Guide to the Earnest Sevier Cox Papers, 1821-1973
Personal papers, correspondence, and writings of Earnest Sevier Cox, a white supremacist who advocated for the separation of the races and supported the Back to Africa movement in the early 20th century.
- Collection Number
- Earnest Sevier Cox papers
- Cox, Earnest Sevier
- 16 Linear Feet
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The papers of Earnest Sevier Cox span the years 1821 to 1973, with the bulk dating from 1900 to 1964. The primary focus of the collection is Cox's advocacy for the separation of the races by the repatriation of blacks to Africa, which he actively pursued for over forty years. The Correspondence, Writings, Speeches, and Printed Material series most clearly reflect his interest in “separation not amalgamation.” Figuring less prominently in the collection is his military service during World War I and his work as a real estate agent for the Laburnum Realty Corporation in Richmond, Va. His personal life is best represented in the correspondence he had with his family and in the Writings series.
As early as 1906, Cox held the belief that the Caucasian race was superior to the black race and that blacks should be kept in a segregated and unequal position. The year 1910 could be considered a turning point in Cox's life. By that time he had already tried several vocations. He had been a newspaper reporter, a teacher, and a minister, and had enrolled at the University of Chicago in graduate school, where he studied sociology. In 1910 he traveled to Africa to study the Negro under colonial rule; while there he broadened his interests to include a study of the amount of freedom that various European nations allowed their colonial subjects.
From 1910 until 1914, Cox traveled extensively in Africa and toured Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Panama, and South America. The unrest he became aware of among the races in South Africa is particularly reflected in the Clippings series. Cox was able to earn money on the trip by working in various mines and supplemented this income by occasional lectures and newspaper articles, some of which are also included in the Clippings series. After his return to the United States, he was asked to speak at various organizations particularly about his travels in Africa. Broadsides advertising these talks with titles like 1,800 Miles on Foot Through Darkest Africa are included in the Speeches series.
It was the with the publication in 1923 of White America that he began to advocate the repatriation of blacks to Africa and to work with others to try to achieve it. Later editions of White America appeared in 1925, 1937, and 1966. Various drafts of this work can be found in the Writings series.
It is Cox's work with others to achieve repatriation that forms the crux of the collection. In his passion for the separation of the races and his belief in the superiority of the white race, he formed alliances with both white and black separatists. Viewpoints of both groups are included in the collection, chiefly in the Correspondence series. Among the black nationalists and associations represented are Marcus Garvey, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), (ca. 1925 to 1939); Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, Peace Movement of Ethiopia (PME) , (ca. 1934 to 1958) ; and Benjamin Gibbons, Universal African Nationalist Movement, Inc. (UANM) , (ca. 1947 to 1963). Garvey, Gordon, and Gibbons are included in the Writings and Speeches of Others series as well.
The correspondence is particularly reflective of the unsuccessful efforts of Cox and others to get the repatriation bills of Senators Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi (ca. 1938 to 1947) and William Langer of North Dakota (ca. 1949 to 1959) passed into law. Both bills sought aid from the United States government to help blacks return to Africa. Senator Bilbo's bill was commonly referred to as the Greater Liberia Bill and was first introduced in 1939. Langer, who first introduced his bill in 1949, was to introduce the bill five more times before his death in 1959.
Cox was able to generate some publicity for the Langer bill in 1953. A hearing was held in June of that year before representatives of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Eight people appeared before the Committee, including Cox who spoke as a representative of the PME and as a spokesperson for repatriation. Cox published an article about the hearing, I Witnessed a Miracle, in both a white racist and black nationalist magazine. The article appears in the Writings series.
Cox was also instrumental in getting the Virginia General Assembly to pass the Racial Integrity Law of 1924, which was designed in part to prevent the intermarriage of blacks and whites. John Powell, pianist-composer and a correspondent (ca. 1924 to 1954) of Cox, worked with him for its passage. Additionally Cox was involved with the passage of a resolution in 1936 by the Assembly which recommended that the U. S. Congress provide for the colonization of persons of African descent in Liberia or other places on the African continent.
One of the arguments Cox used to support the repatriation movement was to quote Abraham Lincoln, who he said promoted the separation and re-colonization of blacks. He published a pamphlet in 1938 with quotations from Lincoln to support this view entitled Lincoln's Negro Policy. This work is represented in the Writings series.
The U. S. Supreme Court's Brown vs. the Board of Education decision in 1954 made Cox a prophet in the minds of some whites. Almost overnight this decision helped create a multitude of right wing organizations whose primary purpose was to maintain the segregation of the races. Both the correspondence and printed material from this period are representative of this attitude. Much of the printed material provides graphic illustrations and strongly worded texts of the segregationist, anti-Supreme Court, anti-Semitic, and anti-Communist sentiments of the time, from a variety of right wing organizations.
Teutonic Unity was privately printed by Cox in 1951. The book purported to be a racial history covering the development of the Teutonic race from 2000 B.C. to the present. A copy of this work is located in the Writings series. In 1959, Cox was honored by fellow international racial separatists by being invited to speak at the First Annual Congress of the Northern League in Detmold, Germany. Although he was too ill to deliver the address himself, he was on the platform while English and German interpreters read it for him. Both his paper titled Herman's Brother and a printed program of the conference are included in the Speeches and Writings and Speeches of Others series respectively. The paper concerned the need for Teutonic peoples to maintain their bloodlines.
Cox continued writing until shortly before his death. One of the works, which is included in the Writings series, Black Belt Around the World, was published in 1963. It is an autobiographical work containing information about his travels from 1910 to 1914.
He was working on Lincoln's Negro Policy at the time of his death. It was to be a compilation of a number of his essays that had been published earlier. The work included an essay of the same title that is mentioned above. The work, which was completed by Drew L. Smith, was published in 1972, six years after Cox's death. Information about the completion and distribution of this work is included in the Edith Wood Nelson series.
Correspondents not previously mentioned but represented in the papers are listed below, along with the approximate dates of their correspondence: Wickliffe P. Draper, (ca. 1936 to 1949); Madison Grant, (ca. 1920 to 1936) ; S. A. Davis, (ca. 1925 to 1962) ; W. A. Plecker, (ca. 1924 to 1947); Willis A. Carto, (ca. 1955 to 1967); and Amy Jacques Garvey, widow of Marcus Garvey, (ca. 1926 to 1965).
Cox held onto his repatriation beliefs until his death. In a will dated December 15, 1965, four months before he died, he directed the executors of his estate to send any excess monies toward the “repatriation movement of American Negroes to Africa.”
A doctoral dissertation has been written based in large part on the Cox papers. Titled Earnest Cox and Colonization: A White Racist's Response to Black Repatriation, 1923-1966, it was written by Ethel Wolfskill Hedlin and submitted to Duke University in 1974.
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How to Cite
[Identification of item], The Earnest Sevier Cox Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Chiefly correspondence between Cox and racial separatists. Also personal correspondence with his family, some relating to his travels and to his service in the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, and 19th century letters concerning his relatives in Tennessee. Arranged chronologically.
1931 folder includes a pamphlet from the Liberian Construction Association, correspondence from the Universal Negro Improvement Association, as well as a letter and references to W.A. Plecker.
Includes deeds, contracts, wills, indentures, land surveys, and subpoenas, mostly dating from the 19th century and involving members of Cox's family who were located in Blount County, Tenn. Also several of Cox's wills, copyrights for several of his publications, and legal briefs relating to the arrest of black separatist Mittie M. L. Gordon, and other miscellaneous items. Arranged chronologically.
Includes receipts, some concerning the sale of Cox's publications. Also loose papers and two volumes, dating from the 19th century and relating to the sale of agricultural products and other miscellaneous items. Arranged chronologically.
Includes speeches he made before the Eugenics Research Association in 1936 and the paper Herman's Brother, that was read before the Teutoburger Moot, Detmold, Germany in 1959, and other speeches arranged alphabetically by title.
Includes broadsides advertising talks by Cox, newsletters from different White Citizens Councils and American Nazi Party organizations and affiliates, and several anti-communist broadsides.
Oversize maps showing steamship services in Northern Germany, a field artillery school map, maps of Virginia showing housing development plans
Clippings by Cox, Clippings About Cox, and the Scrapbook consist chiefly of articles relating to Cox's travels in Africa and his interest in the race issue. Also information about Marcus Garvey, the Virginia Racial Integrity Law of 1924, and other miscellaneous articles. Arranged chronologically within each subseries. Clippings General includes articles relating to South Africa and other countries in Africa; the Virginia Racial Integrity Law of 1924; repatriation efforts and leaders, among them Marcus Garvey, Theodore Bilbo, Benjamin Gibbons, and school integration efforts in the United States. Arranged chronologically.
Includes photographs of Africa, some published in Black Belt Around the World; some from the World War I period, a few printed with captions; several of Cox; and others of his relatives and friends, including Mrs. Mittie M. L. Gordon and other officers in the Peace Movement of Ethiopia organization.
Chiefly correspondence relating to Cox's work Lincoln's Negro Policy, which was published posthumously in 1972, and other writings. Includes lists of people and institutions to whom Mrs. Nelson sent copies of Cox's works, most dating from the period after Cox's death. Also some correspondence from C. M. Tribble, the other co-executor of the Cox estate.
|1880, Jan. 24||
Born near Louisville, Blount County, Tenn.
B.S. Roane College, Wheat, Tenn.
Received diploma from the Business Department of the Massey Practical Business
College and School of Shorthand in Columbus, Ga.
Reporter for the Anadarko Record and Southwestern Progress in Anadarko, Okla.
Taught school in Verden, Okla.
Attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago
Enrolled at the Vanderbilt University Theological School in Nashville,
Preached at summer revival meetings in Tennessee and Kentucky
Lecturer with the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia, recounting the Battles of
Bull Run in a cyclorama
University of Chicago reviewed Cox's previous studies and granted him the
equivalent of a college degree at which time he officially undertook a program of
Worked at cycloramas in Chicago and Pittsburgh
Traveled to Africa and worked in the diamond mines in Kimberley, South
Traveled extensively in Africa, the Far East, the Philippines, Panama, and South
Made speeches before various civic groups about his travels in Africa
Met Mississippi senator and segregationist James K. Vardaman, who secured him a
part-time job in the Senate Folding Room where he prepared magazines for
Served in the U.S. Army with the American Expeditionary Forces at the Bordeaux
Embarkation Camp in France
Moved to Richmond, Va.
Real estate agent for the Laburnum Realty Corporation in Richmond, Va.
White America published (originally
called Decay of Culture: A Study of the Negro in Civilization)
Began to spearhead a drive for more stringent laws governing racial intermixture
in Virginia Pamphlet Let My People Go
printed; it was dedicated to Marcus Garvey
|1930s to 1950s||
Lobbied Congress to pass the Greater Liberia and Langer bills, both advocating
the repatriation of blacks to Africa
Spoke before the Eugenics Research Association in New York
Revised special edition of White America published and distributed free to U. S. Congressional
Pamphlets Let My People Go and
Lincoln's Negro Policy were distributed
free to U.S. Congressional members
Work Teutonic Unity was privately
printed and sent free to government officials and U. S. Congressional members in
Commissioned Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve
Published article I Witnessed A
Miracle, that discussed the hearing on the Langer Bill before
representatives of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Published pamphlet Unending Hate
denouncing the U. S. Supreme Court Brown vs. the Board of Education decision
Attended the Teutoburger Moot, held in Detmold, Germany, where his address Herman's Brother was delivered by English
and German interpreters
Published autobiographical work Black Belt Around the World at the High Noon of Colonialism concerning travels between
1910 to 1914
Paperback edition of White America
|1966, Apr. 26||
Died in Richmond, Va. and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery
Lincoln's Negro Policy, a
compilation of a number of Cox's essays, published posthumously
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Bilbo, Theodore Gilmore, 1877-1947
- Cox, Earnest Sevier. White America
- Cox, Earnest Sevier. Black belt around the world
- Davis, S. A.
- Grant, Madison, 1865-1937
- Gibbons, Benjamin
- Gordon, Mittie Maude Lena, d. 1961
- Garvey, Marcus, 1887-1940
- Langer, William
- Peace Movement of Ethiopia
- Plecker, W. A.
- Powell, John, 1882-1963
- Universal African Nationalist Movement, Inc.
- Universal Negro Improvement Association
- United States. Army. American Expeditionary Forces
- African Americans -- Race identity
- African Americans -- Segregation
- African Americans -- Colonization -- Africa
- Back to Africa movement
- Racism -- Societies, etc.
- White citizens' councils
The papers of Earnest Sevier Cox, racial separatist, real estate agent, and military officer, were acquired by the Rubenstein Library through gifts and purchases between 1964 and 1981, with an additional gift in 2017.
Collection includes accession 2017-0096.
Processed by: Janie C. Morris
Completed July 29, 1988
Encoded by Stephen Douglas Miller
Updated by Meghan Lyon, August 2017.