Fall 2009 | Volume 59, Issue 3
Equal Pay, Twice the Profit
It was not surprising to me to read in Mr. Huntington’s article in the Summer 2009 issue, “The Emancipation Question,” that it was cheaper to produce sugar with ‘free’ labor than it would be with slave labor. It always seemed to me that slavery introduced far too many additional costs in terms of ‘getting’ and ‘keeping’ the slaves; plus it provided a disincentive to hard work.
That has led me to a hypothesis that there was also an economic, as well as social and moral, cost to segregation and racism prior to the modern Civil Rights movement, particularly in the South. The economic power of Southern African Americans was evident from the success of the Birmingham bus boycott—the buses discovered they needed the “black” dimes as much as the “white” dimes. Just as Henry Ford maintained that by paying his workers, he made more money, because they could afford to buy his cars, wouldn’t formerly segregated American businesses have profited more from a strengthened black workforce and its consumerism?
The broader implication, if my hypothesis is right, is that a significant portion of the ‘gain’ in American society over the last half century is due to the reduction in inefficient racist policies and laws, and the commensurate rise in an African American middle class.
Hats Off! to “Bataan” Artist
Michael and Elizabeth Norman’s “Surviving Bataan” article in your Summer 2009 issue was possibly the most compelling and interesting piece I have yet to read in my long relationship as a reader of your magazine.
An interesting coincidence occurred when, on the same day I read this article, the Fresno Bee published an Associated Press story stating that Japan’s ambassador, Ichiro Fujisaki, had just apologized, on behalf of his countrymen, for the horrible example of inhumanity they exhibited during the Bataan march. I wonder if this could seal the rage in any victim’s heart, and I wish Ben Steele’s graphic, haunting, and extraordinary artwork could accompany Fujisaki’s words.
El Portal, CA
Hoover’s Big Blunder
William Leuchtenburg’s otherwise comprehensive Summer 2009 article, “Hoover Faces the Crash,” on the start of the Great Depression surprisingly contained no mention of the infamous Tariff Act of 1930, which raised import fees on 20,000 imported items to historically high levels.
Despite the pleas of over a thousand economists, Hoover signed the bill into law on June 17, 1930. This well-intentioned act, intended to raise farm income and boost domestic employment, was by 1934 responsible for a two-thirds drop in world trade as trading nations around the world retaliated with their own higher tariffs.
While the Smoot-Hawley Act didn’t cause the Great Depression, it surely deepened and extended it. Some students of that era maintain it turned what might have been a brief recession into a long-running national disaster.
—James E. Foy
From the WASP in the Photo
The picture of Madge, Maggie and me in our bulky winter flight suits (on pages 62–63 of “Flight of the WASP” in the Spring 2009 issue) brought back memories. It was not taken at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, however, but by the official photographer at Perrin Field, Sherman, Texas, where we were sent after graduation to serve as maintenance test pilots. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means that when the male trainee cadets ground looped, landed wheels up, or otherwise tore up a training plane, it was our job to test it after the mechanics patched it back together and pronounced it air worthy. We loved the assignment, enjoyed the flying, and managed to ignore the danger faced every day of our lives. The only difficulties were the constant unflattering stories and misconceptions about us, not only in an unfriendly news media but in the minds of most persons we met. Unlike what has been said and written about us, the majority of us were neither sophisticated nor worldly. We were a small microcosm representative of all women in America at that time, more like than unlike the Sweetwater Texas women. We were small town girls, different from other women only because we were unafraid, loved to fly, and refused to accept such a wonderful experience as the province of males alone.
—Alyce Stevens Rohrer