A letter from Durham, NC


March 4, 1964

Dear Senator:

I am writing you with regard to the Civil Rights legislation which is now in the hands of the Senate. While the general tradition of our State would be in opposition to the legislation, there is a substantial number of your constituents, I am sure, who either favor it, or regard it as necessary and inevitable. Unfortunately, most of us who feel this way are generally silent.
As you well know, there is a considerable moral issue involved. As a minister if the Christian Gospel, I am convinced that any kind of legal discrimination on the basis of race is wrong. Furthermore, I believe that since we have imposed this discrimination for such a long period of time, we have a moral obligation to bend over backwards to wipe out its effects in our society.
I realize that it is quite possible for Christians to hold differing views on this matter. I want to ask of you only two things:

(1) That you vote on this matter on the basis of conscience.

(2) That you allow other senators the privilege of voting in accordance with their conscience. I earnestly hope that you will not take part in nor support any filibuster, and that you will not vote in favor of a motion for cloture, even though you may be then prepared to vote against the bill.

I would put this matter primarily on the basis of conscience; but there is also a secondary question of political expediency. I am convinced that unless our country moves rapidly to recognize the Negro (as well as the member of any minority group) as a person with all the rights and privileges of humanity and of citizenship, we will lose our position of leadership in the world; and into the vacuum thus produced, communism is ready to enter.
My very best regards to you, Sir; and my sincere thanks to you for the service you have long rendered to our State and our Country.


L. Bartine Sherman
Rector of Saint Philips Church
Durham, NC

[Transcribed by Laura Roberson]

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