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(title page) Southern Women and Race Coöperation. A Story of the Memphis Conference, October Sixth and Seventh, Nineteen Hundred and Twenty 16 p.
Call number Cp326 C73s (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
LC Subject Headings:
In the beginning of the year 1920 the women of one of the large denominations of the South became convinced that the existing racial situations in the South were a challenge to Christian faith, and also an opportunity "to show to the whole world the power of Christianity to settle racial differences and to meet inter-racial crises everywhere."
They, therefore, created a commission for the purpose of "STUDYING THE WHOLE QUESTION OF RACE RELATIONSHIPS, THE NEEDS OF NEGRO WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND THE METHODS OF COOPERATION BY WHICH BETTER CONDITIONS MIGHT BE BROUGHT ABOUT."
This commission began its operation by seeking to know something of the attitude and thinking of the leaders of Negro women of the South. An unusual opportunity for doing this was afforded them in the meeting of the biennal session of the National Colored Women's Clubs in Tuskegee Ala., July, 1920. In that body of 800 Negro women they found orators, writers, poets, artists, business women, teachers, secretaries, lawyers, bankers, etc. As they listened to the addresses and debates and witnessed the splendid executive ability of those educated Negro women they realized that in that body was massed a potential power of which they had little dreamed.
Before going to Tuskegee a group of these Negro women had been asked to remain after the close of their bienniel session for a day's conference with the representatives of the white denominational commission. This conference was held. The whole discussion was approached in a Christian spirit; and, as a consequence, there was a frankness of speech and confidence which could not have come in any other way.
When this conference was reported to the commission on Inter-Racial Co-operation this organization offered to finance a meeting which should be composed of the official leaders of all the denominations and Christian agencies of women in the South, that the great opportunity for Southern women to have a larger part in bringing in better understanding between the races might be brought to their attention.
This conference was held in Memphis, Tenn., October 6-7, 1920, and was attended by leaders of women's organizations from all Southern States.
The following Negro women were invited to attend and speak to the conference: Mrs. Booker T. Washington, Mrs. R. R. Moton, Mrs. Geo. E. Haynes and Mrs. Charlotte Hawkins Brown. They spoke of: "What It Means To Be a Negro,"
"The Negro In His Home" and "The Difficulties of the Daily Life of the Negro Peoples."
The Negro women whose advice had been sought at Tuskegee had been requested to prepare a paper setting forth the things which they considered responsible for some of the unhappy conditions of the day. This they did in a statesmanlike paper of broad Christian spirit. With this and the addresses of the two days' conference as a basis, the Committee on Findings made a report which was unanimously adopted.
We, a company of Southern white women, in conference assembled on the invitation of the Commission on Inter-Racial Co-operation, find ourselves with a deep sense of responsibility to the womanhood and childhood of the Negro race and also with a great desire for a Christian settlement of the problems that overshadow the homes of both races.
We recognize and deplore the fact that there is friction between the races. But we believe that this can largely be removed by the exercise of justice, consideration and sympathetic cooperation.
In order that the results of this conference may be perpetuated and enlarged, we recommend:
a. That a continuation Committee be appointed to devise ways and means for carrying out the work considered by this conference.
b. That this committee be composed of one woman from each denomination and Christian agency here represented and that it be empowered to add to its membership as may seem necessary.
c. That each local community form a Woman's Inter-Racial Committee which may include representatives from all religious, civic and social service bodies working in the community, and that 'this Continuation Committee recommend plans by which this may be accomplished.
Desiring that everything which hinders the establishment of confidence, peace, justice and righteousness in our land shall he removed, in order that there shall be better understanding and good will in our midst, we call attention
to the following points as possible causes of friction, which if corrected may go far toward creating a better atmosphere and bringing in a better day:
We acknowledge our responsibility for the protection of the Negro women and girls in our homes and on the streets. We, therefore, recommend:
That domestic service be recognized as an occupation and that we seek to co-ordinate it with other world service in order that a better relation may be established for both employer and employee.
We are persuaded that the conservation of the life and health of Negro children is of the utmost importance to the community. We therefore, urge:
a. That day nurseries and kindergartens be established in local communities for the protection care and training of children of the Negro mothers who go out to work.
b. That free baby clinics be established, and that Government leaflets on child welfare be distributed to expectant mothers, thus teaching the proper care of themselves and their children.
c. That adequate play grounds and recreational facilities be established for negro children and young people.
Since good housing and proper sanitation are necessary for both physical and moral life, we recommend:
That a survey of housing and sanitary conditions be made in the Negro sections in each local community, followed by an appeal to the proper authorities for improvements when needed.
a. Since sacredness of personality is the basis for all civilization, we urge:
That every agency touching the child life of the nation shall strive to create mutual respect in the hearts of the children of different races.
b. We are convinced that the establishment of a single standard of morals for men and women, both black and white, is necessary for the life and safety of a nation. We, therefore, pledge ourselves to strive to secure respect and protection for womanhood everywhere, regardless of race or color.
c. Since provision for the education of Negro children is still inadequate, we recommend:
That surveys be made of the educational situation
in the local community in order that colored children may secure--
Since colored people frequently do not receive fair treatment on street cars, on railroads and in railway stations, and recognizing this as one of the chief causes of friction between the races, we urge:
That immediate steps be taken to provide for them adequate accommodations and courteous treatment at the bands of street car and railway officials.
a. As women we urge those who are charged with the administration of the law to prevent lynchings at any cost. We are persuaded that the proper determination on the part of the constituted officials, upheld by public sentiment, would result in the detection and prosecution of those guilty of this crime. Therefore, we pledge ourselves to endeavor to create a public sentiment which will uphold these officials in the execution of justice.
That our women everywhere raise their voices against all acts of violence to property and person, wherever and for whatever cause occurring.
We further recommend:
That competent legal assistance be made available for colored people in the local communities in order to insure to them the protection of their rights in the courts.
Since the public press often gives undue prominence to the criminal element among the Negroes, and neglects the worthy and constructive efforts of law-abiding Negro citizens, we pledge ourselves to co-operate with the men's committees in endeavoring to correct this injustice and to create a fair attitude to Negroes and Negro news.
We express our appreciation and hearty approval of the work which is being done by the Commission on Inter-Racial Co-operation, and particularly their co-operation in making possible this conference. We express ourselves as ready to assume whatever form of responsibility
we as women should share in carrying out the general program of the Inter-Racial Commission.
Mrs. ARCHIBALD DAVIS, Chairman.
Mrs. T. W. BICKETT,
Miss BELLE H. BENNETT,
Mrs. ARCH TRAWICK,
Mrs. A. T. ROBERTSON,
Mrs. M. ASHBY JONES,
Mrs. H. L. SCHMELZ,
Mrs. THEODORE D. BRATTON.
An Inter-Racial Committee in every Christian organization of women can be a potent factor in the community in bringing about better understandings, relations and conditions. Therefore, in accordance with Item C, Section I, of the Findings Report, the Continuation Committee recommends[.]
That each general or national organization willing to co-operate in the work of the commission on Inter-Racial Co-operation, provide a plan for its constituency by which each local society or auxiliary may take part in the interracial program, both within the local organization and in co-operation with other agencies in the community.
To this end, the committee further recommends:
That such plans shall provide for an additional committee in the local society to be known as "The Inter-Racial Committee" (preferably three), who should he chosen because of their special fitness for the work. It should be the duty of this committee--
the community, and to have membership in Community Inter-Racial Committees when organized.
That there may be the closest affiliation between the work of the Commission on Inter-Racial Co-operation and the work of the women's organizations, the Continuation Committee recommends:
The following were present at the Woman's Inter-Racial Conference held at Memphis, Tenn., October 6-7, 1920:
"We are never going to progress until the women see this question face to face. That was the one thing I had almost despaired of until the Memphis meeting. I had hoped that we might make some little dent on this problem in this generation, and leave the conversion of the women to our children and our children's children. I think I had just as well be frank and say, I have learned again what I have often learned before, that I do not know the depth of a woman's heart."
JOHN .J. EAGAN, Chairman, Commission on Inter-Racial Co-operation.(Spoken to the members of the Continuation Committee in their first meeting.)
"The Memphis Woman's Inter-Racial Conference
in its, deliverance will do more to bring the
womanhood of the South into active service in behalf of
the race than any other yet held. Their findings
are worthy of permanent record"
Extracts from the Quadrennial Report of the Commission on Negro work of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, made at the meeting held in Boston Mass, December, 1920.
"The Memphis Conference was a wonderful manifestation of the desire of Southern Christian women for mutual helpfulness in adjusting race relations."
Mrs. T. W. BICKETT, Raleigh N. C.
"I believe the Memphis Conference to be one of far-reaching influence. I look upon it as the dawn of a new day in the Inter-Racial problems that affect womanhood."
MRS. ARCHIBALD DAVIS, President, Y. W. C. A., Atlanta, Ga.
"The Memphis meeting composed of women prominent in church and social life met to consider justice, judgment and righteousness for the Negro, was a great event. It will long be remembered by those who had the privilege of being there."
BELLE H. BENNETT, LL.D.
"The Conference was of the utmost value to us, because it showed its not only what the Negro is doing for himself, but what he is thinking of our way of dealing with him."
MRS. A. T. ROBERTSON, Louisville, Ky.
MRS. T. D. BRATTON, Woman's Aux. Episcopal Church, Jackson, Miss.
"The Conference gave one a better understanding of the Negro mind, and a deeper appreciation of the patience of the better class of the race when they have not had a square deal."
MRS. J. G. JACKSON, Corresponding Secretary W. M. Union Arkansas Baptist Church
"I have never attended a conference or convention more significant in its scope and spirit than the Memphis Conference. It is a source of encouragement to know that people are alert to the issues involved in this issue, and that they are facing them in the spirit of Christ."
MRS. J. M. STEARNS, Secretary United Christian Missionary Society, Disciples of Christ.
"Let me say how I appreciate the great privilege of being at that Conference. It was a great meeting."
MRS. J. W. PERRY, Superintendent Young People's Work, Woman's Missionary Council, M E. Church, South.
"I am grateful for a new view-point I shall go back to my work better prepared and with a new vision."
MRS. J. M. HOSKIN, Chairman Colored Work, South Central Field, National Y. W. C. A.
"I cannot express the appreciation I feel for the opportunity of the Memphis meeting. Of all the conferences and meetings, from kindergarten to university, there never was one in my long and varied career that seems to me to have carried any greater moment than the Memphis meeting."
MRS. W. A. NEWELL, Social Service Superintendent W. M. C., M. E. Church, South.
"It is my conviction that sentiment was created at Memphis which will mean much in solving our problems in the South. The meeting was a revelation to me."
MRS. E. P. WILLIAMS, Corresponding Secretary Central Texas Conference, M E. Church, South.
"If nothing results other than the meeting itself, it would be worth much, for no woman who was there can have quite the same attitude toward the Negro hereafter."
MRS. W. D. WEATHERFORD, Chairman, Colored Committee, Y. W. C. A., Nashville, Tenn.
"I appreciate the opportunity afforded by the
Memphis Conference to get a proper focus on a situation I long have studied. To realize wrong conditions and to feel that they are imbedded in a system which encases you, is to feel impotent. The Memphis meeting gave me a clue and point of contact, and I am grateful."
MRS. C. H. ALEXANDER, Y. W . C . A ., Jackson. Miss.
"The Memphis Conference was one of the most spiritual as well as far-reaching meetings I ever attended. I trust our women stand ready to do all in their power to help."
MRS. S. G. DULLING, President Texas Synodical, Presbyterian Church, San Antonio, Texas
"I trust the Memphis Conference which was well worth while may bring forth matured plans looking toward a better racial adjustment."
MRS. A. M WADDELL, Field Secretary, Woman's Auxiliary, Diocese of North Carolina.
"I believe a really great constructive education movement has begun."
Mrs. ARCH TRAWICK, Secretary Y W. C. A., Nashville, Tenn.
"I can now look at the ["]Negro problem["] from a different point of view than in the past. I came from the Memphis Conference oppressed with the seriousness of the problem but believe that the only way it will ever be solved will be through the Christian People."
Mrs. CHARLES S KINKEAD, President Tennessee Synodical Presbyterian, Nashville Tennessee.
"The Memphis Conference was helpful in its revelation of present conditions, and in the determination of those present to more diligently prosecute the task of bringing about more cordial and co-operative relations between the dominant races of the South. I find the women of our churches quite responsive to this appeal."
MRS. JOHN S. TURNER, President North Texas Conference, M. E. Church. South.