DECEMBER 20, 1943
WASHINGTON, Sunday—On Thursday afternoon of this week I had a tea party for the International Students, who gather in this city to study at the various universities. Some of them are undergraduates, some of them in medical, law or business schools.
At this party I usually hear my first Christmas carols. This year they began with "Silent Night, Holy Night," which is known in many languages all over the world. These young people also sang a Spanish carol, which to my surprise, I could understand and sing with them. This gave me a sense of companionship and kinship with the South and Central American students.
I wonder, if in every school in this country, the pupils couldn't learn a Spanish or Portuguese Christmas carol for their next Christmas celebration. Perhaps, in every South and Central American country, the children could learn the words of "Silent Night" in English.
Friday afternoon I went to visit the first of the areas in the District of Columbia where colored people, who cannot find any better places in which to live, are now living. I was appalled to find blocks where many of the houses had outside toilets. The water pipes, on which the people depend for all the water used for washing, cleaning and drinking, come up directly next to this outdoor toilet. This water is also used to flush the toilet.
I am told there can be no contamination because the pipes are separate, but I think the risk is ever present because pipes deteriorate. The houses are old, patched up with uneven floors and the ingrained dirt of ages. The pathetic part is, that in nearly every house, it was quite evident than an effort was made to keep the house clean and to sweep the yard.
Every bit of water for scrubbing, washing and personal bathing must be carried in and, if wanted hot, must be heated on the stove. The one stove downstairs must usually heat the upstairs floors, and these are only small coal stoves. The bedding on the beds I saw was anything but adequate.
One two-room house had three old ladies living in it. The next door neighbor had been trying to get them some coal for a fire. They were in bed because they had none. The effort to make these places liveable was pathetic—so little furniture, so few cooking utensils. In one place I saw no china with which to set the table, though the family consisted of mother, father and three or four children.
For four rooms of the type I have described, the family paid $23.75 a month. The rent includes no heat and no light. In other words, all they get besides a tumbledown shelter, is water from a pipe in the back yard, and this water may or may not be contaminated. The man of the family earned $4.60 a day, which is average wages, and should provide decent shelter if available.