Document 21A: Walter F. White to Emily W. Osgood, 25 October 1922, NAACP Papers, Part 7: The Anti-Lynching Campaign, 1912-1955, Series B: Anti-Lynching Legislative and Publicity Files, 1916-1955, Library of Congress (Microfilm, Reel 1, Frames 440-41).
The Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill received a favorable response from the Senate committee appointed to investigate the merits of the bill, but its continued approval was jeopardized by limited funds. Without sufficient funds the NAACP would be unable to sponsor the presence of advocates at Senate hearings for the bill. Opponents of the Dyer Bill had challenged its constitutionality on the grounds that its protections were applicable only to the lower South. The NAACP hoped to challenge this argument during hearings for the bill and fundraising was crucial for achieving this goal. The American Fund for Public Service had pledged a donation of five thousand dollars if the NAACP could raise a matching figure. Emily Osgood and Mary McMurtrie were approached by the NAACP to aid in this final fundraising effort. Both women had previously made significant financial contributions to the NAACP's anti-lynching fund (see also Document 21B).
October 25, 1922
Miss Emily W. Osgood
My dear Miss Osgood:
At the suggestion of Mr. Moorfield Storey I am writing you with reference to a plan which we hope will serve as a final shove to put the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill through the United States Senate.
Your already know that for eleven years the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been working in every possible way to arouse the conscience of America to the dangers of lynching. As a result of these efforts we secured the introduction in Congress of a bill which gives the Federal Government the authority to act when the State courts have shown conclusively that they either cannot or will set. It required heroulean efforts to secure the passage of that bill by the House, but due to the loyal persons like yourself we were able to achieve that result when, on January 26, the bill passed the House by a vote of 230-119.
The bill was then referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and on July 28 that Committee reported the bill favorably. We have secured definite promises that the measure will be the first order of business on the Senate calendar when it convenes in the extra session called by President Harding on November 20.
We feel that what we need to do now is to dramatize as highly as possible the whole question of lynching and put it so forceful before the American people that public opinion in favor of this bill may be so overwhelming that the Senate can do nothing but pass it. After much deliberation and consultation with publicity experts we have decided to insert in newspapers of wide circulation, published in strategic centers, a full page advertisement just prior to the reconvening of a full page advertisement just prior to the reconvening of Congress, in which we are to put in as startling a manner as possible the held truths about lynching, of which the American public is so woefully ignorant. For instance, we will point that, contrary to the usual belief that all lynchings are caused by rape, in less that 17 per cent, of all the nearly four thousand cases of lynching during the past thirty-two years has there even been a charge of rape; and again that eighty-three women, white and colored, have been lynched during the past thirty years.
We will also show that the charge that the Dyer Bill is unconstitutional is a false one, used in many cases by opponents of the bill as a basis for attack which will cover other and less worthy objections. We will point the proof of this fact that the bill has been declared constitutional by the attorney General of the United States, the Judiciary Committees of both Houses of Congress, by eminent jurists like Moorfield Storey and the former Assistant to the Attorney General, Wade H. Ellis; and further, the Senate has been urged to pass the bill by the American Bar Association, by nineteen Justices of Superior and Supreme Courts of various states, and by many other eminent jurists including two former United States attorneys general. The cost of this campaign in a carefully selected list of papers will be slightly more than $10,000. We are fortunate I that the American Fund for Public Service at its meeting on October 11 voted to donate for this purpose $5,000 provided the NAACP raises a like amount. Unfortunately the time is so short that we are unable to make and intensive campaign for small contributions to meet this offer. It is therefore, necessary that we call upon those of our friends who have loyally supported us in the past.
I must say that it is with great reluctance that I make this appeal to you because of your contribution made last spring through Mr. Storey. I do so, however, because of your deep interest and also because this offers an exceptional opportunity for a decisive thrust at a critical moment towards the abolition of the barbaric practice of lynching and the burning of human beings at the stake. In addition to the facts I stated above, we are making an appeal in these advertisements that every interested person wire his Senator urging passage of the Dyer Bill. We feel that this method will result in the sending of thousands of telegrams to Washington, which will mean the passage of the bill. We are asking five friends to contribute $1,000 each for this purpose. Will you be willing to be one of the five?
Very sincerely yours,