64 years ago this month, the great human rights crusader and widow of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the commencement speech at the Putney School. (Photo: Eleanor Roosevelt with Rosa Parks, subject of her speech.)
"In her speech, she asked graduates to reflect on the experiences they had at the Putney School. She said the modern world left little time for going through life without a purpose and she explained that the young people should use what they learned at the school to help shape their purpose in life. As a relentless supporter of human rights, Mrs. Roosevelt then pivoted to the challenge of racial integration in the United States. This was the time of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In Clinton, Tenn., 12 African American students had registered to attend the all-white Clinton High School in the fall. Racial tensions were high in many parts of the country and Mrs. Roosevelt brought up the “integration problem” in her speech. She pointed out to the graduation crowd that the world is “two thirds colored.” She said the world was watching how the United States proceeded with racial integration and would pass judgment on how well the country responded to the challenge."
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