The President to Colored Delegation, at the White House Offices


The President to Colored Delegation, at the White House Offices


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924




1913 November 6


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


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence


The President to Colored Delegation, at the White House Offices.

Of course, I need not say that an impressive petition like this will receive my most earnest and most careful condsideration; but I want to say in partial reply to what you have said that some people have been interested to misrepresent the situation. Certainly nobody in my cabinet has expressed to me any feeling such as you have felt that they might entertain with regard to the people of your race. I do not think the spirit of discrimination has been shown in any essential matter; certainly not in the matter of promotions. There is not a single instance of that sort, and there will not be. This administration has but very slightly altered the conditions which obtained in the departments in former administrations. I was not aware of anything that justified the agitation, and this order from Mr. Wooley that you have shown me is the first that I have seen that could be called an order of segregation. There have been arrangements made in the Treasury which Secretary McAdoo honestly thought would be acceptable to everybody. The instances brought to my attention have been exceptional instances. They have not been the rule of the administration, and since they have been brought to my attention, we have been taking active steps to see that they were corrcted.
I am particularly anxious that you should not go away with the impression that there is anything hostile in the attitude of my colleagues. I am slowly making myself familiar with the matter with the hope that I shlall see my way clear to do the right thing all along the line. You know what my endeavors have been on certain occasions; and in one instance, for example, I could not get a nomination confirmed in the Senate. There are these difficulties with which we must be patient and tolerant. Things do not happen rapidly in the world, and prejudices are slow to be uprooted. We have to accept them as facts, no matter how much we may deplore them in their moral and social consequences. I want you to go away with the feeling that, in the first place, a great deal has been exaggerated, and that, in the second place, there is no policy on the part of the administration looking to segregation.
All that I can assure you at present is that what has been done, --and a great deal less has been done than you imagine, so far as my inquiries have gone, a great deal less by way of contrast with previous administrations, --has been done in the genuine desire to serve the convenience and agreeable feelings of everybody concerned. Now, mistakes have probably been made, but those mistakes can be corrected where they have been made, and you ought to assure those of your own people who are misinformed about these things that they must wait for the judgment of the long run to see what exactly happens.

Original Format




Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “The President to Colored Delegation, at the White House Offices,” 1913 November 6, WWP18149, First Year Wilson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.