Raymond Pace Alexander

Raymond Pace Alexander: A New Negro Lawyer Fights for Civil Rights in Philadelphia

David A. Canton
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  • Book Info
    Raymond Pace Alexander
    Book Description:

    Raymond Pace Alexander (1897-1974) was a prominent black attorney in Philadelphia and a distinguished member of the National Bar Association, the oldest and largest association of African American lawyers and judges. A contemporary of such nationally known black attorneys as Charles Hamilton Houston, William Hastie, and Thurgood Marshall, Alexander litigated civil rights cases and became well known in Philadelphia. Yet his legacy to the civil rights struggle has received little national recognition.As a New Negro lawyer during the 1930s, Alexander worked with left-wing organizations to desegregate an all-white elementary school in Berwin, Pennsylvania. After World War II, he became an anti-communist liberal and formed coalitions with like-minded whites. In the sixties, Alexander criticized Black Power rhetoric, but shared some philosophies with Black Power such as black political empowerment and studying black history. By the late sixties, he focused on economic justice by advocating a Marshall Plan for poor Americans and supporting affirmative action.Alexander was a major contributor to the northern civil rights struggle and was committed to improving the status of black lawyers. He was representative of a generation who created opportunities for African Americans but was later often ignored or castigated by younger leaders who did not support the tactics of the old guard's pioneers.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-426-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xx)

    The most powerful recollection of what made Raymond Pace Alexander a leading civil rights attorney in Philadelphia came from his wife, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, who also became a successful lawyer. In 1965, thePhiladelphia Evening Bulletinpublished a twenty-page report titled “The Negro in Philadelphia,” chronicling the history of African Americans in that city. Sadie recounted in the report an incident that had occurred while she was an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. In December 1918, Sadie asked her classmate Raymond Pace Alexander to escort her and two friends visiting from Cornell University to the movie theater....

  4. Part One Alexander’s Race Radicalism and the New Negro Lawyer, 1898–1937

    • Chapter One THE ORIGIN OF A NEW NEGRO LAWYER, 1898–1924
      (pp. 3-26)

      Raymond Pace Alexander was born on October 13, 1898, to Hillard Boone Alexander and Virginia Pace Alexander of Philadelphia. His father had been born a slave on November 22, 1856, to James and Ellen Alexander in Mecklenberg, Virginia, a town southwest of Richmond near the North Carolina border. In 1880, Hillard and his brother Samuel migrated to Philadelphia. There are no records of their movements, and Alexander provides no details about his father, but most black southern migrants to Philadelphia experienced mixed results. Compared to New York and Boston, it was more difficult for black men to obtain skilled jobs...

    • Chapter Two USING THE LEFT TO FIGHT FOR WHAT IS RIGHT Civil Rights Law and Radicalism, 1925–1935
      (pp. 27-58)

      In 1934, Raymond Pace Alexander delivered a speech to a group of African American youth in Baltimore, Maryland, titled “The New Negro Fights For Justice.” He declared that “this subject will be approached from the angle of the young, militant, Negro Lawyer and his efforts to obtain justice” for his people. Alexander’s speech reviewed a number of significant national, state, and local cases that black attorneys litigated, with the “militant spirit exemplified by the new Negro attorney, both young and old, but principally the younger men that make up the Negro Bar in America.” Alexander categorized the cases by their...

  5. Part Two From Race Radical to Racial Reformer, 1936–1953

    • Chapter Three MAKING A NATIONAL MOVEMENT LOCAL The Civil Rights Struggle in Philadelphia, 1936–1948
      (pp. 61-92)

      As Alexander’s success and reputation gained local and national attention, he wanted to become a change agent in Philadelphia’s racist judicial system. Judicial equity was an important civil rights issue in Philadelphia and the nation, as African Americans encountered all white judges and juries. Alexander’s next major goal in Philadelphia was becoming a judge, and in 1933, Alexander had run for the Court of Common Pleas but became sick and withdrew from the race. On a national level, the Democrats wanted black voters, but, in Philadelphia, Democrats and Republicans did not want a black judge. In seeking the opportunity to...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
      (pp. 93-122)

      In March 1946, President Harry S. Truman invited Winston Churchill, the former prime minister of Great Britain, to Fulton, Missouri, to present a speech about the Soviet Union’s expansion in Eastern Europe. Churchill’s address, titled “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” declared that the Soviet Union had created an “Iron Curtain,” denying fundamental freedoms to the people in nations under communist control. That phrase, which was rapidly propagated by the media, contrasted communism’s denial of human rights with the “Free World” of the United States and Western Europe and configured Soviet communism as a major threat...

  6. Part Three A New Negro Judge During the Civil Rights/Black Power Era, 1954–1974

      (pp. 125-157)

      On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled inBrown v. Board of Educationthat “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. Some historians consider this landmark historic case as the genesis of the modern civil rights movement. In February 1954, while the nation was waiting for theBrowndecision, Alexander filed a lawsuit to desegregate Girard College, a private school for “white male orphans” that was governed by the City Board of Trusts. For Alexander and many other black Philadelphians, Girard College symbolized white supremacy, resembling the de jure segregation of school systems in the South. On May 21,...

      (pp. 158-188)

      The June 1968 celebration of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling that Girard College had to desegregate was full of ironies for Raymond Pace Alexander. The victory rally was a joyous occasion for the black community. Cecil B. Moore had led mass demonstrations protesting segregation, called “Operation Girard,” since 1965. Alexander, who had begun putting political and legal pressure on Girard a decade earlier, did not support Moore’s demonstrations. Moore, a self-styled militant, castigated him as a do-nothing, middle-class black leader. In spite of their differences, Moore invited Alexander to the ceremony to provide a historical account of the Girard...

    (pp. 189-194)

    In 1971, Senior Judge Raymond Pace Alexander spoke at the NAACP’s testimonial dinner held in his honor. Alexander explained how he had used a “non-violent, yet vigorous action rather than by explosive methods” to obtain civil rights. He insisted that his “approach to these problems was right and I still have faith in God and my country.”¹ Historians have recently identified a “long history of the civil rights struggle,”² but Alexander participated in the “longer history of the civil rights struggle” that began during the New Negro era, as black lawyers in northern cities spurred the fight for equality. This...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 195-214)
    (pp. 215-226)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 227-238)