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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., December 6, 1973. Interview A-0134. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Soul City as heart of move toward social and economic quality

Soul City is "about the only thing that is really positive going at this time," McKissick believes. It is the new form of the civil rights movement, he argues, and can take pressure off large cities to solve problems tangled up with legacies of racism and bring people together by emphasizing common objectives.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., December 6, 1973. Interview A-0134. 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

How important in your mind, is Soul City as a model for the rest of the South?
I think that it's about the only thing that is really positive going at this time. Of those projects that are going. I think that other people have got good projects that are going to serve a purpose, but I think because of the "big dream" as people say of it, and what it embraces in so many different areas of concern, that it is basically the civil rights movement, if you want to use that and I'll let you use that term to make it simple, it is the movement. And when you look at the staff around here and you see where they have been, they have now got out of the streets, gone back to school, taken the specific sciences that he said you needed to know and then have returned here. And our applications now are generally coming in by the tons now, recognizing some of the things that I've said. In fact, I got a letter from a guy the other day that said, "I disagreed with you and I remember when you presented your plan"… that was Dr. Clark of the Metropolitan Human Resources in New York…"and I attacked your plan of Soul City as a return to segregation because you wanted to go back to the South." And he said, "And all the things you said about blacks going back to the South has been fulfilled, and I'm going to join you. Because I now see that that is the only thing, and I admit that I was wrong in opposing you. And now I'm going to join you." And he asked, "How can I join, and in what capacity?" [interruption]
I said, if this pattern can be set up right it can create so durn many opportunities, it can take the pressure off the larger cities. You see, the bigger cities represent…there is always the argument of "can you have big cities dying?" Well, the big cities have got to live, they represent so much for us…and I think it's the quality of how manageable can big cities be? And I think that if you could take three million people out of certain areas of New York City and develop a town over here, a community that allows a person to have their upward mobility, to move forward. In other words, you create a university out here and you've got a great number of new jobs for professors, you see, teachers, employees and such. The advantage of a new town is that it starts off as a non-competitive force for existing towns. And it can siphon off thousands of people and I think that every man seeks to be able to rise to his highest level. Every man is likewise motivated by self-interest and every man wants to be happy. He doesn't want to fight. He really wants to love, not fight. And I believe that if you can combine these things, just like when we came here, what's it going to do with Oxford and other things? Now, one of the things I've got to do before I leave here today is get an agreement between Oxford and Henderson for our regional water system. They say Well, you come down here…the emphasis has always been made upon people's differences. If I found out that there's one point where you differ from me, see and you found out the one point where I differ from you, we'd fight over that and then we'd walk away. We never talk about what we agree upon. And I say that if you bring a group of whites from Oxford, Henderson, Franklin County, Warrenton, all these counties around here and sit them down together and say, "What do we want?" and start sifting all their wants…and you bring all the blacks together and you'll find that they've got 90% common interests and you put them together to start working for those 90% common objectives, bring them back together one year later and you'll find they have now increased to 93 or 94. I think that you've got to forget the differences and put people together to work on common objectives. Just forget the damn differences, we can't solve them anyway, most of the time and you're always going to have pretty near that 5% difference. Get them together on their common objectives and you slowly detract from their differences.