190. Memorandum From Lee C. White of the White House Staff to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • US African Policy

While talking to Roy Wilkins the other day on a completely unrelated matter, he took the occasion to indicate that the Negro leadership group has taken a great interest in our African policy. The formal committee, which Roy chairs, met with President Kennedy and Ambassador Stevenson in the fall of 1963 to set forth the views of the members on African policy. During the past election campaign they wrote seeking a meeting [Page 289] with you, but we arranged instead for a meeting with State Department people. I am not certain whether Secretary Rusk was able to meet with them, but my recollection is that he did not.

In any event, Roy says that the group is of the opinion that those who are shaping our African policy have missed a few opportunities and perhaps mishandled others, and he wondered whether there was any possibility of the group meeting with you. I told him that, quite candidly, I personally saw some problem in the President meeting with a group of American Negroes to secure from them their recommendations on what our African policy should be. He had no trouble understanding and maybe even agreeing with the point, and we then discussed the possibility of 2 or 3 of the group meeting with Mac Bundy and some of his people on a completely informal and unscheduled basis. He said he would explore the matter quietly and discreetly, and I assured him that I was in no position to commit Bundy or anyone else, but while he was thinking about that approach, I would at least check to see whether there was any thought here that such a meeting might be useful.

Although this is obviously way out of my field, it seems to me that there might be some advantage in such a session. I am confident that the organization is not going to evaporate; it would therefore make sense to do what we can to make it an asset rather than an extra burden in this already difficult area.

Lee C. White 2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Africa, General, Vol. II, Memos & Miscellaneous, 7/64–6/65. No classification marking. A copy was sent to McGeorge Bundy. A handwritten notation on the source text reads: “Hold for staff mtg Mon/McGB.”
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.