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Mr. MITCHELL. I think you have to face the fact, Mr. Chairman, that one reason why the Democrats are in control of Congress is because
you have those 94 votes, or whatever it is, from these areas of the country where they do not agree with civil rights.
I think it is a sad thing that most of the northern Democrats quite properly run on a civil rights program, but when they get down to Congress they find that they are frustrated by some of the members of their own party, and I think they will always be frustrated by members of their own party until they face up to these issues and make it clear that after all, they are just as interested in having something that satisfies their constitutents as the other fellows are in pushing segregation.
Mr. BAILEY. Mr. Brademas, did you have some additional questions? Mr. BRADEMAS. Yes, Mr. Chairman, I have just one quick question:
The language of your proposed testimony says that such funds will be allocated only to schools that are operating in conformity with the decisions of the Supreme Court on school desegregation.
What do you mean by in "conformity with”!
You will recall that the 1954 decision says that schools must be desegregated with all deliberate speed. Do you mean that a school must actually be desegregated completely in order to receive funds, or do you mean that a school must be, under the language of the Supreme Court decision, “In the process of desegregation.”
Mr. MITCHELL. It is our feeling that the Court language very clearly indicated that if there was a workable plan that was being put into effect, of course, this represented compliance.
I might say that that has been the position of our organization. All we have asked is that people have an honest intention to try to obey the law.
Mr. BRADEMAS. Thank you.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Mitchell, I am tempted, myself, to join in the discussion of who killed Cock Robin so far as the school construction bill is concerned, but I do not think it is particularly relevant to our problem here this morning.
Nor do I plan to discuss at length the advisability of including such a provision as you recommend in any bill that this committee may report out.
It has come before us before and it is not an easy problem to grapple with because a number of us are sympathetic to the general objective which this amendment is aimed at though we may disagree as to its advisability.
What I would like to ask you is the fairness of your illustration with respect to the executive branch. In both cases, at Redstone and at Little Rock, as I understand it, the schools that were built were not on Government property. Did you not say, in answer to a question of our chairman, that the Little Rock school is off Government property?
Mr. MITCHELL. That is correct.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. That is the reason why segregation is permitted even though Federal funds were used to build it.
Mr. MITCHELL. That is not quite the way it is. I think you can verify this by talking with the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. It was reasonably certain when this school was built that it was going to be opened to all children without regard to race, but there developed the Faubus plan of resistance in Arkansas and apparently the local authorities backed down even though it was a school for children of military personnel.
The executive branch then attempted to work out a solution. As I understand it, the local authorities planned to offer the resale of that school to the Federal Government for about a million dollars. It cost about $800,000 to build.
I understand they were going to sell it back at what would be a $200,000 profit and that would be the price of desegregation.
So that although it is off the base it was built solely for the children on the base.
As I say, originally it was to operate under a program of all children being admitted.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Again, what you are saying is an indication that the executive branch at least was trying to see to it that the school was not operated on a segregated basis. It made an effort. I do not know whether under provisions of law it could buy it directly from the school district, but at least as I say, it was considered a problem.
It certainly was not their intention or desire to have it operate on a segregated basis.
Mr. MITCHELL. That is why I used the word "tolerate," because they were letting it go until we brought it to their attention. I am sure they knew about it, but until we brought it to the attention of the people in Washington they did nothing about it.
When we brought it to their attention they did make some effort. Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I wonder if there is some provision of law by which they could acquire some property which is not Government property and get it back. It never had functioned as a military school and it would surprise me that they would have any authority.
Mr. MITCHELL. I don't know whether they would, but I would say the question never would have arisen in the first place if we had had the safeguards in the law.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Lacking those safeguards is it fair to blame the executive branch for doing what it has done in these two cases! What they could have done is an indication of the problem.
You say both in Little Rock and at Redstone they might have built a school on Government property and thus avoided the segregation which is taking place off Government property.
Mr. MITCHELL. May I say, Mr. Frelinghuysen, in the Little Rock situation, I used the word "tolerate." In the case of Redstone I used the words "promoting it,” because there the school has not been built yet.
But the Government agreed to a transfer of land that it owns to this school community of Huntsville for the specific purpose of building a school which it knew would be segregated.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. There is nothing wrong in that, is there? Are you arguing with the fact of the statement from the Defense Department that you quoted, that the school must be operated “in accordance with local laws and standards unless the local agency is unable to provide the education”? Is that the fact?
Mr. MITCHELL. It is obvious that the agency could not provide it because they had to build a new school.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. From what you say it does not mean they could not have built the new school unless they had gotten the 21 acres from the Government.
Mr. MITCHELL. That is what they say, the local community takes the position that it needed the land in order to build the school.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. It does not mean that they could not have provided the facility on land that it did own or that was not owned by the Government?
Mr. MITCHELL. That may be, but in the record and I have the correspondence here with me
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I am wondering whether it would not be unjustifiable for the Government in its effort to avoid segregated schools to initiate a policy of empire building, building a school on its own property, in order to avoid segregation which does take place outside of its own property.
Mr. MITCHELL. I might say that is the only reason why the present schools which operated on a desegregated basis on military posts were built. It was because they were having all sorts of problems and those schools were built to take care of it.
So you see, actually, what the Redstone situation represents, is the executive branch receding from a previous position which said, "We will build schools on military posts on a nonsegregated basis.”
Now they are saying, "We not only won't build them on the posts, but we will make land available from land that we have to build segregated schools.”
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. It is your feeling, in other words, as you expressed it yourself, that they are deliberately trying to encourage the local communities to continue this practice of segregation in spite of the Supreme Court decisions?
Mr. MITCHELL. I haven't the slightest doubt about that. I don't make that charge against the White House. I don't make it against the Secretary of Defense, but I very definitely and specifically make it against those who are responsible for this situation and others like it.
I am sure that any investigation by this committee would reveal that is the fact.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I still think that the Defense Department's justification holds up, so far as I know, that unless the local community is unable to provide an education they have an obligation to accept the fact that the local community sets up its own standards.
Mr. MITCHELL. I might say, Mr. Frelinghuysen, that the top echelon in the Department of Defense did not know that this particular thing had taken place until we brought it to their attention.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Which particular thing?
Mr. MITCHELL. The Redstone Arsenal arrangement under which the land was transferred to the local community. That is why I say that I do not believe that they have that as a policy at the top, but once it happened, instead of trying to eradicate it, they then attempted to defend it.
Mr. LAFORE. Are these isolated cases, or are these cases where the Government has supplied grants for construction of schools on ground outside of the establishments that are not, in your opinion, built for the purpose of segregation?
Mr. MITCHELL. The Government has, so far as I know, not supplied any land for building schools that would operate on a nonsegregated basis. That is, that would be in States outside the defiant areas.
Mr. LAFORE. For the moment, let us forget the States. Is it the practice to build these buildings on ground that is not on the facility?
Mr. MITCHELL. Yes; the program, Public Law 815, permits and encourages construction of schools for defense-impacted areas on whatever land can be obtained.
Of course, that would mean that the Government would be building schools on land outside of military posts.
Mr. LAFORE. Right; so that these are just isolated cases!
Mr. MITCHELL. No; they are not, unhappily. I cited these cases because we have a lot of correspondence on it, but there are a number of others.
For example, the same thing happened in New Orleans.
Mr. LAFORE. But compared to the total number of buildings built for school purposes on grounds not owned by the Government, or on a Government facility, these are quite few; is that true?
Mr. MITCHELL. No; I would not want to say that because I don't know whether it is true. But I would say that there is no doubt in my mind that this program of ceding land or making arrangements to build schools just off the base is largely motivated by a desire to avoid having to come to grips with the problem
Mr. LAFORE. That will answer my question. Thank you very much. Mr. MITCHELL. That is a fact.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. How do you read a fact into that? Is it not under the provision of the law a necessity?
Mr. MITCHELL. No; I don't think so. There is no requirement under the law that if a school does not exist that the Government must release land in order to let the local community operate a school which will be built by Federal funds.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. You have given us one case of a release of land and that may not mean that it would not be built without the release of land in spite of what you say. It may or may not.
Mr. MITCHELL. I only gave one case. But I could point out in 1956 we had exactly the same problem with the Navy Department in New Orleans and I have the correspondence on that, in which the Navy released three buildings for use of the local schools.
One was operated by the parochial authorities; one was operated for colored children by the city authorities. Another was operated for the white children by the city authorities.
This, again, was one of those illustrations where they had possession of the building, but an effort to avoid doing what they would have been required to do, that is, admit all children, they leased them to the local authorities.
They did the same thing out in Pine Bluff, Ark., where they gave a 99-year lease for some land to the local authorities for the purpose of building segregated schools.
So this is no accident, Mr. Frelinghuysen, nor is it isolated.
Mr. BAILEY. Mr. Mitchell, the major objectives of Public Laws 815 and 874 were to get the administration of our schools in these impacted areas out of the hands of the military forces and put them in
the hands of civilians. That was one of the major objectives and one of the major accomplishments.
Now, under Public Laws 815 and 874, particularly 815, if a situation developed where there is no school available on base for children of Federal employees living on base, the Commissioner of Education has almost unlimited power to provide school facilities.
If he found it necessary to acquire a site adjacent to the military or even on the military reservation, I think he would have authority to do it.
It is pretty broad. In other words, he has it within his power to see to it that everybody concerned has an opportunity for an education.
Mr. MITCHELL. Yes, sir; I certainly agree with that.
Mr. Bailey. His authority is probably broad there. That is on base, at least.
Now, there is another matter in your testimony that should be cleared up. As to this situation you mentioned at Norfolk, what the Navy was doing there was attempting to find an educational opportunity to send the youngsters to school. In Norfolk, if you will recall, they closed the schools. The Navy was trying to find a school in an adjoining district that would accept the children of the people living on the naval base. Is that not the fact of the matter!
You mentioned the Navy wanted to make payment out of their appropriation. What they were doing was providing transportation to an adjoining district outside the city district of Norfolk. They were transferring about a thousand pupils into another district.
Mr. MITCHELL. Yes; I did not mean to imply that the Navy was doing anything wrong in the Norfolk situation. All I was pointing out is that the Norfolk school system would probably collapse if the Federal aid was not available, but those who were saying that the schools should not be desegregated, used as a club the possibility of withdrawing State funds.
It was only in that context that I meant to refer to it.
Mr. BAILEY. Thank you, Mr. Mitchell. You have made an interesting appearance, as you usually do. We will give consideration to your proposal.
What comes out of the subcommittee is still in the hands of the gods.
Mr. MITCHELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BAILEY. The next witness will be the distinguished gentleman from our new 49th State, Congressman Rivers, of Alaska. : Mr. Rivers, do you have any additional information you care to offer to the reporter? If so, you may do so. We will be glad
to hear you.
STATEMENT OF HON. RALPH J. RIVERS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
THE U.S. CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ALASKA Mr. RIVERS. I am Ralph Rivers, Representative at Large from Alaska.
I will make this very brief statement, Mr. Chairman.