Mary Church Terrell

In Defense of the Republican Ticket - 1932

Mary Church Terrell
January 01, 1932
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[In Defense of the Republican Ticket, 1932]

One of these complaints has been the nomination of Judge John J. Parker as candidate for associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Members of our group, willing to forget the seventy years conflict which we as a people have had with the Democratic Party, ready to pass for naught the slurs, the insults, the myriad types of prejudice heaped on us by our ancient enemy, urge you to vote against the Republican administration because of the Parker issue. Yet what are the true facts of this nomination. Judge Parker was nominated by the President before the question of his possible race bias was raised from any source. He was nominated on the recommendation of Senators from my State. They were actuated in their recommendations by a desire to have on our highest judicial tribunal a man from the border states, who would take a fair attitude towards the coal industry of that section. And in Judge Parker they found such a man.

The fact is that the appointment of Judge Parker would have had a beneficial effect on the 25,000 Negro miners in West Virginia, the 17,000 in Oklahoma, the 8,000 in Kentucky, whose bread and butter was vitally tied up with the proper protection of the coal industry. When West Virgina Senators learned of the opposition on the part of colored people to Judge Parker, they immediately called a conference of colored leaders of the State and candidly explained why they had made the recommendation. It was then that these leaders fully aware of the situation concluded that it would not be just to ask them to withdraw their recommendation. They were buttressed in this conviction by knowledge of the fact that Judge Parker himself had shown himself a true guardian of constitutional rights of all citizens when in the case of Richmond vs. Deans he had decided against a West Virginia State law attempting to force Negroes to live in segregated ghettoes.

Think what you may of Judge Parker, what can you honestly think of the Democratic Party when it tries to make political capital of this issue. Democratic Senators voted for the confirmation. The issue of race prejudice raised by his nomination, had its home in the heart of the Democratic South. If the Republican administration is to be punished for an act which incidently never reached fruition, shall the Democratic Party be canonized for its 70 year fight against Negro equal rights both in Federal and State Governments?

Another hue and cry has been raised by our opponents. It is the so-called segregation of Gold Star Mothers. The mothers of those gallant black soldiers who lost their lives for this nation in the great world conflict, themselves will bear testimony that they were accorded every courtesy. They were not send over in cattle ships. They were given the same accomodations that while mothers received. They were conducted over the battlefields and national cemeteries by the highest ranking Negro officer in the army, Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Davis. Certainly Negro mothers could ask no better escort than that gallant Negro soldier, representing to them a living memory of the noble sons whom they had lost.

They were sent over in separate parties, it is true. For the same reason that we have separate schools, and separate churches, and separate theaters. But here again, whatever your criticism and mine of divisions in the classes of our citizenry, it cannot be leveled at the Republican Party. Nor can the Democratic Party, responsible as it is for all manner of segregation, and grossly unfair and unequal segregation at that, hope to win votes by raising this type of false issues.

Democrats of our group shriek to the hill-tops about the recent War Department orders affecting the Negro cavalry and infantry units. An explanation, which they could easily have gotten and which has been freely given to anyone seeking it, settles once and for all the false insinuations which they are making.

In 1926 there was issued an executive order, pursuant to congressional enactments, which authorized the reduction of the standing army to 118,000 men, this number to include a practically new branch of service – An Army Air Corps – with a complement of 13,000 men. This order necessitated the prevention of further enlistments, except re-enlistments, until the surplus number of men in the Army could be absorbed by a process of retirement, death and resignation from the service. For the first four years this new policy was made applicable only to white troops absorptions taking place in the manner above described and in addition by admission of some of the men into the Air Corps. In the fifth year the order was applied to Negro combat units. As a result it was order that 644 surplus men should be absorbed by Negro units. Necessary economy resulted in changing of campaign assignments and of several other technical changes. But essentially the character of these units remained the same. At no time was there any idea of making these units anything but combat units. There were no reductions in rank, and the same technical changes applied to white troops were in like manner applied to the Negro units. And compare if you will this equal treatment of all soldiers, white and black alike, with the proposals of the Democratic candidate, John Nance Garner, who sought to abolish Negro units by repealing the Congressional Acts which created them.

Still another ghost erected by propagandists of the Democratic Party relates to the administration of Mississippi flood relief and employment of Negro labor on Federal construction projects. Now the broad principle of equity is that he who comes into a court of equity must have clean hands. And surely the hands of the Democratic party are not clean. Yet they seek to place on the Republican Administration all the burdens for prejudice and injustice in the Democratic South.

A candidate seeking reelection is chargeable only with matters coming under his jurisdiction. Justice and common sense require this. Fair-minded men and women use this standard. The construction work at Hoover Dam and Mississippi Flood Relief were let out on contracts by the Federal Government, with the work to be done under Government supervision. When complaints were made that Negroes were being discriminated against at Hoover Dam, the Department of Interior took immediate steps to investigate and correct them. When complaints were made about unfair working conditions on construction work being done on the Mississippi, Secretary Hurley of the War Department promised an immediate investigation. A hearing on this matter has been held recently in Washington, and any abuses found will be corrected. This whole question is not a political one, but is one dealing with administrative routine. No one sought to charge the Democrats for being responsible for peonage which was fostered and nourished at the South, the hotbed of democracy.

With the election of Herbert Hoover to the Presidency, the policy of the Federal Government toward our island possession and foreign governments has been changed. The President has always kept before him the needs of the people at home and abroad in trying to build up a friendly and just sentiment. The Virgin Islands, representing a population of about 26,000 people, have suffered from a curtailment of trade with this country because of prohibition. When the time came to select a Governor for the islands, the President searched the country for a man, who was trained in economics, history, social conditions, and who had a broad sympathetic viewpoint in dealing with the needs of these people. He found such a man in Dr. Pearson. The record Dr. Pearson has made since administering the affairs of the islands, well justified the President’s choice.

Terrell, Mary Church. “In Defense of the Republican Ticket.” Mary Church Terrell Papers. Library of Congress. 1932.