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Post Racism was Not Confined to the US South
Created by John Eipper on 08/25/17 3:44 AM

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Racism was Not Confined to the US South (Timothy Ashby, South Africa, 08/25/17 3:44 am)

No one can deny that racism was endemic throughout the United States in the early part of the 20th century, but it was certainly not confined to the Old South. In the early 1920s the Ku Klux Klan was recruiting more new members in the Midwest and Western states than in any other part of America. In 1921 the governor of Oregon and the mayor of Portland gave speeches at a Ku Klux Klan dinner honoring the local Grand Dragon. And the same year the Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska was made an officer in an organization called the "Fascisti of America" which was a front for the Klan.

Ironically, when the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC was dedicated on Memorial Day 1922, the thousands of black people attending were confined to a segregated position far from the memorial (at which Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln spoke).

Racism (or rather, the widespread notion of preserving "Old Stock" White supremacy) was not confined to blacks or other "persons of color").

The Immigration Act of 1924 (the National Origins Act) legalized restrictive immigration policies to restrict the number of from southern and eastern Europe based on the 1890 proportions of foreign-born European nationalities. Madison Grant's best-selling 1916 book The Passing of a Great Race, heavily influenced the US Congress to pass this legislation. The book held that northern European immigrants were skilled, thrifty and hardworking like native-born Americans, and that recent immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were unskilled, ignorant, predominantly Catholic or Jewish and not easily assimilated into American culture. Madison Grant and Charles Davenport, among other eugenicists, were called in as expert advisers during congressional hearings on the threat of "inferior stock" from eastern and southern Europe, playing a critical role as Congress debated the Immigration Act of 1924.

And let's not forget that women were denied the vote until 1920 on the basis of many absurd arguments including the fact that their brains were generally smaller than men's!

Regarding the erection of Confederate Monuments: I stand by my assertion that these were primarily done to honor what was then a fading generation of Confederate soldiers (like our WWII generation today). Many (if not most) of these monuments were sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy "to preserve and uphold the memory of the Confederate veterans, especially those husbands, sons, fathers and brothers who died in the Civil War."

How can this be even remotely considered malign in the context of the era? From a modern perspective, would the UDC of that period have been considered racist? Yes, but so were most white Americans then. And did the UDC perpetuate the myth about the "Lost Cause"? Of course, but again this should be placed in the historical context of the bitter aftermath of a devastating war that infected several generations of southern Americans.

I remember visiting Vicksburg a few years ago and was amazed to learn that the town did not officially observe the Independence Day holiday for 81 years after its surrender to Union forces (not returning to its observance until 1945). I asked a guide the reason for this and he soberly replied: "Until the last person with a memory of the siege had died."

JE comments:  The long and brutal siege of Vicksburg ended on July 4th (1863).  It was also one day after Meade's victory at Gettysburg (1-3 July).  The war was basically decided at this point, although far from over.

To return to Northern racism, we should also recall the New York City Draft Riots of that same month (July 1863), in which white mobs unleashed their murderous wrath upon the city's African-American population.  Among the large Northern cities, New York was probably the least supportive of the Union cause.

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  • Fascisti of America (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/27/17 3:14 PM)
    Even If I very much enjoyed the posts of Timothy Ashby (25 August and previous), I was troubled by the following: "And the same year (1921) the Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska was made an officer in an organization called the 'Fascisti of America' which was a front for the Klan."

    In 1921 Fascism in Italy was still a minor movement, with no goal of getting involved in the internal politics of faraway America. I seriously doubt that in Nebraska someone knew of Mussolini's existence.

    Moreover, how can you associate the Ku Klux Kan with the Italians, when the Italians were lynched by the Ku Klux Kan almost as much as were the African-Americans?  The KKK, completely WASP, wanted to eliminate African-Americans, Catholics (Italians) and Jews. Just remember the massacre of "Dagos" in New Orleans on 14 March 1891.

    The Fascist League of North America was founded in 1924 by Paolo Ignazio Thaon di Revel. But it was closed by Mussolini in 1929 following an article by Harper's Magazine which accused the FLNA of an (absurd) Mussolini plot to control the Italian-American community. Instead Mussolini repeatedly said that the Italians of America should honor their old country by being good Americans. See also the speeches of the great aviator Balbo.

    For a better understanding of Fascism in the US, please see Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America by John P. Diggins, but please forget the BS of Naomi Wolf in "Fascist America," in which she describes George W. Bush as the greatest fascist in the US.

    JE comments:  Regarding anti-Italian sentiment in the US, Eugenio Battaglia reminded me a few days back that the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti was carried out 90 years ago:  August 23rd, 1927.

    Perhaps Tim Ashby can clarify.  I am no authority on the topic, but a quick search shows that no movement in the US called itself Fascist prior to 1924.

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    • Fascisti of America (Timothy Ashby, South Africa 08/28/17 3:57 AM)
      In response to Eugenio Battaglia (27 August), I got my dates wrong but the context was right. The American Fascisti Association (aka Order of Black Shirts) was formed in the spring of 1930. They issued a magazine called Black Shirt. At the height of the Depression the group attempted to appeal to white workers by parading with placards stating "No Jobs for N------ Until Every White Man Has a Job."

      Although the group adopted the name of the Italian fascist movement, they were associated with the Ku Klux Klan. I did not write that they or the Klan were associated with Italian-Americans. The organizations were, as Eugenio correctly states, opposed to Catholics.

      JE comments:  This post presented me with the N-word quandary.  Should one publish the word in the interest of history, or resort to ellipsis?  I opted for the latter, as the meaning is abundantly clear.  Was this a prudent decision or a cop-out?

      There are several appearances of the full N-word in the WAIS archive, mostly from the Ronald Hilton era.  Always a direct quote of course.  As I age (today is my 11th anniversary as WAIS editor), I must be getting more squeamish.  Or simply cautious.

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    • Fascisti of America, Omaha 1922 (Edward Jajko, USA 08/28/17 4:54 AM)

      Knowing that Eugenio Battaglia is highly sensitive to misuse of the term Fascist, I almost hate to inform him that, in the matter of the "Fascisti of America" he has unnecessarily deployed his defenses of Mussolini (and has gratuitously slighted the people of 1920s Nebraska).

      This iPhone in my hands is so brilliantly designed by the Apple engineers just a couple of miles from my house that I am unable to figure out how to extract and post the URL link. So I suggest to Eugenio that he Google "omaha fascisti of america" and then read the extract from, believe or not, the Journal of Electrical Workers and Operators.

      JE comments:  Following Ed Jajko's instructions, I found the (very long) link:  https://books.google.com/books?id=vb0uAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA626&lpg=PA626&dq=omaha+fascisti+of+america&source=bl&ots=Rn1-y3ZJTV&sig=wqPv5Q2MIhhlxRZcyktSKAvH7ls&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjslraO7_nVAhUB94MKHahmAb4Q6AEIOjAD#v=onepage&q=omaha%20fascisti%20of%20america&f=false

      The article is from 1922, and it stresses that the American Fascisti, headquartered in Omaha, are not connected to the Italians.  To their credit, the Electrical Workers take a mocking stance against the nativist Fascisti and their fellow-travelers, the KKK:  "The Fascisti of America (distinct from the Italians organized in this country) are now on their feet and eagerly bidding for trade in the whipping and murder games."  Note the emphasis on organizing.  Remember when Barack Obama was derided for his roots as a "community organizer"?

      So did Tim Ashby get his dates right?  There was a self-described fascist group in Omaha as early as 1922.

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