Roy Wilkins – beginning in 1955 he was Administrator for the NAACP. By the end of that year he would be head of that organization, during a time of tremendous social upheaval in our country.
This program, a special from NBC Radio commemorating the founding of the first Black newspaper in U.S. in 1827 brought together spokesman from the National Newspaper Association as well as presenting a panel of experts in the field of race relations to discuss the subject: Desegregation Today.
The program begins with a statement read by C.C. Dejoie jr., managing editor of The Louisiana Weekly of New Orleans as well as President of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Dejoie was also an early African-American businessman, in addition to being the co-founder of the Louisiana Weekly, and this is one of his rare addresses over national radio.
Joining Wilkins on the panel were Lester B. Grainger of The National Urban League, James C. Evans civilian Aide to the Secretary of Defense, and Dowdal H. Davis, past-President of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and general Manager of the Kansas City Call newspaper.
They discuss the current state of affairs in race relations. In 1954 there was the landmark Brown v.Board of Education ruling on desegregation in schools. By 1955 there were advances made in the direction of discrimination in industry and housing, but how was desegregation going in those fields? As of 1955, there were only 12 states which had enacted legislation forbidding discrimination in those areas and no prospect of a Federal law in the foreseeable future. However, the numbers of skilled and white-collar Black workers was increasing – increasing, but still woefully imbalanced.
Remember, this was 1955 – 62 years ago. In March of 1955, the month of this broadcast, there was still segregated busing, discrimination in housing and the vast majority of schools were segregated. Jim Crow laws were still prevalent and the South still had separate drinking fountains and hotels.
Sixty-two years is not a long time in the grand scheme of things – and to say racial prejudice vanished at the snap of a finger or a rousing speech completely misses the point. And to say the Civil Rights Movement was based on the actions of a few notable leaders does a gross injustice to the many who worked tirelessly, most gone unrecognized but who were committed to the struggle of racial equality throughout our history.
This program is only one of many broadcast throughout the years which focused on those figures who fought to make a difference – most of them you may have never heard of. But all of them need to be heard.
We’ll be working on that this month. In the meantime, here’s a start.