An Adventure in Faith: A Brief Story of the Interracial Movement in the South

By Robert B. Eleazer

Vol.22, No. 1, Spring 2000 p. 5

A booklet published by the Commission on Interracial Cooperation in 1930 reflected the CIC's concerns and goals from the 1920s. Robert Eleazer was education director at the time.

The work of the CIC has been widely advertised as an "adventure in good will." It is that, undoubtedly, but it is something more. It is also an adventure in faith-a gamble on the essential soundness of human nature.

At the close of the World War, when the country was seething with interracial suspicion, distrust, and hostility, when race riots were flaming in widely separated communities, and threatening to merge into a general conflagration, the Commission's mediatory work was inaugurated in the hope of tiding over the crisis. Its promoters believed that if white and Negro people understood each other they would not fight, and that if given the facts about any particular situation, the best of each group might safely be trusted to try to do right about it. They believed that Negroes were both capable and worthy of having a say-so in dealing with the problems affecting them. They believed that white people in turn could be appealed to successfully on the basis of good will, justice, and fair dealing. The Commission undertook, therefore, the stupendous task of establishing across the South, thousands of points of light of interracial contact through which mutual understanding might be created and the facts discovered and acted upon.

The plan worked. Brought together for frank conference, the leaders of the two groups promptly came to terms, cast off their mutual distrust, and began to reestablish the relations of the races on the basis of friendly helpfulness.

Notable Results

The results have been notable. Assistance has been rendered in hundreds of educational enterprises for Negroes, involving millions of dollars; health campaigns have been promoted in every state, hospitals established, clinics conducted, public nurses employed; lynchings have been prevented and in a few cases, members of lynching mobs have been prosecuted and sent to penitentiary; legal aid had been extended to scores of helpless Negroes who were being intimidated, persecuted, or exploited; sewers, street pavings, water, lights, library facilities, restrooms, and other civic advantages have been secured for Negro communities; parks, playgrounds, and pools have been provided; Negro welfare agencies have been included in community chests; day nursuries and social centers conducted; colored probation officers secured-these are among a multitude of actual results achieved.