Hey, Jeff Sessions: Remember When 6,000 White Americans Went on Strike to Keep 8 Black People From Getting Promoted?

By: Jason Johnson theroot.com

A soldier stands guard with an automatic rifle at the carbarn at 49th Street and Woodland Avenue in Philadelphia on Aug. 6, 1944. Troops were stationed on all transit lines today as service was resumed on many lines. (AP Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the past month, the Trump administration has been rolling out “theme weeks” as if America were one big dysfunctional high school and the homecoming game will fix everything.

In July there was Made in America Week to highlight business; American Heroes Week highlighted the military; and to kick off August, the administration launched “White Pride” Week to highlight the plight of the oppressed white American male….

This overtly hostile aggression from the federal government against black education, employment and lives is the perfect run-up to today’s critical racial anniversary.

On Monday, Aug. 7, 1944, the Philadelphia transit strike—one of the most costly, violent and important battles for African-American rights in the last century—ended. The story of black struggle against brutal, self-destructive white hatred is a perfect reminder of just how far back in history the Trump administration wants to take us.

During World War II, Philadelphia was one of the most important supply cities for the Allied efforts….

All of this was made possible by the Philadelphia Transit Co.’s 11,000 employees, who managed trains, trollies and buses for almost 600,000 commuters in the City of Brotherly Love everyday….

In May 1943, however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order No. 9346, which empowered the Fair Employment and Practices Commission to force companies with federal contracts to train, hire and promote African-Americans equally.

As the law began to trickle down to various cities across the country, the PTC was told by the federal government that it would have to start hiring and promoting black workers…

The company’s solution was to promote eight black men to bus and trolley drivers….

In January 1944, over 1,700 white employees signed a petition stating, “We, the white employees of the Philadelphia Transit Corporation, refuse to work with Negroes as motormen, operators, and station trainmen.”

Pup tents house troops in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park after their arrival Aug. 5, 1944, to act in the city’s critical transportation strike. Later in the day, the strike leaders requested that all strikers return to their jobs in compliance with an Army ultimatum. (AP Images)

When, after months of negotiations and insistence by the NAACP, the black workers were slated to begin training as drivers that August, white workers went on strike Tuesday, Aug. 1, 1944.

Despite being in violation of their union contract, as well as of federal law, the four white ringleaders of the strike said that nobody was getting back to work until the eight black rail workers were demoted.

James McMenamin, the leader of the strike,…was fired and charged with violating federal labor laws but got off a year later when a jury found the evidence against him “inconclusive.”

There is a context to the pettiness of this strike that can’t be overlooked in our current political environment. The United States was in the midst of a war against Nazis, and transit employees were crucial to keeping troops equipped for that war, but keeping black men from getting promoted was more important than fighting the Nazi threat.

Millions of pounds of munitions were lost that week, and the man hours lost amounted to the loss of five naval destroyers….

It is also estimated that thousands of American lives may have been lost in the European theater of World War II because of the strike. But that didn’t matter, because stopping a few black guys was more important to a large swath of working-class white America.

It’s important to remember that while all of this occurred 73 years ago, with a stroke of a pen, a tweet and a few white nationalists at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Trump administration wants to return America to those days of white grievance, violence and discrimination, no matter what legitimate challenges our nation faces.

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Find out more here about this 100-year period of discrimination, segregation, and anti-black violence (known as the “Jim Crow Era” and “The Nadir of Race Relations”).

‘You Talk White:’ Being Black and Articulate

By Keith Powell, The Huffington Post

 

2015-10-13-1444736138-4333228-DPP_0022-thumbIn my early 20s, before I was cast on 30 Rock and while I was still trying to find my way as an actor, I attempted a very odd social experiment:

I would often walk into audition rooms using an English accent. I’d introduce myself and engage in light pre-audition conversations with a standard upper-class British dialect. I would then launch into the scene with my regular speaking voice, and after the scene was over, I’d return to the British for my salutations.

The truth of the matter was this: I did it because I was frustrated. Being smart, black, young and American had become a liability. People seemed to think I was some kind of walking oxymoron. I was often asked to be more “urban,” and it never seemed like the right time or place to launch into a diatribe about how I was born in West Philadelphia and I already sound like a real urban person. Pretending to be British just made life easier.

In fairness, black British actors are generally rather talented. And stylish. And handsome. So so handsome. So who WOULDN’T want to be like them?

But it seemed to me at the time that some people would be more comfortable hiring a foreigner – someone far removed from our current racial and political quagmire – than hiring someone who lived next door but had an entirely different background.

I think it’s because we are uncomfortable with what we don’t understand. And when we get uncomfortable, weird things start to happen…

All of my black friends have been told at some point or another during their lifetime that they “talk white.” I’ve been told it so many times, I’ve lost count. In some perverse way, though, I believe it’s said as a way to come to an understanding: the person who says it doesn’t know many different types of black people. Black people are generally seen as uneducated thugs. I do not appear to be an uneducated thug. Therefore, I must talk white…

 

Read the full article here.

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