NOVEMBER 20, 1957
NEW YORK—In Indianapolis last week I was taken to see one of the most interesting slum clearance, do-it-yourself housing projects I have ever seen.
I had never heard of Flanner House, and when I was asked if I would breakfast there and see a housing project, I realized that it must be something of real interest, but I had no idea what I would see.
There are a few little parts of the old slum left, so that it is easy to see what a change has been wrought. The interesting thing about this project is that the people who live in the houses were taught building skills. They do not actually work on their own houses, but each one has learned a particular process. He does that over and over again until he is an expert.
In the big shop, all the materials are assembled and much is done before they are all taken to the site of the house. There, those who do the actual assembling together and erecting of the house are ready to receive the different parts which have been prepared in the shop.
The central settlement house has offices, rooms for the day nursery which is run for the benefit of the many mothers who work, kitchens, and space for meetings. There is another big building where in summer canning equipment is kept busy, for each of these new houses has a small plot of ground about it big enough for a garden.
Since the people living in the project are colored, many with a rural background, the garden becomes a family project. In many of the families both the father and the mother work, so the garden is something in which the whole family can join and each have a share—particularly when winter comes and the results of the mutual interest are enjoyed!
In the winter the canning machinery is stored in one part of the shop and the remaining space becomes a place to do over old furniture with expert guidance. I saw many chairs and sofas being reupholstered. They probably would have been given up as hopeless had not a good teacher been on hand.
The only thing I regretted about this project was that it is not an integrated project, for at the present time we in the North should be setting an example of taking the one necessary step before integrated schools can become a reality.
Altogether, this project seemed to me so good that I was glad to know of the group for Promoting Fundamental Education. It started this project and has others in other parts of the country. It hopes to continue its activities, broadening its demonstration field until few of us will fail to know about the possibilities of this kind of fundamental education for living.
I think I should mention that on Monday, which was Poetry Day, the American poet, John Crowe Ransom, read his poems before a large audience in Chicago for the benefit of Poetry Magazine.
Too little attention and interest is shown today in our modern poets. Somehow, in our hurried lives we read less and less poetry, and yet I think it is something we need for the good of our souls.