DECEMBER 2, 1957
NEW YORK—People all over the world have been asked to sign a Declaration of Conscience to observe a day of protest against South Africa's apartheid policy. An international committee, composed of more than 150 world leaders from more than 43 nations, has designated Human Rights Day, December 10, as this worldwide day of protest. Particularly in India and in Africa, as well as in many other countries of the world, there will be demonstrations protesting the policy which is felt to be harmful to human relations the world over. Therefore it cannot be the domestic concern of one nation only, but of all nations.
More than 20 American communities have already said they would hold similar meetings. The Very Rev. James A. Pike is the U.S. national chairman and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the vice president of the committee in this country. The list of those who have signed the Declaration of Conscience is composed of the names of men all over the world who are known to have stood for equal rights for all human beings. It is true that there are peoples who are not as advanced as others, but as a rule this is due to lack of opportunity and can be corrected in one or two generations by education and environment.
When I was asked to sign this Declaration of Conscience, I at first hesitated. I felt that a country which needed to look at its own situation and acknowledge the basic rights of all its own citizens and work for the necessary changes which would bring every citizen in the U.S. the opportunity for complete development of his powers, might better perhaps first sign a Declaration of Conscience covering his own country. I signed, however, because the situation here, bad as it is, is not quite the same as the situation in South Africa. The Negroes of our South have good leaders and though their education has been insufficient and their opportunities for advancement certainly not equal, still they have begun their upward climb. They are able to do much for themselves, and on the whole in this country there is a vast majority of people who are ready and willing to help them achieve equality of opportunity in every area of our complicated civilization.
Bitter as the feeling is at present in the South and in spite of the fact that communications between the races in many Southern states seem to have deteriorated, the Supreme Court decision and the feeling of the majority of the people of the nation will eventually, I am sure, bring about a solution to the present difficult situation. Someone suggested to me the other day that it might be started in the South by dividing boys' schools and girls' schools and putting all boys without discrimination into one school and all girls without discrimination into another, which would remove one of the chief objections of the Southerners. Whether this would help or not, I don't know. But I am confident that the pressure of the majority feeling in this nation will be so overwhelming for equal rights for all our citizens that sooner or later this problem must have a solution which satisfactorily safeguards these rights.