Feminist, Racist, U.S. Senator:Rebecca Latimer Felton

August 30, 2009
Rebecca Latimer Felton, appointed 1st U.S. female senator

Rebecca Latimer Felton, appointed 1st U.S. female senator

Rebecca Latimer Felton, the first female U.S. senator, is an interesting case study because she embodies many of the political and social tensions extant in the nation, particularly the South, at the turn of the twentieth century.  That virulent racism and passionate feminism could exist in the same woman is not unique, as exemplified by the million or more WKKK, female Ku Klux Klan members associated with the male Klan of the 1920’s.  Many of these women were populists, national and local temperance supporters as well as social reformers determined to improve the plight of farmers and child laborers.  One might say that these feminist’s membership in the Klan was a statement of their political equality with men in their desire to govern themselves and guide the nation toward their own, racial segregationist, agrarian, nativist and protestant moral values.

Women of the KKK

Women of the KKK

Rebecca Felton held the position of U.S. Senator for a single day, as an appointee to temporarily fill the seat of Georgia populist and racist Thomas E. Watson.  She was 87 years old at the time of her appointment.  Other populist feminists were to follow as elected officials in state legislatures and in congress, but she was the first of her kind.  What makes her interesting is her vocal, longstanding and widely known positions on widely accepted issues of race and feminism.  The next two female office holders were duly elected from southern states: Hattie Caraway, Arkansas 1932 and Miriam A. Ferguson, Governor of Texas and Nellie t. Ross, Governor of Wyoming. Felton was also the last former slave owner to hold national office.

Like many feminists, northern and southern alike, Ms. Felton was indignant at the possibility of being governed by ignorant brutes like black males,Catholic or non-English speaking foreigners.

I wonder sometimes, if I don’t hear distant echoes of some of  Felton’s populist feminist arguments on both sides of the bitter Sexist/Racist divide.

Felton’s comments from Wikipedia:

“I do not want to see a negro man walk to the polls and vote on who should handle my tax money, while I myself cannot vote at all. Is that fair?”

She believed white women were the natural allies and supporters of white males and white civilization.

(Hmmmmm. She didn’t find it unfair that black people were taxed for services they didn’t receive, even those enlisted in enforcing Jim Crow.)

She was also opposed to the hypocrisy and double standard of white male sexual and political privilege. On Slavery:

“There were abuses, many of them. I do not pretend to defend these abuses. There were kind masters and cruel masters. There were violations of the moral law that made mulattoes as common as blackberries. In this one particular slavery doomed itself. When white men were willing to put their own offspring in the kitchen and corn field and allowed them to be sold into bondage as slaves and degraded as another man’s slave, the retribution of wrath was hanging over this country and the South paid penance in four bloody years of war.” — from her 1919 autobiography Country Life in Georgia in the Days of My Youth .

She was, however, a staunch believer in maintaining the social order of white supremacy and the myth of the ravishment of pure white womanhood by bestial blacks, by all means necessary:

“When there is not enough religion in the pulpit to organize a crusade against sin; nor justice in the court house to promptly punish crime; nor manhood enough in the nation to put a sheltering arm about innocence and virtue—-if it needs lynching to protect woman’s dearest possession from the ravening human beasts—-then I say lynch, a thousand times a week if necessary.” August 11, 1897


Shiro Ishii -Japan’s Medical Monster

August 29, 2009
Chief Medical Officer, notorious Unit 731

Chief Medical Officer, notorious Unit 731

I stumbled on this story while searching for information on biological warfare.  I’m a history buff, fairly cognizant of the theater of blood that was WWII and the medical atrocities committed by the Nazis;  not as well versed in the Pacific war. But this story of Shiro Ishii, Japanese wartime medical experimenter was someone I hadn’t heard of.  Unlike some of the top Nazis, the Japanese might be said to have gotten away with the horrors they committed, as the records of their acts were deliberately concealed by the U.S. occupation at the end of the war.
Anyone  acquainted with the levels of Japanese barbarity during WWII probably won’t be surprised by their medical experiments. While all war is barbarous, the atrocities carried out by the Japanese Imperial Forces seem to exceed those of most other countries for sheer numbers slaughtered and the gut wrenching savagery and sadism of the deeds.  If you have the stomach for pure evil, read here and see if you agree.  The victims of  Japanese barbarity included untold numbers of Chinese, Sikhs, Filipinos, Javanese, Malays, Russians, Dutch, Australians, Brits, Americans, Koreans; in short anyone the military got their hands on. Here’s an excerpt:

LOA KULU MASSACRE (July 30, 1945)

After surrendering to overwhelming numbers of Japanese troops, around one hundred members of the Netherlands East Indies Army were disarmed and for a while permitted restricted freedom in the town of Samarinda, in Borneo, where most of the soldiers lived with their families. Early on the morning of July 30, all prisoners, including their families, were rounded up and taken before a Japanese officer who summarily sentenced them all to death. No reason was given as they were bundled into lorries and taken to Loa Kulu just outside the town. There they had their hands tied behind their backs and as the men and children watched, the women were systematically cut to pieces with swords and bayonets until they all died. The screaming children were then seized and hurled alive down a 600 foot deep mine shaft. The men captives, forced to kneel and witness the butchery of their wives and children, and suffering the most indescribable mental torture, were then lined up for execution by beheading. When the grisly ritual was over, the bloodied corpses and severed heads of the 144 men were then thrown down the mine shaft on top of their murdered wives and children. The horror of Loa Kulu was discovered by Australian troops who had earlier started a search for the missing Dutch soldiers.

or this:


While many atrocities were committed on Luzon, this one stands out for its sheer bloody mindedness. Fourteen Filipino resistance fighters surrendered to the Nippon savages after their ammunition was expended. Tied together neck to neck and with hands tied behind their backs, they were marched three miles to their place of execution. Ordered to sit down, another group of prisoners were brought in and forced to dig fourteen holes two feet wide and four and a half feet deep. When the digging finished the fourteen Filipinos, with their neck ropes removed, were forced to jump into the holes while the other group shoveled the earth back into the hole and stamped it down hard until only the head and neck of the victims were visible above ground. Their repugnant duty finished, the grave diggers were then lined up and shot in cold blood. The attention of the Japanese was now focused on the fourteen heads awaiting decapitation. A few soldiers had gone behind some bushes to defecate and after scraping together their excreta on to banana leaves they returned to the buried victims and kneeling down offered each head a last meal. Unable to move, the helpless men could only shake their head from side to side whereupon the Japanese soldiers stuffed the revolting faeces into their mouths amidst peals of laughter from their comrades. After they had their fun, the serious business of execution commenced as an officer drew his sword and with deft strokes separated the fourteen heads from the bodies. No one was ever punished for this foul deed.

Had enough?

With so much evil everywhere the medical experiments of Shiro Ishii do not seem beyond the norm but they were.  Most of the experiments occurred at Kiyushu University Mukden and Pingfan, Manchuria:

Unit-731-photo-10t Chemical and biological experimental Units 731 and 100, of    the  Germ Warfare Complex were situated at Pingfan. It was here that Chinese and Manchurian nationals were experimented upon. It is not known exactly how many Allied POWs were subjected to these experiments but their numbers were relatively small. The terrible experiences suffered by prisoners at Pingfan and Mukden, has been, for over forty years, one of the best kept secrets of the Second World War.

Kiyushu University:

…in the university’s anatomy department they were subjected to the most horrible medical experiments imaginable. One prisoner was shot in the stomach so that Japanese surgeons could get practice at removing bullets. Amputations on legs and arms were practiced while the victims were still alive. One was injected with sea water in an experiment to find out if sea water could be substituted for saline solution. One badly wounded American, thinking he was going to be treated for his wound, was anaesthetized and woke up to find that one of his lungs had been removed. He died shortly after. Others had part of the liver removed to see if they could still live.

and Pingfan:

The huge, super-secret laboratory station for chemical and biological warfare called Unit 731. Shiro Ishii was the chief medical officer .  Humans, mostly Chinese, but some Russians and others designated humorously as mantuas or “logs”were caged and subjected to dissection and amputation without anesthesia, frostbite and gangrene experiments, injection with various infectious and chemical agents, before execution.

Pingfan had 4,500 flea breeding machines which produced 100 million infected fleas every few days. These fleas, infected with plague, typhoid, cholera and anthrax organisms, were to be dropped on the invasion troops in a last ditch effort to win the war. Most of these plague-infected fleas was purposely released before the complex was destroyed. North-eastern China immediately became a disaster area and at least 30,000 people died over the next three years from plague and other diseases.

Photos from CharonBoat:

phosphorus burns-first female victim Unit 731

phosphorus burns-first female victim Unit 731

According to the article, this is one of the best kept secrets of the war:
Only one person among the medical experimenters is known to have been tried for war crimes.  The others, including Shiro Ishii made a deal with General McArthur to turn over the results of their horrifying experiments for use by the Americans in exchange for total exhoneration.  Ishii died of throat cancer in 1959.  Many others became government officials or heads of pharmaceutical companies after the war, benefiting directly from their atrocities.
From DeepBlackLies:

gas burn caused gangrene-Unit 731

gas burn caused gangrene-Unit 731

Scientists and medical experts from Fort Detrick, Maryland – the American top secret BW facility – raced to interview Japanese technicians.  Barely one of them stopped to consider the ethical implications.  Having assessed the facts, an intelligence cable coldly informed the War Department, Washington DC, that the “foregoing information warrants conclusion that Japanese BW Group, headed by Ishii did violate rules of land warfare.”  The message added pragmatically: “this expression of opinion is not a recommendation that group be charged and tried as such.”  None of those implicated in Japanese BW research were brought to trial by the Allies.

Douglas McArthur warned the U.S. to keep the files secret, which it did, until forced to release them in 1993. Even the British government participated in the cover-up.  Apparently the experiments didn’t stop with the end of the war.

from DeepBlackLies:

Mukden inmate, Arthur Christie, a private in the Loyal’s Regiment, has no reason to think successive British governments lived up to his Regiment’s proud name. His many letters to the government, were met with an icy response. “Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, December 12, 1986: … we still have no evidence to support allegations that the Japanese experimented on Allied POW’s at Mukden, nor any evidence to support the allegations of a conspiracy to conceal the truth about what took place.”

Yes, Virginia, It’s RAAAAAACISM!

August 21, 2009
Ohaha lynching 1919

Omaha lynching 1919

Is racism in America really classism in disguise?  Do White Americans actually discriminate against Black Americans based upon  assumptions about (lesser) intelligence, education, innate moral rectitude,  social responsibility, ambition and financial standing rather than race?  Yes.  And that distinction sounds suspiciously like raaaacism.

Can racism be falsely claimed? Yes.  Can racism be falsely denied? Yes.  Blacks and Whites in America perceive the country and its grand promises through very different experiential lenses, so let’s examine this egalitarian, and I think false, assertion.

Racism, especially the institutional and state sponsored kind, is the oppression, domination and manipulation of peoples based upon their seemingly immutable and inferior characteristics of phenotype and genotype; an unreasoning prejudice based upon belief in the inherent superiority of one exalted race over another naturally debased race.  This quote  in 1887 from Henry Grady, a Southern “moderate” and editor of the Atlanta Constitution (from Trouble in Mind, Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow, Leon F. Litwack) is very explicit:

“The supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards because the white race is the superior race.  This declaration is no new truth.  It has abided forever in the marrow of our bones, and shall run forever in the blood that feeds Anglo-Saxon hearts.”

Jesse Washinton lynched-burned at the stake

Jesse Washinton lynched-burned at the stake

Black liberation from physical slavery and political enfranchisement weren’t worth the paper the they were written on. Any attempt to exercise these “rights” usually resulted in death.  Through most of the next 100 years after emancipation, Blacks lived within an ever tightening vise of White restrictions, humiliations and intimidation that they were powerless to change. Under the magnifying lens of Jim Crow Blacks did not dare to own their own emotions, their feelings of anger and resentment, as the mildest expressions of other than childlike deference and submission could result in their deaths.  Despite the complaints of bigots that Blacks were childlike, ineducable, and primitive and therefore in need of paternalistic white control, it was educated, and economically successful Blacks were usually the targets of White wrath. Here is the story of the Tulsa Race riot, 1921, the most destructive riot in U.S. history that obliterated Black Tulsa, Ok.

Racist etiquette required that wherever the two races came into contact the negro must be  reminded of his limitations because equality elevated the inferior race and degraded the superior. In a racist society, race trumps class and gender prejudice.  All members of a race, male and female, well off or not are inferior to all members of the other race.  The lowest white man is higher than the highest nigger.  Total segregation of Blacks who had been freed from slavery, dehumanization, false arrest, forced labor, economic terrorism, unpunished ritual murder, and political disenfranchisement are the tools of ideology. In my experience, bull necked resentment, unreasoning unfairness and mistreatment are also racism.

Lynched Black woman

Lynched Black woman

In America, classism, prejudice based on mutable forms of perceived inferiority, laziness, drunkenness, etc., even ethnic prejudice based upon cultural inferiority to superior Nordic races, is usually overcome within a generation as all persons perceived as “white” eventually assimilate into the larger group and enjoy the privileges of that group over the oppressed race.  Since race is a social construct, the Irish, as the “niggers of Europe” were oppressed as a race, to justify their enforced economic dependency and debasement.

Yes, in America, there can be attitudes of class based prejudice within and among both races based upon relative wealth, social standing and sometimes color.  But when the two “races” intersect the bigotry is complex but is usually based on race.

Ida B. Wells, the great African American social reformer and anti-lynching crusader, described news and scholarly media that:

reproduce myths about the sexual nature and sexuality of Black women and girls which leaves them open to assault and unprotected by the law. As editor of a militant Black weekly, the Memphis Free Speech and Highlight, Ida B. Wells published a searing editorial condemning mob violence and the widespread white acquiescence that served to sanction mob rule. Wells’ editorial dismisses white, southerners’ self-righteous defense of vigilantism and suggests that the psychology motivating mob violence is white men’s desire to control white women’s sexuality rather than widespread fear of Black male sexuality. The editorial is scathing, relentlessly incriminating and challenges the white supremacist rhetoric casting Black peoples’ sexuality as loose, wanton and uncontrollable.

The lynch-murder of three highly respected Memphis, Tennessee businessmen in May of 1892, was the event that transformed Ida B. Wells into an ardent anti-lynching crusader of unparalleled historical significance. In 1892 lynchings were nearly a daily occurrence in American society. Tragically, more U.S. citizens fell victim to mob rule in 1892 than any other year in the countries recorded history. Wells-Barnett was outraged when in less than one week across the South, eight Black men were hanged till dead, and their lifeless bodies filled with bullets. In no instance were legal actions taken against any white person or persons involved in the men’s deaths. Although the justification “excusing” five of the mob executions was what Wells called “the new alarm about raping white women,” the three businessmen were killed by the mob for daring to own, operate and protect a prosperous cooperative grocery in competition with a nearby white-owned store. The murders of the Memphis grocers caused Wells to critically reexamine and challenge not only vigilante violence, but the rhetoric used to defend lynch-law as well.

Yeah, it’s racism.