Neither Free nor Equal
(Performed live at the Mixed Blood Theater, February 15, 2000)
Narrator: This is a good place, this Northwest. It has everything that makes a region great. Vigorous cities and comfortable villages. Endless wheat fields and fat dairy lands. Smoking factories and fabulous iron mines. And five millions of people: intelligent, hard working, friendly. One hundred years ago it was a wilderness. For a hundred years men worked together - digging, cutting and plowing. Cooperation is the word for it. And cooperation is based on the idea that all men are created free and equal.
Voice: We hold these truths to be self evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Narrator: But in this Northwest today there are many people who are denied these inalienable rights. Who are denied equality. And who, in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, are constantly finding doors slammed in their faces.
Woman: Sorry, we can't rent to any Japanese
Man: [Unctuous] I'm sorry, we don't serve any colored here. I'm sure you'll understand.
Woman: Sorry, restricted clientele.
Man: This is for Protestants
Man: Whites only!
Narrator: This is the story we bring you tonight. It's an unpleasant story. It is the story of prejudice, bigotry and racial discrimination in the Northwest. It is the story of those Americans who are "Neither Free Nor Equal."
Man: I'm not an important guy. I like to read Dick Tracy and the sports page. I have a wife and two kids: a boy and a girl. I've got a little house - four and a half rooms - with a nice little garden behind it. Right now I guess my biggest worry is about the robins eating my strawberries as fast as they get ripe.
Narrator: He sounds pretty much like the same kind of person you are, doesn't he? You can't tell from his words whether his skin is black or white. You don't know whether his name is Cohen or Carpenter or maybe Sokolowski. Does he go to mass on Sunday or to the Methodist church? Or is it a synagogue on Friday night? Is he a member of a labor union or does he own a neighborhood grocery store? All you know right now is that he's a fellow pretty much like you and me.
2nd Man: Sounds like a pretty good egg to me. The kind of fellow I'd like to go fishing with, or maybe have over for a few hands of poker when the missus is gone.
Narrator: Our unknown American has to say just three more words to change everything.
Man: I'm a Negro.
2nd Man: A Negro!! Why didn't he say that at first? That makes it a different matter. Yes sir, a lot different.
Narrator: But why is it a different matter? Our unknown friend hasn't changed. He was a Negro when he first started talking. It's the other person who has changed. And the word that made the difference might very well have been any number of others.
Voice I: I'm a Catholic.
Voice II: Me, I'm a Jew.
Voice III: I'm a Nisei, a Japanese American.
Voices: Baptist, Swede, Indian, Mexican.
Narrator: That's the look of prejudice. Practically all of us have seen its ultimate results in other parts of the world.
[Voice of Hitler and Crowd]
Narrator: The United States has set itself up as the champion of democracy everywhere. And we offer ourselves as the first exhibit of democracy at work. But today we are becoming uncomfortably aware that the rest of the world is asking embarrassing questions about us.
Woman: [Slight European Accent] But how about the Negro in your country? Do you not keep him out of your hotels? And make it hard for him to find work? And how does he live - in fine homes, or in the worst parts of your cities? It does not quite fit with all that I've heard about your democracy.
Man: [Slight European Accent] And your feeling about the Jewish people. I've heard so much about the anti-Semitic feeling in the United States. Surely you can't expect us to believe all you say about democracy when you do not practice it?
Narrator: Prejudice creeps in where you would least expect it. Even in service organizations, which are dedicated to mutual helpfulness and the betterment of life in the community, we find the same sad story. A prominent lawyer and one of the nation's outstanding experts on race relations has this to say about the largest city in the Northwest.
McWilliams: One might say, with a measure of justification, that Minneapolis is the capital of anti-Semitism in the United States. So far as I know, Minneapolis is the only city in America in which Jews are, as a matter of practice and custom, ineligible for membership in the service clubs. In fact, Jews have never been accepted into the local Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions or Toastmasters organizations.
Narrator: Many of these organizations make no attempt to deny their practices of discrimination. In fact, the president of one of them very frankly admitted such a policy not long ago.
Man: It is no secret that our club definitely has a policy against accepting any members of the Jewish faith, regardless of their position in the community or the fact that they have been war veterans. Also, I may as well say that I don't care if our policy is publicized or not, or what you say about it.
Narrator: We even slam the door in the faces of some who want to worship. Once prejudice gets a strong hold, it doesn't even hesitate to take over the pulpit. There was an incident which happened in Southeast Minneapolis not too long ago.
Woman: I'm a counselor in a certain settlement home in Minneapolis. Every Sunday morning we take our children by bus to church. One group, I won't even mention the denomination, went to a certain church in Southeast Minneapolis. It was convenient. And it was a pleasant place for the children to worship. But one day the minister stopped us after services. He spoke to me.
Minister: I hardly know how to say this, but I think it might be better if you would send the Negro children to some other church. After all, there are several Negro churches.
Woman: I pointed out that the Negro churches were far across town. I also pointed to the lettering above the altar. It said: "Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden." I remarked that those words didn't mention anything about giving comfort to people of light skin. The minister was quite embarrassed.
Minister: I'm sorry. I would like to have the colored children stay. But our directors voted on the matter the other day. Three of the five thought it would be all right, but two were against it. And as long as there's some opposition, well, I think it might be better.
Woman: Well, we went to the directors, and explained to them something of the meaning of Christianity and the hope it offered all peoples. And in the end they agreed that God didn't know the difference between the color of men's skins. The Negro boys went to church again, beside the whites.
Narrator: Prejudice shows itself in many ways, it is used to prevent men from getting jobs. Men and women: ambitious, well-trained, eager to work. People like this young man, who saw an ad in the newspaper. A Minneapolis dental supply company was looking for a shipping clerk. He called the number. He was told to come right over.
[SOUND: DOOR OPENS, CLOSES, FOOTSTEPS]
Smith: Mr. Johnson, I'm Larry Smith. I just phoned you about that job in your shipping department.
Johnson: [A BIT PRISSY AND UNPLEASANT] You! Well, you didn't tell me that you were, uh, colored.
Smith: You didn't ask me. What difference does it make anyway?
Johnson: I'm afraid it makes quite a bit of difference. We handle a lot of delicate equipment. We just don't feel that Negroes can be trusted with this type of work.
Smith: There isn't anything very delicate about being a shipping clerk, is there?
Johnson: It isn't only that. We do business with a great many doctors. And it just wouldn't look nice for them to see a Negro employed here. [FADE] It just wouldn't look nice.
Narrator: But job discrimination isn't based on color alone. It can be based on that most implausible of all reasons - a man's or woman's religion. For example, many Catholic girls who have applied for work with a Twin Cities milling concern will never know why they were turned down.
Personnel Manager: I'm sorry, Miss Sullivan, but we just don't have an opening at the moment. If anything turns up-
Girl: Thank you. I'd hoped you'd have something. Goodbye.
Personnel Manager: Goodbye, Miss Sullivan.
[SOUND: FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN AND CLOSE]
Man: Why didn't you hire her, Frank? Nice looking, pleasant personality. Lots of experience. And you know you've got a couple of openings.
Personnel Manager: She's a Catholic, that's why.
Man: Yeah, but Frank, you've already got Catholics here.
Personnel Manager: That's just it. We've already got our quota.
Man: What do you mean - quota?
Personnel Manager: I don't want more than two or three of them in any department. I'm afraid they'll get too friendly with each other. They might form a clique. Too many of them just aren't good for the business.
Narrator: Few men and women ask or want charity. They know this is a highly competitive world, where no employer can afford to hire a person without ability. All they ask is that they be judged on those abilities. Oh yes, you'll hear many objections.
Employer: I run a small business. Personally I don't have a thing against some of these people. But if I hired them, I'd have trouble. The rest of my workers would walk right off the job, and then where would I be? It's too bad, but that's just the way it is.
Narrator: That's one of those statements which is made so often that many of us come to accept it without question. But let's examine it for a moment. Let's put it to that most critical of all tests - actual experience. The place is a small manufacturing plant in the Twin Cities. Walk along with its president as he takes you on a tour of his plant.
[SOUND: MACHINE SHOP NOISES]
President: And this is our assembling department. We get a lot of our parts ready made and put them together. I'd say it's about as skilled work as you'll find in most plants. I'd say roughly that about twenty percent of these men are Negroes. I don't make any special attempt to hire them. I just take good men as they come, regardless of their color or religion. I'm in this business to make a profit and I'll hire any man who can help me do it. And I'll pay him what he's worth.
Narrator: But all these people? Don't you ever have race friction or religious differences?
President: Sometimes a new worker is a little uneasy for a time, but that's because he came here with a lot of preconceived notions. Good men can't work together and keep all their twisted ideas. Pretty soon they begin to respect each other's work, and the minute you begin to respect anything about a man, it becomes pretty hard to feel prejudiced toward him.
Narrator: There's the ideal situation. A man who hires a person entirely on the basis of ability. But we seldom find that ideal today. There is another kind of discrimination - it works against the man who wants to go into business for himself. This is the story of John Fairland, a Negro, who tried to open his own small restaurant on Fourth Avenue in south Minneapolis. In the space of a week he had closed it again, because of a succession of incidents like these.
[SOUND: LUNCH COUNTER NOISES]
Fairland: I'm sure mighty happy about this. Here we've been open nearly an hour and look at all the business already...
[SOUND: DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES]
Police: You John Fairland?
Fairland: That's right.
Police: I'm from headquarters. Got a warrant for your arrest.
Fairland: My arrest?
Police: Yep. Serving food without a license.
Fairland: But all these people here - waiting to be served - and I filed my application. They told me I could open as soon as I filed.
Police: I don't know nothing about that. All I know is I got a warrant for your arrest. But go ahead - finish serving these people, and then close up.
Narrator: This was contrary to all precedent, but there was nothing Fairlalnd could do. Six days later the license was granted, and he reopened.
[SOUND: LUNCH COUNTER NOISES]
Fairland: Can I serve you gentlemen?
Man: [CHEWING GUM DIALECT] Yeah, bring us three whiskies.
Fairland: I'm sorry, but I don't serve liquor. This is just a chicken shack.
Man: You better give us what we want or you ain't gonna be in business here very long.
Fairland: I'm sorry gentlemen, but I can't serve you any liquor. I don't have a license.
2nd Man: [ALSO CHEWING GUM DIALECT] What time you closing this evening?
Fairland: About two o'clock.
[SOUND: CLOCK TICKING. STRIKES TWO]
Fairland: You ready to go, honey? About time we closed up here.
Woman: All ready John! Look at that man outside! He's got a bottle in his hand. John!
[SOUND: BOTTLE IS THROWN THROUGH WINDOW]
Man from above: [YELLING OFF MIKE] That'll show you! We don't want none of you and your kind around here, and there'll be more where this came from.
Narrator: Fairland cleaned up the debris, and the next day he opened again. Within half an hour a crowd of whites had gathered outside the Minneapolis Chicken Shack.
[SOUND: CROWD NOISES OFF MIKE]
AD LIB: Get out of here! You aren't wanted! What makes you think you can run a place in this neighborhood?
[SOUND: NOISES GROW LOUDER AND LOUDER. AT HIGHEST PITCH, ANOTHER BOTTLE IS THROWN THROUGH THE WINDOW]
Narrator: That was the end of it. Fairland closed his little restaurant and never opened it again. But in closing he made a statement.
Fairland: I'm closing because this thing means trouble for everybody in Minneapolis. I would rather lose my money than see little kids and women get hurt because there are people who act like this.
Narrator: This is the country of free enterprise. But for John Fairland there was no freedom of enterprise. His skin was a different shade! We can't afford the dubious luxury of this kind of prejudice. There's too much work to be done.
Narrator: From the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis, this is "Neither Free nor Equal." Our program continues in just a moment.
St. Paul Host: Good evening. We're preempting our regularly scheduled broadcast of The World for a Minnesota Public Radio special event. A live recreation of the 1947 radio program, Neither Free Nor Equal. The program originally aired in six installments on WCCO Radio. Let's go back now to Minneapolis and the Mixed Blood Theater for tonight's dramatization of Neither Free Nor Equal. Take it away, Minneapolis!
Narrator: There is no prejudice or discrimination which can give us cause for pride. Today there are thousands of Americans who have no place to live. No place to plant the roots of family life. No chance to know the warm security of a home. We find them at our doors. We hear their voices on the telephone. We read their pleas in every newspaper.
Man: Would you have a room or two that I could rent? Any kind of room? A place for my wife and baby?
Woman: But we're being evicted tomorrow and haven't a place to go. Anything will do.
Voice: [DRY, MECHANICAL] Veteran, newly married, best references, must have apartment by August first.
Woman: We've got to have a home.
Man: Still looking for a home.
Voice: [MECHANICAL] Give G.I. Joe a home.
Several: [DESPERATELY] Home!
Narrator: The problem has never been worse than it is today. It is the chief complaint of the thousands and thousands who gave up their youth to serve their country. But for some of you this is not a new situation. You have been running up against it for years. And for reasons that have nothing to do with the war. The reasons are more personal than that. You'll find that reason expressed in one word in the ads: the word "restricted."
Man: [MECHANICAL] Buy a home in beautiful Sunny Dell development. Comfortable, modern homes. Beautifully landscaped. A central playground for your children. Easy payments. Carefully restricted.
Narrator: Carefully restricted! It's a comfortable-sounding phrase. You assume it means a guarantee of good, respectable neighbors. But it has nothing to do with respectability..
Salesman: Say, boss, I've got a good prospect for that new house. All ready to sign on the dotted line. Only one thing about him worries me.
Boss: What's that?
Salesman: He served a prison term for burglary. And got kicked out of a job for petty thievery.
Boss: What about it? I'm not concerned with the personal life of your prospects. Only one thing -- he isn't a Jew, is he?
Salesman: Not this guy, boss.
Boss: Good. You know, we got to be careful about the people we sell to.
Narrator: No, restrictions have nothing to do with your character. But they have a lot to do with your religion or color or race. A young Nisei war veteran in Minneapolis found that out not too long ago. You probably know the story --- how he and 50 other veterans formed a cooperative to build themselves new homes in northeast Minneapolis. And how he ran head-on into that word "Restricted."
Lawyer: Mr. Hitari, I'm afraid I may have something unpleasant to tell you. I'm a lawyer. I represent the real estate company.
Hitari: You mean it's about my new home?
Lawyer: That's right --- that veterans' cooperative housing development. We're afraid we're not going to be able to sell you a lot.
Hitari: But why not?
Lawyer: There's a restrictive covenant on this property.
Hitari: And just what is this restrictive covenant?
Lawyer: It means simply that the land cannot be sold to anyone not a member of the Caucasian race.
Lawyer: And, unfortunately, that automatically restricts you. I'm very sorry, but that's the way it is.
Woman: But tell me, what's so wrong about that? Haven't we got a right to say who's going to live in our neighborhood? And those other people, they've got other places to go, haven't they?
Narrator: Yes, but what kind of place? The worst parts of the city. Depreciated, down-at-the-heel areas. Ramshackle tenements and dwellings, cold-water flats. Rat-infested, garbage-strewn neighborhoods.
Woman: I suppose it is unfortunate.
Narrator: It's more than "unfortunate," lady, it's downright dangerous. Once they are forced into such an area, these unhappy people have no way of breaking out. They are confined by a stone wall of restrictive covenants. And yet that section of our population, like any other, is expanding. Go on building up pressure in closely confined space, and what happens?
Woman: Why you have an explosion.
Narrator: Right. And when you're dealing with human beings, an explosion usually takes the form of rioting and violence. Of insurrection. It makes a loud, ugly noise.
[SOUND: A RIOT]
Narrator: You can't slap a man in the face with a restrictive covenant and then expect him to be very impressed when you talk about freedom and equality. Put yourself in his place for a moment; what would happen to your own dignity as a human being. A Minneapolis man - cultured and well-known - tried to buy a home in a Minneapolis suburb. But, as usual, there was a restriction which kept him out. He had this meaningful remark to make.
Man: They wouldn't sell me a house under any circumstances. But it's perfectly all right to keep a pig in the village limits of this suburb.
Narrator: We might keep that thought with us, and think it over before any of us protests too much. Restrictive covenants are only half the story though. Discrimination enters into the search for even a temporary home. Do you know what it means to be a Negro in a strange city, looking for a hotel room? It means listening to speeches like these.
Hotel Clerk: [SUPERCILIOUS] No, I'm afraid we don't have a thing. We're all filled up.
2nd Clerk: Every room is taken. I'm sorry. And I'm sure I haven't any idea when we'll have a vacancy.
3rd Clerk: You should know better than to come here. We have a select guest list. We don't want Negroes.
Narrator: And this statement was made by an Indian with a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
Indian: I tried to get a hotel room in Minneapolis once; I found that education didn't make any difference. The fact that I looked like an Indian seemed to be the important thing. And I had to go to four different hotels before I found one that would take me in.
Narrator: The problem of the Indian hasn't had the attention it deserves. We have assumed that he has been well taken care of.
Woman: There's no reason to get upset about the Indians. They have things a lot easier than the rest of us. The Government takes care of them. And if they can't make a go of things in the outside world, they can always go back to the reservation.
Narrator: We have done most Indians no service when we set aside reservations for them. A young Indian lady, who graduated from the University of Minnesota, has this to say of her childhood.
Girl: As far back as I can remember we lived in poverty. Our home was a two-room tarpaper shack, without running water. Our clothing? The cheapest we could buy; I had dresses made of flour sacks one winter. We had enough food, but that's about all you could say for it. And it wasn't because we were lazy or didn't want to work. There just wasn't any work for us to do. Our reservation was in northern Minnesota, without an office or factory or any place else to look for employment within 50 miles. To me, the reservation was a prison. I moved heaven and earth to get away from it, and I never want to go back.
Narrator: It is not true of all of them - many Indians are content to remain on the reservation. But the young ones frequently have a hard road to travel. Ask any Indian of the experiences he had when he tried to live on equal terms with other Americans. The case of one young Minnesota Indian who left his reservation, graduated from college with honors, and then tried to find work is typical.
Indian: I never had a comfortable moment from the time I left my reservation. In college they either ignored me or looked at me like I was something out of a circus. I guess it was their stupidity about Indians that bothered me most. Some of their questions were unbelievable. I remember one young thing asked me this:
Girl: [VACUOUS TYPE] I think Indians are so romantic. And I envy them the way they camp around all over the prairie in the summer. But in the winter --- don't those wigwams get terribly cold and everything?
Indian: She looked hurt when I told her that I lived in a five-room house. And there was one party I attended where the hostess seriously suggested that I show them how an Indian war dance is done. But mostly they didn't even ask me to parties unless it was one of those affairs where everyone was trying to show how liberal and tolerant he could be. It wasn't until I started looking for a job that I knew what real trouble was. I had been trained for civil engineering, and I tried to get a job in Madison, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities. Usually they told me they were filled up, even when I knew they were short-handed. But one of them was more honest, even if he was a walking mine of misinformation.
Man: Well, I'll tell you the truth. I don't think Indians are dependable. They work for a while, and then they get tired of it. And it's been my experience that all of them are too fond of firewater. I've never seen an Indian yet that didn't have a weakness for firewater.
Indian: I would have punched him in the nose, except that it would only have confirmed his opinion that all Indians are violent. I merely suggested that sometime in his dealings with them he ought to learn that none of them ever use the word, "firewater." Actually, I don't think he'd ever talked to an Indian before. I didn't get a job in any civil engineering firm. Right now I'm making use of my college training by driving a road grader over county roads in northern Wisconsin. Anyway, it's better than picking blueberries and gathering wild rice.
Narrator: One of the greatest complaints of the Indian, however, has nothing to do with job discrimination. It is the scene that occurs whenever one of them steps into a café.
[SOUND: DOOR OPENS, MUFFLED VOICES OF BAR CONVERSATION]
Bartender: What'll it be for ya?
[SOUND: SETTING GLASS ON COUNTERTOP]
Indian: Just a glass of beer.
Bartender: You're an Indian, ain't you?
Indian: That's right. What about it?
Bartender: Then you should know better than to come in here. You know there's a law against selling liquor to an Indian. Are you trying to get me arrested?
Narrator: We aren't bringing up this point because we believe that intoxicating liquor is a good thing for Indians or anyone else. But we do believe that the law represents an archaic and humiliating kind of racial discrimination, implying as it does that the Indian isn't able to take care of himself. We cannot afford the luxury of continuing to treat the Indian as a museum piece. We even teach that he is an object of charity, who can do nothing more useful than make baskets and weave blankets. Here is a passage from a book used in hundreds of grade schools in the Northwest. It is no worse or no better than dozens of others.
[SOUND: JUVENILE CLASSROOM]
Teacher: All right now, children. A little quiet please. Yesterday we learned all about the Indians and how cruel they were to the first settlers. Now, all the Indians aren't so bloodthirsty any more. They have become civilized. Sally, will you please start reading where we left off yesterday? On page 73.
Sally: [READS IN HALTING MANNER] We must not think that all the Indians are still savage and ignorant. In spite of the cruel way in which the Indians treated the pioneers, our government has been very good to them. It has given the Indians big areas of land which we call reservations, and where the Indian can live happily and follow his own customs. Many of them make such things as baskets and even beautiful blankets, and sell them to white men who visit the reservations.
Narrator: Many of our textbooks are bad, but some of our radio programs are even worse, especially those that are aimed at children. What child can gain any understanding or knowledge of the Indian from scripts like this.
Announcer: [FILTER MIKE] Yesterday we left Billy just as he had come face to face with Chief Thunderbird at the bottom of the mountain where Jane and Tim were lost. Now, let's listen to see if Billy is going to be able to get the help of Chief Thunderbird and his tribe in search for Jane.
Billy: Greetings, Chief Thunderbird.
Chief: [MAKE THIS GUY A COMBINATION OF ALL THE CORNY INDIAN CHARACTERIZATIONS ON RECORD] How! Ugh. Why does paleface come to hunting ground of Great Chief Thunderbird?
Billy: I come as your friend, great Chief.
Chief: All friends of Thunderbird bring him presents. Thunderbird needs beads for squaw. Thunderbird need hunting knife.
Billy: I bring you many presents. Worth much wampum. But first, we smoke pipe of peace.
Narrator: [INTERRUPTING] That's enough, that's enough of that trash! Turn it off. Oh, yes, it sounds pretty silly to us. But it impresses children. And even when they've grown up they have a hard time shaking off the effects of such indoctrination. Examine your own concept of the Indian, and see how much misinformation you're carrying around. The version of the Indian which Hollywood gives us doesn't do much to correct such errors. Neither do our comic strips, or even our jokes. More on that in a moment, when we continue with Neither Free nor Equal!
St. Paul Host: You're listening to a special live reenactment of Neither Free Nor Equal, a radio program that originally aired on Minnesota's WCCO Radio in 1947. Good evening, you're tuned to Minnesota Public Radio. Our regularly schedule program, The World, returns tomorrow at this time. Now let's return to the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis for the conclusion of Neither Free Nor Equal! Take is Minneapolis.
Narrator: We have seen some of the far-reaching aspects of prejudice and discrimination. Such prejudice is an evil thing. But worse yet are the men and women who deliberately preach such doctrine.
Demagogue: And I say to these people: leave our shores! Go back where you came from! We don't want you here. This nation was founded by Anglo-Saxons! Let us keep it pure from the taint of Slavic, Latin, Negro, Jewish, and other alien blood.
Man: Hold on, Bud! We surely don't have any of those guys you call "hate merchants" in this part of the country! We don't swallow that sort of stuff up here.
Narrator: That's where you happen to be wrong. We have more of them than you suspect. Several years ago a hate organization known as the Silver Shirts was gathering a group of frustrated and misled people about it. Here in the Twin Cities, a reporter talked to one of the followers of this movement. His story is almost incredible.
Reporter: My city editor gave me the job of investigating the Silver Shirts in Minneapolis. As I got deeper and deeper into the story I began to hear one date -- September 16 - mentioned again and again. September 16, 1936. And eventually I met a Silver Shirter who told me the whole story. I went out to her house.
Woman: [UNHINGED] Oh, we've known for a long time that the Jews are plotting to seize the United States Government. They want to run the whole world and tell us what to do. Just look at Russia - the Jews certainly got Russia, didn't they?
Reporter: I said I had always thought it was the Communists who had got control of Russia, not the Jews. But she let that objection pass unnoticed.
Woman: Yes, sir, September 16th is the day. You want to watch out. We've all got orders to stay home and away from the windows.
Reporter: There must have been some doubt in my expression, for she shook her head with a compassionate smile, as though patient with my dullness.
Woman: September 16 is the date for an uprising of all the Jews on the continent. In Minneapolis they're going to start through Kenwood, and sweep eastward around the lakes, and then across the city. I was warned to supply myself for at least a two weeks' siege, and stay indoors away from the windows.
Reporter: I asked her if she was ready for the siege. For answer, she led me into the kitchen and opened a cupboard door.
[SOUND: CUPBOARD DOOR OPENS]
Woman: There, look at that. They aren't going to catch me. I'm ready for anything.
Reporter: I looked and gasped.
[SOUND: CANS AND BOXES SET DOWN AFTER EACH OBJECT NAMED]
Reporter: Canned meat, vegetables, breakfast food. And cans and cans of sardines. Enough to last anybody for two weeks. She prodded me with an insistent forefinger.
Woman: Me and my husband, we aren't planning to offer any resistance, let them sack and burn! But if they come in here and touch one of us, we are both ready to die.
Narrator: A great many Minneapolis people stayed indoors on September 16, 1936, and cowered behind closed windows and drawn blinds - waiting for the Jews to sweep through Kenwood and around the lakes. But the day passed and so has many another September 16, without incident. The whole story sounds like the wildest kind of fiction, but you can find it for yourself in the files of the Minneapolis Journal. Maybe you think these people were just a handful of lunatics. But a list of these fascists who call themselves Silver Shirts. Taken from the files of their leader, it shows the names of people from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Crookston, Austin, Owatonna, Fairmont, West Duluth, Winona and Willow River.
Narrator: Most Americans are decent people. Some of us are honestly unaware that we sometimes talk with prejudice in our voices. Others among us are a little more frank in admitting it.
Man: Sure, maybe I don't want to associate with Indians. Or maybe it's Jews. So what? Maybe I don't like the way Catholics do things. Why should I have anything to do with them? I say we can go our way and they go theirs.
Narrator: So that's what it finally breaks down to - a case of "we" or "they." Think back in your life - far back - and try to remember when you were first exposed to the idea that mankind is divided into "we" and "they." Probably it was some very small thing - perhaps like this incident which happened in a small Wisconsin town the other day.
[SOUND: DINNER TABLE NOISES]
Girl: [MAKE HER AS YOUNG AS POSSIBLE] Gee, I had fun at school today. We played games almost all afternoon.
Mother: That's fine Judy. Now eat your salad. It'll make you grow up big and strong.
Father: What sort of games did you play honey?
Girl: Oh, all sorts. And we had a new little girl starting school today.
Mother: Is that so? Where does she live?
Girl: Just over in the next block. Across the alley and past the church.
Father: If she lives that close, why don't you ask her over to play with you? What's her name?
Girl: Oh, it's an awful pretty name. The prettiest name I ever heard. It's just like flowers.
Mother: What kind of flowers, dear?
Girl: Roses. Rose-in-bloom. Bonnie Rose-in-bloom. Isn't that pretty?
Father: Rosenblum!! Why, That's a Jewish name!
Girl: What's Jewish, Daddy?
Father: You'll find out when you grow older, Judy. I don't think you'd better ask her over. [CHANGES TO ADDRESS WIFE] Another one of them in this neighborhood! You can't keep them out.
Girl: But why can't I play with her?
Father: Because she's Jewish. And Daddy doesn't want you to play with Jews, that's why.
Narrator: No child will remain indifferent to such implications for very long. And soon all of us begin to feel conscious of differences - sometimes differences that are pure fiction. As we grow older, we find some of our newspapers and radio stations drawing distinctions between man and man - especially in unfavorable connections. In most parts of the country, stories of petty crimes are reported this way.
Voice: "George Andrews, 25-year-old Negro, who admitted sticking up four service stations."
Narrator: In a Twin Cities newspaper, that story would be reported differently. The word "Negro" would be left out - because these newspapers feel that it is no fairer to blame the entire Negro race for the mistakes of one of its members than it would be to blame the Swedes, Norwegians, or Irish. So, we can worry about the prevalence of prejudice in the Northwest, but we can feel proud of the men and women who have been courageous enough to fight it openly.
Narrator: During the weeks just past we have seen one pattern of prejudice broken almost over night. And it was a simple little experiment. Any one of the 27 Negro children in the Twin Cities could tell you all about the plan.
Girl: [ABOUT 12] I guess I oughta' know something about it. I was part of it. You know, I'd never been out of the city before, but my church fixed it up so I could go up to a place called Nashua and spend two whole weeks with a white family. They had a farm, and I rode horses, went swimming, and even tried to milk a cow. It was the first real country vacation I've ever had. And it was the first time I'd ever stayed with a white family. But they were just as good to me as they could be.
Narrator: You'll get another slant on the idea from the families who played host to these children.
Woman: We live in Sleepy Eye, and we volunteered to have one of the colored children from the Cities spend two weeks with us. Down in Sleepy Eye we don't see very many Negroes - much less have them live with us. Oh, we were full of all sorts of wild ideas. I guess we'd been listening to too many people who didn't know what they were talking about . But the little boy who stayed with us was a perfect gentleman.
Man: This certainly has been an eye-opener for us! We're ready to admit frankly that our old prejudices don't have a leg to stand on!
Narrator: The plan to have Negro children live with rural, white families got off to a modest, but very successful start in Minnesota this summer. Next year it will almost certainly be extended. There are a great many people in the Northwest who would like to join the fight against prejudice and intolerance. But they know that in a battle of this kind they need weapons and allies. We do have a law in the state of Minnesota which is a powerful weapon in this struggle against many sorts of discrimination. It is called the Minnesota Equal Rights Law. But it is being violated daily. It is violated every time a Negro is refused service.
Waitress: I'm terribly sorry, but I'm afraid we can't seat your party. We just happen to have a strict policy of serving whites only. And - well, I'm sure you'll understand that there's nothing personal about this.
Narrator: It is violated every time a resort owner in the Northwest turns away a prospective guest because of his race or religion.
Man: I'm afraid we can't take care of you and your wife, Mr. Greenberg. We are all filled up - yes, all filled. Not a single room available for you. I'm sorry.
Narrator: And the law is being flouted in the taverns and bars.
Bartender: I've been trying to get the idea across to you that I don't want to serve no drinks to a colored man. But I'll pour it if you're going to be stubborn. Only I'm warning you - this shot is going to cost you ten dollars. Ten dollars for one drink of scotch.
Woman: It certainly looks to me as though your old Minnesota Equal Rights Law is a complete failure. Why even talk about it, if it's being violated all the time?
Narrator: It's no fault of the law that it is continually flouted. All of us who live in Minnesota can call upon that statute to protect ourselves or someone else who is being denied his full rights. But it requires a little effort on our part. And there's no scarcity of sturdy, well-equipped allies. How many of you, for example, know about the Governor's Interracial Commission?
Man: The Governor's Interracial Commission acts like a powerful searchlight illuminating the dark areas of prejudice and discrimination in our state. Already we have studied and published booklets on the problems of the Negro in industry, Negro housing, and the Indian in Minnesota. And it carries on a continuous campaign of education and information about group relations.
Narrator: There are the Urban Leagues of Minneapolis and St. Paul, there is the Minnesota Jewish Council, the YWCA, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and many, many others. And there's a place in the ranks for you. The next time one of those hate merchants comes to you, answer him with healthy skepticism and a few searching questions.
Woman: Now I know for a fact that Negroes are plotting to take over a certain housing development in St. Paul. When they get organized, they plan to kick out all us whites and take every single house.
Man: Is that so. Just what housing development is it?
Woman: Oh, it's one of the biggest ones in St. Paul.
Man: But what's the name of it? Where is it?
Woman: Well, I'm not quite sure just where it is. But everybody knows about the plot.
Man: I don't know about it. Just where did you find out? What's the name of the person who told you?
Woman: Well, I just heard about it.
Man: In other words, you really can't prove a single thing that you're saying. Isn't that about it?
Narrator: If you are ever in any doubt about what fighting discrimination involves, it is very simple. We need only measure our actions against these noble and familiar words.
Voices: [In unison] We hold these truths to be self-evident:
Voices: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;
All: That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Narrator: The Mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert H. Humphrey joins us now to explain how his city is actively promoting and protecting these basic human rights.
Humphrey: We Americans live today with an uneasy conscience. We know that millions of our fellow citizens lack the full measure of freedom and equality necessary for human dignity. In Minneapolis, we do mean business about our American ideals - we are accepting the challenge of making democracy work!
We have already taken a clear and effective stand against discrimination in employment. We are the third city in the U.S. to pass a fair employment practice ordinance. We are the first city to establish a commission to administer the ordinance. In the field of housing we have also taken a stand against discrimination. Our Board of Public Welfare has established and effectively carried out a policy of non-discrimination and non-segregation in our veterans emergency housing projects.
And in our police department, we have established an educational program on race relations. Law enforcement in a democracy demands a respect for human personality; an appreciation of basic democratic rights!
People sometimes ask me if we are not rushing things. I reply that we are some one hundred and seventy years late. As believers in the Declaration of Independence, we Americans owe to ourselves and to humanity, a debt which today, more than ever, demands payment.
Never in the history of man has the time been so short and the task so urgent. On every front our spiritual achievements must keep pace with our scientific achievements. Only in this way can we build a just and enduring peace.
Narrator: Thank you, Mayor Hubert Humphrey.
Narrator: The Mayor's words bring to conclusion this evening's program. The one conspicuous failure of our way of life is that so many of our fellow Americans can truthfully say that they are Neither Free Nor Equal. Today we are trying to sell that way of life to the rest of the world, but how can you sell a product that has an obvious blemish on it? We shall lose everything our nation stands for if we do not solve the problems of prejudice and bigotry. And it is squarely up to you and me to determine who wins this fight. Whether its outcome shall be democracy and freedom, or hatred and chaos!
Narrator: This special live broadcast from the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis was based on a six-part radio series called Neither Free Nor Equal, which originally aired in 1947 on WCCO radio. Tonight's broadcast was directed by Peter Moore. The cast included: Virginia Burke, Amy Colon, Patrick Coyle, Wayne Evenson, Gary Groomes, Allen Hamilton, Michael Paul Levin, Rose Portillo, Marty Ruben, Sue Scott, Mark Sieve, Greg Smith, Michael Tezla, Bart Tinapp, Sally Wingert, and Ulysses Zachary. Tom Keith provided sound effects, Gregory Tyson performed the music and the stage manager was Denny Hansen. I'm your narrator, Jeff Gadbois.
Stephanie Curtis produced the broadcast with help from Sasha Aslanian, Tina Tennessen and Matt Weiland. The event producer was Tony Bol, Alan Stricklin served as technical director, Steve Griffith was the technical coordinator and Mary Ann Besser produced the web cast. The executive producer of tonight's show was Stephen Smith. We'd like to give a special thanks to the Mixed Blood Theatre, the Minnesota Historical Society and WCCO Radio for their cooperation. This recreation of "Neither Free nor Equal" is a production of American RadioWorks and Minnesota Public Radio. Thank you for listening. We return you now to St. Paul!
St Paul Host: make sure to stay tuned because at 9 o'clock tonight we'll rebroadcast the American RadioWorks documentary, "Radio Fights Jim Crow." The report explains how dozens of radio programs were broadcast in the 1940s to persuade Americans of all colors to set aside their racial and ethnic differences in the war against fascism. That's tonight at nine here on MPR. And to find out more about this subject, visit our website at americanradioworks-dot-org.