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DEEDS NOT WORDS: AMERICAN SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENTS AND WORLD WAR I

  • Jennifer D. Keene (a1)
Abstract

This essay investigates how the repressive wartime political and social environment in World War I encouraged three key American social justice movements to devise new tactics and strategies to advance their respective causes. For the African American civil rights, female suffrage, and civil liberties movements, the First World War unintentionally provided fresh opportunities for movement building, a process that included recruiting members, refining ideological messaging, devising innovative media strategies, negotiating with the government, and participating in nonviolent street demonstrations. World War I thus represented an important moment in the histories of all three movements. The constructive, rather than destructive, impact of the war on social justice movements proved significant in the short term (for the suffragist movement) and the long term (for the civil rights and civil liberties movements). Ultimately, considering these three movements collectively offers new insights into American war culture and the history of social movements.

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NOTES

1 Capozzola, Christopher, Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008) examines this wartime dynamic.

2 Kornweibel, Theodore Jr., “Investigate Everything”: Federal Efforts to Ensure Black Loyalty During World War I (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002).

3 Shera Gross, “Deadly 1917 Riot Mostly Forgotten,” Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1992, http://articles.latimes.com/1992-07-12/news/mn-4125_1_east-st-louis-riot. Rudwick, Elliott M., July 2, 1917 (Carbondale: University of Illinois Press, 1964); and Lumpkins, Charles L., American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2008) disagree over whether economic competition from recently arrived migrants or political activism spurred white supremacists to attack African American residents so viciously.

4 Memorandum for the President, April 14, 1917, reel 210, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (hereafter Wilson Papers, LOC).

5 “Crowd Destroys Suffrage Banner at White House,” New York Times, June 21, 1917, 1, 2.

6 John C. Theurer to Joseph P. Tumulty, undated, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

7 Roger Baldwin, “Confidential Bulletin on the Conscientious Objector,” Jan. 16, 1918, discussed in Lon Strauss, “A Paranoid State: The American Public, Military Surveillance and the Espionage Act of 1917” (PhD diss., University of Kansas, 2012), 117–22.

8 Rev. Chase D. Martin and Rev. Hutchins C. Bishop, “To the People of African Descent,” July 24, 1917, Series 1-C, folder 334, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC (hereafter NAACP Papers, LOC).

9 “Negroes in Silent Protest Parade,” The New York Call, July 29, 1917, 1, 4. Clipping in Series 1-C, folder 432, NAACP Papers, LOC.

10 “A Parade of Protest,” Washington Bee, Aug. 11, 1917, Series 1-C, folder 334, NAACP Papers, LOC. Coverage of the parade included “The Protest Parade,” Chicago Defender, Aug. 11, 1917, 4; “5,000 March in Silent Parade,” The Afro-American (Baltimore), Aug. 4, 1917, 1; “Carry Protest to the White House,” New Journal and Guide (Norfolk), Aug. 11, 1917, 1; “Negroes in Protest March in Fifth Ave.,” New York Times, July 29, 1917, 12.

11 James W. Johnson to Branch Secretaries, Aug. 9, 1917, Series 1-C, folder 334, NAACP Papers, LOC.

12 Lester A. Walton, “Nearly Ten Thousand Take Part in Big Silent Protest Parade Down Fifth Avenue,” The New York Age, Aug. 2, 1917. Clipping in Series 1-C, folder 432, NAACP Papers, LOC.

13 “The Protest Parade,” editorial, The Chicago Defender, Aug. 11, 1917, 4.

14 “What the Parade Showed,” editorial, The New York Age, Aug. 2, 1917, Clipping in Series 1-C, folder 432, NAACP Papers, LOC.

15 Mary B. Talbert et al. to Wilson, July 5, 1917, and L. C. Dyer to Wilson, July 26, 1917. Both in Executive Office files, reel 230, Wilson Papers, LOC.

16 Wilson met privately a few weeks later with three committee members for an off-the-record conversation. “President Wilson ‘Speaks Out’—Softly,” The New York Amsterdam News, undated. Clipping in Series 1-C, folder 432, NAACP Papers, LOC.

17 The records of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate Conditions in Missouri and Illinois Interfering with Interstate Commerce Between These States are available on microfilm, The East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917, ed. Rudwick, Elliott M. (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1985).

18 Manfred Berg argues that once local sheriffs began cracking down on lynch mobs in the 1920s and 1930s, death sentences, or “legalized lynching,” became the preferred method for maintaining white supremacy. Popular Justice: A History of Lynching in America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011), 147–64.

19 Schneider, Mark Robert, “We Return Fighting,” The Civil Rights Movement in the Jazz Age (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002), chap. 12. Barnes, Harper, Never Been a Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Walker & Co., 2008), 187–92.

20 Lynda G. Dodd, “Parades, Pickets, and Prison: Alice Paul and the Virtues of Unruly Constitutional Citizenship,” The Journal of Law & Politics (Fall 2008): 5–6.

21 Alice Paul, Conversations with Alice Paul, interview conducted by Amelia R. Frye, 1972–1973, Suffragist Oral History Project, University of California at Berkeley (1976), 214, 216. https://archive.org/stream/conversationsalice00paulrich/conversationsalice00paulrich_djvu.txt.

22 Frances C. VanGasken to Wilson, Nov. 22, 1917; Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

23 “Pickets Not Daunted,” The Evening Sun (Baltimore), July 20, 1917; and Representative C. A. Lindbergh (R-MN) to Wilson, Aug. 27, 1917; Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

24 For examples, see letters from Gilson Gardner to Wilson, Sept. 25, 1917; and the Just Government League of Maryland, Nov. 7, 1917; Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

25 Brownlow, Louis, A Passion for Anonymity: The Autobiography of Louis Brownlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 7879.

26 Paul quoted in Gwynn Gardiner, District Commissioner, report to Wilson, Nov. 9, 1917; Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

27 Lucy Burns circular letter, Nov. 9, 1917; Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

28 John R. Haynes, chairman, Committee on Education and Relief, State Council for Defense of California, to Wilson, Nov. 13, 1917; Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

29 Gardiner, District of Columbia Commissioner of Police, report to Wilson, Nov, 9, 1917.

30 Stevens, Doris, Jailed for Freedom: The Story of the Militant American Suffragist Movement (New York: Schocken Books, 1976 [1920]), 220–28.

31 Extracts from John D. Barry, “A Dramatic Celebration,” The Milwaukee Leader, Dec. 18, 1917; and Victor L. Berger, “Effective Picketing,” The Milwaukee Leader, Dec.18, 1917; Open Letter to Miss Alice Paul, National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, Jan. 25, 1918. All in Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

32 Dodd, “Parades, Pickets, and Prison,” 25. See also Graham, Sally Hunter, “Woodrow Wilson, Alice Paul, and the Woman's Suffrage Movement,” Political Science Quarterly 98:4 (Winter 1983–84): 665–79.

33 Adams, Katherine H. and Keene, Michael L., Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008), chap. 9.

34 Roger N. Baldwin, “The Individual and the State: The Problem as Presented by the Sentencing of Roger N. Baldwin, November 1918,” http://digital.library.pitt.edu/u/ulsmanuscripts/pdf/31735066245865.pdf, quotes from intro, 6. Kazin, Michael, War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914–1918 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017), 253–56.

35 Baldwin to Frederick Keppel, Third Assistant Secretary of War, June 2, 1917. Baldwin to Secretary of War Newton Baker, June 15, 1917, reel 2/vol. 15/ p. 4, ACLU Papers.

36 Baldwin to Gilsen Gardner, Nov. 1, 1917, reel 3/vol. 18/83L, American Civil Liberties Union Records, Subgroup 1, The Roger Baldwin Years, 1917–1950, Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University (hereafter ACLU Papers).

37 Baldwin to Nicholas Biddle, of the Military Intelligence Section, Mar. 6, 1918, reel 2/vol. 15/p. 120, ACLU Papers.

38 Keppel to Baldwin, May 19, 1918, reel 2/vol. 15/p. 115, ACLU Papers. Cottrell, Robert C., “Roger Nash Baldwin, the National Civil Liberties Bureau, and Military Intelligence During World War I,” The Historian 60 (Fall 1997): 87106.

39 Strauss, “A Paranoid State,” 165.

40 Graham, Sally Hunter, Woman Suffrage and the New Democracy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), 9598.

41 Carrie Chapman Catt to Alice Paul, May 24, 1917; and Mrs. Ellis Meridith to Joseph P. Tumulty, secretary to the president, June 28, 1917. Both in Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

42 “President Wilson Receives Suffrage Leaders at White House,” Nov. 13, 1917. Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

43 Executive Council note to President and Government, Woman's Journal, Mar. 3, 1917, 49.

44 Catt to Wilson, May 7, 1917. Executive Office files, reel 210, Wilson Papers, LOC.

45 Jensen, Kimberly, “Women, Citizenship, and Civic Sacrifice: Engendering Patriotism in the First World War,” 141, in Bonds of Affection: Americans Define Their Patriotism, ed. Bodnar, John (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 139–59.

46 For specific examples of these activities, see Graham, Woman Suffrage and the New Democracy, 101–5. Enstam, Elizabeth York, “The Dallas Equal Suffrage Association, Political Style, and Popular Culture: Grassroots Strategies of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1913–1919,” The Journal of Southern History 68:4 (2008): 817–48.

47 Keene, Jennifer D., “Protest and Disability: A New Look at African American Soldiers During the First World War” in Warfare and Belligerence: Perspectives in First World War Studies, ed. Purseigle, Pierre (London: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005), 215–42.

48 Scott, Emmett J., Scott's Official History of the American Negro in the World War (Chicago: Homewood Press, 1919), 458–59.

49 Keene, Jennifer D., “A ‘Brutalizing’ War? The USA after the First World War,” Journal of Contemporary History 50:1 (2015): 9294. Lentz-Smith, Adrienne, Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 169205; Schneider, “We Return Fighting,” 92–97.

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