W.E.B. Du Bois


January 1, 1923

The Republicans did not try to pass the Dyer Bill. Local political pressure and team work engineered by the N.A.A.C.P., and the extraordinary thoughtful and determined lobbying by James Weldon Johnson forced the bill further than any American, black or white, dreamed. Politicians were surprised when the Bill emerged from the House Committee, and when it passed the House, they were astonished; but they said: “Well it is over now and the ‘buck’ goes to the Senate.” The Senate intended burying it in committee. But the seat of Chairman Knute Nelson became so hot that despite long squirming and excusing, he had to let it be reported. Then the approaching election forced it on the calendar. And finally there was nothing to stop the Bill from becoming a law, but the Southern Democrats and the Southerners picked the Republicans’ chestnuts out of the fire, to the great joy of Lodge, Curtis, Watson, and their kind. The Republicans never intended to pass the Dyer Bill, unless they could do so without effort, without a fight, and without appearing publicly to defend the rights of the Negro race.


First of all, conceive the power of the black man in America when he learns the mere rudiments of using it.

We made a great political party, with a few men who were sincerely our friends, but with a majority who were ashamed of us, who sought to ignore us or were too cowardly to defend us—we forced them up to the very threshhold of doing our will and they rescued themselves only by condoning the collapse of popular government. What a sight for Gods and men!


Any persons, colored and white, are bewailing the “loss” which Negroes have sustained in the defeat of the Dyer Bill. Rot. We are not the ones who need sympathy. They murder our bodies. We keep our souls. The organization most in need of sympathy, is that century-old attempt at government of, by and for the people, which today stands before the world convicted of failure. Alone of civilized countries, it permits mob law, lynching and public burning of human beings at the stake. The State and local governments confess themselves helpless to stop this. A bill is presented in the national Congress to prevent lynching by national law. It was not a perfect bill, but it was an attempt, and a sincere attempt to get at crime; the least that a nation of civilized human beings could do, was to discuss that bill, to improve it, to remove its weaknesses and to strengthen its deficiencies. On the contrary, the Senate of the United States was not even allowed to discuss it. Can one call this our failure? Quite the contrary. It is the failure and the disgrace of the white people of the United States.


Never before in the history of the United States has the Negro population worked more wholeheartedly and intelligently and efficiently toward one end. They made the Republican party do what the Republicans did not, and do not intend to do. They pushed to the forefront a demand for protective legislation, instead of a demand for petty office. They refused to be beguiled by promises and hand-shakes. They said with unusual unanimity that the Anti-Lynching Bill was the price of their political support. All this is a tremendous gain. In the next two years, the Republican party expects us to forget that they have failed and deceived us; but if we Black voters, male and female, forget what the Republican party did to the Dyer Bill, we deserve disfranchisement now and forever


We have, of course, our traitors within the group. We could not expect otherwise. We are almost as weakly human in this respect, as our white opponents. Perry Howard, a lickspittle politician whose antics have long amused and pained us, sought to sell us for thirty pieces of silver. He wrote the following letter, November 23rd, 1922, to T. Coleman duPont, defeated candidate for Senator in Delaware, where Negro votes retired Layton who opposed the Dyer Bill:

I received your letter of Nov. 22 upon my return from the West where I have been almost the entire time since the close of the campaign.   I confess to you that I have blood in my eyes for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others who have used them with sinister designs to defeat some of the best friends that we have in particular and the Nation in general.   The purpose of this letter is to call attention of you and other outstanding statesmen to the fact that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is purely a Negro Democratic organization and has always been found on the side of the Democrats in the final analysis. That organization was used by Bob Nelson and others, and you owe your defeat to no other agency. I corrected the evil in Wilmington and if I could have gone into the Dover neighborhood on the following Monday I could have saved the day, but I had an engagement to fill for Senator Frelinghuysen and you know it was impossible for me to do so.   Now, I may call attention to the fact that whatever legislation or whatever else is done for the colored people of this country ought certainly to be done and done promptly, but I insist that none of it ought to be done through or by reason of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or any of its sympathizers.   I therefore think that it should be the policy of the leaders of the party like you to absolutely ignore and give the back of your hand to such men as Nelson, James Weldon Johnson, W. E. B. Du Bois, Robert L. Vann of Pittsburgh, and others of their ilk. There should be no quarters; and while treating every colored man with fairness and looking well to the interest of our group, these political bolshevists should be annihilated as the basest of ingrates.   (Signed) Perry W. Howard

Mr. Howard stated that he was sending copies of this letter to Frelinghuysen, McCormick, Watson, Moses, Attorney General Daugherty and Chairman Adams. It is said that copies were also circulated among a number of other influential Republican Senators.

Of course, this letter had no influence whatsoever on the Dyer Bill except to give those Republicans who were determined to defeat it, aid and comfort in their apostasy; and also possibly to confirm the belief in the venality of Negro politicians.

Howard boasts of his close friendship with that professional enemy of the Negro race, Pat Harrison, of Mississippi. It was Harrison who helped defeat the Liberian Loan by giving the Senate “information” that $650,000 of the money was to go to certain colored Americans.

## Democrats

Once we hoped that an offer of our support would induce the Democratic party

  1. to curb the Bourbon South;
  2. to work for the human uplift of the black and lowly.

We thought Wilson wanted to, when he wrote to the late Bishop Walters promising us “Justice and not mere grudging justice.” After election he called the Bishop to him. “Er—Bishop, what is this I hear about some letter I wrote you during the campaign? I don’t seem to recollect its terms.”

“I have it right here—right here,” answered the Bishop, proudly.

“Yes—yes!” hummed the great war President as he read it and carefully tucked it away in his pocket.

The Bishop never saw the letter again.

Characteristic. In that body of death, the National Democratic party, based as it is on the murdering, lynching South, there is no shadow of hope for the voter, black or white, who seeks justice, liberty and uplift.

Those Republicans who defeated the Dyer Bill, encouraged by the silence and inaction of the President, knew and counted on this. If they had made a corrupt bargain with Underwood, Harrison, Heflin and Caraway—those rotten borough rump politicians masked by the Ku Klux Klan—if they had deliberately made a bargain with them to defeat this just measure by methods of which Turkey would have been ashamed, the result would have been exactly as it has been.

It is doubtful if free government in Western European civilization has descended to such depths as it did in this filibuster of the Democratic party. They did not use argument; they simply, as one journal said, lynched the anti-lynching bill. They brought to the floor of the United States Senate exactly the same methods which the lynchers of Georgia, Louisiana and Texas used at home—brute force. And the Republican party was particeps criminis with them. Influential leaders among them wanted the Democrats to filibuster; they prayed they would filibuster; they asked them to filibuster and agreed to help them. They argued:

“What can the ‘niggers’ do but vote for us. Can they vote for the Democrats after this?”

No, we cannot.

## Third Parties

We are not the only group in America for which the Republican and Democratic parties spell anathema and death. The trend toward a Third Party is irresistible. It may take years but it must come; and when it comes, it means the death of the political power of the disfranchising South, for until this is accomplished, no Third Party can survive. Our duty is clear. And in order to systematize and concentrate our votes, we must, early in 1924, assemble in National Political Congress—a Congress duly representative of every locality, to decide on methods, ways and means.

In local elections we can continue to cast our vote regardless of party labels. Vote for friends and defeat our enemies, be they Republicans, Democrats or Socialists. Let us stand by Tammany in New York and Thompson in Chicago ag long as they stand by us, and as long as snobs like James W. Wadsworth and Medill McCormick and cowards like Ernst betray us.

Of all the Republican Senators only eleven deserve our support, so far as we are at present informed:

  • Shortridge
  • Phipps
  • New
  • Capper
  • Pepper
  • McNary
  • Reed, of Pa.
  • Edge
  • Gooding
  • Willis

Is not the way then clear and simple? Can any Negro voter in the future support the Democratic or Republican party in national elections without writing himself down an ass?

## Lynching

The fight against lynching is just begun. This is no time for a hint of discouragement or hesitation. American Negroes have had little experience in winning group fights. Usually they have lost and consequently their enemies depend on seeing them fly after the first defeat. This time, they are going to be disappointed. The time to fight is not when you are victorious but when you are repulsed. The time to gird yourself for putting down lynching is when the Dyer Bill is defeated by thugs, and not when politicians are making gay promises. This is going to be a long fight and it is going to be a costly fight, but we are going to win; and the reason that we must win is because lynching and mob violence has got to go or civilization in the United States cannot survive. As Senator New has written us:

The effort to suppress lynching will be like that to suppress slavery and to accomplish every other great result that has been undertaken in this country since the establishment of the Republic—a matter of long delays, repeated failures and ultimate success.

And Senator Reed, of Pennsylvania, adds:

The rules of the Senate must be changed so that a minority can no longer balk the will of the people. I shall continue to favor the Dyer Bill until it is finally adopted.”

Unless then the States immediately and stringently end this shameful custom, the United States is going to pass an Anti-Lynching Bill. The next Congress is going to see an Anti-Lynching Bill similar to the Dyer Bill introduced and pushed by the united votes of all lovers of justice and decency.


There are certain simple souls among us who seem to imagine that the emancipation of the colored people of the United States is going to cost about $1.98, and that anything more than this is evidence of theft. These people should contemplate this single fact:

On November 22nd and 23rd, the N.A.A.C.P. spent $5,136.93 for the following advertisements in the greatest daily papers of the country:

      Circulation Cost, one
New York Times Nov. 23 Full page 327,216 $1,539.20
Chicago Daily News Nov. 22 7 columns 412,304 1,387.75
Atlanta Constitution Nov. 22 7 columns 109,787 8379.26
Kansas City Journal Nov. 24 1/2 page 40,266 258.72
Kansas City Star Nov. 23 1/2 page 439,374 532.00
San Antonio Express Nov. 22 1/2 page 30,536 168.00
Washington Star Nov. 23 Full page 92,555 488.00
Cleveland Plain Dealer Nov. 22 1/2 page 181,756 384.00
Cleveland World Nov. 22 Full page 360,080 1,344.00
      1,998,883 $6,480.93

In this way, on one single day, they made five million intelligent Americans think about lynching. We reached the unreached: white people who knew and cared little about lynching. Was it worth it? We ought to have spent ten times that amount and we shall, if possible, spend that next year. Advertising is costly. Propaganda depends on advertising as well as other costly methods. What every great cause—the Red Cross, Jewish Charities, the Knights of Columbus, the Hospitals—what all white folk must do to get their cause before the public, we black folk cannot afford to neglect. All Americans do not understand about lynching. Few Americans dream of our daily life of insult, cruelty and discouragement. If we do not let them know, who will? Who will? We must advertise, we must agitate, we must, as Jehovah told Isaiah, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet and show my people their transgression.” There is no royal road to publicity. It costs money and much money. We need to advertise as never before in the daily press, in the weekly press, white and colored, in monthly periodicals. We need lecturers and organizers of first-class ability, paid first-class wage. Now is the time to pour money into the Anti-Lynching Campaign—now or never.


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1923. “Intentions.” The Crisis 25 (3): 103–7.