AN EDITORIAL Mumbo-Jumbos of a Legislative ‘Report’ Among Southern states Texas like its more enlightened and less eccentric sister, North Carolinais becoming at least minimally civilized on the racial issue. Despite the albatross of East Texas, we may reasonably expect the state as a whole to become even more sensitive in the future to the prevailing tides of majority sentiment in the United States. Since patriotism has been injected as the central issue in Texas’ race problem, let us disregard the ethical and moral considerations for the moment. Most reasonable Americans untainted by either cracker-barrel ignorance, provincial political ambition, or social status trouble \(emanating from personal encumbrances like sticky are settling in growing numbers upon the conclusion that America must continue to make every effort, both abroad and at home, to advance the cause of equal rights and opportunities for all men of all races. In the context of strict self-interest alone, given the nature of the world struggle, the reasons are patently obvious. We are not only involved in a battle of Military might ; we are forever committed; in the longer run, to a battle for simple human sympathy and dignity. The vast majority of Americans, and a rapidly growing minority of Southerners, thus will cite patriotism and national interest among the factorsfor some it is the only factor in their endorsement of greater and swifter advances on the racial front in America. The candidates and platforms of both parties actively sympathized with that aim, underscoring in particular the Negro sit-in movement. The American, and that includes the Southern, intellectual community is practically unanimous in support of that goal. The whole weight of the present . .national_administration, including Southern-born men like the Vice-President and the Secretary of Statemen who grapple daily with the awesome responsibilities of Berlin and Laos and the Congois now firmly behind the movement toward more equal rights in our own country. N OW COMES the most stupendous production of the 57th Texas Legislaturethe report by the House investigating committee on “racial agitation” in the state. After studying the somber mumbo-jumbos and the twisted conclusions of this rumbling work of prose, one can only reach the conclusion that the most vociferous communist ‘dupes’ in Texas are not the people given that quaint epithet in the report, but the six brave souls who had a hand in writing it. Menton Murray, a. conservative from Harlingen, was committee chairman, although he tells the Observer he doesn’t quite know where all the evidence comes from since, you see, he didn’t take over as chairman until the summer of 1960 when all the legwork was completed. The vice-chairman was Tom James, known in Austin as The Most Ambitious Young Politician In Texas, a young fellow whose principal claim to immortality to date rests on the fact that the temporary verve of his freshman session puttered and sputtered until it jelled into a diamondperfect replica of Dallas middle-class xenophobia. Other members were Charles Ballman, a rather harried fellow who grew to intellectual maturity in Borger, Texas; John Allen, an amiable young segregationist from Longview in East Texas ; and Lloyd Martin of Normangee, a kind of poor man’s John Rankin, bereft even of the redeeming populist graces, a latter-day caricature of Southern racebaiters as they appear in Yankee paperback -novels. . To the list we hasten to add and other gentleman, the Ted Sorensen of the Texas House investigators : one David Witts, a Dallas attorney whose highly seasoned conservative leanings are well-known, whose teeming pen and seething imagination gave us the written report. He was counsel for the committee, and as chairman Murray said, “These things are a hobby with him.” To this collection of notables, the sovereign state of Texas entrusted the task of investigating “racial agitation” in our fair province. If judgment and impartiality were at stake in this enterprise, our zealous investigators might well have been compared at the outset with a choice cross-section of Bavarian burghers setting out to study “Jewish agitation” in the lower Rhineland in the early ‘thirties. What Menton and Tommy and John, Martin and Ballman and Witts have contributed to contemporary American lore is this remarkable thesis : the NAACP, if not an active adjunct of the Kremlin, is at least in daily radio contact ; all efforts toward racial refOrm in America are communist-inspired; Red agents have been behind the sit-in movements, which further the Soviet conspiracy ; the struggle for Negro rights in America did not happen accidentally, but is a Party-led effort to unite_ them against the United States. Among Mr. Witts’ thunderous and agonizing truths : “The unmistakable evidence shows that an intertwined network of individuals and organizations lies behind this agitation” . . “The sit-ins, in line with Communist policy, have been highly organized and completely disciplined” . . . “This deliberately built-up tension, of course, is part of the general Communist design for mass agitation in countries under non-Communist governments” . . . “These facts are cited here to point out that the conspiracy’ behind the sit-ins and__racal ,agitation exists not only on a national scale but reaches straight to Africa and Russia” . . . “A sinister radicalism is being injected into the very fiber of the multitude of students, the majority of whom da, not even realize how they are being used by clever subversives. The trust and respect which had been increasing between the two races for over eighty years is being obliterated by agitators. The plan calls for fomenting class warfare in America as a prelude to conquest.” “Many agitators, both Negro and white, proceed along the road of racial agitation because they find it personally profitable. The Communist Party gives to those considered useful the ‘red-carpet’ treatment, including invitations to predominantly white functions, liquor, and a selected group of white women, dedicated Communists, trained for this phase of Communist activity . . . Once won over, these Negroes are then used, knowingly or unknowingly, to entice the ‘Negro masses’ into action useful to Communist aims.” “Just as racial agitation and those subversives who further it are not limited by geography, neither are they limited to Negro colleges only. Agitation has flared at the University of Texas and even more recently both Negro and white residents engaged in demonstrations at the boxoffice of a theater near the campus of the University of Texas.” “The integration of a few lunch counters, or even every lunch counter in this country, certainly is not the ultimate objective. However, if any part of the free enterprise system is weakened or destroyed in the process of sit-ins and boycotts, then the cause of socialism is just that much farther advanced.” And lastly, perhaps as an unsolicited reminder that Mr. Witts’ young man James from Dallas is off and running for attorney general, this terse statement : “It is the responsibility of the office of the attorney general of the state of Texas to keep alert for indications through any and all channels, including the daily press and NAACP publications, as to any violations of the injunction against the NAACP. Citizens of Texas must rely upon that office to protect their legal rights against such violations.” AND WHAT is the “unmistakable evidence” unearthed by the investigators to substantiate their claims that the Reds are behind it all? “The extent and influence of the Communist conspiracy in racial agitation has been increasing,” the report begins. American Communist Party statements and Worker editorials lauding the NAACP are quoted. There is an “intertwined network” operating in racial demonstrations. Individuals and organizations “taking orders from Moscow” have been prominent; then come the fellow travelers and the dupes. Party members often resign but remain a part of the conspiracy. Then follows a section on Dr. Milton Curry Jr., president of Bishop College in Marshall during the 1960 sit-ins. He signed the Red-inspired Stockholm Appeal on disarmameht, sponsored a “youth and racial” conference in South Carolina in 1953 conducted by the Southern Conference Education Fund, which has been cited as a Communist-front. He hired one Doxey Wilkerson on the college faculty, then was reluctant to fire him after the Dallas News and other dailies carried a listing of some of VVilIcerson’s activities as one-time member of the Communist Party. Wilkerson, who resigned from the Party in 1957 and came to Bishop College in 1959, gets several pages. Party members work covertly, not openly, and often are ordered to resign and go underground. He appeared before the Senate Internal Security subcommittee in 1953 and invoked the fifth amendment. His activities as a dedicated Marxist while teaching at the Jefferson School of Social Work are described, his pathetic intellectual contortions in shifting as the Party line shifted. He was on the Party’s national committee in the ‘forties. When he came to Marshall in 1959, the report said, he presided at several NAACP meetings. He instructed Bishop and Wiley college students in the techniques of sit-ins ; reluctant students were pressured into going along. Telephone calls placed by Wilkerson to several places in the country are listed, including one call to the president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Dr. F. D. Patterson, “who has been listed in connection with the Southern Conference Education Fund and the National Negro Congress.” Next comes a detailed account of a regional meeting of the NAACP in Dallas, the leaders quoted as being sympathetic with the sit-ins. Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP and “also ‘connected with several Communist fronts” spoke. The speakers, the report charges, were violating a 1957 injunction against the state NAACP. $35,000 was promised the leaders of the forthcoming Marshall sit-ins by certain NAACP officials to pay the fines of jailed students. Next, a statement by the executive secretary of the Communist Party lauding the sit-in movement, made two weeks before the Marshall demonstrations, is quoted. There follows an account of what was said at some of the preparatory meetings of the young Marshall Negroes. Martin Luther King, “long-time racial agitator, was regarded as their leader and symbol.” The report mocks the “pseudo-religious atmosphere” of the “eleven commandments” circulated among the students, including : “Don’t Strike Back and Curse Back If Abused” and “Reinember Love and Non-Violence and May God Bless You All.” There were drills and “the students were lectured about Gandhi, discrimination, and alleged abuses in South Africa.” At the actual demonstrations, Wilkerson was present giv. ing signals. More Communist Party statements and Worker editorials follow. Following an account of Wilkerson’s dismissal from Bishop College and of his activities promoting sit-ins elsewhere, there is a curious interlude entitled “Subversive Influence in Education Process” and quotes from a member of the Senate Internal Security subcommittee interviewing the chief counsel of the California Senate Un-American Activities Committee on communists as teachers. One senator’s suggestion that local school boards and colleges require positive programs on the communist conspiracy is cited, along with his advice that state legislatures, investigate the schools. The section concludes with a statement by Wilkerson attacking the New York board of education and the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on communists. Concluding sections are “Agitators in White Colleges,” in which subversion is implied in the direction of the University of Texas demonstrations; a case against the state NAACP for alleged violations of the court injunction; and a description of the Freedom Riders. Finally, the committee recommends that the federal government return to the states the power to prosecute for subversive activities. That is it, the committee’s documentary of the communist-inspired agitation. The only relevant blow, and it , questionable, lands home on Doxey Wilkerson, the pathetic rabble-rouser, the former Red who the committee says still is a Red. Did Doxey Wilkerson engineer the whole Marshall project ? Have white and Negro students been duped by the communists into taking part in every other demonstration throughout the state and the nation ? We are left to draw our conclusions, for this curious report, on racial unrest in Texas does not bother to probe the human motives that compel young people to protest the mores of the older order. The rest is all juxtaposition and innuendo, and the careless allegations occasionally carried to the point of comic reliefgive the report its bitter, searing edge. It is well known among informed circles in America that the Communist Party has not made any inroads into the American Negro community in 25 years. That the Communist Party failed is due only in part to its unctuous, self-interested bumbling. It has mostly been due to the counterdrive in America, beginning in the ‘thirties, to revive and sustain the Negroes’ hope for a larger share in American democracy. Anyone with a level head will tell you the best way to keep a minority group away from communism : to help them, and to give them continuing hope. The anguished movement toward greater fairness in our Texas society will survive this latest episode, of course. But the major damage of this vindictive and unbalanced work is the injury it has done to public decency. Harsh accusations have been made against specific individuals and organizations, as well as the whole Negro race in Texasand yet the victims were not even given the simple opportunity to face their accusers and testify in their own behalf. In America such conduct carries heavy responsibilities ; for decent men like Menton Murray, trained in the American law, it carries heavy responsibilities indeed. On the Negro race in Texas, the underdogs, it only serves to darken what Southern historian C. Vann Woodward calls “the ancient wrongs, the brooding sorrows.”. W.M.
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