JANUARY 24, 1940
WASHINGTON, Tuesday—Two interesting young English people came to see me yesterday afternoon. They started out with $250.00 each and plan to travel around the world, earning their way as they travelled. The war made them give up their plan of encircling the globe, but they have covered 35,000 miles and seen more of this country than a great many of us have.
At the outbreak of the war, they went at once to Canada and volunteered their services, but they are not needed yet, so they are back in Washington seeing a little more. Charming and attractive, they are successful because of their faith in their own ability to swing a plan which to some of us might have seemed impossible of achievement.
Last night the Newspaper Women's Club held their annual benefit for the Children's Hospital and took over Keith's Theatre for the first showing of the movie: "Abe Lincoln In Illinois." Mr. Massey, Miss Gordon, Miss Howard and Mr. Cromwell appeared on the stage at the close of the performance. The house was packed and I think everybody appreciated that it is a most successful and artistic production.
To some of us, however, it is more than that. I feel it is a very moving reminder of the principles which a great man, who did not want to fight, finally found he could only preserve by fighting. There comes a time, as Lincoln's life illustrates, when one must stand up and be counted for the things in which one believes. It happens sooner or later to almost every human being.
I reached the theatre last night to find it picketed by the colored people who are barred from all District of Columbia theatres except their own. I have been in many theatres in the deep South where colored people are admitted, even though segregated. It seemed to me particularly ironic that in the nation's capital, there should be a ruling which would prevent this race from seeing this picture in the same theatre with white people.
It may not have been quite fair or wise to picket this particular show, because the house had been taken over by an organization for a charity and the organization had a right to sell its tickets to whomever it wished. As the evening progressed, however I could not forget the banners outside, partly because I have a deep-rooted dislike of crossing picket lines. Though this was not a strike where any question of unfair labor conditions was involved, still I could not help feeling that there was another question here of unjust discrimination, and it made me unhappy. This occurrence in the nation's capital was but a symbol of the fact that Lincoln's plea for equality of citizenship and for freedom, has never been quite accepted in our nation.
May we not, if we limit the freedoms of people because of race, or religion or color, someday find that our own freedom is limited too? Not in the way that the Constitution limits it for us all, but in other arbitrary and sinister ways?There are basic rights, it seems to me, which belong to every citizen of the United States and my conception of them is not a rule in the nation's capital which bars people freed from slavery from seeing in a public place one of the greatest dramatic presentations of that story.