Help Us to Help (1918)

Help Us to Help (1918)

From the petition of thirty-one Negro editors unanimously adopted at their meeting in Washington:

WE American Negroes wish to affirm, first of all, our unalterable belief that the defeat of the German government and what it today represents is of paramount importance to the welfare of the world in general and to our people in particular.

We deem it hardly necessary, in view of the untarnished record of Negro Americans, to reaffirm our loyalty to Our Country and our readiness to make every sacrifice to win this war. We wish to use our every endeavor to keep all of these 12,000,000 people at the highest pitch, not simply of passive loyalty, but of active, enthusiastic and self-sacrificing participation in the war.

We are not unmindful of the recognition of our American citizenship in the draft, of the appointment of colored officers, of the designation of colored advisors to the Government departments and of other indications of a broadened public opinion; nevertheless, we believe today that justifiable grievances of the colored people are producing not disloyalty, but an amount of unrest and bitterness which even the best efforts of their leaders may not be always able to guide, unless they can have the active and sympathetic cooperation of the National and State governments. German propaganda among us is powerless, but the apparent indifference of our own Government may be dangerous.

The American Negro does not expect to have the whole Negro problem settled immediately; he is not seeking to hold-up a striving country and a distracted world by pushing irrelevant personal grievances as a price of loyalty; he is not disposed to catalogue, in this tremendous crisis, all his complaints and disabilities; he is more than willing to do his full share in helping to win the war for democracy and he expects his full share of the fruits thereof; — but he is today compelled to ask for that minimum of consideration which will enable him to be an efficient fighter for victory, namely:

  1. Better conditions of public travel.

  2. The acceptance of help where help is needed regardless of the color of the helper.

  3. The immediate suppression of lynching.

All these things are matters, not simply of justice, but of National and group efficiency; they are actions designed to still the natural unrest and apprehension among one-eighth of our citizens so as to enable them wholeheartedly and unselfishly to throw their every ounce of effort into this mighty and righteous war.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1918. “Help Us to Help.” The Crisis. 16(4):163–164.