Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Women's Suffrage

100 Years ago, women couldn't vote                        [National Archives]

As we celebrate the anniversary of the Women's Suffrage March of 1913 [the beginning of Woodrow Wilson's first term] -- in conjunction with the anniversary of Martin Luther King's Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963, it's worthwhile to review the history of that era surrounding the Women's Suffrage Movement -- which played a major role in Martin Luther King's strategy some 50 years later.

Regarding the Suffragette Movement, Wilson, and Race issues:
1) Black Women were requested to march in the last ranks of the Suffragette parade 
2) President Woodrow Wilson [D] was
     a) Vehemently against women's suffrage and tossed their leaders into Lorton federal prison
     b) "Deeply racist in his thoughts and politics" [PBS]

PBS produced a program titled Wilson - A Portrait: Women's Suffrage a while back; this was their report on Wilson's gentlemanly treatment of the women:

Parody of Suffragettes in prison        [National Archives]
1) "In late June 1917, six women were arrested. Eleven more were detained on July 4. Ten days later, a third group was taken into custody. All the women were charged with 'obstructing traffic'."

2) "The protesters were sentenced to 60 days in the workhouse. There, they suffered beatings, forced feeding, and unsanitary conditions. But the pickets - and the arrests - continued."

3) "In August, scuffles broke out right in front of the White House gates. For three days suffragettes were dragged, punched and choked by angry crowds. City police stood by, refusing to intervene."

It would seem the greatest enemy of both Blacks and Women in that time frame was Woodrow Wilson - a Democrat!

Wilson also
1) Engaged us in World War I,
2) Signed off on the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank
3) Signed off on the Sedition Act and the Espionage Act [suspending the Constitution and making it a crime to criticize the government or government officials]
4) Introduced the Income Tax
5) Set the stage for WW2 when he betrayed the defeated Germans with the brutal terms of the Treaty of Versailles -- which had promised "...an equitable peace."  The post-war reparations demands destroyed the economy of Germany and created the environment in which Hitler was welcomed by desperate Germans as a savior with his message of "Forward! Hope, and Change!"

Wilson's favorite group
But, Wilson is little known for his racist policies to destroy the socio-economic progress of Blacks
1)  He supported the Ku Klux Klan [he declared it was "understandable"]
2)  As President of Princeton, he barred Blacks from attending
3)  As Governor of NJ, he barred Blacks from working for the state
4)  As President, he supported segregation in the federal government, stating:
.....a) "Segregation is not humiliating but a benefit" and,
.....b)  It is "... distinctly to the advantage of the colored people themselves"

He solicited the Black vote through the support of W.E.B. DuBois, to whom he promised his support.  Once elected, he advised he had
"...made no promises in particular to Negroes, except to do them justice."

[From:  Woodrow Wilson: American Prophet (1958)]

As a footnote, the racism of President Wilson was reversed by Wilson's successors, 

Warren G Harding

1)  President Harding [R]:
.....a) Advocated Civil Rights and political, economic and educational equality for Blacks
.....b) Appointed Blacks to federal positions
.....c) Advocated international commission to improve race relations between Whites and Blacks
.....d) Supported the Dyer "Anti-Lynching" Bill [Defeated by Senate Democrat filibuster]

Calvin Coolidge

2)  President Coolidge [R]:
......a) Urged the creation of the "Negro Industrial Commission" to promote mutual understanding
......b) Hosted James W Johnson, the first Black to head the NAACP, at the White House
......c) Openly confronted and opposed the KKK
......d) Publicly endorsed and supported the first Black Congressional nominee in NYC:
......e) Quoted Teddy Roosevelt's words in support of racial equality

"I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope -- the door of opportunity --
 is to be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely on the grounds of race or color"

Herbert Hoover

3)  President Hoover [R]:
.....a) Desegregated the Department of Commerce
.....b) Invited Robert Moton of the Tuskegee Institute to public ceremonies at the White House
.....c) Invited to White House Tea the wife of  Black Congressman Oscar de Priest of Chicago
----d) Commuted the death sentence of a Black man convicted of murdering a White woman
.....e)  Sharply increased appropriations for Howard University
.....f)  Publicly condemned lynchings

Although Republican Presidents provided positive support for both Women's Suffrage and for the advancement of Blacks, both Women and Blacks have traditionally leaned towards the Democrats at the voting booth.