My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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MIAMI —How sad it is that we were forced by the Japanese to cancel the President's visit to their country!

How much wiser it would have been if the President had postponed the visit long ago with the explanation that until the Japanese government had come to an amicable understanding with its people, he did not feel it would be wise to make the visit.

Those in control of the Japanese government must suffer in the withdrawal of the invitation to the President, and it certainly becomes more difficult for them to put through such an unpopular measure as the security treaty.

Must we insist on an agreement between the United States and Japan that is so unpopular among the young Japanese, who will have to bear the burden of carrying it out? I cannot believe that this is necessary.

How many of us know about the methods being used in Fayette and Haywood Counties in Tennessee to keep Negroes from voting?

The following information was sent to me by an organization in the South:

Mothers and children, our Negro citizens, are facing starvation in these Tennessee countries because their husbands and fathers seek the right to vote. An economic squeeze has been used—credit has been cut off, loans for farm needs have been denied, farm machinery has been seized and, worst of all, farmers have been unable to buy gasoline for their tractors.

Negroes working on construction jobs, as domestics, etc., have been put out of work, and white merchants are refusing to sell such essentials as food and clothing to Negroes. White wholesalers refuse to sell to Negro retailers.

One Negro, John McFerren, had operated a combined grocery and gasoline station for years. Recently the distributor whose gasoline he was selling removed the tanks, so he invested his own money to buy tanks of 12,000-gallon capacity so he could service Negro farmers who had been denied gasoline.

Though he was prepared to pay cash, he was turned down in his request for gasoline from the company with which he had been dealing and five others. Still other companies which do not sell to independents refused him a dealership. He has to drive 50 miles or more to Memphis or into Arkansas for food and supplies.

The heads of the oil companies have nothing to do with this, and they have replied to telegrams to them in much the same way as Texaco: "It is Texaco's long-standing policy not to discriminate against any customers or potential customer because of race, religion, color or national origin."

This is a most satisfactory policy, but when it is not implemented on the local level the results are unsatisfactory and Mr. McFerren's tanks remain empty.

The Pittsburgh Courier recently reported it had the names of key white people in the community who had raised $2,000 to pay someone to kill a leader in the vote campaign. In this connection it must be recalled that in 1940 a Negro who advocated voting for members of his race was lynched in Haywood County.

This is a case of fear by white people, who are in the minority in these counties. Fayette County has about 21,000 Negroes and only 7,000 whites. Haywood County's whites are outnumbered by Negroes, about 14,000 to 11,000.

But fear which generates hate never wins out in the long run. It will not win out in South Africa and it will not win out in the United States of America. In our own country, people could work and live amicably together and thereby set an example for the rest of the world, but some of them are hurting the leadership of the U.S.A. and playing into the hands of Communists, who will certainly gloat over what is happening in these two counties of Tennessee.


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

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Miami (Fla., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 18, 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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.