My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK, Friday—I have been getting considerable mail from various countries abroad concerning the case in Martinsville, Virginia, against seven Negro boys who were executed for rape. Several organizations in this country fought against this sentence, being moved by the fact that no white man had ever been executed for the same crime in Virginia, and they felt doubtful about the fairness of the trial.

A number of protests came from Soviet-controlled organizations, however, here and abroad. For that reason I think a great many people felt the accused men themselves might have been Communists and hesitated to be associated with the defense. Even if they were Communists, however, it seems to me that should not have entered into the defense. Neither should the fact that Communist organizations protested have kept other people and other groups from protesting. If we think something is right or even that it isn't entirely fair, we should say so regardless of the fact that we may not like the company with which we find outselves affiliated.

I am beginning now to get appeals in a case in Mississippi for a man called Willie McGee and the feeling seems to be again that he is not getting a fair trial.

I have absolutely no way of knowing anything about either of these cases, so all I have been able to do is to forward the protests to the Attorney General. Yet I realize that there may be nothing that he can do since I imagine both cases are controlled by the courts of the states.

I would like to point out here, however, that cases such as these are of interest to the country as a whole. There should be a particular effort made in every state to deal with them in a manner that would make it impossible for anyone to say that any different justice meted out because of the race of the accused. The reason for this is that those who want to stir up feeling against the white races in the world make it a point to spread the news abroad when there can be the slightest question of prejudice involved.

I know there are people in this country who feel it is vastly important to impress on us all the supremacy of the white race and they are intent today upon making that doctrine prevalent among us. Unfortunately, if democracy is to win against communism in the world, it must have more supporters than the white peoples of the world. Therefore, state courts and Federal courts must be wary that nothing they do can be interpreted as dividing justice. Justice is indivisible and must be the same for all in our nation, regardless of race or creed or color.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL