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[[image - Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet"]]

Negroes in Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet" were all highly competent specialists in various fields. In 1938 the group included (front row, left to right) Dr. Ambrose Caliver, Department of the Interior; Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Public Health Service; Dr. Robert C. Weaver, Housing Authority; Joseph H. Evans, Farm Security Administration; Dr. Frank Horne (the poet), Housing Authority; Mary McLeod Bethune, National Youth Administration; Lieutenant Lawrence A. Oxley, Department of Labor; Dr. William J. Thompkins, Recorder of Deeds; Charles E. Hall, Department of Commerce; William I. Houston, Department of Justice; Ralph E. Mizelle, Post Office. In the back row, (left to right) are Dewey R. Jones, Department of the Interior; Edgar Brown (tennis star), Civilian Conservation Corps; J. Parker Prescott, Housing Authority; Edward H. Lawson, Jr., Works Projects Administration; Arthur Weiseger, Department of Labor; Alfred Edgar Smith, Works Projects; Henry A. Hunt, Farm Credit Administration; John W. Whitten, Works Projects; and Joseph R. Houchins, Department of Commerce. Others included at various times William H. Hastie, attorney, Department of the Interior; Eugene Kinckle Jones, Department of Commerce; and William J. Trent, Federal Works Agency. 

It was in this setting that President Roosevelt's first innaugural activities were planned and executed. His planners followed the tradition established by his Republican predecessors of not permitting Negros to participate in or attend as guests any of the inaugural activities except the taking of the oath of office in ceremonies held at the Capitol, and in this attendance they were segregated. Negroes invited consisted primarily of chauffers, maids, cooks and other personal domestic aides of white big shots. After a personal appeal to James A. Farley, who had headed Roosevelt's election campaign, four Negroes who had worked with Farley, and who called him "Mr. Jim," obtained inaugural tickets. Later becoming known as the "Big Four," they were Dr. William J. Thompkins, a physician from Kansas City, Mo.; Roberty L. Vann, publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier; Julian Rainey, a Boston attorney, and Dr. Joseph Johnson, a Columbus, Ohio physician. That was it.

After the inauguration, Roosevelt named Farley Postmaster General of the United States and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Farley immediately began working on Roosevelt's re-election campaign, and in that planning formed a Negro Division within the Democratic National Committee. White staffers in the DNC, mostly southerners, where not ready to accept Black officials or staffers working with them at the Committee, so Farley operated his Negro Division primarily from the offices of the "Big Four," led by Dr. Thompkins. Finding it difficult to counsel "Mr. Jim" from their distant places of business and profession, it was easy for them to support their contention that each of the "Big Four" should be given government positions in Washington. Farley agreed and the fight was among themselves. Which one would ask for which position in Washington? Dr. Johnson didn't want a Washington position, and insisted on becoming Minister to Liberia. That was a greater distance from Washington than Columbus, and the other three put thumbs down, much to Farley's pleasure. Johnson, miffed, quit the "Big Four," and to retaliate, the "Big Three" became "Big Four" again when they substituted Lester Walton for Dr. Johnson, and had him named as Minister to Liberia. 


Transcription Notes:
remove comma: In 1938, the missing this line after Edward H. Lawson: Jr., Works Projects Administration; Arthur

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