Eleanor Roosevelt to James Evans
Eleanor Roosevelt to James Evans
13 May 1946 [New York City]
My dear Mr. Evans:
I did not intend my letter as a "brush-off" and I was not dodging the issue. I thought you had probably read an article which I wrote in which I answered the very question which you now ask.5
I said that when people decided to marry, it was usually very difficult for anyone to do anything about it.
If a child of mine were to marry the decision that he or she wished to marry some one of another race—Negro, Asiatic, Oriental, I would feel that it was my duty to point out all the difficulties which life would hold in our civilization as it is at present, and I would not feel happy because I would know how much suffering lay ahead.
Nevertheless strong races usually swallow up less strong ones, and it is done through intermarriage. I do not know whether it is much worse to have it done through inter-marriage than to have it done in the way it has been done in the south in the past, outside of wedlock.
However, I would like to state un-equivocally, that I do not consider the question of marriage of paramount importance. Marriages for a long time to come will be comparatively few. The important thing, in order that all citizens of the United States may live peacefully and happily, is equality of economic opportunity, equality of education, equality before the law and equality of opportunity to participate in government through the ballot.
Neither colored people, nor white people on any great scale are going to face the question of inter-marriage for many years to come.
Very sincerely yours,
TLc AERP, FDRL
1. MD, 7 March 1946.
2. ER did not keep his letter or a copy of her outgoing correspondence to him.
3. The enclosed article described how the Reverend Frank White of Norfolk, Virginia, faced legal discrimination from the state of Virginia and eventually lost his position in the church because of his marriage to an African American woman ("Wedding of Former Norfolk Minister to Negress Blocked," 31 January 1946, Associated Press).
4. ER scrawled this across the bottom of Evans's letter to her (James Evans to ER, 7 May 1946, AERP).
5. ER publicly disclosed her opinion on intermarriage in several publications. In December 1946, for example, she answered a question on the subject in her "If You Ask Me" column, stating:
At the present time I think that intermarriage between Negroes and whites may bring to both of the people involved great unhappiness, because of the social pattern in which we happen to live. If, of course, two people, with full realization of what they are facing, decide they still want to marry, that is their right and no one else can interfere, but it takes very strong characters to face the kind of situation in which they will find themselves in almost any part of the world. For those I love, I should dread the suffering which must almost certainly lie ahead (IYAM, LHJ, December 1946, DL).
On the Railroad Strike and the Children's Bureau
As coal and railroad strikes seized the nation's attention and the White House entered the negotiations after labor and management reached an impasse, ER devoted three My Day columns to the crisis.1 May 20, she wrote:
In this dispute, I cannot find it in my heart to blame the railroad men, because I know that life has been none too easy for them during the years of the war. They stood by when trains were crowded, when old equipment was being used and people were worried and tired. The cost of living has gone up, the hours of engineers and trainmen and conductors have been longer, not shorter; and when the war came to an end, there was no longer the patriotic reason to carry on. The men feel naturally enough that it is time for someone to think about them, instead of their having to think about the people.2
However, after labor struck against the federal government, which had just taken control of the rails while the White House arbitrated the dispute, ER wrote the following My Day, in which she continued to support labor, while bemoaning the absence of leadership in both management and labor—most especially the "vaunted wisdom and insight" of John L. Lewis.