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African Americans in the CCC
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Robert Fechner to Robert J. Buckley, 4 June 1936


June 4, 1936

Honorable Robert J. Bulkley
Senate Office Building
Washington, D. C.

Honorable Vic Donahey
Senate Office Building
Washington, D. C.

My dear Senators:

I have letters from each of you under date of June 1, to which were attached identical letters addressed to you by Mr. Nimrod B. Allen, Secretary of the Columbus Urban League, Columbus, Ohio. I have carefully read this letter and I regret that apparently Mr. Allen is badly misinformed about our general policy of enrollments in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and particularly about the situation in Ohio.

You of course know that the original legislation setting up Emergency Conservation Work specifically provided that there should be no discrimination in enrollments because of race or color. We have faithfully observed both the spirit and letter of the law. The whole Civilian Conservation Corps organization was set up on a population percentage basis. That applied also to the proportionate enrollment of Whites and Negroes. From the vary start of this work we enrolled the full percentage of Negroes that the race had to the total population. At the present time this percentage of Negro enrollees is actually higher than the percents of the race to our total population.

I want to state definitely that the President has not prescribed any regulations relative to where enrollees in Civilian Conservation Corps companies should be sent. That is purely an administrative responsibility of this office. It is true that a number of White enrollees from Ohio have been sent into other States, and during the first year of this work this also applied to Negro enrollees.

Whether we like it or not, we cannot close our eyes to the feet that there are communities and States that do not want and will not accept a Negro Civilian Conservation Corps company. This is particularly true in localities that have a negligible Negro population. There were so many vigorous complaints and protests that I felt it was necessary to direct Corps Area Commanders to find a location within their State of origin for all Negro Civilian Conservation Corps companies. This applies to the entire company. Even this did not solve the situation because there was great difficulty in finding a community that was willing to accept a Negro company of its own citizens. In your own State we had a good example. In the Fourth Period of Emergency Conservation Work, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp had been assigned to a work project near one of your smaller cities. We went ahead and built and equipped the camp. When a company was selected to occupy the camp it was found that the only company available was one composed of Ohio Negro enrollees. When the citizens of the community learned that a Negro company was to be sent to the camp, they absolutely refused to permit the company to occupy the camp and we were forced to completely abandon the project. I therefore adopted the policy of having our representatives consult with the Governor of the State before attempting to assign a Negro Company to any locality.

We do not attempt to compel any community to accept a Negro company in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp against its will, but occasionally their refusal has meant that the Camp would not be established.

You know, of course, that beginning last October we started a reduction in the number of Civilian Conservation Corps camps and consequently in the number of Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees. This reduction has been effected by not filling vacancies. No enrollee, either white or colored, has been refused the privilege of continuing his enrollment it he conducted himself in accordance with established regulations. This policy meant that at each enrollment period we simply filled such vacancies as were necessary to maintain the companies at their authorized strength. This meant that selecting agencies only certified a definite number of both white and colored applicants for enrollment. There has been no discrimination against Negro enrollees but to the contrary, as stated above, the total percentage of Negro enrollees at the present time is larger than at any time singe this work started.

I return the letters.

Sincerely yours,

(Sgd) Robert Fechner



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