My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Thursday—I have just received from the Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc., a most interesting pamphlet entitled, "The Untouchables." It deals with the question of segregation in hospitals and the difficult situations that arise when hospitals do not accept all sick people but put limitations on their service.

The Southern Conference Educational Fund is a South-wide, nonprofit organization with headquarters in New Orleans. The little prospectus sent out with the pamphlet states that "it is dedicated to the fight against racial segregation and discrimination in all fields of social endeavor."

Through pamphlets and publications, conferences and opinion polls, the SCEF seeks to achieve a more equitable sharing of our democratic heritage. Its funds come from voluntary contributions from some 3,000 individuals throughout the country. "The Untouchables" is one of its pamphlets. Ben Shahn has contributed the illustrations and layout, as a gesture of his concern with the great social problems the pamphlet discusses. The text was written by a native Southerner and a former New Orleans newspaperman, Alfred Maund.

No one could look through this pamphlet without being deeply troubled that such things as it describes should happen anywhere in the United States. Some of the instances it mentions go back many years, but also detailed are some occurrences of recent years that seem fairly shocking.

For instance, on "August 27, 1950, three victims of an auto accident were denied beds in Breckinridge County Hospital, Hardinsburg, Kentucky, because the establishment had no facilities for colored people." They were left lying on the floor of the emergency room for three hours, their wounds were untended, and the only medication given them was morphine. One of the men died on the floor, and, ironically, his family later received a bill for "services rendered." The others were removed to Louisville General Hospital where they eventually recovered. One sustained partial permanent paralysis as a result of a broken back.

Also, in February, 1951, an 18-year-old boy suffering from sugar diabetes died after being refused admission to the Akron, Ohio, City Hospital.

These two stories would make sorry reading for any American finding himself in the Near East or Asia. Suppose we white people were taken ill in those areas of the world and this type of segregation were practiced against us. Yet, that would be the normal and natural thing to do, according to some standards, because we would be in the minority, since two-thirds of the world's people are colored.

The picture is changing, however, in the South. As of last February, the Kentucky State Senate passed by unanimous vote a bill forbidding all licensed medical institutions to deny care to any person on the basis of color or creed. In at least six cities similar citizen's movements combating Jim Crow medical care are under way.

It is such organizations as the Southern Conference Educational Fund that will really bring about the changes all of us hope for—not only in the South but throughout our country. Then we can say with truth and conviction that we move forward to ever better conditions for all of our people.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL