Digital History>eXplorations>Lynching>Anti-Lynching Legislation of the 1920s>Warren Harding to James Johnson

Warren Harding's Letter to James Weldon Johnson June 18, 1921

Source: Warren Harding Papers, Library of Congress

I have been much interested in what you have written me about the forthcoming Twelfth Annual Conference of the National Association for the advancement of colored people at Detroit. Of my Association I hardly need assure you, for your attention will have been called to various public expressions of my views. In my first message to the Congress, on April 12 th , of this year, I included the following paragraph:

Somewhat related to the foregoing human problems is the race question. Congress ought to wipe the stain of barbaric lynching from the banners of a free and orderly, representative democracy. We face the fact that many millions of people of African descent are numbered among our population, and that in a number of States they constitute a very large proportion of the total population. It is unnecessary to recount the difficulties incident to this condition, nor to emphasize the fact that it is a condition which can not be removed. There has been suggestion, however, that some of its difficulties might e enlightened by a humane and enlightened consideration of it, a study of its many aspects, and an effort to formulate if not a policy, at least a national attitude of mind calculated to bring about the most satisfactory possible adjustment of relations between the races, and each race to the national life. One proposal is the creation of a commission embracing representatives of both races, to study and report on the entire subject. The proposal has real merit. I am convinced that in mutual tolerance, understanding, charity, recognition of the independence of the races and the maintenance of the rights of citizenship lies the road to righteous adjustment.

At this time, I do not feel that I can add anything very significant to the foregoing. I wish your convention to be assured, however, that I design just as early as possible to proceed further along the line of the expression to the Congress. I feel strongly that there is opportunity for accomplishment of great and lasting good and that whatever measures will enlist the cooperation of intelligent and broad leaders of both races will serve the most useful purpose.

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