For the Weekend...

Liveblogging Postwar; August 20, 1946: Eleanor Roosevelt


Eleanor Roosevelt: My Day:

NEW YORK, Monday—I have had three letters about previous columns which require an explanation. Two of them dealt with a column in which I said that we sometimes let our prejudices prevent us from discovering our own artistic talent. I mentioned that it was extremely difficult for a Negro singer to get onto the operatic stage in this country. These remarks were made in connection with the debut in the opera house in Mexico City of one of our talented Negro women, Ella Belle Davis, who is now touring South America.

My correspondents remind me that Maestro Alfredo Salmaggi, during the years of opera production in the New York Hippodrome from 1933 to 1938, introduced three Negro singers, Caterina Jarboro, Minta Cato and Jules Bledsoe. More recently, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where the maestro has been producing operas for the past ten years, Edith Dixon Sewell and Paul A. Smith have both appeared. I think that Dr. Salmaggi deserves our gratitude for what he has done, but I still think that my column was not far from being correct!

The second thing that has been brought to my attention is that the recent political incident in McMinn County, Tennessee, was not connected with the primary elections. My correspondent explains that three elections were held in Tennessee on the same day. Both the Democratic primary and the Republican primary took place that day to nominate candidates for state and national offices. At the same time, a general election was held for county offices. The McMinn County incident involved only the contest over county offices in the general election, and did not affect either of the two primaries.

My correspondent says:

I gather from the local newspaper accounts that the trouble arose when those in control of the general election, while under the protection of several armed deputies of the sheriff, who was a candidate in this election, carried the ballot boxes to the Court House, where it was reported that they were about to switch ballots before the count.

These young veterans had insisted that the votes would be counted as cast. It was anticipated that an effort would be made to exchange ballots in the boxes for those already marked and prepared to be substituted for the genuine ballots. It was claimed this practice had been indulged in the past by the political machine in power.

As soon as these armed deputies appeared in Athens in possession of the ballot boxes, these veterans took steps to resist. The deputies seized two veterans, according to press reports, and held them as hostages, threatening to do them violence if the other veterans did not lay down their arms. These veterans accepted this challenge, stormed the jail where the deputies had retreated, and forced them to surrender.

The News-Sentinel carried a picture of a pile of ballots found in the jail after the officers surrendered, that it was alleged had been prepared for switching into the boxes. The timely resistance of the veterans apparently thwarted an attempt to switch ballots. The sheriff and others involved fled the county. Order was promptly restored. The sheriff and others then resigned from their offices, and the election commissioners certified the election of the G.I. ticket…

If every citizen in McMinn County, or any other place where boss rule has apparently dominated local politics, voted instead of staying at home on election day, no aspirant for public office would resort to unlawful means to stay in power. They would be compelled to adhere to the will of the people and the occasion would never arise for the public to condone violence to restore government to the people. I approve of all you said in your article.

This letter comes from Tennessee and, I think, emphasizes all I meant to say.