“We Charge Genocide” is a historic petition for relief from the United States Government’s Crime of Genocide against Negro People. It was presented in 1951 to the United Nations, Secretary-General Trygve Halvdan Lie. The world ignored it then, as now.
Although I was a pre-teen in 1951, living in Memphis, I never heard a word about “We Charge Genocide” then or during my entire curriculum in any school, I attended throughout my life.
It was in 1992 when I encountered “We Charge Genocide.” After reading it, I was amazed that such a momentous document could escape my attention so completely, having been a black power activist since 1967.
After reading “We Charge Genocide” you will understand why.
Not only was the document amazing, but the efforts to bring this jaw-dropping account to the world is even more amazing. I detail the account, at length, in “The 400th” 1619 to 2019): From Slavery to Hip Hop. I will not retell that story here. However, I will address how that amazing saga bears today.
“We Charge Genocide” was a response to the United Nation’s Genocide Convention adopted by the General Assembly in December 1948—any intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, or religious group is genocide!!! Paul Robeson (4-9-1898/1-23-1976) was a very well known artist, athlete, concert singer, actor, and activist along with William L. Patterson (8-27-1891/3-5-1980), a well-to-do New York lawyer, head of the International Labor Defense (ILD) and a black outspoken leader in the Communist Party-USA. (For those who want to know the real story of the Communist Party-USA check out scholar Mary Helen Washington’s book “The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s”).
Looking at African-American’s penniless emancipation, the lynching period inspired by president Woodrow Wilson that lasted until 1950, white’s “Red Summer’s riots against blacks in 1919, sharecropping and convict leasing, Robeson and Patterson and volunteers compiled a 237-pages petition, detailing America’s crimes of genocide against its slavery descendants.
Among other things, “We Charge Genocide” accused the United States of America’s government of committing thousands of wrongful executions and lynchings. It documented 10,000 cases of discrimination, disparate treatment in employment, education, and public accommodations. It charged further that the United States of America had disenfranchised African-American people, preventing them from voting, by using intimidation, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests, which such voter suppression tactics are commonly used and acknowledged today, and Republicans continue denying African-American voters access to the poll in 2020.
“We Charge Genocide” cited thousands of police brutality cases. It cites convict leasing to show there were no fair courts in the United States, as well as its criminal justice system was rigged against African-American people. Southern states judicial systems legitimize using trumped-up charges to imprison millions of African-Americans and support police brutality and murders.
I raise this issue today, because there seems to be absolutely no knowledge of those episodes by whites in America, the United Nations, or the world, when facing today’s 21st century “Black Lives Matter” worldwide protest. There are two reasons for this.
- First, the United Nations refused to grant descendants of American slavery a hearing on its petition, as it was granting other exploited and oppressed people requesting for hearings on their grievances petitions.
- Secondly, America refused to acknowledge “We Charge Genocide” and threaten to cut off and withdraw its funding support to the UN, if it acknowledged African-Americans’ petition in any way, as Trump threatened WHO! The United States doubled down refusing to recognize “We Charge Genocide,” so it would not have to deny the truth contained in Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson’s indictment of America.
Today we are back there, watching in amazement, at white leaders, many of whom were around when “We Charge Genocide” was introduced and fought it then, but today claiming to be ignorant of any history of discrimination in America. Today beyond not having individual memories, America as a political entity, has no recollection, because “We Charge Genocide” is not mentioned in any history books. The president of the US ridicules any suggestion that the incidents, of racism against descendants of American slavery detailed in “Back Lives Matter’s” protests and millions of whites in America and around the world agreed and joined, are true!!! Only die-hard “red neck” racist continue defending the overt and callous policing, amounts to modern-day lynchings of African Americans.
“We Charge Genocide” was hushed by the world. Eighty years of “see no evil,” “hear no evil,” and “speak no evil.” All, even African nations have been complicit in America’s genocide because no one spoke up. Blind eyes and deft ears were turned to victims, like George Floyd.
What will all of you do, now that you watched the lynching of George Floyd by white policemen? One policeman kneeled on this neck, with one hand in his pocket, for nine minutes, until he knew Floyd was dead.
John Burl Smith is a writer, black power advocate, and community organizer, hailing from Memphis and based in Atlanta (as of 2017).