Nannie Helen Burroughs

Appeal on Behalf of District of Columbia Unemployed - Undated

Nannie Helen Burroughs
December 31, 1969
Print friendly

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The citizens of the District of Columbia live under a sort of paternalistic form of government. In other words, Washington lives and moves and has its (lack of) being under federal paternalism.

Outside of government service, the fields of employment are very limited indeed. The District quota in federal service is small. There are no industries here to absorb the large surplus labor, particularly common labor. The opportunities for employment in personal service have not increased in proportion to the increase in population. The three big fields - government, industries and personal service are all crowded.

Over ten thousand men, women and children are in dire need and are walking the streets of Capitol of the richest nation on the globe, or shut up in cold, comfortless houses without food and without friends. We care about their helpless condition and we care much because we are concerned about their bodies and their souls.

We are met here today, determined to unite - determined to coordinate our efforts - to save these people from a complete moral brake down. We are concerned, not only about what they have to eat and what they have to wear, but we are more concerned about their souls - about what they are thinking - about what is taking place inside of them - what is happening to their moral equipment - their reaction and attitude toward our social order as a result of their tragic experience in this crisis.

You will recall that it was the undipped spot on the heel of Achilles that brought him to his death. Even so, these ten thousand unfed, unclothed and unsheltered men and women and children can become our greatest social menace. They can poison the moral blood stream of this city and leave a trail of death and destruction across the life of its life and across the life of our nation. We must save them from desperation and from the body of this death.

The only thing that will save them is that they shall be tided over by Federal Work Relief, from the hands of a government that owns and operates the city in which they live, and for permanent work we should form ourselves into a “City Wide Job Finding Committee” that will not stop crusading until these 3,000 “employables”, living in the District, are put to work on steady jobs. Three thousand persons can be given employment if we are concerned enough to put on our thinking caps and help them.

We want it clearly understood that we do not seek Federal Relief as a substitute for regular work. There is no substitute for work. We only seek Federal Aid as an “Emergency Stop-gap” - for three thousand of our fellow citizens, and their seven thousand dependents - the majority of whom, in their hopeless outlook, might be driven to crime, despair, destruction, degradation and death.

Their suffering is our suffering. Their cross is our cross. We appeal to the paternal father - of the District of Columbia - the Federal government for aid, for its starving children, in its own household.