MAY 14, 1956
NEW YORK—A few days ago I met Mrs. Rosa Parks, who started the nonviolent protest in Montgomery, Alabama, against segregation on buses. She is a very quiet, gentle person and it is difficult to imagine how she ever could take such a positive and independent stand.
I suppose we must realize that these things do not happen all of a sudden. They grow out of feelings that have been developing over many years. Human beings reach a point when they say: "This is as far as I can go," and from then on it may be passive resistance, but it will be resistance.
That is what seems to have happened in Montgomery, and perhaps it will happen all over our country wherever we have citizens who do not enjoy complete equality. It may be that this attitude will save us from war and bloodshed and teach those of us who have to learn that there is a point beyond which human beings will not continue to bear injustice.
After Mrs. Parks visited me I saw two women who are indignant over a proposed new city housing project in the Harlem district. They feel it will create a tremendous problem for the people who are now living in the old buildings which must be torn down before the new project can arise. It is the same old difficulty of finding decent housing while the new housing is being built, plus the fact that in this case, since New York is in the North, we should not perpetuate the pattern of segregation in housing.
Preferably, new housing should be built in a border area where both white and colored people will be temporarily displaced and where both will move back. We cannot desegregate schools until we desegregate housing. Harlem and the areas which have been growing preponderantly Puerto Rican should now gradually be changed by spreading the new housing in such a manner as to make it possible, and almost essential, for colored and white, or Puerto Rican and other nationalities, to live together. This will gradually move colored people out of Harlem, and thus leave the possibility of actually building in the Harlem area and moving in a variety of races and colors. All of this takes planning and is not as easy as letting the old pattern be perpetuated. So we have a double problem: the interim problem of those who have to be evacuated, and the firm position which we in the North must accept that we will not perpetuate ghettos on either race or color line.
I have been asked to mention the fact that National Salvation Army Week starts on May 21. Many will find it interesting to see the new building, bought and remodelled through a bequest by the late Mrs. Florence Ten Eyck Troughton, which opened in February for the benefit of working women in the middle age bracket who are receiving moderate salaries. This is another of the Salvation Army services which I think will appeal to everyone conscious of the problem facing many middle-aged women in search of decent housing within their sometimes modest budgets.