D – Democracy & Doris

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

My mother helping me hold my many dolls. Notice that Pearl always has only one doll.

Democracy is Not ‘Separate’

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To the Editor of The Union:

Sir: In answer to “Home Owner” whose letter appeared June 21, there are three things I would point out. First, Americans believe in democracy, which means equality for all people — not separate equality, but plain and simple equality.

Second, no matter which way you look at it, Negroes are people just like other people. If at times they seem different, it is because misguided people like you have forced them to live under “separate” subhuman conditions.

Third, from coast to coast in the North of this country Negro people and white people live, work, play and worship together in happiness and in peace because there are Americans who believe in democracy, Christianity and love, and are big enough to live by them.

Doris Graham Cleage
Springfield

Below is the letter my mother was responding to.

The Race Problem and Housing

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To the Editor of The Union:

Sir: In regard to the colored people buying homes among the white home owners, would first say, personally, I have nothing against them, for there are many fine folk among these people; but is it fair and right to us homeowners, who have worked to keep up our own homes, pay taxes, and make improvements within the laws of this city?

Do we have no voice in this matter, when we are being forced out? Would the city fathers, who advocate the merging of the two races here in this city, wish to live in the same neighborhood?

In a neighborhood supposed to be made up of happy congenial people, would the colored people be happy among us, and would we be? I have no doubt we would not. Our only alternative will be to sell to them, and try to start over. Why doesn’t the city build proper housing conditions for them in a district of their own? Is it too late?

Would like to hear how other home owners feel concerning this problem.

HOME OWNER

Springfield

_________________________________________________________________________

Meanwhile, as a three year old, I was oblivious.

The Surprise Doll.

14 thoughts on “D – Democracy & Doris

  1. I’ve been reading your A-Z posts…but comments on WP mean I have to write name, email and website each time…so I don’t always comment. It is a great post today, bringing up the housing integration difficulties…and obviously much earlier in your mother’s letter than when I worked on the same problem in the 60s in Connecticut – would you believe? I wonder what your mother would have said about that! Keep on posting…you were so cute at 3!!

    1. I would remove that necessity to re-enter your info, but I can’t figure out how to do it. I’m glad to know you’re reading though.

      In the 1960s in Michigan, my parents bought property on the Huron River. The owner had mistakenly taken us for white. When other family members came up and he found out otherwise he said he wouldn’t sell and threw their check back at them. We later found another place as who wants to be where you have to fight when you are looking for some place to relax?

      There was widespread housing segregation all over the north, so she wouldn’t have been at all surprised. There will be more about segregated housing in Springfield when we get to S = Segregated Housing!

      I was pretty cute 🙂

  2. Excellent commentary, perspective, and personal knowledge. How wonderful you have this testament to your mother’s integrity. This is why we much share our stories! I will be following with great interest.

  3. It’s an excellent letter your mother wrote. It’s a shame that she had to, and an even bigger shame that we’re still dealing with similar issues, and the repercussions of so many years of this injustice. Still, I’m sure you’re proud of her.
    D is for Demonic

    1. Indeed, the greater shame is that we are still dealing with racism 72 years later. She never stepped down from demanding her rights and her people’s rights, both race wise and later as a woman.

  4. Ah, Doris. Sometimes I am a little sad I gave up her loom, but I know it went to a much better home at that women’s collective in South America, where it contributed (and hopefully still contributes) to the women being able to make a living. In any case, I did keep her warping board and think about her (and you) when I use it.

    1. I know she would have been happy that her loom has a home in South America. And I’m glad you think of us when you are using the warping board!

  5. Your mother was indeed courageous and willing to “fight” her corner. Your stories of segregation are very thought-provoking and make me wonder about hidden segregation as well as overt. Australia has its own racial issues too.

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