What Would Happen without Radicals?
By Clarence J. Mitchell, Jr.
Featured in Afro-American; July 29, 1933, pg. 7
“All history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.” –Emerson.
SINCE THE LAST outburst of world conflict in 1914, when the old savage who the world thought was quite dead beneath the veneer of civilization so destructively proved his powers of self-assertion, the word “radical” has been a fearsome terror to conservative people.
In political circles it is suggestive of intrigues that involve sweeping changes in government and policy; among moralists it takes on the personality of a Hell-born imp eager to make the world a devilish carnival of unblushing wickedness, while to the general public it at once produces the picture of a wild-eyed person with a bearded unwashed face, whom life has robbed of the normal quantity of swine-like complacency so abundant in most humans. Our city has its share of radicals in all activities but, owing to its geographical position, they are particularly significant along racial lines.
THE AVERAGE church-goer of Baltimore is particularly abhorrent of radicalism in his pulpit. If he is white, he is afraid of it because it means overtures in behalf of a vague and terrifying spectre called the “Darker Brother,” who is seeking to invade the sacred realm of “Equality and Justice for All” as established by the doctrine of Democracy. To him this is very remote from heavenly plans or principles and, therefore, not only foolhardy but also quite sinful.
If he is colored, he regards it as a direct step into mundane interests which should not intrude upon the time and talents of clergymen, thereby constituting an unholy departure from duty. In the eyes of this man there is something mythical about social justice so far as we are concerned and fighting for it means a serious blow to one’s chances of entering Paradise.
BUSINESS AND professional men of both races run the whole gamut of epithets, from “N—– Lovers” to “Idealistic fools” when their new ideas are in behalf of us. Their situation is a most delicate one, in that many of those against whom they must fight are persons capable of ruining them socially and financially, while those for whom they are struggling do not trust them for the most part and rarely, if ever, appreciate the extent of their help.
Not many weeks ago money was being collected for a cause of great moment. Hardly had the last coin been counted before some persons wanted to know “What became of all the money?”
The irony of such a situation was, that those same people pay taxes to support city and state institutions but do not know or care to know anything about how the money is used or whether they get a fair share of its benefits.
Even now there is an effort on foot to secure equality of assistance in certain local conditions, but so far, the response of our organizations and citizenry has been highly unsatisfactory. Our working people in hotels, restaurants, and private homes are being seriously exploited because of color, and many of those who would champion their cause know in advance that danger and innumerable enemies await them on both sides.
ONLY THE SO-CALLED radicals are continuing their fight without quarter on all fronts. They recognize and proclaim that there is no compromise between right and wrong. They have set themselves to root out injustice if it must be done at the expense of position, friendship, or personal safety. Their’s [sic] is the role of heroes in human progress, for their winning victory is for all, while their defeat is to be shared only by themselves.
It behooves everyone to question himself concerning his stand against radicalism in this community and the notorious, but respectable, radicals of these days. It is the sacred duty of every individual to lend his voice and support to whatever group makes a sensible attempt to promote the “general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty,” (which words, by the way, come from the preamble of our Constitution) for our present race and whatever generations happen to follow in our wake.
Clarence Mitchell’s Campaign Voucher
“Taxation without Representation is Tyranny”
Vote for Clarence M. Mitchell for the Legislature
October 5, 1934
Dear Fellow Citizens:
How much longer shall we, the colored people of Baltimore, stand for the gross injustices which are daily being forced upon us?
There is a State appropriation of over one million dollars yearly to the University of Maryland, while Morgan College gets a pitiful $26,000. At Cheltenhm, the State Reform School, our colored boys are beaten, shot and hired out like slaves. We have no State Sanatorium for the Feebleminded and Insane. And we suffer from many other injustices.
The trouble is that in the three hundred years history of Maryland we have had no colored representative to plead our cause in the Maryland Legislature. We can correct this evil by voting for a representative of our own race. I am the only colored candidate for the Legislature in the Fifth District of which you are a resident.
If you have not registered or did not register in the 1932 General Registration, Please register at
1017 Arlington Ave.
On Tuesday, October 9th from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
This will enable you to vote in the general election Tuesday, November 6th from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.
I am urging you to support me with your vote and I assure you that I shall at all times prove worthy of your trust.
Yours for JUSTICE,
Clarence M. Mitchell
Clarence and Keiffer Desegregation Story
By Clarence Mitchell
It was a beautiful morning. The sensitive child beside me on the front seat of the car was quiet and thoughtful. From the corner of my eye I could see the outline of his head that even then gave promise of being noble. Each time he glanced out of the window or shifted his position my heart strings stretched to the breaking point.
What was the occasion? It was 1954 and I was taking him to a newly desegregated school. All morning the radio had brought news of a boycott by white parents. There was the impending threat of violence. Already he had been punched by hoodlums and threatened by others. He was large for his age, but he seemed small against the background of the menacing events. I wanted desperately to be near him if trouble occurred. I wished with all my heart that my fears for his safety would be groundless.
At the school the milling crowds, the signs saying “N—rs go back to Africa” and “Stay out until the N—rs leave” and jeers from an assortment of ruffians seems to indicate that entering the school doorway would lead to injury. Without hesitation and in the modest but courageous manner that is characteristic of him now that he is a man, he gathered his books, pencils and dignity. He walked through the crowds and disappeared into the school building.
What could one do? How could one stand between him and a thrown brick? How could one reach the class room in time [to] make a savage counter attack if the hoodlums invaded the school building? Anger burned civilization from the surface of my emotions. Then reason returned. Plead with the children to go to school. Challenge the hoodlums to back up their jeers. Call the police to clear the area and point out the individual trouble makers. Hope that somehow the city would have sense enough to invoke the law and put the advocates of the boycott in jail. These were the alternatives and I followed each of them.
All of them worked. Some children responded derisively to my plea, but many were ready to take a rational suggestion from any adult. They went to school. The hoodlums, probably assuming that I had some hidden resources, would slink off when challenged. The police were magnificent in responding with action when I pointed out trouble makers. Finally, the city acted and the next day a patrol wagon was waiting to take some of those promoting the boycott to jail. Some halted their activity, but others did not and they were given a ride to lock-up.
Mitchell’s Counter-Picket Article
“My country too,” says parent as he pickets son’s school
A counter-picket was conducted Monday morning in front of Gwynns Falls Junior High School, Hilton and Morley Sts., by Clarence E. Mitchell, head of the Washington bureau of the NAACP.
Mr. Mitchell’s picketing was inspired by white pickets he found at the school when he escorted his son, Keiffer, 12, there.
He said that he also noted groups of parents standing within three blocks of the school ordering the children to return home.
Mr. Mitchell’s placards read: “This is My Country, Too.” “I Am An American, Too.” He picketed at the school until 2 p.m. when he learned the NAACP had called a conference preparatory to taking legal action.
The local NAACP said Mr. – [article cut off]
Clarence Mitchell Memo on Ford Congressional Voting Record
FROM: CLARENCE MITCHELL, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON BUREAU, NAACP
SUBJECT: HIGHLIGHTS IN THE VOTING RECORD OF CONGRESSMAN GERALD R. FORD, JR., WHO HAS BEEN NOMINATED TO SUCCEED SPIRO T. AGNEW AS VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
The Washington Bureau lists the votes cast by Representative Gerald R. Ford (R-Mich.) on matters of interest to the NAACP beginning in 1949. Mr. Ford became the Minority Leader of the House Republicans in 1965. A word about the circumstances surrounding his ascendancy to this position is appropriate.
Representative Joseph W. Martin (R-Mass.) served as Speaker of the House when the Republicans controlled that body and as Minority Leader when the Democrats came into power. Mr. Martin was a strong supporter of civil rights although he was widely classified as a conservative. In 1959 some Republicans, under the leadership of Chairman Charles Halleck (D-Ind.), started what might be described as a coup and ousted Mr. Martin from his position of leader. This aroused a great deal of animosity, especially among old guard Republicans who felt that Mr. Halleck had achieved his goal in a fashion that was not in keeping with party traditions. One of the leaders of this group who felt that something had to be done to oust Mr. Halleck was the late Clarence Brown (R-Ohio). In 1965 he and other conservatives joined in a kind of alliance with some of the Republican liberals and supported Mr. Ford for leader. This resulted in a defeat of Mr. Halleck. However, the strongest influence on Mr. Ford has consistently come from the conservatives.
On civil rights matters the conservative influence has been demonstrated by his consistent support for weakening amendments to civil rights bills. He has also been a supporter of anti-busing legislation. In most instances when the weakening amendments were defeated and the bill was up for final passage he would vote for final passage. This, as we know, is a standard procedure of some legislators on civil rights matters. They do what they can to weaken a bill but when they are frustrated in these attempts, they vote for final passage and assert that they are “for civil rights.”
Perhaps the best evidence of Ford’s fidelity to the narrow gauge approach on civil rights by the Nixon Administration came in 1969. At that time the NAACP and other organizations were waging a major fight to prevent Administration emasculation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Normally the Administration would have gotten the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee to introduce its bill. Representative William McCulloch (R-Ohio) was the ranking member. He refused to support the Administration. Instead, he joined with Representative Emanuel Celler (D-N.Y.) and Chairman of the Committee in reporting an extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s key provisions which (1) ban literacy tests in areas with long histories of discrimination in registration and voting and, (2) prevent states and localities from putting restrictive registration and voting legislation into effect without prior clearance with the Attorney General of the United States or seeking a declaratory judgement in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Representative Ford offered the Nixon proposal to emasculate the Voting Rights Act as a substitute on the floor. The Ford substitute won by a Teller vote (non-record at that time) 189-165. Later on a roll call vote the Ford version again won 208 to 203. We were able to defeat the Administration version in the Senate. Thereafter, the House accepted the Senate bill. The House first voted to accept the Senate bill 224 to 183. This was the crucial test. Representative Ford voted against acceptance of the Senate bill. The House then passed the bill 272 to 132. Mr. Ford voted for passage.
With this kind of background I would assume that Mr. Ford will carry out Administration policies in whatever small ways a Vice President can do this and I would also assume that he will maintain a good liaison for the White House with the conservative Republicans and perhaps a few middle of the road Democrats and Republicans. I do not expect that he will have much influence on liberal members of either party in influencing them to take Administration positions on civil rights matters.
I have been asked whether I thought he would carry out Nixon policies if he became President during the term of the incumbent. This, of course, is academic at this point since there is no reason for assuming that President Nixon will not complete his term. However, I would assume that Mr. Ford would follow the Nixon policies almost to the letter if he became President before 1976. I have also been asked whether I think his ascendancy to the Vice Presidency would give him a good chance to become President in his own right. I would have serious doubts about Mr. Ford being capable of winning a national election for President. On the basis of his present record, I would not think that it would be in the best interest of civil rights and related matters if he got the nomination nor won the election.
A SUMMARY OF HIS VOTING RECORD FOLLOWS: VICE PRESIDENT-DESIGNATE GERALD R. FORD, JR. REPUBLICAN – MICHIGAN ELECTED TO 81ST CONGRESS, NOVEMBER 2, 1948
81st Congress The NAACP supported an amendment which prohibited segregation in the SPARS, the Women’s Auxiliary of the Coast Guard, Mr. Ford voted FOR integration in the SPARS on April 4, 1949.
The NAACP supported a bill to abolish the Poll Tax. Mr. Ford voted FOR abolishing the Poll Tax on July 26, 1949.
The House considered a strong FEPC bill introduced by Mr. Powell. Instead of passing this, it passed a weak substitute, sponsored by Mr. Samuel McConnell. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST the strong FEPC bill on February 22, 1950.
82nd Congress The NAACP opposed a bill offered by Representative Rankin (D-Miss.) which would have established a Jim Crow Veterans Hospital. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST this bill on June 6, 1951.
President Truman vetoed the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act because it was too restrictive. The NAACP also opposed the Act and urged that the President’s veto be upheld. On June 26, 1952, the House overrode the veto. Mr. Ford voted to OVERRIDE the veto.
83rd Congress Mr. Ford voted FOR Hawaii Statehood on March 10, 1953. The NAACP supported Statehood.
On April 22, 1953, July 21, 1953 and April 2, 1954, Mr. Ford voted AGAINST public housing. The NAACP consistently supported public housing.
84th Congress The NAACP urged that Congress approve an amendment to halt segregation in the National Guard, Representative Powell offered this amendment and it came to a vote on May 18, 1955. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST the amendment. (This vote was not a record vote because the House was in the Committee of the Whole. However, observers in the Gallery reported how the Congressmen voted.)
The NAACP prepared an amendment, which Mr. Powell offered on the floor, prohibiting the use of Federal funds for racially segregated schools. Mr. Ford voted FOR this amendment on July 5, 1956. The amendment was approved and Mr. Ford voted AGAINST the entire bill on the same day.
Because the Civil Rights Bill was tied up in the Rules Committee, Congressman Roosevelt filed a discharge petition, June 5, 1956, which would have brought the bill to a vote. The NAACP asked Congressmen to sign this petition. Mr. Ford SIGNED the civil rights discharge petition.
On July 23, 1956, the southern bloc made an attempt to send the Civil Rights Bill (H.R. 627) back to Committee as it neared final passage in the House. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST sending the bill back to Committee. He voted FOR passage of the bill on the same day.
Mr. Ford voted AGAINST public housing on July 29, 1955.
The NAACP supported an increase in the minimum wage. Mr. Ford voted FOR the $1.00 minimum wage increase on July 20, 1955.
The NAACP supported broadening of coverage on Social Security benefits. Mr. Ford voted FOR broadening benefits on July 18, 1955.
Mr. Ford voted FOR Hawaii-Alaska Statehood on May 10, 1955.
85th Congress Opponents of civil rights sought to attach a sweeping jury trial amendment to H.R. 6127, the Civil Rights bill, on June 18, 1957. This was a much broader and more damaging amendment than that which the House and Senate finally agreed upon when the bill came up for final passage. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST the jury trial amendment and voted FOR the Civil Rights bill when it came up for final passage on August 27, 1957.
The House Appropriations Committee failed to recommend any appropriations for the operation of the Civil Rights Commission. When the Appropriations Bill reached the floor, Congressman Rabaut (D-Mich.) offered an amendment to appropriate $750,000 for the Commissions budget for 1958-1959. Mr. Ford voted FOR this appropriation on April 1, 1953. The appropriation was approved by the House.
On July 17, 1958, the House passed H.R. 3, the so-called “states rights bill.” Many who supported this bill did so in order to reverse some of the liberal decisions of the Supreme Court and other Federal Courts. Mr. Ford voted FOR H.R. 3.
Mr. Ford voted FOR Alaska Statehood on May 28, 1958. The NAACP supported Statehood.
86th Congress The Civil Rights Bill of 1960 passed by the Congress failed to meet the NAACP’s standards of a meaningful civil rights bill because the Congress failed to strengthen the “skeleton” bill by adding any significant amendments.
In the House, the failure to strengthen the bill was due primarily to arbitrary parliamentary rulings which denied the House the opportunity to vote on important amendments relating to employment, school desegregation, poll tax and the protection of civil rights. These rulings were the handiwork of Congressman Francis Walter (D-Pa.) who was the presiding officer. No record votes were taken on these rulings and, for that reason, we are unable to report how Congressman Ford voted.
On April 21, 1960, the House passed the Civil Rights Bill of 1960, H.R. 8601, as amended to include the voting referee plan, by a record vote of 288 to 95. Mr. Ford voted FOR the Civil Rights Bill.
Before the vote it was necessary to initiate a move to force the Rules Committee to act on it, Congressman Emanuel Celler filed a petition to take the bill from the Rules Committee on September 7, 1959. When the petition had all but a few of the required signatures, the Rules Committee reported the bill out. Thus, those who signed the petition played an important part in getting the Rules Committee to act. Mr. Ford SIGNED the discharge petition.
On June 24, 1959, the House again passed H.R. 3, the so-called “states rights” bill, which was designed to nullify some of the liberal decisions of the United States Supreme Court. The Association vigorously opposed H.R. 3. Mr. Ford voted FOR H.R. 3.
The House on September 15, 1959, by a vote of 221 to 81 voted to extend the life of the Civil Rights Commission for an additional two years. Mr. Ford voted FOR extending the life of the Civil Rights Commission.
On May 26, 1960, the House adopted Congressman Powell’s anti-segregation amendment to the Federal School Aid Bill. Mr. Ford voted FOR the amendment.
On the same day, May 26, the House passed the Federal Aid Bill with the Powell amendment. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST the bill on final passage.
87th Congress When a bill to create a Department of Housing and Urban Affairs was blocked in the House Rules Committee, President Kennedy attempted to set up this Department by a Reorganization Plan. He announced that the Secretary of the Department, who would have cabinet status, would be Dr. Robert Weaver. The plan was killed on February 21, 1962, by a vote of 264 to 150. Mr. Ford voted FOR the Reorganization Plan.
On September 13, 1961, the House voted to extend the life of the Civil Rights Commission an additional two years. Mr. Ford voted FOR the extension.
88th Congress The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the most sweeping civil rights legislation considered by the Congress since the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. Its passage fulfilled many of the legislative objectives that the NAACP has pursued for over fifty years. Although Congress had passed civil rights laws in 1957 and 1960, the passage of the 1964 law marked the first time since the post-Civil War period that it had acted comprehensively to protect civil rights. On July 2, 1964, by a vote of 289 to 126, the House adopted a resolution providing for House approval of the bill as amended by the Senate. The bill was then sent to the President for his signature. Mr. Ford voted FOR the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
89th Congress The 1965 Voting Rights Act, as sent to Congress by the Administration was a strong proposal, but most of the civil rights groups felt that it needed many strengthening and perfecting changes. Civil rights supporters in and out of Congress succeeded in adding language which was incorporated into the final bill. The final version of the bill banned literacy tests for five years, established a system of Federal examiners to aid in voter registration, branded the poll tax as discriminatory and instructed the Attorney General to institute court action to eliminate the tax. On July 6, 1965, the House by a vote of 333 to 85, passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Mr. Ford voted FOR the Voting Rights Act.
Prior to final passage of the Voting Rights Act, Congressman Collier (R-Ill.) offered offered [sic] a motion to recommit the bill to the Judiciary Committee with instructions to report back a Republican substitute, which was defeated by a vote of 243 to 171. Mr. Ford voted FOR this motion.
90th Congress Part of the Administration’s original civil rights package in the 90th Congress was a bill to reform the Federal jury system by prohibiting discrimination in the selection of juries. The NAACP worked for this reform for a long time. The bill passed the House by a vote of 307 to 45 on February 26, 1968. Mr. Ford voted FOR the bill.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was strengthened in the Senate by the inclusion of an open housing amendment. When the bill returned to the House, Representative Madden (D-Ind.) offered a resolution that made it possible to adopt the Senate bill without change. Had the Madden resolution failed, the bill would have gone to conference where the housing title could have been emasculated or killed. This was the most important House vote on civil rights in the 90th Congress. The Madden resolution carried by a vote of 229 to 195 on April 10, 1968. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST the resolution.
On the same day the House passed the Civil Rights Bill with its open housing provisions by a vote of 250 to 172. Mr. Ford voted FOR final passage of the bill.
A bill to extend the life of the Civil Rights Commission for five years to January 1, 1973, passed the House by a vote of 284 to 89. Mr. Ford [voted] FOR the extension.
The NAACP has for years fought passage of a bill that would make it a Federal crime to use force or threats to interfere with the exercise of civil rights. Such a bill passed the House by a vote of 327 to 93 on August 16, 1967. Mr. Ford [voted] FOR this bill.
91st Congress The 1965 Voting Rights Act’s ban against literacy tests resulted in nearly a million new Negro registrants in the South. It also made possible the election of over 500 black public officials. The ban against literacy tests was scheduled to expire in August, 1970. The Nixon Administration sought to weaken the law by killing a provision which made it apply automatically to some of the various areas of racial discrimination in voting. The Senate refused to follow the Nixon proposal and instead, on March 13, 1970, by a vote of 64 to 12 approved a bi-partisan bill which contains the strong provisions of the existing law and also gave 18 year olds the right to vote, effective January 1, 1971.
The House Rules Committee granted a rule making it in order for the House to accept the Voting Rights Act as amended by the Senate. The first vote was on adoption of this rule. On June 17, 1970, the House by a vote of 224 to 183, adopted the rule. This was the key vote. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST adoption of the rule.
On the same day the House voted for the Voting Rights Act as amended by the Senate which included giving the vote to 18 year olds. Mr. Ford voted FOR final passage.
92nd Congress In the 92nd Congress there were several key votes on Education bills (S. 659 and H.R. 13915), and the Equal Employment Opportunity legislation which were of crucial importance. We are listing a few of them and how Mr. Ford voted.
On November 4, 1971, Congressman William Broomfield (R-Mich.) offered an amendment to the Education bill (S. 659) to postpone the effective date of any court order requiring busing for school desegregation until all legal appeals are exhausted. This would permit school boards to engage in delay indefinitely. This amendment was adopted by a vote of 235 to 125. The NAACP was against this amendment. Mr. Ford voted FOR the amendment.
Another amendment was offered on November 4, 1971, by Congressman John Ashbrook (R-Ohio), which would prohibit the expenditure of Federal funds in any program administered by the Commissioner of Education for transportation or the purchase of equipment for transportation in order to overcome racial imbalance or achieve racial desegregation. This was adopted by a vote of 233 to 124. The NAACP was against this amendment. Mr. Ford voted FOR this amendment.
Also offered on November 4, 1971, was an amendment by Representative Edith Green which was another move to halt pupil transportation. Its purpose was to prevent any employee of a Federal agency from requiring any recipient, as a precondition to receiving Federal funds to bus students or teachers to accomplish desegregation or reduce racial imbalance, and to prevent such Federal employees from influencing state and local recipients in any other way to do so. This was adopted by a vote of 231 to 126. The NAACP was against this amendment. Mr. Ford voted FOR this.
S. 659, the Education Bill, was sent to a Senate-House Conference. On March 8, 1972, the House by a vote of 272 to 139, INSTRUCTED its Conferees to insist on retaining its anti-busing amendments in the bill. The NAACP was opposed to this unprecedented action by the House. Mr. Ford voted FOR this action.
On August 17-18 the House considered H. R. 13915, a so-called Equal Education Opportunities Act which is really a vicious piece of legislation designed to halt transportation of children to integrated public schools. By a 245 to 141 Teller vote on August 17, the House adopted an amendment offered by Representative Edith Green to allow the reopening of cases involving court orders or Department of HEW plans for busing in order to bring them into compliance with the Act. The NAACP was against this amendment. Mr. Ford voted FOR the amendment.
Representative Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) offered an amendment to H. R. 13915 which provided that, “Nothing in this Act is intended to be inconsistent with or violative of any provision of the Constitution.” This was defeated by a 178 to 197 recorded Teller vote on August 17, 1972. The NAACP was for this amendment. Mr. Ford voted AGAINST this amendment.
The House passed H. R. 13915 by a vote of 282 to 102 on August 18, 1972. The NAACP was against the bill. Mr. Ford voted FOR H. R. 13915.
The Equal Employment Opportunity legislation introduced by Representative Augustus Hawkins (D-Calif.) and Ogden Reid (D-N.Y.), was defeated by a vote of 202 to 197, when a substitute bill offered by Representative John Erlenborn (R-Ill.) prevailed. The Erlenborn Substitute made damaging changes in existing law and omitted coverage of Federal, state and local government employees.
Mr. Ford voted FOR the Erlenborn substitute.
United States Mission to the United Nations
FOR RELEASE ON DELIVERY CHECK TEXT AGAINST DELIVERY
Press Release USUN- 162(75) November 28, 1975 Statement by Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., United States Representative, in Plenary, on Civil Rights in South Africa, November 28, 1975.
The United States Delegation has voted in Plenary as it did in the Special Political Committee on the resolutions before us relating to the discussion of the “Policies of Apartheid of the Government of South Africa.”
On October 23, 1975, when speaking on behalf of my Government before the Special Political Committee on the subject of apartheid, I made the following statement:
“The U.S. deplores the detention of persons whose only act is outspoken opposition to the system of apartheid. The South African Government is courting disaster when such repressive measures have the effect of closing off all avenues for peaceful change.”
Prime Minister Vorster of South Africa has called the first sentence of that quoted portion of my speech a “downright lie.” He has also called for the name of just one individual in South Africa who was arrested and detained only because of his outspoken opposition to apartheid.
If the Prime Minister wants to establish credibility at the U.N. on the matter of repressive laws and policies in his country, he cannot do so by trying to narrow the issue to one point or by calling for the name of one victim. He would be better off if he could give positive assurance that his Government will stop making arrests and holding persons on vague charges. His indignation would seem more plausible if he accompanied it with an announcement of full equality under the laws of his country for all South Africans without regard to race or color.
One useful opportunity emerges from the heated response of the Prime Minister. At last he has shown that he is paying attention to the much deserved criticism being voiced against the radical politics of policies of South Africa. Some of the members of the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. have made extensive studies of South African racial policies and the method of enforcing those policies.
Mitchell’s Speech to the NEA (1984)
Speech of Clarence Mitchell, Esq. NEA Conference on Human and Civil Rights Sheraton Washington Hotel Feb. 24, 1984, 9:00 a.m.
On this day, twenty years ago, we were gearing up for a crucial vote in the United States Senate on civil rights. H.R. 7152 which had been passed by a massive vote of 290 to 130 in the House was in danger of being buried in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a hostile chairman, Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi. Under the Senate rules the bill could be brought to the floor without reference to the committee. Those of us backing the bill supported the move for direct floor consideration. Efforts at the White House and hard work, both in and outside the senate, paid off. On February 26, 1964, the Senate voted 54 to 37 for putting the bill on the calendar instead of sending it to committee. There followed the long fight that was climaxed when the Senate voted 71 to 29 to invoke cloture on June 10. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964.
There is no question about the great value of this law which is popularly known as the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It has made possible changes in our society that some believed could not be accomplished in another hundred years after the abolition of human slavery. The change for the better has been so complete that many of those in our country who were children of tender years in 1964 cannot believe that conditions that the law was designed to correct actually existed.
The great names of 1964 like Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young and James Farmer are somehow merged into a composite that usually mentions only Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even Dr. King’s memory is sometimes blurred by the passage of time and there are those in the new generation who do not know why we honor him.
Thus is seems that one of our first tasks in education of children is teach them where we were as a nation before 1964 and how we have gotten to where we are now. We must let them know the price we paid in time, labor, money, property and even human lives to erase the blatant practices of discrimination and segregation that were our nation’s shame. We must also recruit and develop dedicated people to run the agencies created by this law.
But it is not enough to keep the memory of past struggles alive. It is not enough to see that it is administered fully and fairly. There are new rivers to cross, new mountains to climb and a star toward we should reach.
The signs saying which entrance blacks may use are down. But there are more deadly ways to bar access. One of these is the use of dubious tests to decide whether an applicant may be admitted to a college, whether a promising young person may be admitted to law or medical school and now there is even a strong move [to] use a test to decide whether one may be admitted to training to be qualified as a teacher.
I say to you that these tests are like an evil river whose rising waters are a threat to the aspirations of the present generation. They are creating ways to accomplish new discrimination against the victims who do not pass them and wealth for those who devise them. After careful consideration, I have concluded that the trend toward using tests to bar persons from careers of their choosing or jobs for which they are fully qualified must be stopped. I hope that your great organization will meet this new challenge by carefully developing the facts that will expose and discredit those who are responsible for this monstrous fraud in our times.
For those who are fortunate enough to get past the test obstacle there is another barrier of mountainous proportions. It is the secret method of denying promotions to those who deserve them. How often do we still hear of blacks who train new white employees and then, one day, the employee that they have trained becomes the boss? How often do we see [unreadable] campuses where women are employed as assistant or associate professors [unreadable] do get tenure?
How often do we read the dreary figures on the income gap between white and black wage earners? Here again there is a challenge that we must meet. We must pierce the veil of deceit and conspiracy that makes these wrongs possible. We must use our best skills, much of our resources and all else that is needed [to] destroy these practices just as we destroyed the more obvious discriminatory techniques of the past.
In spite of the new obstacles that exist, we have great resources to deal with them. I see these resources when I hear the words and see the accomplishments of a great woman, Mary H. Putrell, who is president of this organization. These resources are apparent when the mayor of Detroit moves to give black policemen opportunities to be promoted on merit and that decision is upheld first by a U.S. District Judge named Damon Keith. Then Judge Keith’s decision is upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on which sits the distinguished Judge Nathaniel Jones. All three of these men are black. They hold their offices because together we have wrought a mighty change in our land. We have created a climate that has made it possible for fair men and women of any race to become judges.
Each time I receive a price of the membership fee of some organization that invites me to join, whether educational, professional or social, I realize how little we raised in the years of our struggle for justice. Usually the price quoted is not less than fifty dollars and quite often more than a hundred. Beside these prices the cost of being a member of an organization like the NAACP or the Urban League has always been small but also is still in the five and dime category. We must raise our sights so that the treasuries of organizations and institutions that are so necessary for progress will be measured in millions and not mere thousands or even hundreds of thousands. It will require sacrifice to do this but it can be done.
Finally, I will say a word about that activity that is perhaps closest to my heart. It is political action. Not long ago I was in Mississippi and heard Dr. Aaron Henry, a member of the House in that state, being called back from a speaking engagement to cast a crucial vote on a measure that was vital to the whole state. It was not many years ago that Mississippi’s legislature was off limits for blacks. Now, not only are they there, but they are also serving with distinction. Later, I received word that my longtime friend and NAACP stalwart, the Rev. I. Dequincy Newman, has become the first black since reconstruction to serve in the South Carolina Senate.
In the South and throughout the country there is a rising tide of interest in seeking public office. There is an equal determination to elect qualified candidates and also to make certain that from the highest office, which is the presidency, down to [the] most obscure county official we will give early and effective support to those candidates who stand for equal justice and freedom for all of people of whatever race, sex, national origin, age or religion. This is the star toward which we must continue to reach. When we have men and women in public office who care about the hungry, who work for sheltering those who have no homes, who want a living wage for even the lowest persons in the work force, who want to end ignorance by supporting education, who want to provide health care for the sick and economic security for the aged we will be able to reach that star. When we do the world will be a better place because we have set the right example of how humans should live together.
Letter from Lady Bird Johnson
March 26, 1984 Stonewall, Texas
Dear Keiffer, Kelly and Kathy,
It was the greatest sadness to me to learn of your grandfather’s death. Although there is no need to tell you what a special person he was, it might help you to know how many, many people share your sense of loss. He had a large part in the pulling together of our country in hard times. His counsel was always sought and valued for its wisdom, steadiness and strength. One day your own grandchildren will benefit from the legacy of his contributions.
Please know I am thinking of you and hoping you have a storehouse of wonderful memories of him. As I reflect on my life, I’m so glad that the oldest of our grandchildren got to know their grandfather, and so sorry that the youngest ones didn’t.
Affectionately Your Friend,
Lady Bird Johnson