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Ellen G. White’s Use Of The Term “Race War”, and Related Insights - Contents
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    B. The Sociological Setting

    But what gave way for the statements under study?EGWUTRW 8.5

    They discussed a variety of related issues during the interview, such as the advantage of such a book, how people might benefit from it, the need for a special kind of work in the South, the need for schools, and the value of appreciating and working the soil.EGWUTRW 8.6

    At this point Magan reminisced and said to Ellen White: “You know, years ago you made the statement that the time would come when there would be a terrible race war in the South.” 10Interview, p. 4. He went on to say: “I do not know whether you ever said it in so many words, but you intimated that slavery would exist again.” 11Interview, p. 4.EGWUTRW 8.7

    Magan seemed to recall a statement or reference made by Ellen White at an earlier time. 12It is of interest to note that 12 years earlier Ellen White made a similar statement in what has come to be known as the Armadale interview, November 20, 1895. When being questioned by some church leaders as to the Sabbath/Sunday issue and the Black work, she said: “Slavery will again be revived in the Southern states; for the spirit of slavery still lives.” When printing Southern Work it was thought best to leave out this statement. It has since been released in the shelf document entitled, “Comments on the Ellen G. White Statements Relative to the Revival of Slavery,” October 17, 1953, (pp. 4, 14). This reference, or one similar to it, was no doubt what Magan was referring to that they are advocating everywhere. Their plan is something like this: They will divide every county into districts, and every Negro is to be numbered. He will have a brass plate strapped to his arm with a leather strap, giving his number, 536 or 6023, or whatever it may be, and then he is never to be allowed outside of that district without a passport from the officers. It is significant that a little later in the interview he compared his recollected “race war” statement with the “slavery” statement, and, as we shall see, Ellen White made the same comparison herself.EGWUTRW 9.1

    Following Magan’s statement, and without responding directly to his recollection, Ellen White explained the essence of what he was referring to, by saying:EGWUTRW 9.2

    Just as soon as people begin to make any kind of movement to educate blacks, there are some who are determined that it shall not be done. 13Ibid., p. 4.

    Here Ellen White connected Magan’s reference of the “race war” / “slavery” statement with the opposition that would be exerted as soon as there were efforts to “educate” or better the condition of blacks.EGWUTRW 9.3

    Magan went on to elaborate on this same thought by giving a case at hand, then referred to a well-circulated line of thinking that shows the implications of this opposition:EGWUTRW 9.4

    It is the common talk all over the South that there will be a race war within the next few years. Senator Tillman has talked it in the house. Governor elect Hoke Smith, and Tillman have published a plan that they are advocating everywhere. Their plan is something like this: They will divide every county into districts, and every Negro is to be numbered. He will have a brass plate strapped to his arm with a leather strap, giving his number, 536 or 6023, or whatever it may be, and then he is never to be allowed outside of that district without a passport from the officers.—Ibid p. 5.

    In response to the above remark, Ellen White made one of the key statements that we are examining:EGWUTRW 10.1

    There will be slavery just as verily as it has been, only upon a basis that is more favorable and secure to the white people. 14Ibid., p. 5.

    Magan elaborated on what the meaning of “secure to the white people” might mean and what the penalties might be to those found assisting blacks under such a system:EGWUTRW 10.2

    More secure, because they do not have to feed the Negroes and care for them. Then if the Negro has got outside that district, or if he is loafing and not working, they can put him on the chain gang for a year. Now they state in their plan that if anyone is caught, whose teachings excite the blacks to foolishness, that he can be taken and put in the chain gang. Senator Tillman has printed that; he has printed it in the leading magazine in the South, that he has spoken it in Chicago and also in Atlanta, Georgia. There are many of the Negroes today who are selling their property and hiding their money in the earth for fear that their land and houses, if they were known to own any, would be taken from them. 15Ibid., p. 5

    Joining in with his sentiments, Ellen White declared: “Then intelligent blacks may read from cause to effect.” 16Ibid., p. 5EGWUTRW 10.3

    Some eight years before, in June of 1899, Ellen White made this comment reflecting the same theme in a letter to a responsible Adventist minister who was interested in the work in the South:EGWUTRW 10.4

    It is the prejudice of the white against the black race that makes this field hard, very hard. The whites who have oppressed the colored people still have the same spirit. They did not lose it, although they were conquered in war. They are determined to make it appear that the blacks were better off in slavery than since they were set free. 17The Southern Work, 86, 87.

    Magan moved back to the subject of the book and its format by saying:EGWUTRW 11.1

    I had thought we ought, without taking sides or creating a disturbance, tell in a moderate way the conditions in the South.... If we could depict the present status somewhat, it would interest our people to go south to work before it is too late. And yet I felt, on the other hand, that we should be very careful in the doing of that, lest we stir up a hornet’s nest. 18Interview, p. 6.

    This type of careful approach was one that Ellen White had been advocating for years. 19See the series of ten articles (The Southern Work, 19-65) she had written in the Review and Herald from April 2 of 1895 to February 4 of 1896, explaining the needs of the Southern field and appealing for workers and funds. The majority of these articles were published by Edson White in the original edition of Southern WorkEGWUTRW 11.2

    At this juncture in the interview, Ellen White emphatically responded by making the statement under study:EGWUTRW 11.3

    This is the danger. This is why I have pleaded, and entreated, entreated, and entreated for the work to be done in the South, because I knew that this very race war would be introduced. 20Ibid., p. 6

    In this context the “race war” statement is not enigmatic. Magan had just expressed concern about the need to be careful in putting out such a book so as not to “stir, up a hornet’s nest,” or antagonism, over the race question. He knew of the delicacy of the racial balances in the South; but Ellen White responded by revealing a wider concern for accomplishing the work to be done in the South. She knew that the ever-imminent racial tension was in danger of springing up and hindering the work. She knew, and had stated on earlier occasions, that racial tensions would ignite and, as she said here, there would be “race war.”EGWUTRW 11.4

    This prediction had profound implications, and though forcefully and directly stated here, it was by no means the first or only time she had voiced this warning. Eight years before this interview, on June 5, 1899, in a letter to a minister (also included in Edson White’s edition of Southern Work), she made the following prediction:EGWUTRW 12.1

    At the least provocation the poison of prejudice is ready to show its true character, and provocations will be found. It is very hard to make the work run smoothly. Outbreaks will come at any moment, and all unexpectedly, and there will be destruction of property and even of life itself. Hot-headed people, professing the faith, but without judgment, will think they can do as they please, but they will find themselves in a tight place. I speak that which I know.… Parties are already formed, and they are waiting, burning with a desire to serve their master, the devil, and do abominable work. 21The Southern Work, 86, 87.

    And again, on November 20, 1895, in the Armadale interview in Australia, she said to a group of church leaders in relation to the work in the Southern field, that “a terrible condition of things is certainly opening before us. According to the light which is given me in regard to the Southern field, the work there must be done as wisely and carefully as possible.” 22The Southern Work, 69.EGWUTRW 12.2

    Twelve years later, at the 1907 interview, the crisis was upon the nation and the church. Problems were increasing in intensity. And they were taking a more extreme form—aggressive physical violence between the races. The antagonism mentioned before, or the “race war” mentioned here, was becoming an increasing national occurrence. Already the fulfillment was being etched on the national consciousness. 23Just prior to this Hoke Smith was in his 1906 campaign for governor of Georgia. Throughout his campaign he supported his disfranchisement platform with a “barrage of Negro atrocity stories.” Following his election there was, in fact, war and anarchy in Atlanta. For four days there was wild and violent “anarchy. during which mobs roved the city freely looting, murdering and lynching.” “Whites began to attack every black person they saw.” (C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, p. 87; John H. Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom, p. 314? But the greater part was yet to be realized within the next 13 to 15 years.EGWUTRW 12.3

    So we see that while “slavery” and “race war” were imminent and foreseeable, they were not to be of the historical kind. With the “slavery” reference 24For a helpful study on Ellen White’s different usage of the word “slavery” in the Spirit of Prophecy writings, see Appendix C the condition was not to be the same as that which had existed in the past, with slaves on the plantation with masters, etc.; it was to be a slavery that expressed itself in political, economic, and social bondage. The “race war” reference was to be the natural outgrowth of it—open and violent antagonism between the whites and blacks. It would express itself in literal physical opposition—mobs, race riots, fights in which people were bruised, beaten, burned, shot, and lynched.EGWUTRW 13.1

    C. Vann Woodward described the scenario in the following sad words:EGWUTRW 13.2

    It was inevitable that race relations should deteriorate rapidly under such pressure [referring to Hoke Smith’s anti-Negro disfranchisement campaign]. The immediate consequences in two states were bloody mob wars upon the Negro. Shortly after the red-shirt, white-supremacy election of 1898 in North Carolina a mob of 400 white men led by a former congressman, invaded the colored district of Wilmington, set fire to buildings, killed and wounded many Negroes, and chased hundreds out of town. The sequel to Hoke Smith’s white-supremacy victory in Georgia in 1906 was a four-day rule of anarchy in Atlanta, during which mobs roved the city freely looting, murdering, and lynching.

    This ugly temper did not pass with the white-supremacy campaigns. Indeed the more defenseless, disfranchised, and intimidated the Negro became the more prone he was to the ruthless aggression of mobs. 25Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: 1974), pp. 86, 87. In subsequent references this book will be notated as Jim Crow.

    In a period that witnessed the struggle for Home Rule, the Kings of the White Camelia, the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, and a resistant reaction from blacks, “slavery” in its new form, and “race war” with its bitter results, were realities that refused to hide themselves.EGWUTRW 14.1

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