MAY 28, 1948
NEW YORK, Thursday—Recently I spent an evening with a brilliant young woman who has made a tremendous fight to improve racial relations in this country. Last spring she spent a long time in a hospital here in New York City and she told me that it was one of the most interesting experiences she had ever had.
Here was a hospital on the edge of Harlem—Sydenham Hospital—where racial barriers had been broken down, where there was no discrimination either in the personnel or in the treatment of patients. There are Negro and white doctors practicing in Sydenham; there are nurses and laboratory technicians working in complete harmony though they belong to different races. And the interesting thing is that it all runs so smoothly that one accepts it as a perfectly natural situation and ceases to be self-conscious about it.
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The hospital is a good hospital, but it needs improvements and it needs to be on a more secure financial basis. They are having a drive at present for $500,000, but only about half of that sum has been raised as yet and they cannot feel really secure until they have the full amount. Even more important, people who should be giving their time and thought to methods of improving the institution are obliged to give it to the task of getting money to meet the immediate needs.
One of the interesting little things that occurred when word was sent out that the hospital might have to close for lack of funds, was a telephone call from a man who offered to lend his life-savings of $25,000 provided the money would be returned when the institution could do so. And a little 9-year-old crippled girl, Delores Grant, who had had an operation in the hospital, collected over $500. These are stories of individual effort. But the institution, to reach its goal, must raise $300,000 more, since it has no endowments and no cash reserves.
I write about this because, while it is a New York hospital and should receive support primarily from New Yorkers, there must be people in many other parts of the country who are anxious to see an experiment of this kind succeed. Perhaps the knowledge that such an experiment does succeed in one place may spur people to try the same thing in other places.
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Someone has written me that, in a recent column, I left the impression that only in the South and in Washington, D.C., was racial discrimination practiced. I would not like to have anyone think that. I am completely aware that discrimination is practiced to a lesser or greater degree all over our country. Therefore, it is the concern of all good people everywhere to back efforts of all kinds which create better understanding and prove that racial cooperation is possible.