MAY 7, 1940
WASHINGTON, Monday—I didn't tell you yesterday what a delightful spring day Sunday was. The sun shone warm and bright and a sense of irresponsibility seized me. I went for a ride, I had lunch in the sun in the garden, I visited a friend and had other friends come to tea and dinner. It was a thoroughly pleasant day with very little work interspersed with the pleasure.
I received two groups this morning, one the history group from Cathedral High School of New York City, under the care of Sister Vincent Loretta. The other, the Woman's Club, from Frankfort, Pennsylvania. In a little while, the ladies of the Cabinet are coming to lunch with me.
Several items have been brought to my attention which I want to tell you about. First and foremost, for the sake of many people who will come from all over the country for the opening of the New York World's Fair on Saturday, May 11th, you should know that the Mayor's Official World's Fair Rooming Bureau, Inc., will again be active during the coming summer. Their object is to obtain hotel and room accommodations at prices consistent with the budgets of people visiting the Fair. This is a non-profit organization and the only fee charged is twenty-five cents for the first night's lodging, which goes to the committee to cover overhead. The members of the executive committee serve without salary, but there must be some paid workers. The office of this bureau is in the Chanin Building, 122 East 42nd St.
I would like to tell you about Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio, founded 25 years ago by Russell and Rowena Jelliffe, who are still its directors. Their objective is to further "the more complete functioning of the American Negro in the democratic life of the community and the nation as a whole, participating through the field of the arts." Many years ago James Weldon Johnson told me that this country made a great cultural mistake in not bringing out the natural gifts of his people, so it was interesting to hear what the results of 25 years of this work had been.
Mr. and Mrs. Jelliffe have succeeded in creating and maintaining for twenty years the most outstanding Negro little theatre in the country. This theatre has become the national focal point for both Negro and white playwrights writing for the Negro theatre. It has produced over 160 plays and has been carried entirely by its own door receipts. Members of the Karamu Theatre are today participating in the professional theatres of the country. Members of the Gilpin Theatres and the African Art Sponsors of Karamu House have contributed a valuable collection of primitive art to the Cleveland Museum of Art, and an equally valuable ethnological collection to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. This was the first such contribution ever to be made by a group of Negro citizens in the United States. The work of Negro artists and craftsmen of Karamu House has been accepted in an increasing number of local, national, and international exhibitions.
A fire destroyed its theatre and craftshop not long ago and the board of trustees are now appealing for funds to continue to expand the program. In the meantime, the educational and artistic facilities of Cleveland have been offered them in a most generous measure, which shows appreciation of this group.