“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” Abraham Lincoln
In describing the history of the Civil Rights Movement, left-leaning college professors tend to portray it as a battle between liberals and conservatives. The principle of equal justice for all is depicted as something that only liberals believed in. Anyone who supported segregation is described as “conservative.” Professors, in other words, give all the credit for ending institutionalized racism to people like themselves.
Facts that undermine this viewpoint, plentiful as they are, rarely show up in mainstream history books.
While most mainstream textbook authors are guilty of this kind of bias, Professor Eric Foner of Columbia University takes it to a ridiculous extreme. Where other scholars praise mainstream liberals and Democrats for their contributions to the fight for civil rights (and exclude any mention of the contributions of conservatives), Foner credits hard-core leftists in the Communist Party.
In Foner’s extremely one-sided freshman history textbook,1 he claims that the Communist Party launched a “renewed movement for black civil rights – that for a time made it the center of gravity for a broad democratic upsurge.”2 The Communists, he tells us, “mobilized popular support for black defendants victimized by a racist criminal justice system.”3 Communists joined hands with other left wing groups to found the Southern Conference for Human Welfare, to “work for unionization, unemployment relief, and racial justice.”
In one chapter Foner does acknowledge that Christian churches played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, despite his reluctance, in general, to admit that Judeo-Christian beliefs have ever played a positive role in society. Civil rights leaders had to resort to the Church, he claims, because “blacks’ traditional allies on the left” had been “decimated by McCarthyism.”4
Dr. Foner is stretching the truth to the breaking point when he blames the injustices of the Jim Crow South on “McCarthyism.” Because the professor leans very far to the left himself, he labors to portray Communists and other left wing extremists as the heroes of racial justice, and anti-Communism as its enemy.
In reality the opposite is more nearly true.
Senator J. William Fulbright comes to mind.
J. William Fulbright: Enemy of Joseph McCarthy and Equal Rights
Fulbright was certainly no “ally” of black Americans. Bitterly racist, he fought to protect the Jim Crow laws that denied black citizens their constitutional rights. In 1956 Fulbright was one of ninety-nine congressional Democrats to sign the Southern Manifesto, which declared that the Southern states had a right to keep their populations segregated by race. (It should be mentioned in passing that only two Republicans signed the document.)
In 1964 Fulbright was one of a group of tenacious Democrats who filibustered for fifty-seven days in an attempt to block the Civil Rights Act that outlawed segregation in public accommodations.
Contrary to the stereotypes that Dr. Foner and other liberals try so hard to promote, Fulbright was also a very liberal Democrat. He was a staunch supporter of labor unions. He always lobbied for appeasement of the Soviet Union; and opposed American aid to Israel, which was, at that time, the only Middle-Eastern nation aligned with the United States against the Soviet Union.
He also did all he could to impair America’s fight against Communism in Vietnam, writing two books on the subject, and using his position as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to undermine the war effort.
Fulbright’s office provided assistance to young men who wanted to avoid the draft, including a young future President of the United States named Bill Clinton, whom Fulbright hired as a clerk just two years after filibustering to block the 1964 Civil Rights Act.5
As for “McCarthyism,” Senator Fulbright hated it just about as much as Professor Foner does.
In 1951, for example, a man named Philip Jessup was nominated to be a United States delegate to the United Nations. Dr. Jessup was, like Dr. Foner, a hard-core left wing professor at Columbia University. When Joseph McCarthy went before the Senate with documentation of Jessup’s many associations with the Communist Party, Senator Fulbright fought hard to get Jessup confirmed, quibbling over every detail in the evidence McCarthy adduced.6
In 1954 the Senate voted to censure McCarthy, effectively bringing to an end his career as an anti-Communist force in the government. (In his textbook, Dr. Foner celebrates the censure vote as a humiliation McCarthy richly deserved.) Senator Fulbright personally entered several of the charges against McCarthy7and “was in essence the floor leader of the censure effort.”8
It seems the height of irony to say that any enemy of McCarthy is a friend of civil rights. Fulbright was clearly an enemy of both.
Justice Hugo Black: KKK Member and New Deal Liberal
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black is another left winger who doesn’t fit the stereotypes that liberal historians have so carefully constructed. In 1923, at the age of thirty-seven, he joined the Ku Klux Klan. Three years later he was elected to the US Senate.
In the Senate Black was a big supporter of organized labor and other left wing causes. In the 1930’s he won the favor of President Franklin Roosevelt by the stanch support he gave to Roosevelt’s big government “New Deal” policies. In 1937 Roosevelt appointed Black to the Supreme Court.
When news of his earlier membership in the Klan came out during the confirmation process, Black defended the Klan. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Black justified his membership by stating “that he joined the Klan because he considered it an ‘anti-corporation’ force that helped to counter the political and social influence of industrialists and large corporations who had taken full control of the Alabama economy after the destruction of the state’s labor movement.”
The Klan, in other words, had an agenda that a New Deal Democrat could love.
Justice Black was always a man of the left, from his days as a senator through all his years on the Supreme Court. When Congress passed a law that forbade American labor union leaders to belong to the Soviet-Controlled Communist Party USA, and a Supreme Court majority upheld the law, Justice Black wrote a dissent in favor of the Communists.
Dr. Foner teaches his students that the forces of “McCarthyism” were in league with the racists and segregationists, but he would have a hard time depicting Justice Hugo Black as a minion of McCarthyism!
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In 1942 President Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring all Americans of Japanese ancestry to leave the western United States or be imprisoned in internment camps for the duration of WWII. When the order came before the Supreme Court, the liberal majority on the court upheld Roosevelt’s order. True to his KKK background, Justice Black wrote the majority decision approving the incarceration of some 110,000 Americans on the basis of race.
The only vocal opposition to the executive order came from conservatives like Senator Robert Taft and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover, of course, differed with Justice Black on more than just the internment question. In the 1960’s his FBI waged war with Black’s beloved Klan, virtually driving it out of existence.
Hoover, of course, is viewed by history professors and other leftists as one of the primary villains of the “McCarthy Era.” His agents infiltrated and monitored the Communist Party and its various front groups, deploying many of the same tactics they used against the Klan. Hoover worked hand in hand with Senator McCarthy in his efforts to expel Soviet agents from the government.
Once again the irony is thick. Communists and the Klan frequently had the same enemies, and the same friends; some of the same leftists who crusaded against “McCarthyism” also crusaded against the principle of equal rights for all Americans.
In the privacy of their offices and homes, leftist professors like Dr. Foner must laugh at the gullibility of the students who believe their propaganda.
1Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty (Volume II, 2006 edition)
2ibid., p. 728
3ibid., p. 730))
4ibid., p. 834
5David Maraniss, First in His Class, Simon & Schuster, p. 83
6M. Stanton Evans, Blacklisted by History, pp. 401 through 402
7ibid., p. 589
8ibid., p. 596