When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

Tag archive: Racism

Young Racist

1968: The only black people on the whites-only Orient Beach at East London, in South Africa, were a sad-looking cleaner in blue overalls, and a girl who sold ice creams, whose black feet left footprints in the wet sand. Seven-year-old Don McRae wasn’t sure she should be allowed on the beach barefoot. Whenever he visited the beach, he made sure his small, white, prejudiced feet “stepped over her black footsteps”.

Source: Donald McRae, Under Our Skin: A White Family’s Journey through South Africa’s Darkest Years (2012), p. 46

Prince Charming

1920: At a small railway station on the Nullarbor Plain in southern Australia, aborigines put on a display of dancing and throwing spears and boomerangs for the visiting Prince of Wales. The prince, the future Edward VIII, was not amused. He wrote to his friend Freda Dudley Ward that the display was a “native stunt”, which he loathed, and that the aborigines were the “lowest known form of human beings & are the nearest thing to monkeys I’ve ever seen”. Prince Charming!

Source: Edward, Prince of Wales, Letters from a Prince: Edward, Prince of Wales to Mrs Freda Dudley Ward March 1918–January 1921, ed. Rupert Godfrey (1998), p. 348

Brum Tory Slogan

1964: The Tory candidate in the Birmingham constituency of Smethwick secured victory in October’s general election by tapping into the racial anxieties of the white population. A slogan going round the town warned voters: “If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour.”

Source: Robert Winder, Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain (2009), p. 374

Strange Bedfellows

Malcolm X, photographed by Ed Ford in 1964

1961: Politics sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. On 28 January, Malcolm X of the black nationalist Nation of Islam and representatives of the white fascist Ku Klux Klan held a clandestine meeting in Atlanta to discuss their shared aim of racial separation.

Source: Bruce Perry, Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America (1991), pp. 358, 503

Book Of The Month

1920: A best-seller from 1920: Theodore Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, which would surely have featured in the Ku Klux Klan’s book-of-the-month club, if there had been one.

Source: Theodore Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920)

Blake Versus Parks

Rosa Parks, with Martin Luther King in the background, photographed in about 1955

1955: Driver Jim Blake must have thought he was simply enforcing regulations when he ordered four black passengers on his bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to give up their seats for a white man. Instead, Blake’s action on the afternoon of 1 December provoked the Montgomery bus boycott, a milestone in the American civil rights movement.

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Papal Prejudice

Pius XII, painted by Peter McIntyre

1944: In a brief dispatch to London on 26 January, the British minister to the Vatican, Sir D’Arcy Osborne, reported a conversation he had had earlier in the day with Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Pope Pius XII’s secretary of state. Maglione had expressed the pope’s desire that “no Allied coloured troops would be among the small number that might be garrisoned at Rome after the occupation.” Not that the Holy See drew the colour line, the cardinal had hastened to explain, but “it was hoped that it would be found possible to meet this request.”

Source: The Historian, Winter 2002

Colour Prejudice

1973: In extreme cases, Cushing’s syndrome, caused by hyperactive adrenal glands, can be treated by removal of the glands. Surgery is seldom performed, however, since removal of the glands may in turn cause Nelson’s syndrome, a disorder characterised by darkening of the skin.

When Rita Hoefling, a white woman from Cape Town, began to suffer from Nelson’s syndrome, she became the hapless victim of South Africa’s apartheid system. She was shunned by the white community and even by her own family. After her father died, her mother refused to allow her to attend the funeral: “I do not want to be embarrassed by your black body at Daddy’s grave.”

Source: Armand Marie Leroi, Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body (2003), pp. 263–5

Maize Monopoly

1942: In European colonies, white settlers used their political clout to reshape economies for their own benefit. Discrimination was thinly disguised. Kenya’s chief native commissioner described the colony’s monopoly on the marketing of maize, introduced in 1942, as “the most barefaced and thorough-going attempt at exploitation the people of Africa have ever known since Joseph cornered all the corn in Egypt”.

Source: Paul Mosley, The Settler Economies: Studies in the Economic History of Kenya and Southern Rhodesia 1900–1963 (1983), p. 100

“Don’t Speck Nothing”

1934: Charles Johnson’s Shadow of the Plantation laid bare the poverty of black people in rural Alabama. Seventy years after the abolition of slavery, many still lived in ramshackle cabins (“Do it leak in here? No, it don’t leak in here, it jest rains in here and leak outdoors”), many endured ill-health (“All my chillen is fond of having fevers”) and many despaired of anything better (“Ain’t make nothing, don’t speck nothing no more till I die”).

Source: Charles S. Johnson, Shadow of the Plantation (1934), pp. 99, 126, 194

“Southern Trees Bear A Strange Fruit”

1930: Photographer Lawrence Beitler was in Marion, Indiana, on the night of 7 August, when a mob of whites lynched two black men, Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp. Beitler made a tidy sum from selling souvenir photos of the spectacle at 50 cents each. It was probably one of these keepsakes that provoked Lewis Allan’s searing condemnation:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Source: Dora Apel and Shawn Michelle Smith, Lynching Photographs (2007), pp. 11–25; David Margolick, Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights (2000), pp. 15, 33–7

Latecomers Miss Out On Lynching

1934: On 27 October, a racist crowd in the rural northwestern corner of Florida lynched Claude Neal, a black farmhand, for the rape and murder of a white neighbour, Lola Cannidy. Neal was snatched from a small-town jail, and after the niceties of mob justice and family revenge had been observed, his corpse was hanged from a tree outside Jackson County courthouse. Late arrivals for the lynching, disappointed to find that the body had been taken down, demanded that the sheriff replace it.

Source: James R. McGovern, Anatomy of a Lynching: The Killing of Claude Neal (1982), chaps. 3 and 4