My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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EUGENE, Ore.—I have received an appeal to urge the people of the North to come to the help of the colored and white people of the South who wish to be law-abiding people. The appeal comes from the Florida Council for Racial Cooperation, which is a statewide organization of citizens committed to "the ideal of human brotherhood under God."

The pamphlet accompanying the appeal sets out the goals that are sought by this organization, and I think there is hardly one that any of us could disagree on. But there is a part in their manifesto which I think could apply to this problem all over the United States. It says:

"Pray and work for the time when second-class citizenship shall be a thing of the past in America... when racial segregation will no longer place its lifelong blight on the bodies of Negroes and the spirit of white men."

We in the North could take those two statements to heart, for there is still second-class citizenship in the North.

For instance, we have not succeeded as yet in desegregating housing. We are still struggling to desegregate schools and to bring all of our schools up to higher standards.

My correspondent of the Florida Council for Racial Cooperation, however, points out that we in the North have an obligation to help financially the struggle that is going on in the South. The story of what he has done in this field is one of a very courageous man, and I think this is recognized by his Southern constituency. In his letter he told me one or two things which I feel will be a shock to many readers throughout the country, as they were to me.

"A Negro recently collapsed in his car in front of the Florida National Bank in a Southern city," he writes. "The police called an ambulance but when it arrived and saw the victim was a Negro, it drove off and left him. Later the Negro died of a heart attack."

Again, "A well-known Negro minister tried to get a white ambulance with oxygen to take his wife to one hospital. They were refused and she died... A well-known Negro educator after buying a pair of shoes in a department store walked across the store to get his old shoes shined. He was told, `We do not shine the shoes of Negroes here."'

If these anecdotes are true, and I hope sincerely they are not, it shows that allowing second-class citizenship in any locality injures those who consider themselves as belonging to the "better class."

On this same subject, a correspondent in South Africa sends me a pamphlet describing apartheid. He is the white representative of the Africans of the Cape Province, excluding the Transkei in the center. He passes no judgment but simply states what the rules of this strange situation have done to human beings. Here are a few:

1. An African who has lived continuously in a town for 20 years and is still living there has no right to remain there more than 72 hours once he has accepted employment outside that town.

2. Unless he has obtained a special permit, an African professor delivering a lecture at a white club commits a criminal offense.

3. Any policeman is entitled, without warrant, to enter and search, at any reasonable time of the day or night, premises in a town on which he has reason to suspect that an African boy 18 years of age is committing the criminal offense of residing with his father without having the necessary permission to do so.

Are we on the road to such stupidity?


(Copyright, 1959, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Eugene (Or., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 6, 1959

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.