1943 query from Monroe: ‘What are blacks fighting for?’

“Rumor mills went into overtime [during World War II], fabricating tales of violence in public transportation, warning that blacks intended to ‘take over’ white women and that they were ‘gathering ice picks’ for a mass insurrection…..

“In May 1943 fears of a black uprising increased when the Charlotte News published a letter from Leander Derr, a black insurance salesman from Monroe, N.C. Upset by attempts to disenfranchise blacks, Derr posed the question: ‘What are blacks fighting for?’  In his letter he alleged that blacks were ‘fighting to make it safe for the white man to take away our right to vote — to discriminate against us, to exploit us, to “keep the nigger in is place”….As for me, to hell with the USA’….Due to public outrage and threats on his life, Monroe police apprehended Derr and put him in protective custody…. [They] determined he was not a threat and released him….”

— From “Home Front: North Carolina during World War II” by Julian M. Pleasants (2017)

I haven’t found further information on Derr, but perhaps his protest — and white Monroe’s reaction — could be seen as foreshadowing the violent case of Robert Williams.

 

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