The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
That Bush and the NAACP thing
The story so far:
It is widely put about the net that Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover not to give a speech to the NAACP (piece earlier today). Yet both David McCullough and Julian Bond - neither members of the VRWC, so far as I'm aware - affirm that it was Harry Truman who first did so .
The claim would be falsified if one could show that FDR did not speak at any NAACP conference.
What's the online evidence?
We have a catalogue of microfilmed papers relating to the NAACP - the guide to Part I (PDF) lists, inter alia, speeches for each of the NAACP annual conferences held during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency. There is no record of an FDR speech - though Eleanor Roosevelt did speak at the 1939 conference, and her speech is on the list (p60a).
There is no guarantee that this collection of speeches is complete; but I can't help thinking that a presidential speech would make it into the archives!
To double check, I've looked at the FDR Public Papers for the relevant months. In 1938, Roosevelt sent a letter of two paragraphs described as Greeting to the NAACP to Walter White: presumably, in lieu of a personal appearance.
In 1939, he sent another letter - this time extending to three paragraphs.
From 1940 to 1944, nada: like Dick Cheney, he had other priorities. Though he did find time in May 1942 to send a note to the Daughters of the American Revolution's Mrs Pouch (!) for their fifty-first continental congress.
So, I'm properly double-sourced in maintaining that any suggestion that Bush is the first sitting US President since Herbert Hoover not to address the annual conference of the NAACP is an untruth.
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