Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

May 11, 1912

Guest post by Denver Studebaker, undergraduate student at Iowa State University.

On May 11, 1912, the Chicago Defender published an article titled, “Negroes Ought to Drive Plows, Not Autos, Says Judge.” The event itself happened in Macon, Georgia. Since this is seemingly a weekly newspaper, and because the date is not given, it is impossible to tell when the event actually happened. The article brings emphasis to how much discrimination blacks were still receiving, even in 1912.

I found this article interesting, because it brought to light that blacks were discriminated against for truly anything. The person the article is referring to was named George McDonald, a black chauffeur. McDonald was charged with “having used his employer’s machine without permission.” The judge, W. H. Felton, refused to dismiss this warrant and was then quoted saying, “If Negroes will stick to their plows instead of learning to operate autos, they and the South will be better off.” This article makes it clear that there was still a lot of discrimination at all levels of society in 1912. W. H. Felton went on to say, “It depreciates the general efficiency of the Negro race for some of them to be employed as chauffeurs.” The judge was insinuating that black people should be nothing more then farmers, and never learn to do better jobs.

The article goes on to say, “all of the Georgia crackers are not dead as yet.” This bit of the article shows that the racism and discrimination between blacks and whites went both ways; though the blacks’ discrimination against the whites was more justifiable. The article goes on to discuss how the influence of the black man in the south is rising, and the “Southern cracker” doesn’t like this. It is clear in the article that the term “cracker” is not used to describe all white people, only those who are racist toward the blacks. The article ends with a somewhat inspirational tone, stating that black men will achieve everything that white men have and that racism needs to stay in the last decade.

I chose this article because it was reported in Chicago and was not a famous event. It was just a local judge, who was a racist, denying lifting a warrant. This sheds a better light on how life truly was in the early 1900s. I also chose it because it shows a very unique form of discrimination that we seemed to have forgotten about, discrimination through the law. 

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