The Firing Line (1925)

The Firing Line (1925)

In the fight for human rights across the color bar where is the firing line? In the United States, in the West Indies, or in Africa?

Many sincere persons seem to think that this line is in Africa. This is not so. It may be so one hundred years from now but today Europe has so manipulated matters that the fight for rights in Africa is exceedingly difficult. The European countries with the army, the navy and the police in their hands; with their domination of the courts; with their ownership of capital and commerce and all lines of communication make any effort at uplift and reform a matter of disloyalty and rebellion which can bring summary punishment of the most violent sort. Free speech is impossible. There is no right to vote in the larger part of Africa. Consequently the fighting line-in Africa reduces itself to appeals to far-off powers who may perhaps never hear the appealing voices. Or it is a matter of revolt with every chance in favor of the oppressor. No, the firing line today is not in Africa.

Is it in the West Indies? Again, no. In the West Indies we have an overwhelming majority of Negroes and a large number of Negro leaders of wealth and education, but the ownership of land and capital is predominantly in the hands of Europeans while the political power of the Negro is so small that the fight is unequal; and again, as in Africa, the West Indies are a long way from the centers of power in the world.

The real fighting line for the Negro, then, is in the United States. Here he faces his foe. Here he can use unmolested the modern weapons of writing, talking and voting. He can make the world listen because he is right in the world. With his millions of votes no presidential candidate, few congressmen and fewer senators dare altogether to ignore his demands. They may play upon his ignorance and prejudices but as he becomes intelligent, sincere and clear-headed his phalanx marches forward. America, then, is today the firing line of the Negro.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1925. “The Firing Line.” The Crisis. 31(2):62.