Editor’s Note: We’re going to have a lot of fun exploring the lives of Vardaman, Bilbo and Rankin in future articles. Bilbo was an economic populist who supported the New Deal.
Theodore “The Man” Bilbo was one of the most colorful and fascinating individuals in the history of Mississippi state politics and really in Southern politics in general.
In the aftermath of the Great Revolt of the Rednecks of 1903, “Bilbo the Builder” was a populist who dominated Mississippi state politics for most of the early 20th century. He served in the Mississippi State Senate from 1908 to 1912, as Lieutenant Governor from 1912 to 1916, as Governor of Mississippi from 1916 to 1920 and again from 1928 to 1932 and finally as a US Senator from Mississippi from 1935 to 1947. There is a monument of Bilbo at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson.
Sen. Theodore Bilbo was the author of Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization which was published in 1947 which is the year that he died. In the book, Bilbo responded to Gunnar Myrdal’s arguments in An American Dilemma in favor of racial integration. Interestingly enough, he pitched the book as an appeal to both races to preserve their racial integrity:
“This book is a S.O.S. call to every white man and white woman within the United States of America for immediate action, and it is also a warning of equal importance to every right-thinking and straight-thinking American Negro who has any regard or respect for the integrity of his Negro blood and his Negro race.”
In 1938, Sen. Bilbo proposed an amendment to a federal work relief bill that would have paid for the entire black population of the United States to return to Africa and settle in Liberia. Bilbo had been inspired by the work of the Jamaican-born black nationalist Marcus Garvey whose organization UNIA spearheaded the Back to Africa movement. We’re going to explore the life of Marcus Garvey in depth in some later articles, but for now you need to know that Garvey’s dream was crushed by J. Edgar Hoover and the federal government and he was subsequently deported to Jamaica.
“It is essential to the perpetuation of our Anglo-Saxon civilization that white supremacy be maintained and to maintain our civilization there is only one solution, and there is either by segregation with the United States, or by the deportation of the entire Negro race.”
Bilbo was a sort of pioneer of White Nationalism. In the midst of his successful filibuster of FDR’s anti-lynching bill in 1938, Sen. Bilbo claimed on the Senate floor:
“If you succeed in the passage of this bill, you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon White Southern men will not tolerate.”
The bill failed too.
It literally wasn’t until earlier this year that the U.S. Senate passed Corey Booker and Kamala Harris’s anti-lynching bill. Bilbo was wrong about the mobbing, lynching and race riots:
Lynching disappeared as an issue in the South.
The cause of lynching had been the extreme poverty and social dislocation caused by the War Between the States. As the Jim Crow system was established and the Southern economy improved, lynching declined and became ever more taboo in the South. The famous lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi was blown out of all proportion to reality by the mainstream media and was an extreme outlier. Ultimately, lynching simply disappeared in the South in the Sunbelt era and Sen. Corey Booker’s anti-lynching bill was nothing more than a poignant example of token gesture and symbolic culture war politics.
Sen. Theodore Bilbo, however, WAS NOT wrong about interracial rape. There REALLY WAS a staggering increase in interracial rape under integration which is being covered up by the mainstream media. It is almost entirely one-sided too. In 2005, 37,460 White women were assaulted and raped by White men compared to between 0 and 10 black women who were raped by White men.
If we can all agree that lynching was unjust and was a legitimate racial grievance which has since been rectified, then why can’t we agree that the extremely disproportionate levels of one-sided interracial rape is not ALSO a legitimate racial grievance which is worthy of public discussion?