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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Arthur Shores, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Improvements in racial climate of Birmingham

Shores describes the increase in black representation in Birmingham governance. Black candidates are winning seats with white support, in part because they are working to improve the city's infrastructure.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Arthur Shores, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
How is it now?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, just like any metropolitan city. Much better than . . . it's not considered one of the 20 most segregated cities in the country. And prior to that it was considered one of the worst cities for race relations in the whole country. Three years ago the city was awarded the distinction of being one of the so-called All American cities. There were no blacks on any of the boards or commissions. And of course, as you probably have found out, we've got two blacks out of five on the city board of education. There are two of us that are on the council and we were elected at large out of our districts.
JACK BASS:
Out of how many?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Two out of nine.
JACK BASS:
So that means both of you have to have white support.
ARTHUR SHORES:
Oh yes.
JACK BASS:
How do you campaign in a white community?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, I campaign in a white community on the basis of trying to have them to know that we're going to represent the citizens of city for the best interests of the citizens and the city. And the services that the city's required to give, they'll all get a fair shake. And I had the distinction, they tell me, that I've been able to get more done for them than anybody else prior to my being elected to the council. That is, certain city services. . . .
JACK BASS:
What would be some examples?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Well, the matter of . . . for the first four years I was chairman of the public works committee. I had charge of streets, street lighting, traffic engineering, where they wanted a traffic light and where they wanted some paving done or sewers installed.
JACK BASS:
Did that make a real difference, particularly in black areas?
ARTHUR SHORES:
Oh yes, yes it did. Then of course so far as the blacks were concerned, as has happened in this city like in many other cities, whites would move out of certain sections and blacks are moving in. And where blacks moved in they begin to build apartments and blacks were under the impression that it was single family . . . property was zoned for single family. And of course I had an ordinance passed to require sales to indicate how the property was zoned. Whether it was single family or multiple family. The majority of the employees in the public works department—street, sanitation—were black. And they were denied many of the things that the employees who were under civil service. For instance, a person that had been working for 10 or 15 years received the same pay as a person who was hired today. No distinction. They had no sick leave and that sort of thing. The few whites who was in that department along with blacks came to me and I had them to meet with the entire council and we had that situation changed. So, you say, I have represented all of the citizens. Make no distinction. But in many instances where blacks were short changed I did see that they got a fair shake.