My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK—The opening of the 90-day celebration to commemorate Henry Hudson's discovery of the Hudson River took place this week in New York City. We very often forget the origin of many names that have become so familiar to us, so I think it is good to be reminded of the discoverers of our great rivers and other areas by these periodic celebrations.

This year marks the 350th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival at the mouth of the Hudson River, and New York and New Jersey are both playing a part. At the opening ceremony Vice-President Richard Nixon, Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, Mayor Robert Wagner of New York City, and Governor Robert Meyner of New Jersey all spoke briefly. Mr. William Zeckendorf, president of New York City's Hudson Celebration Committee, was master of ceremonies.

How interesting it is to read that two portraits of Thomas Jefferson have just been found—and both on the same canvas!

According to the story, Jefferson never saw either one, and I gather that canvas must have been very precious in those days, for Gilbert Stuart, who wanted to paint Jefferson a second time five years after he had painted him in 1800, simply painted right over the first portrait.

The whole story of how the canvas was found, and of the patient work done by Orland Campbell, is most interesting.

The other night I attended a meeting in Harlem to start off a new neighborhood association which is endeavoring to bring together the people of the area in the hope of improving conditions. In this section of New York City housing is very badly overcrowded, buildings are allowed to deteriorate, and children grow up with little pride in their surroundings, which is one reason for them becoming very destructive of property.

An area such as Harlem costs the residents of the rest of the city more money than would a good community, because the major part of all taxes has to be spent on the needs of the people who live in an area of this kind. As a rule there are more crimes and more illness, the schools are poorer, and mental health generally is at its lowest ebb in such areas. It would pay the citizens of New York City as a whole to take an interest in backing up a group like the Harlem Neighborhood Association in its efforts to improve its own community.

I drove up to the meeting with a woman who is in the Health Department, and she told me of a new building that has just been erected and will be used as a health clinic. Then she mentioned that an effort will have to be made to educate the neighborhood children not to destroy the exterior of the building by marking up the walls, chipping the stone, or committing various other small acts of vandalism.

It would be of great value if, as changes come about in New York City, Harlem could change in character and become an integrated community. It is natural, of course, for people, most of whom have come from the South, to settle together for companionship and for a greater feeling of security when they arrive in a strange place.

But I think if the colored people of Harlmm are wise and look into the future they will make an effort to turn this part of the city into a community that would no longer be a ghetto but a place where different racial groups would live in harmony.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL