Joint Committee for National Recovery (JCNR)

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The Joint Committee for National Recovery (JCNR) was the mechanism by which some black activists sought to represent a collective black voice on political, economic, and social policies in the New Deal era. The JCNR was the brainchild of John P. Davis, a graduate of Harvard Law School.

In 1933 Congress began debating the implementation of the National Recovery Administration (NRA), one of Franklin Roosevelt's key New Deal agencies. The NRA was created to establish codes that would promote fair competition and standardize wages and hours. Davis, along with fellow Harvard graduate student of economics Robert C. Weaver, noticed that during code hearings Congress devoted very little attention to blacks in the workplace. Davis and Weaver decided to represent blacks' interest on Capitol Hill and formed the Negro Industrial League (NIL) in order to highlight racial discrimination in the NRA's wage codes.

The NIL only existed for the summer of 1933—it collapsed when Weaver was recruited into Roosevelt's administration as an assistant to Clark Foreman, the race advisor to the Department of the Interior. Many hailed Weaver's appointment as a great step forward for black Americans, but Davis felt that Foreman had co-opted the work of the NIL. Davis remained convinced of the need for a group that represented black organizations on Capitol Hill. By the end of 1933, Davis persuaded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to support his plan for the JCNR. By December 1933 the JCNR represented eighteen organizations. A year later, twenty-four organizations considered the JCNR their voice on Capitol Hill. Of these twenty-four, however, the only major group was the NAACP. The NAACP felt that the JCNR could not survive without its support and therefore tried to control the group. When Davis rejected the NAACP's directives, the NAACP withdrew its support, effectively ending the JCNR.

Before the JCNR disappeared at the end of 1935, however, it organized a major conference at Howard University—"The Position of the Negro in Our National Economic Crisis." This conference, in the spring of 1935, attracted New Deal administrators, labor activists, academics, political party leaders, and laborers from around the country. It received negative press from those who alleged that conference organizers promoted communism. In truth, many of the conference speakers were highly critical of the New Deal's treatment of black America, claiming that racial discrimination undercut the support that the New Deal policies promised, but a congressional investigation after the conference found no evidence that attendees advocated a turn to communism. Several conference leaders, however, did call for a new political organization. Less than a year after the JCNR collapsed and the conference ended, this new organization, the National Negro Congress, held its first meeting in Chicago. Labor leader A. Philip Randolph was its first president and John P. Davis, still committed to the idea of a national umbrella organization dedicated to articulating blacks' collective voice, ran the organization on a day-to-day basis.



Holloway, Jonathan Scott. Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919–1941. 2002.

Kirby, John. Black Americans in the Roosevelt Era: Liberalism and Race. 1980.

Wolters, Raymond. Negroes and the Great Depression: The Problem of Economic Recovery. 1970.

Jonathan Scott Holloway