…by Jonas E. Alexis
[ Editor’s Note: Dear readers, I strongly recommend viewing the whole video at the end as it is one of the most interesting ones I have seen on the American civil rights topic.
Not mentioned in the video, to add framing is that the Dunbar school’s philosophy was similar to Booker T. Washington’s, where he advised that the improvement to living conditions in the black community was to focus on education to ensure that all could be gainfully employed to have economic security.
This would create the conditions for stable family situations where young people were surrounded by positive role models throughout their community. Unfortunately, there was a white backlash to some of this based purely on envy. The Southern semi or fully ignorant white class is still with us today.
I was shocked to learn in the video that not only was Dunbar the first public black high school in the country, but it also accomplished this when no white public highschool yet existed.
During my years in Atlanta, I learned that it had charted its own path toward civil rights improvement during the flag fight controversy. I did a Jim Dean Journal Show was with ex-Governor, WWII disabled Vet Ernst Vandiver, where he described how Georgia dodge a lot of the early civil rights turmoil that had gone on in Alabama. This was the first live audience I ever had
All though there was a hand full of legislative hard liners that wanted civil rights legislation to proceed slowly, the majority, all white and all male, put a complete package together that passed with an overwhelming majority. You will need to hire a detective to find any mention of this in the historical record.
Unfortunately when the NAACP with its early backers from a specific ethnic-religious group that began demanding government management for dealing with the problem, the success of the Booker T. Washington movement was targeted.
As Gordon has so often said, “It’s a nasty world out there”…Jim W. Dean ]
The collapse of the black family we alluded to in an earlier article is inextricably linked to the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. In his sociological study “The Origins of African-American Family Structure,” sociologist and historian Steven Ruggles of the University of Minnesota documents that from 1880 until 1960, married households with two-parent homes were the general rule of the black family structures.
Others have argued that in 1880, black families were nuclear families in places like Philadelphia. “Two-parent households were generally more common among ex-slaves. Taken together, two-parent households were found 80 percent of the time among ex-slaves, while the figure for the freeborn was 77 percent.”
The church played an important role in this aspect. In fact, non-churchgoers “fared considerably less well than their churchgoing neighbors in all significant social indicators: they had smaller families, fewer two-parent households, high residential density levels, and they were disproportionately poor.” We see similar data in places like Harlem in the 1920s.
In 1960, only 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families, which means that 78 percent of all black families were structured around mothers and fathers. In the same year, “51 percent of black females between ages of 15 and 44 were married and living with their husbands, another 20 percent were divorced, widowed, or separated, and only 28 percent had never been married.” By the 1970s, one writer argues, “The radical delegitimation of the family was so pervasive that even people at the center of power joined in.”
By 1994, 56 percent of black females were never married. “While only 22 percent of black children were born to unmarried women in 1960, 70 percent were by 1994.” By 2010, 72 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. In 2015, 77 percent of black children were born into fatherless households.
This obviously has had a catastrophic effect on society in general. For example, in 1964 “the unemployment rate for black men aged twenty to twenty-four was 12.6 percent; by 1978, it was 20 percent. During the same period, crime rates, in particular those involving young black men, went up.”
It gets even more interesting. As Walter E. Williams himself puts it: “As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites. Today it’s about 30 percent longer. Would anyone suggest that during earlier periods, there was less racial discrimination?” Thomas Sowell himself adds:
“What about ghetto riots, crimes in general and murder in particular? What about low levels of labor force participation and high levels of welfare dependency? None of those things was as bad in the first 100 years after slavery as they became in the wake of the policies and notions of the 1960s.”
After the 1960s, says Sowell, “a retrogression toward barbarism” began to take place. “The principal victims of these retrogressions are the decent, law-abiding members of black communities across the country who are prey to hoodlums and criminals.”
Even when it comes to education, the average black did far better before the 1960s. The history of Dunbar High School, which had a remarkable academic record from 1872 and all the way to the middle of the 1950s, is a classic example.
Founded as an educational Christian school and the first high school for black students, Dunbar High School outperformed two of the other three schools in Washington in the early part of the twentieth century. The school was a success without affirmative action, without the Civil Rights Movement, and without government programs.
Even during the 1950s, when the school was on the brink of falling apart due to social engineering by the Supreme Court and other covert actors, Dunbar was actually sending “80 percent of its graduates to college, the highest percentage of any Washington school, white or Negro.” This was a consistent pattern for eighty-seven years, and everyone knew that those who had gone to Dunbar “were highly motivated academic students…”
Dunbar High School “repeatedly equaled or exceeded national norms or standardized tests in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s.” By 1954, “more than sixteen thousand young men and women had graduated from the institution…Dunbar was a mighty force in the District.” Dunbar students were poorer than the average student today. In fact, some of the known occupations of the parents of the students who went to Dunbar were janitors, maids, laborers, messengers, and just one doctor.
So the prevailing notion that bad schools are the results of slavery or poverty or even racism is simply historically false. Those who propound these ideas have never heard of Dunbar High School, nor are they willing to do any serious study on schools that have successfully met the needs of students before the Civil Rights Movement. Despite poverty and other obstacles, those students survived because both the nuclear family and a school that understood its mission in society were strong. As one writer puts it:
“The teachers were as dedicated and demanding as they were qualified. Extracurricular tutoring, securing scholarships for graduating seniors, getting parents of promising students to keep them in school despite family finances—all these were part of the voluntary workload of Dunbar teachers and principals.
“Latin was taught throughout the period from 1870 to 1955, and in the early decades, Greek was taught as well…Throughout the 85-year period of its academic ascendancy, Dunbar never had adequate financial support.”
Stephen Jackson, one of the principals at Dunbar, flesh out his philosophy this way:
“In order to be a principal, especially at an urban high school, you should not be in your office, because you cannot run a building from your office. You run a building from being in the hallways, being in the classrooms, being in the cafeteria. Making sure that the building is being run properly.
“You cannot see anything by being in the office. Rarely do I have meeting in my office during the day. And that is only because in order to turn schools around, the principal must be visible. The principal must greet the students in the morning. They must see them off in the afternoon. They must talk to them during the day. We have about 900 students here, and I practically know the name of every last one of them.”
In short, the Civil Rights Movement didn’t help the black family; it weakened the moral and social progress which schools like Dunbar High School made possible. “By the 1960s a newspaper story on the school was titled ‘Black Elite Institution Now Typical Slum Facility.’”
By 1973, programs like the Children’s Defense Fund which was created by Marian Wright Edelman, wife of Peter Elderman, attacked the nuclear family by seeing
“children not as the offspring of individual mothers and fathers responsible for rearing them, but as an oppressed class living in generic, nebulous, and never-to-be-analyzed ‘families.’ Framing the problem of ghetto children in this way, CDF was able to mount a powerful case for a host of services, from prenatal care to daycare to housing subsidies, in the name of children’s developmental needs, which did not seem to include either a stable domestic life or, for that matter, fathers.”
James Q. Wilson again admits that during the Great Depression, crime rates were largely stable or declining but got to a high pitch during the 1960s. Spelman College is a classic example. Originally called Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, Spelman College was founded in 1881 by Christians who wanted to improve the education of blacks. But in 1960, during the counter-culture revolution, Spelman College’s heritage was completely turned around. And one of the individuals behind this revolution was then Professor of History, Howard Zinn.
Zinn, by his own admission, does not even believe in objective history. “Objectivity is impossible,” he declares, “and it is also undesirable. That is if it were possible it would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of social aim if you think history should serve the society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way; then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity.”
While teaching at Spelman as the head of the history department, Zinn got the chance to refashion and mold black writers such as Alice Walker, best known for The Color Purple, and Marian Wright Edelman. After working tirelessly to encourage the school to join the civil rights movement in the 1960s but failing, Zinn began to write articles against the school, which eventually led to his dismissal. But Zinn’s efforts did result in getting a fairly decent percentage of Spelman’s students to participate in the civil rights movement, and through his ideology turned those students into revolutionaries
Harry G. Lefever, who was a professor of sociology at Spelman during that era, declares, “In spring 1960, many of Spelman’s students literally broke free from their parochial and conservative past. With their statements and actions they turned the campus and the city in a radical direction.”
In March 1960, a group of students began protesting, using tactics like sit-ins. They specifically
“selected restaurants at city and county courthouses, lunch counters located in federal buildings, and cafeterias connected with bus and train terminals as targets for their first sit-ins, since presumably all were covered by the Fourteenth Amendment.
“Specifically, the student’s selected lunch counters at the following ten locations: the state capitol, Fulton County Courthouse, City Halls, Trailways and Greyhound bus stations, Union and Terminal railway stations, S. H. Kress 10-cent store, and two cafeterias—the S&S and Sprayberry—located in federal buildings. Much of the preparation for the students’ first major action took place in the living room of Howard and Roz Zinn, who lived in an apartment in the back part of MacVicar Hall on Spelman’s campus. Although the Zinns did not actually sit in with the students on March 15, Howard Zinn played a significant role.”
These actions led to the arrest of seventy students, “including fourteen from Spelman.” Yet the student body continued to follow Zinn’s revolutionary ideas: “The class of 1960 dedicated the 1960 volume of Reflections (the student yearbook) to Howard Zinn, professor of history and chair of the Social Science Department. Along with his picture, the students published words of appreciation for his friendship and guidance.” The tribute stated that Zinn “has been an inspiration to the whole Spelman family since his arrival.”
By the time Zinn had established himself as a revolutionary influence in the lives of the students at Spelman, the moral pendulum in the life of those students began to change for the worst. In an article entitled “Finishing School for Pickets,” Zinn discussed the changed attitude he had helped to inspire in the students.
In the article, Zinn discussed how Spelman students had rejected the ‘generations-old advice’ of their elders—‘be nice, be well-mannered and ladylike, don’t speak loudly, and don’t get into trouble.’ He continued by saying that Spelman girls are still nice, but ‘not enough to keep them from walking up and down, carrying picket signs in front of the supermarkets in the heart of Atlanta.’
Very few people have thoroughly examined these issues through these lenses. Daniel Patrick Moynihan obviously couldn’t do it in 1965 when he released the Moynihan Report. He did address the issue that the nuclear family is lacking in the black community, but he never addressed how it got into disarray.
Others have attributed the crime rate among blacks to genes. In order for this theory to work, proponents have to ignore the fact that the black family was stronger during the first 100 years after slavery. As an antidote to the breakdown of the family, Glenn C. Loury argues that people need to return to Logos, and that would provide a foundational basis for moral responsibility, character, and social harmony. He then concluded: “My pursuit of personal freedom—my constant quest to be free of constraint, to be unfettered—has been the source of much of my unhappiness.”
Perhaps Black Lives Matter and other proxy warriors need to listen to Loury here.
-  Steven Ruggles, “The Origins of African-American Family Structure,” American Sociological Review, February 1994: 136-151.
-  Joe William Trotter and Eric Ledell Smith, eds., African Americans in Pennsylvania: Shifting Historical Perspectives (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), 133.
-  Ibid., 134.
-  Joseph Giordano and Irving M. Levin, “Carter’s Family Policy: The Pluralist’s Challenge,” Journal of Current Social Issues, Winter 1977: 50.
-  D’Souza, The End of Racism, 478.
-  Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals (New York: Encounter Books), 34.
-  Kay S. Hymowitz, The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies,” Atlanta City Journal, Summer 2005.
-  Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, 34.
-  Jesse Washington, “Blacks struggle with 72 percent unwed mothers rate,” Boston Globe, November 6, 2010.
-  Steven A. Camarota, “Births to Unmarried Mothers by Nativity and Education,” Center for Immigration Studies, May 5, 2017.
-  James Q. Wilson, “Thinking About Crime,” Atlantic, September 1983.
-  Walter E. Williams, “The Black Family Is Struggling, and It’s Not Because of Slavery,” Daily Signal, September 20, 2017.
-  Thomas Sowell, “The Scapegoat for Strife in the Black Community,” National Review, July 17, 2015.
-  Ibid.
-  Alison Stewart, First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2013), 173.
-  Ibid.
-  Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, 311.
-  Stewart, First Class, 173.
-  Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, 312.
-  Thomas Sowell, Education: Assumptions versus History (Stanford: Hoover Institution, 1986), 30.
-  Stewart, First Class, 259.
-  Sowell, Education, 32.
-  Kay S. Hymowitz, “The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies,” Atlanta City Journal, Summer 2005.
-  Wilson, Thinking About Crime, 211.
-  Harry G. Lefever, Undaunted by the Fight, 32-33.
-  Quoted in Flynn, Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas (New York: Crown Forum, 2004), 99.
-  Lefever, Undaunted by the Fight, 23.
-  Ibid., 33-34.
-  Ibid., 34.
-  Ibid., 52.
-  Ibid.
-  Ibid., 56.
-  Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray are classic examples.
-  “Loury’s Exodus: A profile of Glenn Loury,” New Yorker, May 1, 1995.
Jonas E. Alexis has degrees in mathematics and philosophy. He studied education at the graduate level. His main interests include U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the new book, Kevin MacDonald’s Metaphysical Failure: A Philosophical, Historical, and Moral Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, and Identity Politics. He teaches mathematics in South Korea.