Soon after the Nazi Party's rise to power in January 1933, American newspapers began reporting on the antisemitism of Germany's new regime. In the first mass anti-Jewish action taken by the Nazi government, local authorities throughout Germany organized boycotts of Jewish-owned stores and businesses on April 1, 1933. Many newspapers in the United States covered these events, and some American journalists condemned the Nazis' anti-Jewish discrimination.
Many people in the US attempted to understand what was happening in Germany by comparing the antisemitism of the Nazi regime to the violent racism of the American Ku Klux Klan (KKK).1 Although there were important differences between the racist ideologies of the Nazi Party and the KKK, these comparisons were a common early American reaction to the Nazi rise to power.2 Few of these articles, however, urged American readers to reflect on the ongoing problems with racial prejudice and violence in the United States.3
By contrast, the featured letter by Black college student Henry E. Banks condemns the racism of the Nazi regime while also asking readers to consider if the US is truly "guiltless of this sin."4 A sophomore at Morehouse College5 in Atlanta, Georgia, Banks invokes the school’s Baptist legacy several times to support his position. He describes oppression as "a sin against the Eternal Spirit" and even cites a speech by popular Baptist minister Harry Emerson Fosdick.6
In his letter, Banks thoroughly condemns the antisemitic policies of the Nazi regime before inviting readers to consider the racism and injustice faced by Black Americans.7 Anticipating by more than eight years the "Double V" campaign8 embraced by many Black Americans during World War II, he concludes that Americans must "condemn the racial policies of Hitler and oppose injustice wherever it is found, but it seems to me that it would be far better if we would dedicate ourselves to the serious task of setting our own houses in order first."9