NAACP Representative Testimony (Modified)

Some of the language and phrasing in this document has been modified from the original.

Head Note: President Roosevelt sent his Social Security bill, named the “Economic Security Act,” to Congress in January 1935. Congress held committee hearings on the bill. Here, a representative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a group dedicated to advancing the rights of African Americans, testifies before Congress about how the bill excludes certain groups of people.

Mr. Houston: The point that I am making is that in order for a person to qualify for the old-age annuity, taxes must be paid on behalf of this person before he turns 60.

Now, for the benefit of Negroes, I want to ask, who would be left out by that rule?

First, and very serious, Negro share croppers and cash tenants would be left out. We all know that the Negro share cropper and the Negro cash farm tenant are at the bottom of the economic scale. He is not employed. There is no relation of master and servant by which he gets wages on which a tax could be collected. Therefore this population is left out from the old-age annuity, and that represents approximately 490,000 Negroes.

Next, domestic servants are excluded from the act because the system of employing domestic servants is so loose.

In addition to that, this old-age annuity does not provide for unemployed persons. I do not need to argue to the committee that Negroes have suffered from unemployment more than any other class of the community.

Source: Excerpt from the Statement of Charles H. Houston, representing the NAACP, to the House Ways and Means Committee on the Economic Security bill, February 1, 1935. Washington, D.C.