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

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WASHINGTON—I have allowed World Health Day, which was April 7th, to come and go without mentioning it in my column, and I think I have been remiss, for this day commemorates the World Health Organization's becoming a full-fledged member of the United Nations' specialized agencies in 1948.

This year World Health Day had a slogan which meant something to people all over the world: "Preserve Sight, Prevent Blindness."

This will be the campaign which the World Health Organization will promote through all interested organizations in the United States. The agency will work closely with the National Association for the Prevention of Blindness and the American Foundation for Overseas Blind.

Also, the decision was made to organize a U.S. Citizens Committee for World Health Day 1962, with Miss Helen Keller as chairman. This committee throughout the year will coordinate the information and the efforts of all American organizations interested in this problem.

Much information should go out to our people and to people overseas on how to care for eyesight, but at the same time much will be done to promote knowledge and activity among these organizations to help the rehabilitation of the blind.

While on the subject of health I think I would like to mention here a small tea which I had in my apartment this past week. The crisis in integrated housing as it has emerged through a situation that arose in Deerfield, Ill., and has been fought in the courts, was discussed by a minister of the North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, the Reverend Russell R. Bletzer.

I feel that housing is closely tied to public health and, strangely enough, I think that integration and the gradual recognition of all our citizens as first-class citizens is also closely tied to physical and mental health.

The Rev. Bletzer told how the village officials have condemned for parks two separate parcels of land on which 51 homes were being built and offered for sale on an interracial basis. (Two model houses were almost completed and roads and sewers were in for the rest.) The county court has upheld the right of eminent domain and has stated that the motives of a village governing body should not be questioned.

The American Freedom of Residence Fund, of which I am national honorary co-chairman, is raising funds to help the builder appeal the condemnation to the Illinois Supreme Court, and, if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is an important test case in housing. If the Deerfield case is lost, we may well be on our way to becoming a nation of beautiful parks, but we certainly won't be helping to strengthen democracy at home and abroad.

To me the issue is simple: We cannot eliminate segregation in jobs, education, or churches until we eliminate segregation in housing.

Someone presented me the other day with a photograph of a small colored boy with two tears running down his cheeks. It is a most-appealing picture, particularly when you realize that just because of color any number of small children may have tears rolling down their cheeks because they have to meet discrimination which they do not understand.

Their parents cannot find decent places to live in at rentals which they can afford. They make friends in school because little children are often "color" blind, but when they want to bring their friends home their elders, both white and colored, are usually very nervous about having a friendship of this kind grow.

Little by little they learn, both white and colored children, what limitations race and color have imposed on them in a country where everyone is supposed to have equality and justice.


Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 18, 1962

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.