“Next?” (August 15, 1946)
by Burris A. Jenkins, Jr. (1897-1966)
11 x 14 in, ink and crayon on board
Burris Jenkins Jr. was the son of a prominent Kansas City minister, war correspondent and newspaper editor. Jenkins Jr. was a popular sports cartoonist, whose work appeared in the New York Journal-American from 1931. His humorous published verses were also popular. Although best known for his sports themes, Jenkins was also a skilled courtroom illustrator and editorial cartoonist.
Jenkins was not afraid to provoke, and he has some strong WW2 examples, including one of the rare direct commentaries on concentration (death) camps. Among his best-remembered cartoons are his angry piece on the discovery of the dead Lindbergh baby, and his sentimental image of Babe Ruth’s farewell to Yankee Stadium.
He was fired from his first job at the Kansas City Post for a series of pessimistic Christmas cartoons, a firing that prompted his father’s resignation from the same newspaper.
His father was an interesting guy. Jenkins, Sr (1968-1945) was ordained in 1891 and served as a pastor in Indianapolis. He received advanced degrees from Harvard and went on to serve as a professor and president of the University of Indianapolis and president of Kentucky University. He left Kentucky to return to Kansas City as pastor of the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church. The church burned in 1939, and Jenkins chose Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect for the church’s new home overlooking the Country Club Plaza.
Jenkins served as editor of the Kansas City Post from 1919 to 1921, hoping to fight for the establishment of the League of Nations. The Jenkins, Sr., biography tells the story about his leaving the Post slightly differently that for the son: “After two years, it became necessary for him to choose between the newspaper and his pulpit and, without hesitation, he resigned from the Post.”
“Live dangerously!” Jenkins would thunder from the pulpit, embracing his own philosophy against all adversaries. Unconventional in nearly every aspect of his chosen field, Jenkins often preached from non-Biblical texts, such as the latest book or his travels abroad. The church frequently hosted motion pictures, dances, card games, and fundraising boxing matches. These activities led to opposition to Jenkins and his Community Church from other churches in the city.
The scenario of the corrupt Union Boss taking any excuse for a laborer to be on strike could belong to any of a hundred historical events. But the date gives a clue.
A profound aspect to this drawing is the insight into the cavalier racial stereotyping that was so unquestioningly accepted for so long. Linger for a moment on that poster in the background.
Many unsuccessful attempts were made to form a trade union prior to 1941. But in that year, on August 3, a representative miners’ conference was called by the Transvaal Provincial Committee of the African National Congress, and an organized labor union was the ultimate result.
On August 12, 1946 African mine workers of the Witwatersrand went on strike in support of a demand for higher wages – 10 shillings a day. They continued the strike for a week in the face of the most savage police terror, in which officially 1,248 workers were wounded and a very large number – officially only 9 – were killed. Lawless police and army violence smashed the strike. The resources of the racist State were mobilized, almost on a war footing, against the unarmed workmen.
The strike was the first widespread action taken by African workers since 1920.