The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

The George Washington University

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Dear Friend:

Thirty-one Negro citizens of Columbia, Tennessee are under arrest, charged with crimes ranging from attempted murder in the first degree to carrying concealed weapons. Two other Negro prisoners have been killed , shot down in Columbia jail by officers of the law.

These men, more than half of their number recently discharged servicemen, have been the innocent victims of race hatred and violence. The events which took place in Columbia on February 25th and 26th rose out of a dispute between a white shopkeeper and a Negro customer. They culminated in lynch threats, an armed invasion of the Negro district, wanton destruction of Negro property and wholesale arrests and beatings of Negro citizens. The enclosed pamphlet, “Terror in Tennessee,” adequately describes this series of outrages.

Our Committee was formed to provide every possible safeguard to those Negroes unjustly charged with crimes and to assure them the justice denied them by sworn officers of the law in Tennessee. We shall work with the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in providing adequate legal defense to the victims. We will work to assure that those responsible for this bloodshed and mockery of the law be tried for the real crimes committed. We shall attempt, so far as it lies within our power, to provide reparations for the damage occasioned Negro businessmen and householders by brutal mob action. Finally and above all, we will tell the people this story of injustice and race hatred at Columbia so that Americans may take measures to guard against a repetition of this tragic situation in their own communities.

Please help us to win these objectives through your generous contribution. Every dollar you give will help to assure simple justice to humble men who today stand charged with crime while the real criminals are free. We want an America where every man, Negro or white, may stand on the same footing before the law. Help us to achieve that.

Sincerely yours,

Eleanor Roosevelt           Channing H. Tobias

P.S. This Committee represents a joint effort on the part of all organizations and individuals working to secure justice for the defendants in Columbia. If you have received and responded to a previous appeal in connection with this case, please pass this letter on to a friend.

1 Typed on National Committee for Justice in Columbia, Tennessee letterhead.