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"Can America Afford to Condemn Hitler for His Racial Policies?"

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 Nazi regime's 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 But few of these articles 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

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan continued to terrorize Black Americans, particularly by carrying out lynchings in the South. For more about the history of the KKK, see Wyn Craig Wade, The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).  

For example, see "Ku Klux Reborn," The Chicago Tribune, 29 September 1933, 14; and "Nazis Likened to Old Ku Klux Klan: Duke Professor Sees Parallel between Situation in Germany and Plight of South after Civil War," The Charlotte Observer, 17 September 1933, 25.

For more primary sources on racist violence in the United States, see the related Experiencing History items, NAACP Anti-Lynching Leaflet, Abel Meeropol: Bitter Fruit, and Langston Hughes: "From Beaumont to Detroit: 1943." For further reading, see Ashraf H.A. Rushdy, American Lynching (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014); and Sarah L. Silkey, Black Woman Reformer: Ida B. Wells, Lynching & Transatlantic Activism (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2018).

For more on the perspectives and experiences of Black Americans during the years of the Nazi regime, World War II, and the Holocaust, see the related Experiencing History collection, Black Americans and World War II.

Morehouse College is one of the country’s many HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities. For more on Morehouse College and other HBCUs, see Dereck Joseph Rovaris, Mays and Morehouse: How Benjamin E. Mays Developed Morehouse College, 1940-1967 (Silver Spring, MD: Beckham House, 2005); and Bobby L. Lovett, America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Narrative History from the Nineteenth Century into the Twenty-First Century (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2011).

Fosdick was one of the American Christian leaders who was most outspoken about the Nazi regime's persecution of Jews. For more on Fosdick in Experiencing History, see "The Ethical Problems of Neutrality: A Columbus Day Sermon of Rediscovering America." To learn more about Fosdick's life, see Robert Moats Miller, Henry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). 


At the time, the legal and social system of racial segregation known as Jim Crow greatly restricted Black Americans' rights and severely limited their opportunities. To learn more, visit the website of the Jim Crow Museum

The "Double V" campaign was inspired by a letter from James G. Thompson to the editors of the prominent Black newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier. To read Thompson's letter and learn more about the resulting campaign in Experiencing History, see "Should I Sacrifice to Live 'Half-American?'" For further readings on the "Double V" campaign and Black Americans' involvement in World War II, see Kevin M. Kruse and Stephen Tuck, Fog of War: The Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). 

Banks notes that "Negroes in the South, and in the North too, are considered inferior [...]" Although the term "Negro" was frequently used as a respectful term in the 1930s, it is widely considered offensive today. For more on how such terms have changed to adapt to developing standards of respectful speech, see Tom W. Smith, "Changing Racial Labels: From 'Colored' to 'Negro' to 'Black' to 'African American,'" The Public Opinion Quarterly, 56:4 (Winter 1992): 496–514; and Randall Kennedy, "Finding a Proper Name to Call Black Americans," Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 46 (Winter 2004-5): 72–83.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
The Maroon Tiger
External Website Georgia Historic Newspapers
Date Created
October 1, 1933
Page(s) 2–3
Author / Creator
Henry E. Banks
The Maroon Tiger
Atlanta, Georgia
Document Type Newspaper Article
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