Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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Illinois Inter-Racial Commission letter, 1943
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TitleIllinois Inter-Racial Commission letter, 1943
DescriptionLetter from Dr. Martin H. Bickham, chairman of the Illionis Inter-Racial Commission, from Nov. 12, 1943 to Knox College Professor of Sociology J. Howell Atwood. Bickham praises Atwood for his leadership in forming a group devoted to improving race relations in Galesburg, Illinois. Bickham also discusses the need for governments at all levels to be actively supporting efforts to improve race relations, and encloses a copy of a letter from the governor to the mayor of Galesburg asking that a committee be appointed to work with the State race relations committee. Bickham also expresses frustration that the mayor was unavailable to see him during a recent trip to Galesburg.
SubjectRace relations
Named PersonAtwood, Jesse Howell; Lindberg, David P.;
AuthorBickham, Martin Hayes
Time Period1940s
Date Created (original)November 12, 1943
IdentifierJ. Howell Atwood Manuscript Collection (box 9)
CollectionStruggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
Date Digital2012-07-31
TranscriptTelephone ANDover 1617 35?


19 South Lasalle Street
Room 1022
Chicago, Illinois

November 12, 1943.

Dr. Howell Atwood
Knox College
Galesburg, Illinois

My dear Dr. Atwood:

This is just to follow up my visit of Wednesday evening,
to Galesburg. The group that was assembled around the inter-racial
matters was very intent upon their duties as Christians and citizens,
and it was a real encouragement to me to find such a group. I be-
lieve it was a tribute to your find leadership.

Dr. Johnson has no doubt apprized your of the findings of the
group that evening, and you will doubtless move upon the further de-
velopment of your committee responsibilities.

In my effort to see the mayor, I found the city hall closed
on Armistice Day, and the Mayor not to be found, in the limited time
is as just as well. I am attaching herewith, as was suggested that
evening, a copy of the governor's letter to Mayor Lindberg, for your

It is becoming increasingly clear to us in the state Commis-
sion that there is a functional responsibility of governmental agen-
cies, from the federal government on down through states and counties
to municipalities, in this whole problem of the relations between the
various races in our American communities. As we see it, these
governmental units are responsible for the enforcement of the laws
that are on the statute books, and the maintenance of law and order
around such incidents as have arisen within the last ten days in the
Camp Ellis area. That incident involves the Fulton County authori-
ties, and certain reactions around it may appear in the nearby cities
of Macomb, Galesburg and Peoria.

To think further that the creation of such municipal groups
who will think through these problems and define the responsibilities
and duties of various officials, does not take the place of such
citizen's groups as you have now actively operating in Galesburg.
Such groups will be needed to create public opinion and to bring influ-
ance to bear upon public officials, quickly and rapidly, through their
liaison work with the municipal inter-racial commissions.


Dr. Howell Atwood
November 12, 1943
Page 2

It will interest you to know that already several cities in
Illinois have responded to the Governor's letter, and we are creating
their municipal commissions, and we will be working with them and
encouraging them in any way that we can, from the standpoint of the
state Inter-Racial Commission.

In talking with the leaders at Ipava, Fulton County, just
adjacent to Camp Ellis, on Wednesday, they asked me to return to that
section and address a mass meeting of their citizens in the local
church, on the night of Sunday, December 12. This means I will be
in the area and, if development have matured in your community by
that time and I could be of any service, I would be glad to be advised
and take under consideration in what ways I might be able to help.

A group somewhat similar to yours in Galesburg is now being
created in Peoria, through contacts that I made yesterday, and I
think some of the people of Macomb are thinking in the same direction,
and a development there may come later.

In the area around Danville, on the other side of the state,
we are now planning an area conference for sometime in the near
future, in cooperation with the local municipal commission, and it
might be that the groups in Macomb, Galesburg and Peoria would like
to arrange for something similar in that area, in the months that
lie ahead. If so, we should be glad to cooperate with you from the
standpoint of the state Commission.

With every good wish to you and the fine work you are doing
as a citizen and leader in the Galesburg community, I am

Very sincerely yours,

Martin Hayes Bickham
Dr. Martin Hayes Bickham

p. 3
Negro 38
Race Commission

November 9, 1943

Honorable David P. Lindberg
Galesburg, Illinois

My dear Mayor Lindberg:

You are undoubtedly aware, as I have been
for many months, that there has been an increase in
racial tension throughout the nation. In order to
prevent the outbreak of disturbances in Illinois com-
parable to those which have occurred in Detroit,
Beaumont, Mobile, New York, and elsewhere, and in or-
der to assist in promoting more amicable relations
between white and colored groups in this State, I ap-
pointed an Interracial Commission to work on these
problems and to develop programs which might be of
benefit in reducing racial discord and fostering racial

On September 14, 1943, the Commission, through
its Chairman, Doctor Martin H. Bickham, suggested that I
request the mayors of various cities in Illinois to con-
sider the creation of municipal interracial committees.
I am convinced that the establishment of such committees
would be extremely valuable since it would integrate in-
to this work the governmental units which are most closely
involved with the race problem. I suggest, therefore,
that you appoint such a committee to work with the State
Commission in a mutual attempt to solve these troublesome,
but important, questions.

If you concur in my suggestion, I will appreciate
your sending me the names and addresses of those you ap-
point on this committee.

Sincerely yours,


Physical Description3 typed 8.5 x 11 in. pages
FilenameBickham Letter 12 Nov 1943.pdf
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