Ivy League-Educated Segregationists
Below, author Hughes recalls the distinct line of segregation drawn by black Americans between upper and lower classes, educated versus ill-educated, lightness and darkness of skin hue, and even between those with comfortable government employment and those not so blessed. Langston Hughes was a committed communist and recipient of the NAACP’s highest honor, the Spingarn Medal.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Ivy League-Educated Segregationists:
“…Washington colored people, as they called themselves, drew rigid class and color lines within the race against Negroes who worked with their hands, or who were dark in complexion and had no degrees from colleges. These upper class colored people consisted largely of government workers, professors and teachers, doctors, lawyers, and resident politicians. They were on the whole as unbearable and snobbish a bunch of people as I have ever come in contact with anywhere.
They lived in comfortable home, had fine cars, played bridge, drank Scotch, gave exclusive “formal” parties, and dressed well, but seemed to me altogether lacking in real culture, kindness, or good common sense. Lots of them had degrees from colleges like Harvard and Dartmouth and Columbia and Radcliffe and Smith, but God knows what they learned there.
They had all the manners and airs of reactionary, ill-bred nouveaux riches – except that they were not really rich. Just middle class.”
(The Big Sea, Autobiography of Langston Hughes, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1986 (original 1940), pp. 206-207)