Lot 38: TLS, one page, 8.5 x 11, Metropolitan letterhead, July 18, 1917. Letter to Rev. Samuel M. Crothers, a Unitarian minister and popular essayist. In full: "That's a mighty nice letter of yours. I appreciate it to the full, but it is appalling to see the average newspaper, and of course the average politician, from President Wilson down, so afraid of organized labor, that they dare not denounce these murders. The point you make about the negro as a soldier is absolutely just." He adds a handwritten postscript in reference to one of Crothers's essays, "I am keenly enjoying the 'Absentee Landlord' and his fellows!" In fine condition, with central vertical and horizontal folds and trivial soiling.The country was reeling from the East St. Louis Race Riot of July 2, 1917, a bloody outbreak sparked specifically over the employment of black workers in a factory holding government contracts. Thanks to the robust industrial economy of East St. Louis—largely driven by increased production for World War I—the city experienced a dramatic influx of black workers who were denigrated by the white unions as scabs and strike breakers. These two greatest tensions of the era—labor and race—reached a breaking point in early July and the riot resulted in the deaths of dozens of individuals, mostly black, estimated at anywhere between forty and two hundred. Six thousand fled from their homes, many of which were burned to the ground. As a former president, Roosevelt was the nation's most prominent figure to speak out against the massacre, most notably in a dramatic public confrontation with Samuel Gompers a week later. Meanwhile, President Wilson remained silent. Roosevelt was enraged at the White House's response—or lack thereof—and particularly appalled by the irony of such a dreadful event happening on American soil while President Wilson announced his intention to 'make the world safe for democracy' in entering WWI with a military that included tens of thousands of black troops. Wilson failed to even address the bloodshed in East St. Louis and took no steps to discourage lynchings and other racially charged brutalities; it was over a year before he made any effort to condemn mob violence, issuing a statement to the press on July 26, 1918. This letter is a quintessential example of Roosevelt's steadfast ideals and commitment to justice, the qualities that made him one of America's greatest leaders.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 456
Wednesday, 15th July 2015
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