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The following program is made possible through a grant from nation's business. This is business roundtable a program of current comment from leading members of America's business community. Today. John Connor president of Michigan State University and chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. We'll explore the topic. Civil rights in 1968 with series host Alfred L. C. Lee Dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration. Michigan State University our permanent domestic problem today and for the immediate future are minority groups primarily the American Negro is our topic and this session of the Business Roundtable. It is a complex problem with a sad past a past that must be surmounted if our society
is to remain morally ethically and economically viable. I am most pleased to have as my gas man most qualified to discuss where we have been where we are and what we must do for the future. In the civil rights field the chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. In fact the only Chairman the commission has had since its formation in 1957. He was originally appointed by President Eisenhower re appointed by President Kennedy and re appointed again by President Johnson. Dr. Hanna. What brought about the formation of the Civil Rights Commission and what little is the background of the concept and the ideas of the commission. And of course civil rights problem has been with us for a long time in this country. And there was a good deal of commotion and indecision 12
or 15 years ago. As to whether or not the claims that were made by the so-called civil rights proponents were in fact true. It was alleged by some that Negroes were being denied the right to vote and have their votes counted because they were Negroes. Others said it wasn't true. It was alleges that the separate but equal schools for Negroes in the South were separate but were not in fact equal. Many people in the south argued about that. Indicated that these were the Yankees from that Arthur too didn't appreciate how good do school work. It was alleged that qualified negroes are well-educated had difficulty finding jobs that used their full potential. And others indicated that was not true. It was alleged. That negroes and some members of other minority groups were denied access to public facilities. And some people said that that was very much over exaggerated. It was alleges that
Negroes and members of other minority groups were not able to acquire good houses in good communities if they wanted to. And others contended that this was an exaggeration. It was contended that we had an equal administration of justice in this country one kind of white man and another for Negroes or socially disadvantaged people. Well there had been programs before the Congress. Over and over again since the civil war there had been no civil rights legislation for many decades. And after a prolonged filibuster in the Eisenhower administration the Congress finally agreed to that there should be appointed a commission on civil rights. And this commission had only one responsibility and that is to find out what the facts were whether or not it was true. And that there was an equal protection of the law in these areas that I've been talking about it was others primarily a fact finding group.
That's right and recommending group and we were required to report to the president into the Congress from time to time as to what we found and to make recommendations for the solution of problems we found to exist. Well that's basically I think I should say one more thing about it the commission was to be made up of six members not more than three of one political party. And they had the power to subpoena. And of course is a very important part and of course many people questioned whether the body of this guy and with only the right to find the facts not to do anything about solutions. Or we could be very effective. Was the concept that your recommendations possibly might be enacted by Congress or acted upon by some other group administrative group. Well it was expected of course that would make recommendations to the president the Congress at the same time. But the facts were and the legislation seemed to be needed we'd recommend them. And I say in the beginning it was a very interesting body the president. I thought that it was important that at least half of the members the commission be Southerners in fact.
And of course they had the basic attitude ins or civil rights problem that most people south had at that time. But now after 10 years of course there's no longer any question about the fact our commission has made a series of reports at least one each year. And has recommended a great variety of actions recommended many legislative enactment and most of them have been enacted. I made recommendations to the executive branch of the government the president and other branches of government and many of these that have been put into effect. In fact it's doubtful if any commission ever has lived long enough to see so many of its recommendations and act into law. Well you asked for the background that we had a background in the law. What did you really find when you started your investigations. Well I carry these allegations that you mention a very long story short programs offer runs with very hurriedly. First of all there was no question at all about that
Negroes were denied the right to vote to register to vote and their votes counted. Commission point into the southern states have a series of hearings made some recommendations and of course this was pretty well taken care of now. Pretty generally all over the country Negroes have no problem in registering and voting if they want to. The next area we went into was the area schools and there was any question at all that the separate but equal schools were separate but they certainly weren't equal. Teachers or teachers weren't equal facilities were equal and the whole philosophy and attitude of the schools and the GRO schools was not equal of a whole series of recommendations and possibly would come back to them later. There was no question of course the negroes were denied the right to. The use of public facilities they were segregated in school buses and trains and stations and airports and so on. And this is pretty well been taken care of. There's not a question but it was true that Negroes had difficultly and getting employment
and it was certainly true that in North and South and more problems in the north than in the south in the housing area. The negroes are pretty generally forced to use second or third or fourth hand housing the only housing was available to those in the ghettos of the old cities or the old ghettos the cities and of course many of these things have been corrected years in other words what do you consider some of the most significant legislation that's going about as a result of the recommendations of the commission. Well of course if we have time to grow the new detail or the first significant Wong the recommendations that I had to do with with registration and voting. But if we're going to pick up these one time we don't have time to go in and I don't know just pick up what you think are some of the most I would say that the most significant was the enactment by the Congress of a standard of procedure that made it perfectly clear to all Americans that in this
country the basic civil rights were not different for one color than for another. The basic tenet of this country is that all people are born equal and entitled equal opportunity was meant by the government it was going to be enforced. But if you pick out of a single significant item I think the most significant one and it really didn't require reading lation was a recommendation by the Civil Rights Commission a good many years ago that since the Supreme Court and the Congress had acted and it was the law in this country that there was to be no segregation based on race creed or color. Then it was not unreasonable all to expect the federal government to see to it that the programs that it financed in for in part were carried on without any discrimination. When this recommendation first made by by the Commission
it was thought to be very radical. The New York Times was very critical of the commission editorially president said he didn't want this kind of authorization but he got it. And of course it's probably been more effective than anything else. And bring out changes in attitude and changes in practice. Now since we've had this body of legislation much of which has come about due to the recommendations of the commission. Where do you think we are today. We've got these laws on the books. I take it from what you said you think there are pretty good laws. What's happened. Where are we today. Well we have legislation federal legislation that in some states like in Michigan we have state legislation we have here in the state of Michigan a constitutional a civil rights commission that has the power to do something about securing equal treatment for people. There are many cities of course that have local ordinances on hope and housing in the right.
But I would think that I'd have to say that while these long rows of added to the desire are not fully enforced it's perfectly clear in nineteen 67 and 68 as it was in 57 and 58 that the solution for the problems of civil rights are where the problems exist. And legislation was necessary you know we have to have some more legislation as we go on through the years. But more important than legislation there has to be a shifting of the responsibility from the federal government in the state government to the local communities where the problems exist. Now they are happening in the in the great Negro concentrations in the great cities of the big cities north and south. The UN happiness is are not with presidents Congresses and governors and legislators. They don't happen and are with local governments with local police forces with local landlords
with local banks and lending agencies with local employers with local schools. And there there must be a recognition on the part of all the people of this country. And since this program is particularly related to business particularly on the business people of this country because pretty generally they are the economic the economic leaders. That we're not going to solve the civil rights problem and I don't like that word salad. What do you mean by civil rights you want to define at a minute Dr. Hannah. Well of course civil rights are those rights that. And you're equally to all people. But let's get away from the word civil rights you know something about civil rights it sounds like it's something it's based on last time on ARM that comes in and and forces people to do something. I think we would we would be much better off in this country if we talked about human rights. They got as they want to talk about human rights. Then we all recognize that we're talking about something for all people that all of us expect as human beings.
And why you ask the question what do they mean they mean different things to different people but simply they are those rights of the equality of opportunity a quality before the law equal opportunities for education and so on. That all white people expect is a matter of course and get. And to come back where we were I want to get up to do these definitions and you ask the question well where we are today. Where we are today where the federal government is taking a strong position we have the laws. We have court rulings but we we have not yet made them effective and we are going to make them effective. I'm sure people in Detroit and Chicago and in New Yark and in Philadelphia and in the big cities north and south in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Or Atlanta or Miami. Recognize that there is an obligation on the part of every single
community to concern themselves with assuring the members of the minority groups the same opportunities and rights that all other people expect. And this one is easier said it was very easy to make policy. But it's not so easy to implement it and the problem today is really a problem of implementation isn't it. That's right. We've noted for example that there's been well even in the last 10 years a very strong migration of negroes from the rural south to the urban cities in the north. And by and large these people have relatively low educational level they have no industrial scales. They had come basically off farming in agricultural areas. And this is turned some of the problems around I think from what many of us thought in the past that the problems now are concentrated primarily in our large urban centers where these people with lack of industrial skills needed in urban centers are
crowded into relatively small areas. What do you see as the basic problem of urban negro today. Well the basic problem of the disadvantaged Negro of course are not very different from the basic problem of the disadvantaged Puerto Rican or Mexican American are it just the poverty poorer white person. But the big problem is that of course in our society there is a decreasing place. Decreasing employment opportunities for men and women that have nothing to exchange for wages except physical strength strong arms and backs and legs and the willingness to do what they're told is there's very little demand for for this kind of labor. And it's a decreasing demand. Now you mention these migrations of negroes and others from there from the south and other rural areas into our big urban cities with little skill.
This means that we have a problem. Of making these people employable. Now it's one kind of a problem for young people and it's another kind of problem for mature people where it's not possible to send them back to school where we're going to have to as the federal and local state governments are doing something about it. Retraining them so that they will fit into our society and be able to do something it's dignified and worthwhile and for which they receive in exchange for a living wage. But the basic problem the fundamental problem is one of education I'm sure if you ask the average negro in the ghetto in the big city north or south. What his number one desire is good for not only more education but better education for these youngsters. You know it's interesting that you mention that. I was just looking over a survey I made in 13 large urban cities and made just a few months
ago. Negro opinions about what they think they need in these are urban negros and more education for my children. 97 percent or more desegregation in the sense of school housing and jobs. 93 percent a better job. Eighty seven percent some kind of special training. Seventy seven percent and then kind of a surprising one I think. In view of much it's written today better police protection 69 percent and more education for myself. I think this is a rather interesting line that. They like many groups before them the under-privileged are thinking about their children. That 97 percent is number one item. More education for my children and the sixth in terms of their needs of more education for myself.
Then skipping down to the last one which I thought was rather interesting. The last one in order of importance is moving out of my neighborhood. Only 20 percent less Again I think I was against what many people have thought that one of the things that many of these people in the urban center strongly want is to get out of their neighborhood. Well they want to get out of the neighborhood in most cases it's because it's a very inferior neighborhood. These figures don't surprise me at all. Of course the difficulty with this education problem is. We're going to have to raise a whole new generation of people before we see the real effect of a fully adequate and equal educational opportunity for our young Negroes are members of any other civilian group. And when we are emphasizing this matter of education I want to come back to that in a minute. There is another basic problem that the country can't dodge and that is the
requirement that we provide an opportunity for the Negro man or woman adult man and woman that want to work. Now this notion that that most Negroes don't want to work and take the attitude that the government isn't living just isn't true they're just like white people. They what they are their basic precepts and principles are the same they would like to be dignified useful human beings of which they themselves can be proud. And they would like a job doing something that they think is worth doing that would make it possible for them to keep their families together and provide the same kind of opportunities and advantages that all other people in our society want to provide for their people. And so when we're talking about education both for young people and education and retraining and fitting people for jobs in the mature people let's remember that this is only part of it. That the government itself at all levels and of course they're not going to succeed without the
cooperation of industry because it's the jobs are in the cities and the jobs are largely with industrial corporations. And if we're going to solve this problem there has to be understanding on the part of employers all kinds of employers that somehow or other we're going to have to make it possible for all of the people inside it to make some kind of a contribution that's useful to the total society for which we're going to pay a living wage. Well let's turn then from to this subject. In other words you've described I think very adequately where we are today how we got there. Now where do we go from here. What we need to be doing that we're not doing. What elements in society can help bring about. What needs to be done because it seems to many of us that we this is the real American dilemma today that we have simply got to do something about these kinds and types of problems to be as I mentioned earlier are
viable in a sense of a moral and ethical in an economically viable kind of an economy and community. So what should we be doing. Well Dean see if 10 years as chairman of the Civil Rights Commission has taught me anything it is that first of all as you said in your opening statement this is the most important domestic problem that the United States of America faces in 67 68 in the years ahead. This international way of course the war in Vietnam gets a lot of headlines some day that war is going to be settled. And we can't wait to a settlement a Vietnamese war to do something about the civil rights or the human rights problem. And this is not one of the problems that is solved as already indicated by the politicians in Washington or in the state capitals or even by the mayors of our cities. They're helpless until a few more than half of all the people want to do something about it.
We're going to have to recognize that there's no basic difference between people based on skin color or religion or the spot on the world surface where their ancestors happened to come from. Somehow or other you have to develop some sort of philosophy about what this is all about if you're going to occupy the position that I have been occupying several years. And maybe this is a good place to tell you what I feel the problem is. First of all I think that this country only people in this country have got to be concerned in making certain that every young person of every color including the negroes in the Puerto Ricans and the Mexican-Americans in the ghetto the poorest ghettos of our big cities that they all have an opportunity for all of the education that they want and will make use
on and the right kind of education and a quality education and clear through the talk not only at the kindergarten through the eighth grade and through high school and the community college but through the university and for graduate work if they want it. If if the if the bright young negro can be a challenge to make of him sale of it but a teacher or a nuclear physicist or whatever you can think of in our society that he must have the opportunity to develop what God gave him between his ears. Once they have that opportunity then educated so that whatever potential they err can make the greatest contribution to our society. And of course there's another reason that aside from a social contribution it's important from the point of view what does the person himself is a pride in himself make it possible for him develop a life that's worth living to himself and or society in just right now the next step is ones that you created.
There must be an opportunity for employment that will make full use for that educated potential. And of course this one is pretty well taken care of too often for the wrong reasons as you well know. The young negro with the university degree has many more opportunities for employment now than the young white person of the same competence and same education. This is a fine thing because if for generations it wasn't true. But there must be an opportunity not only for the people with degrees but for the people with all other kinds of skills and that there are at the same wage that other people get from exam contributions designing. The next part of it is then these people must have an opportunity to enjoy the same rewards that all other people expect. If they want to live in a decent house in a decent community with decent schools there must be that opportunity. And there's until recently has not been generally true. I was going to take a long time to solve this housing problem
and the statistics you referred to a few minutes ago which indicated that only about 20 percent of the negroes thought that was a high priority. Well they're more realistic than some whites are. It's going to take a long time to change the housing pattern. But we change it a little at a time by making it possible for the Negro doctor lawyer whatnot to live in a decent when he wants to. And one of the things that many people in the north fail to appreciate that many of the southern cities have done much better in this regard than many of our northern cities. One of the cities that could well be proud of its record in this area is Atlanta. There are others but it's possible there are whole sections of Atlanta where advantage negroes live in finals with flying schools and find streets and with find records violent crime is concerned. All right. You know now we've got the housing and then money and the education I would get the housing the education the job right then I think in this is hard for the Negro to say but white people need to say it is important as
anything else for the Negro a member of a minority group is they right to be regarded as decent and not have to always convince people that he said my ancestors happened to be Scotch-Irish. All of my life I haven't been damned by every Scotch Irishman that was a scoundrel or a rapist arsonist a horse thief or whatnot. People just expected Well I probably was decent until I prove that I wasn't. A good many years ago I made a speech in New York or to any meeting of the neighbor if and after the meeting was over an old Jewish lady came up to me and said something that I have never forgotten. She said Dr. Hanna I liked what you said. That is what I always told my boys they had to be go to be recognized as silver and this is a situation the negro finds himself and he only says to prove that he's not a delinquent that he's that he is decent that he is a good neighbor that he's the kind of a person that I would be proud to know.
And somehow or other we got to put this in our society. And this isn't going to be done by a law. And then you mentioned something about you you were surprised because of the number of the Negro citizens that indicated that they want to better police protection. I don't think it's not only better police protection. One of the things that galls negroes and other disadvantaged people and disadvantaged whites too is that they they get a different kind of treatment by the police in too many places that I get or you get there. They're regarded as suspect just because of their color. And in too many places in the past they've been thrown into jail they've been searched and all this sort of thing. Well this is basically the problem. And again we were coming to the end about where we started that we were not going to solve the problem or it doesn't exist and we're going to solve it sooner and many people will dislike it if I say it but my guess is
we'll solve a civil rights problem in the Old South sooner than we will in the big northern cities. Dr. Hanna thank you very much for appearing on the Business Roundtable. I take it that you think that we need a cooperative program of local government business and others to solve this problem. Participating in today's Business Roundtable was John Hannah president of Michigan State University and chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Host for the program was Alfred L. C. Lee Dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Michigan State University. The topic for next week's Business Roundtable is the ethics of door to door selling guests on the program will be RICHARD DE VOS president of the. I'm way Corp and Alan Bachman vice president of the National Better Business Bureau.
This program was produced by the Graduate School of Business Administration and the Broadcasting Services of Michigan State University under a grant from the nation's business a publication of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. Business Roundtable is distributed through the facilities of national educational radio. This is an E.R. the national educational radio network.
Business roundtable
Episode Number
15 Of 26
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This prog.: Civil Rights in 1968. Guest: Dr. John A. Hannah, president of Michigan State U. and chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
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A program of current comment from leading members of America's business community.
Global Affairs
Public Affairs
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Host: Seelye, Alfred L.
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-41-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:26:00
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Chicago: “Business roundtable; 15 Of 26,” 1968-10-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 21, 2024,
MLA: “Business roundtable; 15 Of 26.” 1968-10-07. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Business roundtable; 15 Of 26. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from