Monday, February 4, 2008

The Right To Run

The story below seems to be about race in early 20th Century Boston, but it's probably more about Boston politics, and only tangentially connected to life in Jamaica Plain. On the surface, it describes an effort of a black man to run for office as a Republican. His words resonate with our time, but there's a hitch. A recent book* describes Allen as "a machine politician of dubious character," who was elected to office only because his name did not reveal his race. His electoral succes in the Jamaica Plain district cited below may have been for just that reason. It was common practice in Boston politics to run an unknown Italian-American against an Italian-American politician, or a Joseph Murray against a John Murray. Party loyalty may have caused voters to put their mark beside the name Allen without knowing who they were voting for. Of course, we don't know the real character of the man, and he can't have been much worse than those he ran against. I imagine we'll never know what the people of Jamaica Plain thought of Ike Allen after they heard him speak, but he was probably the first African-American to win any election in Jamaica Plain.

Boston Daily Globe November 26, 1903

Right To Run.

That's What "Ike" Allen Claims to Have.

Still He Doesn't Know Whether He'll Stick or Quit.

"Always Ready for Peace in the Party."

Speaks to Members of Jamaica Plain Citizens' Association.

Wants No One to Vote for Him Because He's Negro.

A meeting of the Jamaica Plain citizens' association was held last evening in the hall of the Bowditch school on Green st. It proved to be a very interesting one, as invitations had been extended to the various candidates for public office, and many of them accepted and addressed the members, among them Hon Isaac B. Allen, candidate for street commissioner.

Rev Charles F. Dole, president, occupied the chair, and introduced the speakers, who were George W. Galvin, socialist candidate for mayor; aldermanic candidates R.L. Raymond, Joseph I. Stewart, John Fitzpatrick, socialist, and councilmanic candidates John J. Conway, William H. Jordan, John Grauman, William H. Howers, Howell T. Wood, Paul A. Jepson, Jas. A. Price, Jeremiah J.Hourin.

The first business of the meeting was a discussion of the proposed extension of the elevated structure to Forest Hills sq. It was voted to appoint a committee of three to attend the hearing before the board of aldermen, Dec 2, to oppose the extension.

Each speaker was given five minutes in which to express his views, and none of the candidates was listened to with more interest than was Mr Allen, who in opening said with a smile: "You republicans know that you are confronted with something you have never been confronted with before. Now I don't know if I shall stay in the fight or not. I am always ready for peace in my party, but I believe I have the same right to run as a candidate as any citizen in this city.

"I am 59 years old and I have given the best part of my life to the work of the republican party. I do not believe that the voters of ward 23, who gave me such a splendid majority, did not know who they were voting for. I believe that every voter knew that Isaac B. Allen is a negro. My whole object is to elect a republican man. See to it that you elect George W. Swallow mayor of this city: never mind if I am on the ballot or not."

Speaking of the negro in the south, Mr Allen said that he did not believe the southern negro would change his politics, as he has everything to thank the republican party for.

"I do not want any one to vote for me because I am a negro, but because I am an American citizen," he said, "but whatever you do, vote for the republican ticket from top to bottom."

*Boston Confronts Jim Crow, 1890-1920, Mark Robert Schneider.

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