Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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Annual report of the Galesburg Commission on Human Relations for 1955-56
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TitleAnnual report of the Galesburg Commission on Human Relations for 1955-56
DescriptionAnnual report of activities of the Galesburg Commission on Human Relations for the year 1955-1956. A separate document "Statement on race relations at Galesburg Senior High School" is included.
SubjectRace Relations
Race discrimination
Named PersonTarver, Rupert J.; Pittman, H. Riley; Dotson, N.P.; Dibden, Arthur J.; Schwarz, Ruth; Fisher, Rev. Ernest B.; Bengston, Felix;
AuthorDibden, Arthur J.; Goodwin, William L.;
Time Period1950s
Date Created (original)June 15, 1956
IdentifierJ. Howell Atwood Manuscript Collection (box 9)
CollectionStruggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
Date Digital2012-06-21

On the Nature of This Report

On April 16, 1956, the city council of Galesburg, Illinois,
voted approval of "The Aims and Organization of the Galesburg
Commission on Human Relations", a recently revised document which
serves as the constitution or the Commission. Article three of
Section V of that constitution asserts that a written report on
the findings and activities of the Commission will be given each
year to the mayor and to the city council.

This summary, which has been prepared by officers of the
Commission and by chairmen of standing committees, is presented
in order to fulfill that civic obligation.

As general editor of this Report and as the Commission Chair-
man for 1955-56, I Wish to preface the Report not only by the
above introduction but also by some comments on its limitations.
The purpose of this Report is to summarize information and concerns
for those who are officially connected With the Commission. We
believe that public accountability is one of the marks of respons-
ible direction of civic affairs in a democratic society. Thus
We willingly offer this Report. We also believe that respect for
indiVidual privacy is likewise a mark of responsible human relations
in a democratic society. Thus we do not presume to "tell everything"
about human relations in Galesburg.

The reasons are simple. For one thing, those who have con-
tributed to the writing of this Report do not know everything.
For another thing, there is a distinction between the official
Commission and its individual members--even though the Commission
is necessarily composed of individual members. What some persons
have said or done to us as individuals, unless acted upon formally
and publicly by the Commission, should receive something of that
privacy which the doctor accords to his patients, the teacher to
personal problems of students, the minister to confessions of his
members, the newspaperman to sources Who speak "off the record".
In other words, though we necessarily deal With people in any
encounter with group tensions in our city, some of whom may
develop quite strong feelings either for or against the Commission,
we prefer to avoid gossip about personalities in this Report.
The tone of this Report is intentionally impersonal. And the third
reason we do not "tell everything" is that those new insights that
we or others have gained into the nature of human brotherhood,
those troubled feelings of Galesburg citizens who want to live by
the good principles of their religious and democratic heritages
but who are reluctant to change old habits and prejudices, those
special tensions and anxieties felt by members of minority groups,
those new problems which emerge in Galesburg as local expressions
of national issues, all require better artists than we to do
justice to the telling.

One final remark in these initial comments. Those who wish
to understand the Commission's ^concerns^ should consult the aims summarized
in Section V of "The Aims and Organization of the Galesburg
Commission on Human Relations". Those who appraise the Commission's

page 2

activities should remember that the Commission operates as a
civic body given sanction by the mayor and the city council
but that it has no special legal or police powers. Its basic
concern is the preservation and promotion of sound human relations
among various groups of the community. But we would remind our-
selves as well as others that our main commitment is to "human"
relations rather than solely to "race" relations and that a major
duty of Commission members, however they may speak within the
Commission for whatever groups they represent, is to act as
responsible citizens and for the general welfare.

And now to reports on events and problems.

Regular Meetings

The secretary, Mr. Rupert J. Tarver, reports that there was
a total of 9 meetings, with an average attendance of 8 1/3 members.
This total does not include various discussion or committee meetings.
Among special events at our regular monthly meetings was the visit
by Dr. H. Riley Pittman, executive director of the Illinois Com-
mission on Human Relations, and the discussion of housing problems
with Mr. N. P. Dotson, Racial Relations Officer of the Federal
Housing Administration.

An important activity of the years requiring attention at
several meetings, was the revision of the old constitution. This
document, together with a new roster of members, Was approved
by the city council of Galesburg on April 16, 1956.

The officers for next year elected at the May meeting, are:
Arthur J. Dibden, chairman; Rupert J. Tarver, assistant chairman;
Ruth Schwarz, secretary-treasurer.

Public Events

During Brotherhood Week in February, a committee of the
Commission headed by the Rev. Ernest B. Fisher prepared a cultural
exhibit on Negro life, as a contribution to the brotherhood program
of music presented under the auspices of the Galesburg Council of

Members of the Commission have spoken to local clubs on the
themes of brotherhood and race relations.


There was no money in the treasury at the beginning of our
year, and there was none at the end. This fact hampers the
communication services of the Commission and makes difficult our
planning of public events or educational projects. Our request
for an appropriation of seventy dollars from the city council
was denied this spring.

From the Committee on Education and Promotion

Mr. Felix Bengston, chairman of this recently formed committee,
reports that among their long-range plans are (1) aiding promotion
of a community counseling center and (2) investigating the possible
re-organization of a Council of Social Agencies. It seems obvious

page 3

that better coordination of the resources already present in
Galesburg could strengthen the community's contributions to
improved human relations. The committee 1s also studying methods
of increasing mutual understanding among groups.

Problems of Discrimination

The newly formed Investigative Committee, of which Mr. Rupert
J. Tarver is chairman, has been too recently organized to have
considered officially any cases of discrimination during the past

Some general comments shall introduce this section. As one
might expect, a major focus of the Commission is given to social,
economlc, and legal problems arising in the relations of majority
and minority groups in the city. Now some of the apparent dis-
criminatory actions imposed on members of minority groups can be
somewhat discounted, by them and by others, as the consequences
of momentary irritation or unavoidable decision. In cases of the
rejection of an applicant for working, housing, or other opportun-
ities there is, after all, a distinction to be made between (a)
arbitrary and stereotyped discrimination and (b) careful decisions
about the candidate's capacities and reliability. But it is often
difficult, both for the candidate and for an outside observer, to
know hether the decision Was honest or biased.
When arbitrary discrimination does occur, the human relations
problem that develops is not only the loss of a job or restriction
to a certain housing area but also the onslaught of sensitive and
often confused feelings. Specific slights and reJections may seem
small, and in the long run may be unimportant; but their accumulated
psychological effects are often deep and intense.

And now to recent history. Earlier in the year three cases
were brought to the attention of members of the Commission. (1) It
was reported that a business establishment had shown discrimination
to Negroes. As is usual in instances where feelings are aroused
and opinions vary and several people are involved, there was some
difficulty in getting a clear picture of public facts [illegible] a clear
meeting of minds. Officers of the Commission talked with the
manager and the State's Attorney. No further action was taken. No
further incidents have been formally reported. (2) Word came to
members of the Commission that some couples of what is called a
"mixed" marriage were refused service in a local restaurant. They
were entertainers working momentarily in Galesburg; and as they
had to proceed to another Job they did not stay to press charges.
(3) A brief flare-up between white and Negro boys occurred at the
local high sohool in February, 1956. Members of the Commission
participated in discussion of its causes and solutions. A special
report on that situation written by a school official who has
long been a member of the Commission is appended to this Report.
(See page 6).


The past year in Galesburg has exhibited both satisfactions and
tensions in group relatlons. Our civic record on the whole seems to
be better than that of several other IllinoiS communities. There is,

page 4

of course, room for improvement. Advancement requires common
goals and adequate methods. One problem is that persons of good
will in both the majority and the minority groups do not know how
to do the good things they would like to do--how to share experiences,
how to find the right persons to settle particular difficulties
like finding a job or getting more education, how to deal with raw
emotions. Another problem is that members of various groups both
speak, and yet do not speak, the same language. When one man's meat
perhaps unintentionally becomes another man's poison, communication
is often blocked.

We hope that city leaders and officials will foster more
equality of opportunity in job openings, and will support wider
and freer recreational facilities, and Wi11 wisely enforce our
laws. But all citizens have a share in building or breaking good
human relations.

There would be improvement in human relations if all of us
more clearly understood ourselves and our neighbors. The basic
importance of sound human relations for any society could be con-
firmed by any historian or sociologist or psychologist, but it
could also be illustrated in our own community by any intelligent
person dealing with families or students of factory workers or
business men or politlcians--or even bishops!

If individuals become and stay angry at each other, if minority
groups who share the hopes of all Americans feel they are unjustly
treated, if junior Hitlers act arrogantly and stupidly in home or
school or church or store or government, there will develop resent-
ment and perhaps violence. But if we really try to understand our-
selves and each other and if we put more honesty and fair play and
intelligence into our daily actions, then we can discover how greater
justice for one can promote greater peace for all. Group tensions
based on obvious discrimination could decrease. Democracy would
again prove its vigor. Such are our hopes.

Members of the Commission will continue ^to try^ to improve their
understanding of the possibilities and the problems of sound human
relations and, when the need arises to act Wisely within the scope
of their duties. Statement of such concerns is relatively easy; the
perplexing problem is their proper application.

July 10, 1956. Arthur J. Dibden, [signature] Chairman
for 1955-56 of the Galesburg Com-
mission on Human Relations.

page 5


Prepared for the Galesburg Commission on
Human Relations, June, 1956.

Galesburg Senior High School, along with other Galesburg Schools,
has followed a policy of complete integration of white and Negro
students for many years.

The only exception to complete integration of which the writer
is aware was the practice of scheduling Negro students for separate
swimming classes prior to 1946. Just how long this had been done, or
by whom it was initiated, and for what reason is not known. In the
spring of 1946 the administrative staff at the high school decided
to end the practice in the fall term commencing in September, 1946.
It seemed to the high school staff to be a needless blemish on a
situation which was otherwise quite exemplary. We knew the students
themselves were ready to accept mixed swimming, and such proved to
be the case. We have never had, at any time, any adverse reaction
to our policy of complete integration of class and extra-class

In a school as large as ours there are almost certain to be some
students who harbor some prejudices based on personal experiences,
misinformation, or absorption of home or family bias. However, to
judge from day to day observation of our students in the school
situation, persistent prejudice is practically non-existant.

There are, nonetheless, some newly-created tensions in the nation
which have been reflected in the school. The recent decision of the
United States Supreme Court regarding segregation in southern schools
and colleges and the drive to end "Jim Crow" in the south have had
overtones in northern cities and institutions. The militant stand of
the NAACP, the vigorous editorial policy of Negro publications, and
the heavy migration of southern Negroes into northern communities
are all factors tending, perhaps unintentionally, to disrupt the
earlier equanamity and steadily improving race relations in some

The flurry in our school last winter stemmed directly from these
factors. They must all be taken into account in seeking to understand
the trend of the past two years for Negro students to practice a
sort of voluntary segregation in and around our buildings. Attempts
have been made to combat this tendency with little success. As a
consequence of this new gregariousness, the Negro students have
become conspicuous beyond their numerical ratio. And the presence of
a few poor school citizens in a group tends to label all of them
similarly. The aggressiveness, disrespect for authority, and uncouth
behavior of a few is thereby charged to the group generally.

Into the midst of this new background there came last winter
some vicious rumors of dating, fraternization, and worse between the
sexes of the races. Although there were some instances of mized
dancing and a few social indiscretions, if they were even that, our
investigations at that time revealed no basis in actual fact for the
rumors. They did damage, however, in that all the dormant prejudices

page 6

of the community were aroused and some youths were infected to some
extent. The particular incident which triggered the commotion last
February 15 was the action taken by a group or four or five Negro
boys when they undertook to "gang up" on a white boy who allegedly
had insulted one of their number by using an expression to which
they took exception. The white gang which sought retaliation was as
much incensed by the "dirty" tactics of disproportionate numbers
as they were by any racial antipathies. However, it cannot be denied
that the climate of incensed, whipped-up, mis-guided public opinion
was also a motivating factor.

Prompt action by school authorities ^and^ effective help from the
Galesburg Commission on Human Relations, the Galesburg ministerial
association, and the Daily Register-Mail, succeeded in turning aside
the gravity of the situation.

Today, some three to four months later, the school situation
in regard to race relations has practicalyl returned to normal. But
some of the tensions created by events outside the school tend to
persist. The colored students generally tend to be still somewhat
on the defensive, much concerned over status in society, quick to
take offense, and sensitive to imagined slights. Their attitudes
are understandible. But at the same time they create many of their
own problems by clannishness, disrespect for established rules and
authority, and misbehavior in groups, all of which brings much
unfavorable attention upon them.

The school cannot completely control those great social and
racial tensions which impinge upon it from the outside. If conflict
attends attempted integration all along the line throughout the
nation, we cannot hope to escape from it entirely within our school
walls. However, we can take hope from our long tradition of success-
ful integration here and from the growing awareness of student leaders
of both races of the necessity to work out better racial relations
within the school than it is observed outside, and we can hope that
our efforts will carry over in the larger communities when this
generation graduates to adult citizenship.

Efforts to assimilate, accept, and integrate all diverse groups
into the school's curricular and extra-curricular program are being
re-doubled. Community agencies are assisting us in seeking to relieve
our colored and other less favored students of the inferiority feel-
ings and insecurities out of which misbehavior and unseemly conduct
often arises. Out Student Council spent much time this spring in
preliminary work upon a "Student Code" which they hope to effect next
school year. One of the topics most recurrent in their converstaions
was that of improving racial and other inter-group relations. Their
ideas upon the subject are sound and refreshingly mature. Those of us
who teach in, work in, and attend Galesburg Senior High School face
the school year of 1956-1957 with confidence and conviction that it
will see improvement in this important area of human relations.

William L. Goodwin
June 15, 1956.
Physical Description6 typed sheets (carbon) 8.5 x 11 in.
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