My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK—It is a good thing that the Senate has finally passed the civil rights bill after an eight-week fight, with 42 Democrats and 29 Republicans in favor. This is only the second civil rights legislation to pass the Senate since the Reconstruction Era. The first civil rights act of 1957 was also a voting rights measure. Already those who want a really fair bill giving the Negroes their full rights are denouncing this bill, and I am quite sure that it will continue to be denounced. But I hope that it is at least a step in the right direction.

All of us in the Democratic party, I think, owe Senator Johnson a vote of thanks. He has risked repercussions among his Southern colleagues and among his own constituents. He has made it possible for the Democrats to claim equal, if not more, responsibility for the passage of the bill which of course should never have had to be passed—for the right to vote should be something which every citizen of this country enjoys without any question. Since it was necessary to pass the bill, however, we are fortunate to have had a parliamentary leader with the skill of Senator Johnson.

My one fear is of intimidation which I feel sure will be tried to prevent Negro citizens in the South from registering and voting. I hope the Attorney General can find ways of protecting the registration and of preventing retaliation when the Negro citizens of the South exercise their constitutional right.

* * *

It is notable that the House of Commons in London unanimously approved the resolution deploring South Africa's racial policies and urging the British government to voice a strong feeling of disapproval at the forthcoming Commonwealth conference. It is difficult to imagine the kind of atmosphere that will exist at this conference—with Ghana, India and Great Britain itself, as well as other Commonwealth countries, protesting the policy of one of their members. A Labor Party member presented the resolution with backing from all parties, and the feeling was voiced that this was not a party question. They might have differences as to how they should act, but the ultimate objective was the same for all members of all parties.

Things seem to go from bad to worse in South Africa, and nothing seems to move the people there but fear. When you have to arrest hundreds of Africans and formally ban two African political groups, you are not living in a safe community or one that has reached a point of understanding where reasonable living conditions can be arranged between the races. It is a very sad situation and one where the fundamental rights of human beings are so clearly involved that world public opinion is turning completely against South Africa.

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL