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Claim 13-Year Record Of Progress For NAACP

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Claim 13-Year Record Of Progress For NAACP

Editor, The News.

Recent stories, editorials and headlines in The News make us believe that The News, innocently or otherwise, is entangled in intensified effort to discredit NAACP and its leadership and to rebuild the weak, silent, co-operative leadership arrangement of past years.  For example, Feb. 13 headline, "Charges NAACP is Trying to 'Take Over' Center,"  "Dobson Claims Group's Statement Has Hurt Race Relations Here" or the Wagner story April 30 inferring that NAACP was disrupting race relations with its unnecessary controversy over methods of solving problems and finally your editorial (May 10) blaming NAACP for delaying consideration of the housing ordinance.

We believe that the form and/or substance of these and other stories are designed to create the impression that NAACP leadership is irresponsible and also to provide Mayor Creal, the council and the Human Relations Commission with a seemingly plausible excuse for further procrastination in eliminating all discrimination, including housing. 

Local NAACP leadership has been the most active participants in promoting civil rights in Ann Arbor during the past 13 years and we have never really given a full picture of the problem as seen and fought from our position. We have been accused of creating trouble, destroying harmonious relations, pushing too fast and being uncompromisingly militant. On the other hand, we have never been given our share of credit for the many improvements that have been made during these years. Since we believe an understanding of our true position is important in further public evaluation of housing or other civil rights we ask you to waive your 400-word limit to permit us to cite historical background as we have experienced it. 

Let it be understood we are not asking you not to criticize nor for the obstructionists to cease their antagonisms, insults or covert efforts to intimidate us through our employer. We are accustomed to the former two and the latter is ineffective because, with one or two exceptions, no one in the University has ever intimated that they disapprove of our actions.  All we ask is an equal opportunity to present our side of this basic community conflict.

In 1949, when we assumed leadership of the Ann Arbor Civic Forum (predecessor to the NAACP) there was no Human Relations Commission; little or no discussion of human relations in churches, political parties, the Negro community or the general public; there was no community Self-Survey; Negroes could not join the YMCA; less than 100 were registered to vote and none had ever held elected municipal office; there were no Negro teachers, firemen, policemen, skilled utilities employees, retail business clerks, taxi-drivers; only two or three Negro families lived outside the traditional areas; and most important, there was no organized protest voice.

Today some of these problems have been solved, some ideas have become reality and some barriers have been lowered slightly and still others such as housing discrimination are just beginning to receive serious public attention.  As in the past, NAACP leadership has to be the goat but when a problem is partially solved the faint-hearted moderate or even the antagonist is credited with the change of which the city ultimately is happy to boast...

We repeatedly challenged the late Supt. Haisley for Negro teachers; we challenged the YMCA, the Fire and Police Commission through George Sallade, a member of the Forum and then president of the City Council; we testified before the Charter Commission for a Human Relations Commission and ultimately worked for a public hearing before council; we planned an original community self-survey on a broader scale than was done and when community groups finally took it over prematurely one of us was asked to dissociate himself because we were too controversial; NAACP wrote the original local housing ordinance and had two public meetings on it.

More recently we were hit for our successful efforts in thwarting the unjustifiable firing of the Community Center director and contrary to predictions we have not "taken over" the Center.  Nevertheless, the Center is becoming a more dynamic agency for the total community and there is a new spirit in the Board, the youth and the adult membership.

A more far-reaching unpublicized activity of our local NAACP was the original idea for creating a civil rights commission in the executive branch section of the new state constitution.

Opposition and apprehension were so strong that the only way we could get it submitted was wit the help of Gov. Swainson.  We then followed with hundreds of letters to delegates and organizations for support and finally our testimony after which the subcommittee chairman asked us to work with several delegates to put a final proposal into shape.

We are able and willing to document the above statements which we ask the public to weigh before deciding whether NAACP is or is not a responsible organization.

In respect to the present controversy between NAACP, the council and Human Relations Commission, we make no apologies for our repeated, public protests against inaction nor have we withdrawn any charges (except for specific words) that the joint meeting discussed the question of inherent inferiority of Negroes.  Further, we deny the implication that Councilman Eley, or anyone else present, at the joint meeting, told NAACP of the discussion.  Our original information came from a person not present but we did check it with several Councilmen and Commissioners before our statement was released...

In respect to the Human Relations Commission, our earlier public criticism in 1961 stimulated them for a short while but soon they reverted to normal and the last two regular meetings had to be postponed-no quorum.

In 1959, the commission, with support of four incumbents, recommended to council that a housing ordinance was needed.  The council refused to even consider the matter and since that time the question has been tossed back and forth between council and the commission.  The three-year delay in reaffirming the recommendation is more than sufficient and the commission has no justification for denying council the opportunity to consider legislation.

The whole problem of civil rights is complex and serious and it can not be solved by simply wishing that the Negro would just go away.  We are here to stay and we are determined to obtain and enjoy every right that any other citizen has.  We are unimpressed with editorials or governmental releases that chide the Negro who is unsympathetic to the proposition that we must remain tolerant and quiet until a large part of the community can adjust to practicing the Christianity and democracy that it professes.  perhaps the following suggestions may accelerate your adjustment:

a)  All we ask of you is freedom to enjoy our constitutional and civil rights.

b)  An equal opportunity for a job for which we have equal training and for a home, or our own choosing, that we can afford to buy and maintain.

c)  We do not want laws to make you love us, invite us to your home or even to sell your house to a Negro who can not meet your standard requirements and

d) We suggest that you read the penetrating analysis of the problem of our urban centers in the March 1962 issue of Fortune magazine.  This would have special benefit for our council and commission.

Albert and Emma Wheeler