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7 February 1957
Mr. John E. Gatling
Dear Mr. Gatling,
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of February 3. I have read your comments with no little amazement. Your reference to my "inability" to protest against the current "outrages in the South" is entirely at variance with the facts. On the other hand, you greatly over estimate the influence I may exert.
I have a job, of course, and make public statements and speeches only when the pressure of my work permits and there is a proper occasion. I find that the attention which my statements attract from the press varies. As a sampling, only, I might direct your attention to recent speeches I have made, bearing in whole or in part on the subject of race relations, as follows: "Ten Times One Is Ten Club" at Alabama State College, Montgomery on 27 May 1956; "Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College", Normal, Alabama on 28 May 1956; "Third Annual Christian Liberal Arts Festival and Dedication of Carver Science Hall, Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa on 6 October 1956; and University of Pittsburgh, "Commencement Exercises", on 1 February 1957.
These were all reported in the press. Indeed, the Montgomery speech, delivered to a mixed audience of 1500 was reported fully the next day in the Montgomery Advertiser.
My position on race relations is always constant.
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In Montgomery for instance, I said: (from my notes)
"- most significant aspect of the `Montgomery Story' is found in fact that it was spontaneous, an expression of the ordinary people, and that the leadership of the protest has been purely local and non-professional.
- people were ready and able; leadership was at hand
- a happy combination
- I salute Dr. King, Dr. Abernathy, Mr. Nixon and all of their associates.
- role of church especially significant
- good that Negro has learned that his own action is required to protect against abuse and safeguard his own freedom, self-respect and dignity
- no better demonstration than Montgomery
- your logic is the simplest and most forceful imaginable: you refuse to pay a dime to receive abuse
- you have given great significance to Monday and Thursday evenings
- Monroe Street and the corner of Monroes and Lawrence will have a page in history like Bunker Hill
- nothing so encouraging as Negroes standing up for their own rights."
At Normal, I said:
".....I know, of course, that the process whereby the Negro American advances toward the goal of complete equality engages the South in a sort of social revolution and inescapably, therefore, involves difficulties, tensions, stresses and strains of various kinds. But that process is by no means new. It did not begin with the Supreme Court decision on May 17, 1954. The desegregation decisions were only a reflection and one of the inevitable culminations — dramatic and spectacular, to be sure — of a long-term process. The Negro, in the South as well as elsewhere in the nation, has been making steady advance toward unqualified American citizenship, particularly during the last score or so of years.
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".....A natural aspect of this process of education, enlightenment and advance is the greatly increased concern of the Negro for his self-respect and his dignity as a man. He expects much more in the way of civil treatment and he will take much less of abuse. The Negro today is courageous, but calmly and not swaggeringly so, having struck off the shackles of fear which so long bound him. There are other pertinent and helpful factors. After all, the peoples of the world are preponderantly non-white. The vast non-white populations of Asia are now fully awakened, those of Africa are rapidly awakening, and the voices of the darker peoples the world over are vigorously raised against racial discrimination in whatever form and wherever it appears. The tide of world opinion runs strongly in support of non-discrimination, non-segregation and equality."
At Simpson College, I said:
"......There is also a new South in the making. The walls of segregation have been crumbling for sometime. There is today substantial evidence, and it is certainly encouraging, that in no little degree the younger generations of white southerners are considerably less preoccupied with fear of the spectre of Negro equality than are their elders. In some places, to be sure, during the current crisis about integration in the schools, there is retrogression in race relations; there are ugly manifestations and grave incidents. But this was to be expected and should be seen as a passing phase, an inevitable stage in a process of profound social change. The crisis itself is an alarmed and even belated reaction to changes for the good - all of them, and not only school integration - that are and for long have been occurring, North and South, in the status of the Negro. In the absence of real pressure for change in the condition of the Negro there would be very little. The pressure must - and will - continue."
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And at the University of Pittsburgh, I said:
"......Notwithstanding a considerable volume of ranting about race and race relations at the moment by some extremist voices within our own borders, and in the South some scattered recourse to hoodlumism and violence, there is reason for encouragement about improvement in our domestic race relations and for advancement in human rights throughout the world.
......There is, however, much work still to be done in our world to free men from the humiliation, disability and degradation of racial discrimination; to ensure to every person that human dignity which is man's birthright. There is in this realm of human relations and human rights a stern test of the notions, attitudes and actions of every American."
Ralph J. Bunche