Dear Distinguished Negro,
Welcome! Your recent fame and success has lead you to the public life of a distinguished Negro. We at the Secret Council of American Negroes want to congratulate you on your newfound success. But with that success comes great responsibility as being a Negro does not mean one can simply relax and enjoy their new prominence, for in these difficult days since the Great Emancipation Negroes of note are scrutinized in ways that our fellow white Americans could ever imagine.
Because of this we have sent along the 1930 edition of our SCAN handbook, commonly referred as the "Bible" for newly famed Negroes. While you may take in the handbook at your leisure, encourage you to read it in its entirety to better prepare you for the life fame has brought you.
For a sampling of the knowledge to be found inside the tome, please read the passage from the first chapter of the book:
Hate Mail and Death Threats, How to Avoid Them
At SCAN we have a truism, when you get your first death threat you will know that you truly are a famed Negro. Levity aside. Until race relations in the United States improves, this will simply be a part of life, but to insure your safety we have a few suggestions.
Firstly, if you live in any part of the American south you should move.
Seriously. You should do it. Now.
We really can't emphasize this enough. There is a saying in many parts of the south, a rallying crying of "I can't have it, no (Negro) should have it!" For example, many eyebrows will be raised if every white man in Weedpatch is driving a used Model T, or worse yet, still a horse and carriage, and the Negro is jollying about in a Studebaker with whitewall tires.
In most of the south, driving a Studebaker while black will get you killed.
But don't get depressed! There are many places where you can live that would be less dangerous and limiting. Unfortunately most of those places are not in the United States. (Other successful Negroes have found luck in the Caribbean, Paris, Liberia and even South America.) SCAN would prefer you to stay in the US and make the best of it for the benefit of all Negroes.
If you do choose to do this, adhere to some additional advice:
Live in urban areas like Harlem, NY or Chicago, Ill. There is safety in numbers, unless the National Guard turns on you, as was the case with our poor brothers and sisters who perished in the murderous East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917.
Helpful hint: Always keep a loaded gun nearby. Many SCAN members spent their formative years after the Emancipation hiding under our cots while Papa clung in one hand our mother and in the other his shotgun screaming that if the Klan wanted us he was taking every Peckerwood in Georgia down with us. The Klan backed off, but keep in mind, a loaded shotgun and planned escape routes if the rebels set our house on fire could only keep our members safe for so long. Eventually Mama and Papa moved us to Gary, Indiana. So seriously. Move.
Secondly, don't date a white woman. We can't say this enough to our male Negroes of note. One should not attempt this if you want to reduce your chances of dying in a horrible and/or undignified manner. We have a saying at SCAN, "Stay ALIVE. Marry a Negress!"
Surprising fact! Did you know that Negro men of fame who marry their same race tend to run at least a 50 percent chance of not dying by lynching, drowning, gun shot, several gun shots, poisoning, stabbing, public beatings, private beatings or electrocution? Negro women aren't just beautiful and loving, my Colored men of success - they'll keep you alive. Think about it!
Thirdly, never admit to owning something that a white man may not own. As a Negro of note you are going to have to do some interracial mingling (but, if you're not a Colored woman of note, this not advisably be with white women) where you will converse with educated white folk of class. White folk of this stature may be sympathetic, even friendly towards Negroes but that could all shrivel up and die the moment they learn that you may own something that either A) they do not own or B) that they do own, but don't think you should own.
Even those most sympathetic of whites like to believe that us Coloreds are but ignorant, wretched children of unfortunate fate who need the warm embrace of a caring white man to save us from our racist tormentors and/or ourselves.
Yes. I know. It is annoying. No one likes to spend time playing to the vanity of insecure hosts. But it's simply a fact of our times that while you may be talented or highly intelligent or, dare I say it, wealthy and good looking, please keep your white peers at ease with the occasional joke about picking cotton, or marvel at some doodad in their home and mistake it for finery from the Orient. Mispronounce a big word.
But please, don't drive the Studebaker to the party. Don't mention your recent vacation in the Islands. Don't wear the diamond cuff links. Don't have your wife or date show up in a Chanel dress you had shipped from France. Don't say you just heard that new Al Jolson album on your Victrola. Don't eat your host's food and compare it to something your Irish maid would make. We can't tell you how many things are wrong with that last sentence. Surely your own demise would be imminent if this statement were uttered.
It might hurt your pride a little when your new contemporaries are snickering at you because you look stupid in those white spats, ducktails and slicked conked hair (we'll instruct you how to dress in chapter two), and you keep pronouncing "question" as "qwerstion" because that was the common vernacular back in Texarkana. Your first instinct might be to let it slip that you took a holiday to Martha's Vineyard last weekend where you gave your wife a band of gold spun from the tooth fillings of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Then to bring it home you would add a quip about how you and her would later, high on cocaine and absinthe, mock a young white woman on a bicycle by making lewd sounds and gestures as you sped around the island that cursed Studebaker.
But seriously, no matter how good it might feel don't do this if you want to live.
And there are 1,823 pages more where that came from!
We can't emphasize enough, you really need to read the handbook. There are more tips involving money, fashion, homes, speaking to white people, education, networking, selecting the right black social organization to join, choosing what role you will take in the long fight for Civil Rights, learning how to protect your eyes and mouth if you are dragged out of your car by an unruly mob, how to escape from the grips of an unruly mob, where to shop, what schools you should send your children to, how to defect to France if you are threatened with unlawful imprisonment, how to properly argue for your right to die for your country as a combat soldier and how to understand and intermingle with Negroes outside of your class range.
And there's even more! From our entire history dating back to Africa to up from now and how to make the perfect sweet potato pie. It's all in there.
Also as a newly minted Colored of class, we will send you more materials on SCAN events, courses, meetings and therapeutic retreats. If you ever feel you need SCANs help, like if you've become dependent on drink or heroin, or if you need help getting a lawyer or out of the country, SCAN is there to jimmy the locks and shuttle you away from false murderous persecution. At SCAN we are here to help you because your public face represents the Colored race.
Sincerely yours in Negroness,
Walter Francis White
SCAN Precinct Captain #37, freshman intake chair
The Secret Council of American Negroes