Earnest Sevier Cox papers, 1821-1973

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Cox, Earnest Sevier
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.
16 Linear Feet
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Earnest Sevier Cox papers include white supremacist materials related particularly to the Back-to-Africa movement and focusing on the emigration (or "repatriation") of Black people in North America to the African continent, especially Sierra Leone and Liberia. Included in the collection are correspondence, writings, speeches, printed materials, legal and financial materials, clippings, and a few photographs.

Materials related to the Back-to-Africa movement include correspondence with and writings by both white supremacists and Black separatists, the second group including Marcus Garvey, Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, and Benjamin Gibbons. There is also correspondence, writings, and printed materials dealing with Cox's support of bills introduced by Senators Theodore Bilbo and William Langer to dedicate United States government resources to relocate Black Americans to Africa, especially to Liberia.

As well as Cox's extensive writing and speech-making related to the Back-to-Africa movement, the collection contains materials related to his promotion of racial segregation in the United States, including printed materials featuring graphic illustrations and strongly worded texts of the segregationist, anti-Supreme Court, anti-Semitic, and anti-Communist sentiments from the time following the decision on Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954, from a variety of racist right-wing organizations.

The collection includes drafts and copies of Cox's writings and speeches including White America, Teutonic Unity, Black Belt Around the World, Lincoln's Negro Policy, "I Witnessed a Miracle", "Herman's Brother," and many others.

Correspondents in the collection include Marcus Garvey, Mittie Maude Lean Gordon, Benjamin Gibbons, William Langer, Wickliffe P. Draper, Madison Grant, S. A. Davis, W. A. Plecker, Willis A. Carto, and Amy Jacques Garvey, widow of Marcus Garvey, among others.

Other materials in the collection include materials related to Cox's military service during World War I, his work as a real estate agent, and his travels around Africa, Asia, and South America. There is also a small amount of material related to efforts to publish Lincoln's Negro Policy after Cox's death by a women named Edith Wood Nelson.

Biographical / historical:

Earnest Sevier Cox was a white supremacist agitator, writer, orator, proponent of the Back-to-Africa movement, and segregationist.

Cox was born January 24, 1880, in Blount County, Tennessee. He attended Roane College, Moody Bible Institute, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Chicago. He studied theology at Vanderbilt University and sociology at University of Chicago, but did not receive a degree from either institution. Before 1910, he had worked as a newspaper reporter, teacher, and minister, and had already begun publicly sharing his white supremacist views on separation and segregation.

From 1910 until 1914, Cox traveled extensively in Africa and toured Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Panama, and South America. He was explicitly interested in seeing how European countries governed their African colonies and how they maintained racial segregation and subjugation of Black people. When he returned to the United States, he gave lectures on his travels in Africa, presenting himself as an ethnographer; his lectures and talks espoused extremely racist views on African cultures and people as well as the place of Black people in the U.S.

During World War I, he served in the U.S. Army with the American Expeditionary Forces at the Bordeaux Embarkation Camp in France. After the war, he settled in Richmond, Virginia, and in 1922 began working as a real estate agent for the Laburnum Realty Corporation, where he worked until 1958.

Cox wrote extensively on the topics of "repatriation" of Black people in the United States to Africa, now more commonly called the Back-to-Africa movement. He published several books, including White America in 1923 and Teutonic Unity in 1951, as well as articles and pamphlets. He gave lectures and addresses on the topic to groups including the Eugenics Research Association in New York and the Northern League, a Neo-Nazi organization in Europe. Cox also spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1953 in support of Senator William Langer's bill to finance sending Black people to Liberia and wrote an article about the hearing, "I Witnessed a Miracle," in both a white racist and Black nationalist magazine.

He worked with Black separatists as well as white supremacists. He corresponded with Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican American activist and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA), and collaborated with him in support of repatriation bills in the U.S. Congress. He also worked with Mittie Gordon and the Peace Movement of Ethiopia as well as Benjamin Gibbons of the Universal African Nationalist Movement to further their causes.

Cox also worked to promote segregation and miscegenation laws in the United States and Virginia specifically. He lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to pass the Racial Integrity Law of 1924, which was designed in part to prevent intermarriage between Black and white people. After the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954, he published the pamphlet Unending Hate vilifying the decision and claiming the Bill of Rights was only meant to apply to white people.

Earnest Cox died of emphysema on April 26, 1966 and was virulently racist until the very end. He left whatever money he had to the "repatriation movement of American Negroes to Africa."

Events in Earnest Sevier Cox's life
Date Event
1880, January 24
Born near Louisville, Blount County, Tennessee
Received a B.S. from Roane College, Wheat, Tennessee
Received diploma from the Business Department of the Massey Practical Business College and School of Shorthand in Columbus, Georgia
Reporter for the Anadarko Record and Southwestern Progress in Anadarko, Oklahoma
Taught school in Verden, Oklahoma
Attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois
Enrolled at the Vanderbilt University Theological School in Nashville, Tennessee
Preached at summer revival meetings in Tennessee and Kentucky
approximately 1907
Lecturer with the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia, recounting the Battles of Bull Run in a cyclorama
University of Chicago reviewed Cox's previous studies and granted him the equivalent of a college degree at which time he officially undertook a program of graduate work
Worked at cycloramas in Chicago and Pittsburgh
Traveled to Africa and worked in the diamond mines in Kimberley, South Africa
Traveled extensively in Africa, Asia, the Philippines, Panama, and South America
approximately 1916
Made speeches before various civic groups about his travels in Africa
Met Mississippi senator and segregationist James K. Vardaman, who secured him a part-time job in the Senate Folding Room where he prepared magazines for mailing
Served in the U.S. Army with the American Expeditionary Forces at the Bordeaux Embarkation Camp in France
Moved to Richmond, Virginia
Real estate agent for the Laburnum Realty Corporation in Richmond, Virginia
White America published (originally called Decay of Culture: A Study of the Negro in Civilization)
Began to spearhead a drive for more stringent laws governing racial intermixture in Virginia; his pamphlet Let My People Go, dedicated to Marcus Garvey, was printed
1930s to 1950s
Lobbied Congress to pass the Greater Liberia and Langer bills, both advocating the "repatriation" of Black people to Africa
Spoke before the Eugenics Research Association in New York
Revised special edition of White America published and distributed free to U. S. Congressional members
Pamphlets Let My People Go and Lincoln's Negro Policy were distributed free to U.S. Congressional members
Work Teutonic Unity was privately printed and sent free to government officials and U. S. Congressional members in Washington, D.C.
Commissioned Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve
Published article "I Witnessed A Miracle," that discussed the hearing on the Langer Bill before representatives of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Published pamphlet Unending Hate denouncing the U. S. Supreme Court Brown vs. the Board of Education decision
Attended the Teutoburger Moot, held in Detmold, Germany, where his address "Herman's Brother" was delivered by English and German interpreters
Published autobiographical work Black Belt Around the World at the High Noon of Colonialism concerning travels between 1910 to 1914
Paperback edition of White America published
1966, April 26
Died in Richmond, Virginia and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery
Lincoln's Negro Policy, a compilation of a number of Cox's essays, published posthumously
Acquisition information:

The Earnest Sevier Cox papers were acquired by the Rubenstein Library through gifts and purchases between 1964 and 1981, with an additional gift in 2017.

Collection includes accession 2017-0096.

Processing information:

Processed by: Janie C. Morris

Completed July 29, 1988

Encoded by Stephen Douglas Miller

Updated by Meghan Lyon, August 2017

Collection-level and series-level description updated to better align with How We Describe by Tracy M. Jackson, March 2023

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Collection is open for research.

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The status of the copyright interests in the Cox papers is unknown. For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], The Earnest Sevier Cox Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.