THE NEGROES OF NEBRASKA

Interracial Relations


     (45) Judged by the few clashes which have occurred between Negroes and whites in the history of the State, Nebraska has been relatively free from interracial intolerance. There has never been a true race riot, but one seriously threatened in Omaha in 1919. A Negro packing house employee, Will Brown, was accused of criminal assault upon a white girl. A mob of five thousand stormed the court house where he was jailed, set fire to and partially destroyed the building, seized Brown and lynched him.

     The realization among both whites and Negroes that better interracial understanding and cooperation is necessary to Negro progress in Nebraska has resulted in the establishment in this State of branches of the N. A. A. C. P. and of the Urban League. Both organizations include members from both races, and both recognize as one of their major problems the reduction of the social and economic differences between the two races. This involves the low standard of living among Negroes, which will probably persist, according to the Negroes themselves, so long as they are segregated, however segregation is accomplished, to restricted sections of the various Nebraska cities in which they dwell. Although segregation is not sanctioned by law in the State it undeniably exists, and is accomplished by prohibitive rentals or sale prices in sections where Negro tenants are deemed undesirable, or by restrictive clauses, in property deeds and leases, forbidding sale or lease to non-Caucasians.

     Other factors contributing to the segregation of Negroes, and likewise to their low standard of living, are their average Inadequate income and frequent periods of unemployment. Under these conditions it is only the class of Negroes in the highest income group that can afford those things above the barest necessities. Too many Negro homes are without electricity, gas, water, and telephone connections. Newspapers, magazines, books, and radios are missing from many homes. A small minority own automobiles, and most of them are encumbered. In Omaha and Lincoln many Negro homes are in districts where there are neither paved streets nor street lighting.

     There is little intermarriage between whites and Negroes in Nebraska. Members of both races have long considered that it was to the best interests of neither to condone intermarriage. This opinion was held by the legislators of Nebraska even as far back as Territorial days. In formulating the laws of the State they included, in 1858, measures dealing with marriages between Caucasians and Negroes, and provided a penalty of imprisonment or fine for the offending parties. Under the law an individual was considered as being a Negro when he possessed one-fourth or more Negro blood. In 1913 the law was made more stringent, and also more comprehensive. An individual is now considered as a non-Caucasian if he possesses one-eighth or more Negro, Japanese, or Chinese blood, and penalties are provided for marriages between such individuals and Caucasians.

 

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