Editorial: Report on ‘Negroes and war’ by OWI is most constructive (2-18-43)

Brooklyn Eagle (February 18, 1943)

Editorial: Report on ‘Negroes and war’ by OWI is most constructive

Few of the publications issued by the government’s Office of War Information as thoroughly justifies the work of that much-debated organization as its recent report on “Negroes and the War,” particularly the introduction written by Chandler Owen, who has gained a place as one of the nation’s most reliable and able Negro publicists. Facts and figures, not mere pious or sentimental theories, are given in a handy, interesting way, to prove what may justly be termed the splendid, bright, and hopeful side of the case for Uncle Sam in regard to this nation’s treatment of one of its largest and in some respects most unfortunately handicapped minorities, the Negroes.

It is a case being at present widely debated with more heat than light; and often on the basis of isolated, but undeniable and tragic instances of harsh treatment, or bigoted racial discrimination, with neglect, or ignorance, of the situation as a whole.

As President Roosevelt said in a press conference after his return from Africa, including his visit to the Negro Republic of Liberia, although European nations have controlled that continent with its teeming millions of colored races, since before Columbus came to America, even today the natives in the vast majority are as illiterate, and live on as primitive a scale, as many centuries ago.

In the United States, on the other hand, the Negroes, in spite of the slavery epoch, and their disabilities and troubles since then, which still persist, have registered a great improvement, on a larger scale, than any people, in any time or place recorded in history – considering the point at which their civilized development began.

Socially, economically, and even politically, though this line, perhaps, is the least successfully traced, Negro progress in the United States has been nothing short of tremendous. In 1890, for example, there were some 12,000 Negro clergymen, but in 1930, 25,000. Teachers, in the same period, rose from 15,000 to 50,000; doctors from 200 to nearly 4,000; lawyers and judges from 400 odd to more than a thousand. Today, hundreds of colleges are exclusively their own, and many large general universities are open to them. In 1916, only 1,700 Negro students were taking college courses. In 1941, 40,000 were enrolled. Now most of these latter youths are in the armed services, or war work.

That the great majority of American Negroes are patriotic, and conscious that the nation’s war against Hitlerism and its racial bigotry is also their own war, cannot seriously be questioned by those who know the truth. Much remains to be done to develop the great work already well started. That necessary work will be aided by the wide diffusion of such constructive facts as are contained in the report of the Office of War Information.