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

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NEW YORK.—The other day I had the pleasure of meeting two young men from South-West Africa. One said that some years ago he forged his way out because he wanted to study in this country. And he has been studying here for sometime and now would like to go back to his own country as soon as it is safe for him to do so, for he wants to work for his people. In the meantime, he is trying to become a lawyer as he feels that will fit him better than anything else for usefulness.

The other young African was smuggled out with the help of some young Americans who had got themselves into South-West Africa posing as tourists. They were deeply interested in the situation as it existed in that country and came home to appear before the committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations which deals with trusteeship matters.

The three young Americans who made this hazardous trip were Al Lowenstein, Emory Bundy, and Sherman Bull. The two young Africans are named Hans Beukes and Mburmba Kerina. All five showed great courage. The three Americans took with them recording material so they could take down what the natives said as they traveled from tribe to tribe. They were well received and learned a great deal, and they must have made an impression when they testified before the committee, for they were kept much longer than the average person, and their recordings were played before the committee.

Apparently our representative on this committee was so impressed that for the first time the United States voted in favor of a resolution which dealt with this situation has been a thorn in the flesh of the U.N. for a long time.

These young men all came to tea with me. One of them was accompanied by his wife and young baby, and another by his fiancee. I was very happy to meet two such gallant young women. I call them gallant because I feel it is harder to see those you love do something that you know is dangerous than it is to do it yourself.

They were all very much excited the day I met with them over the case of another young South-West African, Leonard Gebliel, a 27-year-old contract laborer who was a stowaway in a ship to America as a fugitive from aggression in his homeland.

Mr. Gebliel was not allowed to land in New Orleans when he arrived and they put him on a boat bound for Capetown, South Africa. He tried to commit suicide and was rescued and taken to a hospital. He had been on a hunger strike and was finally sent to a hospital in Galveston, Texas, on October 20.

On November 6 he was flown to New York, from which port he was to be sent back to South Africa, where he knew he would be put in prison. So he is deeply grateful for the fact that Miss Angie Brooks, Assistant Secretary of State of Liberia, got her government to give him asylum there.

Somehow this does not seem to reflect any credit to us, for it seems to me that in view of what our young people had done in South-West Africa our government might have had the courage to help another refugee.

I want to congratulate the three young Americans for what they have done. They made me feel proud of the people of my country, and I am sure many other people will be proud that there were young men with sufficient idealism to risk their lives to risk their lives to get the facts about other human beings so far away.


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

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 27, 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.