DePriest (1929)

DePriest (1929)

We have received the following letter from Margaret Deland, the well-known writer:

I remember with great pleasure meeting you very many years ago at the house of my friend, Mrs. Evans, in Boston. I recall that William James was there also, and that we four had a delightful time. As I have always been profoundly interested in the political, industrial and spiritual welfare of the people who were so deeply wronged some three hundred years ago, I am keenly alive to the advancement of Negro Americans to-day.

So, remembering your good nature in answering the questions I asked that day at Mrs. Evans’, I am venturing to send you the enclosed clipping in regard to the election to Congress of Oscar DePriest. I have a feeling that few things would be so impressive to persons who desire not only justice, but spiritual advancement, for the colored people, as to have a colored man of your eminence protest against the political advancement of any persons of his race who does not display intellectual and moral integrity. Of course, the same protest should be made to the political advancement of any unethical white man—and, as we both know well, there have been many opportunities for such protest! But political indignation expressed against white scoundrels, in papers conducted by white men—desirable as such expression of opinion is—can not draw forth the same approval, as that same indignation expressed against an unethical colored man, in a magazine such as The Crisis.

I am sure that you will see my point in this, and I most earnestly hope that THE Crisis will repudiate this man in no uncertain terms.

The Crisis regrets that it cannot do this. On the contrary, it congratulates Oscar DePriest upon his election. We do not approve of all that Mr. DePriest has done in the past and probably shall not approve of much that he will do in the future, but we do know that Oscar DePriest stands solidly and unwaveringly for the following things:

  1. The enforcement of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution of the United States.

  2. The passage of the Dyer-Anti Lynching Bill.

  3. The abolition of the “Jim-Crow car in interstate commerce.

  4. The abolition of color segregation and discrimination in the Civil Service of the United States.

We wish that in addition to this, Mr. DePriest believed in clean politics; in the smashing of Big Business, bootlegging and crime in their present alliance for political power; and in the organization of political life in Chicago so that the intelligent will of the majority could be openly and efficiently expressed.

We wish that Mr. DePriest stood for these things, but we acknowledge with bowed head that if he had stood for such a program as this he never would have been Congressman from Illinois. In other words, the only organized interests in the United States who could be induced to send a colored man to Congress or any man who stands for the five things outlined above, are the same interests which are allied with the rule of wealth and crime.

We find ourselves compelled in political life, therefore, to choose the least of evils. If we remember that Senator Borah stands for clean politics, we also are compelled to remember that he stands for the disfranchisement of Negroes; that he did not vote for the DyerAnti Lynching Bill, and that he has grown dumb in the fight for Haiti. We would like to admire Al Smith because of the high level of his appointments to office, and his fight against the power trust. But we are compelled to vote against him because never in all his career has he given the slightest attention to the American Negro or expressed the slightest interests in his problems. We support Oscar DePriest, therefore, for the same reasons that we oppose Borah and Smith, namely: the things that DePriest stands for are more vital to the future of democracy in America than prohibition, crime and privilege. Given democracy in this land and we can fight drunkedness, prostitution and monopoly; without democracy and with a “Solid South” we can only wobble between Hoover and Raskob.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1929. “DePriest.” The Crisis. 36(2):57.