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

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SAN FRANCISCO —I have said on several occasions that we in the Northern cities must desegregate housing before we can hope to comply with the Supreme Court decision. Therefore, I was very much interested to read what Dr. Roma Gans, professor of education at Teachers College of Columbia University, told the Board of Education of New York City at one of its hearings.

She said New York City would have to have legislation forbidding discrimination in all multiple housing projects, whether they are aided by public funds or not. In other words, if the Supreme Court ruling is to be obeyed, we will have to set a pattern of life which will run through everything we do.

There is no segregation now in the North in public transportation and, though there is not supposed to be in hotels, restaurants and theaters, I think in subtle ways there have been restrictions for our colored citizens.

All this has to come to an end. Why it should be so difficult for us to accept the fact that all of our citizens must be treated on a completely equal basis I have never been able to understand. This does not mean that if you do not like someone you are obliged to invite him into your home. It only means that you have to be willing to share public facilities on an equal basis with everybody.

Whether the apartment next to you is occupied by a Greek or an Indian or a Negro or a Jew should make very little difference to you. My experience is that in New York City one sees very little of his next-door neighbor, and unless you want to know him, you certainly are not obligated to make friends. But you are obligated to be courteous and to willingly share the facilities which have to be used in common.

In New York City we have not only Harlem but the gradual development of a Puerto Rican section. We would not like to be told that we were behaving toward our citizens the way certain unenlightened governments in Europe, in Africa and in Asia have behaved toward minority groups in general and Jewish groups in particular in their midst.

We do not like to be told that we have ghettos in our big cities, but that is exactly what we have, and we will continue to have them until we get over the idea that we cannot live in the same houses and share all public facilities on an equal basis with all of our citizens.

Dr. Gans, in her testimony as a representative of the Citizens Committee for Children in New York City, went on to explain that there were ways in which people could be helped to make this transition more easily. She wholeheartedly endorsed the report on zoning of the Commission on Integration but added that its effectiveness rested not only on full implementation of its recommendations but on the ability to create a feeling of common purpose and cooperation in the community.

She laid particular emphasis on staffing of the Central Zoning Unit which is recommended in the report to the board. She felt the staff must be chosen very carefully. Members themselves must be free from prejudice, wise in their understanding in how to guide those who resist integration.

They will have to enjoy the confidence of the school administration, of the field superintendents, and of the community at large. They must have the ability to make the members of all school staffs enthusiastic about creating a new school climate. That is a pretty tall order and members of that zoning unit will be difficult to find.


(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 26, 1957

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.