Election 1944: First Lady denies urging social equality of races (9-5-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 5, 1944)


First Lady denies urging social equality of races

Mrs. Roosevelt blames political enemies for distorting her views

Evergreen, Alabama (UP) –
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, accusing political enemies of distorting her views, declared in a letter received here today that she did not advocate race social equality.

The First Lady pointed out four fundamental rights which, she wrote, belonged to all U.S. citizens, irrespective of color.

Mrs. Roosevelt aired her racial attitude in a reply to a letter from Mrs. Catherine Stallworth of Evergreen, who had suggested to Mrs. Roosevelt that her ideas about treatment of the Negroes arose “from a lack of complete knowledge of the Negro situation in the South, particularly in the small towns where there are almost as many Negroes as whites.”

Enemies blamed

Mrs. Roosevelt wrote:

Much that is said about my attitude on the Negro situation is distorted and exaggerated by people who are opposed to my husband and me, and by those who have deep-rooted prejudices… I have never advocated social equality.

In a democracy, however, we cannot have 12 million people who are denied rights as citizens.

Those rights, as Mrs. Roosevelt summarized them, were: An equal opportunity for employment according to ability and at equal pay, an equal opportunity for education, for justice before the law, and to participate in government through the ballot.

‘A world question’

This [race] question is not just a Southern question. It is a world question… If we are not fair and just to the colored people, how can we expect other countries to trust us and believe in our good faith?

I know in many places the Negroes outnumber the white people and that is one explanation for not giving them the right to vote. There can be and should be a standard of literary and education required [for voting] and I think you will find that the Negroes will not vote as a group any more than other minority groups do in this country.

Perhaps one of the solutions will be to move the Negroes into places where there are only a few and thus prevent the lack of balance.

Mrs. Roosevelt pointed out that this idea had been suggested, but had been opposed by some Southern states.

She said that, inasmuch as she had lived in both Georgia and Florida, she could understand the South’s problem.

It is amazing given the state of the world at the time that she and the politicians of the day still advocated segregation as the only solution to the South’s “problem”. This view provides a spotlight on their personal and political weaknesses. This also highlights the Southern Democrat’s hold on national politics since the 1886 Supreme Court rulings against race discrimination. Unfortunately, this was not the last Supreme Court ruling that proved to be detrimental to the country and directly resulted in the loss of freedom for millions of America.