Forward (1919)

Forward (1919)

We black folk easily drift into intellectual provincialism. We know our problem and tend to radical thought in its solution, but do we strive to know the problems of other forward forging groups whose difficulties are inevitably intertwined with ours?

Here, for instance, is the question of the ownership of public utilities—the railroads, the telegraph and telephone and the street cars—utilities used largely, if not primarily, by the working class, and businesses which have yielded immense fortunes to private owners in the past.

What do we think of these questions—are we studying them? Are we intelligent on the facts? Do we know that the United States is almost the only civilized country that does not own its railroads and wires, and that the municipal ownership of street transportation is widespread?

Or take the battle of North Dakota under the Non-Partisan League; are we swallowing easily the gossip of a prejudiced press,or do we realize that these western farmers are resolutely grappling with the mightiest problem of present-day life—how to prevent the necessities of the poor from being simply the opportunity of predatory wealth to amass dangerous fortunes? North Dakota is putting her government into the business of banking and publishing, running grain elevators and stockyards, packing-houses and flour mills and overseeing mines. Will she fail? Perhaps, but her efforts are worth watching, and failure never yet proved wrong right.

Beyond these questions lie the Suffering Groups—Ireland, India, Russia.

From long tradition—since the draft riots of the Civil War—Negroes have had no sympathy with the Irish. But they must not rest in this unreason. Let every colored man read this month a history of Ireland. If he does not rise from it bitter with English cruelty and hypocrisy, he is callous indeed.

The cry of oppressed India sounds right in our own land in the persistent attempts of England to secure the transportation of Hindus accused of the treason of trying to make their country free.

And, finally, the one new Idea of the World War—the idea which may well stand in future years as the one thing that made the slaughter worth while—is an Idea which we are like to fail to know because it is today hidden under the maledictions hurled at Bolshevism.

It is not the murder, the anarchy, the hate, which for years under Czar and Revolution have drenched this weary land, but it is the vision of great dreamers that only those who work shall vote and rule.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1919. “Forward.” The Crisis. 18(5):234–235.