Crime (1926)

Crime (1926)

The junior organizations of the Ku Klux Klan are receiving thousands of copies of “Educational Studies Number 10” which concerns “the Negro and his relation to America.” This pamphlet is arranged without the slightest regard for Truth. It asserts, for instance: “The Negro is constantly increasing in criminality.” As a matter of fact, between 1910 and 1923 the number of Negroes committed for crime decreased over 26 per cent.

It discovers that 70 per cent of Negro criminals are under 30 years of age, but apparently does not know that 80 per cent of the white criminals in New York City are under 22.

It repeats the canard that educated Negroes are more criminal than the illiterates, a conclusion contradicted by every known fact and resting simply upon a partial census report in 1910. In this case they asked Negro criminals if they could read and write and naturally most of them said they could.

With these falsehoods go the usual half-truths, namely, that the Negro is the most criminal element in our population and that he is more criminal in the North than in the South.

Crime is social disease; it is a complex result of poverty, ignorance and other sorts of social degradation. As the peculiar victim of these things the Negro in the United States suffers more from arrest and punishment at the hands of police and courts than any other element. This goes without saying.

The reason of it is clear. Practically the whole South traffics in Negro crime and makes money out of it. The convict lease system is in full blast in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and elsewhere. It is called by other names and technically “reformed” from time to time but one has only to read the terrible exposures in the New York World of the money made out of selling criminals in Alabama and Florida to realize what is happening.

The natural delinquency arising from his position in the United States is increased by the Negro’s treatment in the courts and in jails. A legislative committee of investigation in South Carolina reported in 1923: “Both the superintendent and directors testify that there are no written or printed rules to govern the conduct of and control over prisoners. The situation might well be summed up as follows: the discipline-of the penitentiary is largely based on the personal likes and dislikes of the captain of the guard.”

The United States is deliberately manufacturing Negro crime and has been doing so for 150 years. And despite this, Negro crime has decreased 26 per cent in the last 13 years.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1926. “Crime.” The Crisis. 32(1):9–10.