were left instead to drift by fiat enacted or not by local city councils, is a conundrum, probably the result of political fear engendered in judges and lawyers charged with the responsibility of upholding the laws under the Constitution, a fear that the highly politically active religious obscurantists, charged in their maintenance of tradition, in their minds, by the plain words of the God Almighty, would rise up as one voice in an election and chastise the judges so ruling against them, or see to it that the lawyers who were so agnostic or atheistic or communistic or just plain Satanic as to take on such a case and cause would wind up figuratively, if not actually, stoned, even dead, at least turned into persona non grata within the community--just as with the handmaiden of religious intolerance, Jim Crow laws, about which "Fair Rule" below speaks, received their maintenance by similar systemic processes, local inhibiting restraints traditionally unquestioned, with their origins in primitive notions of id supplanting superego, impelled against such laws' opponents.

Such political inertia and fear induced from emotional, unthinking forces in the society, self-righteously convinced that it was their Bible which told them what to do, thereby confirming their righteous indignation and immaculate perfection in whatever petty prejudice they might exhibit, applied equally to the cause of segregation, enforced by the state based on God's will--with such fervor eventually brought to bear in resistance to change that it was likely no accident that one of the Southern centers of radical Christian Fundamentalism, Dallas in the 1960's, served as the locus for the murder of a President who understood that a government could not long endure which governed on such emotionally-based belief systems, who believed in religious freedom and separation of church and state as mandated by the Constitution, had come into office assuring the citizenry of that very concept in the face of questions raised regarding his own Catholicism, who believed in equality of rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, who believed in the concept and ideal of democracy as set forth by the Founders, and without the hemming and hawing and sophistry employed to turn plain words precisely backwards, that which many courts had accomplished with various verbal and legal gymnastics through time, essentially viewing human beings as property, as in the Dred Scott case in 1857, or at best as wards of the state to be treated with discrimination, lesser beings to be quarantined from the community at large but provided condescendingly some semblance of equal treatment to assuage conscience, in fact hand-me-downs from the ruling class, the self-perceived aristocrats, as exemplified by the separate-but-equal doctrine set forth initially in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.

"Fair Rule", incidentally, almost assuredly by Cash, should not be confused in its tough stand for integration merely because it appears in its latter sentences to defer to maintenance of some level of segregation. That parenthetically expressed deference, without mention of what circumstances under which it might apply, was a canny recognition by Cash, as is plain from a reading of the book, that change could only be effected with the passage of time and appeal to general common sense, while providing lip service to the traditions, in a society so filled with such self-righteous, religious zeal, with beliefs and consequent conduct supporting such notions in an unvarying pattern through time and the frontier.

The overall scope of the piece was, to the contrary however, in full support of the Supreme Court's ruling in the case at issue, Mitchell v. U.S., 313 US 80, was an appeal to the common sense good nature of those he knew and understood in the community, that every customer of a trade or business was entitled to equal service for equal pay, irrespective of the customer's skin pigment--a concept which went beyond the case being discussed, dealing exclusively with public accommodations on common carriers engaged in interstate commerce. As Cash well understood from growing up in the society, such practical notions transcended lofty language and ideals of absolute equality with the black man, a concept, if stated plainly as such, most whites, even well-educated whites, of his day could not accept, would more likely tar and feather, literally or figuratively, its proponent. Having been raised in a society where implicit in any walk down the street by the bootblacks, in any attendance of a school, in city or country, a college or university, a church, a sporting event, a theater, a park, a public restroom, and on any day of the week, sabbaths not excepted, the common herd saw only segregation as the rule, inequality its understood coincident, unquestioned reality, any challenge of which was the equivalent of heresy, a disputation of God's will, as obviously conveyed to the senses by the way things were in every bit of perceived experiential data confronting a citizen daily, no matter where one looked, North or South. And so, not necessarily out of any overriding personal fear, for to have feared such reaction personally to any great degree, though some fear undoubtedly persisted, would have caused a person to recoil into the relative quietude and security of the life of a relatively cloistered academic, not post himself on the frontlines of daily newspaper editorial writing and authorship of a book designed for the popular reading audience of its day, Cash sought to change the thinking of his reader by appealing to that better good nature and common sense, and divorced from the trappings of force-fed notions of equality which all reality of daily existence argued persuasively against and thus could only be nurtured into acceptance by a long process of change through experience, experience ushered in by appeal to basic horse sense--equal accommodations for equal pay, as basically fair as fair could be.

Mitchell was decided under the Commerce Act, 49 USC 1 et seq., which required equal accommodations, though separate, in any common carrier operating in or affecting interstate commerce, specifically prohibiting any carrier "to subject any particular any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever." So, in practical application, first-class black passengers had to be provided equal accommodations to those of first-class white passengers, and regardless of ratios of black to white passengers purchasing first-class tickets. There was no mandate, the Court said, that particular facilities be provided to the public generally, but once those facilities were provided, there could be no discrimination in their access, even though maintained as segregated. That first-class black passengers received equal accommodations to second-class white passengers was of no moment. That demand for first-class tickets was extremely small among black passengers was of no moment. Since white passengers were sold first-class accommodations entailing certain luxuries not afforded second-class passengers, then so must those same luxuries be afforded a black passenger purchasing a first-class ticket.

The Interstate Commerce Act was the forerunner to the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prevented discrimination in public facilities of any type engaged in interstate commerce, from motels to restaurants to public carriers. And of course Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 ended the application of the separate-but-equal doctrine insofar as public schools, finding that in practice white schools were better equipped than black schools, and therefore the goal of separate-but-equal, after 58 years of implementation had failed in its original intent to provide equal facilities in a segregated manner. The case ended the legal viability of the concept of separate-but-equal, though it took another two decades for implementation fully to catch up with the decision's 1955 mandate for desegregation "with all deliberate speed".

Throughout the time of Jim Crow's reign in the South, of course, slow encroachment on it was sought on the concept of the very economic reality as confronted in Mitchell, that ultimately a Rock Island line travelling from Chicago to Hot Springs through Memphis, even on a blue Sunday, would become in time too cumbersome economically to operate if forced at the Arkansas border to provide separate first-class facilities for African-Americans when only a small number purchased such tickets, thus taking up a whole section of a car with empty space accommodating but a few passengers. Thus, in theory, the railroad would complain to a state like Arkansas that it would be uneconomical to continue its run through the state under such laws compelling segregated facilities at the state line, and perhaps the legislature would then acquiesce to abandon the requirement out of practical concerns for its good will in interstate commerce, something which might be more easily palatable as a rationale to the constituents back home than the abstruse concepts of equality with and constitutional prohibition of invidious discrimination against members of a minority who did not even possess the franchise.

We remind, incidentally, as we did in association with the note of December 5, 1938, that 411 Elm Street, Dallas, was originally, when purchased in 1937 by Colonel D. Harold Byrd, cousin of Admiral Richard Byrd and Senator Harry Flood Byrd, the Southern Rock Island Plow Company building.

The Goat

Warren Takes the Rap for the Party Politicians

The Board of the North Carolina Education Association denies that its decision not to renew the contract of Jule Warren as the body secretary has anything to do with his "activities as a historian and publisher..." We wonder.

Mr. Warren, in fact, seems to have outsmarted himself into playing the role of goat in a political scandal. So far as the evidence goes, Mr. Warren did no more than many men would have done. He hurriedly wrote a book reeking with errors and lack of information, offered it to his fellow politicoes on the North Carolina Education Board. They hastily accepted it in defiance of the recommendations of the State Textbook Commission.

Chief culprits in this affair were the politicoes of that board. And it now appears that their prevailing motive was less to favor a fellow politico than to suppress the Lefler-Newsome book recommended by the Textbook Commission. Their claim was that the Lefler-Newsome text was too advanced for fifth-grade students. But it develops that its real fault was that it candidly said that there had been a good deal of protest in North Carolina against alleged frauds in recent elections.

That was common knowledge. But the politicoes were determined that the Democratic Party must remain a sacred cow, and so the text was rejected.

One almost feels sorry for Mr. Warren. But he should have remembered that he who plays with little foxes is liable to get bitten.

Tip To Girls

In Which We Extend a List of Man-Trapping Vivid Phrases

In a column of advice (not in The News) to young women of high school age "who find themselves tongue-tied the moment they are alone with an attractive man," we note the following instructive hints:

"Pretty soon the man you're with may ask: 'Why didn't we meet long ago?' And you, of course, know a charming reply: 'Fate's been holding out on us!' And if you collect vivid ways of saying things--'agog with expectation,' 'old as Methuselah,' 'once in a blue moon'--you become really fascinating."

For ourselves, we think the list of vivid phrases is much too brief, and so are minded to offer some on our own account. Thus:

"Like a bolt from the blue."
"Brand from the burning."
"Sweets to the sweet."
"As brown as a berry."
"As bright as a dollar."
"Pretty as a picture."
"Oh, you kiddo!"
"You wouldn't rook me?"
"The cat's meow."
"The snake's hips."
"Hi yah, Toots."

We don't positively guarantee the rising young ladies results. But we can testify that the youngest of these vivid phrases wowed their papas in their time. And though we weren't present, it seems likely that some of the elder ones were precisely the thing that set Eve up with Adam.

Fair Rule

Negroes Are Entitled To Same Value As Whites

In its decision in the Mitchell case the Supreme Court avoided the segregation issue and confined itself to ruling that Negroes must be furnished as good accommodations as whites in interstate travel.

Mitchell, Negro Congressman from Chicago, was compelled to leave Pullman accommodations, for which he had paid, as the train entered Arkansas, and accept others in a Jim Crow day coach. The Court ruled that the railroad had no right to do this.

And rightly, as rational white men will immediately agree. It is the simplest rule of common justice that the Negro is entitled to the same value for his money as whites. And also that he should be able to secure any type of accommodation for which he is ready to pay.

Candor compels the admission that very often he doesn't get the same value for his money. And Pullman accommodations just aren't available to Negroes at all in areas where Jim Crow laws are strictly enforced. There are no Jim Crow Pullmans.

There are good arguments for the policy of segregation--as most people who examine the situation are aware. But there is no argument at all for its working out so that the Negro gets less for his money than a white and so that he can't secure first-class accommodations for long journeys.

Soothing Syrup

Mr. Hitler Takes Care To Reassure His People

The speech of Adolf Hitler Sunday followed the usual lines for the main.

He was a suffering martyr, engaged in nothing but the attempt to defend Germany from attack. Mr. Churchill was a liar (remember Benes?) and a criminal. He wanted no Balkan territory. The Greeks and the Yugoslavs, if they can remember "my last territorial demand in Europe," had better get ready to give up everything. He had no quarrel with the Greeks. He was merely rescuing them from British tyranny. England had betrayed them and they ought to hate her.

As has been his custom for sometime, he played hard to the American appeasers, taking some arguments straight out of Lindbergh's mouth. The supposition that he had any designs on America was an absurd lie. It was England which had betrayed all the little powers (cf. Lindbergh and Hugh Johnson). And all he was doing was trying to liberate the world from the vicious British tyranny (a bid to Iraq and the Moslems as well as our appeasers).

But there were some interesting departures from his usual fare. Thus his claim that only a thousand Nazis had died in the Balkan campaign. We know better than that from the world's best reporters, who saw the bodies of Nazis piled high on many fields. It was undoubtedly addressed to the German people, and it suggests pointedly that the news gets about in Germany despite the Gestapo.

And then there were those promises that there would never be another 1918. (He is right, there won't be, but that isn't what he meant.) It is odd that when he claims victory is already his he feels it necessary to reassure the German people about that. Do they perhaps begin to remember uneasily who scaled their doom before?

Fata Morgana

Hopes Built on Russia Are Likely To Be Disappointed

The wish-thinkers are busy with hopes about Russia again. There are rumors about large German concentrations in Finland, and Hitler is reported to be moving troops eastward from Bulgaria, with the result that the perpetually hopeful boys and girls are just sure in their own minds that now at last the Kremlin is going to break with Hitler and throw her influence, maybe her armies, on the side of the democratic powers.

But they had better cross their fingers. These tales come mainly from Russia herself, and are certainly inspired by Stalin and his stooges. And they are precisely the same sort of tales which were coming from the same sources just before the signing of the treaty with Matsuoka.

Real key to Stalin's policy seems to be that he is determined not to fight, because he fears that war means another revolution in Russia and a black-out before a firing squad for himself and his fellow scoundrels.

More than that, a great many of the observers who know most about Russia agree with Eugene Lyons' "Assignment in Utopia," that, what he'd like best to see is an endless stalemate which would prepare the way for Communism. Stalin prefers a Hitler victory to a democratic one. In Hitler he faces another scoundrel without scruples or inhibitions--another in short with whom he feels at home and thinks he can deal satisfactorily, for his own fortunes at least. And they are the only thing which have ever concerned him.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i>--</i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.