P. L. Prattis on Egypt and Sudan

November 17, 1951 — The Courier

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | November 20, 2017                  

Percival Leroy Prattis (1895-1980) Percival Leroy Prattis (1895-1980), journalist, reporter, foreign correspondent, and executive editor of the highly influential, nationally circulated black newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier, followed events in Egypt and Iran with great interest.

In this column from Nov. 1951, Prattis demonstrated his balanced approach to political punditry.

November 17, 1951

By P. L. Prattis

American Negroes Should Be Concerned About What Is Happening in Egypt

AMERICAN Negroes must be concerned about what is happening in Egypt because their country, the United States, is being required to play a decisive role to the affairs and disputes of other countries all over the world. It was none of our affair that Great Britain and Iran should have become embroiled over Iranian oil, but when the chips were down, both sides looked to the United States. Already our State Department has made significant statements about the Egyptian situation. It is well known that we threw our weight around when Israel was involved with the Arabs.

American Negroes should want their country to be on the side of right and justice, regardless of the race, creed or color of the principals involved. American Negroes should insist that the United States support right and justice.

The Egyptian question can be easily divided into two parts: a right part and a wrong part. The ruling class of Egyptians, who are neither black nor oriented toward native black Africans, will hammer away at the 50 per cent right part of their quarrel with Great Britain. The 50 per cent wrong part will be obscured.

•    •    •

MOUKHTAR A. ZAKI, press secretary of the Royal Egyptian Embassy, recently wrote a letter to the New York Times which criticized an editorial in the Times as a “piece of Jingoism . . . wholly inconsistent with the American ideal of peace, liberty and justice.” [His letter was published Nov. 1, 1951]

Mr. Zaki was right. But in his answer he only undertook to defend Egypt’s position in the Suez. It is easy to agree with him that the treaty of 1936 between Great Britain and Egypt was forced upon Egypt by the pretense of British troops (or because some of Egypt’s rulers have gone in for these one-sided treaties for personal gain).

Mr. Zaki is also correct when he raises the question as to the necessity of British troops being on the Suez to defend it against Russia when there are many anti-Communist nations between Russia and the Suez and Russia would have to overrun these before becoming a threat to the Suez.

But throughout his letter, Mr. Zaki does not refer to the 50 per cent wrong part of Egypt’s quarrel with Great Britain. That part concerns Egypt’s desire to grab the Sudan. If Egypt were allowed to do that a grave injustice would be perpetrated.

•    •    •

THE SUDANESE in Egypt are regarded as a servant class and are largely restricted to menial types of service.

In the large hotels in Cairo, the Sudanese are employed almost exactly as are Negroes in Southern hotels in the United States. The clerks and cashiers are whites, Egyptians and other nationalities. The bell boys and bell captains and porters are Sudanese. The chambermaids are Sudanese men. The housekeepers are white. The waiters are Sudanese. The captains and headwaiters are white.

It might be claimed that these large hotels are foreign-dominated. But that can’t be true of the biggest Egyptian bank. You don’t find Sudanese in any but flunky positions in this bank. Nor in the government offices.

Sudanese, from time to time, break through the economic and social bars and win such titles as “bey.” There may be some Sudanese pashas, but I have never met one.

IN THE war with Israel, the greatest fighter on the Egyptian side was a Sudanese colonel or general. Sudanese are traffic cops on the main streets of Cairo.

Egyptians (white, brown and tawny Egyptians) will insist that the Sudanese in Egypt are just like all other Egyptians. But that is not true socially or economically although the social barriers are not as great as in the United States.

If the Sudan were added to Egypt, the six million Sudanese would become second-grade people in the new Egyptian empire and the Sudan would be exploited for the benefit of the upperstrata of white and brown Egyptians.

Furthermore, the Egyptians are not smart enough for a good job of exploitation. For the most part, they are farmers and politicians. They lack the skills to help an underdeveloped country. The Egyptians still use sticks for plows. Business in Egypt is largely controlled by Jews, Syrians, Greeks and Lebanese. The Egyptians would make a mess of the Sudan.

The United States should oppose this Egyptian grab of the Sudan. Negroes should tell their Senators and the State Department (Mr. Acheson) that they don’t want their country in on such a deal. This ought to be true even if the Sudanese were not a black people like ourselves. They deserve better than to be pawns in somebody else’s game.

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Related links:

The Negro Press Should Do Its Utmost to Destroy Racial Evils in America (1951)

Rich Egyptians and Iranians Run Afoul of Social Reforms (1952)

Nasser Asks for Trouble | Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sept. 9, 1956

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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