Walter Plecker Controversy with NAACP (1925 article)

Walter A. Plecker

Walter Ashby Plecker was the head of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics for most of the 20th century. He believed “there is a danger of the ultimate disappearance of the white race in Virginia, and the country, and the substitution therefor of another brown skin, as has occurred in every other country where the two races have lived together.” Plecker believed this “mongrelization,” resulted in the downfall of several earlier civilizations. He used the 1924 Racial Integrity Act to classify Virginia Indians and mixed-race individuals as “colored,” and therefore denied basic civil rights under Virginia’s system of segregation.

Source: University of Albany, SUNY, Estabrook, SPE,XMS 80.9 Bx 1 folder1-32. Used by permission

“Plecker Aroused by Blow Aimed at Racial Law,” NAACP criticism of W. Plecker’s “propaganda” pamphlets, Richmond Times Dispatch (3/31/1925)

Plecker Aroused by Blow Aimed at Racial Law

Denies Literature Questioned in Letter to Davis Was Offensive.

Ready to Quit Dollar-A-Year Job

Makes Warm Answer to Attack of Northern Negro Organization.

Charges by the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People, headquarters New York City, with “using the government franking privilege to spread propaganda derogatory to the negro race” and with steps said to have been taken to cancel his appointment as special agent for Virginia of the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Labor. Dr. W. A. Plecker, Registrar of the State Bureau of Vital Statistics, said yesterday:

Denies Literature Insulting.

“It is untrue that any of the literature that I have sent out is insulting or offensive, as the propaganda letter sent out by the press bureau of the association relates. The pamphlets which have been termed offensive deal with educational and health matters and are designed to helpful to the negro. But supersensitive persons seem to have found them objectionable. Very well. We shall continue to educate against misceganiation and the mixture of negro blood with the white race in Virginia and elsewhere. If they want to dismiss me, let them go ahead. I suppose they will take the salary away from me, too. The salary is $1 a year.”

The State Registrar of Vital Statistics exhibited some of the pamphlets issued, which are credited on the title pages as being sponsored by “the Bureau of Child Welfare and the State Board of Health, co-operating with the Children’s Bureau, Department of Labor, U.S.A.”

One of these little booklets, “Help for Midwives,” carries the picture of a smartly uniformed negro woman, a midwife. Another pamphlet it “Bread for the New Family,” another “Feeding the New Family,” another “Eugenics in Relation to the New Family.” The last named carries also the Virginia racial integrity law.

Davis Writes to Association.

The Associated Press yesterday carried under a New York dateline the following news story relating to the protest made to Secretary of Labor Davis and the result of it:

“The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced today the receipt of a letter from Secretary of Labor Davis saying that steps had been taken to cancel the “nominal appointment” of Dr. W. A. Plecker as special agent in the Children’s Bureau for distributing bulletins which the association charged, cast reflections on the negro race.

“Dr. Plecker is Registrar of Vital Statistics in Virginia, in addition to his connection with the Children’s Bureau.

“The association quoted the bulletins as containing references to the negroes’ ‘inferiority’ and other derogatory statements. Secretary Davis in his letter said that issuance of the bulletins by Dr. Plecker was ‘entirely without the scope of his authority.”