Below are excerpts from the testimony of the Honorable James A. Cobb, a patriotic Negro American, former professor of Constitutional Law and vice dean of Howard University, in which he tried to alert America to the grave dangers to our internal security inherent in the advocacy of Communism by Mr. Mordecai W. Johnson, President of Howard University.
The failure to heed the sensational disclosures and timely warnings of Judge Cobb may well lie at the root of much of the present racial conflict.
TESTIMONY OF JAMES A. COBB
(The witness was duly sworn by the chairman.)
The CHAIRMAN. What is your name?
Mr. COBB. My name is James A. Cobb.
The CHAIRMAN. Are you an attorney?
Mr. COBB. I am.
The CHAIRMAN. State what institution or institutions and in what capacity you have been associated with them.
Mr. COBB. I have been connected with Howard University for a number of years; since 1916 as an instructor and professor of law at Howard University. I also acted as attorney for the university for a number of years. I was also on the university council for a number of years.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you held any appointive offices?
Mr. COBB. I have.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you please enumerate them?
Mr. COBB. I was designated by the late President Theodore Roosevelt as Special Assistant to the Attorney General, assigned to the United States Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, and I served under Attorneys General Bonaparte, Wickersham, Mr. Justice McReynolds, and Attorney General Gregory.
The CHAIRMAN. Are you acquainted with Mordecai W. Johnson, now president of Howard University, Washington, D. C.?
Mr. COBB. I am.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you know what is the attitude of Mordecai W. Johnson, president of Howard University, toward communism?
Mr. COBB. I do, both from hearing him personally and from reading his published utterances.
The CHAIRMAN. Are you prepared to submit proof to the Committee on Un-American Activities of the fact that Mordecai W. Johnson, president of Howard University, has publicly advocated the doctrines of communism?
Mr. COBB. I am. I think that the evidence which I will offer to the committee, which consists of an investigation conducted by the Acting Secretary of the Interior, with respect to alleged communistic activities at Howard University in Washington, D. C., together with certain newspaper clippings reporting his addresses, and in addition the fact that I heard some of these statements made, in my opinion, will be sufficient to satisfy this committee that Mordecai W. Johnson, president of Howard University, has publicly advocated the doctrines of communism.
It has been shown by a governmental investigation that Mordecai W. Johnson and other officers of Howard University have misappropriated funds which were furnished to the university and that Howard University was required to pay back, from its endowment, over 40 thousand dollars to the Government of the United States.
From these facts I am convinced that when an institution is the recipient of over $600,000 annually of the taxpayers’ money, and the head of that institution is endeavoring, through the advocacy of communism, to destroy the very Government whose largess he is receiving, that the president of that institution should be separated from his high office.
By virtue of the position of Dr. Johnson, as president of Howard University, he occupies an office of such preeminence that he is able to influence and mold the thoughts and political views of the future leaders of the colored race. Since Howard University is an institution, largely supported and maintained by the Federal Government, this is not a private affair, but is or should be a matter of national interest.
I love this country of ours. I think that I am a patriot. I have been honored by my people as its representative in public office. I am deeply grateful for the honors bestowed upon me as the representative of my people. It is solely with the thought of guarding and protecting their well being and the security of the United States that I appear before your committee to protest the communistic teachings of Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson, as president of Howard University.*
Professor Kelly Miller, another patriotic Negro American and former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Howard University, was so alarmed at red activities at the University that, in order to alert America, he gave the following sworn affidavit:
CITY OF WASHINGTON,
District of Columbia:
On this 27th day of June 1935 personally appeared before me, a notary public in the District of Columbia, Kelly Miller, of Washington, D. C., who, being first duly sworn, deposes and says:
That he is a graduate of Howard University and has been a professor and dean of the college at Howard University for 45 years, and at present is dean emeritus of said university.
That a conference on the economic condition of the Negro was held in Douglass Hall, Howard University, May 18, 19, 20, 1935. That he attended every session of this conference, and from the tenor of the opening he judged that the trend of the conference would be radical, leaning in the direction of communism, and he therefore queried the presiding officer as to whether it would be the purpose of the conference to keep the discussion within the framework of the Christian religion, democratic institutions, and the Constitution of the United States. He was informed that there was no such intention.
Deponent further avers that President Mordecai W. Johnson, of Howard University, was present at the time he made this query and had nothing to say.
That at the session on Sunday afternoon, May 19, the conference was addressed by Mr. W.B. Dubois and Professor Dorsey and Harris, of the university faculty; and that James W. Ford, vice presidential candidate on the Communist ticket during the last Presidential election, asked permission to speak, and that he announced the well-known principle of communism to bring about revolution by force. Professors Harris and Dorsey urged that the Negro should join with the forces of labor to bring about his salvation.
Deponent further avers that thereupon he arose and stated that the only components of the labor forces that are willing and ready to unite with the Negro are those of radical or communistic leanings, and that it would be suicidal for the Negro to ally himself with any force intent upon upsetting the Constitution and promoting revolution. In reply to these remarks two speakers passionately urged revolution through bloodshed, and one of them stated in vehement tones that without shedding blood, there could be no remission of sin. Mr. Waldron, Washington correspondent of the Daily Worker, a communistic organ, stated not only once, but twice: “The revolution is coming notwithstanding the F.D. Roosevelts and the Kelly Millers.”
President Johnson presided at this session and heard the discussion, but made no comments of any kind or character.
At the closing session on Monday afternoon, which was devoted to remedies for the Negro’s economic condition, the listed speakers were Norman Thomas, candidate for the Presidency on the Socialistic ticket; James W. Ford, and a Mr. McKinney, representative of the American Labor Party, which is perhaps the most radical of them all. His name was inserted in the original program. Each of these speakers gave the remedies proposed by his party, all of which suggestions were revolution, with and without the use of force. There was no speaker listed to represent the New Deal or the existing democratic order.
Deponent avers that he arose and stated that this seemed to be an unfair and one-sided arrangement; since only radicals were asked to give remedies and left no place for the conservatives and New Dealers. He was informed by the presiding officer that several such representatives had appeared on the program during the session and he deemed this sufficient to represent their point of view.
Deponent left the sessions with the feeling that the whole purpose and trend of the conference was to discredit existing institutions in favor of radicalism or some form of revolution.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 27th day of June 1935.
SAMUEL E. LACY,
My commission expires on the 10th day of July 1938.†
The U. S. Department of Labor made an investigation of red activities at Howard University. Mr. Lawrence A. Oxley, Labor Department investigator submitted the following “Memorandum” on the national conference, which he attended at Howard University, in connection with the formation of the red National Negro Congress. Note the fact that Ralph Bunche was listed as one of the key left wingers leading that conference. Bunche was an associate professor of political science at the time.
On June 26, 1935, a memorandum was prepared by Lawrence A. Oxley, of the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is found on page 54 of Senate Document No. 217, Seventy-fourth Congress, second session, which reads as follows:
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR,
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS,
Washington, July 26, 1935.
Memorandum to Mr. Humphrey:
(Mr. Humphrey was the Government agent who was making an investigation at that time of the communistic activities at Howard University.)
It is my confirmed opinion that the national conference held at Howard University May 18, 19, and 20, under the auspices of the joint committee on national recovery and the social-science division of Howard University—having as its theme The Position of the Negro in our National Economic Crisis—was distinctly communistic in character.
The opinion offered in this statement is based on my personal attendance and observations of every session of the conference, beginning May 18 at 9:30 a.m., and closing May 20 at about 6 p.m.
With perhaps three or four exceptions, each speaker and discussant on the program seemed to be concerned first with making an attack on not only the present administration but American ideals and institutions. I believe that the last session of the conference is indicative of the trend and purpose of calling this meeting. Following the 3 days of speaking, discussions, and conferences, there seemed to be but “three ways out for the Negro. 1. The answer of the Socialist Party; 2. The answer of the Communist Party; 3. The answer of the American Labor Party”; Mr. McKinney.
With the exception of Mr. T. Burham King, the critical summaries of the conference were made by Mr. Reginald Johnson, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Mr. John P. Davis, and Mr. Emmett Dorsey. I believe that answers to the question, “What was the purpose of the conference?” are very well stated by a close study of the activities, utterances, and writings of the persons who made the critical summaries of the conference.
During the course of the last session, May 20, I heard Mr. Ford and Mr. Dorsey advocate the overthrow of the American Government, if necessary, to secure the objectives of the program sponsored by the conference.
(Signed) LAWRENCE A. OXLEY.‡
The national conference held at Howard University, May 18, 19, 20, 1935, referred to in the testimony of Judge James A. Cobb was held under the auspices of the “Joint Committee on National Recovery” and the “Social Science Department of Howard University.” Ostensibly called to consider the “plight of the Negro under the New Deal” the conference actually served as a cover for the Kremlin’s biggest and boldest operation among Negroes in America.
Consistent with the “new” Moscow line known as the “popular front,” first tried and successfully developed in France, the Communist International ordered all of its sections to apply it in their respective countries. This new line based as it was on the strategy of the Trojan Horse was aimed at broadening and extending the base and influence of communism through infiltration and eventual capture of non-communist organizations.
This writer sat in on meetings of the National Committee, the Politburo and also the Negro Commission of the Communist Party in 1934 and 35 when the new line was discussed in relation to the Negro. The chief topic was how to bring the NAACP, Urban League, Elks, women’s groups, youth, religious and labor organizations into a deceptive “democratic front” to advance the cause of communism among large, influential and decisive segments of the Negro people. Out of these discussions came the recommendations on how best to carry out Moscow’s order to build a National Negro Congress in America.
Howard University was selected as one of the initiators and the site of the conference for two reasons,
The reds had successfully won over not only the president but influential members of the faculty.
The prestige of the University situated as it is in Washington would give the launching of the project respectability and import.
The executive head of the Joint Committee on National Recovery was John P. Davis, a red, who was later elected to the National Committee of the Communist Party. He was little known, at the time, except in top circles as a member of the Communist Party. It was for this reason he was brought into the picture along with the organization he headed. When the Negro Congress was formed in 1936 in Chicago, John P. Davis was elected National Secretary.
The following quotations taken from official communist and leftist sources substantiate much of this writer’s own experience and knowledge.
Two months before the May, 1935 meeting in Howard University was held to mobilize communist infiltration into masses of Negroes, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the U.S.A. declared to all of its members in a special communique:
In connection with the question of the united front on the Negro question—if we work properly now and see that we must penetrate these organizations, there is the possibility of building up a National Negro Congress on a broad united front basis. We had a discussion about this conference in the N.Y. District in which we discussed the Negro question, and the possibility of a National Negro Congress. If we make the proper orientation, we will be able to build the biggest Congress of Negro people ever held. It means patient work in Negro organizations.§
The May, 1935 conference in Howard University was acknowledged by the communist high-command as a starting point for the National Negro Congress. Ralph Bunche, now a high official in the U.N., was given credit for being one of the chief organizers of this communist instrument to subvert American Negroes. In fact, in 1940 Bunche wrote a study for the Carnegie Foundation boasting of the part he played in initiating the National Negro Congress and stated that the Congress grew out of meetings in his own home and conferences in Howard University in 1935.|| Official communist sources had the following to say about the birth of the National Negro Congress:
It may be remembered that the National Negro Congress was proposed last May at a national conference held in Washington.
There were other speakers who made valuable contributions on the plight of the Negro at the May Conference at Washington. Space will not permit us to quote from all of them. Among these were: Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, of Howard University; Lester Granger, of the Workers Council of the National Urban League; A.W. McPherson, of the Steel and Metal Workers Union; John McKinney, of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union; Olive M. Stone, of the North Carolina Institute of Social Science.¶
The development of the National Negro Congress as the instrument of swinging thousands of Negroes behind Soviet Russia was openly admitted to be a purely communist operation by the communists themselves as demonstrated by the following declaration:
It is equally beyond dispute that the pioneering and trail-blazing work of the Communists has played a great part in opening the road towards the now developing broad people’s movement. Our Party as a whole can justly take pride—not to rest in self satisfaction—in the role it played and is playing in awakening the Negro people, in helping to organize them, in bringing forth such Negro leaders as Ford and Herndon, and in promoting that united and people’s front for Negro rights which resulted in the creation of the National Negro Congress.**
* Testimony of Honorable Judge James A. Cobb before the House Committee on Un-American Activities at Washington, D.C., on November 5, 1938. Vol. No. 3, Pages 2142, 2143, 2144 and 2150.
† Report of the Hearings, House Un-American Activities Committee, Vol. No. 3, page 2148, Oct.-Nov., 1938.
‡ (Reference—page 2149, hearing held hefore the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Volume 3, October, November, 1938.)
§ Party Organizer, March, 1935, Vol. VIII, No. 3, issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, to all its membership. Article: “How to Penetrate the Negro Organizations.” Excerpts from Report to Plenum. Page 21.
|| Reference—the “Myrdal-Carnegie studies on the Negro question,” by Ralph Bunche, 1940.
¶ The Communist, April 1936, Vol. XV. No. 4, page 322. Article: “The National Negro Congress” by James W. Ford, Negro member of the Communist Party Central Committee.
** The Communist, March, 1936, Vol. XV, No. 3, page 202. “Review of the Month.”
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