The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—I had a meeting Monday morning at my American Association for the United Nations office of the nominating committee for the purpose of selecting a new president of the AAUN.

Dr. Charles Mayo, who served us for two years, feels he must be relieved of his duties. The President sent him to the coronation in Nepal as the U.S. representative. And I have been delighted with the thought of how amused he would be in riding on a 14-foot elephant in that colorful procession!

Dr. Mayo then proceeded to Geneva as U.S. representative to the World Health Organization meeting there. So it is evident that we must find a new president of the AAUN and we canvassed possibilities at our Monday meeting.

After lunch in the United Nations building, I went to a board meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Then I got ready to be driven out to Wantaugh, Long Island, for a Parent-Teacher Association meeting. The PTA was discussing the United Nations International Cultural and Educational Fund and ways to increase their membership in the local chapter of the AAUN.

I have just received a "personal and unofficial" communication from Assemblyman James C. Thomas of New York State. He enclosed his answer to a letter sent to every one of our Congressional legislators from the State of South Carolina and gave me permission to use his answer. This I am happy to do.

The communication concerns a joint resolution passed February 14, 1956 by the Legislature of South Carolina. The resolution condemns the alleged usurpation and encroachment on the reserve powers of the states by the Supreme Court of the United States. It calls upon the states and Congress to prevent this and other encroachments by the central government.

The gist of the statement seems to be that the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution always must remain the same and that, in no case, must it change with the changing world.

This was a concept held by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in the famous Dred Scott decision but refuted by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes in 1945 when he said:

"If by the statement that what the Consitution meant at the time of its adoption it means today, it is intended to say that the great clauses of the Constitution must be confined to the interpretation which the framers, with the conditions and outlook of their time, would have placed upon them, the statement carries its own refutation."

Of course, it would mean that no progress ever would be made. Even the South probably has forgotten that for more than 100 years it was a crime punishable by death in 13 Southern states, including the sovereign state of South Carolina, for a white person to teach a Negro to read or write. Not even in South Carolina would they like to return to that concept!

I like the way Assemblyman Thomas answered, first with the legal quotations and then with his own reaction to the South Carolina resolution. He said what needs to be said:

"With two-thirds of the world members of the colored race, White Citizens Councils are an affront to all Americans with courage and vision." He went on to say that we need American Citizens Councils. I think, too, that everyone will join in the belief that these councils should represent every race, creed and color in the United States of America.

Neither South Carolina nor any other Southern state can, in the long run, dissent from this kind of thinking.


(Copyright, 1956, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 16, 1956

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.