Friday, July 21, 2006

Websites of the Day - Rotten History

Are you one of those people who thinks things now are as bad as they've ever been? If you're talking about the Middle-East you're probably right. However, in the US, I don't know if it's ever been as bad as it was between 1917 and 1920, although right after that, if possible they just seemed to get worse (in a couple of weeks, I'll be posting Sacco-Vanzetti sites).

After the US entered the wildly unpopular "Great War" to end all war in 1917, the US govt. put a propaganda apparatus in motion that combined old-fashioned stump-speaking "four minute men" and army clubs with the modern media techniques of public relations.
Among the many Americans who didn't see entering WWI as in the interests of the US' people, were many labor activists, who not only opposed the war, but were frustrated with super-controlled wart-time working conditions and post-war wage cuts. They engaged in a large number of militant strikes that in some cases proclaimed solidarity with the recent revolution in Russia.
The result? A crackdown on anti-war activism and labor organizing that included not only imprisonment and deportations based on nothing but dissent, but also vigilante attacks on anyone either pro-labor or against the war. IWW activists, Frank Little and Wesley Everest were lynched by mobs in Montana and Washington State, their mutilated bodies left hanging as warnings to other labor organizers in the region. But you could be lynched for being less radical. In 1918, German American Robert Prager was lynched in Illinois for saying something negative about the president.
If the "mainstream" didn't accept labor action, they were even less amenable to African-American rights-struggles. As a result of whites leaving industrial jobs to fight in the war, African-Americans moved North in large numbers, as European immigration virtually halted. Blacks joined the military to "fight for democracy," and trained for war in segregated southern camps, or returned from the war with freshly showing self-respect only to meet vicious reprisals from whites. During and after World War One, not only were individual blacks lynched for the usual offences (sauciness, joining a union) but whites went on rampages attacking Black neighborhoods in several different cities, in some cases burning whole communities to the ground. In East St. Louis 1917, Chicago, Elaine, Arkansas and at least 18 other towns and cities in 1919, Tulsa in 1921, and Rosewood, Florida in 1922. In one famous case, the men of the 24th regiment, the famous "buffalo soldiers" who were stationed in Houston 1917, fought Houston's white police because of a threatened attack following an attempt by one of the soldiers to thwart the unjust arrest of a black woman.
To give you an idea of just HOW simultaneous all these events were, the NAACP wrote to the New Republic magazine looking for "John Reid" (sic) or some other "young man" to go down to Houston and get the facts on what had happened there. Unfortunately, he couldn't go, because Reed had just gone to Russia (where he would live through the Bolshevik Revolution and write Ten Days that Shook the World.)
Of course, at that time, we also had John Reed, and the Russian revolution, not to mention W.E.B. DuBois, and Marcus Garvey to be excited about. At the moment, I'm not doing too well coming up with the hopeful trends or individuals on the same scale from today's world. Anyone? Anyone?

1 comment:

rqzwbk said...

I beseech the people of America step out of your comfort zones; get out of those easy chairs. Pour out into the streets and demand an end to this war. Many of us are out here in the frontlines are waiting, wondering "Where is America?" Our children are dying, again

Georgia Stillwell