Commission of Inquiry into the Administration of Justice in the Freedom Struggle

May 25th and 26th 1962

Read the Full Testimony (PDF)

In 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt served as chair for an inquiry into police violence against activists in the movement for African-American civil rights. She was ill, and did not even attend the second day of the hearings, but lending her name to the hearings helped gain the attention of the media. Her letters to congress-members also brought at least one member to speak to the inquiry. James Farmer later described her reaction to the testimony, wrting of the "shock on [Norman Thomas's] face, as on the face of Eleanor Roosevelt as they listened to the simple and unpretentious testimonies. If all Americans could hear this story, I am confident that injured consciences would cry out for a halt to segregations' beastiality."

While the ERPP has not yet transcribed these hearings, we wanted to make the material available as soon as possible. We will be adding additional documents to this page in the coming days. 

Chair: Eleanor Roosevelt
Vice-chair: Norman Thomas

Commission:  Roger Baldwin, Dr. Kenneth Clark, John Bolt Culbertson, Joseph Rauh, Jr., Boris Shishkin, Gen. Telford Taylor
Counsel for the Commission: Carl Rachlin and Rowland Watts
Court Reporters: Albert Glotzer and Leon Mandel

Testimony from:(listed in order of appearance) Ronnie Moore, (followed by statement and brief conversation with Congressman Fitz Ryan), Weldon Rougeau, Reverend B. Elton Cox,  John Robert Zellner, Robert Moses, Albert Bigelow, James Peck, Jerome Smith, Frank Nelson, Eric Weinberger, Robert McAfee Brown, Henry Thomas, Gerald Johnson, Charles McLaurin, John Robert Zellner (on his observations related to the treatment of Brenda Travis, who could not testify due to probation), C. B. King, Louis Lusky, and James Farmer.

ER became involved in CORE in 1958, when A. Philip Randolph wrote to request she donate to the organization. She had her secretary look into the organization, and having received favorable information from the NAACP she began to cooperate with the organization. A trickle of donations turned into vocal support by 1960, when she hosted fundraising lunches, signed letters, and wrote columns in support of CORE. ER responded to CORE’s requests especially when they involved reports of violence and imprisonment, as she did when asked to chair this inquiry. She also agreed to sign the letter below, which summarized the inquiry and its findings.

Read the Full Testimony
Read CORE's letter summarizing the Inquiry (unsigned)
Read the recommendations of the Inquiry

Sources

My Day
18 February 1960
27 May 1960
6 February 1961

Papers of the Congress of Racial Equality, Wisconsin Historical Society:
James Farmer to Charlotte Devree, 15 June 1962

Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library:
Note to Eleanor Roosevelt from Secretary
Philip Randolph to Eleanor Roosevelt, 3 February 1958
Receipt for Eleanor Roosevelt’s donation to CORE, 5 March 1958
James Robinson to ER, 20 June 1960

The ERPP shares this and other documents strictly for educational purposes, which we believe is fair use under copyright law. Copyright for these documents remains in the hands of the individuals and organizations that produced them. The principal organizations involved here are no longer active, and copyright is uncertain, but use of these documents for for-profit purposes may be prohibited.