Dunbar Community League Sociological Survey of the Negro Population
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One survey entitled, "Sociological Survey of the Negro Population" printed by the Dunbar Community League dated February 1940. Updating a previous survey from 1921 regarding the black population in Springfield, Massachusetts. Contains statistics on population by districts, occupations, churches, social and charity organizations, education, political interest, disease and mortality rates, housing, crime, welfare and interracial relationships in the community. One of the conclusions made from the survey was, "That the real social tragedy of the Negro in Springfield, as elsewhere in New England, is the very limited sphere of his industrial opportunity."
The Dunbar Community League, known in present day as the Urban League, was founded in 1913 by Reverend William N. DeBerry.
[Draft Created by Crowdsourcing]
Edited by William N. DeBerry
THE DUNBAR COMMUNITY LEAGUE
643 Union Street
A sociological survey of the Negro population of Springfield was made in 1921 by the St. John's Institutional Activities, now known as the Dunbar Community League. The report of this survey, published in March 1922, contained much valuable information regarding the colored people of Springfield and has since been widely used as a reference for this purpose
The need of more up-to-date knowledge of the facts and conditions then studied, and the need, as well, of authentic information regarding such developments and changes as have since taken place in the social status of the group are the motives that prompted the present survey, sponsored and conducted by the Dunbar Community League in 1939.
A summarized report of this latter study is submitted herewith in the hope that it may be of public interest and service.
During November and December, the city was carefully canvassed by five investigators who were well fitted by training and experience for the task. The data thus gathered was later classified and tabulated in the office of the organization by members of the Dunbar staff.
We wish to acknowledge our indebtedness to the colored people of the city as a whole who, with very few exceptions, have cordially cooperated with us in our efforts.
The facts and figures, as here given, are not free from error, nor do they constitute an all-inclusive record. They do present, however, in the main, an accurate and faithful picture of the conditions with which they deal.
William N. DeBerry, Executive Secretary,
The Dunbar Community League.
Springfield Sunday Republican
February 11, 1940
The Negro in Springfield
Reading the survey of the present condition of the Negro population of this city, which had been conducted under the auspices of the Dunbar Community League (Rev. Dr. William N. DeBerry, executive), one is reminded of the similar survey in 1921-which was also conducted by Dr. DeBerry and his associates of that period.
The Republican, on January 21, 1922, commenting on the earlier report, concluded: "All things considered, the Negro is doing well in this city and there is every promise of a still better record in the future. Such a development, however, is largely dependent upon understanding and sympathetic cooperation by people of the white race." The responsibility of the white race should be emphasized today.
It must be admitted that the present report-which is printed in a condensed form elsewhere in this paper-discloses less gain for our Negro population in the past 18 years than could be desired. Yet the record is not to be dismissed as disappointing; it may best be described as failing to fulfill the more optimistic hopes. And this fact need not inspire pessimism for the future when one considers that the past decade of depression, from which the entire country has suffered, has handicapped the Negroes, probably, more than any other racial group.
The Negroes had largely come to Springfield during the World War in response to industrial inducements; and, in 1921, Dr. DeBerry showed prescience in presenting as "vital" the question whether the improved industrial status of his race in Springfield could be maintained-whether the Negro had definitely and permanently risen above being merely a "hewer of wood and drawer of water." He now answers his own questions of 1921 in the present report, by saying: "The widespread and long-continued industrial depression of the last decade has had a retrenching effect upon the Negro's enlarged industrial status in the North which resulted from the World War. To a very large extent, it has neutralized this wholesome result and virtually restored the black man's prewar industrial status which was, in the main, that of the 'hewer of wood and drawer of water.'"
This development may be considered specially depressing, if it be detached from the general economic background of depression. Properly interpreted, however, it merely registers that part of the price paid by the Negro population which the whole of society had had to absorb.
The details of the survey need not here be reviewed. But they will repay study by all. The Negro population of the city has declined somewhat; and this may be explained largely by a small migration in the depression years back to the South, not to the plantations, but to the new industrial communities the growth of which has offered to Negroes increasing opportunities for
jobs. In a number of activated Negro life in this city presents much the same aspect as in 1921. But the housing situation is improved, somewhat paradoxically, for much the same reason that the Negro's economic status in gainful occupations had been depressed. The crime situation does not seem to have undergone much improvement, but the depression years may fairly be charged with heavy responsibility for that.
The report is notably judicious and restrained. The sober facts are brought out. But no bitterness lurks between the lines to complicate race relationships. While emphasizing the somber truth that "the real social tragedy of the Negro in Springfield, as elsewhere in New England, is the very limited sphere of his industrial opportunity," the report graciously observes: "That in spite of the adverse conditions which beset their social development and progress, the general lot of Springfield's Negro citizens is more fortunate than that of the vast majority of the race of which they are a part."
The total number of colored people in Springfield on January 1, 1940, as counted during the survey, was 2,867. Of this number, 868 were men, 1,015 were women and 984 children.
The above total indicates a decline in numbers since 1921, when the number counted was 3,069.
There are, at present, 741 families, quite widely distributed throughout the city which, for the convenience of our canvass, was divided into three general sections, designated 1, 2 and 3. These sections, or districts, are roughly bounded as follows:
(1) State Street on the north, Walnut and Hancock Streets on the east, Rifle, Locust and Mill Streets on the south, and Columbus Avenue on the west. In this area there were 71 families.
(2) Chicopee on the north, Armory Street on the east, the Boston and Albany Railway on the south, and Columbus and Birnie Avenues on the West. In this section there were 249 families.
(3) Chicopee and Chicopee Falls on the north, Parker Street and Ludlow on the east, Allen Street on the south, and Hancock, Walnut, Federal and Armory Streets on the west. In this largest of the three sections, there were 421 families.
Negroes of Springfield represent, according to places of birth, thirty-two states, the District of Columbia and eight foreign countries. The states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Nebraska, North Caroline, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Caroline, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The foreign countries thus represented are: Central American, British West Indies, Portugal, Africa, Canada, England, the Philippine Islands, and Spain.
The states represented by more than 100 persons are Massachusetts 432, Georgia 358, South Carolina 242, Virginia 188, and North Carolina 162.
If to the number of Negroes in Springfield proper we add that of those residing in suburban communities, not included in this survey, who make Springfield the center of their business, social and religious life, and are virtually a part of its Negro colony, the total will easily exceed 3,000.
There are two important considerations that lend special interest to our study of the present industrial status of Springfield Negroes. The first of these is the fundamental importance and widespread effects of industry in the life of any people. The second consideration concerns the almost revolutionary effect of the World War on the industrial status of the Negro in the North. It may be pertinent in the connection to quote the following passage from the report of our survey in 1921:
"The industrial and economic exigencies which developed with our entering the war, opened new doors of opportunity to the Negro in the North, where the sphere of his industrial activity was suddenly enlarged and varied. For the first time in this section, the Negro group was permitted to rise above the restricted sphere of menial service and accorded a welcome and a place in the wider fields of skilled and ordinary employment. Whether he will long maintain this new and more favorable position is the vital question that cannot, as yet, be answered. A just estimate of the possibilities involved cannot be based upon the abnormal conditions which prevail during the present industrial crisis. We must await the country's return to industrial normality before we can know whether this recent industrial advance in the North is a transient or a permanent result of war."
The widespread and long-continued industrial depression of the last decade has had a retrenching effect upon the Negro's enlarged industrial status in the North which resulted from the World War. To a very large extent, it has neutralized this wholesome result and virtually restored the black man's pre-war industrial status. This status was in the main that of the "hewer of wood and drawer of water."
The results of our investigation, as set forth below, will justify this answer to the "vital question" as stated in the quotation above.
On January 1, 1940, 1,138 Negro adults were engaged in gainful occupations in Springfield. Of these, 781 were men and 357 women. Seventy-five percent of the whole number thus employed were engaged either in common labor or some form of domestic or menial service. The proportion of men thus employed was 70.2 percent, while that of the women was 80.2 percent. The employment classification of men was as follows:
Attendants 4 Mail Carriers 2
Auto Painters 2 Musicians 10
Auto Washers 2 Machinist Helper 1
Auto Mechanics 2 Ministers 13
Barbers 8 Masons 3
Box Makers 2 Metal Worker 1
Business 13 Mechanics 16
Bell Boys 2 Oiler 1
Bartender 1 Plasterers 2
Boiler Maker 1 Porters 46
Bus Boy 1 Packers 2
Butchers 2 Pressers 4
Butlers 5 Pipe Layer 1
Bakers 2 Printers 2
Brass Melters 4 Physicians 2
Chauffeurs 19 Painters 12
Chefs 11 Pattern Maker 1
Custodians 37 Plumber 1
Clerks 5 Postal Clerk 1
Crane Operators 2 Red Caps 7
Carpenters 3 Railroad Porters 10
Dentists 3 Rubber Maker 1
Draftsman 1 Rigger 1
Dry Cleaners 7 Real Estate Agent 1
Elevator Operators 17 Shipping Clerks 13
Engineers 7 Salesmen 6
Factory Worker 1 Social Service 2
Farmer 1 Stone Setter 1
Freight Agents 3 Stock Clerks 3
Fertilizer Maker 1 Steam Fitters 2
Forestration 1 Sailor 1
Furriers 2 Spotters 2
Funeral Director 1 Stevedore 1
Firemen 8 Shoe Shiners 4
Gas Station Attendant 1 Stock Cutter 1
Garagemem 2 Truckmen 14
Guide 1 Teamsters 2
Gas Maker 1 Traffic Manager 1
Information Clerk 1 Tailors 4
Insulator 1 Upholsterer 1
Iron Worker 1 Whitewashers 3
Interior Decorators 2 W.P.A. Employees 22
Inspector 1 Watchmen 5
Janitors 55 Waiters 34
Laborers 207 Welder 1
Lawyers 3 Wood Bundler 1
Landscape Gardener 1 Window Washer 1
Laundry Workers 2 Wood Carver 1
Moulders 11 Unclassified 28
Machinists 12 Total 781
The employed women were classified as follows:
Baker 1 Machine Operator 1
Beauticians 12 N. Y. A. Supervisor 1
Bookkeepers 2 Nurse Maid 1
Cateress 1 Practical Nurse 3
Chiropodist 1 Pressers 3
Clerk 1 Receiving Clerk 1
Doctors' Attendants 4 Store Clerk 1
Dietitians 2 Stenographers 3
Domestics 242 Seamstresses 8
Elevator Operators 9 Shipping Clerk 1
Employment Agent 1 Social Workers 5
Factory Workers 6 Secretary 1
Housekeepers 6 Typist 1
Janitresses 5 Teacher 1
Laundresses 16 Waitress 6
Music Teachers 6 W. P .A. Employees 6
Matrons 2 Total 357
A comparison of the above record with that of the employment distribution of Springfield Negroes in 1921 will indicate that since then there has been no material change in their industrial status. There has been, however, in the meantime, a decline of 18 per cent in the number employed.
On January 1, 1940, there were 194 employable men who were unemployed.
The large and dominant place of interest and influence which the Negro Church has long held in the life of the people makes it an interesting subject of study for the student of Negro sociology and history.
To what extent and in what manner are the Negro churches of Springfield meeting the opportunity and responsibility which the strategic position of the church involves?
Our survey revealed that on January 1 of the present year there were in Springfield twelve Negro church organizations with respective memberships, according to replies to our questionnaire, ranging from 23 to 700 and aggregating a total of 2,164. These replies indicated also that 1,970 of the grand total of 2,164 members were affiliated with the four larger churches while the remaining eight small organizations had a total membership of but 194.
The scaling down of these membership figures by one-third, will give a conservative estimate of the act of memberships of the individual churches.
The four churches with membership enrollment of more than 100 are as follows: Third Baptist, located on William Street, 700 members, Rev. Edward D. Caffee, minister: St. John's Congregational, corner Hancock and Union streets, 530 members, Rev. Roland T. Heacock, minister; Bethel African Methodist Episcopal, located on Pendleton
Avenue, near Walnut Street, 400 members, Rev. Eustace L. Blake, minister; Mt. Calvary Baptist, located on Grey's Avenue in the North End, 340 members, Rev. Silas L. Dupree, minister.
Two of these churches, the Third Baptist and Bethel A. M. E., are at present in the process of building new houses of worship.
The other seven organizations, each of which reported a membership of less than 50, are as follows: The Church of the Living God, People's African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Church of God and Saints of Christ, Pentecostal, St. Mark Methodist Episcopal, Shiloh Seventh Day Adventist, Holy Temple Church of God in Christ and Antioch Baptist.
This much over-churched condition in Springfield is typical of the church situation among Negroes wherever they reside in any numbers. It is a condition, however, which is not peculiar rather to the Protestant church regardless of race or intelligence levels. Wherever it exists and whatever its causes, it is a shameful reproach to Christianity and an abrogation of its spirit and ideals.
Because of the peculiar social and industrial plight of the Negro people as a racial entity in the American body politic, and because of their native spiritual endowment, the church has filled, what, without it, would have been a desolate vacuum in their religious and social life. Accordingly, the Negro churches in Springfield, as elsewhere, have fulfilled and are still fulfilling an indispensable function, both as regards the people whom they serve and the community in which they live.
Fraternal, Benevolent, and Social
Next to the churches, the fraternal, benevolent, and purely social organizations are to be placed as centers of social life and activity within the race.
The benevolent fraternities now functioning in Springfield are: the Summer Lodge of Masons, organized in 1866; the Golden Chain Lodge of Odd Fellows, organized in 1869; the Syracuse Lodge of Knights of Pythias, organized in 1916; the Harmony Lodge of Elks, organized in 1923; and the Harrison A. Wright Post of the American Legion, organized in 1925. Each of the above-mentioned fraternities has one or more female auxiliaries.
Women's clubs with combined benevolent and social purposes are: the Frances E. W. Harper, the Springfield Chapter of Girl Friends, the Working Women's Aid, We Modern Mothers, and the Modern Handicrafters. Similar organizations among men include the Men's Service League and the Working Men's Aid Club.
Other organizations with such specialized objects as are indicated by their names are: the Carver Automobile Club, the Springfield Racquet Club, the Springfield Colored Republican Club and the Book Lovers' Club, a women's organization with a junior division.
The Atwater Club, whose membership is composed of both men and women, provides free maintenance for underprivileged children at Camp Atwater which is conducted by the Dunbar Community League.
The Springfield Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is numerically the strongest of all the local welfare organizations. It seeks to promote the social betterment of Negroes through the vindication of their civil and political rights as American citizens. It has a division for young people known as the Youth Council. The local Branch wields a strong and widespread influence and, during the twenty years of its life, has rendered an important, constructive service.
The Mt. Calvary and Third Baptist Churches have allied social centers that serve primarily the youth of their respective parishes. The Mt. Calvary Center, with wholly inadequate facilities, is the only agency attempting social work among colored people in the North End, which is doubtless the ripest and neediest field in the whole city for this type of service.
The Dunbar Community League, the sponsor of this survey, because of its unique character and work as a social agency, merits special mention in this brief appraisal of welfare organizations among the colored people of Springfield.
Through its various local activities and its summer camp for boys and girls, located at East Brookfield Mass., it has ministered for the past twenty-five years, to the social and recreational needs of the race both in Springfield and many other sections of the country. It has a strong bi-racial board of directors, is financed, in part, by the Springfield Community Chest, and has a wide circle of generous friends both in and outside of the city.
With comparatively limited financial resources, it is rendering the largest and most comprehensive social service of the Negro social agencies in New England.
It maintains a housing project for colored families, a home for working girls and women, club work for boys and girls, and a free employment service. It co-operates also with the city park department in the maintenance of the Monroe Street Playground. Its service and influence touch, in one form or another, the great majority of the race in the city.
The League's work is greatly hampered and handicapped, however, by its need of a building which would accommodate its several recreational and educational activities. Such a community center would also meet a most urgent social need of the Negro population of Springfield as a whole.
The enrollment and distribution of Negro children in the public schools of Springfield on January 12, 1940, was as follows:
Division School Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total
Senior High and Trade 52 51 103
Classical 15 22 37
Commerce 9 18 27
Technical 24 11 35
Trade 4 0 4
Junior High 75 89 164
Buckingham 42 39 81
Chestnut Street 20 22 42
Classical 12 26 38
Forest Park 1 1 2
Van Sickle 0 1 1
Elementary 227 207 434
Acushnet Avenue 5 5 10
Armory Street 1 1 2
Balliet 1 0 1
Barrows 27 37 64
Brookings 29 24 53
Carew Street 1 1 2
Dorman 1 1 2
Eastern Avenue 10 6 16
East Union Street 40 50 90
Hooker 80 56 136
Howard Street 15 16 31
Jefferson Avenue 4 1 5
Kensington Avenue 1 0 1
Liberty 0 2 2
Morris 3 3 6
Tapley 9 4 13
All Schools 354 347 702
The total number of all races enrolled in the public schools of the city at the last fall enumeration was 24,127. The enrollment percentage of colored children is, therefore, 2.3.
The following schools have no colored children enrolled:
Samuel Bowles Myrtle Street
Brightwood School Street
Glenwood Sumner Avenue
Homer Street Washington
I.O. Elementary White Street
The purpose of this part of the survey was limited necessarily to securing information regarding the number and distribution of colored pupils in the public schools and did not include the deportment or scholarship records of said pupils.
Interest in Politics
On January 1, 1940, there were in Springfield, according to responses to our questionnaire, 1,194 registered colored voters. Of this number, 600 were men and 594 women.
Their party affiliations were as follows: Republican 877, Democratic 75, Independent 64; 654 were identified with no political party, while 175 were noncommittal. Ward Four, which has the largest percentage of colored voters of the eight city wards, is represented in the City Council by Attorney J. Clifford Clarkson, the only Negro member of the Council, who is now in his third term of service in this capacity. Twelve representatives of the race are members of the City Republican Committee.
In view of the wholesale disfranchisement of Negroes in the southern states, it is difficult to understand why so many potential Negro voters in this city of absolute political freedom are neglectful and indifferent as regards this fundamental privilege and duty of every American citizen.
Disease and Mortality
Reference has been made above to the serious question regarding the permanency of the Negro's widened industrial status in the North acquired during the World War and the answer to which the intervening years have supplied.
There was similar serious question at the same time regarding the ability of the migrants from the deep South to survive the rigors of winter in the upper northern latitudes. This question had special pertinence owing to the enormous death rate among Negroes resulting from tuberculosis, pneumonia and kindred diseases. Since approximately 50 per cent of the colored residents of Springfield are of southern origin, a partial answer to this interesting question may be found in the health record of this group during the past two decades. Between 1918 and 1921, the average annual death rate of Springfield Negroes was 17 per thousand. For the period from 1937 to 1939, inclusive, the average rate was 16 per thousand. The figures for the three separate years for the latter period are as follows: 1937, 17; 1938, 16; and 1939, 15.
While these figures indicate a gradual but steady decline in the death rate, they also show that this rate of 15 per thousand for 1939 is slightly higher than the prevailing death rate for Negroes throughout the country as a whole. According to the mortality statistics as published by the Bureau of the Census in 1936, this latter rate was 13.5.
According to the city records of vital statistics, the number of deaths occurring among the colored people in Springfield during the past three years was as follows:
1937.... Male, 28 Female, 23 Total, 51
1938.... Male, 32 Female, 18 Total, 50
1939.... Male, 28 Female, 18 Total, 46
The five most common causes of death, given in the order of their frequency, were heart disease, pneumonia, cerebral hemorrhage, tuberculosis and cancer. The toll of diseases of the heart and arteries were larger than that of the other four diseases combined.
The records of births among Negroes for the same period is as follows:
1937.... Male, 23 Female, 24 Total, 47
1938.... Male, 24 Female, 33 Total, 57
1939.... Male, 29 Female, 19 Total, 48
It is interesting to note that in both births and deaths over the three-year period, the proportion of Negroes was their normal ratio of 2 per cent of the total for the city as a whole.
Of the 741 families surveyed, 118 were home owners and 623 were renters. The total assessed value of the homes owned according to the books of the City Assessor was, on January 1, 1940, $540,180.
The average monthly rental paid by the 623 families in [sic] $18.00. These rentals range from five to thirty-five dollars per month.
These property valuations and rentals are significant in that they constitute an index to housing conditions among colored families in Springfield.
The sharp decline in local real estate values, which took place during the recent industrial depression, made it possible for Negroes to secure desirable housing properties within the range of their economic ability. Many of these families took advantage of this opportunity with the result that during the last decade the housing standard of the race as a whole in Springfield has been lifted and improved. This development has taken place chiefly in the Hill district where the bulk of Negro home owners reside. In the majority of instances, these homes have yard and garden spaces.
It will be recalled by the older residents, that Alexander Hughes, a Negro living in this section, was awarded first prize in 1910 by the Springfield Republican for having the "best kept" garden in Springfield. Other Negro home owners have since emulated the example of Mr. Hughes in making their homes attractive.
According to the local police records, the total number of arrests in Springfield during 1939 was 5,346.
The number of Negroes arrested during the year was 259 or 4.8 per cent of the total. Of these, 215 were adult males, 18 adult females, 25 male juveniles and 1 female juvenile.
In 1938, the total number of arrests in the city was 5,553, of which number 296, or 5.3 per cent, were Negroes. The number of adult males
was 250; adult females 29, male juveniles 17, and no female juveniles. The record for 1937 was as follows: total number of arrests, 6,242; arrests of Negroes 313, or 5 per cent, distributed as follows: male adults 274, female adults 37, male juveniles 1 and female juveniles 1.
According to the above records, the proportion of Negro crime in the city during the past three years has remained uniformly around 5 per cent. This ratio is inequitable and quite out of harmony with the race's numerical ratio to the total population, which is approximately 2 per cent. It is difficult to understand or explain this glaring disparity.
It is reasonable to suppose, however, that the excess proportion of unemployment among Negroes during the industrial depression has been a large contributing factor in the matter of the Negro delinquency and crime.
According to the records for the past three years, approximately 80 per cent of all arrests of Negroes are made in the North End section. It is in this section of the city that many Negroes and people of other races reside in a comparatively small area under deplorable living and housing conditions. Such conditions always offer convenient nesting places to vice and crime.
While there has been perceptible improvement in the moral atmosphere of this area since our survey in 1921, it is still a spot that is in dire need of social house cleaning.
Recipients of Welfare and Other Forms of
According to the records of the Department of Public Welfare, Springfield Negroes were recipients of public aid on January 1, 1940, as follows:
Families receiving outside relief..............159
Families receiving aid to dependent children...18
Individuals receiving old age assistance.......104
Individuals in City Hospital and Infirmary....9
The 177 families here listed represents 23 per cent of the total number of the Negro families in the city and 11 per cent of the total number of all families receiving welfare aid in Springfield. When the industrial handicap of Springfield Negroes as a group is considered, their relative dependence on Welfare relief makes no discreditable showing.
Business and Professional Activity
In any community, the scope of commercial business and professional service within the race will be determined necessarily by its numerical strength. In accordance with this criterion, Springfield offers but a very limited field for Negro business and professional activity.
It is also true that the keenness of business competition in New England reduces still further the Negro's chances of success in this field.
In spite of these handicaps, a few have had the temerity and faith to make the perilous venture in which they are holding their own with varying degrees of success.
Our survey list 36 small business enterprises conducted by Negroes and classified as follows:
Beauty Parlors 6; Barber Shops 6; Pool Rooms 3; Groceries 3; Upholstering 1; Lunch Room 1; Tavern 1; Tailor Shop 1; Gasoline Station 1; Fuel Oil Dealers 2; Trucking 3; Farm Products 1; Bakery 1; Shoe Shine Parlor 1; Interior Decorator 1; Printing 1; Real Estate 2; Painting and Paper Hanging 1.
The learned professions are represented by three lawyers, three dentists, two physicians, five clergymen, one chiropodist and one public school teacher.
Negroes in Positions of Public Service
From time to time during the past thirty years, representatives of the race have filled positions, either elective or appointive, and various forms of public service in Springfield. At present there are four such representatives.
Miss Mary E. Cannon is a teacher in the city public school system, having been appointed in September of the past year and assigned to the Hooker School in the North End.
In December of the past year, Miss Bernyce Taylor was appointed a local supervisor by State Administrator John L. Donovan, Jr., of the National Youth Administration, and assigned to the Springfield office of this organization.
Attorney J. Clifford Clarkson is a member of the City Council, having been elected in November, 1939, for a third consecutive term as a representative of Ward Four.
Dr. William N. DeBerry is one of the five members of the Springfield Board of Public Welfare, to which post he was appointed by Mayor Henry Martens in 1935 for a period of five years.
Although Springfield Negroes are the victims of a restricted form of race prejudice which operates against them chiefly in industry and in their efforts to rent or purchase homes in certain localities, they enjoy as large a measure of social freedom as is accorded colored people in any other American city.
The spirit of interracial friendship and goodwill is manifest in various instances of interracial contact and cooperation. Negroes share, without discrimination, the benefits of such public institutions as schools, playgrounds, parks, theaters, hospitals, recreation centers, restaurants, and the best hotels.
Even handed justice is administered to them by the courts of law and through their suffrage, they share in the municipal government on a parity with citizens of other races.
The results of the survey, as summarized above, speak clearly for themselves and need no explanatory comment.
(1) That since the great influx of migrant Negroes from the South during the World War, the race in Springfield has retained, without material change, its numerical strength.
(2) That the facilities available for the social betterment of Spring-field Negroes as a specially handicapped group are sadly inadequate and disproportionate to their social needs.
(3) That measured by normal moral standards, the colored people of Springfield are, on the whole, a worthy and progressive group that deserves commendation for what they have accomplished with the limited opportunities and means at their disposal.
(4) That the real social tragedy of the Negro in Spring field, as else-where in New England, is the very limited sphere of his industrial opportunity.
(5) That in spite of the adverse conditions which beset their social development and progress, the general lot of Springfield's Negro citizens is more fortunate that that of the vast majority of the race of which they are a part.
The following record of facts and achievements of special or national significance in the history of Springfield Negroes is appended below because of its relevance to the foregoing study and its interest as general information.
In January 1851, while John Brown, who later became the "Hero of Harper's Ferry," was living in Springfield, he organized among colored people of the city what was known as "the League of Gileadites." The purpose of the organization was to resist the capture of fugitive slaves and cooperate in the operation of the "Underground Railroad."
The letter of instructions, which he issued to the members and which was signed by forty-five men and women, still exists in his own handwriting.
Thomas Thomas, an ex-slave who was the acknowledged leader of the local Negro colony, was highly esteemed by Brown and closely associated with him for 3 years in his enterprise for the liberation of the slaves.
The Springfield Home for Aged Men was established in 1897 through a bequest of $33,400 under the will of Primus P. Mason, a Springfield Negro, who wanted to provide "a place where old men that are worthy may feel at home" regardless of race or religion.
This Home, which is today one of the best managed charitable institutions in the city, has a commodious and attractive building at 74 Walnut Street and an endowment fund of more than $400,000.
Howard P. Drew, a Springfield youth and a graduate of a local high school, was perhaps the city's most famous athlete. He represented the United States on the Olympic track teams at Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912 and in 1914 became the world's champion sprinter.
Miss Kathryn A. Jones, daughter of Dr. W. B. Jones, local dentist, holds the Springfield women's tennis championship. So far as is known, she is the first colored girl in the country to have such a distinction.
Miss Jones is also the eighth ranking colored player in the United States in the women's singles division.
In a national survey of Negro Youth in America, sponsored by the American Youth Commission in 1939, the Negro youth of Springfield rated highest in "favorable attitudes toward the church" of all those tested both in the urban centers of the North and the rural districts of the South. [inserted: St. John's Cong. Church]
Camp Atwater, maintained at East Brookfield, Mass., by the Dunbar Community League of Springfield as a summer camp for boys and girls, is widely known for the excellence of its equipment, management and service, and is so accredited by the American Camping Association of which it is a member.
During the season of 1939, it enrolled 359 campers who represented seventeen states and the District of Columbia.
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