APRIL 22, 1942
NEW YORK, Tuesday —I returned this morning from Nashville, Tenn., after waiting quite a time in the middle of the night for a delayed plane. This is the first trip I have taken where we have been made to draw our window curtains at each stop. Most of the time it seemed hardly worthwhile to open them in between, so the plane was like a darkened room.
One of the things I always enjoy most about flying is the feeling of being in the sky able to look at the clouds. But this enjoyment is evidently out for the duration of the war. Instead, we are just a group of people isolated in a machine which is flying through space. So far as we are concerned, we know nothing of the outer world or our direction. It is rather uncomfortable, perhaps too much like what is happening to most of us in the world today.
Last night I presented the Thomas Jefferson Award at the Southern Conference for Human Welfare to two outstanding Southerners. Dr. Frank Porter Graham received it, with a citation which noted his great service to education in the South and the country as a whole through his service on the War Labor Board. Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune received it because she fights constantly for freedom and has done such a great service in the educational field for her own people.
Paul Robeson's concert last night was a thrilling experience. He and the Fiske Choir sang "I Am An American" by Earl Robinson. It always stirs me as a ballad, but last night there was something peculiarly significant about it. It was very beautifully done.
I was particularly impressed by Mr. Andrew Jackson Higgins Sr., of New Orleans, La., and his statement that, as a Southern industrialist, he was going to tap the great unused reservoir of Negro labor in the South. They will receive training, be employed on an equal basis with equal wages and will constitute 40 percent of his new employees.
I have just been told of a plan which Walter Damrosch, President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has announced. They plan to give grants of $1,000 each per year to ten gifted non-members who are doing creative work in art, literature and music. Of course, this is the time above all others to encourage the arts in this country. People everywhere need this kind of outlet from the tragedy of war and the democracies are the only nations where free art can exist.