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“Please Help Us Mr. President”: Black Americans Write to FDR

Although Franklin D. Roosevelt never endorsed anti-lynching legislation and condoned discrimination against blacks in federally funded relief programs, he still won the hearts and the votes of many African. Yet this support and even veneration for Roosevelt did not blind black Americans to the continuing discrimination that they faced. Indeed, the two views were often combined when they wrote letters to the president asking him to do something about discrimination that they confronted in their daily lives. Three letters are included here from the thousands that poured in to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt from black Americans during the 1930s.

[Note: These letters are rendered as in originals without corrections of spelling errors]

Reidsville. Ga Oct 19th 1935

Hon. Franklin D. Roosevelt.

President of U. S.

Washington D. C.

Dear Mr. President

Would you please direct the people in charge of the releaf work in Georgia to issue the provisions + other supplies to our suffering colored people. I am sorry to worrie you with this Mr. President but hard as it is to believe the releaf officials here are using up most every thing that you send for them self + their friends. they give out the releaf supplies here on Wednesday of this week and give us black folks, each one, nothing but a few cans of pickle meet and to white folks they give blankets, bolts of cloth and things like that. I dont want to take to mutch of your time Mr president but will give you just one example of how the releaf is work down here the witto Nancy Hendrics own lands, stock holder in the Bank in this town and she is being supplied with Blankets cloth and gets a supply of cans goods regular this is only one case but I could tell you many.

Please help us mr President because we cant help our self and we know you is the president and a good Christian man we is praying for you. Yours truly cant sign my name Mr President they will beat me up and run me away from here and this is my home


May 1936

Hattiesburg Miss

Mr Presedent Sir We are starving in Hattiesburg we poor White’s + Negros too i wish you could See the poor hungry an naket half clad’s at the relief office an is turned away With tears in their eysw Mississippi is made her own laws an dont treat her destuted as her Pres. has laid the plans for us to live if the legislators would do as our good Pres. has Said What few days we have here we could be happy in our last old days both old white + Colard

Cencerely looking for our old age pension’s an will thank you they has made us Sighn for $ 3 00 [three dollars] a Month Cant live at that


Vicksburg Miss


President Theo. D. Rosevelt. U.S.A.

Gentlemen: I think you Should [sic] invistigate this matter your Self. The way they are treating the Darkies here is A Shame. They wont give them food nor Cloths nor Work to do When they Ask for Any thing they drive them away as they were dogs. They wont even let them talk to the head man here. you Aught to See that Some men get this job that will give this Relief to whom it was Sent here for. you can prevent all brutle treatment of the Darkies here if you will. And its more than 200 Darkies in groups Standing on the Road each day. begging for food and Cloths. And the Relief working women. They tell them there is no job for them to hunt. And the Head men of the Office will help them to drive the Poor darkies as they were dogs. And I gets in My care and Rides from one end of the County to the other to See how the Darkies are treated. All of the Darkies in the Flooded District are in a Suffering condition I know Personally. And please Invistigate The Matter at once. The Darkies in Flooded District are not able to pay they Taxes and they wont let them make enough to pay them. And I Judge the Relief Workers are taking all of the Poor Darkies Money and buying fine Cars.


Source: Federal Emergency Relief Administration Central Files and New Subject Files, National Archives, as published in Robert S. McElvaine (ed.)Down and Out in the Great Depression. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983): 83. 88, 90.