tv Book Discussion on Jim Crow and the Wilson Administration CSPAN January 4, 2015 2:05am-3:06am EST
we'll go right into our program. and the introduction of the guests author. nicholas patler is a resident of stanton, virginia. he holds a bachelor of science degree in government from liberty university, and a master's degree in liberal arts with a concentration in government from harvard university, division of coming education. he has written a number of articles for various publications including the journal of southern history as well as "peace review," a journal of southern justice. his most unique article offers a unique per speggetive and nonviolent option for the palestinian conflict. his first book "jim crowe and the administration" protesting segregation in the early to the century was released in february of 2004 by the university press of colorado. he is currently adapting a
screenplay taken from the book in collaboration with director charles burnett and peggy trotter-damon-briefly. based on the tragic life of early equal rights left lane trotter, a student of mu hat may gondy and mr. patler is committed to seeking seclusions to nonviolent conflict through preasful means such as nonviolent direct actions. his hope is to be actively involved in teaching people in conflict situations how to use nonviolent actions to get results. to overthrow oppressive regimes and offer group status objectives. without further adieu i present
mr. nicholas patler. [applause] >> thank you. that was wonderful. it's an honor to be here, a privilege and i'm so glad you all made time to come out and hear my preng. i'm going to be talking about my book. "jim crowe and the wilson administration." with the election of wood drove wilson in 1912, the south was essentially swept back into power for the first time in 50 years. not only did we have a southern-born president in the white house who had spent his formative years in the deep south, but some of the most volunteer siffrouse members of his cabinet would be from the south, including some of the assistants and underlynx as well. wilson's own party now controlled congress with a majority of 167 in the house of representatives. and a majority of seven in the senate.
and almost half of these would be southern democrats. out of the total 27 house and senate committees, i'm sorry 24 out of the total 27 committees would be chaired by southerners and the vote casts for wilson surpassed the combined the totals for the bull moose teddy roosevelt and howard taft. so there was definitely a change in the makeup of the government in 1912, a strong hold for southern power. with the south essentially in control of the government, a swarm of people from the south looking for jobs from a party out of power for so long came to washington. and when they came to washington, this new southern mindset in the federal government, what they saw shocked them. in the federal bureaucracy. on the eve of his election 12,000 african-americans were working in the nation's capital
in almost every department as far asry and managerial positions. they were able to achieve this upward economic mobility which they had no opportunity for anywhere else in the private sector. they were able to achieve this by take field goal relatively color blind civil servant exam on even par with whites. no where else was this the case in the country, so it enabled them to really achieve economic status on an even par with whites. as i said, they were working in almost every type of position, supervisory, managerial positions, men as well as women working in some of these positions, so you can imagine once the south was back in power in washington, you can imagine that they did not like this. and almost immediately they launched a campaign to seg investigate african-americans.
but it went much further than segregation. they essentially reclassified them into lower-paying positions with very limited opportunities for advancement, and in many cases they were harassed and terminated from their positions as well. so you can see things weren't working out very well for african-americans in government. the one last place they had in this country because every aspect of life especially in the south was severely occur tailed. they really as you know jim crowe dominated southern life. they had no room for economic advancement. they couldn't compete in the south and in many places in the north as well. and the main people that led these segregation efforts were albert burleson, a southerner in the post office department. william mack adieu in the -- and
many of their underlings, and many of their assistants, and this policy was sanctioned and defended by president wood drove wilson, himself. going back to civil war times never had a policy like this sanctioned by the president of the united states even though you had presidents that catered to white supremacy you never had any that overtly did that. this federal jim crowe manifested itself in many ways. african-americans were seg gre gated from rooms where blacks and whites had previously worked together as integrated teams, and in other places african-americans were partitioned behind lockers. they were assigned least desireable jobs and forced into inferior work spaces and forced to use different rest rooms for
the first time in the washington area white and colored signs started to appear. they were far from the workstations so they had to walk far where as whites, their restrooms were very close to their workstations. some cases these were u.n. sex facilities where males and females used this where as most southern whites would have been aghast considering it for themselves during this time period. they were required to sit at separate lunch tables in the cafeterias that were now labeled colored and white. in some cases they were forced into dining rooms altogether or make-shift dining rooms made in their locker rooms and dining areas. so as you see it we want much further than segregation.
it was a campaign just to get rid of they will. whites wanted the positions and especially southern whites and did not like what they saw, did not like the integrated environment. and the main complaint was they were shocked to see white -- black male supervisorses giving instructions to white female employees in these federal difficulties, and they couldn't use the argument in the south that was famous that african-americans were inferior and that they needed to be separated from whites. the presence of so many african-americans in the washington refuted that notion because they had competed with whilets on an even par and in fact in some of the recorded test scores that i found just sporadically listed on various papers throughout the country sometimes african-americans that had high scores on civil servant
examines in the country so it's really refuted all the popular scientific studies of the day that claimed over and over african-americans had low i.q.'s so now washington had to find a more defenseable argument. and that argument was we don't want white women working so close to black member. and of course that was just an excuse to get rid of them. but what my book is really about -- i was really amazed when this book was in its early stages. this was 40 years before the modern civil rights movement. but it amazed me that tens of thousands of african-americans and others rows up and protested the jim crowe policy being implemented. men, women native americans professionals to laborers. they rows up in protest and launched a protest not seen
since the abolitionist momentum and used a lot of messages that anticipated the modern civil rights movement. and i want to try to go over sol of these methods with you because i think some of them were spore rat i can but most were strategic and launched on a collective level. that was pretty amazing this was the second decade of the to the century. a time when most people don't realize such a huge, mass collective movement against discrimination or racism of any kind occurred. so this was very unusual. most historians have antibiotics gated african-americans for being too divided over racial philosophies or personal jealousies, they just thought they were too divided and plus, the racism, this was a period of time when racism was at itself
accident scene ith and most felt whatever african-americans did during that time really didn't matter so they really hadn't looked at activism protest but i challenge that had notion and they did rise up and cairo deeply about the injustice that was going on in federal government. even booker t. washington came out from behind the shadows and overtly protested against the spread of federal segregation and discrimination in the federal bureaucracy in washington. to give you idea of sol of the methods they used. they used petitions. mass meetings were held all over the country in 1913 and 19 14. they signed petitions hundreds, thousands of people signed these petitions and either had them hand delivered to president l son himself through a sympathetic congressman ore sent mail to the president or in some cases the petitions were
actually printed in the newspapers all over the country and african-americans and white sympathizeers added their names. one of the amazing things was one circulated by william monroe trotter. william monroe trotter circulate ad petition in the first during the fall of 1913, the first -- about 1 1/2 months, circulated a petition in 34 states and managed to get 20,000 signatures, and this was a time when mass tech in a logical communication was still in it's infancy. he was able to do it in 1 1/2 months and get 20,000 signatures. 34 newspaper accounts claimed over half of the signatures were from the deep south. so utterly disempowered southerners who were being
crushed by racism during this time period rows up and were act thai participants in this protest. and i'll talk a little more about southerners being in this protest as well. african-americans and white sympathizeers used the appeals of the press. the naacp sent letters to the press. usually two or four-sheeters, small newspapers with very limited space often printed the details and stories and protests and opinions and some even commented editorialy. the protesters used publicity campaigns which really overlaps the appeals in the press but it was different because the naacp and although called the national independent political laying sent jim crowe details of what was going on in washington weash, pro did he see details.
they were sending these to liberal white newspapers in white news services across the country to try to get publicity for their cause. these were like the north carolina times associated press and other newspapers. the protesters used letter-writing campaigns people from all over the nation wrote letters to woodrow wilson, cabinet members some of their assistants protesting against federal jim crowe. this was from east, west, north and south. and one interesting letter-writing campaign, i don't know if any of you are familiar with cary allen cray who wrote "the life of a federal -- black daughter." in her book she describes her grandmother's letter-writing campaign and her grandmother got everybody in the neighborhood to write letters protesting policy, and they joust sent these
letters detail you to ask him to reverse the policy. >> if you could take a moment to explain why this world is at its venus, recognition for black achievement was something that was very rare. african-americans all over the country realized that blacks in the federal government had achieved some status and achieved it from competing with whites, and they were proud of what they achieved. they achieved upward economic mobilities and they were very dismayed when the federal government turned and crushed their aspirations. this is also a reason the federal employees were protesting. they were actually supplying details to organizations like the naacp keep them informed. -- keeping them informed. another thing the protesters used was lobbying.
again, they lobbied. william trot ore oswald, garrison who was the chairman of the naacp. the secretary of the naacp and protesters from all over the country really protested leaders and lobbied public officials at the local state, and national level to enlist their support. and they did even during this time period, find lead eshes who were very simple to their cause. of course not in the deep south but almost everybody else. and the massachusetts legislature sent an entire protest in literature. and one person whom they enlisted to support their cause was john fitzgerald, the irish -catholic mayor of boston who was grandfather of future president john flt kennedy.
he protested in letters and personal meetings with wilson at times. i thought that was pretty neat. and a message these early protesters used i really think -- was direct confrontation. trotter, william trotter led his delegation of protesters. they had met with wilson two times over the policy in the federal government. once in november of 1913 around another time in november of 19 14. let me back up a little bit and explain a little bit about william trotter. they say he's the singly most neglected figure in african-american history. some of you may be familiar with minimum but only a few things here and there. there's been one biography written about him in the 1960's and i'm afraid the biography doesn't end very well. i think it's inaccurate.
but the best way to help you understand william trotter, is if you take the passion of martin king junior and combine it with the passion of malcolm x, he was a visionary. ahead of his time, trying to do what jesse jackson and malcolm x and martin savidge -- martin king junior but he was ahead of his time. they -- he went to an all-white hirke where he graduated as valedictorian and student body president and went to harvard college and earned an award for academic achievement and i be deducted into the phi beta kappa and graduated magna cum laude. and his father had a lucrative
real estate business so many expected him to fall back into that elite style and enjoy luxury and an elite life. but he turned his back on the elite life that beckened him and went into the most dangerous business an african-american business can go into at that time that was fighting against african-american equality and justice. his life was ang utter roller coaster ride of fighting racism. ended up losing his wife to an influenza epidemic. he was ostracized by many other elite, african-american elite in boston. don't get me wrong the elite in boston cared but couldn't understand trotter's obsession with this call at the expense of
everything, even family. he reevepbtly went broke and lost all his money but kept going, fighting, struggling. and he died prematurely at age 62 in 196 4. but i just wanted to put it in perspective. anyway he met with wilson two times. once in 1913 and the other in 1914. there was a woman with that i mean spoke to wilson with him about policy. this is -- federal discrimination had only been getting bad for several months. 4r son played dumb and said i didn't know things were so bad. i'll look into it. so he essentially promised them he'd look into it. they knew he was bluffing but at least they got him on record. they left and things got worse
over the next year. they managed to set up a second meeting with president wilson. this time the meeting got very heated. and wilson and trotter got into a major argument and over federal jim crowe. wilson said he agreed with the policy, he sanctioned the policy and admitted he was defending the policy. this really made trotter mad. they went off on each other. went back and forth. and essentially made national and international news. newspapers from all over picked up the news. they couldn't believe a black man would stand in the white house and speak like this but a lot of newspapers were sympathetic to trotter. they said he had the right to speak to the president that way and europeans were really on his side. but what i want to do quickly is stop my talk here and i have
actually written a screenplay on trotter's life which has repeatedly been accepted by a director named charles burnett, and the lines we're going to read from this scene are from the second meeting that trotter had with wilson. so if mr. jordan would come up, please. and again, this is in the white house. it's november 12, 1914. trotter is standing there with four or five members of his delegation woodrow wilson is seated at his desk and his irke- irish-catholic secretary is taking notes. this is what happened -- >> mr. president we are here to renew our protest against african-americans in the difficult of our national government. jim crowe cannot only be found in these departments but it has
spread since a year ago our meeting in which you promised to look into our complaints. we ask that you once and first of all abolish the mistreatment of african-americans in the united states government. segregation is an absurd arrangement and humiliation. people are free to use rest rooms in government buildings while blacks employed in this building are forbidden to use them. we are to be freed -- have you a new freedom for your white americans and slavery for your african-americans? god forbid! >> in my opinion as well as colleagues in my department. it's a practical solution to the -- that arises when they are mixed. we are giving the negros an opportunity to advance along separate times. my cabinet has assured me
african-americans are not at a disadvantage. >> if all is equal how do you explain the present position where it is already operated at the debtment of southern employees where they are now humiliated and then disposed having to go far from the room just to use the toilet room and being forced right out of departments entirely. >> i haven't known of such ince didn't. your tod will only stir up resentment among the negro masses and make things worse. >> we did not come as delegates protesting jim crowe but its full-fledged american citizens absolutely equal to demand our equal rights under the constitution. it's unpittable to maintain segregation simply supports race friction. for 50 years white and colored clerks had been working together
with friendlyness and not changed until your cabinet -- it's a sham to suggest anything else. the truth of the matter is jim crowe is due to nothing other than race and prejudice on the part of those. we are greatly disappointed in you, mr. president for your moral aptitude to jim crowe. >> if you are to have another hearing before me tour have another representive. your tone offends me. >> how? zur only one who has talked to me with passion that was evident. >> but i have no passion in me mr. president. you misinterpret my earnestness for passion two years ago you regarded the second abra ma'am lincoln. >> i would appreciate no personal rempses. >> we color leaders are now being denounced as traitors to our race. >> how?
>> because we adviced them to vote your ticket. it's evident you don't understand what this is like for colored federal employees. i wish to that you should put an end to jim crowe. >> i think this should come to an end. my issues as president are more than this can carry. >> i think you're quick judgment in regard to my passion was a mistake. >> oh, we'll call it all right. >> just one more word, mr. president. we were only trying to bring about racial harmony throughout the country. skeggre investigation only intensifies the misunderstanding and mistrust between the races. [applause] >> thank you very much. so that just kind of sets things up gives you a good perspective
of what things were like then, the issues of the day and this contentious meeting between william trotter and woodrow wilson. needless to say woodrow wilson never gave trotter an audience again. he even became upset with trotter and referred to him ironically enough as that despicable person tucker. tucker, a lot of you may not realize was a way to mask the more traditional racial slur of the time which was the "n" word. joseph lewis tucker was an episcopal -- who essentially maintained blacks in the absence of the bonds of slavery were regressing instinctively to sexual predation and morally. and the inpsych media called tucker an expert on the fact
that african-americans are immoral. especially when you hear southerners and before that time referring to african-americans as tuckers. so the protest continued and with all the methods that i described, there's a few more. besides the direct confrontation. there was also a march in boston to protest jim crowe. most people don't realize a march occurred this early on protesting racial discrimination and trying to gain black equality. but it occurred in boston on december 1 1913. two different protesters started from two different sections of boston, met half way, and ended up at the hall where they held a huge protest meeting where
petitions were signed and sent to president wilson. african-americans who like sympathizeers galvanized siffer theseers. the naacp worked hard to get field workers out all over the country to get communities involved churches, people from all over. the naacp at the time was interestingly driven largely by women. there were men in the leadership roles. but women at the national level over 29 women served in position at the the national level. 82 women served as high-profile position ins branches all around the country. one woman was actually president of the seattle branch, miss latisha graves. they were the engines of the naacp and really out there protesting trying to get support and other people
enlisted to confront the federal government over jim crowe. the naacp and trotter and protesters used networking. again, mass combhune indication is in its infan cri but managed to network with branches in other states and cities to help them set up meetings all over. again, the telephone is fairly new on the scene. certainly lower income households didn't have them. the radio would become a common household item for conveying information until 1920. so this is pretty amazing stuff going on. and the final method they use which i really believe they use to anticipate the modern molvet is mass meetings, everywhere except the deep south. these meetings were huge,
hundreds of thousands of people. from new york to kansas to washington to northern california. again, this is 1913, 1914, not 1950 or 1960. one meeting that really, i thought was amazing was held at the metropolitan church on the night of october 7 1913. this meeting had four to -- 4,000 to 5,000 people packed in the church to hear the latest about jim crowe and protest by petition and an overflow of 4,000 to 5,000 outside the church. some were as big and bigger. they were electrifying and dynamic usually held at churches and sanctuaries around the country. they sang himself. -- sang hyms. they were punctuateed by tell the truth, brother or, amen.
>> strotter after his second meeting with woodrow wilson, william trotter was -- held mass meetings in a few cities around the country. they were ultimate irly different than meetings held before because they were utterly. african-americans felt a burst of opt mitch. he stood up and in their eyes scored at least a symbolic victory, so many felt like a step had been taken. they would shortly thereafter be very disappointed. but at least after a month or two after trotter and wilson eats meeting they felt optimistic. he would stand up on the stage and when he would stand up on the stage people would go crazy and clap for five or 10 minutes at a time. trotter would have to wait for them to calm down.
they would pound their fists and stomp their feet and wherever trotter would describe his meeting with wilson, they were overjoyed and just possessed just yelling and saying amen and yes and tell the truth, and clapping. sounded like the roof was just going to explode off the church. and whenever trotter would mention wilson's name they would his and boo and talk about slowing him out of the white house and that. so these meetings were -- i'm not sure if aggressive was a good word but energetic. it was just an energetic atmosphere. very dynamic. now, was the protest a success? this amazing early protest? unfortunately, no. it was not a success. things got much worse. the protest was drowned out of the advent of world war i in
europe. newspapers around the country put printing on protest details or at least put them on the back pages in little tiny miniature articles that nobody read because they couldn't talk about anything else than world war i. they were debating whether neutralty was possible if it wasn't, they were just wondering when the united states would enter into world war i. so things got worse in the federal government. african-american status declined until 10 or 15 years later when the only positions you could find them in were custodial positions. then in 1941 essentially there was a ban on racial discrimination. but with that said, the protest was a success in another way. it brought together african-americans and white
sympathizeers collective live for the first time on such a huge level. and it challenged booker t. washington's arguments that african-americans, if they build themselves up economically, whites would sooner or later get the respect of whites. well, in a federal government african-americans did build them themselves up economically and they did have status, and the federal government turned and utterly crushed them. so it was really a war shed event that challengeed the booker t. washington argument, and it no longer seemed to many to be a vieable alternative. so now at the wilson protest you see black nationalism and the united negro ohs and the radical left never became popular in the country but they were there, and you see african-americans considering the potential of collective
black power as a force for racial advancement. and you see african-americans flowing into organizations augustmenting the roles of them such as the national urban league, the marcus united negro association, the naacp. interestingly on the eve of woodrow wilson's election, the naacp had 1,000 members, by the end of wilson's second term that number rows to over 100,000 nationwide, and that doesn't include the number of african-americans in the deep south who couldn't really join for fear of violence. because you're probably talking about three or four that many of the sympathizeers for the naacp. an per in the 1920's notesed
this change in their mind seth and how they were approaching the problems of the day. they said the old negro has passed a i way. the new one is here and he's ambitious. so there was a change and african-americans did start protesting. naacp has been criticized for not being more -- not being a more aggressive protest organization. they've been criticized for moving toward legal action, but realize, their approach was radical in the sense that they took the white man's own lethal apparatus and turned the racism on its head by challenging incessantly jim crowe and racism in this country statute by statute, law-by-law until the affects of jim crowe started to crumble. so they weren't successful at
stopping jim crowe in the 23r58 government but were successful in forming a new collective consciousness really come forward in the civil rights movement. i think they helped set the tone and ground work for the civil rights movement, and i certainly think william trotter will get his due because a lot of african-american sites rarely mentioned william monroe trotter, and i think leaves extremely important for setting the tone with emphasis on direct confrontation, which was used in the -- and his emphasis on trying to achieve black equality. so trotter is very important. and i'm sad sometimes because i don't think people in the modern civil rights movement, the leaders or participants remember trotter. they remember other leaders w.e.b. dubois who was a friend
of trotters who believe it or not in the early days, in 1,900 1901 and 1902 trotter criticized for not being radical enough. trotter felt w.e. dubois was in line with trotter in those days. that upset trotter. trotter eventually left the side of booker t. washington if you could ever say you he was really by his side because he didn't believe in forgetting to fight for rights and fighting against injustice. but -- but his protest was very different from trotters. trotter is what we would see with king and malcolm k3 actively confronting those responsible for racial injustice where as the voice protested through scholarship and many of you are familiar with "the souls
of black folks." that was trotter's message. now i thought i might open it up to any questions you all might have. feel free. yes? >> i'm curious if from ther tried to combine his protest efforts with others at the time which would include women veterans, others. >> absolutely. he had something called the political league. changed names several times. i don't know why. never could find out. but trotter actually worked with the naacp. his organization andors served as the umbrella organizations as well as the engines and a lot of them shared membership as well.
trotter didn't align himself wholeheartedly with the naacp because he felt there were too many whites in there and it watered down the message and he wasn't prejudice but felt the white people couldn't understand the urgency needed in their struggle. brand-new they did work together in this movement and share in my opinion, and there were a lot of women working in this movement for both organizations. but yes. >> you spoke a little bit about the correlation between what the modern civil rights movement came to our generations to be known as, but how do you think they were inspired by what trotter in the early years of booker t. what they were doing during that period? >> in the modern civil rights movement? >> yes. did they take inspiration by what trotter did and the methods
? >> well, i think trotter did set the tone. again, his emphasis on his use of direct confrontation which was kind of ahold of its time. his emphasis on integration and struggling against racial injustice and fighting for black equality. i think it did set the tone. but i don't think -- i found no evidence they were aware of trotter. he set the tone but i don't think they were aware of the person of trotter. i think they benefited from what he did but they just weren't aware. i'm not sure how booker t. washington may have inspired the movement but i think people were moving away from his philosophy, what was challenged and what was demonstrated that it wasn't going to work, they hoped some how whites would accept them without their political and civil rights. he realized african-americans will move up economically but we
also need to fight for our civil rights, too, in some form or another. yes? >> now times take into consideration woodrow wilson is considered a revered figure, there's a bridge named after him. he was a successful war president. the state commemorates him to build a new library. howe do we today reconcile woodrow wilson with the aspirations of african-americans during his time and today? >> hmm. that's a good question. that's a very good question. wood drove wilson did make things much worse for african-americans. he did have a strong segregational mindset and was given strong mindsets from his
cabinet and his wife. wood drove wilson can be described at best is overly -- his idea was the most limited contact and enter action between blacks and whites as possible so he did make things much worse for african-americans so i understand why people would get upset about the wood drove wilson bridge and i can understand that. wilson did make things much harder. and people ask me, a friend came up to me and said wood drove wilson grew up in the deep south. he had that mindset. that was his environment. that's what he was taught and experienced on a daily basis and i said that's very true, and we have to take that into consideration when we secure his views but you have to understand he didn't stay in the deep south. he was the president of princeton university and the
governor of new jersey and had a lot of academic thing friends that didn't agree with what he was doing. he had one of his good friends oswald garrison, chairman of the naacp and grandson of the william lloyd garrison who kept wilson informed and protested against his friend and eventually turned against him. you had the biographer who 2kid a tour of the south in 1908 and 1907 and wrote a book talking about how southerners really want to keep african-americans down and don't want them to get an education or have any chance for upward economic mobility. they really want to keep them down and a close friend of wilson shared that with him and he had other friends. you have to balance that out. yes, his environment did play a large part of wha who he was but
at the same time he didn't stay in that environment. he surrounded himself with a world that was very different than he experienced which was the war-torn south in the reconstruction era. so i guess you just have to look at it and take a balanced view. i tell people as much as i'm disappoint indeed wilson because i grew up living across the street from his birthplace, and i really want to like wilson because there are some things about wilson i do like. but despite his lofty rhetoric that was often recleat in many of his speeches, in spite of his christian rhetoric that attracted many african-americans to him in 1912, wilson miserably failed african-americans. i really admire the league of nations who once hegoing to get the support in the senate for
his league of nations after he left versailles, he cam back here and did a whirlwind tour around the united states trying to get grassroots support for the league of nations. most scholars criticize him for this. i admire him for that. i admire his fire and passion to get his league of nations passed. if the senate wasn't going to do it, if he wasn't going to get the political support from the elites in washington, he was going to the people. i think he needs to be to be looked at in a balanced perspective. he did utterly miserably failed african-americans. >> i would be interested in hearing you elaborate more on ida b. wells and trotter's efforts. and organizations they might have individually been involved in. >> let me just say i love ida wills barnett. she's 70 years before rosa
parks. she refused to go to the back of a train or refused to leave the white section of a train. give up her seat to a white man and was forcibly thrown off of that train this was 1884. she sued in the lower courts and won. she went to the tennessee supreme court which was dominated by former confederates and lost. she was trotter's -- she was a female version of william trotter. they were good friends liked each other. she formed a branch of trotter's national independent political league with her negro fellship league in chicago and merged the two organizations. when the first meeting with wilson in 1913, ida wills barnett went with him and she was -- trotter addressed wilson and the only other delegate to address wilson was identify da wills barnett. how amazing. here you have a back woman who is doublely disempowered, she can't sit in the section of the