Mary McLeod Bethune of the National Council of Negro Women to the Acting Officer in Charge of West, Central, and East African Affairs (Sims)1
My Dear Mr. Sims: I would like to suggest to you that a small commission be established to study the participation of Liberia and Nigeria in the Point Four program—to look into the condition of the women and children of these areas.
I would like to see, in that commission, a person of some vision—who could readily visualize what is needed; a person of humane experience who would know what to look for in order to point up situations needing adjustment—expansion, correction or elimination—in the program now being administered.
With the view of stimulating the participation of women and children, and the development of their possibilities, commission personnel would need, of course, to work very diplomatically and with insight and understanding, with the native governments, themselves, evaluating their policies and concepts for our own information, and offering helpful but unobtrusive suggestion where the time and place seemed propitious. Such friendly and informal contacts should enable us to discover how our own government may help to strengthen the efforts of these native governments.[Page 1215]
There would need to be a real spirit of inspiration given out through the commission—a spirit of real friendship and real kinship. With the kind of discovery and interpretation that should result from the work of such a commission, we feel that we can greatly strengthen our own government in its vigorous program among the African people, by returning to this country and dramatizing significant findings, with due regard for the restraints of security and diplomacy.
In order to do this, a group of possibly three people would be needed; one who has had experience and has vision and the confidence of the mass of the American people, and spiritual understanding and undergirding that will find its way through to the bottom levels of the peoples in the countries visited; a second member of the commission should be a good writer and research person who knows the important from the unimportant and who could set up the commission’s findings fully and clearly, and with the accurate interpretation and documentation that is needed; there should also be, attached to the commission, a good photographer to provide skillful pictorial documentation that would give life and vigor to the findings.
Now, Mr. Sims, I may be dreaming, but I have always been a great dreamer, whose dreams have, fortunately, materialized in constructive ways. It may be that they develop into useful action because they have, as their goal, the opportunities through which all mankind may live a fuller life.
If my country, because of my record, could use me, some time, in such a capacity, I should be very happy to serve.2
National Council of Negro Women
- This letter was prepared on the stationery of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., 1318 Vermont Avenue, Washington, D.C.↩
In a letter of March 12, Director of the Office of African Affairs Bourgerie replied to Mrs. Bethune as follows:
“Mr. Sims of my office has brought your letter addressed to him on February 14 to my attention. I have purposely delayed replying to your letter until such time as I could consult with the various Officers here in the Department concerning your proposal to send a commission to Africa to appraise the assistance which we are rendering to certain African territories under the Point Four Program.
“It is the consensus here in the Department that it would not be wise to send such a commission to Africa at this time, due to the fact that the Point Four Program is not sufficiently advanced to determine its benefits to the African peoples. I believe you will agree that it would be better to wait until such time as the Program has had an opportunity to achieve some concrete results before consideration is given to a commission of the type which you suggest.
“However, please be assured that we appreciate the ideas which you have advanced and we will be glad to consider them at a later date.” (870.00 TA/2–1451)↩