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(caption title) How the Southern Negro is Supporting the Government
Kate M. Herring
Nov. 20, 1918
Call number FCp326 H56h (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Detached from The Outlook, Vol. 120 (Nov. 20, 1918)
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BY KATE M. HERRING
DIRECTOR OF PUBLICITY, NORTH CAROLINA WAR SAVINGS COMMITTEE
WHAT to do with the Negro in the War Savings Campaign was one of the most puzzling questions that confronted the National Committee. The proposition to apportion to each State its allotment of War Savings Certificates on the basis of twenty dollars per capita was earnestly objected to by representatives from the South. They claimed that this method of determining the quotas was inequitable to the South for the reason that a large part of its population consists of Negroes, and that they cannot buy an average of twenty dollars per capita of War Savings Certificates. They urged the Committee to put the apportionment upon some other basis than population. But the Committee was obdurate and held the South to the same basis of apportionment as other sections.
When the National War Savings Committee saw fit not to make the Negro an issue or an exception in the War Savings Campaign, but to consider him an American citizen with responsibilities the same as other citizens, all the States of the South, except South Carolina, proceeded with their campaigns, altogether ignoring race. South Carolina, however, made a reapportionment of her quota, assigning to the Negroes only two dollars per capita and to the white people enough over twenty dollars to make up the balance. North Carolina made no distinction between the races, expecting Negroes to invest twenty dollars per capita in War Savings Certificates the same as white people.
One of the first things to be attempted by the North Carolina War Savings Committee was to plan for the colored people. The State Director asked each of his county chairmen to name the most representative and influential Negro in his county to
be called to a conference to make plans for promoting the War Savings Campaign among the Negroes. As a result of this conference the State was divided into ten districts, in each of which a leading Negro was appointed supervisor of the War Savings activities. In addition to this, separate War Savings headquarters for the colored people, with a capable colored man as executive secretary, were established. This office has been in close touch with and operated under the supervision of State headquarters for the white people.
In North Carolina very much the same educational work has been done for the Negroes as for the whites. The colored War Savings Committee considered that the greatest need of the colored people was to be informed both as to what War Savings securities were and what they as patriotic citizens should do about them. One of the first efforts of the Committee to educate their people in thrift as well as patriotism was to issue the following leaflet:
Our interests are collective, but they are also racial and individual. They are indissolubly wrapped up in the issues of the war. If the United States and her allies win, it will be, in an important sense, our victory, and will herald the dawn of a new day. If the enemy win, it will be, in a vital sense, our loss, and will betoken the approach of another long night of gloom.
You must see this matter from the point of view that your individual, personal attitude and activity MUST and WILL help to win this war, or lose it. YOU CANNOT BE NEUTRAL! You cannot say as Pilate: "I wash my hands of this matter." To assume an attitude of indifference or even of passive sympathy is to give comfort and help to the enemy. "HE THAT IS NOT FOR US IS AGAINST US!"
Your Thrift and War Savings Stamps are the best investment in the world. They are mortgages on the United States of America. They are tangible evidence of your loyalty. They insure the success of our Army.
Our fathers left us a proud heritage of faithfulness, patriotism, and valor, but for the first time in our history we are called upon to help furnish the sinews of war. Shall we be less faithful, patriotic, and valorous? A thousand times, No!
Patriotic meetings of colored people have been held in their schools, churches, and community centers, at which War Savings speeches were made by both white and colored field workers. War Savings Societies have been organized in their day schools, Sunday schools, churches, lodges, and working places the same as among white people. In fact, the first War Savings Society organized in the State was among colored people. This was the Warren Place War Savings Society, at Pendleton, Northampton County, and was composed of the tenants of the Warren plantation. The President and moving spirit of this organization is W. J. Lassiter, a Negro tenant, who subscribed $200 to the War Savings Campaign and who has already bought that amount.
Few white citizens of the State have given more liberally of their time and money than a score or more of loyal colored citizens. Negro educators, ministers, and business men of ability have labored unceasingly and without remuneration to arouse their people to a full sense of their full duty toward the Government's requests and to their responsibilities as American citizens. Prominent among those who have labored most faithfully to carry the gospel of thrift and patriotism to the people of their race, even in the remote corners of the State, are: Dr. R. B. McCrary, a leading business man of his race and Chairman of the Colored War Savings Committee; S. G. Atkins, Principal of the Slater Normal School, Winston-Salem, and Executive Secretary of the Colored War Savings Committee; C. S. Brown, Principal of the Watters Normal School, Winton; T. S. Inborden, Principal of the Bricks School, Enfield; Bishop G. W. Clinton, A. M. E. Church, Charlotte; H. L. McCrory, W. H. Coler, Colonel James H. Young, John Merrick, E. G. Storey, S. H. Vick, and C. M. Epps--men of prominence and ability.
Colored people have considered and accepted the calls that have come to them in the War Savings Campaign as privileges of service and as a direct summons from the Government. The quick and whole-hearted response made by the Negroes of Greene County in the pledge drive of June 23-28 illustrates this fact.
Early one morning in June Ambrose Best was notified that he had been appointed chairman of an adjoining township to raise the War Savings quota of the colored people of the township in pledges. On receiving his summons he left his mule and plow in the field in the hands of his young son, and went afoot over into the township assigned to him. Before sunset he had visited every colored person's home and actually had secured an over-subscription of his allotment.
Jesse Williams was another colored township chairman of Greene County who on June 28 was not found deserting his post. He arranged for a schoolhouse meeting Friday night, and kept his audience until three o'clock in the morning signing War Savings pledges. As a result of his energy and enthusiasm he raised his War Savings quota in pledges three times over.
As a result of all these activities of the colored people in the War Savings Campaign, the records show that they have bought and have pledged to buy War Savings Stamps far more extensively in comparison with their ability than the white people.
From inquiries made of War Savings directors of other Southern States, it appears that their experience with the Negro has been not unlike North Carolina's. Florida reports that the ten counties in that State making the best showing in the War Savings pledge drive in June had from forty to fifty per cent colored population, and that the ten counties making the poorest showing had from thirty to forty per cent colored population. Mississippi reported that the Negroes of that State have given a support to the campaign that in proportion to their means equaled or surpassed that of the white people. Unofficial reports from other Southern States show that the record of the Negro, in the loyal support he has given the War Savings Campaign, has been extremely gratifying. Apparently the misgiving in the beginning lest the Negro would handicap the directors of the Southern States in raising their quotas on a basis of population was unfounded. On the contrary, it would seem that the loyal support of the Negro has more than made up for his poverty.
In justice to the Negro as well as to enthusiastic War Savings workers, particularly pledge canvassers, it can be and should be said that the spirit to coerce the Negro into buying and subscribing for War Savings Stamps has not existed, not even in individual cases, in North Carolina. No threats, scares, or other means of intimidation have been used to make him pledge or buy either in keeping with or beyond his ability. On the other hand, wherever the Negro has been informed as to his duty as a patriotic American citizen, regardless of other calls, he has responded most liberally and cheerfully. It has been a noticeable fact that he responded most readily to the patriotic appeal. The plea that Uncle Sam needed him to uphold his hands while he delivered the blow that would crush the Hun was argument enough for him. The plea that War Savings Stamps are a good investment, that they bear four per cent compound interest and are non-taxable, meant not half so much to the average Negro as the fact that Uncle Sam and the boys at the front needed him and his money to drive back the Germans across the Rhine and to make the world safe for women and children.
But the real explanation of the Negro's co-operation and success in the War Savings Campaign in North Carolina lies in the fact that he has been recognized as an American citizen and given responsibilities the same as white men. Moreover, he has been made to realize the opportunities that have come to him through this call of the Government, and, like the colored soldier at the front, he has responded in a spirit of service and sacrifice that marks him a worthy patriot.