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Negro Teachers Organization Charges Lindsay with Appeasing Jews on Poem Issue

January 21, 1969
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Mayor John V. Lindsay was accused by the head of the African-American Teachers Association of “trying to appease the powerful Jewish financiers of the city” for ordering an investigation into the reading of an anti-Semitic poem by a controversial Negro school teacher over a local radio station last month. The teacher, Leslie R. Campbell, was under suspension but was reinstated recently when a state panel found insufficient evidence to back up charges that he had harassed white teachers during the New York City teachers strike.

Albert Vann, president of the Negro teachers organization, said that Mayor Lindsay had, in effect, called for the dismissal of Mr. Campbell and threatened that “the black community…will not tolerate such action.” He claimed that there were no anti-Semitic overtones in the poem read by Mr. Campbell over WBAI-FM last Dec. 26 but conceded that it was “critical of the Jews.” Mayor Lindsay denounced the poem as “obviously anti-Semitic.” It was dedicated to Albert Shanker, UFT president, and began with the verse, “Hey, Jew boy, with that yarmulka on your head/ you pale-faced Jew boy, I wish you were dead.” The poem was purportedly written by a 15-year-old Negro school boy. Mr. Vann said “poems critical of blacks are taught daily, are Jews beyond criticism?”

The American Jewish Committee meanwhile urged the immediate suspension of Mr. Campbell in a telegram to John Doar, president of the New York City Board of Education. Theodore Ellenoff, president of the AJ Committee’s New York Chapter, said there was no place in public schools for bigots as teachers, no matter what their color, and demanded a full investigation of Mr. Campbell’s fitness to teach.

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