The Commission on Interracial Cooperation
was formed in the U.S. South in 1919 in the aftermath of violent race riot
A race riot or racial riot is an outbreak of violent civil disorder in which race is a key factor. A phenomenon frequently confused with the concept of 'race riot' is sectarian violence, which involves public mass violence or conflict over non-racial factors.-United States:The term had entered the...
s that occurred the previous year in several southern cities. The organization worked to oppose lynching
Lynching is an extrajudicial execution carried out by a mob, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake or shooting, in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate, control, or otherwise manipulate a population of people. It is related to other means of social control that...
, mob violence, and peonage and to educate white southerners concerning the worst aspects of racial abuse
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...
. In 1944 it merged with the Southern Regional Council
The Southern Regional Council is a reform-oriented organization created to avoid racial violence and promote racial equality in the Southern United States. Voter registration and political-awareness campaigns are used toward this end. The SRC evolved from the Commission on Interracial...
The Commission did some prominent work in modifying racial contacts by preventing race riots and providing the African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...
population of the South with schools. It also helped make the social condition of black people in that part of the country, where they were most heavily populated, better.
The Commission on Interracial Cooperation was started in 1919 by African Americans and whites who feared that the changed manner of returning African American soldiers would cause massacres all over the land. The Commission worked astutely, competently and quietly to avoid this. Before this commission was created, there were 83 lynchings; ten years later (1929) this number dropped to ten. Through the work of this commission, African Americans and whites had meetings to confer the African American’s problems, a gradually increasing group on both sides learned to know the goals and sympathies of each other.
The key leaders of the commission included Tuskegee Institute president Robert R. Moton
Robert Russa Moton was an African American educator and author. He served as an administrator at Hampton Institute and was named principal of Tuskegee Institute in 1915 after the death of Dr. Booker T. Washington, a position he held for 20 years until retirement in 1935.-Youth, education,...
, New York investment banker George Foster Peabody
George Foster Peabody was a banker and philanthropist.-Early life:...
, Virginia governor Harry F. Byrd
Harry Flood Byrd, Sr. of Berryville in Clarke County, Virginia, was an American newspaper publisher, farmer and politician. He was a descendant of one of the First Families of Virginia...
, Wake Forest College president William Louis Poteat
William Louis Poteat , also known as "Doctor Billy", was a professor and then the seventh president of Wake Forest College . Poteat was conspicuous in many civic roles becoming a leader of the Progressive Movement in the South, and a champion of higher education...
Georgia industrialist John J. Eagan. The commission was based in Atlanta but had other committees throughout the South. By the 1920s there were some eight hundred local interracial committees associated with this commission.
In 1930, financial troubles attributable to the Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...
led the commission leaders to rethink the programs that were in effect. They chose to abandon much of their fieldwork to concentrate more heavily on research. In 1944, a number of conferences lead to the establishment of the Southern Regional Council. Many interracial movement leaders agreed that the Commission of Interracial Cooperation programs were out-of-date, and they supported the commission’s merger with the Southern Regional Council. The Commission of Interracial Cooperation had clearly helped prepare the South to enter a new phase in the movement towards racial justice in the United States.
For further reading
- John Egerton, Speak Now against the Day: The Generation before the Civil Rights Movement in the South (New York: Knopf, 1994).
- Ann Wells Ellis, "A Crusade against 'Wretched Attitudes': The Commission on Interracial Cooperation's Activities in Atlanta," Atlanta Historical Journal 23 (spring 1979).
- Ann Wells Ellis, "'Uncle Sam Is My Shepherd': The Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the New Deal in Georgia," Atlanta Historical Journal 30 (spring 1986).
- Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching, rev. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).
- Julia Anne McDonough, "Men and Women of Good Will: A History of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the Southern Regional Council, 1919-1954" (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1993).
- North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation Records, 1922-1949 in the Southern Historical Collection
The Southern Historical Collection is a repository of distinct archival collections at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which document the culture and history of the American South...
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.