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

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NEW YORK—It grieves me to write so early in the New Year of something that casts a shadow across our American life, but I cannot read the newspapers these days without being concerned—in fact, seriously troubled—with the threat to civil liberties.

Not long ago some of our government officials made an appeal to visit Freedom Village in Fayette County, Tennessee. This is a tent city established by Negroes in the struggle for votes in Fayette and Haywood Counties, Tennessee.

Since the Negroes have moved in, shots have been twice fired from passing cars into the village, wounding innocent persons in their tents.

The whole story of economic pressure being brought to bear on Negroes who attempt to vote is a sordid one for the United States, and I hope the year 1961 will see us free of activities of this kind.

For the most part, in the North changes are coming slowly but surely and without violence. In the South, as far as I can discern, both white and Negro young people want to follow Martin Luther King's Gandhian action and protest peacefully when they must.

But there are people who are bringing violence into this whole situation, and this is sad and deplorable. Let us all do what we can to keep moving steadily forward. Recognition of all persons as people is coming, whether as individuals we like it or not, and the greater opportunity everyone has to develop his powers to the fullest, the quicker we will be able to function peacefully together.

The real difficulties arise from lack of education and the handicap that inequality of opportunity creates in the development of people. This is not a question of race or religion; it is a question of realizing that, regardless of race, color or religion, everyone must have equal opportunity.

Situations in Cuba and Laos are the most disturbing of all parts of today's international scene.

Cuba is, of course, far easier for the average American to understand. Refugees from that island are landing in Florida and at times proving none too congenial. Of course, those who are destitute upon arrival must be supported, and this is an added burden.

Adding to the unfriendliness between Cuba and the U.S. is the announcement by Dr. Fidel Castro that we must cut our Embassy staff in Cuba to 11, which is the number that Cuba has in her Washington Embassy, and that the others must leave in 48 hours. Dr. Castro adds that while Cuba is not breaking off diplomatic relations, he will be willing to let all of our Embassy people go home if they wish.

In the United Nations, meanwhile, there will be an investigation of the accusation that we are about to attack Cuba. I, of course, have no official knowledge of what the Administration might do, but I am certain that the newspapers and the public would not support a military attack on Cuba.

We get annoyed with things that are said and done by the Castro regime, but I think that basically most of our citizens know our investment interests in Cuba did not do all they could have done in raising the standards of native employees and that there was some exploitation.

Probably out of sheer laziness we supported the status quo for a long time when we should have realized that conditions under which the people lived were intolerable and we should have helped free themselves from these conditions, not by military means but by economic and moral support.

Now the Soviets are sending arms to Cuba and probably persons of various skills to help the Cubans with their training and certainly to try to give them a Socialist economy. We are worried because this establishes a possible Russian base close to our shores. We might consider for a moment that we have some bases rather close to the borders of the Soviet Union.

It is rather late now, I suppose, for us to try to prove to Cuba that we are able to offer them much more of what they really want than the Soviets can. But let us not waste our time over spilt milk. Let us think of Cuba as a lesson and attempt to change our procedures of operation in other Latin-American countries so this situation does not repeat itself. If we do not, then we deserve the loss of friends.


(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 4, 1961

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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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.