The Negro Must Help

Prepared for Wm Allen White Committee by Harris and Bunche, June, 1940 (Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies)

We Americans have naturally wished to keep out of this war—to take no steps which might lead us in. But—

We now know that the collapse of the heroic French and the desperate plight of the British bring war and world revolution—Hitler's brand of racial, political, and economic revolution—closer to US—to our country, our institutions, our homes, our hopes for peace and development.

Hitler is striking with all the terrible destructive force at his command. His is a desperate gamble, and the stakes are nothing less than domination of the whole human race.

If Hitler wins in Europe—if the strength of the British and French armies and navies is forever broken—the United States will find itself alone in a barbaric world—a world ruled by Nazis, with "spheres of influence" assigned to their totalitarian allies. Negroes—all members of minority racial groups—need pause to consider seriously what kind of world that will be. However different the dictatorships may be, racially, they all agree on one primary objective: "Democracy must be wiped from the face of the earth."

The world will be placed on a permanent war footing. Our country will have to pile armaments upon armaments to maintain even the illusion of security. We shall have no other business, no other aim in life, but primitive self defense. We shall exist only under martial law—or the law of the jungle. Our

economic structure will have to be adjusted to that of our gangster competitors.

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people"—if Hitler wins, this will be the discarded ideal of a decayed civilization.

And what will be the impact of all this upon the Negro?

If we are compelled to devote the major part of our resources to armaments our economic standards will be further depressed. This will inevitably intensify racial strife between the Negro and other racial groups as economic competitors. And the Negro should know by now that in such strife he is always the loser. From this condition the Negro can anticipate only reduction of his group to a permanent status of sub-marginal existence—to an economic vassalage which, by the Nazis' own confession will be ruthless and devoid of even that leavening paternalism of the southern slave system.

The greatest danger from the severe disturbances in our economic life which will unquestionably attend a Hitler victory is that the incipient forces of American fascism would be galvanized into action—that the latent forces of our native hoodlumism, vigilantism and lawlessness will be crystallized into a philosophy of state power and exercised with all the immoralism of the Nazi bureaucracy. In the end every vestige of our human decency and moral right will have been destroyed. The implications of this for the Negro are too horribly clear to require narration.


Triumphant Nazism will result not only in the economic debasement of the Negro—it will blast into oblivion his cherished hopes for full acceptance and participation in the American society as an unshackled human being.

If Hitler wins the Aryan Cult of Racial Supremacy will dominate the world. The position of the American Negro and of all people of African descent will be far more degraded than that of the Jew in Germany. For the Nazis have boldly proclaimed their view that Negroes are the lowest members of the human race—that they are unfit for intercourse and association in the civilized community—that they are therefore destined to be the slaves of the master race—the Nordic Nazis.

Hailing the Nazis triumphal entry into Paris, the official organ of Hitler's Germany mocked "this great city of light" in which "Jews, capitalists, democratic plutocrats and Negroes" have consorted upon terms of intimacy and equality.

It is a fool's counsel and a half truth to advise the Negro today that he has no interest and nothing at stake in the ominous affairs of Europe—to say "let us work only for democracy at home." For if Hitler wins democracy perishes. Hitler, and most recently, Mussolini, have solemnly pledged themselves to this task.

It should be obvious that America cannot remain a democratic island in a fascist world. In our world there are no longer any economic or political islands. What hope can there be for the Negro in the extinction of democracy—of the very lamps of

civilization? The hope of the Negro is in the preservation and the extension of democracy in all spheres of life.

Democracy is the life-blood of the Negro-American. If the democratic principles—Equality before the law, Equal Protection of the laws, Equal Opportunity to work and to advance according to merit and ability—are wholly extinguished, a minority group in any modern country, especially when it is handicapped by color, is doomed.

No apology can be made for the shortcomings of American democracy. Negroes suffer many serious disabilities here. These are well known. No review of them is necessary. The Negro must never cease to press for that justice and equality which is his constitutional birthright.

But the Negro today is confronted with stern realities. The available alternatives before him are not two ideal social systems. The sole alternatives in the modern world are the democratic system—with its unfortunate shortcomings—and the Nazi-fascist totalitarian system bent upon the enslavement of the weak—and all of those who are unable because of race or who are unwilling because of principle, to conform to the fascist creed.

German fascism may indeed not invade this hemisphere militarily. It is obvious that there is no immediate danger of direct invasion of the United States. Hitler doesn't strike directly when he doesn't have to. He edges up on his major victims, approaching through the territory of small and

defenseless neighbors. The United States has twenty-one neighbors in this hemisphere, in addition to the colonial possessions of Britain, France, Holland and Denmark. Many of these have large Negro populations. Americans must not forget that however wide the Atlantic and Pacific oceans may be, the Canadian and Mexican borders are no barriers to invasion. Nor can we forget that Hitler's conquest of Europe and his economic penetration in South American countries will undoubtedly mean the infiltration of Nazi ideas of race, the exaltation of the ruthless exercise of power.

It is true that the common man, though he be a Negro share-cropper in Georgia or a peon in Mississippi, or an unskilled laborer in American capitalist industry, enjoys far greater freedom in the public expression of opinion, in movement from place to place, in the choice of his religion, in the right of organization, and in employment, than does anyone in Nazi Germany, except a member of the ruling caste.

And even under British or French imperalism in Africa, the freedom of the native to protest his grievances in speech and press, to organize, to worship freely the gods of his choice, and his economic security, are far greater today than they could conceivably be under triumphant German fascism. It is not likely that Germany would extend more freedom to the African colonial than is permitted to the German worker in the fatherland.


The counsel which advises that this is a second imperialist war conducted by the capitalist empires of Britain and France, aided and abetted by "plutocratic America," on the one hand, as against fascism, on the other, is propaganda deliberately designed to mislead the American public and to obscure the real issues. Such utterances are the psychological bed-fellows of Nazi propaganda; they are inspired political tactics designed to confuse and immobilize the American public and thus to weaken the United States in this crucial hour; wittingly or unwittingly they lay the psychological groundwork for fifth column activity.

The Negro will not be deceived by them. The Negro is an American. Whatever happens to America happens to the Negro.

In supporting democracy in this hour of crisis, the Negro supports it because he believes that it is his only hope; because it is to his advantage to support it; because it alone affords him the promise of a better life. That is the faith which helped to free him—the faith in the democratic principles which released him from bondage.

"Divide—and conquer!" has been the Nazi watchword in the insidious invasion of all countries. The preliminary work of division has been carried on here with devastating success. It will be to Hitler's advantage to industriously cultivate the seeds of racial discord here. No patriotic American will for a moment tolerate the thought of the immobilization of 13, 000, 000 patriotic Negro citizens by the exploitation of racial grievances. The fight against Hitler is every American's fight.


How long shall we wait before making it known to Hitler and the masters of all the slave states that we are vitally concerned in the outcome of this war—that we would consider a victory for them an unmitigated calamity for civilization?

Whatever our feelings about the tragic mistakes of statesmanship in England and France we know now that the free people of those nations are willing to fight with inspiring heroism to defend their freedom. We know now that such men will die rather than surrender. But the stoutest hearts can not survive forever in the face of superior numbers and infinitely superior weapons.

There is nothing shameful in our desire to stay out of war, to save our youth from the dive bombers and the flame throwing tanks in the unutterable hell of modern warfare.

But is there not an evidence of suicidal insanity in our failure to help those who now stand between us and the creators of this hell?

WE CAN HELP—IF WE WILL ACT NOW—before it is forever too late.

We can help by sending planes, guns, munitions, food. We can help to end the fear that American boys will fight and die in another Flanders, closer to home.

The members of our government are your servants. In an emergency as serious as this, they require the expression of your will. They must know that the American people are not

afraid to cast off the hypocritical mask of neutrality, which deceives no one, including ourselves.

Send a postcard, a letter, or a telegram, at once—to the President of the United States, to your Senators and your Congressmen—urging that the real defense of our country must begin NOW—with aid to the Allies! If you want to give other help to the Committee write to its office in Washington.

The United States of America is still the most powerful nation on earth—and the United States of America is YOU!

The Negro is compelled by the sheer instinct of self-preservation to put his full numerical, political and economic strength solidly behind every movement for defense—for defense of American soil—for defense of American institutions, traditions and liberties—for the defense of the Allies who are fighting our battle overseas.