So “we’ve” gotten off the subject of Will Rogers and his reference to “darkies,” and now back to the “tiff” between American born and immigrant blacks. This column, published April 7, 1934, takes a circuitous path to get to the point, touching on Mussolini, the reluctance of black folks to hire the services of Negro lawyers and the fact that black people are barred from eating in Washington, DC’s government-owned restaurants. He mentions Dr. Godfrey Nurse a physician born in Guyana who served on the New York State Electoral College. He quotes James S. Watson, a Jamaican-born municipal court judge.
Apparently, my father’s columns on the Will Rogers affair - Rogers referred to black people as “darkies,” an offense that resulted in some community members calling for a boycott of Gulf gas stations – did not sit well with this reader. Although my father did not condone Rogers’ use of the term, he felt strongly that as long as “Negroes” continued to refer to themselves in derogatory terms, arguments that others should not use them were shaky. BTW Gulf Refining Company was the sponsor of the television show on which Rogers appeared. The letter below is from a reader who thought m father’s views were off base.
Rather than increase the price of a haircut during the difficult years of the Great Depression, my father thought barbers should do a little less talking about politics, clients’ romantic exploits, etc. If he only had known that his observation that “the average barbershop might easily be seen as an ‘institution of learning and observation,’ was as true in 1934 as it is today. Perhaps he would have enjoyed the Ice Cube movies. Moreover, Harlem Hospital’s recent problems with quality of care are apparently not new.