Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

May 13, 1921

Guest post by Jordan Washington, undergraduate student at Iowa State University.

On Friday, May 13, 1921, the Baltimore Afro-American carried a story regarding unequal teacher salary plans. “Higher salary plans for white teachers than for colored ones in county schools will be presented to the next legislature.” State superintendent, Albert S. Cook, announced this statement on Friday. He then stated that “he told teachers that they need not expect to get the same salary as the whites.” He called anybody who supported the equal pay plan “Bolsheviki, Reds, and Radicals.” According to the newspaper, plenty of people agreed with him and praised him for his words of wisdom. Prof. John W. Huffington (white state supervisor of colored schools) claimed that Albert made a fair proposal and wanted others to get behind Albert’s plan. Rev. T. H. Kiah (principal of Princess Anne Academy) stated that “he believe[d] in meeting conditions as they are and not as they should be.” He later on stated that “part of a loaf is better than no loaf,” meaning that you are better off getting paid a little amount rather than none at all. The rest of this article was about how others agreed with Albert’s plan.

If somebody happened to disagree with Albert’s plan, they would not have put their comments in the paper, so State Superintendent Albert appeared to be correct. This was the wrong approach, because they did not give African Americans a chance to explain why they were fighting for equal pay. The paper only told one side of the story. When I was reading this article, I found it interesting that a lot of people agreed with this plan of unequal pay, but nobody could state any good reasons for why they agreed. I was not surprised by any of these actions done in the past, because they did not want to give African Americans any type of advantage that would negatively affect the way whites lived. The schools were already segregated with the majority of the money going toward white schools, so the idea of equaling the money for teachers from different schools was insane. By segregating the schools, the African-American children were already starting their lives behind the white kids, who were better educated. One of the reasons I chose this article was due to realizing that this topic was just a part of the process of America evolving. This is true because in the nineteenth century, many African Americans did not have jobs with pay. And now they were fighting to get paid like everyone else. We know they achieved that goal in the future, which shows that it was a process.

I also chose this topic because these actions of discrimination are still relevant to this day. I am talking about gender discrimination. Women have been discriminated against for a long time; they could not get certain jobs, or when they get jobs, they were not paid like the men. They have been fighting this problem for a long time, and they are showing some progress. There have been some cases where women overcame this and became CEOs of companies. A recent example of gender discrimination was when four U.S women’s soccer players filed for wage discrimination. They felt they were underpaid compared to the U.S men’s soccer players. So this shows that this still occurs to this day, but eventually we as a nation will overcome these obstacles as we once did in the past.

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