Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Rita Jackson Samuels, April 30, 1974. Interview A-0077. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Biracial councils open lines of communication between white and black communities

Samuels describes the function of the various biracial councils she helped set up: to open lines of communication between members of the white and black communities. She thinks these councils are serving an important function despite their lack of enforcement power.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Rita Jackson Samuels, April 30, 1974. Interview A-0077. 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 does the office function. I mean, what does it . . .what has it done so far?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Well, so far we have . . .well, we have in Georgia about forty-nine, or possibly, I guess, forty-nine bi-racial councils. There are 159 counties in Georgia. And we have offered technical assistance in creating those councils. Now, only about twenty-five of the forty-nine are active councils where they actually have a monthly meeting and they act as a complaint bureau, and they . . .you know, they are more active than others. And, I mean, that's kind of . . . well, the kind of activities that they are involved in are not handling discrimination employment kinds of problems, and discriminatory problems that might happen in employment. They really act more as an information source for the community, people who have problems. And if there's a school problem, if there's any kind of racial problem in the community, then they allow both sides to come in and talk with them, and they act as a mediator. So, I mean, they are . . . it's just . . . I guess it's the kind of tool that's been able to open up a lot of communications in Georgia that we simply did not have before.
WALTER DE VRIES:
You don't have any enforcement powers . . . ?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Well, no. I don't know of any in Georgia that have enforcement power. Even the one in Atlanta doesn't have enforcement power. And they're talking about it now, and I understand there's a lot of opposition to that. So . . .
JACK BASS:
Primarily, then, a mediation and conciliation type of function.
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Persuasion, yeah.
JACK BASS:
Is it effective?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Well, see, I can't answer that yes or no, because you have to really understand the problems not only in Georgia, but problems on local levels. And if, you know, if you open up communications where you never had black and whites talking together before, then that's accomplishing something. So, you know, I . . .that's not a yes or no answer, to a question like that. I think there's some that have been. I think that all of them could be more effective if they had enforcement powers, if they had a budget, if they had adequate staff, you know, if they had more credibility. But, you know, I think that they are doing some good.