Endorsement of Hubert Humphrey followed by Questions and Answers with Reporters, (10 September 1968) New York City, NY

Speech Text

[1] …The Negro and were content to leave his destiny in the hands of southern states. Today the white backlash fuels not one but two presidential candidates. Then as now, some former friends disillusioned by urban violence or preoccupied with other issues have edged away from the Black man’s cause. And again, there are demands for a reduction of federal responsibility and an insistence on various and subtle forms of local control.

[2] In 18 and 76, the electoral process broke down and the southern barbarians emerged to dictate the infamous compromise of 18 and 77, which paved the way for a new era of racial segregation, disenfranchisement, and brutality. Today, a third-party candidate has publicly stated his intention of following the same strategy. And no man with eyes that can see can doubt the consequences should the Wallace strategy succeed. There is however one profound difference between 18 and 76 and 19 and 68. In 18 and 76 the forces of reaction could impose their will on Black Americans. We were not yet one generation removed from slavery. We were concentrated in the South. We were corralled on plantations. We were powerless and dependent. Today, thanks to the civil rights revolution, we have come too far to be so easily turned around. We have gained access to and influence in, institutions hitherto closed to us. We have accumulated political power in many urban centers. And we have produced a new—a new generation of young Black people possessed of the spirit and determination to be free. They can never again be suppressed.

[3] Thus the victory of racism and reaction at the polls in 19 and 68 would not bring peace and tranquility to our nation. It would bring frustration and chaos. It would not bring law and order. It would bring intensified resistance, and I fear, an escalation of violence. This is a prescription for national tragedy. Faced with such a prospect, I believe political neutrality is not an option for men of goodwill in 19 and 68. It is certainly not an option for Black Americans. Those who urge Black Americans to “go fishing” on Election Day are merely exercising their demagogic faculties at the expense of our hard-won struggle. Including the deaths of many noble citizens, Black and white, for the right to vote and in the process are aiding and abetting the reemergence of white supremacy. I am confident that this defeatist advice will be overwhelmingly rejected by Black Americans. We have sacrificed much too long to allow ourselves to be led down the blind alley of dead-end politics. I therefore urge all Black men and women of voting age to register now and to vote in November. I urge young below—people below the voting age to become active in educating their elders to the basic issues involved in the campaign.

[4] I believe that in 19 and 68, we have something else that we did not have in 19—18 and 76, a candidate who is equal to the great challenges facing America. He is a candidate around whom the Negro people can rally with enthusiasm. For he has been a champion of racial equality for many years. He was in the forefront of the civil rights fight when that fight was still a lonely, unpopular, isolated, struggle. He is a candidate around whom working people can rally with enthusiasm, for he has been a friend of labor in its most difficult hours. He is a candidate who understands that the fate of the Black people, the vast majority of whom are workers, is inextricably tied to the fate of the labor movement. He has understood, certainly better than any other candidate, that economic justice, elimination of poverty, the welfare of a nation, depend upon the free, fully open, strong, and growing trade union movement. He is a candidate around whom all Americans who yearn for a world of peace can rally with enthusiasm. For he held—was working for peace and disarmament long before these became popular slogans. And he has understood that real peace depends upon the strengthening of democratic institutions throughout the world and the development of international peace-keeping machinery. Finally, he is a man whom I have known, and admired for many years and with whom I have worked in many facets of the fight for human dignity. Of his dedication to this fight, I have an intimate appreciation and profound respect. I therefore with great satisfaction endorse and vigorously recommend the candidacy of Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey.

[5] [Unknown reporter]: [inaudible] …Can you explain very briefly in your own words why—why you think this year is so important for you to come out and support a candidate? You’ve only done this once before.

[6] Randolph: Well, I stated that in this . . .

[7] [Inaudible directions are given to Randolph]

[8] Randolph: Well, one basic reason is, that if George Wallace receives 20 percent of the vote, it is likely to result in the election being thrown into House of Representatives. In as much as a majority for neither candidate will come about in the Electoral College. In that event, each state has only one vote. And hence, Wallace would be able to make deals with both the Republican and Democratic Parties in the interest of breaking down the civil rights legislation and preventing future civil rights legislation from being enacted in the Congress. It is for this reason that I’m greatly concerned about this election. Because, if a deal can be made, with either party, and no doubt principally the Republican Party, why the hope of the Negro for the consolidation of his civil rights status will become grim and doubtful.

[9] [Unknown reporter]: Mr. Randolph, if George Wallace were not in this race, or if he were not a threat, would you be endorsing either Hubert Humphrey or former Vice-President Nixon?

[10] Randolph: Yes, I would be endorsing Hubert Humphrey because of his long record in the interest of civil rights. Hubert Humphrey was responsible for driving Strom Thurmond out of the Democratic Party convention in 19 and 48. And Thurmond went out and built up the State’s Rights Party, which was designed of course to block the progress of civil rights legislation. So, Humphrey does not come to this struggle as a Johnny-come-lately. He has a long record, and a commendable one. Personally, I have never participated in political presidential campaigns before the campaign of President Johnson. I’ve always been participating in the socialist campaigns. And, of course, I’ve felt that the—the basic social, economic, and political changes that not only Negroes, but white workers needed would not come through either one of the parties unless you had an extraordinary strong man committed.

[11] [Inaudible conversation between reporter and Randolph]

[12] [Unknown reporter]: … you keep saying that many people have the tendency to kind of discount George Wallace and his campaign. You seem to be saying that he is a very serious threat now to the steps that have been made by Black people.

[13] Randolph: I think he is because he has made disorders in the streets as the major issue. And there is widespread sentiment throughout the country, especially among the middle-classes and so forth about what is to be done and what can be done to eliminate disorders in the streets. And they never link the question of disorders in the streets as being the effect of a basic social cause. Namely, racial and social injustice.

[14] [Unknown reporter]: Is this Mr. Wallace, Mr. Nixon or both you are speaking of?

[15] Randolph; I’m speaking of both, yes. The—everybody wants law and order. But you had law and order under slavery. So that the reason for disorders is a lack of racial and social justice. Now when you fight for law and order, you ought to fight for racial and social justice first. Because that—then you will be dealing basically with the cause and effect.

[16] [Unknown reporter]: Do you believe Mr. Humphrey is taking this particular approach to law and order properly in his campaign right now?

[17] Randolph: Well, I have been tied up with our own convention, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. That has taken up most of my time and I haven’t read all of the speeches that Hubert Humphrey has made. But, Vice-President Humphrey is—is a—a student of social problems. And he is cognizant with the economic forces. And he knows that they are related to political power. And hence, I have the utmost confidence in the integrity of his vision and his position. In other words, he is not going to play politics with the question of racial and social justice and law and order. He is going to deal with it frankly and honestly. And therefore, I have the utmost respect for his attitude and mind and his history on this question.

[18] [Inaudible question from the audience]

[19] Randolph: As I indicted in the—my statement, I have departed from my usual policy of not supporting presidential candidates during the Johnson—Lyndon Johnson run for president. I took that position because of the threat of Goldwaterism. And Goldwaterism is to me, another word for reaction. This is the reason I took that position. And I think that it was justified, because President Johnson supported the civil rights proposal before the congress. He did it vigorously and the civil rights revolution from the point of view of legislation, in my opinion has been a success. But the civil rights revolution is not the solution to the economic and social problems that confront the nation. Therefore, we have come to the stage when a social revolution must be developed. In the interest of economic, political, and social progress, not only for Negroes but for the white poor as well. Because Negroes can’t win and can’t achieve the social revolution alone. They need the help of the poor and the poor—the white poor are in larger numbers than the Black poor. Moreover, Negroes can’t win a social revolution without the support of organized labor. And organized labor did support the civil rights revolution. And it together with the NAACP—National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—represented the driving force for civil rights legislation.

[20] [Inaudible question from audience]

[21] Randolph: [inaudible] Barry Goldwater had the forces of reaction with him, the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan. And he himself was not an ordinary man when it came to reaching the people. He had force, and consequently he was a person who could memberate. Now Wallace is a rebel rouser, but he has no depth. And I think, however, the great threat that he holds to the civil rights movement and also social and economic democracy, is that he may be able to throw this election into the House of Representatives, such as occurred during the Rutherford B. Hays and Samuel J. Tillman election of 17—18 and 76. Now when the election was thrown into the House in 1876, what resulted? The army was withdrawn from the South, the Federal Army. And this was a commitment that Rutherford B. Hays made, if the votes from Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Oregon were shuttled off into his column. And as a result of that, the Black freedmen were exposed to the oppression and the ferocity and the barbarism of the old slave masters. And this meant that the reconstruction revolution collapsed. And resulted in the years following a rash of legislation in all of the southern states such as grandfather clauses, white primaries, poll tax legislation, denying the Negro the right to vote—reducing his citizenship to that of a serfdom.

[22] And this of course can’t happen today, but a great blow can be struck for the cause of statism—state rights-ism by Wallace. And he is reaching a large segment of the American people, you can’t underrate him. Because he is preaching a doctrine that the people feel will react against the Negro. Because when they speak of disorders in the streets they are really talking about Negroes. They are really trying to show that Negroes are creating all of the rioting and that they are responsible for the disorders. Now, labor you know also had a struggle trying to win its rights. They didn’t label labor with being responsible for disorders in the streets. And yet, in 1877, why labor tore up the rail-road tracks, burned down tunnel stations, and so forth. But they are trying to label the Negro with the responsibility for disorders in the streets. And—and—and sort of free everybody else from any responsibility whatsoever for these disorders. But basically, the disorders in the streets are the result of the fact that the ghettos represent kegs of social dynamite… [inaudible]

[23] [Inaudible question from reporter] You mentioned earlier that the Negro being automatically a member of the lower class and white—the white labor movement had to work together… Now does this [inaudible]… what you think of as your natural allies… who are you…?

[24] Randolph: Yes, because you have workers in some of the suburban areas. Workers whose wages are relatively high and have arisen to the level of middle-class. And they have all of the prejudices and so-called injustice—injustice complexes that some of the people have in the rural South. Therefore, perhaps a number of the trade union people will vote for—for—for Wallace. I believe some of them will. And during this campaign in Chicago, when they were trying to break into Cicero, and win open occupancy housing, why Paul Douglass was defeated because of increasing the escalation of the white backlash, as a result of the struggle of the Negro to win their rights to open occupancy in housing. It was a great blow to liberal sentiment in the country because Paul H. Douglass was one of the giants in American liberal history. It was a great loss not only to Negroes but to white workers and the cause of freedom and democracy in our country. I knew Paul Douglass very well, we wo—worked together on many issues and so forth in Chicago and other places. And, we don’t have in the country, a man with a—a more full-fledged sense of dedication to human dignity than Paul H. Douglass. And he is—I think that Humphrey is of the same school, same spirit, same dedication and devotion, to social idealism.

[25] [inaudible question from reporter]

[26] Bayard Rustin: I agree with Mr. Randolph’s release in almost every detail. I, as you know, am a pacificist. And I would hope that Mr. Humphrey will as the campaign proceeds take a more vigorous position in regards to ending the war in Vietnam, but I don’t believe Mr. Nixon will do as well, in ending it. And they are the choices which we have before us. But I enthusiastically endorse Mr. Humphrey, along with Mr. Randolph. I’d like to answer [inaudible] question in my own terms, regarding the freedom budget. Given the fact that the Johnson administration has seen fit to vigorously press for the kind of legislation which the freedom budget proposed and which I believe is the only answer to the problem. I believe that if Mr. Nixon goes in, he will take [inaudible] to the House and the Senate reactionaries who are not at all dedicated to such a proposition. But who on the other hand, are using the term” Black capitalism” as an obscuration from facing up to the freedom budget. I believe that if Mr. Humphrey goes in, he will take into the House and Senate, men who at least will be given to considering it, if we can build up the kind of pressure we ought to build up for it.

[27] Randolph: And may I add too, that I’m not a pacifist, but I’ve always opposed war. I opposed the first World War and went to jail on account of it. I opposed the first World War on the grounds that it was an imperialistic war number one, and that the slogan of “Making the World Safe for Democracy” was pure hypocrisy. And that – I went around the country preaching that doctrine. And Eugene V. Debs was arrested in Cleveland after he addressed a great mass meeting in one of the circles—squares there. I followed the following week, and made the same kind of speech and they arrested me too. And –so that—I’ve always opposed wars. But I didn’t oppose the second World War because it had overtones of racism and overtones of anti-Semitism. And, of course, I’m opposed to racism and anti-Semitism. And this is one of the reasons I supported the second World War. Now I don’t believe our country can be the policeman of the world. And the reason why I didn’t enter the marches and so forth for peace, was because I felt that the people who were in the peace movement had left the civil rights movement. And I—I felt that the civil rights movement would suffer if everybody left it. And consequently, I believed that you couldn’t fight on two fronts at the same time. That is why I didn’t get out and join the marches for peace, but I believe in peace as much as anybody who marched for peace for that matter

[28] [Inaudible question from reporter]

[29] Randolph: No it doesn’t, because I think candidate Humphrey is basically committed to peace. And there is no doubt in my mind about that. But, of course, he was a president—Vice-President, and he couldn’t come out and take a position that was in violation of the policy of the Johnson administration. And it must also be understood that the Johnson administration inherited the war. They inherited the war. President Kennedy had it and he got it from Eisenhower. So that, these are some of the facts that history, in a period of relative calm, will be able to evaluate with—with some perspicacity and force and logic. And so I—I don’t feel as a matter of fact that I did a disservice to the cause of peace by not going out into the streets and marching for peace because I didn’t want the Alabama, Mississippi front to be left naked and open to the forces of southern racism. And that was happening.