AUGUST 2, 1956
HYDE PARK N.Y.—I was formally presented on Tuesday afternoon by Tau Kappa Alpha, national forensic honor society, with its "Speaker of the Year" award.
I feel very much honored by this, since the society says it is given for "effective, responsible and intelligent speaking on significant public questions during 1955, in the field of educational, scientific and cultural activities."
It certainly is a rewarding thing to be told that I have done well in one of the activities which take up a good part of my time.
I heard yesterday morning that the Alabama Supreme Court had turned down an appeal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to suspend a $100,000 contempt of court fine, which was set by the Circuit Court.
Both of these are state courts, and I suppose it is natural for them to take a narrow, legalistic point of view and to feel they have a right to know the members of an organization within their state. (The NAACP had refused to produce a list of its Alabama members.)
The courts must realize, however, that fear of reprisals, economic or physical, under present tensions makes the disclosure of such a list utterly impossible from a moral standpoint. If the situation would be reversed, the whole thing could be understood much better.
I wonder if it occurs to the White Citizens Council members or the court judges that this question will affect not only the State of Alabama. The whole world is watching what happens there.
Citizens of Alabama say they fight for freedom—freedom to do as they choose—yet they probably are jeopardizing the freedom of the world. For Asia and Africa are the two continents where today the beliefs of a democratic free world are being weighed against the beliefs of the Communist world. If the number of Communist states should rise, the number of free people in the world would diminish, thereby lessening the chances of keeping other people in the world free.
The question before us in the United States is not what we do in our country but what effect the things that are done in Alabama will have on the future of the world.
That was a most shocking story in the Tuesday papers describing how criminals (36 inmates of Rock Quarry State Prison in Georgia) broke their legs with 10-pound sledgehammers in protest against working conditions. Mr. Forrester, the state director of correction, said the men were working at a rock quarry and he described them as "among the most hardened in Georgia."
Have you ever seen a chain gang in Georgia working along the road? Have you ever watched the men in charge of these road camps, with their whips and their pistols in their belts?
I still remember one man's face which I saw 20 years ago in one of these camps. I was more afraid of him than I was of the prisoners.
It is bad for any man to have complete control over another human being, and this whole system in Georgia is a bad system. Men do not inflict such pain and serious injury on themselves merely to get out of doing hard work. There must have been unbearable conditions. And we call ourselves advanced in our penal institutions!