Commission on Interracial Cooperation
The Commission on Interracial Cooperation (1918–1944) was an organization founded in Atlanta, Georgia, December 18, 1918, and officially incorporated in 1929. Will W. Alexander, pastor of a local white Methodist church, was head of the organization. It was formed in the aftermath of violent race riots that occurred the previous year in several southern cities. In 1944 it merged with the Southern Regional Council.
In spite of its official "interracial" title, the commission was formed primarily by liberal white Southerners. It was formed in response to the increasing unrest amongst black Americans during the post World War I period. According to internal documents the CIC believed that WWI had "changed the whole status of race relationships," and that blacks had grown resolved to obtain "things hitherto not hoped for".
They identified three types of Southern Blacks—leaders who were "openly rebellious, defiant and contemptuous", leaders who were "thoughtful educated Negro leaders", and the "great mass of uneducated Negroes". They wanted to increase the popularity of the "thoughtful" leaders who advocated for "patience" by reducing some of the most aggravating features of white supremacy.
The organization worked to oppose lynching, mob violence, and peonage and to educate white southerners concerning the worst aspects of racial abuse. The key leaders of the commission included Tuskegee Institute president Robert R. Moton, New York investment banker George Foster Peabody, Virginia governor Harry F. Byrd, Wake Forest College president William Louis Poteat, and Georgia industrialist John J. Eagan. The commission was based in Atlanta but had other committees throughout the South. By the 1920s there were some eight hundred local interracial committees associated with this commission. The Commission did some prominent work in modifying racial contacts by preventing race riots and providing the African American population of the South with schools. However, the commission did not directly address segregation and its sociological results.
Results and final years
Before this commission was created, there were 83 lynchings; ten years later (1929) this number dropped to ten. Through the work of this commission, African Americans and whites had meetings to confer the African American's problems, a gradually increasing group on both sides learned to know the goals and sympathies of each other. In 1930, financial troubles attributable to the Great Depression led the commission leaders to rethink the programs that were in effect. They chose to abandon much of their fieldwork to concentrate more heavily on research. In 1944, a number of conferences lead to the establishment of the Southern Regional Council. Many interracial movement leaders agreed that the Commission of Interracial Cooperation programs were out-of-date, and they supported the commission's merger with the Southern Regional Council. The Commission of Interracial Cooperation had clearly helped prepare the South to enter a new phase in the movement towards racial justice in the United States.
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- John Egerton, Speak Now against the Day: The Generation before the Civil Rights Movement in the South (New York: Knopf, 1994).
- Ann Wells Ellis, "A Crusade against 'Wretched Attitudes': The Commission on Interracial Cooperation's Activities in Atlanta," Atlanta Historical Journal 23 (spring 1979).
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- Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching, rev. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).
- Julia Anne McDonough, "Men and Women of Good Will: A History of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the Southern Regional Council, 1919–1954" (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1993).
- North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation Records, 1922–1949 in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.