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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Rita Jackson Samuels, April 30, 1974. Interview A-0077. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Measuring race progress in Georgia's government

Samuels measures the progress of blacks by their increasing membership on government boards and asserts that such progress cannot be reversed.

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

WALTER DE VRIES:
Any regrets?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
About the job? Oh, no.
WALTER DE VRIES:
About being the first?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Oh, no. I guess, you know . . .I just happen to think that you really have to be a very strong person to work in a job like this one, and because it is a public position and there are blacks who don't understand . . . I don't want to say that . . . well, there are blacks who don't understand about the problem of timing, as I mentioned to you, in politics. There are some things you just can not do, and I think that by working on this job I have been able to be more patient about things. You know. But it's just . . . you know, I thought that . . .you know, like I had been invited to participate on a lot of radio programs, talk shows, where people call in questions about my job. And I turned almost all of them down, because I felt that if you throw yourself out there for a lot of unnecessary criticism, that, you know, you create that for yourself. So the best thing to do is try to participate in the kinds of programs so that you really can make people more knowledgeable about what happens in an operation of state government, you know. And there are approximately 122 state boards and commissions in state government, and when the Governor took office, blacks served on three of them. And blacks serve on about 48 of them now. And they are not just blacks who . . . are not blacks who are not qualified, you know. There's black on Public Safety . . . on the Public Safety Board who is an attorney. And when you talk about "Why don't the state have more black state troopers?" you know, the Department of Public Safety takes their directions from the board. And so to me it was more significant to put a black on the board who was and qualified and who could make recommendations that hopefully could be implemented. And realizing that one black would be in the minority, from my experience working on this job, I still thought it was important. Because I have said too many things in certain meetings, since I've been on this job, and had certain people to respond and say, "Oh, well, we didn't think about that, you know. We didn't know it." And so I think it's important to have blacks on there.
JACK BASS:
You say there's 48 blacks on the 22 boards and commissions?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
No, no, no. It's 48 different boards that blacks serve on. Some . . .you may have three blacks on the Board of Human Resources, and that's a fifteen member board.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Of the 122, Jack, 48 boards and commissions have blacks.
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
That's right. I got some information . . .I didn't know whether you all wanted to take a look now. (Interruption in recording.) . . . for the black community is that when the Governor took office, no other governor left any real track record for the Governor to compete with as far as having blacks participate in the operation of state government. But the next governor coming in will certainly have some things to look at.
JACK BASS:
He will have to deal with what's been done.
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
Oh, yeah. That's right. Governor Carter did it.
JACK BASS:
So that can't be undone?
RITA JACKSON SAMUELS:
No, it cannot be undone. We had one senator (?) for the Governor took office, and we have eight now. You know. So, I mean, if one governor can come in in four years and get one, and one governor can come in in four years and make sure that you have . . .you know, I think five was what we said, but we do have eight. You know, I just . . . I just think that . . . that those are the kind of things that a governor has to do in order to make it better under the next governor and under the next governor. And you don't see the kind of progress as quickly as most blacks would like to see it, including myself, but at least I understand more from working on this job how certain things take place. And I do think that we are making progress, and I also think that we will continue to make progress, even if Lester Maddox is elected again.