1 Million Blacks Not Counted In 1940 Census

1 Million Blacks Not Counted In 1940 Census

1940 census blacks undercountedNEW YORK — It was on the streets of her Harlem neighborhood in the 1940s that teenager Althea Gibson began working on the tennis skills that would take her all the way to winning Wimbledon.

But according to the 1940 census, the trailblazing athlete (pictured) didn’t even exist.

There’s no record of Gibson and her family in the decennial census, the records of which were released online to the public April 2 by the U.S. National Archives after a 72-year confidentiality period lapsed.

She and her family aren’t the only ones – more than a million black people weren’t accounted for in 1940, an undercount that had ramifications at the time on everything from the political map to the distribution of resources.

It also had an impact on the Census Bureau itself, the agency said, leading to efforts that continue to this day as it counts people every decade, to assess how well it managed to count people and to determine what could be done to improve. An analysis of the 2010 Census’ efficacy is being released May 22.

The undercount estimate has generally gone down, but it’s always been disproportionately higher for blacks than nonblacks.

There are a variety of reasons for undercounts – people move around; people may not know or be reluctant to answer government questions; address lists may be inaccurate; extremely crowded areas can be difficult to count, as can extremely isolated areas. Experts believe some of those factors weigh more heavily on minority undercounts, particularly the challenges of counting in urban areas.

The 1940 census was long known to have a black undercount. Evidence of it was found within a decade in a demographic study of young children and another of draft-age men. But modern-day genealogists digging into the newly released 1940 census records may be rediscovering it when they cannot locate their relatives or friends.

The absence of Gibson and her family in the available records points toward an omission.

Celedonia “Cal” Jones knows that Gibson lived in Harlem at the time, because the Manhattan borough historian emeritus grew up on the same block as her and remembers playing with her as a child.

“I know she lived on the block, because she used to dominate the paddle tennis,” Jones said. “Her nickname was `tomboy.’”

It can be difficult to find entries in the 1940 census, since there’s no complete name index for the records currently available and won’t be for a few months longer. But Lillian Chisholm, Gibson’s sole surviving sister who was born in August 1940, confirmed the family lived at 135 W. 143rd St. at that time, making it possible to look up the census ledger.

An enumerator visited the building on at least five occasions in April 1940, according to the census records. An Associated Press review of the records found no listing of Gibson, who was 12 at the time, or her parents, at that address, though other building residents were counted.

There had been anecdotal information of population undercounts in previous censuses, but it was the data from the 1940 effort that really made it clear, said Phil Sparks, former associate director of the bureau and now co-director of The Census Project, which advocates for an accurate count.

Government officials were able to see that the count was off, particularly in the count of black men of a certain age group in the South, because they were using census data to plan for how many would be registering to fight in World War II, Sparks said. More signed up than were expected.

“From the standpoint of the war effort, it was a good thing to have happened,” he said, “but suppose it had been the other way around?”

According to census reports, the black undercount was estimated at 8.4 percent in 1940, meaning that a population counted at 12.9 million was actually more like 14.1 million. The undercount for the nonblack population was 5 percent, or about 6.3 million people. The total undercount for all races was 7.5 million.

The U.S. Census Bureau tried to reach out to the black community as it prepared to undertake the 1940 census. Documents obtained by The Associated Press at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y., show that the agency was particularly concerned about counting blacks in America at that time.

“The Census of 1940 will answer two questions of primary importance,” bureau officials wrote in a statement titled “The Negro and the 1940 Census” made available to teachers, speakers and writers at the time. Those questions included “how many Negroes are there now in the United States?” and “has their proportion decreased … or has it taken an unexpected – and unprecedented – upswing?”

These facts “may have a tremendously important bearing upon the determination of the Negro’s place in American life,” the officials wrote.

The statement was part of a nationwide publicity campaign to “impress upon the Negro citizen of the United States the importance of full and honest cooperation.” Letters were sent out to black trade associations, YMCAs and social and civic organizations. Edward Lawson, a managing editor of Opportunity: The Journal of Negro Life, was hired to supervise the campaign.

However, there is evidence that the campaign to count the country’s blacks was uneven.

In one case, the New Orleans chapter of the Urban League Inc., sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wife alleging “willful omission of negroes from staff of census enumerators in New Orleans,” according to a copy of the document obtained by the AP from the FDR library.

The U.S. Census Bureau said it would have to check into the situation when asked about Gibson and her family not being part of the 1940 count, but didn’t respond with an answer.

Jones isn’t surprised that his childhood friend and others somehow got left out.

“It’s part and parcel of being written out of history, that’s the first step,” he said. “You don’t count.”

The importance of an accurate count is vital, since the data is used in a number of ways. That includes the main purpose, written into the U.S. Constitution, that Congressional districts are apportioned by the census population counts. But it also matters because federal dollars flow to states and localities based on that effort, meaning a wrong count in a census year can impact a whole decade.

“It literally can mean the difference of tens of millions, hundreds of millions, of dollars,” Sparks said.

1 Million Blacks Not Counted In 1940 Census
Associated Press
Mon, 21 May 2012 01:06:47 GMT

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What Everyone Should Know About Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)

February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white man. (Zimmerman was described by the police as white. According to his family he is also Hispanic.) Zimmerman admits killing Martin, but claims he was acting in self-defense. Weeks after [...]

via What Everyone Should Know About Trayvon Martin (1995-2012).

French Bistro Cedric Booted Black Women for White Patrons, Pol Says

French Bistro Cedric Booted Black Women for White Patrons, Pol Says

February 13, 2012 8:04pm | By Jeff Mays, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

Cedric French Bistro’s managing partner (from left) Dard Coaxum and co-owners Cedric Lecendre and Fabrizio Khanlari. (DNAinfo/Jeff Mays)

HARLEM — Councilwoman Inez Dickens has called for a boycott of a new French restaurant in Harlem, accusing the upscale uptown eatery of moving a group of black women to accommodate a group of white patrons earlier this month.

At one point the group at Cedric Bistro included deputy Manhattan Borough President Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, but she left before the women were moved.  However, she was called back to the restaurant by her friends later in the evening as the dispute over the move raged in the trendy spot.

In a tersely worded letter to the restaurant, which opened on St. Nicholas Avenue near 119th Street five months ago to rave reviews, Dickens accuses the owners of racism for moving the party of five high-powered black women on Feb 4.

“Racism against anyone in my community, in my district on my watch due to race, color, creed, sexual preference or perceived economic status is unacceptable,” Dickens wrote in her Feb. 9 letter to the restaurant’s co-owner Cedric Lecendre, who is white.

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/20120213/harlem/french-bistro-cedric-booted-black-women-for-white-patrons-pol-says?utm_content=chiefcharley472%40gmail.com&utm_source=VerticalResponse&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=French%20Bistro%20Cedric%20Booted%20Black%20Women%20for%20White%20Patrons%2C%20Pol%20Says&utm_campaign=Group%20Hopes%20to%20Give%20Shipwrecked%20Harvest%20Dome%20New%20Lifecontent#ixzz1mNNuoH1e

Cornel West Arrested Again, This Time at a Stop-and-Frisk Protest


Civil rights activist and Princeton professor Cornel West has been an outspoken supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but not just from behind his lectern. West was arrested today in Harlem while demonstrating against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics, making for his second police run-in for civil disobedience in less than a week. Outside of a local precinct this afternoon, a group rallied and chanted, “We say no to the new Jim Crow; stop and frisk has got to go,” before about 30 people were arrested. The department’s “random” search policy, which skews insanely toward men of color, came under renewed fire this week thanks to a crooked cop who boasted about his race-based arrests. West was also cuffed on Sunday outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., but was not charged with a crime.

Cornel West arrested in NYC [RT]
Cornel West Arrested at ‘Stop And Frisk’ Protests [Atlantic Wire]

Read more posts by Joe Coscarelli

Filed Under: civil disobedience, cornel west, crimes and misdemeanors, nypd, occupy wall street, protest movements, stop and frisk

Cornel West Arrested Again, This Time at a Stop-and-Frisk Protest
Joe Coscarelli
Fri, 21 Oct 2011 21:11:04 GMT

Dangerous White Stereotypes

August 28, 2011

Dangerous White Stereotypes


Davis, Calif.

ONE of the most noteworthy movies of the summer is “The Help.” Set in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, it focuses on the relationships between white upper-middle-class women and the black domestics who took care of them and their children. Although many reviews of the film were quite positive, numerous critics, including some African-American commentators, have lashed out against it, arguing that the film does not deserve the accolades it has received.

To some extent, they have been angry that the movie is based on a novel by a white woman, Kathryn Stockett, and they question whether she is capable of telling that particular story. Some have also complained that the movie reinforces stereotypes about black Southern households. The black heroines speak with a dialect that disturbs some viewers; the audience never sees an intact black household, and a black man’s abuse of his wife is all the more chilling because we never see him, only the pots he hurls and the scars he leaves.

One maid’s close bond with the white toddler she cares for has been decried as a re-enactment of the misconception that maids nurtured their white charges while denigrating their own black offspring.

Not all blacks are unmoved by “The Help.” Indeed, among my friends, relatives and colleagues a wide range of views have been shared, including comments that some of us might want to establish a support group for strong black women who liked “The Help.”

It is unfair to the filmmakers and cast to expect a work of fiction to adhere to the standards of authenticity we would want for a documentary. But we also recognize that precious few works of art tackle the Civil Rights era, and what people coming of age in the 21st century learn about this era often stems from fictive rather than nonfictive sources.

Forty-eight years after Martin Luther King Jr. was accompanied by tens of thousands of black domestic workers to the National Mall in Washington to demand economic justice, it is not all that difficult to render black fictional characters with appealing attributes and praiseworthy talents. What is more difficult to accomplish is a verisimilar rendering of the white characters.

This movie deploys the standard formula. With one possible exception, the white women are remarkably unlikable, and not just because of their racism. Like the housewives portrayed in reality television shows, the housewives of Jackson treat each other, their parents and their husbands with total callousness. In short, they are bad people, therefore they are racists.

There’s a problem, though, with that message. To suggest that bad people were racist implies that good people were not.

Jim Crow segregation survived long into the 20th century because it was kept alive by white Southerners with value systems and personalities we would applaud. It’s the fallacy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a movie that never fails to move me but that advances a troubling falsehood: the notion that well-educated Christian whites were somehow victimized by white trash and forced to live within a social system that exploited and denigrated its black citizens, and that the privileged white upper class was somehow held hostage to these struggling individuals.

But that wasn’t the case. The White Citizens Councils, the thinking man’s Ku Klux Klan, were made up of white middle-class people, people whose company you would enjoy. An analogue can be seen in the way popular culture treats Germans up to and during World War II. Good people were never anti-Semites; only detestable people participated in Hitler’s cause.

Cultures function and persist by consensus. In Jackson and other bastions of the Jim Crow South, the pervasive notion, among poor whites and rich, that blacks were unworthy of full citizenship was as unquestioned as the sanctity of church on Sunday. “The Help” tells a compelling and gripping story, but it fails to tell that one.

I have dim recollections of watching Dr. King in 1963, with the black maid who raised me — my mother. If my father wasn’t in the room, he was working to make sure there would be opportunities in my future. I have benefited enormously from their hard work and from the shift that American culture has undergone as the scaffolding of discrimination was dismantled.

My parents, and the countless other black Americans who not only endured but thrived within the limited occupational sphere granted them, would have been proud of what has been accomplished since 1963, but they would not have wanted us to whitewash that earlier world.

Patricia A. Turner is a professor of African American studies and the vice provost for undergraduate studies at the University of California, Davis. Her most recent book is “Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters.”


Al Sharpton Gives Fox News A Pass On Their Racism


Rev. Al Sharpton appeared on The Ed Show yesterday (5/11/11) where host Ed Schultz asked him if there was “underlying racism” in Fox News’ “Common” controversy. Sharpton made some good points but ultimately he ducked the race question – thereby giving Fox News an undeserved pass. It’s astounding that this supposed civil rights leader would do this.

Sharpton told Schultz that Fox News was “trying to create a boogeyman.” That’s entirely true. But how did it escape Sharpton that Common is a black boogeyman being undeservedly painted with stereotypical black boogeyman stain and used to suggest that an African American president is overly sympathetic to black boogeyman causes? All that after Fox previously described Common as “positive” and Hannity defended violent lyrics from (white) Ted Nugent?

Jon Stewart saw the racism and destroyed Fox News over it. Yet Sharpton either missed it or turned a blind eye. This is not the first time Sharpton has failed to challenge racism on Fox News – and this white woman finds it more than a little troubling.

H/T Mediaite

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Al Sharpton Gives Fox News A Pass On Their Racism
Fri, 13 May 2011 00:12:07 GMT