My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

CHICAGO, Thursday—I was very much interested to find that the city of Portland, Ore., has undertaken work in the field of better human relations with real determination to improve the interracial situation and the understanding among all the residents of the city. A year ago, Mayor Dorothy McCullough Lee appointed a committee on intergroup relations. A civil rights ordnance, drafted by them would add a section to the police code requiring that places of public accommodation be open to all persons without discrimination because of race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin. The ordnance is now before the City Council.

Besides this, the Mayor's committee has initiated an educational program, and 42 organizations have joined the United Committee for Civil Rights to carry out this plan. Each member organization is committed "(1) to intensify study in their own groups as to their contribution to good intergroup relations in the community (this includes analysis of members' attitudes and their knowledge of how extensively all in the community are granted equal opportunity, reflection with the bases of good intergroup relationships and the desirability of maintaining them, and a clearly defined program by each to improve relationships among groups and individuals in this city), and (2) to initiate a project meaningful to the whole community."

This committee has enlisted the support of radio stations and newspapers to push the program. It also has gone to the city colleges for help. It has established a speakers' bureau. The list of organizations forming the committee is, I think, a good cross section of the peoples of the city.

It is interesting to note that the Mayor of New York City, William O'Dwyer, also has named a committee on unity whose objectives are certainly similar to those in Portland. And there probably are other cities and states throughout the country which, in one way or another, are trying to take steps to improve human relations.

The State of Oregon already has an FEPC law and so has New York State. They told me in Portland that 18 states have civil rights laws but that their's is the first ordnance which any city has attempted to enact.

It would seem to me of value from the international point of view if all of our states would pass civil rights laws and not limit themselves to FEPC laws, important as those are. It is basic to all civil rights that there should be no discrimination in employment so that the economic situation for all people can be on an equal basis. But civil rights are important in all our states, and certainly our cities are the places where we most urgently need civil rights ordnances. More people who are of different nationalities and different racial background come together in our cities because of their compactness so it is much more noticeable when civil rights are not granted to all on an equal basis.

It is because of its effect on our international relations and on our spiritual and moral leadership as the leading democracy of the world that this seems to me particularly important at the present time. I want to congratulate the city of Portland, which is fortunate in having so many citizens who recognize their responsibilities as leaders in the battle for democratic principles. If through our example we prove to the peoples of the world that the opportunities offered by democracy are of greater value to them than those offered by communism, freedom for the individual will be safeguarded for the future.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL