Life Histories Analysis
Purely as an experiment, a number of letters were sent out to prominent Negroes and whites in the interracial field, selected more or less at random except for some attention to occupational and geographical distribution, requesting that short autobiographies of about 2000 words each be prepared. The autobiographies were to devote themselves strictly to the eight questions listed in the letter. (Copies of the letters sent to Negroes and whites are appended in Appendix III.)29 This was a heavy request and I was surprised to get returns, many in very full form, from 36 Negroes and 14 whites. The objective was to get to the individual leader's own picture of: (1) His family background, social and economic; (2) Early factors or incidents which aroused his consciousness of the racial problem; (3) Nature of obstacles it was necessary to overcome and types of social repression experienced; (4) The factor or related factors in the life of the individual primarily responsible for his elevation; (5) Extent to which contacts with Negro or white individuals in key positions have played a role in the individual's progress; (6) Nature and value of the educational training received; (7) Effect which the racial situation has had upon the individual's personal social philosophy; (8) Extent to which the individual's career has been influenced or controlled by the racial situation.
Of the 36 life histories returned by Negroes, 22 have been considered sufficiently to the points raised to be used. These have been summarized in the following pages, very hurriedly, with a view toward indicating the nature of the responses gotten. An intensive study of the group of histories might reveal certain patterns as to backgrounds, contacts and attitudes, but no serious attempt to do this is undertaken here, since the sampling should be considerably greater to have real meaning, despite the fact that these are representatives of the uppermost rungs of the Negro leadership ladder. In this instance the main objective, anyway, has been merely to test the possibilities of getting data in this way rather