Petition to the United Nations

Herbert APTHEKER   |   Max YERGAN

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"THE NEGRO PEOPLE… DEMAND FULL FREEDOM AND ABSOLUTE EQUALITY. NOTHING SHORT OF THIS WILL SATISFY THEM. WHERE ONE IS ENSLAVED, ALL ARE IN CHAINS": FIRST EDITION OF THE NCC 1946 PETITION… TO THE UNITED NATIONS, IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS

(APTHEKER, Herbert) (YERGAN, Max). A Petition… to the United Nations on behalf of 13 million oppressed Negro citizens of the United States of America. (New York: National Negro Congress, 1946). Slim octavo, original black and ivory self-wrappers; pp. (1), 2-15 (1).

First edition of a very scarce 1946 publication by the embattled National Negro Congress documenting "its most innovative program, the petition to the UN"—containing W.E.B. Du Bois scholar and historian Herbert Aptheker's authoritative Oppression of the American Negro—in fragile original wrappers.

After WWII Black Americans and returning Black soldiers continued to face a war at home with entrenched racism and a Truman presidency in which secretary of state Byrnes "believed that African Americans should have 'neither political equality nor social equality.'" With "the American justice system maintaining an astounding silence on the lynching, torture and police brutality that Blacks endured,… the National Negro Congress (NNC) became convinced that the only hope for redress lay with the United Nations. On May 17, 1946, just weeks prior to the NNC's Tenth Annual Convention, its leadership asked historian Herbert Aptheker to draft an eight-page report to the UN" (Anderson, From Hope to Disilluson, 554). Featured here, it speaks to a nation in which millions of Black Americans are "subjected to a brutal system of oppression and discrimination… the cancer of racism has spread its poison throughout the life of America… the Negro people… demand full freedom and absolute equality. Nothing short of this will satisfy them. Where one is enslaved, all are in chains."

Aptheker details statistics on "a range of inhumane conditions, of which lynching was only the most obvious." He notes Black Americans are "deprived, by subterfuge and force, of the vital right of suffrage" and documents how the "prattle about 'separate but equal'" is disproved by minimal support for Black classrooms that is less than one half of southern white schools. The NNC "prefaced Aptheker's searing report with a brief rationale that laid out the UN's authority to 'end the oppression of the American Negro.'" When it was presented at the June 1, 1946 NNC convention, delegates responded with a "'universal storm of applause." After the NNC presented it to the UN secretary general's office on June 6, "the FBI tried to play down the petition," stating "the NNC is a Communist Front Organization'" and hinting it was engaged in treason (Anderson, Eyes Off the Prize, 81-82). Before its petition could be reviewed by the UN, the NNC was told it "had to prove that the rights of African Americans were being violated… The emerging Cold War and the rise of anti-Communist hysteria made it impossible for the NNC to respond." Ultimately its "most innovative program, the petition to the UN, was destined to fail." By early 1947 the NNC was dissolved and "absorbed into the emerging Civil Rights Congress" (Anderson, From Hope, 545-53). First edition: Foreword by NNC President Max Yergan; printings of "Letters of Transmittal" by Yergan and Revels Cayton, NNC Exeutive Secretary, to UN Secretary General and President Truman; Aptheker's The Oppression of the American Negro: The Facts. Rear wrapper with "How To Support the United Nations Petition… Write Today."

Text very fresh with only trace of bookseller ticket removal to front wrapper. A fine copy.

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