Part III of the American Creed: Community Conversation Series
The summer of 1949 witnessed a well-publicized clash between Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt over the revised Federal Aid for Education Bill. The new iteration of the bill excluded the possibility of federal assistance to non-public schools and placed funds for schools in the hands of the states. Spellman claimed the bill was anti-Catholic. Without expressing her outright support for the bill, Roosevelt, nevertheless indicated that tax dollars should only be used for public schools. What ensued was a contentious debate between the Cardinal and Roosevelt. It also galvanized thousands of citizens to write to Roosevelt explaining why they agreed or disagreed with her position. This program looks at both the debate and the letters. Significantly, the letters to Roosevelt reveal insights into how American citizens understood American identity and values -- they raise issues about both religion and race. The letters also hint to developing fissures in the Democratic camp, cracks that will not become widely noticeable until Richard Nixon’s campaign for the presidency in 1968. Presenter Dr. Sally Dwyer-McNulty of Marist College.