Nannie Helen Burroughs

On the National Front - c. 1953

Nannie Helen Burroughs
November 01, 1953
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It is not often that a President of the United States comes down in “our community”. President Eisenhower did just that on October _____ [Oct. 6, 1953], Atlantic City NJ when he addressed the meeting of the United Church Women. The women were thrilled by his presence and challenged by his message. Here is the climax of that message: The President said: “One of the supreme hopes of the world lies in the American community, in its moral value, in its cooperative spirit”. The mind of nearly every woman in that great audience doubtless ran back to her community and the question, “How responsible am I for my community?” haunted her.

The President of the Woman’s Convention was in the audience and her mind ran in every direction looking into Negro communities, north, south, east and west. Conditions and needs in the majority of the communities challenged her, humbled her and made her overwhelmingly conscious of the fact that the Woman’s Convention is responsible morally and should do something about the embarrassing and needy conditions in our neighborhoods across the country. The Woman’s Convention and all other Christian and welfare organizations should feel a deeper sense of responsibility for conditions in Negro communities.

The majority of our communities are neglected, blighted, run down and even unfit for human habitation. What can we do about it? Put this fact down that Negro organizations and individual Negroes will have to take it upon themselves to teach community standards and stimulate home and community pride in the people. The destruction of property, outright vandalism and wilful neglect of the house, [illegible] and backgrounds, their surroundings are, usually, the signs --, unmistakeable signs--, that “Negroes live here”. Real estate in Negro communities loses its value because neglect and destruction of property actually looms large in nearly every Negro community. It is no satisfaction nor does it raise the stock of the better class of Negroes to lay these conditions at the door of “the masses”. The classes are only people who climbed out of the mass and got to the top or above the mass first. What is, therefore, the mission’s [illegible] responsibility of the classes? In every community the mental and spiritual resources of the strong and advanced group should be dedicated religiously to helping the weak and backward. That is the only reason God permitted the classes to get the mental, moral and spiritual equipment necessary to enlighten, inspire and transform the less fortunate. Forming communities attests the strength and worth of any group. Those who run a community down physically are economic and social liabilities. Not only to the community in which they live but to the entire city.

The Woman’s Convention “and we have the boldness to say every Negro organization” must address itself to the serious and challenging problems that masquerade in practically every Negro community in America. [illegible] Missionaries and Christian workers have as great a challenge right at their door as the missionaries whom we send to Africa and other foreign countries, have in the fields to which they are sent. Blighted, run down neglected neighborhoods can and must be cleared up. It must be done without tearing down all of the houses in these communities and turning the areas into parking lots, garages and factories. Our convention and all other Negro organizations must start a nation wide, year around “Community, [illegible] and keep clean” clean up the Negro church campaign”. A good pace to begin is at the house of the Lord - enlist men, women and children in an all-out community improvement campaign. Award prizes annually for the greatest improvement. The entire nation should get behind such a campaign and thus make President Eisenhower’s community improvement hope for the nation come true.