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

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New York—I am becoming more and more disturbed by the action of the Governors of some Southern states against the passive resistance that our colored citizens are practicing in an effort to end segregation at lunch counters and other public places.

It seems to me the time has come when those of us who believe in the law of the land must speak up. Our Constitution does not make anyone in our country a second-class citizen. But it happens that through the years, because we started with slavery, our colored citizens have had to accept second-class citizenship.

This, of course, was recognized as wrong by Abraham Lincoln. And, in fact long before Lincoln's time, Thomas Jefferson looked upon slavery as wrong, and I am sure his protests were not intended to establish second-class citizenship in our country.

We should be proud that the colored people have decided to "fight" for their own rights but to do so with passive resistance. Passive resistance is, of course, very much feared by those who are ready to use force, because in the end one cannot win against a determined people who use passive resistance.

But our colored people should not believe that they are fighting alone. Everyone of us who believes in law and order should speak out now and to the best of our ability actively show our determination that the law of the land and the meaning of our Constitution shall become a reality and not mere words.

It has been announced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—in a very reasonable document that details what has happened in South Carolina, in Georgia, and in Alabama—that the policy from now on is going to be "to withhold retail patronage from all units of the chain variety stores in all sections of the country which maintain a policy in their Southern stores of refusing to serve Negro customers at lunch counters on the same basis as other customers.

"This withholding policy includes, also, Thalhimer's Department Store in Richmond, Va., which was the first to swear out individual warrants for students by name and where, outside of the store, Richmond police, using a huge police dog, dragged the wife of a national board member off to jail.

"This policy does not include stores in several Southern cities which have changed their practices and are now serving Negro customers at their lunch counters."

The courts have always considered peaceful picketing lawful, but there must be order and discipline among those picketing. Every reasonable effort should be made to keep Communist groups from appearing with slogans and picket signs and literature that is detrimental to the lawful picketing formed by the NAACP. This policy should be followed by white people as well as colored who believe that the Constitution should be lived up to in this country.

One hundred years is a long time for a group to wait for what always have been their rights. Why prolong difficulties among ourselves that hurt us before the eyes of the world? Why not put our American common sense and belief in fair play into action on this particular problem?


(Copyright, 1960, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 19, 1960

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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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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.