Document 24: Letter from Alice Paul to Heywood Broun, 26 August 1924, Mary Church Terrell Papers, Library of Congress (Microfilm, reel 5, #601).
Alice Paul continued her effort to counter recent negative newspaper publicity about the National Woman's Party, writing to Heywood Broun, noted journalist from the New York World. Broun was probably the author of the original article that stirred up the current controversy.
Paul took issue with virtually every factual statement in the original article and put quite a different spin on the events of that afternoon. She seems, though, more like a defense attorney here, than a person concerned about what actually happened. Clearly, the father of Inez Milholland had been upset, and the refusal to permit African Americans to participate fully in the memorial service was the root of his concern. Paul argued that no speakers were planned at the grave site. Yet, only whites had spoken at the memorial service at the local church, and this had not escaped notice. The controversy over what happened at the service and what was said subsequently is reminiscent of the controversy surrounding Alice Paul's March 1919 speech in South Carolina which was discussed by Walter White in document 1 above. Whatever the specific facts of the two incidents, both turned on the same issue, the policy of the National Woman's Party toward equal rights for African Americans and its impact on the party's organizing efforts in the South.
August 26, 1924
Mr. Heywood Broun
New York World
New York, N.Y.
Dear Mr. Broun:
I have read your statement that the Woman's Party "did not want a Negro to speak at the grave of Inez Milholland" and am writing to give you the facts.
The pilgrimage to the grave of Inez Milholland was organized by the Woman's Party. It consisted almost entirely of Woman's Party members who had worked with Inez in the suffrage fight, although we also invited her family and friends to accompany us. We arranged a very simple ceremony of music and singing, and, at the urgent request of a member of Inez's family we arranged to have no speakers at the grave.
Shortly before the service began, Mr. Milholland, the father of Inez, told us that he had invited Mr. Scott a distinguished Negro, to speak at the grave. We explained to Mr. Scott that there were to be no speeches at the grave and asked if he would place a wreath as the rest of us were doing, instead of making a speech. To this suggestion he immediately acceded.
After we had placed our wreaths and the choir was leading the procession down the hillside, Mr. Milholland called upon Mr. Scott and Mrs. Hunton, secretary of the Association for the Advancement of Negroes, to speak. The Woman's Party members listened with courtesy to these two speakers and at the conclusion expressed appreciation to them of what they had said. These two Negroes were the only speakers at the grave.
At this point I want to make clear that these two speakers did not intentionally break into our service. They came to the pilgrimage, we understand, under the impression that it had been organized by the Milholland family, that speeches were to be made at the grave dealing with various political, social and economic movements with which Inez had been connected and that they were to represent upon this occasion the movement for the advancement of Negroes. As soon as they learned that the memorial at the grave was a Woman's Party memorial, that it was to commemorate the service of Inez in the suffrage cause, and that there were to be no speakers, they fell in with these plans and would not have spoken had they not been publicly called upon to do so.
I would like, before concluding, to take up two statements which you make. You write: 'They did not want a Negro to speak at the grave of Inez Milholland, because, as Mrs. Greta Wold Boyer explained, 'We want to try and elect some congressmen in Southern States.'" This statement was not made by Mrs. Boyer and could not have been made because we are not trying to elect congressmen in any Southern State.
You attribute the following statement to me: "This was arranged as a demonstration of women and it was no place for colored people to speak." With regard to colored people as speakers, we arranged as I have already said, to have no speakers, and the question of color of speakers was never discussed by us.
The Woman's Party is made up of women of all races, creeds and nationalities who are united on the one program of working to raise the status of women. In our organization there is absolutely no discrimination with regard to race, creed or nationality. If we had planned to have speakers on this occasion, the question of their race would not have been considered in selecting them.
We are sorry that this controversy has arisen over our effort to honor one of our fellow-workers. I think that all the women of the Woman's Party who went upon this pilgrimage did so with the single desire of expressing their affection for Inez. They had no thought of political effect or expediency in what they were doing and greatly regret that the effort has been made to use this pilgrimage against the interest of the woman's cause to which Inez gave her life.
Alice Paul, Vice-President.