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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

The NAACP Leader Who Passed As White, Infiltrated Lynching Rings, Architected ‘Brown v. Board of Education’, and Ended His Life in Scandal

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One of the most important Civil Rights Leaders in the 20th century, behind perhaps only the giants of the movement such as Martin Luther King Jr. WEB DuBois, or Booker T Washington, was Walter Francis White, a Black man who led two lives: one as a leader of the NAACP and the Harlem Renaissance, and the other as a white journalist who investigated lynching crimes in the Deep South. Although White was the most powerful political Black figure in America during the 1930s and 40s, his full story has never been told until now due to scandal that happened at the end of his life.

I’m joined today by A.J. Baime, author of White Lies: The Double Life of Walter F. White and America’s Darkest Secret. We discuss…
•How Walter White was born mixed race with very fair skin and straight hair, which allowed him to “pass” as a white man and investigate 41 lynchings and 8 race riots between 1918 and 1931. As the second generation of the Ku Klux Klan incited violence across the country, White risked his life to report on the Red Summer of 1919, the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, the Marion lynchings of 1930, and more. His reports drew national attention and fueled the beginnings of the civil rights movement
•White’s rise in the NAACP to chief executive – as leader of the NAACP, he had full access to the Oval Offices of FDR and Harry Truman, and was arguably the most powerful force in the historic realignment of Black political power from the Republican to the Democratic party. He also made Black voting rights a priority of the NAACP, a fight that continues to this day.
•How White helped found the Harlem Renaissance as a famed novelist and Harlem celebrity – he hosted apartment parties where Black and white audiences alike were introduced to Paul Robeson’s singing, Langston Hughes’ verse, and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
•Why White’s full story has never been told until now, in part due to his controversial decision to divorce his Black wife and marry a white woman, which shattered his reputation as a Black civil rights leader.
February 22, 2022
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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