Personal papers, correspondence, and writings of Earnest Sevier Cox, a white supremacist who advocated for the separation of the races and supported the Back to Africa movement in the early 20th century.
The papers of Earnest Sevier Cox span the years 1821 to 1973, with the bulk dating from 1900 to 1964. The primary focus of the collection is Cox's advocacy for the separation of the races by the repatriation of blacks to Africa, which he actively pursued for over forty years. The Correspondence, Writings, Speeches, and Printed Material series most clearly reflect his interest in "separation not amalgamation." Figuring less prominently in the collection is his military service during World War I and his work as a real estate agent for the Laburnum Realty Corporation in Richmond, Va. His personal life is best represented in the correspondence he had with his family and in the Writings series.
As early as 1906, Cox held the belief that the Caucasian race was superior to the black race and that blacks should be kept in a segregated and unequal position. The year 1910 could be considered a turning point in Cox's life. By that time he had already tried several vocations. He had been a newspaper reporter, a teacher, and a minister, and had enrolled at the University of Chicago in graduate school, where he studied sociology. In 1910 he traveled to Africa to study the Negro under colonial rule; while there he broadened his interests to include a study of the amount of freedom that various European nations allowed their colonial subjects.
From 1910 until 1914, Cox traveled extensively in Africa and toured Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Panama, and South America. The unrest he became aware of among the races in South Africa is particularly reflected in the Clippings series. Cox was able to earn money on the trip by working in various mines and supplemented this income by occasional lectures and newspaper articles, some of which are also included in the Clippings series. After his return to the United States, he was asked to speak at various organizations particularly about his travels in Africa. Broadsides advertising these talks with titles like "1,800 Miles on Foot Through Darkest Africa" are included in the Speeches series.
It was the with the publication in 1923 of White America that he began to advocate the repatriation of blacks to Africa and to work with others to try to achieve it. Later editions of White America appeared in 1925, 1937, and 1966. Various drafts of this work can be found in the Writings series.
It is Cox's work with others to achieve repatriation that forms the crux of the collection. In his passion for the separation of the races and his belief in the superiority of the white race, he formed alliances with both white and black separatists. Viewpoints of both groups are included in the collection, chiefly in the Correspondence series. Among the black nationalists and associations represented are Marcus Garvey, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), (ca. 1925 to 1939); Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, Peace Movement of Ethiopia (PME) , (ca. 1934 to 1958) ; and Benjamin Gibbons, Universal African Nationalist Movement, Inc. (UANM) , (ca. 1947 to 1963). Garvey, Gordon, and Gibbons are included in the Writings and Speeches of Others series as well.
The correspondence is particularly reflective of the unsuccessful efforts of Cox and others to get the repatriation bills of Senators Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi (ca. 1938 to 1947) and William Langer of North Dakota (ca. 1949 to 1959) passed into law. Both bills sought aid from the United States government to help blacks return to Africa. Senator Bilbo's bill was commonly referred to as the Greater Liberia Bill and was first introduced in 1939. Langer, who first introduced his bill in 1949, was to introduce the bill five more times before his death in 1959.
Cox was able to generate some publicity for the Langer bill in 1953. A hearing was held in June of that year before representatives of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Eight people appeared before the Committee, including Cox who spoke as a representative of the PME and as a spokesperson for repatriation. Cox published an article about the hearing, "I Witnessed a Miracle," in both a white racist and black nationalist magazine. The article appears in the Writings series.
Cox was also instrumental in getting the Virginia General Assembly to pass the Racial Integrity Law of 1924, which was designed in part to prevent the intermarriage of blacks and whites. John Powell, pianist-composer and a correspondent (ca. 1924 to 1954) of Cox, worked with him for its passage. Additionally Cox was involved with the passage of a resolution in 1936 by the Assembly which recommended that the U. S. Congress provide for the colonization of persons of African descent in Liberia or other places on the African continent.
One of the arguments Cox used to support the repatriation movement was to quote Abraham Lincoln, who he said promoted the separation and re-colonization of blacks. He published a pamphlet in 1938 with quotations from Lincoln to support this view entitled Lincoln's Negro Policy. This work is represented in the Writings series.
The U. S. Supreme Court's Brown vs. the Board of Education decision in 1954 made Cox a prophet in the minds of some whites. Almost overnight this decision helped create a multitude of right wing organizations whose primary purpose was to maintain the segregation of the races. Both the correspondence and printed material from this period are representative of this attitude. Much of the printed material provides graphic illustrations and strongly worded texts of the segregationist, anti-Supreme Court, anti-Semitic, and anti-Communist sentiments of the time, from a variety of right wing organizations.
Teutonic Unity was privately printed by Cox in 1951. The book purported to be a racial history covering the development of the Teutonic race from 2000 B.C. to the present. A copy of this work is located in the Writings series. In 1959, Cox was honored by fellow international racial separatists by being invited to speak at the First Annual Congress of the Northern League in Detmold, Germany. Although he was too ill to deliver the address himself, he was on the platform while English and German interpreters read it for him. Both his paper titled "Herman's Brother" and a printed program of the conference are included in the Speeches and Writings and Speeches of Others series respectively. The paper concerned the need for Teutonic peoples to maintain their bloodlines.
Cox continued writing until shortly before his death. One of the works, which is included in the Writings series, Black Belt Around the World, was published in 1963. It is an autobiographical work containing information about his travels from 1910 to 1914.
He was working on Lincoln's Negro Policy at the time of his death. It was to be a compilation of a number of his essays that had been published earlier. The work included an essay of the same title that is mentioned above. The work, which was completed by Drew L. Smith, was published in 1972, six years after Cox's death. Information about the completion and distribution of this work is included in the Edith Wood Nelson series.
Correspondents not previously mentioned but represented in the papers are listed below, along with the approximate dates of their correspondence: Wickliffe P. Draper, (ca. 1936 to 1949); Madison Grant, (ca. 1920 to 1936) ; S. A. Davis, (ca. 1925 to 1962) ; W. A. Plecker, (ca. 1924 to 1947); Willis A. Carto, (ca. 1955 to 1967); and Amy Jacques Garvey, widow of Marcus Garvey, (ca. 1926 to 1965).
Cox held onto his repatriation beliefs until his death. In a will dated December 15, 1965, four months before he died, he directed the executors of his estate to send any excess monies toward the "repatriation movement of American Negroes to Africa."
A doctoral dissertation has been written based in large part on the Cox papers. Titled Earnest Cox and Colonization: A White Racist's Response to Black Repatriation, 1923-1966, it was written by Ethel Wolfskill Hedlin and submitted to Duke University in 1974.