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A Roxbury standard: The Original H-Block

Black History on Roxbury, MA

Melvin B. Miller | 2/7/2013, 12:26 p.m.

Unlike the First World War, “now the Negro is showing a ‘democratic upsurge rebellion,’ bordering on open hostility,” the Amsterdam-Star News reported.

In May 1941, A. Phillip Randolph called for 100,000 African Americans to march on Washington to protest racial discrimination in the armed forces and war industries.

It was part of the “Double V” campaign launched by the Pittsburgh Courier to insure victory against racism abroad and at home.

In June 1941, Roscoe Dunjee, editor of the Oklahoma Black Dispatch, challenged the American government to come up with something more original than the idea that African Americans were supposed to fight Hitler’s army with only “a mop and a broom.”

“If the March on Washington does nothing else,” the Chicago Defender asserted, “it will convince white America that the American black man has decided henceforth and forever to abandon the timid role of Uncle Tom-ism in his struggle for social justice, no matter what the sacrifice. On to Washington.”

In her book Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955, Carol Anderson described the clear picture of discrimination painted by the NAACP.

“As late as the summer of 1942,” the civil rights organization reported, “only 3 percent of the people working in war industries were colored. Only when there was virtually no one else to hire and almost every other labor source was exhausted” were African Americans even considered.

As a result, of the 29,215 defense contract employees in the New York area, “only 142 were Negroes.” In St. Louis, with a population of more than 100,000 African Americans, 56 defense factories “employed an average of three Negroes” each.

But not all the news was negative.

On June 25, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 8802, forbidding racial and religious discrimination in war industries, government training programs and government industries. Six months later, black pilots were training in Tuskegee for the first Army Air Corps Pursuit Squadron — the Tuskegee Airmen.

And for the first time, the New York Times reported in May 1941, a 12-month period passed without a lynching in the Deep South. That had not happened since 1882.

Matthew Bullock knew first hand about lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan. He was born on Sept. 11, 1881.

When he was 8 years old, his parents fled the Deep South to escape a lynching bee. Born into slavery, the Bullocks had seven children and $10 in cash when they arrived in Massachusetts.

Matthew Bullock attended Everett High School and excelled in academics and sports. During his senior year, he was elected captain of the school’s baseball, football and track teams.

When he graduated, his father gave him $50 and told his son to find his own way.

Bullock found a way in 1900 when he enrolled at Dartmouth College. He again excelled in school and sports, playing varsity football for three years and track for four years. He was also a member of the glee club and Paleopitus, Dartmouth’s secret senior society.