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Vocapedia > USA > Race relations > African-Americans > 20th, 21st century


Dixie, discrimination, miscegenation, segregation, desegregation, resegregation





Eyes on the Stars        StoryCorps        27 January 2013


On January 28, 1986,

NASA Challenger mission STS-51-L ended in tragedy

when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after takeoff.


On board was physicist Ronald E. McNair,

who was the second African American to enter space.


But first, he was a kid with big dreams

in Lake City, South Carolina.


Funding Provided by:

Corporation for Public Broadcasting

National Endowment for the Arts

In partnership with POV.

Directed by: The Rauch Brothers

Art Direction: Bill Wray

Producers: Lizzie Jacobs & Mike Rauch

Animation: Tim Rauch

Audio Produced by: Michael Garofalo

Music: Fredrik

Label: The Kora Records

Publisher: House of Hassle


Eyes on the Stars




















Original caption:

Negro drinking at "Colored" water cooler

in streetcar terminal,


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

photographer: Lee, Russell, 1903-1986



Source : Wikipedia



Primary source: MEDIUM1 negative : nitrate ; 35 mm.


LC-DIG-fsa-8a26761 DLC (digital file from original neg.)

LC-USZ62-80126 DLC (b&w film copy neg. from file print)

LC-USF3301-012327-M5 DLC (b&w film dup. neg.)


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Washington, DC 20540 USA

DIGITAL ID (digital file from original neg.) fsa 8a26761






















‘As Blacks, We Were Born as We Are’: Our Top 10 Comments


MAY 14, 2016


















Danny Lyon (b. 1942)

Albany, Georgia, ca. 1963

Drinking Fountains in the Dougherty County Courthouse,



















“Department Store,” 1956.

Featured in “A Radically Prosaic Approach to Civil Rights Images.”



Gordon Parks/Gordon Parks Foundation


10 Years of Photography, and Lens

A look back at a decade of The New York Times Lens column.


May 22, 2019




Other source:

Untitled. Mobile, 1956.

Gordon Parks, courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation



















In Photos, Eudora Welty Captured Life in 1930s Mississippi


Before her career as a distinguished fiction writer,

Eudora Welty applied her short-form prowess

to photographing life in Depression-era Mississippi.


May 9, 2019


























- February 1, 2008












National Association for the Advancement of Colored People    NAACP





















colored people








for colored people only








man / woman of color








USA > Sexual violence against women of color in the 40s        UK


On the night of 3 September 1944,

in Abbeville, Alabama,

six white men

kidnapped Taylor at gunpoint

as she walked home from church,

blindfolded her and raped her.


After Taylor reported her assault

to Abbeville law enforcement,

her and her extended family’s homes

came under a series of attacks.


Meanwhile, the Abbeville legal system

worked instead to protect her assailants.


The town’s sheriff asked Taylor

to keep silent about the crime

while a grand jury refused

to hand down indictments.



Taylor and her plight experienced

a predigital version of virality.


The modern analogues are striking.


Hers was a story

white, mainstream media outlets

initially ignored.


In their place,

it was black-owned newspapers

which sounded the first alarms

about the cover-up in Abbeville

and would eventually focus

countrywide pressure

on Alabama’s governor to act.


Rosa Parks,

who was already well-known

as an NAACP activist,

came to Abbeville

to organize on Taylor’s behalf

and raise her profile.






break a color barrier






pierce campus color barriers






Missouri > slavery and discrimination        UK






























black cowboy





































minority ethnic groups






















Mrs. Rosa Parks being fingerprinted

in  Montgomery, Alabama. 1956.

Gelatin silver print.

New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection,

Prints and Photographs Division (119)

Library of Congress




Rosa Parks,

whose refusal to move to the back of a bus

touched off the Montgomery bus boycott

and the beginning of the civil rights movement,

is fingerprinted by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey

in Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 22, 1956.


Parks was among some 100 people

charged with violating segregation laws.


AP Photo/Gene Herrick
































discrimination        UK / USA





100000004655813/the-fair-housing-act.html - 2016












Alabama votes to keep

'separate schools for white and coloured children'

as part of constitution        UK







break race barrier































racial segregation/ segregation


























































residential segregation






racist housing practices






segregation > segregated neighborhoods > health hazards






segregation > Supreme Court

"separate but equal" > Plessy v. Ferguson        May 18, 1896







segregationist        UK / USA








white segregationist        UK






segregated public pools / swimming ability        UK






bigotry        UK





























legislation > Civil Rights Act of 1964 - July 2 1964


President Lyndon Johnson enacts

the Civil Rights Bill in the United States,

officially ending segregation

in the South





































Malcolm X > separation
































legislation > miscegenation laws        UK / USA


ban in many US states

against interracial marriage        1960s
























An officer stepped in

after young white men

attacked a young black man

at Fairground Park in St. Louis

in 1949.


The death of Michael Brown, 18,

has revived racial tensions in the area.


Credit Buel White/St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Around St. Louis, a Circle of Rage


AUG. 16, 2014
















"Black Codes" of Mississippi        1865
















equality        UK






racial equality        UK
















legislation > Brown v Board of Education    /    Thurgood Marshall        1954


















Tuskegee Airmen

Invited to Obama Inauguration


December 10, 2008

The New York Times



When the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black force of elite pilots, emerged from combat in World War II, they faced as much discrimination as they had before the war. It was not until six decades later that their valor was recognized and they received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can give.

Now, the roughly 330 pilots and members of the ground crew who are left from about 16,000 who served are receiving another honor that has surpassed their dreams: They are being invited to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as the country’s first black president.

“I didn’t believe I’d live long enough to see something like this,” said Lt. Col. Charles A. Lane Jr., 83, of Omaha, a retired Tuskegee fighter pilot who flew missions over Italy.

“I would love to be there, I would love to be able to see it with my own eyes,” he said, chuckling on the phone as he heard about the invitation. But, he said, he had a “physical limitation” and was not sure he would be able to attend.

Thousands of people who participated in the fight for civil rights over several decades helped pave the way for Mr. Obama’s triumph. But the Tuskegee Airmen have a special place in history. Their bravery during the war — on behalf of a country that actively discriminated against them — helped persuade President Harry S. Truman to desegregate the military in 1948.

“The election of Barack Obama was like a culmination of a struggle that we were going through, wanting to be pilots,” said William M. Wheeler, 85, a retired Tuskegee combat fighter pilot who lives in Hempstead, N.Y. He tried to become a commercial pilot after the war but was offered a job cleaning planes instead.

Mr. Obama has acknowledged his debt to the airmen, issuing a statement in 2007, when they received the Congressional Gold Medal. It said in part: “My career in public service was made possible by the path heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen trail-blazed.”

The invitation to his swearing-in was extended Tuesday by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Howard Gantman, staff director for the committee, said of the decision to invite them: “They served honorably on behalf of our country, helped fight the battle to overcome racial barriers and because of the historic nature of this election, we thought they deserved to be there.”

Tickets to the Jan. 20 inauguration are the most sought-after commodity, with more than 1.5 million people expected in Washington. Of the 240,000 tickets, the airmen would have seats among the 30,000 on the terrace below the podium, along with former members of Congress and others.

For logistical reasons, the actual invitation ended up with Robert D. Rose, a retired Air Force captain in Bellevue, Neb., who was not a Tuskegee airman but is the first vice president of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc., an association of the original airmen and their supporters.

The onus is on the association to extend the invitation to the airmen, who must respond by Dec. 19. Each can bring one guest. The tickets are not transferable, so if an airman cannot make it, he cannot give his ticket away.

“We’ll have a lot of happy fellows and ladies,” said Mr. Rose, who predicted that many would try to attend.

He said that before the invitation was made Tuesday, he had already been trying to get word to higher ups that the airmen would like to be invited. “I thought if the name ‘Tuskegee’ surfaced at a high enough level, someone would recognize it and it would make sense to invite them,” he said.

There is no firm handle on how many are still alive. More than 300 came forward in March 2007 to collect their bronze replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony at the Capitol. The actual Gold Medal itself was given to the Smithsonian Institution.

In all, 994 pilots and about 15,000 ground personnel collectively known as the Tuskegee Airmen were trained at the segregated Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama from 1942 to 1946.

About 119 pilots and 211 ground personnel are still alive, according to Tuskegee Airmen Inc. They are in their 80s and 90s, many are frail, and it is unclear how many will be able to make the trip to Washington. And those who make it will face various challenges: they will most likely have to walk some distance, the weather could be harsh, the crowds will be huge and accommodations are scarce.

Still, these are some of the airmen who flew more than 150,000 sorties over Europe and North Africa during World War II, escorting Allied bombers and destroying hundreds of enemy aircraft. Some were taken prisoner. And most faced fierce discrimination during and after the war.

“Even the Nazis asked why they would fight for a country that treated them unfairly,” President Bush said in awarding the medals.

Mr. Rose, of the airmen’s association, said he saw a direct connection between the Tuskegee experience and Mr. Obama’s election.

“The Tuskegee Airmen preceded Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, and if they hadn’t helped generate a climate of tolerance by integration of the military, we might not have progressed through the civil rights era,” he said. ”We would have seen a different civil rights movement, if we would have seen one at all.”

Tuskegee Airmen Invited to Obama Inauguration,






Op-Ed Columnist

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


November 2, 2008

The New York Times



AND so: just how far have we come?

As a rough gauge last week, I watched a movie I hadn’t seen since it came out when I was a teenager in 1967. Back then “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was Hollywood’s idea of a stirring call for racial justice. The premise: A young white woman falls madly in love with a black man while visiting the University of Hawaii and brings him home to San Francisco to get her parents’ blessing. Dad, a crusading newspaper publisher, and Mom, a modern art dealer, are wealthy white liberals — Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, no less — so surely there can be no problem. Complications ensue before everyone does the right thing.

Though the film was a box-office smash and received 10 Oscar nominations, even four decades ago it was widely ridiculed as dated by liberal critics. The hero, played by the first black Hollywood superstar, Sidney Poitier, was seen as too perfect and too “white” — an impossibly handsome doctor with Johns Hopkins and Yale on his résumé and a Nobel-worthy career fighting tropical diseases in Africa for the World Health Organization. What couple would not want him as a son-in-law? “He’s so calm and sure of everything,” says his fiancée. “He doesn’t have any tensions in him.” She is confident that every single one of their biracial children will grow up to “be president of the United States and they’ll all have colorful administrations.”

What a strange movie to confront in 2008. As the world knows, Barack Obama’s own white mother and African father met at the University of Hawaii. In “Dreams From My Father,” he even imagines the awkward dinner where his mother introduced her liberal-ish parents to her intended in 1959. But what’s most startling about this archaic film is the sole element in it that proves inadvertently contemporary. Faced with a black man in the mold of the Poitier character — one who appears “so calm” and without “tensions” — white liberals can make utter fools of themselves. When Joe Biden spoke of Obama being “clean” and “articulate,” he might have been recycling Spencer Tracy’s lines of 41 years ago.

Biden’s gaffe, though particularly naked, prefigured a larger pattern in the extraordinary election campaign that has brought an African-American to the brink of the presidency. Our political and news media establishments — fixated for months on tracking down every unreconstructed bigot in blue-collar America — have their own conspicuous racial myopia, with its own set of stereotypes and clichés. They consistently underestimated Obama’s candidacy because they often saw him as a stand-in for the two-dimensional character Poitier had to shoulder in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” It’s why so many got this election wrong so often.

There were countless ruminations, in print and on television, asking the same two rhetorical questions: “Is He Black Enough?” and “Is He Tough Enough?” The implied answer to both was usually, “No.” The brown-skinned child of biracial parents wasn’t really “black” and wouldn’t appeal to black voters who were overwhelmingly loyal to the wife of America’s first “black” president. And as a former constitutional law professor, Obama was undoubtedly too lofty an intellectual to be a political street fighter, too much of a wuss to land a punch in a debate, too ethereal to connect to “real” Americans. He was Adlai Stevenson, Michael Dukakis or Bill Bradley in dark face — no populist pugilist like John Edwards.

The list of mistaken prognostications that grew from these flawed premises is long. As primary season began, we were repeatedly told that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the most battle-tested and disciplined, with an invincible organization and an unbeatable donors’ network. Poor Obama had to settle for the ineffectual passion of the starry-eyed, Internet-fixated college kids who failed to elect Howard Dean in 2004. When Clinton lost in Iowa, no matter; Obama could never breach the “firewalls” that would wrap up her nomination by Super Tuesday. Neither the Clinton campaign nor the many who bought its spin noticed the take-no-prisoners political insurgency that Obama had built throughout the caucus states and that serves him to this day.

Once Obama wrested the nomination from Clinton by surpassing her in organization, cash and black votes, he was still often seen as too wimpy to take on the Republicans. This prognosis was codified by Karl Rove, whose punditry for The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek has been second only to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as a reliable source of laughs this year. Rove called Obama “lazy,” and over the summer he predicted that his fund-raising had peaked in February and that he’d have a “serious problem” winning over Hispanics. Well, Obama was lazy like a fox, and is leading John McCain among Hispanics by 2 to 1. Obama has also pulled ahead among white women despite the widespread predictions that he’d never bring furious Hillary supporters into the fold.

But certainly the single most revelatory moment of the campaign — about the political establishment, not Obama — arrived in June when he reversed his position on taking public financing. This was a huge flip-flop (if no bigger than McCain’s on the Bush tax cuts). But the reaction was priceless. Suddenly the political world discovered that far from being some exotic hothouse flower, Obama was a pol from Chicago. Up until then it rarely occurred to anyone that he had to be a ruthless competitor, not merely a sweet-talking orator, to reach the top of a political machine even rougher than the Clinton machine he had brought down. Whether that makes him more black or more white remains unresolved.

Early in the campaign, the black commentator Tavis Smiley took a lot of heat when he questioned all the rhetoric, much of it from white liberals, about Obama being “post-racial.” Smiley pointed out that there is “no such thing in America as race transcendence.” He is right of course. America can no sooner disown its racial legacy, starting with the original sin of slavery, than it can disown its flag; it’s built into our DNA. Obama acknowledged as much in his landmark speech on race in Philadelphia in March.

Yet much has changed for the better since the era of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” thanks to the epic battles of the civil-rights movement that have made the Obama phenomenon possible. As Mark Harris reminds us in his recent book about late 1960s Hollywood, “Pictures at a Revolution,” it was not until the year of the movie’s release that the Warren Court handed down the Loving decision overturning laws that forbade interracial marriage in 16 states; in the film’s final cut there’s still an outdated line referring to the possibility that the young couple’s nuptials could be illegal (as Obama’s parents’ marriage would have been in, say, Virginia). In that same year of 1967, L.B.J.’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk, offered his resignation when his daughter, a Stanford student, announced her engagement to a black Georgetown grad working at NASA. (Johnson didn’t accept it.)

Obama’s message and genealogy alike embody what has changed in the decades since. When he speaks of red and blue America being seamlessly woven into the United States of America, it is always shorthand for the reconciliation of black and white and brown and yellow America as well. Demographically, that’s where America is heading in the new century, and that will be its destiny no matter who wins the election this year.

Still, the country isn’t there yet, and should Obama be elected, America will not be cleansed of its racial history or conflicts. It will still have a virtually all-white party as one of its two most powerful political organizations. There will still be white liberals who look at Obama and can’t quite figure out what to make of his complex mixture of idealism and hard-knuckled political cunning, of his twin identities of international sojourner and conventional middle-class overachiever.

After some 20 months, we’re all still getting used to Obama and still, for that matter, trying to read his sometimes ambiguous takes on both economic and foreign affairs. What we have learned definitively about him so far — and what may most account for his victory, should he achieve it — is that he had both the brains and the muscle to outsmart, outmaneuver and outlast some of the smartest people in the country, starting with the Clintons. We know that he ran a brilliant campaign that remained sane and kept to its initial plan even when his Republican opponent and his own allies were panicking all around him. We know that that plan was based on the premise that Americans actually are sick of the divisive wedge issues that have defined the past couple of decades, of which race is the most divisive of all.

Obama doesn’t transcend race. He isn’t post-race. He is the latest chapter in the ever-unfurling American racial saga. It is an astonishing chapter. For most Americans, it seems as if Obama first came to dinner only yesterday. Should he win the White House on Tuesday, many will cheer and more than a few will cry as history moves inexorably forward.

But we are a people as practical as we are dreamy. We’ll soon remember that the country is in a deep ditch, and that we turned to the black guy not only because we hoped he would lift us up but because he looked like the strongest leader to dig us out.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,






July 4, 1964


Negro boy tests

new Civil Rights law


From the Guardian archive


Saturday July 4, 1964


Richard Scott

One minute after President Johnson last night signed the Civil Rights Act into law, Jene Young, a 13-year-old Negro boy from Mississippi, walked into the barber's shop of an hotel in Kansas City and asked for a haircut.

No Negro had been served in any part of the hotel since it opened 60 years ago. The boy failed. But this morning he tried again; and this time was successful.

However, Missouri is not Mississippi, it is likely to be some time yet before Jene Young and his fellow Mississippi Negroes will be able to have their hair cut in their own state in the barber's shops of their choice.

Reaction in other parts of the country to last night's historic step has been varied. The Administration's hope has been that businessmen throughout the South, who have hitherto been reluctant, would seize the opportunity to act together.

Apart from this there have been a few encouraging signs. The president of the largest chain of cafeterias in the South has said that, rather than defy the law, Negroes would be served. Negroes began receiving service last night, he said. "We are going to obey the law," he added. "There is no other way." That epitomises the reaction which the Administration here has hoped for from those who until today had bitterly opposed the Civil Rights Bill.

In Dallas (Texas) a drive-in last night served Negroes for the first time. And in the same city, a single Negro dined alone in an hotel which had earlier been subjected to civil rights picketing.

Many Southern owners of "public accommodations," however, are going to refrain from complying until the legality has been tested in the courts.

The Governor of Mississippi was asked today if he thought restaurants and hotel owners should comply with the new laws. He replied: "I don't think they should. I think it should be tested in the courts." In Mississippi an attempt to test the voter registration provisions of the Act failed.

The Governor of Tennessee, on the other hand, today urged compliance with the new law.

Governor Wallace of Alabama, predictably, reaffirmed today that he would oppose the new law by not enforcing it in his State. The Governor of Florida expressed the slightly enigmatic hope that the new law would take racial conflict off the street and into the courts.

The Governor of Georgia was equally enigmatic. He said: "I hope that the enforcement of these laws will never be needed in Georgia." The Governor of Virginia thought the burden of making the law work successfully rested with the Negro.

From the Guardian archive > July 4, 1964 >
Negro boy tests new Civil Rights law,
Republished 4.7.2006,






June 13, 1963


Civil rights for Negroes

are introduced


From the Guardian archive


Thursday June 13, 1963



The United States beyond doubt faces, in President Kennedy's words, "a moral crisis as a country and as a people". The issue of equality between men of different coloured skins has come to a head.

We seem, in fact, to be witnessing one of those upheavals of the collective American conscience that can be frightening in their suddenness when - as in the McCarthy years - fear is at the bottom of them, but which can be awe-inspiring when the community searches in its own foundations for the best resources of the puritanism that made them.

It is easy to say that white Americans would not be searching their consciences and preparing to act on what they find there if Negroes had not now forced them to do so by the vehemence of their words and deeds.

This is true enough. But the new Negro impatience and the new white awareness are part of the same historic moment; the important thing is that the moment has come.

Now that, in the words of President Kennedy's powerful speech on Tuesday night, "the fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand," and that "redress is sought in the streets", the hope must be that the great debate will move swiftly.

The changes needed if, as the President says, "we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated," must be embodied in law. Mr Kennedy is now about to ask Congress for legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities open to the public.

He wants to enhance the Federal Goverment's powers to pursue in the courts the integration of schools, so that this burden is no longer left to private groups.

Legislation, though, is not enough. In a moving passage Mr Kennedy pointed out that a Negro child born today has a life expectancy seven years shorter than a white child and the prospect of earning only half as much.

This has been the fate of most minority groups in America (some of whom, like Jews, would even now benefit from the President's proposed legislation); Negroes are concerned it will not now be remedied by legal action only or by action in the South only.

The equality the President calls for ought to mean that white residents in northern suburbs do not automatically move out when the first Negro family moves in. Will this come about?

Possibly, even probably: for only now are Americans everywhere having to answer in practice, not in theory, "yes" or "no".

From the Guardian archive > June 13, 1963 >
Civil rights for Negroes are introduced,
Republished 13.6.2006,






On This Day - April 25, 1956


From The Times archive

The civil rights campaign in the US
continued into the 1960s,
and was ended only after Congress
introduced legislation that overrode
the opposition of state and local government


THE City Bus Company of Montgomery has lost no time in acting upon yesterday’s Supreme Court in a test ruling against segregation on buses travelling within the state boundaries. Within 12 hours of the court’s decision, the company announced that in the circumstances it had “no choice” except to discontinue the practice of segregation of passengers on account of race, and drivers will no longer assign seats to passengers by reason of their race.”

Negroes who have joined in the boycott of the Montgomery company since last December, in an effort to force the abandonment of its segregation practices, have claimed that the company was losing $3,000 (approximately £1,000) a day as a result, and the suggestion is made that the company has found the court’s decision a useful screen behind which to retreat from an increasingly embarrassing position.

The Attorneys-General of Virginia, South Carolina and Texas described the decision as “another unwarranted invasion of state and municipal rights”. Governor Griffin, of Georgia, promised that his state would oppose this “overt usurpation of the liberties of the people.”

Segregation on inter-state buses was described by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 1946, but it was only last November that the inter-state commerce commission ordered that segregation should cease on all inter-state transport and in waiting rooms used by inter-state travellers.

On This Day - April 25, 1956, The Times, 25.4.2005.






May 25 1954


A pitiless subjection is outlawed


From The Guardian archive


May 25 1954

The Guardian


The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional has ended a legal battle of several generations.

It may be instructive to recall the landmarks of this constitutional struggle. This controversy is rooted in memories of the Civil War. In 1875 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. But the act was silent on the subject of schools.

Exhausted by war, the energies of the North recoiled from the task of enforcing the rights of the Negro, won at so tragic a cost.

The first case came before the Supreme Court in 1935, and especially from 1948 to 1950 the Court handed down decisions which struck at discrimination.

Physical violence has stained no campus. Negro students have entered freely into the academic life of the various universities, but their record has by no means always been very distinguished. Almost without exception they do not live in mixed residences, bathe in the same pool with white students, or share the exuberant social life.

When the public school cases were argued before the Court the American people suddenly realised that the final stage of the constitutional struggle had been reached. The Court, after two years of argument and after months of deliberation, responded to that plea. By a creative exercise of judicial statesmanship it was able to resolve all its discord and to speak with one voice through the judgement read by Chief Justice Warren.

This unanimity has in itself had a profound influence upon the country. It has subdued many extremists to a whimper of protest and given massive reinforcement to the counsels of moderation.

The Court also gained credit for caution, and for refusing to bludgeon the South into hasty and provocative action, by wisely deciding to hear additional argument in October on the transition in establishing the non-segregated school system. Finally, as significant as the gallant restraint of most responsible leaders of Southern opinion, is the exemplary caution of Negroes themselves. They have won a great victory, but they are walking quietly in their hour of exultation.

They know they can summon any hostile or recalcitrant Southern state to the bar of the Supreme Court; but they are issuing no threats nor proclaiming any manifestos of defiance. It will take many years before the full harvest of the Court's decision can be gathered, but a brave beginning has been made.

Max Freedman

From The Guardian archive > May 25 1954
A pitiless subjection is outlawed,
republished 25.5.2007, p. 36,






March 24, 1890


There is still a colour line

in American law


From the Guardian archive


Monday March 24, 1890



A remarkable case has been before the law courts of Louisiana. The plaintiff, Augustus Johnson, a negro, was in the employment of the Cromwell line of steamers, and earning over 500 dollars yearly. While some carboys of sulphuric acid were being landed there was an explosion, by which one man was killed and several were injured.

Johnson's eyesight was entirely destroyed by this lamentable accident; he brought an action against the steamship company for damages, and a jury awarded him 10,000 dollars. The defendants regarded this sum as excessive, and applied for a new trial before the United States Circuit Court.

When the matter came on for argument, Judge Billings asked how much would have been allowed before the war to the master of a slave who had been thus injured. Mr Forman, the counsel for the negro, very properly protested against such a view of the matter.

The slaveholder, he said, would have received "whatever the slave would sell for on the block", added to a "sum sufficient to enable the master to support" the slave during his life. But the master could "recover nothing for the pain and agony of body and mind of the slave".

That was not a test of "amount of damages proper to be allowed now". The negro was no longer a chattel or to be valued as a chattel, but was on the plane of a freeman and a citizen, and all distinctions on account of race or colour were abolished. There is still, it would appear, a colour line even in the American law courts, for the Judge has decided to grant a new trial unless the plaintiff will accept 5,000 dollars - half of what the jury awarded. Does anyone suppose that Judge Billings would have taken similar action if the plaintiff's skin had been white?


History inverts itself

The American papers recently had to record an elsewhere amusing inversion of a famous situation in history. It is now 117 years since Boston harbour was, as Carlyle says, "black with unexpected tea" protest against a tea duty.

To-day the tea traders of Boston, New York, and Chicago are petitioning both Houses at Washington for the reimposition of a tea duty of 10 per cent. They complain that as the United States are [sic] the only nation in the world which admit teas duty free, foreign countries have special facilities for unloading on American soil their low-priced and inferior stock.

This petition is received by the same democracy, now a centenarian, which when a spirited child, unloaded the foreign tea into the bay.

From the Guardian archive,
There is still a colour line in American law,
Monday March 24, 1890,
Republished 24.3.2006,










Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia


slavery, eugenics,

race relations, racism, civil rights,







Related > Anglonautes > History > America, USA


USA > 20th century > 1920s-1970s > Civil rights era



America, USA > 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th century

Slavery, Racism, Civil war, Abraham Lincoln