My Turn: Paragraph in a newspaper from 1920 worth noting

  • mactrunk mactrunk

Published: 10/13/2021 6:05:58 AM

From The Gazette and Courier, dated Saturday, Aug. 14, 1920: “If the white races are to retain control of their own destiny, to say nothing of world domination, they must keep the fire from the European powder keg. One more devastating war would result in nothing less than a general uprising among the hordes of yellow, brown, red and black men and the vaunted supremacy of the whites might easily be a thing of the past. Such a bowing of the white neck to the colored yoke is not a wild fantastic nightmare but the natural result of the dog-eat-dog policy which the whites have practiced for centuries and of which the present outlook promises a continuance. The whites are standing on the edge of the precipice, a little misstep and down they go into the abyss of servitude to the colored races.”

I found the above paragraph on a roll of microfilm in the Greenfield Public Library. I wasn’t looking for it, or anything like it, as I went there to research the origins of the former Abercrombie School, that had been built on Montague City Road and opened in September 1920. The print in most newspapers back then was pretty darn small, so I had to scan everything I could read there in order to find whatever I was looking for. This paragraph was near the bottom of the first page, with no title or heading, and just a little separation from anything above or below it. So, when I did read it all, I felt stopped in my tracks.

I don’t know about you, but I’d never seen anything so blatant about separation and domination of races in any “mainstream media” before. And in 1920 Greenfield, Mass., The Gazette and Courier newspaper was as mainstream as you could get. (I suppose that if I looked hard enough, I might find similar pieces that had been printed in other places in this country.) There’s no way to know who actually penned these 135 words — most newspapers back then didn’t bother with details like that. What I take from it though is that it probably reflected the local attitude towards people who didn’t have white skin, few as there were in little Franklin County. And by the way, I don’t make any connection between that newspaper in 1920 and the Greenfield Recorder of today.

Times have changed, and some attitudes towards race and races have changed, but not all of them. I can’t imagine seeing a paragraph like this one in any mainstream media today, but the thought behind it is still in many people’s minds. I’d like to believe that if I’d been around a hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have agreed with that old paragraph. I know that I don’t agree with it now. But after reading what was in print here back then, I’m reminded how common that thinking was in this country, including in this area. As much as I’ve learned in my 65 years, there’s still so much that I’ve taken for granted. Even if I never see this kind of message in our newspapers in the future, I must remember that some people are still thinking it, and sharing it with those who believe similarly.

Russ Pirkot lives in Greenfield.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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