“I don’t know whether I am doing a right deed as to plead to you. But I do know that I am all right to plead for my race…I am a Southern colored girl in New York.” –Miss South Carolinean, April 10, 1933
Letter from Miss South Carolinean [Carolinian] to President Franklin Roosevelt Regarding the Scottsboro Case
Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, Haywood Patterson, Ozie Powell, Willie Robertson, Eugene Williams, Olen Montgomery, Andy Wright, and Ray Wright were known as the “Scottsboro Boys.” In 1931, the nine African Americans were tried and convicted of assault and rape in Alabama by all-white juries within two weeks. Eight were sentenced to death. In this letter to Franklin Roosevelt, “Miss South Carolinian” asked for the President’s help.
The initial speedy trials, the age of the defendants, the racial bias of the juries and the severity of the sentences led to arguments that the defendants never received fair trials and a movement to free them. Their case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled they were denied the right to counsel, violating their right to due process under the 14th amendment. Eventually, their sentences were commuted and charges against four were dropped, but their lives were forever changed as most spent years in jail. On November 21, 2013, posthumous pardons were issued by the state of Alabama to Charlie Weems, Andy Wright and Haywood Patterson.
This letter is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson’s concert on Easter Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. More than 75,000 people attended.
Originally, Anderson was scheduled to sing at Howard University, but when officials thought the crowds would be too large, they asked the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) if Anderson could sing in their auditorium at Constitution Hall.
However, in 1939, Washington, DC, was still a racially segregated city, and Constitution Hall had a “white-only” policy for its performers. The DAR declined.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her membership from the organization in protest, surprising the nation (though not the black community) with her support.
Anderson’s manager Sol Hurok proposed that Anderson give an open-air concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior and past president of the Chicago NAACP, approved the idea immediately.
This iconic image shows Anderson singing to the 75,000 people gathered in Potomac Park on April 9, 1939. Image: National Archives Identifier 595378.
Pennant of the USS Akron, ca. 1931
USS Akron was a U.S. Navy Airship built in 1931 that crashed into the sea during a storm on April 4, 1933, off the coast of New Jersey. This pennant was sent to FDR in January 1942, by Fred C. Muttersbach of Vallejo, California.
Be sure to see some of our earlier posts on the Akron, including footage of her in flight:
Happy 75th Birthday, Batman!
On March 30, 1939, Detective Comics #27 hit newsstands, introducing evil-doers and comic book lovers everywhere to the Caped Crusader.
From the series: Series : Civil Case Files, compiled 1938 - 1983, Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685 - 2009.
From the scope & content note: This comic book was an exhibit in the case titled Fox Publications Inc. v. Detective Comics Inc., Independent News Co. Inc. and Interborough News Co.
FDR’s First Fireside Chat
Today in history, March 12, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his first Fireside Chat. Using the radio to speak directly to the nation, FDR laid out his plan to address the banking crisis of the Great Depression.
-from the FDR Library
Eleanor Roosevelt’s First Press Conference - March 6, 1933
On March 6, 1933 Eleanor Roosevelt held the first of her 348 women’s only press conferences. Before this time, First Ladies had little contact with reporters. Eleanor recognized that holding regular conferences could enhance the public role of the First Lady - a role she transformed during her 12 years in the White House.
About 35 women attended Eleanor’s first press conference which was held in the Monroe Room on the second floor of the living quarters in the White House. The press conferences were attended by the major female reporters of the day - including Lorena Hickok, Ruby Black, Bess Furman, May Craig, Emma Bugbee and Martha Stayer.
Eleanor used these press conferences as a way to not only announce her schedule of activities but also as a platform to publicize the work of women leaders, answer her critics, and entertain questions on a variety of subjects. Topics covered everything from domestic issues like social programs, race, youth activism, etc. to international politics and the role of women in war and peace.
When Prohibition officially ended on December 5, 1933, booze peddlers large and small quickly did the legal thing and registered their products’ labels with the U.S. Patent Office. Here’s one aptly named product, to cash in on this “heady” time, registered with the Patent Office on March 6, 1934.
Trademark Application for Esslinger’s “Repeal Beer” Label, Case File 43336. 3/06/1934. NARA ID: 7788265
From the series: Case Files for Registered Product Labels , 1874 - 1940. Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, 1836 - 1978
(Today’s post comes via Alan Walker, an archivist in Research Services at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.)
Discharge Petition #14 Filed by Oscar De Priest Regarding H. Res. 236, a Resolution to Prevent Discrimination, 01/24/1934 - 03/05/1934
Item from Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. (04/01/1789 -)
This resolution and discharge petition from Representative Oscar De Priest, a Republican from Illinois, attempted to end racial discrimination in the House of Representatives’ Restaurant. De Priest introduced H. Res. 236 to the House, which called for the creation of a special committee to investigate the House Restaurant’s refusal to serve two African Americans, one of whom was a member of his staff. When the resolution stalled in the Rules Committee, De Priest successfully used a discharge petition to move the bill out and onto the House floor.
Don’t forget to check out the National Archives’ future exhibition “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures,” opening to the public on March 21, 2014!
March 4, 1933: First Inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt
On this day in 1933, the first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt was held in Washington, D.C. The longest-serving president in U.S. history, and leader through the Great Depression and World War II — two of the nation’s worst crises — Franklin Delano Roosevelt is considered by many to be our greatest president.
Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Joseph Robinson in Washington, Washington, D.C., March 4, 1933 (National Archives).
(Nice use of the Content Source link, pbsthisdayinhistory!)
Shirley Temple Black (April 23, 1928 - February 10, 2014)
Today we remember Shirley Temple. During her early years as an actress, Shirley visited with the Roosevelts at the White House and in Hollywood. In her March 19, 1938 “My Day” column, Eleanor Roosevelt had this to say about Shirley:
Our first visit was to Shirley Temple, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting before and who is, without exception, one of the most charming children I know. She is simple and unaffected and accepts the inevitable photographers and her as naturally as if this was the way every little girl lived her life
While visiting the White House in June 1938, Shirley presented FDR with a “Shirley Temple Police” Badge. She signed her letter from “Chief Shirley Temple.”
In July of 1938, Shirley and her parents visited Hyde Park for a picnic. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote all about the day in her July 11, 1938 “My Day” column.
Our vote for Best in Show at tonight’s Westminster Dog Show:
"Dance stars lead dog’s life! —Dumpsie and Waffles in hectic rehearsals for big revue."
From: Universal News Volume 3, Release 7 #1-10, January 19, 1931
NEW YORK, NY - Sky-line for the masque ball! - Beaux Arts fete features novel architectural costumes.
Excerpted from: This Week in Universal News: Beaux-Arts Ball, 1931, Universal News Volume 3, Release 7 #1-10, January 19, 1931
On January 23, 1931, architects dressed up as the buildings they designed for the Beaux-Arts Ball in New York. In this week’s featured story, they are pictured from left to right, A. Stewart Walker as the Fuller Building, Leonard Schultze as the Waldorf-Astoria, Ely Jacques Kahn as the Squibb Building, William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, Ralph Walker as the Wall Street Building and Joseph Freedlander as the Museum of the City of New York.
Watch the entire newsreel, featuring a polar submarine, a train wreck, Charles Lindbergh receiving a medal from a French ambassador, dancing dogs, and “dangerous” figure skating, among other stories here.
Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. In 1974, Universal deeded its collection to the United States through the National Archives and is one of our most used motion picture collections. Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.
A New York Tradition
The ice rink at Rockefeller Center had high end shops and was known as the Sunken Plaza. In 1936 a temporary ice rink was built to encourage people to patronize the shops. The footage from this Universal Newsreel shows ice skaters in 1937, when the rink became a permanent holiday tradition.
Cheers, Prohibition Ends!
Eighty years ago on December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, as announced in this proclamation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment of January 16, 1919, ending the increasingly unpopular nationwide prohibition of alcohol.
Excited for Thanksgiving?
If you really want to work up an appetite, check out this playlist of other Thanksgiving-themed films recently digitized by our Motion Picture Preservation Lab and now on the U.S. National Archives’ YouTube Channel.