The image (above) from The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is of Wesley A. Williams, a Black mail carrier/driver from 1915. Wesley was photographed under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, a notoriously racist American President who re:segregated the Post Office (from Vox – https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2015/11/20/9766896/woodrow-wilson-racist):
Easily the worst part of Wilson’s record as president was his overseeing of the resegregation of multiple agencies of the federal government, which had been surprisingly integrated as a result of Reconstruction decades earlier. At an April 11, 1913, Cabinet meeting, Postmaster General Albert Burleson argued for segregating the Railway Mail Service. He took exception to the fact that workers shared glasses, towels, and washrooms. Wilson offered no objection to Burleson’s plan for segregation, saying that he “wished the matter adjusted in a way to make the least friction.”
Both Burleson and Treasury Secretary William McAdoo took Wilson’s comments as authorization to segregate. The Department of Treasury and Post Office Department both introduced screened-off workspaces, separate lunchrooms, and separate bathrooms. In a 1913 open letter to Wilson, W.E.B. DuBois — who had supported Wilson in the 1912 election before being disenchanted by his segregation policies — wrote of “one colored clerk who could not actually be segregated on account of the nature of his work [and who] consequently had a cage built around him to separate him from his white companions of many years.” That’s right: Black people who couldn’t, logistically, be segregated were put in literal cages.
I, of course, don’t know what Wesley’s take would be on our current president and his efforts to sabotage the US Postal Service in order to give him an electoral advantage, but I hope that in Wesley’s spirit (if you are going to vote by mail) that you vote as early as possible, and as carefully as possible, in order to insure that your vote counts in 2020.
This image is a part of Photoville – this year an outdoor exhibition of photography throughout the 5 boroughs. See: https://photoville.nyc/exhibitions/ for more information.
The photo of Welsey is featured in St. Nicholas Park.
Photoville’s exhibit on 145th Street at Bradhurst features a number of wonderful images of mid-century Black America. Billy Eckstine was ‘a neighbor’, living at the corner of 5th Avenue and 126th Street: