1914 – New York Times Article Denouncing ‘Negro Cocaine Fiends’ as a New Southern Menace

If it wasn’t already understood that racism plays a large part in the history of US drug regulation, then this article from the New York Times will help to make this facet of enforcement apparent.  The article, titled “Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are a New Southern Menace,” focused almost entirely on increased use of cocaine by ‘insane negroes’ within the South.  The article explains that in 1913, 1 of every 386 patients admitted to hospitals in the North were ‘insane drug users’ whereas the statistic was much more prevalent within the South, with one hospital in Mississippi reporting 1 in 23 patients being admitted for ‘insane drug use’.

The article also explains the effects of cocaine known to the publishers at the time, including a juggernaut mindset with heightened resistance to pain, and increase of marksmanship.  There is also an address of why users choose to “dabble” in the drug summarized by a quote by the “fiend” (Black cocaine user), “Cause I couldn’t git nothin’ else, boss.”   The solution to the problem of poor blacks’ in particular access to drugs was to pass legislation to keep blacks out of saloons and decrease their access to whiskey.

This article highlights the racist motivation for substance regulation, an important trend in which the white legislatures primary concern seemed to be separating the lower classes (minorities) and their drug use from whites.

The article can be found here: “Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are a New Southern Menace.”

Works Cited:

“History of Drugs in America Timeline.” Shmoop. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2013. <http://www.shmoop.com/drugs-america/timeline.html&gt;.

“Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are a New Southern Menace.” The New York Times [New York, NY] 8 Feb. 1914: n. pag. Print.


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