“… YOU HAVE BEEN TIRELESS IN YOUR DEFENSE OF THE NEGRO TRENCHES, LEADING THE ATTACK…INTO THE ARENA OF WHITE PREJUDICE, STUPIDITY AND OBSTINACY….”
CARL VAN VECHTEN. American photographer. Typewritten Letter Signed, one page, quarto, September 29, 1943. With a postscript in
Van Vechten’s hand. To Walter [White], an executive with the NAACP.
“Since we must have met first in 1924, it gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure to be able to boast that I have known you intimately for almost the entire length of your tenure of office with the NAACP. During that period you and I have lived through the most important epoch of Negro advancement in America, a period during which the Negro has begun to assert himself in every artistic, scientific, technical, commercial, judicial, political, and military field of activity. I happen to KNOW, Walter, that there is not a single one of these evidences of Negro progress in which you have not been interested, indeed, you have been personally a factor in the achievement of many of them.
“First, in your capacity as Assistant Secretary of the NAACP, under James Weldon Johnson, and for the past fourteen years as secretary, you have been tireless in your defense of the Negro trenches, leading the attack out of these into the arena of white prejudice, stupidity and obstinacy whenever circumstances demanded it. I have remarked before on the extraordinary contrast between your private and public behavior and it is doubtless your ability to laugh heartily and to relax in private that has given you the resilience to dig more deeply into your serious job whenever occasion required.
“It is a pleasure to remember that I knew you many years before Time put you on its cover; many years, indeed, before Time was published at all. It is certainly true that we would be friends if what is genially known as the ‘Negro Problem’ existed only as a souvenir of the bad, old days!” In his own hand, Van Vechten continues, “Would I be considered greedy if I requested you to promise that this book, of which this page forms a part, would eventually be turned over to the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters at Yale University?”