6

Harry Anslinger is often said to have been xenophobic and racist, and that his hate against nonwhites and non-white culture was a driving force in his wish to prohibit cannabis. This is often substantiated with quotes from him.

There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.

This quote can be found in a NCBI article on the effects racism had on cannabis prohibtion. The source it links to is not a report or documentation of an Anslinger speech, but rather an article: How a racist hate-monger masterminded America's War on Drugs. Now, this article cites the quote with yet another article: Column: 'War On Drugs' Merely Fights The Syptoms Of A Faulty System. This last article mentions another quote as well:

Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men.

However, this article has no sources. So, my question is, did Anslinger say these things? If so, were are the records of him saying this, be they reports, documentation or videos. I have yet to find any primary source on this.

2
  • 5
    This question is basically the discussion on Wikiquotes which lists the quote as disputed. – Oddthinking May 18 at 13:26
  • 1
    I don't like the tag edit. This question is not about racism; it is not about recreational drugs. If you want to learn more about either of those topics, this question won't help you. – Oddthinking May 20 at 3:12
8

I see no evidence that he actually said these things. I believe one of the principal sources for these quotations is this ad by Common Sense for Drug Policy, which ran in 2006. It claims to be a summary of the 1998 book Drug Crazy, but the bold quotations do not appear anywhere in that book.

The book From Bud to Brain: A Psychiatrist's View of Marijuana by Timmen L. Cermak (Cambridge University Press, 2020; p.203) identifies the "... as good as white men" quote as an urban legend.

However, the fact that these exact quotations were false shouldn't imply that they are an inaccurate summary of Anslinger's views. He believed all these things. Here is how he put it in a 1937 magazine article:

Those who first spread its use were musicians. They brought the habit northward with the surge of “hot” music demanding players of exceptional ability, especially in improvisation. Along the Mexican border and in southern seaport cities it had long been known that the drug has a strangely exhilarating effect upon the musical sensibilities. The musician who uses it finds that the musical beat seemingly comes to him quite slowly, thus allowing him to interpolate improvised notes with comparative ease. He does not realize that he is tapping the keys with a furious speed impossible for one in a normal state.

H. J. Anslinger with Courtney Ryley Cooper, "Marijuana, Assassin of Youth," The American Magazine, vol. 124, no. 1, July, 1937

One statement to Congress in 1949:

I think the traffic has increased in marihuana, and unfortunately particularly among the young people. We have been running into a lot of traffic among these jazz musicians, and I am not speaking about the good musicians, but the jazz type. In one place down here in North Carolina we arrested a whole orchestra, everybody in the orchestra. In Chicago we have arrested some rather prominent jazz musicians; and in New York.

Sloman, Reefer Madness (1998 [1979]), p.148, quoting Eighty-First Congressional Appropriations Committee Hearings

Anslinger was not joking about going after musicians he considered "not good"; for example, he stalked Billie Holiday for over two decades, successfully arresting her three times on drug charges. (Lauren Michele Jackson, White Negroes [2019], p.140)

He also said in 1956:

60 percent of drug addicts in the United States are Negroes. (ibid.)

And from his private notes:

Colored students at the Univ. of Minn, partying with female students (white) smoking and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result pregnancy. (Sloman, Reefer Madness, p.75; a photo of this page in his notebook is included at the end of the book)

4
  • I see that the three last quotes are from a book on the history of cannabis. Isn't this just yet another secondary source? Where did Larry Sloman get these quotes from? For all I know, they are just as fabricated or unproven as the other quotes. – A. Kvåle May 19 at 6:41
  • I added full attributions to the Sloman quotations – Avery May 19 at 11:01
  • Thank you very much :) – A. Kvåle May 19 at 11:18
  • You say he believed all those things, but I see no evidence (in the quotes you presented) that he thought that jazz or swing was satanic, or that jazz or swing "result from marihuana use". You only provide a quote that shows that he thought that jazz wanted players of "exceptional ability" and that marihuana helps provide that exceptional ability. (If I say "Steroids help you win the Tour de France" that's different from saying "Bicycle racing results from steroids.") I have no idea if he believed these things, but you haven't shown that he did. (Good answer, otherwise!) – sgf May 22 at 9:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .