20th Century, African American, Black History, ekklesia, History

“Muffle Your Rage”: Civil Rights Leader Roy Wilkins

Roy Wilkins postage stamp, ame-sac.org

April 1955 to August 1977
“Saint Paul’s Roy Wilkins becomes a national leader in the civil rights movement during its most turbulent and productive years. In April 1955, Wilkins is named executive secretary (the title was later changed to executive director in 1964) of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He serves in that position until August 1977.
Wilkins participates in the March on Washington (1963), the Selma to Montgomery marches (1965), and the March Against Fear (1966).
In 1969 President Lyndon B. Johnson will bestow the Medal of Freedom on Mr. Wilkins, the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States.” *

Roy Wilkins landed in Saint Paul, Minnesota circa 1906 after losing his mother. Raised by an aunt and uncle, he attended an integrated school, (much to his pleasure), and grew up happy in a blue-collar neighborhood. After high school, Roy attended the University of Minnesota gaining a degree in sociology with a minor in journalism. His articulate writing led to multiple positions as a journalist reporting for: “Minnesota Daily”, “Kansas City Call”, “St. Paul Appeal”, and “The Crisis”. ,*

Returning to Missouri with his bride Minnie, his birthplace, Mr. Wilkins noted the atmosphere of racism surrounding Kansas City. To use his own words, “…even good manners could be a crime for a black man.” ** Such experiences made the Wilkin’s family take note of differing treatment of African Americans regionally, and so moved him to join the NAACP where he served his community continuously from 1934 until 1977.

What one finds most characteristic about him in the era he led the NAACP, (1955-1977), is his model of peaceful dissent. He wanted to exhort and persuade society, and make legal changes following a Constitutional process. In the words of the NAACP,
“Wilkins strongly opposed militancy in the movement for civil rights as represented by the “black power” movement.” *** In agreement, the Black Heritage Commemorative Society stated the following about Executive Director Wilkins:
“…the militant “black power” movements of the 1970s, including the Black Muslims and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, faulted Wilkins and the NAACP for failing to take more direct action. Wilkins held unswervingly to the principal of democratic processes within the legislative system, saying: “Muffle your rage. Get smart instead of muscular.”” **

How did Roy Wilkins sum up his life’s work? Again, we let the man speak for himself.

“Without us, without our struggle, the country would have floundered in moral emptiness long ago. We must never lose faith in the justness of our cause and the certainty of our success. We have tried to create a nation where all men would be equal in the eyes of the law, where all citizens would be judged on their own abilities, not their race.”
-(Excerpt from “Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins” by Roy Wilkins and Tom Mathews, 1982.)

With these words ringing in our ears, we turn to the Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, how proud we are of Your commitment to all of Your human family throughout history!
We remember this song of David to You; Our Dear One.

“When they were few in number,
few indeed, and strangers in the land,
they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.

He let no man oppress them;
He rebuked kings on their behalf:
‘Do not touch My anointed ones!
Do no harm to My prophets!’

Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Proclaim His salvation day after day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all peoples.
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but it is the LORD who made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him;
strength and joy fill His dwelling.
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
bring an offering and come before Him.” ****

Eternal Father, how fitting this song is for the life of Roy Wilkins, and his tireless advocacy for African-Americans! He followed Your example, but instead of rebuking kings he challenged the Presidents of the United States. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter all listened to his message to: impute, assign, attribute, evaluate, and pass fair judgment on Americans of African descent.

We see such powerful examples of Your masculine strength of love in his determination. Again, we also see Your strength under control in his actions; though he had reason to rage, he put it away. He communicated deliberately, continuously, and took the painful slow path to persuasion and success. How grateful we are to You for his message and methods to convey it!

We acknowledge to You: by the Cross of Christ, by the blood of Christ, by the Resurrection of Christ, and Your unchanging Word, the bitter root judgments and curses made against Roy Wilkins, Black citizens of Minnesota, and Black America in his era. We name names of only some of these generational root sins: enslaving Africans, transporting Africans to America against their will, embittering their lives with hard labor, judgments based in ethnocentrism of their: appearance, lifestyle, culture, dreams and abilities, that all dark-skinned people think alike and share the same culture, judgments stemming from their participation in the Civil, Spanish, WWI, WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam, judgments made on their Republicanism, judgments made on their Democratism, judgments made on their acceptance of the New Deal, FERA (Federal Relief Emergency Administration), judgments made on their acceptance of welfare: Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, Housing Assistance, and Food Stamps, and finally the political judgments made upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and denying the Image of G-d in His Black peoples? Will You take this pain: up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ?

Conversely, will You forgive the counter bitter root judgments of African American culture of Wilkins era against their non-Black neighbors in Minnesota and the greater United States? We name names of only some of these generational root sins: ethnocentrism against the: appearance, lifestyle, culture, dreams and abilities of non-African-Americans, that all light-skinned people think alike and share the same culture, their Democratism or Republicanism, and denying the Image of G-d in His Non-Black peoples? Will You take this pain up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ?

By the Authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Cross, His Blood, His Resurrection, and His eternal word we announce His forgiveness of these bitter root judgments, experiences, and curses of Minnesota and the greater United States during the decades of Director Wilkin’s career with the NAACP. Will You breathe life into his wisdom for all of us to; “Muffle our rage. Get smart instead of muscular.”?

Will You give us impartations of love to see Your Masterpiece: the African-American human being before us? Will You give us favor, Holy Spirit to see Your Masterpiece, the non-African American human being before us? May we “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations” the dignity and beauty of His handiwork both in the present and until He returns! By the Authority of the One existing before all races, and for whom all races exist! Amen!

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** From “Black History Now”, an excellent source of biographies for heroes of the Civil Rights movement. http://blackhistorynow.com/roy-wilkins/
*** https://www.naacp.org/naacp-history-roy-wilkins/
**** Excerpt of I Chronicles 16:19-29. https://biblehub.com/bsb/1_chronicles/16.htm

“Black History Month: Roy Wilkins. City of Saint Paul Minnesota Media Services. 2005.
“Roy Wilkins: The Right to Dignity”. Public Resource Org. ARC Identifier 2546045 / Local Identifier 306.289. 1982 – 10/01/1999
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20th Century, African American, History, Minnesota, Politics, Uncategorized

Humphrey on Civil Rights

Unknown

1948
Hubert Humphrey makes an impassioned plea for civil rights at the Democratic National Convention. His speech offends Southern Democrats, who walk out of the convention, but sets the party on a course toward the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“To those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights–I say to them, we are 172 years late!” -Hubert H. Humphrey at the Democratic National Convention*

Hubert H. Humphrey saw the United States as the emerging leader of the free world after World War II, but dared to question its authenticity. The specters of fascism, communism, and racial balkanization were very real in the aftermath of WWII. It also underscored the dichotomy of winning liberties for those outside the US while ignoring the racial injustices at home. What did he see as the root cause and motive for the Civil Rights movement?
“For us to play our part effectively, we must be in a morally sound position.” ***

Yet, by what means would America redefine itself and reclaim this “morally sound position”? Humphrey posited our need to lead by example of a consistent standard, not a double standard on rights. Humphrey proposed the notion in this address that human rights exceeded the value of states’ rights.
“To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.” ***,****

Further, he willingly threw down the gauntlet of human rights with the full knowledge of its opposition within his own party. The locus of this opposition were Southern Democrats concerned that the Civil Rights movement made our Supreme Court stronger than State law. Their debate over the next decade centered on the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, also known as the “Southern Manifesto”, arguing that the Tenth Amendment limited the Supreme Court from overreach into their State law. See Tenth Amendment below:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Humphrey’s address rang the bell on a sixteen year, tag-team wrestling match of our national conscience. Most legislators agreed that something must be done about racial injustices, but disagreed as to the proper method Constitutionally. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, it had more Republican than Democratic support. The roll call tally of June 19, 1964 shows that 82% Republican “Yeas” and 18% “Nays”, and 69% Democratic “Yeas” and 31% “Nays”. ***** Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona embodied the position of Republican critics. He voted to end segregation, and was an active member of the NAACP, yet objected to Title II and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Why? He felt they could interfere with the rights of a business to do business with or employ whomever they chose. Additionally, he had reservations that these Titles could be misused to usurp States’ rights and free speech of the individual. ******

In all, this riveting oratory decries the courageous heart of Hubert Humphrey. Though viewed as emotional grandstanding to his detractors, he willingly spoke his conscience, and the conscience of millions. He dared ask the question, “What is to be done when America’s head conflicts with our heart?”

So we seek You in this moment, Father. We come to You asking insight and wisdom as to Humphrey’s rhetorical line in the sand. How did this speech affect You?

First, we ask forgiveness for the racism of Humphrey’s era. We have offended You first in our legal, cultural, and personal false assessments of African-Americans. Granted, Minnesota’s culture was less legally overt and more free than many states, but we acknowledge the subtle and quiet prejudices that hurt these brothers and sisters: we tolerated red-lining in housing, we tolerated discriminatory lending practices, in many ways, we zoned African-Americans away from us. We have practiced associating crime with a color, and negated the noble contributions of many minorities. Will You forgive our misbeliefs and unbeliefs? We have denied You when we deny Your Image in our African-American brothers and sisters. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy!

Next, we thank You for the life of Hubert H. Humphrey, and the gift You placed in his heart of having the courage of his convictions. Clearly, he was willing to be misunderstood, even by his own, for daring to call out injustice. We commend him in his intense moments at the Democratic National Convention held at Philadelphia Convention Hall on July 12-14, 1948. Will You continue to give us leaders like him who are willing to speak the raw truth in love and respect?

We acknowledge to You the pains of betrayal at the hands of our beloved! WE acknowledge to You the oceans of these judgment’s past. Will You forgive the judgments’ of Democrats towards those of their own, mostly but not limited to Southerners who expressed dissent at Humphrey’s take on civil rights? Will You forgive Democratic dissenters of Humphrey’s vision their counter judgments’ and bitterness? Will You forgive Republicans their judgments’ of those within their party who voiced dissent to the Civil Rights Act? Will You forgive the counter-judgments of those led by Goldwater towards those who supported Humphrey’s ideals?

In this, we may have judged our political opinions to be more sacrosanct than the relationship with the beloved human being in front of us. We have closed our ears to their objections, because it is easier to break relationship than listen to honest criticism of our political and personal doctrines and dogmas. We have feared our detractors, and closed our minds to the wisdom to be gained in real dialogue and debate. You have said, “Come now, let us reason together…” ******* We have turned it to “Come now, you are unreasonable!”

We have offended You in our failure to listen to our friends, and hear out our opposition in our zeal for our rights. We have attempted to gain a more just America, too often, by too much political and legal force. We have attempted to heal the bitter judgments towards African-Americans through bitterly judging those who disagree with our version of justice for African-Americans. Will You forgive and heal us then, free us in the present, and bless the future of Civil Rights? May we come to agree with Our Creator as to the worthiness and inherent value of every human being made in Your Image. We have failed to learn our lesson from the world’s first sibling rivalry where Cain hated and murdered his brother Abel over doing a good thing; an offering of thanks?!? In this we are 5778 years too late!

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** Photo credit: smithsonianmag.com
*** See transcript of this famous speech. (1948) Blackpast. “Hubert Humphry, Speech at the Democratic National Convention” December 14, 2010. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/1948-hubert-humphrey-speech-democratic-national-convention/
**** See HHH give this speech. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xQZX5ZvcnY
***** See a photo of the official roll call vote. The Center for Legislative Archives “Roll Call Tally on Civil Rights Act 1964, June 19, 1964” On June 19, 1964, the Senate passed the Civil Right Act of 1964; 73 to 27. The House passed the amended bill on July 2; 289 to 126. https://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/civil-rights-1964/senate-roll-call.html
****** Mooney, Kevin J. “The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Conservative Movement”, November 14, 2013. https://www.theblaze.com/contributions/the-1964-civil-rights-act-and-the-conservative-movement
******* https://www.biblehub.com/isaiah/1-18.htm

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