W.E.B. Du Bois


June 1, 1928

Nothing more unfortunate has happened in the recent history of the Negro race than the attitude of black ministers in Washington toward Clarence Darrow. Here is a man whose voice has been raised for righteousness in the face of flattery, money and fame. He has dared to use his unique genius to defend the rights of poor white labor and disfranchised Negroes. While the Christian Church stands silent, he speaks. When an appeal to the organized religion of the United States brings no audible response, Clarence Darrow goes down into the blood and dust of battle to defend the lost cause.

If religion and Christianity mean anything, they mean deeds and not the mere words. And yet, the black ministers of Washington are apparently more interested in the mouthing of creeds and the orthodoxy of men’s beliefs than in the Christianity and unselfishness of their deeds. There is not a Negro church in the United States that ought not to throw wide its doors to Clarence Darrow and beg him to come in. He will criticize those churches, and they ought to be criticized. He says frankly and openly what their own members say, namely: They are spending too much money for church edifices, and not enough for the social uplift which Christianity stands for, if it stands for anything.

Whenever religion forgets its high calling of inspiring faith in human beings, peace instead of war, unselfishness instead of greed, and deeds instead of words; and turns to heresy hunting, it brings on itself the contempt of mankind. The Negro Church in the past has been sewn with superstition and worldliness, but it has always been able to say in its own defense, We believe in man; and in the lowest of men; We open our doors to the despised and hunted; We extend our charity to all forms and faith.

It will be a sad time, and the beginning of its doom when the black church turns from this its highest mission and goes to burning witches.

Clarence Darrow does not believe many things that Orthodox Christians believe; but he respects the beliefs of any sincere person and in turn he deserves respect for his own honest opinions. If the Negro race is going to start hunting Heretics, let it pause and remember that William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were nearly as radical religious freethinkers as Clarence Darrow. Nor let them forget that the greatest of religious rebels once said to a bunch of pettifogging defenders of the letter of the law: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisee, hypocrites, that strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”

What difference does it make whether the whale swallowed Jonah or Jonah swallowed the whale, so long as Justice, Mercy and Peace prevail?


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1928. “Darrow.” The Crisis 35 (6): 203. https://www.dareyoufight.org/Volumes/35/06/darrow.html.