Blogs > Liberty and Power > George S. Schuyler: Conservative Critic of the Japanese Internment

Jan 2, 2005 12:39 pm

George S. Schuyler: Conservative Critic of the Japanese Internment

Today, it is has become fashionable among some conservatives to defend FDR's internment of the Japanese-Americans. Michelle Malkin and Daniel Pipes spring to mind as examples.

For this reason, it should be mentioned that one of the few consistent voices against this policy was George S. Schuyler, an important figure in the rise of the modern conservative movement. Schuyler later wrote Black and Conservative and contributed to such journals as the Freeman and National Review. In an earlier blog, I commented on the upcoming movie about his daughter Philippa Schuyler starring Alicia Keys.

Until his death in 1977, Schuyler never flagged in his oppostion to Japanese internment. While he had not yet made the full transition to conservativism during World War II, he already hated FDR's New Deal and"Globalony" with a passion.

On May 29, 1943, he wrote the following in his column for the Pittsburgh Courier:

"Some colored folks have said we should remain indifferent because the Japanese-Americans have never championed our cause and sought to avoid us at all times. While this is not entirely true, it would make difference if it were true....These Japanese-American citizens are NOT in concentration because of the commission of any crime against the state. The contention that 70,000 citizens among the millions of whites on the Pacific coast constituted a danger is a fantastic falsehood. These people are the most industrious, thrifty, and best behaved citizens in this country. Thousands of them are the offspring of American-born Japanese-Americans. Other thousands are the offspring of mixed Americans, many having blonde hair and blue eyes, and look no more Japanese than I do. They had farms, businesses, and service jobs and professions. They sent their children to school and college and did all possible to measure up to American standards. They were put in concentration camps SOLELY because of"race," and the principle behind their jailing is exactly the same as that behind the jailing, torture and murder of the Jews under Hitler's jurisdiction.

Their fight is our fight....and the sooner we realize it the better."

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David T. Beito - 1/4/2005

Interesting. I remember hearing about Dennis's background but Schuyler does not allude to it in his column. He mentions in his columns that he had read Dennis's books and did not find them objectionable, in fact agreed with them. Schuyler also gives (somewhat qualifed) praise to the "Peace Now" movement during WWII to end the war via a negotiated peace.

BTW, I just found out that Courier endorsed Dewey in 1944 on the grounds that Roosevelt had completely sold out to the South and the GOP had a better platform on civil rights. This is significant because historians often mention that the Courier had led the switch of black papers to the Democrats in 1928 and 1932.

Unfortunately, I suspect that he Alicia Keys movie will be a "hit job" on George Schuyler. Hope I am wrong.

Kenneth R Gregg - 1/3/2005

David (who most likely knows already) and Rod,

In case you are interested, "Rac[e]ing To The Right: Selected Essays of George S. Schuyler" edited by Jeffrey B. Leak (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2001) contains a good biography of Schuyler (ix-xliv) and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources (159-169) which includes a number of recent Ph.D. theses on Schuyler. Some of these might well trace out connections between other libertarians and Schuyler.

I do wonder about Lawrence Dennis (who passed as white most of the time); he was a noted anti-FDR revisionist and radical who Schuyler may have well identified with, considering Schuyler's own conviction in 1918 for desertion from the U.S. Army (due to a racial incident). There may be other similarities. Dennis isn't mentioned in "Black and Conservative," though.

Just a thought.
Just Ken

David T. Beito - 1/3/2005

Lane has been dead more than thirty five years and the articles were written sixty years ago.....Perhaps Mark Brady can tell us.

I suspect that if anyone owns the copyright, it would be the owners of the New Pittsburgh Courier which apparently is owned by the same company that owns the Chicago Defender.

Roderick T. Long - 1/3/2005

Any idea what the copyright status of those R. W. Lane articles is? I suspect there'd be a fair number of people who'd be interested in reading them.

David T. Beito - 1/3/2005

My sense thus far is that the unsigned papers are generally pro-FDR but often have critical things to say. The signed columns are a fascinating mix, far more diverse ideologically than most newspapers (black or white) today. The Courier tried to have not only black columnists but also whites, Chinese, and a person from India.

Schuyler clearly had the greatest role. He not only had a long regular column but wrote a short series of snippets on the front page. His wife Josephine wrote many back reviews. Schuyler's stuff is great, often more hard-hitting in its attack on the New Deal and wartime suppression than Lane's. For example, he rises to the defense of Lawrence Dennis who was then on trial for sedition.

Lane's columns are more philosophical. They are hard-core libertarian and pro-free market (including attacks on social security) but she also frequently tries to relate these views to race issues of the day. She is highly critical of segregation and racism and often seeks out friendly dialogue and debate with the other columnists including Schuyler. One of these is J.A. Rogers, a well-known black writer on history. Rogers ven devoted one of his columns to a postive review of Discovery of Freedom though I am not sure he fully appreciated the thesis.

David T. Beito - 1/3/2005

I never knew about Hoiles. Interstingly, although Robert Taft went along with the internment, he was the only member of the Senate to raise any criticism of the policy.

Kenneth R Gregg - 1/2/2005


Just as an aside, the major newspaper in the Western U.S. (where the incarcerations of Japanese/Japanese Americans primarily occurred) opposed to the internment was R.C. Hoiles' Santa Ana Register (now Orange County Register) and the government was continually lambasted for this incredible injustice.

Was there any affiliation between that of Schuler and Hoiles? I don't remember any mention of Schuyler with Robert LeFevre, who was one of Hoiles' primary editorial writers in the years that I knew Bob. Bob had an instinctual personal reaction against racism, and I don't doubt that R.C. felt the same.

Just a thought.
Just Ken

Kenneth R Gregg - 1/2/2005

The Pittsburgh Courier has become quite interesting. Now that you have had an opportunity to review the periodical, what would you say are your general impressions of it? Are the editorials consistently libertarian or just Anti-FDR?

Besides Schuyler and (Rose Wilder) Lane, were there other classical liberals/libertarians who wrote for the Pittsburgh Courier either regularly or occasionally?

Ken Gregg