Volume 3 Sample Documents

Read a few of our annotated documents from Volume 3, forthcoming from the University of Virginia Press (and this website).

Sample 1: Settling Refugees in the United States

 Concerned about subversives within its borders and disillusioned by the democratic orientation of the new state of Israel, the Soviet Union launched a campaign of repression and intimidation against its Jewish citizens in the late 1940s. The campaign quickly spread to Eastern Europe where anti-Semitism had long flourished. Eastern Europeans also began to suffer repression more generally as their governments instituted Soviet-style practices in political and economic life. By 1953 those who disagreed with their governments for political, economic or religious reasons had begun to flee westward in ever increasing numbers. In January 1953, for example, the New York Times reported that as many as 20,000 refugees were expected to arrive in Berlin by the end of the month. At the same time “a residue” of displaced persons as ER described them in a January 19, 1953 column, remained in Western European refugee camps. Some were too old to emigrate. Others did not want to be separated from elderly family members who were not considered desirable immigrants.[1]

ER had long supported efforts to resettle European refugees in the US, particularly those who faced persecution or death if they returned to their homelands. As early as 1946 she had used My Day to argue that Americans had to overcome their “prejudices and intolerances” toward immigrants. In 1948 she actively lobbied for the Stratton bill, which would have allowed refugees from Eastern Europe to immigrate to the United States. Four years later, she urged President Harry Truman to veto the McCarran-Walter bill, which sought to restrict the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe because large numbers of them had already come to America between 1890 and 1924.[2]

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Sample 2: On Police Violence Against African Americans

February 1, Jennie Reed of the Poughkeepsie branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wrote ER to inform her of an incident in their town. Poughkeepsie was, as the letter pointed out, "dear and close" to ER, as it was only a few miles from her home at Val Kill.

They wrote to tell her of the January 22 assault and false arrest of Abraham Johnson by detectives Doerr and Massie of the Poughkeepsie police. The detectives took Johnson to a police station for questioning after seeing him exit a house they had under surveillance as a suspected gambling den. While in custody Johnson sustained injuries, including a concussion that he attributed to his treatment at the hands of Detective Doerr. The detectives together compelled Johnson to help them gain access to the house, where they ultimately made no arrests. Johnson, never officially arrested while in police custody, spent the next five days in the hospital being treated for his injuries.[1] Reed's letter included information about the attack, and asked for ER's assistance. "We trust that you will raise your voice in protest against this type of brutality so that all members of our community, regardless of race, color or creed, will feel free to walk in safety and without fear."[2]

ER wrote the following letter to Mayor Robert Stevens of Poughkeepsie. There is no record of the mayor having replied.  

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Sample 3: On The United States Information Agency

In 1955, conservative film maker Eugene W. Castle, published a pamphlet on what he believed to be the wasted dollars in American propaganda services. Like many on the American right, Castle feared the United States was succumbing to "world government" and the power of the United Nations.[1] As Castle surmised:

America has accepted the role, and the fearful dangers, of world power. She has subordinated her foreign policy to the United Nations. Gradually but surely we have been drawn into a net of foreign commitments and responsibilities which have permanently ended our isolation.[2]

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