Hail Columbia


W.E.B. Du Bois


April 1, 1913

Hail Columbia, Happy Land! Again the glorious traditions of Anglo-Saxon manhood have been upheld! Again the chivalry of American white men has been magnificently vindicated. Down on your knees, black men, and hear the tale with awestruck faces: Learn from the Superior Race. We do not trust our own faltering pen and purblind sight to describe the reception of the suffragists at the capital of the land. We quote from the Southern reporters of the Northern press:

Five thousand women, marching in the woman-suffrage pageant yesterday, practically fought their way foot by foot up Pennsylvania Avenue, through a surging mass of humanity that completely defied the Washington police, swamped the marchers, and broke their procession into little companies. The women, trudging stoutly along under great difficulties, were able to complete their march only when troops of cavalry from Fort Myer were rushed into Washington to take charge of Pennsylvania Avenue. No inauguration has ever produced such scenes, which in many instances amounted to little less than riots.
More than 100 persons, young and old, of both sexes, were crushed and trampled in the uncontrollable crowd in Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday, while two ambulances of the Emergency Hospital came and went constantly for six hours, always impeded and at times actually opposed, so that doctor and driver literally had to fight their way to give succor to the injured.
Hoodlums, many of them in uniform, leaned forward till their cigarettes almost touched the women’s faces while blowing smoke in their eyes, and the police said not a word, not even when every kind of insult was hurled.
To the white-haired women the men shouted continuously: ‘Granny! granny! We came to see chickens, not hens! Go home and sit in the corner!’ To the younger women they yelled: ‘Say, what you going to do to-night? Can’t we make a date?’ and the police only smiled. The rowdies jumped on the running boards of the automobiles and snatched the flags from the elderly women, and they attempted to pull the girls from the floats.

Wasn’t it glorious? Does it not make you burn with shame to be a mere black man when such mighty deeds are done by the Leaders of Civilization? Does it not make you “ashamed of your race?” Does is not make you “want to be white?”

And do you know (we are almost ashamed to say it) the Negro again lost a brilliant opportunity to rise in his “imitative” way. Ida Husted Harper says:

We made the closest observation along the entire line and not in one instance did we hear a colored man make a remark, although there were thousands of them.

Another white woman writes:

I wish to speak a word in favor of the colored people during the suffrage parade. Not one of them was boisterous or rude as with great, difficulty we passed along the unprotected avenue. The difference between them and those insolent, bold white men was remarkable. They were quiet and respectable and earnest, and seemed sorry for the indignities which were incessantly heaped upon us. There were few policemen to protect us as we made our first parade in Washington, and the dignified silence of the colored people and the sympathy in their faces was a great contrast to those who should have known better. I thank them in the name of all the women for their kindness.

Now look at that! Good Lord! has the Negro no sense? Can he grasp no opportunity?

But let him not think to gain by any such tactics. The South sees his game and is busy promoting bills to prevent his marrying any wild-eyed suffragette who may be attracted by his pusillanimous decency. Already the Ohio legislature has been flooded by forged petitions from a “Negro advancement society of New York” to push the intermarriage bill!

No, sir! White men are on the firing line, and if they don’t want white women for wives they will at least keep them for prostitutes. Beat them back, keep them down; flatter them, call them “visions of loveliness” and tell them that the place for woman is in the home, even if she hasn’t got a home. If she is homely or poor or made the mistake of being born with brains, and begins to protest at the doll’s house or the bawdy house, kick her and beat her and insult her until in terror she slinks back to her kennel or walks the midnight streets. Don’t give in; don’t give her power; don’t give her a vote whatever you do. Keep the price of women down; make them weak and cheap.

Shall the time ever dawn in this Land of the Brave when a free white American citizen may not buy as many women as his purse permits? Perish the thought and Hail Columbia, Happy Land!


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1913. “Hail Columbia.” The Crisis 5 (6): 289–90. https://www.dareyoufight.org/Volumes/05/06/hail_columbia.html.