I am currently writing a book and in the second chapter I address the political situation in the Third Ward (lower hill) in the early 1950s and how it is so similar to conditions of Black voters across the city of Pittsburgh in 2009. At that period off time in the 15 districts there was one colored committeeman. The entire political leadership was White—the alderman, chairperson and vice chair, constable.
The colored people’s jobs were exclusively garbage trucks, highways and sewers, street sweepers and some in public works, but in that same timeframe the colored vote was important because it was the most reliable vote. We could be counted on before the polls opened. Many colored voters were in love with the White politicians and would physically attack you if you challenged their authority, and if there were those colored folks who had a private meeting there were always those who would call old massa and tell who and what was said.
There came a period of time that 10 of us, who were all Republicans, were the driving force to elect a Black committeeman who would become chairman and the driving force in the Third Ward. However, we did not understand the depth of indoctrination that these new Black leaders suffered from. In fact, they were as White in action as the White politicians that were voted out.
The ’60s are now upon us and we became Black and began to make some political strides and it appeared that Pittsburgh was on the move like so many other cities that had a significant Black population, but we have definitely been wrong.
Do you remember when there were at least five Black judges, and then it went to two and now in 2009 there are three? What kind of progress is that? Judge Cheryl Allen astounded the whole state when she—a Black female with limited financial support and a Republican—was elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court and her seat on Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas remained vacant for over two years. What kind of progress is that? What happen to the elected Blacks? Is it that they don’t have any influence?
It is my conviction and I challenge anyone to debate the issue in front of the general public that the tragedy is that these colored officials represent the governor’s and mayor’s interests not their constituents. I implore these people to look hard at their districts and realize there are no business districts, inadequate schools, vacant lots, dilapidated buildings and fathers being denied opportunities for decent employment thereby contributing to single parent homes, drugs and incarceration.
How do these people sleep at night when there are untold millions of public tax dollars being spent on contracts, construction and goods and services and Blacks are virtually excluded?
The Kingsley Association should be on your contribution list prior to the end of 2009.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the New Pittsburgh Courier Digital Daily newsletter!