W.E.B. Du Bois's "Stalin and American Negroes"
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN PRAVDA
March 10th, 1953
The death of Joseph Stalin shocked 15 million American citizens of Negro descent in a peculiar way. Stalin had unequivocally advocated Peace while all other rulers voiced two words for War to every one for Peace. These Negroes want peace for more reasons than whites. To this black group, war for 200 years has meant fighting for a nation which did not recognise them as part of it. As slaves they fought to free America from England; as slaves and serfs, they begged to fight for the abolition of slavery and gained permission only after studied humiliation. In the First World War, they had to fight Americans harder than Germans for recognition as soldiers and citizens; and while this battle was less fierce in the Second World War, it was still a battle against segregation and color discrimination. The American Negro has been unswervingly loyal to the United States when loyalty was a bitter pill, but he wants now to fight for it without being compelled to surrender his self-respect. Above all, he wants Peace. If, therefore, Stalin was for Peace, he was for Stalin.
With the war in Korea came a new turn in this old dilemma. Koreans were Colored People. They suffered from white nations, the same discrimination and contempt as Negroes suffer. Moreover, American Negroes know that Joseph Stalin, son of a serf, had worked as Commissar of Nationalities to make the Soviet Union the one modern state which outlawed race discrimination. Even if this legislation did not always work perfectly, the Negro knew it worked better than the pogroms of Czarist Russia or the caste laws of South Carolina. Thus the American Negro was drafted into the Korean war and obeyed because it was his duty as a citizen. But he writhed and still writhes under the humiliation.
Then a new paradox fronted him when in Africa, his own kin began to revolt. Would American Negroes be asked to fight African Negroes in defense of the increasing investment of American wealth in African land, materials and cheap labor? Negroes know of the capital which their nation has poured into Malan’s South Africa and of the kind of state which he proposes to build on the color-bar. Will American Negroes be asked to surrender their basic loyalties to uphold reaction and tyranny in their ancient Motherland? And if they do, can they ever hold up their heads among men?
It was not sensible for the new Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, to tell Negroes that the revolt of Africa was part of a Soviet plot to surround America. Negroes may be largely ignorant because of lack of schools, but they are not that ignorant. They know and know too well why Africa revolts: the British slave trade, American slavery; hunger, caste, disease, and bitter exploitation today. Against any summons to fight with white Europe against black Africa and indeed against continued war with Asia, the American Negro raises final protest. He sorrows that the great man, Joseph Stalin, who spoke for Peace and against Race Discrimination, today lies dead in Moscow.