000 wrote:Many people have an interest in the History of the Art of Magic, ranging from the personalities, their props and routines. But History also reflects the TIMES that we have lived in, and anti semitism and racial discrimination also reflect these times. In that way History can remind us to avoid past mistakes. Having said that can anyone answer the following questions
Was it ever SAM or IBM policy to exclude Jews? Who decided? A Committee, or enshrined in their Constitutions? Dont forget , there was a fair bit of pro Nazi sentiment in the thirties in the USA.
What about African Americans? Were they admitted to Societies only after the Civil Rights Act of 1963, or also before?
Had Jews and African Americans ever formed their own Societies as a result of this discrimination? Do some Societies still discriminate to this day?
Magic societies tend to mirror society as a whole. When the S.A.M was formed in 1902, racism was not only pervasive in America but institutionalized. So it is not surprising that the original S.A.M. constitution restricted membership to "Any reputable person of the white race, of legal age, wherever located throughout the globe, who is interested in Magic as an Art of entertainment..." (Article IV, sec. 1). At the 35th regular monthly meeting of the S.A.M on April 1, 1905 in New York City, a letter was read from "Mr. Cooper (negro) of Marion, Ky. who desired to unite with S.A.M. The Most Ill. President reported that he had acknowledged receipt of Mr. Cooper's letter and explained that the laws of S.A.M. restricted membership to the white race, but while this is a fact, it was not the intention of the society to discriminate against any particular race." (reported in Mahatma, Vol, VIII, no. 11, p. 126 and Sphinx, vol. IV, issue 2, p. 18). I don't know when this policy was changed (does anyone have access to that information and care to post it here?), but it was still in effect as late as October 1928 according to references in the literature that I was able to find.
The S.A.M. was not unique in this regard. An advertisement in the Sphinx for Feb. 1922 (p. 466) solicits members for the Knight of Magic, "open to all magicians of the Caucasian race residing in New York and vicinity." The advertisement was placed by the secretary, John J. McManus, later famous among collectors, and whose library was largely donated to the Library of Congress and the University of Texas at Austin (along with that of his friend Dr. Morris Young, the famous McManus-Young bequest). At least as a national institution, the S.A.M. was not officially either sexist (admitting women members fairly early, Elinor Redan being the first, member #134, admitted at the first annual meeting) or anti-semitic (Louis Krieger was one of the original 24 founding members, and Horace Goldin became member 26 at the first regular meeting, for example). The membership policies of local assemblies likely mirrored the local practices.
This was true of the German Magische Zirkel, for example, which became the only officially recognized magic organization in Germany with Hitler's assumption of dictatorial powers. As the German laws were quickly written to exclude Jews from most aspects of society, so too did the official organization move to exclude Jewish members. It is my understanding that the Cologne branch of the Zirkel disbanded, rather than expel their Jewish members, a rather heroic act of defiance at that time and place.