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Roy Wilkins of NAACP Denounces “Teenage Negro Hoodlums”

June 23, 1964 - Roy Wilkins (pictured) has denounced “teenage Negro hoodlums” who by their violence “are undercutting and wrecking gains made by hundreds of Negro and white youngsters who went to jail for human rights.”

Mr. Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP, expressed his view in a recent column in The Amsterdam News, a Negro weekly newspaper published in New York.

He writes the column, “Along This Way,” every other week for the paper. Dr. Martin Luther King writes the column on the alternate weeks.

In May and earlier this month, there were a number of outbreaks of teenage violence in New York City, particularly on the subway lines. Most — but not all — of the incidents involved Negro youths.

Mr. Wilkins called the Negro youths involved “punks,” “foul-mouthed smart alecks,” and “Harlem and Brooklyn morons.”

He accused them of “selling out” the Freedom Riders, of “undoing the work of hundreds of Negro and white sit-in youngsters,” of “selling out school board fights in scores of cities,” and of “cutting and slashing at the race’s self-respect.”

He also attacked elements of the Negro community that, he said, “offer the same old threadbare excuses to cover up pure, unadulterated, vicious crime.”

This was an apparent reference to some New York civil rights leaders who earlier this month described much of the violence as an outburst by an element of society that has been denied proper education, employment, and housing.

At that time, James Farmer, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, said the best solution for the problem would be for the city “to assume responsibility in wiping out the root causes” by providing more jobs, desegregating the school, and building better housing.

Mr. Wilkins called “the hysterical treatment by a good part of the press, radio, and TV” almost as bad as the hoodlums.

“We can help matters along by recognizing that a punk is a punk, white or black, and by putting him in his proper place,” Mr. Wilkins concluded.

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