Oswald Garrison Villard to Woodrow Wilson


Oswald Garrison Villard to Woodrow Wilson


Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949




1913 September 18


Wilson Papers, Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Washington, District of Columbia


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence


Dear Mr. President

I am most grateful for your kind letter of August 30th and the friendly spirit in which you accept my critiecism. I note your recurrence to the fact that a number of colored men with whom you have consulted have agreed with you that segregation was in the interest of the colored people. I am being approached with many demands for their names and I wish I could obtain them,–Bishop Walters is one, we are told; if the names are given out I veritably believe that these men will be driven out of the communities in which they reside, or at least held up to the scorn of the race, as has been the man Patterson whom you nominated for Register of the Treasury. I hope the message from the Northeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, which represents nearly five thousand of the most advanced women in the race, protesting against segregation, was laid before you.
To show how this situation is hurting the cause of good government, may I say to you that some of the best observers in this city say that the reform ticket, headed by Mr. Mitchel, will not receive a single colored man’s vote in the coming election because they regard him as the New York representative of the Wilson Administration?I note your statement that certain harshnesses in the segregtion have been ameliorated, but this does not, it seems to me, touch the issue at all. The case has just been well stated by the Chicago Public in the following terms: “This order plavces the Government of the United States in the position of endorsinga prejudice which some individuals feel toward a certain class of citizens. The governmenthas no right to recognize social distinctions among citizens. Least of all has the Governmentof the United States a right to recognize an aristocracy of birth. The order should berescinded and the official or officials responsible therefor given a much–needed lesson insound democracy and true Americanism.”Believe me, it is not a question of handling segregation awkwardly or tactfully, or otherwise, it is a question of right and wrong. How I wish that your Administrative heads who have brought about this thing could for forty-eight hours be blacked up and compelled to put themselves in the negro’s place--how differently they would feel!May I call your attention to the fact that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which wrote you the enclosed letter, has had no reply from you save an official acknowledgement from Mr. Tumulty? May it not look for an answer before long? Later on, the officers of the Association, including myself, will formally and officially ask you to give us a hearing on this matter, and upon the general attitude of the Wilson Administration towrards the colored man,– just as soon as the pressure of the tariff and currency bills is at an end. With all respect, it seems to me that the colored people of this country are entitled, before long, to have a statement of the Administration’s position towards the colored man,–whether he is to be appointed to office, whether segregation is to go on, etc.
Of course, I am most grateful for your frankness in stating your decision, and for your kind consideration of my letters.

Sincerely yours,
Oswald Garrison Villard

PS I wish you might find time to read the splendid editorial protests in the Lexington, Ky, Herald,—a Southerner’s protest— and in the Congregationalist a copy of which I enclose.¹

Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924




Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949, “Oswald Garrison Villard to Woodrow Wilson,” 1913 September 18, WWP18027, First Year Wilson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.