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Jun 22, 2004 9:29 pm


Black Critics of the National Recovery Administration



I have already mentioned that as part of research for an upcoming lecture on the New Deal and blacks I have been looking through old issues of the Chicago Defender. The Defender was, and is, the leading black newspaper in the United States.

While it had many articles in favor (at least in part) of the New Deal, these were repeatedly counterbalanced by anti-New Deal articles and cartoons. Much of what I found is not only at odds with standard accounts in the history survey texts but is consistent with the interpretation of David E. Bernstein's excellent Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal, a book that should be on the shelf of every self-respecting historian of black history.

Blacks in the Chicago Defender and elsewhere typically attacked the New Deal's sacred cow, the National Recovery Administration, as the"Negro Run Around,""Negroes Ruined Again," and"Negro Removal Act." On June 8, 1935, the Chicago Defender editorially applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the NRA as unconstitutional. The editorial, titled"GENTLEMEN, THE CONSTITUTION," declared:

"The NRA, a gigantic house of sand, would not stand; the foundation was built upon theories of government which had no part in the framework of our national Constitution. The whole scheme represented the ultimate cordiality of campus opinions by men and women whose ideas of economic and social security found life and stimulus in a dissembling mirage of old-world viewpoints.

The nation is fortunate that these could find no safe harbor in the opinions of the highest court: had this decision been otherwise, the whole order of the established system of our American life would have been changed. Not only changed, but placed in hands whose only conception of democracy was predicated upon the illusions and delusions that they were the State....the Court again says to the country: 'Gentlemen, the Constitution.'"

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Oscar Chamberlain - 6/22/2004

Thanks for the fascinating post. This is entirely new to me.

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