Mary White Ovington was born in 1865 in Brooklyn, NY. Her childhood and adolescence were (okay, not surprisingly) completely unremarkable. Her adulthood, however, once she emerged into it, from then on she seems to have been determined to be a contradiction to what others of her people were doing : She was a life-long spinster when just about every other female desired marriage; she was Unitarian when virtually all Christians believed in the Trinity; she was a socialist when the overwhelming majority of Americans were for capitalism. So it should not be surprising to see Miss Ovington in 1908 conceive of an organization (the NAACP) for which the stated purpose was what the vast, vast majority of her people were dead-set against:: integration of one race into another - black into white.
Half a Man…
Half a Man is a book written by Miss Ovington (released in 1911). As the title implies, Miss Ovington did not believe the Negro male was a full man, only but “half a man."1 Full manhood for the Negro male, Miss Ovington suggests , was only obtainable with integration into another race; that is; the Caucasian male society (her race), which the black man continually sought out and juxtaposed himself. Miss Ovington’s opinion of those of African descent was derived mainly from her observations of them in the Negro section of Manhattan, New York (she actually lived among the Negro people there - in a Negro tenement - to get a better understanding of them). Her book is basically a description of Negro life from slavery to the beginning of the 20th century. It entails the struggles and trials and tribulations of a people in a world they were forced to accept (the white man's ways). 2 It is also a book about the Negro male’s struggle in the urban environment of Manhattan, his legacy of slavery, his persistent unemployment, the menial jobs he is almost always assigned to (when he does find work), his criminal propensity, his inability to be a provider for his family … among many other seemingly extraneous details of daily Negro life in this borough that is more than a bit taxing on any reader's time.
Miss Ovington was blessed with a very long life, dying in 1951 at the age of 86. Note: I wonder what Miss Ovington would have thought of her little creation (The NAACP) had she lived long enough to see the black male-initiated Watts Riots?
1. Miss Ovington in her book claims to have acquired this description, “half a man”, through a conversation she had with a college-age Negro male, but her account, at least to me, simply does not ring true.
2. I refer to blacks being "forced" as individuals to accept the ways of the white man. The black race collectively, however, had the right and opportunity to live separate from the the white population. Of course, there was no law against this. They had the right to build their own towns, their own cities, or colonize a place in America's vast amount of unsettled land (1865 to 1964). In other words, American blacks, after 1865, were in fact a completely FREE people.Instead, beginning in the early 60s they marched for integration ... and they got what they marched for.