Eleanor Roosevelt to Nina Dexter

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Nina Dexter

[1 December?] 1947 [New York City]


I agree with you that everybody should have the right to speak. I also agree with you that at the moment we have become somewhat hysterical on the subject of communism.

I do not agree with you in not taking a stand against Communists in our own country because communism today means the spread by force of the doctrine and therefore any group like PCA that is too chicken-hearted to take a stand against Communists within their ranks is a detriment to our heritage of freedom2


1. Nina Dexter to ER, 17 November 1947, AERP.

2. Dexter and ER continued to correspond on the matter of anti-Communism in the Truman administration through the next year. On February 20, 1948, Dexter wrote:

Millions of people would like to say many, many things they dare not say, but I shall continue to say them to the end of my days whether the Truman Administration likes it or not and whether those who are now serving the Truman Doctrine, which has fully betrayed the great policies of the New Deal, continue to call me a "Communist," "Subversive" or any other name …

… Will you remember some day that I am still an American and that I am still devoted to the great ideal of Franklin Roosevelt and that I do not go out of my way to disseminate anything false either about this country nor would I do it about another country, even though my loyalty is to the United States of America?

ER responded February 27 that, "I have never thought you were not an American or that you were not devoted to the ideal of my husband. I simply think we differ on the way we can best serve our country and the ideals that we hold."

On March 20, Dexter sent ER a telegram that challenged ER's opinions of Henry Wallace, and claimed that "millions" of Americans "have felt that we now understand what it must have been to live under fascist dictatorship in other lands when day after day we are losing all our freedoms and are threatening every nation in the world which does not jump on our side."

To which ER replied, "If you think we are living under Fascism you do not I am afraid, know much of Fascism. Henry Wallace is more menacing than anyone else" (Nina Dexter to ER, 20 February 1948; ER to Nina Dexter, 27 February 1948; Nina Dexter to ER, 20 March 1948; ER to Nina Dexter, n.d., AERP).

On the NAACP Petition to United Nations, Part 2

ER had asked Walter White to have the NAACP prepare "a memorandum of the items we think should be included in the World Charter of Human Rights and implementing machinery of those rights" and "place it in her hands" before she left November 29 to attend the Human Rights Commission meetings in Geneva. Walter White instructed W. E. B. Du Bois, who was to depart on a national lecture tour, to prepare the memorandum. November 17, Du Bois responded, "I have no suggestions for Mrs. Roosevelt."1 Unsatisfied with Du Bois's response, White instructed his colleague to craft the document he requested:

The memorandum Mrs. Roosevelt has requested may be one of the most important documents which the Association has ever produced. Even though it is doubtful that all our recommendations will be included, it is imperative that as carefully prepared a statement of our position is presented as is possible. I request therefore that before you leave the city you give me as specific a statement on the points you think the N.A.A.C.P. should recommend as is possible under the circumstances.2

November 24, Du Bois again rejected White's request, writing that he saw "no way in which I can be of service in the matter of recommendations to the Human Rights Commission, or the Sub-Commission on Discrimination and Minorities." In a six-point memorandum Du Bois stated he had nothing to offer Mrs. Roosevelt, this time revealing his deep disenchantment with the HRC, the State Department, and ER over their treatment of An Appeal to the World. "Mrs. Roosevelt is following orders" from a State Department "determined that American Negroes shall have no chance to state their grievances before the world." Furthermore, Du Bois continued, the biggest obstacle confronting human rights for African Americans was "not a lack of pious statements," but the failure of the UN to stand behind those statements. After recounting the difficulties he faced in presenting the petition, he concluded:

If Mrs. Roosevelt or the Commission had wished our advice or opinion, they have had a year to ask it. They have, on the contrary, discouraged us from action in every way possible. The present request is, as I understand, from Mrs. Roosevelt to Mr. White for a memorandum for her personal use. It is not a request from the Commission, and there is no promise that it will not reach the wastepaper basket. If we did make a statement, what more could we say than we have said already in 155 pages of carefully documented materials?3

Without the detailed memorandum he had hoped Du Bois would prepare, White wired ER with last-minute suggestions for the upcoming session of the HRC.

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Nina Dexter

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Nina Dexter