OCTOBER 23, 1956
NEW YORK—There is a book just published which, I think, anyone interested in the problem of civil rights in this country will find stimulating and enlightening. It is written with a sensitive feeling for the past as well as the present.
"Proud Shoes," by Pauli Murray, is the story of an American family, and it is, I suppose, a biography of her grandparents, but it reads like a novel in many parts. Here and there Pauli Murray may go into too great detail, but perhaps the reader would not get the full flavor and feel of the story and its people without all of this.
This is an American story about American people. The roots of the family lay in slavery and then came the long hard years of freedom which were never really freedom. Yet there was a tremendous pride handed down from the day when the children, who were almost white, knew they belonged, as blood relatives of the family, in the big plantation house and that they were free.
Pauli Murray is the great-granddaughter who chronicles the background of her grandfather, whose story she really tells. The struggle of her grandfather to join the Army and fight in the Civil War is a dramatic story. What courage and persistence this man had!
I want to quote one passage here:
"In later years I realized how very much their (grandparents and aunts) wealth had consisted of intangibles. They had little of the world's goods and less of its recognition, but they had forged enduring values for themselves which they tried to pass on to me.
"I would have need of these resources when I left the rugged security of grandfather's house and found myself in the maze of terrifying forces which I could neither understand nor cope with. While my folks could not shield me from the impact of these forces, with their own courage and strength they could teach me to withstand them."
As you read this story you will understand better the courage and the great strength of the Negro people who have slowly forged ahead, both in the North and in the South.
Most of us in this country greatly admire the remarkable strength and courage shown by Negroes in Alabama in fighting for a change in local conditions, yet doing it without violence or bitterness. "Proud Shoes" explains the trials and the background from which this strength has grown.
I think this book is American history which all American citizens should read. It will bring pride to our Negro citizens and greater understanding to all of us who, though of another race, are part of the human brotherhood and are citizens of the same country which all of us love in the same way.