by William L. Patterson
This historic Petition was first presented to the world in 1951. Addressed to the United Nations it was submitted to that body in Paris, France at the Palais Chaillott where the Fifth Session of the General Assembly had gathered. Simultaneously a delegation led by Paul Robeson presented copies to the office of the Secretary General of the UN in New York. We had two aims: to expose the nature and depth of racism in the United States; and to arouse the moral conscience of progressive mankind against the inhuman treatment of black nationals by those in high political places.
The Petition called upon the UN to take notice of the fact that even a cursory examination would reveal the savage racist policy that determines the attitude and reaction of city, state and federal governments in their relations with black nationals. At each of these political levels the human dignity of blacks is flouted and full enjoyment of their Constitutional rights denied. Blacks faced institutions of government that were steeped in racism.
The Petition declared that the racism of government was a criminal policy. It constituted a flagrant violation of the UN Charter, its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, more specifically the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and the Constitution of the United States of America.
These racist crimes are also in violation of the most vital canons of international law. The Petition asserted that if permitted to continue through the failure of other nations zealously to oppose them the racist crimes committed in the United States would reduce the Charter to a bad joke to be laughed at by every bigot and racist in this land. The crimes complained of were a threat to the national morality, the integrity of a leading world state and therefore to world peace.
The indictment against these crimes having been drafted, it was necessary with scrupulous care to adduce concrete evidence of the vicious and intolerable racist practices on which the Petition was based. That was thoroughly done. A Summary and Prayer for Relief outlining specific remedial steps followed.
The UN did not respond to the Petition. Profound changes, however, have taken place in the world since 1951. At the same time, racism has grown